End Game Christmas

We have a problem with presents at my house. It’s called opening them. My wife, in particular, prefers the right-now as opposed to the at-the-appropriate-time (and for the record, it was her idea to open my birthday present early). We were doing Christmas over a few days with our respective birth families, so I decided to spread the present opening out a little this year with a little game I like to call Christmas.

End Game Christmas 1End Game Christmas 2

Designer’s note: when you want your design to be transparent, when you don’t call attention to your typeface choice, use Helvetica. It’s become so synonymous with graphic design that it simply communicates this is a designed object (and little else). When you want to be slightly obnoxious, use Comic Sans.

The Christmas game is simple and uses Zombie Dice which was a table staple for a while.  It’s pretty much Zombie Dice for keeps. You play a round as normal, but you get as many opens as you get brains. If you get shot 3 times you lose, and receive no presents.

Below: my wife’s face upon discovering the fun game I call Christmas; the first roll.

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The first round was on Christmas eve, and showed a shotgun blast to start with. In the spirit of Christmas, a do over was allowed, and one free open.

Below: the do over, the first round of loot.

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The first open revealed a box within a box, and some loose presents. The game design involved several levels of presents, so the player would need to choose how to use her open: they could open a guaranteed gift (which based on the principles of feel and shake could be easily guessed at) or choose to unlock another level to delver deeper.

The first round of looting revealed that some of the presents were, in fact, tricks (that nice leather boot was left in my car for several months for no reason). The chopping board was a legitimate gift, and appreciated.

Below: the Christmas roll and resulting present-getting


The wife did some shrewd opening and found the butane canister, a very strong clue. She also found a desk toy, and a wooden spoon (which she opened so she could use). I should also note that the wooden spoon was a very specific request.

Below: the second Christmas result and the main present.


I gave in and allowed a second Christmas roll (it was Christmas after all). She’d caught on by the point and zeroed in on the blow-torch, which was the peak of the presents (and what the butane canister was hinting at). She also received a Le Creuset utensil holder, and the Winning Dog Winner trophy (another desk ornament).

I should also note that the best Christmas present was actually little daschund to cuddle. We borrowed him for a day before returning him to his rightful custodians.

Below: said daschund (Mr. Tumnus) and the final roll


The final roll was really just clean up at this stage, and the wife pushed pretty hard to get enough brains to get all the presents, which was mostly the rest of the set of wooden spoons, the other shoe and some Shwings (not a real present, just another thing from my desk).

Clean Up


My wife: “I’ve never been so apprehensive opening presents!”

Me: “This is fun!”

My wife: “You weren’t a game designer when I married you.”


The game definitely worked at extending the present opening. Finding a good present was met with elation, and tricks were met with some disappointment. We lost the magic once the main present was arrived at, and after that it mostly clean up.


Next year, I’ll work on a more controlled level progression, as well as more subtle hints. We only had a few rounds so I think it makes sense to extend the presents and lengthen the game, the twelve rounds of Christmas might be a bit much, but six rounds sounds doable (and affordable). A longer play length probably calls for a greater sense of progression. I’d start with changing the starting base dice ratio to have more red dice, and allow green dice to be unlocked. This means the first few rounds would be harder and stingier, but the later rounds would feel a lot more generous in contrast. Including green dice unlocks (or the physical dice themselves) in the trick presents could offset some of the disappointment. As we get deeper, I’d also allow red dice to be locked and removed, with the aim being for the actual Christmas round to allow for the opening of the most presents and have a greater sense of choice and risk, with perhaps multiple red herrings for the ultimate present.

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