As I was rummaging through my PnP collection, I came across Elves Under Hoof. This is a print-and-play wargame with a Christmas theme, available for free for a limited time each year by Dan Verssen Games. I had printed it out last December, thinking it would fit the season nicely. It ended up in the deepest end of the drawer. Now it resurfaced, and as the weather has got cold, I felt the urge to give it a go.
The rules are easy-peasy, and Dan has written a funny story to set the mood: the elves in Santa's workshop opened up a crate they shouldn't have. Inside was the 'Zombie Carnage' video game, they played it, and turned into mindless killing machines themselves. It is now up to the brave team of Santa's deer to stop the elves by shooting and blowing them to pieces (showing them how carnage is actually done).
The game comes with a hex map, a player mat, and counters. There are four missions to carry out, and the last two are interlinked. You are placing both elves and deer on the map according to the instructions, and the deer are always outnumbered. The first mission is a head-to head fight. The other three are more interesting, as they give the player more decision space: where best to place Prancer, Dasher, and Blitzen, how to equip them, and who to send out to attack first. This is a light, dice-rolling game and of course the dice may or may not roll favorably. Light as it may be, it does offer moments of tension, especially when the deer bodycount starts growing or when it becomes clear that Rudolph won't make it out alive in the end.
All in all, a great gift to give yourself this holiday season. It won't be played repeatedly, but if you make an eggnog (or other egg-less drink) and sit down to give it a try, killing some elves will warm your heart.