Music Board Games Print & Play

Vinyl: Holiday Edition Game Review


If stores can play Christmas music in October, I guess it’s OK to play Christmas games all year round? Join Bob for a look at the seasonal specialty from Talon Strikes Studios, Vinyl: Holiday Edition.

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

Exuding a spirit of generosity, the review copy of Vinyl: Jukebox arrived with a bonus gift inside: a copy of Vinyl: Holiday Edition. Because there are enough puns to go around when it comes to the music of the Christmas season, Eric Alvarado and the team at Talon Strikes Studios have put together an entirely new game in the spirit of everything Vinyl that has come before.

The heart of the Vinyl series is record collection. Whether it’s the original Vinyl, the Big Band edition, the Metal or 80s expansions, or the distinct and aforementioned Jukebox, each title abounds with slightly knocked off album covers and an affinity for hunting matching icons. Toss in a few colored lights and ornaments and you’re set for the Holiday Edition. 

There’s no place like home for the holidays?

In Holiday Edition, players are building shared Christmas trees to their left and right using cards that feature playful album covers and wintry icons. Each tree begins with a single card at the top, with rows of two, three, four, and two again below (because you need that trunk or the tree won’t stand upright).

Most often, a player turn involves placing one card into position on one of their shared trees. As long as it holds to the overall shape and is adjacent to an existing card, placement is legal. Players then check the three icons on the card they just played to see if any match the adjacent cards. Based on the number of matches, they gain a points token of one, three, six, or ten points. They then replenish their card from a market of four, which may or may not have point tokens riding along. After selecting a card, players add those point tokens to cards beginning with the furthest from the deck working back to the gap they created.

Gumming up the placement decision, each player is also concerned with a unique card dealt their way at the beginning of the game. This bonus card details a specific icon in each specific location on a tree. At the end of the game, players choose either the tree on their left or right to score a number of points based on the number of icons that fell into place during the game, regardless of who placed them.

Adding more gumminess yet, players are not able to take the same action on consecutive turns, forcing contribution to both sides. In addition to card placement, a third action involves designating cards as gift cards. At the bottom of each card, there are four icons on a gift tag. When these appear in combination on one of the shared trees, they can assign the gift card and claim highly lucrative vinyl tokens. Of course, with each gift card assigned, a player’s hand size is reduced by one, eventually landing at just two cards—the cost of juicy victory points.

When the trees are finished and the gift card slots full, the game ends and many, many point tokens, vinyl tokens, and bonus card points are added to determine a winner.

Or is it Last Christmas?

When I played Vinyl: Jukebox, I almost made a comment about the ocular difficulty of juggling a bevy of icons. After a few plays, however, I got used to it, not to mention the fact that managing the icons is part of the game’s unusual personality. Holiday Edition, on the other hand, pushes the envelope to extremes.

After a few rounds of play, a turn consists of scanning five cards, each with three icons, then looking at the trees to the left and the right, each of which have maybe three or four open locations for cards where you are trying to match the icons in your hand with the icons on the table. Oh, and then you have to look at the tree card with the twelve icons demanding specific placements of the icons in your hands into the icons on the trees. While you’re at it, you have to scan those gift tags because if the icon conditions exist, you might want to shorten your hand early to grab the high value point token. Then you might go to the market where four cards, each with three icons and a gift tag of four icons await your selection.

In short, Vinyl: Holiday Edition feels like a game of Spot It: Holidays with one caveat: Spot It derives its joy from the constant repetition of finding icon matches, while Vinyl starts to sound like the most annoying Christmas song ever.

It’s just too much.

By the end of the game, scores exceed 100 points and come by adding up a handful of little light icons, three slightly larger vinyl icons, and only then going to the bonus cards, which require looking at every slot to see whether the icon is present. By the time you’re done, you’re exhausted. There is most definitely a clever puzzle in the game, but the visual processing nearly gave me a headache.

On top of that, I have my doubts that a game like this is appealing outside of a small window of time on our Gregorian calendars. The artwork is delightfully cheesy and the Carrie Pomo albums are appreciated, but they do give the game a sense that it is most playable during the holidays. In a hobby so often marked by overloaded shelves and more games than there are hours in the day to play, I don’t know that I would keep a game for the express purpose of relearning it during its relevant seasonal months. While I do have games that are more visible during those family gatherings, they are titles that suggest no such limitations by title or theme.

I admire what the Vinyl series aims to accomplish, including the ways it reaches into genres and time periods to scratch so many individualized itches. But in our house, Holiday Edition is just too overindulgent and busy to be enjoyable. Sadly I’ll skip this track.

  • Awful - I don’t want to play this ever again.

Vinyl: Holiday Edition details

About the author

Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

On any given day, I am a husband and father of five. I read obsessively and, occasionally, I write stories of varying length, quality, and metrical structure. As often as possible, I enjoy sitting down to the table for a game with friends and family. I'm happy to trumpet Everdell, in all its charm and glory, as the insurmountable favorite of my collection.


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  • My wife loves Christmas and Christmas-themed things. I think I will do all I can to not allow her to become aware of this game’s existence.

    Thanks for a great review.

    • Thanks for reading! This Edition has its merits as a light puzzle (I think every Edition of Vinyl can boast in that), but there was something in the busyness of it all that pushed me away.

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