New to you 2016 => Best new boardgame of the Year!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
As we enter a new year, let's first look back at the best new games we played for the first time in 2016? Please share you experiences of the best new games you played this year.
New To You Annual Metalist
Other Great Annual Lists
Your Most Played Game (and more): The Year 2016
New to you FIVE years ago 2016 => Has it stood the test of time?
BGG Top 50 Statistics : from 01 Jan 16 to 01 Jan 17 - 2016 Overview
Best New Game
NOT OWNED - 5 plays in 2016
Splendor was new to me in January 2016, but oddly enough did not earn the title of New To me Jan 2016, being beaten at the time by Machi Koro in a very close run contest... however subsequent plays of both Machi Koro and Splendor have reversed the overall result, narrowly giving the title of Best New To Me game of 2016 to Splendor.
NOT OWNED - 2 plays in 2016
Winner of the title of New To Me Jan 2016, this game narrowly loses to the game it beat that month for the title of overall New To Me game of 2016.
Love the world.
What an amazing year for excellent new games!
For me, the best new game of the year was A Feast for Odin.
A Feast for Odin is the culmination of everything I like about Uwe Rosenberg's big box games: strong and well-integrated theming, a development arc that leaves you with a feeling of having built something, and tons of variety. I also really like how he integrated the Patchwork tile placement mechanism into the engine-building and end-game VP scoring. It's clever, fun, and interesting. I especially enjoy exploring remote islands and then building them up into productive sources of goods, money, and VP.
This is the ultimate rainy afternoon game for my wife and me. And the physical production is top notch, with tons of solid bits and great graphic design. A huge chunk of winning, taking up a remarkable amount of shelf space.
And here are the honorable mentions:
Best Amerithrash epic: Star Wars: Rebellion.
This is the original Star Wars saga in a box. Game play is strongly asymmetrical, with the rebels hiding and trying to build up opposition to the Empire through clandestine operations, and the Empire spreading its greatly superior military and industrial power across the galaxy. Time is on the rebels' side. If they can hold out long enough, the Empire will eventually fall ("The more you tighten your grip Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.") But if the Empire finds the rebel base and destroys it, the last hope for freedom will be extinguished.
Game play is driven by mission cards, which are performed by leaders (which are characters from the films). This creates a strong narrative hook, which really evokes the theme of the game. Great stuff!
And the physical production is over the top. Permanent keeper, on the shelf next to War of the Ring.
Best Medium-Heavy Euros: Great Western Trail, Terraforming Mars, and Lorenzo il Magnifico.
Great Western Trail is a really fun mix of deck-building, worker placement (on a branching path, which players can customize each game to offer different opportunities and obstacles), and engine building (each cattle delivery and train station built lets you place a disk on the main board, which unlocks a power on your player board; you can also buy workers who boost the strength of your main actions). The variability between plays is high, with a different configuration of buildings on the board and a semi-random seeding of hazards, workers, and train stations. Despite the moderate complexity (expect a 30 minute rule teach), game turns are fast and the time flies. Just an all-around great game.
It doesn't hurt that I've won every one of my six plays to date.
Terraforming Mars is a relatively straightforward card-based tableau builder. Each turn players draw cards and can buy any of them into their hands (my wife and I have house-ruled this to minimize luck of the draw; rather than draw four and buy up to four, we draw six and buy up to four). Then players take turns performing actions. These can be the "basic" actions that are available to all players or special actions unlocked by playing cards to your tableau. The game has moderate complexity, with several currencies and global parameters (heat, oxygen, and surface water; which collectively serve as the game's clock). But game play is really pretty simple once you get the hang of things. The fun comes from working your way through the huge deck of unique cards, each of which allows you to do something cool and significant, tailoring your position so that it diverges from those of the other players (e.g., you can plant moss or crash an asteroid into the surface). The variety of cards available creates a massively thematic experience, which is exactly what I wanted from this game. Great stuff!
Lorenzo il Magnifico makes a great use of dice. Each turn they're rolled to set the numbers that will be available for all players to use. This creates randomness between turns, but it falls equally on all players. Players then take turns using the numbers to perform actions, with higher numbers generally producing better results. Actions can be used to acquire cards of various types, which are used to build the player's two different production engines or increase end-game VP scoring of different types. Actions can also be used to trigger production engines, which then crank out the various goodies that you need to pay all of the various costs you'll face. Those include an every-other-turn maintenance fee (paid to the Church). If you can't pay it (or choose not to), you'll acquire an "excommunication" penalty that will dog you for the rest of the game -- and they're quite nasty.
