My first year gaming - Top 10 Board games of the year (2014)
Neal Smith
United Kingdom
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I moved to an entirely different area of the country in May this year.

I was hoping to find or start a Blood Bowl league in the area as (1) I’ve been playing the game on and off for 30 years despite my utter ineptitude at it and (2) as a way of meeting new people in the area.

Instead I found the Telford Games Club which meets every Thursday and have showered me with games all year long forcing me to spend my hard earned cash! They also made me feel nothing but welcome, bless 'em.

As everyone else is posting a games player / best 10 / 100 / 1000 / most played lists at year end, I figured screw it, here are the top 10 games I have played this year, in no particular order.

EDIT: Thanks to all GG tippers. I never expected it at all.
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1. Board Game: Letters from Whitechapel [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:183]
Neal Smith
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I love this game. I have played as Jack and the policemen and lost in varying speeds every game.

It is the only board game that produces a physical reaction in me. When I am playing as Jack and trying to sneak home past the police, it’s heart in mouth time. When I’m the police and the trail goes cold and you have no idea where Jack’s hideout is you can feel the pressure mounting as time runs out.

There is never a time I would turn a game of this down.
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2. Board Game: Thunder Alley [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:540] [Average Rating:7.39 Unranked]
Neal Smith
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I quite like sports games. I think it appeals to my competitive side. I quite like games that make people laugh and mock and have fun as a group.

This game is both. The fact that is NASCAR is almost irrelevant. It would work with any race where people move together in a race setting, such as Tour De France, and that is it’s beauty. The mechanic is simple and transferrable so you don’t need to be a NASCAR fan to enjoy it, or indeed know any NASCAR at all.

(As I stated elsewhere on the site, why do we have to say that for Sports games? Has anyone said I can’t play Power grid, I have never run an electric company or failed to run a railroad and therefore passed on Russian Railroads?)

Gameplay is simple. Play card, move car, and there is no downtime as anyone can move any car at any time.

There have been many times whoever is last has the rest of the group making fun of their slow progress, hence the laughing, but there are mechanisms for that person to (1) catch up and (2) win despite that car as you score for your whole team, not just a car so they are never out of it.

Boards are lovely and thick. Quality glossy GMT cards and I have chosen to find the myriad of typos and print endearing…
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3. Board Game: Xia: Legends of a Drift System [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:160]
Neal Smith
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I have on occasions suffered from the feeling, especially against more experienced players, that some games go “do A, B C and D” and then subject to a very possible variants, that is how you win. If you are new and don’t do everything in that order, then you get hammered until you get the order.

I like games where you can win more than 1 way. Xia is one of them.

The components look lovely. Metal triangular credits for money, in different colours? Pre-painted ships? Gorgeous all.

Definitely the top 3 best or second best looking games I have seen all year (between this, the 10th anniversary Ticket to Ride and the unnecessarily lovely Ortus Regni. Wooden card holders for the cards you are NOT using? Nice!).

It is the most open sandbox game I have played and although there can be a lot of downtime between turns, the fact that everyone can go where they want, pursue whatever method of collecting dame they want in any ship they want is so …..freeing.

There is no draconian penalty for death. Just come back next turn and start again.

Good fun.
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4. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:35]
Neal Smith
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I have played this twice on the tabletop. Many times more at orderofthehammer.com.

This is probably the game I have mixed feelings about.

I enjoy playing it a lot, but don’t feel I have a grip on it, really. It’s the one that makes me think “this time, you bastard” (but directed at the game not the other players) but that bastard beats me every time.

Odd really, but of the Wallace games I have played this year, save the other entry on the list, this is the one that I am happiest coming back to.
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5. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:401]
Neal Smith
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The other Wallace game on the list.

I have played it once but it held such a soft spot and a charm for me. I understand it’s not an overly weighty game like Brass, but I have been reading Terry Pratchett since for more years of my life than not (scary!) and seeing all the characters come to life, and be taken back to a place that I have loved reading about just made me gooey and make this into my list.
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6. Board Game: Kolejka [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1220]
Neal Smith
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This game was introduced to me by a Tricia as “Queueing for shopping in communist Poland. It’s more fun that it sounds” and I remember responding with “Well, it would have to be”.

But you know - Tricia was exactly right, It is a game about queuing outside shops in communist Poland and it is fun.

It has simple rules so it is quick to learn from the start.

It has sabotaging of others, which wihle not essential, does mean that it creates a lot of banter and laughing at the expense of the one just shafted, knowing that the wheels will be turned any second. Any act of sabotage does not mean that you spend the next 15 rounds climbing back in or that your game is over. All that makes it fun. THE most important criteria for a game.

There is an element of tactics to it, which makes you feel like you are in control (whether you are or not) but not so much that you need to play it 7 times to get what's happening.

The games that I have had have all been close, so it is well balanced and makes everyone feel involved and with a chance.

It has speedy turns and gameplay so not much sitting around.

The subject matter is entirely unique. We've all conquered space /planets / conuntries / armies one way or another many times. We’ve made money running a dozen different companies, laid trains or cars, raced cars, but we’ve never queued up to shop. And, from a Western point of view, I think the fact that it has historical accuracy in the goods and the tactics people used engenders an element of wonder or reflection that this is was what needed to be done.

We (you) simply cannot truly comprehend it unless it has been lived through and it makes you think as you play the game.
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7. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:4]
Neal Smith
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Although it is harder to play than others, due to the 2 player limit, I love this.

It's like chess, but with cards tokens and over the cold war. I LOVE the strategy and tactics.

I have learnt this year that I really like the games that make me feel involved in the theme or the mechanics. Thunder Alley feels like racing, Xia feels like exploration, Whitechapel feels like a man hint and this feels like the politics of East vs West. The back and forth....

Like it a lot.
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8. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:126] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Neal Smith
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Ok, it's a gateway game, but I have managed to get me family to play it, and it may allow me to get them into the hobby with me. I can't have seen my wife agreeing to learn Twilight Struggle without playing this on holiday in France.

Is my "family game" on here and reminds me of good times.
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9. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:240]
Neal Smith
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Blood Bowl (which I have not played this year) is my absolute fav game all time, hands down. I bought the first edition when I was 12 on release from my first paper round wage, and feel in love instantly.

I find it hard to get to play the tabletop game these days, but me and my 14 year son play this often when I go to visit him, so special times.

Special mention goes to Sudden Death expansion as well which adds enough to make it worthwhile.
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10. Board Game: Zombicide [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:330] [Average Rating:7.26 Unranked]
Neal Smith
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Loved this when I played it. A bunch of us vs a bigger bunch of them coming at us in hordes.

Was great fun. Especially when one of our party accidentally shot another in the face.

Twice.

In the same turn.

As I said earlier, games are supposed to be fun. This was.

Honourable mention goes to Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game. Very similar theme, and the story telling aspect is great. Was a very hard toss up.
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