Crits Happen 2015 Gaming Overview
Scott "Tox" Morris
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Hello everyone!

As requested, by many of you, I have put together a list, not of the "top games of 2015" but a list that encompasses the games I played in 2015 (though some are not released this year) and ones stood out to me, either positively, or negatively, in the hopes of sharing for discussion.

I track my plays with a handy dandy app called Board Game Stats, on my iPhone (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/board-game-stats/id892542000...). As I'm sure you will ask, yes, it's unfortunately only for iPhone right now, and no, I don't know of a good alternative for Android as I don't have any Android devices, I apologize for that... but, if you use iOS, it's a great app.

That all said, here's the list, according to my app as reference, of some of the games I've played and that have stood out to me... please feel free to engage in the discussion... and Happy New Year!
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1. Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:9]
Scott "Tox" Morris
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I was hesitant about this game, but excited all the same. I never liked the 2 player rules for 7 Wonders and always felt they were "forced" rather then "fun". This new game takes everything fun about drafting from 7 Wonders and challenges players to not only draft optimally, but ensure their opponent's are faced with tough decisions from what's visible on the board.

While not quite a "pocket" game, this is still small enough to carry in backpack everywhere and provides an amazingly well done 2 player experience. Antoine and Bruno hit a home run with this, and my hat is tipped to them, once again. Two great men, with great minds, can only produce greatness.
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2. Board Game: Above and Below [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:130] [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked]
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Red Raven gets it. This is a fun, storytelling game that is part team building (resource management actually but your resources are your townsfolk) and part choose your own adventure. It's light, but deep and engaging for all to enjoy. I have yet to be dissapointed in anything RR does, and Above and Below is another winner in a series of great games from a great company.
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3. Board Game: AquaSphere [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:311]
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One of the best "thinky" worker placement games I've played all year. I really enjoy Aquasphere and consider it one of Stefan's best designs. I always feel like I'm playing the board game version of Life Aquatic, one of Wes Anderson's movies, but it works. There's a challenge, there's limited resources, and you can never do it all, but it comes together in a great package that has had this hit our table a lot this year.
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4. Board Game: Arcadia [Average Rating:5.97 Overall Rank:6358]
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Splendor like mechanics with a theme park theme, which fell flat at first, due to a printing issue... it's now been fixed (albeit not exactly printed in the same size so prepare for sleeves if you are waiting on the replacement cards) this game has been a roller coaster on it's own. APE did the right thing and this is a fun game, but I fear the issues, even if they get past them, may bog it down. I like it, with the new cards.
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5. Board Game: Artifacts, Inc. [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:959]
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Looking for a worker placement like game that provides depth but doesn't take too long to enjoy? Artifacts, Inc provides a fun and beautiful way to both explore a rich world and roll some dice in a way that'll have you getting excited when the plan comes together. Some may say "That belongs in a Museum" but it really belongs on your table top.
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6. Board Game: Automania [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:728]
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Automania is a surprise hit for me this year. I heard good things going into BGGCon about this game. I heard it was Kanban light, I heard it was an easy to learn worker placement game, and I heard it was a surprisingly fun game to play.

All are correct.

You jump right in on this game, making cars from, potentially, you're very first action, which makes the excitement high, and engagement just as high. This is a very good example of taking what could be a mundane task, making cars and selling them, and turns it into a fun and engaging game.

I would even possibly say this is a good gateway game for worker placement. It's simple, straightforward, but also offers complex decisions. I do feel it's not very good two player, but is much better with 3 and 4 players at the end of the day, but enjoyable, none-the-less.
 
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7. Board Game: Automobiles [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:609]
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Bag Building, deck building with cubes, whatever you want to call it, it seems here to stay as a term. I liked Automobiles, but if you aren't a fan of racing, this may not be for you. I prefer Orleans when it comes to this mechanic, but if you want a light "bag building" experience, this is a solid entry into the "Category" and one I think AEG has options for, given the expandability of the game's structure.
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8. Board Game: Best Treehouse Ever [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1638] [Average Rating:6.70 Unranked]
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I really enjoy this game and am very happy I backed it on Kickstarter. Green Couch Games is a solid indie publisher, and Scott Almes is a fun designer.

I like that this game can be played simple, with young kids (I've played with as young as 7) and yet you can add in the objective cards for a more challenging experience, and provide "gamers" a full strategic experience in drafting. Overall, one of my favorite pocket games to carry and favorite drafting games, up there with Sushi Go.
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9. Board Game: Between Two Cities [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:463]
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B2C is one of the more unique entrants to gaming in 2015 and one I have enjoyed a lot. It is a surprisingly engaging game. At first, I thought it would suffer from 7 Wonders Syndrome, with players only caring about the players on either side, but it draws you into what everyone is doing so quickly, and offers you many opportunities to discuss, openly, the strategies everyone "may" be using, that its a surprising experience and one that is enjoyable and strategic.
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10. Board Game: Blood Rage [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:17]
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Say what you want about Kickstarter Exclusives, Cool Mini or Not, and more to that, Eric Lang, know how to make FUN games. Blood Rage is essentially 7 Wonders meets Vikings, but it is SO good and SO fun, it's hard to deny the experience when playing the game. It's easily one of the best games this year in my opinion, and the beautiful minis that CMoN brings to the table just make it all the better.
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11. Board Game: Bottlecap Vikings [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:13592]
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I knew very little of this game, as it was an add on with the Orleans kickstarter, but I can see why it was an add on and not a full blown game project of it's own. Is it fun? Sure, but it's a rondel game that doesn't bring much to the genre that others haven't already.
 
