Dale Yu: Review of 12 Days



12 Days

  • Designers: James Ernest & Mike Selinker
  • Publisher: Calliope Games
  • Players: 3-5
  • Time: ~15 minutes
  • Ages: 8+


12 Days is a card game based on the traditional Christmas carol, the Twelve Days of Christmas.  The majority of the cards in the game are the gifts that you would expect: 1 partridge in a pear tree, 2 turtle doves…, all the way up to 12 drummers drumming.  Each gift card is numbered – with the number equal to the number of those gifts in the deck.  There are also two non-traditional gift cards, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, and each of these cards is given the number zero.

The game is played over 12 rounds – each one representing one of the days of Christmas.  There is a second small deck of 12 day cards, numbered 1 to 12, which are used one in each round in ascending order.  Players are dealt a hand of 12 cards from the deck of 80 cards, and the remainder is placed on the table as a draw deck.

Some of the gift cards

Some of the gift cards

In each round, players each first pass one gift card to the player on their left.  Then, with their new hand, all players secretly and simultaneously choose a card to play, and this card is placed facedown on the table.  The cards are revealed, and whichever player has played the lowest value card wins the day.  That player will get the card for the day – which is worth a number of VPs equal to the number printed on it.


If there is a tie for lowest card, all tied cards are taken out of the computation and the next lowest card will win the day.  If everyone ties, then no one wins the day and that day card is simply discarded.  Remember that there are two number zero cards, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.  If you win the day with one of these, you do not collect the day card but instead you must then gift the day card to another player.


After the day has been resolved, each player then draws a card from the deck to bring their hand back up to 12 cards. The game continues through the 12 Days of Christmas, with each day card being worth progressively more.


At the end of the 12th round, there each player scores points equal to the number(s) on their collected day cards.  Additionally, each type of gift is scored – the player who has the most gift cards of each specific value scores points equal to that value.  I.e.  the player who has the most lords-a-leaping cards will score 10 points.  If there is a tie, all tied players score the full value for that number.  The player with the most points wins!


My thoughts on the game


12 Days is a nice simple game that my family has enjoyed this holiday season.  It’s a simple game to teach and explain, and a simple game to play as well.  There is a little bit of a “read-my-mind” vibe in the card passing and playing as ties will eliminate you from a chance at winning the day card.  It is good to remember what cards you have passed onto your left as you can use that information to hopefully prevent a tie (though of course you can never be quite sure that your left hand player hasn’t also passed that card on to his left!)


The game is more than trying to collect low cards though – you will also want to try to keep some of the higher number cards in order to get the endgame bonus for each gift.  As you can only hold 12 cards though, you don’t want to overcommit to any value as you then won’t be able to save cards for a different value.  Also, if you spend too much energy saving cards for the end of the game, you’ll not have many options when trying to choose which card to play.  Watching what cards are being discarded by your opponents can definitely help you gauge how many cards of any particular value that you need to keep.


The artwork is reminiscent of stained glass windows, and while not to my particular liking, it does not distract from gameplay.  The cards have a linen texture to them but they also have a slick and shiny finish to them.  The cards have held up well to our first few games – though there really isn’t much card handling nor shuffling during the game.


12 Days is a nice filler card game with a Christmas theme.  I’m not sure how often this would come out in the summertime, but it’s a nice light game that can be enjoyed with family (both gamers and non-gamers) at parties and get-togethers in the holiday season.


Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor



About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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