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12. Board Game: Bottom of the 9th [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1274]
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I don't like sports games, but I LOVE Bottom of the 9th. This is a game of bluffing and deception hidden in a baseball game's pivotal moment at the bottom of the 9th. If you have passed this up due to the theme, I suggest giving it a go. I walked away from my first game, with Rodney Smith, loving it and wanting more, and now that I backed it and own it, bring it to the table whenever I can.
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13. Board Game: Bring Out Yer Dead [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:3295]
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BOYD is a bit morbid, yes, but fun. There are obvious Monty Python jokes abound every night you bring it out, but the choices and timing make for a strategically fun time. It's rare UDE does something not licensed, but this shows they have the skills, when applied, to bring something special out of nowhere.
 
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14. Board Game: Broom Service [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:403]
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I had skeptical thoughts going into this one, but after several plays, I can see why it's an award winner. This is a great experience and even greater with 5 players. Role selection with potential blocking from other players, with a dash of bluffing and well timed decisions make this a fun and entertaining game.
 
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15. Board Game: The Builders: Antiquity [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1801] [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked]
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I truly feel this game is overlooked due to the tin issue. This, and its predecessor, are GREAT games, with wonderful choices, but it is not a "tin" game to me. This is something that takes up a lot of room, and requires 45-60 to play, with meaningful decisions to make. The tin gives off a vibe that I think stigmatizes the game, and in a way I feel is unfair. It's superb and I'd recommend it to most any gamer, including the first installment of the Builders as well.
 
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16. Board Game: Champions of Midgard [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:150]
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CoM is amazing but don't get sucked in by the "It's like Lords of Waterdeep" discussion. Apart from there being worker placement and a score track that goes around the outside of the board, I don't feel this game is at all like Lords of Waterdeep, and that's not a bad thing.

CoM is one of the best games of the year. It's thematic, it's easy to learn, even for a new time worker placement player, and it's deeply rich and engaging. The choices of who is going to attack what monster, troll, or drauger are tense, and the choices offered are always in the vain of "I want to do ALL of it... but I can't!"

If you haven't played this yet, do. It's great.
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17. Board Game: CHEW: Cases of the FDA [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:10699]
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I have never read Chew the comic book, but I Was surprised, given the odd theme, how much of a fun game is in this one. I feel it's slightly overpriced given what you get, but I also feel it's a fun game in it's own right. I think the theme will put many off, and I don't even like it, but the mechanics work, and provide interesting decisions to make to pull out the victory.
 
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18. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:36] [Average Rating:7.86 Unranked]
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To no surprise, this is the game I've played the most in 2015, possibly because everyone I know has it, or possibly because quite simply, it's amazing.

I feel if anything could win "game of the year" this is it. It can be played with anyone, is simple to learn, easy to understand, yet challenging. My favorite part about this game is that it's a completely different game if you're the spymaster or the team members guessing the words. Depending on which side of the clue card you're sitting on, can provide you a completely different, but totally fun, experience.

In short, this game is filled with awesome. We have incorporated a new way of playing that we call "hardcore mode" The rules are simple:

Clues can only be the names of a board game (Tabletop game)
You can not use any words on the board, per normal rules

Good luck, it's VERY tough, but VERY fun!
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19. Board Game: Dice City [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:840]
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And the winner of "Biggest footprint of 2015 goes to..."

Big? Yes. Fun? At times. Dice City is what you get when you cross Machi Koro with decisions on placement... however, it still never quite fires on the same entertainment value that Machi Koro has for me. I like Dice City, but in a 2 player game it feel like there's not enough interaction and in a four player game, there seems to never be enough time to do what you want to do. Is it fun? Yes. Is it superb? Possibly for your group.
 
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20. Board Game: Discoveries [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:535]
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I loved Lewis and Clark so this was no surprise, but what I was surprised about was the depth. This is a dice game that is more than just the luck of the roll and good timing, it's about planning, and making the best use our of what you get when implementing that plan. Discoveries is a great game and one that may likely shelve it's "sister" game for me, in favor of this one more often.
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21. Board Game: Eminent Domain: Microcosm [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1727]
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It took us a while to get this to the table, but it so worth it. ED is one of my favorite deck builders and Micorcosm does for it what Duel did for 7 Wonders. It takes a 2 player rule set and lets you enjoy it in a new way. Great game to carry with you and a great game to play, almost anywhere.
 
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22. Board Game: Epic Card Game [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1268]
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I played Epic in it's first form, and... I liked the idea of it.

I have now played Epic, in it's latest form, a lot... and... I still like the idea of it.

While I love WWG, I feel Epic is only best in draft mode. Playing by normal rules of dealing out 30 cards to each player is SO random, it often takes away from the game. The 4 card draft model is well done and my preferred way to play. I think once an app comes out, I will play this more, but for now, it's fun, and enjoyable, but has a lot more potential, presuming WWG supports it in the coming months with expansions.
 
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23. Board Game: A Fake Artist Goes to New York [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:933]
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Spyfall meets Pictionary in an awesome good time. I can't sum it up any better, if you like either, or both, it's worth the ride!
 
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24. Board Game: Favor of the Pharaoh [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1066]
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I love dice and I thought this would hit for me, but it hasn't. Its an interesting and fun game, but it also doesn't grab you, or me, the way I thought it would. It's somewhat obvious what the right choices are and just comes down to "did you roll right" so when you don't, it's a poor experience. It can be fun, but it's not the best time rolling dice given the multitudes of other options out there.
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25. Board Game: Fidelitas [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3086]
Scott "Tox" Morris
United States
Georgetown
Texas
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Green Couch Games has been one of the better indie publishers this year, and Fidelitas is a "under the radar" game that I am so happy I backed. It's got unique gameplay and choices for a small card game and beautiful artwork to boot. If you like card games that are portable, but not exactly 15 minute romps, giving you a bit more, but not too much to chew, this is for you.
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