Lorenzo is a beautifully conceived and executed mid-weight euro, bristling with interesting trade-offs and hard choices. The theme is somewhat uninspired, but I don't care. I like Ren-Europe themed games and royal grouchy dudes on game boxes. Love it!
Best Heavy Euro(s): The Gallerist and Vinhos Deluxe Edition.
This year I played my first two Lacerda games (which I kickstarted with all the trimmings): The Gallerist and Vinhos Deluxe Edition. Both are intricate efficiency games, with lots of interlocking parts. And they both have remarkably attractive and clear graphic design, which makes them relatively easy to learn and a pleasure to play. If you like this kind of thing, you'll love these games. They're pretty much flawless.
I fully expect Lisboa to be on this list next year.
Best Light Dice Chucker: Hit Z Road.
This one surprised me. Martin Wallace's lighter games are hit and miss with me (I really like Discworld but The Witches and Via Nebula thoroughly bored me).
But Hit Z Road is hands-down brilliant. The game play is unexpectedly tense (with a brutally fun sunk-cost auction and card-based hazards that ratchet up in difficulty across the arc of the game). The dice chucking combat system is fun -- even when the luck completely burns you, as happens with some frequency. And the physical production is the most inventive and well-realized package I've seen in a long time. It really enhances the feel of playing the game and looks great. Space Cowboys know their craft!
If you can tolerate light games, zombies, and some luck (which can often be mitigated, if you're smart and careful), give this one a try. It's a lot of fun in a small package.
When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
I'm putting 10 games and 2 expansion maps on my list this year.
Map 2. Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania The Pennsylvania side A fun map for TtR, much better than the UK side.
Map 1. Railways Through Time Loved this map system for my second favorite game of all time.
10. History Maker Baseball It seemed to me to be less like a board game and more like a solo RPG where you are a baseball announcer. Lots of fun if you have a team you are cheering for.
9. Ninja Camp Designed by my friend Adam E. Daulton I got to playtest this in 2015 and provide some suggestions.
8. The Game of 49 Good family style game.
7. Exploding Kittens My daughter loves this, and I enjoy it as well.
6. 1775: Rebellion I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did. Love the historical theme as well.
5. Caverna: The Cave Farmers the biggest surprise on my list. I don't like Agricola, and I expected not to like this. Disadvantage: wife didn't like it, but this is my list.
4. Treasure Hunter Really enjoyed this drafting game, and so did two friends.
3. Broom Service Liked this one a lot, and got a copy for Christmas.
2. Dark Dealings I like this one a lot as well, and it has a fun solo option.
1. Nehemiah Worker placement/worker activation with some meanness to it. Love both the gameplay and the theme, and its my pick for new-to-me in 2016. Sidenote: For the last three years, my choice of a game was produced in 2014.
What can I say that hasn't already been said? This game checks a lot of my boxes. It's very interactive, has a lot of depth, has emergent gameplay, plays quickly, and is relatively easy to teach. It's not for everyone but it does fill a very nice niche in my collection. It might be a struggle to get people interested in games like Agricola and Le Havre. This game is the polar opposite yet still feels very satisfying with a lot of decision points (again mostly social decision points like deciding who to ally with or try to persuade but also mixed with some hand management and bluffing). This is definitely a forever game
Other games I really enjoyed learning/playing this year include Le Havre, Bohnanza, and YINSH. It was a great year for games
Fernando Robert Yu
I would have to note down the following games as my best games for the year, in a year full of good games. These were all rated 8.5 by me.
BEST NEW GAME
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 = 18 Plays
The first half of the year had me and my 2 sons (Sherwin and Shawn) and sometimes my Daughter Sharlene (she got to play twice) undertake this journey to save the world. The fact that I got to play 18 total games with my kids with this title as we played out the story this game told was enough to make it the new game of the year even though this title is basically a one-off experience, not unlike going through a RPG campaign since you also level up your characters and the board and nevironment changes depending on the results of previous games. It did drag towards the ending but we managed to finish it (12 wins 6 losses) and at least the boys are now open to future cooperative games with a campaign like setting (Mechs vs. Minions is next!).
A game of this can be an exhausting experience even if you win!
BEST NEW EURO
Viticulture Essential Edition = 2 Plays
This as a real surprise considering I did not really plan to get it. It was available for sale second hand for a great price so I bit the bullet and was really glad I did. It's a really good worker placement game which adds rule breaking card play as well as additional decisions like the time your workers wake up, how many workers to hold back for the winter season, etc. and together with great components gives you are really thematic euro experience despite the theme being initially one which does not really excite me.
Great thematic euro..really smooth playing!
BEST NEW THEMATIC GAME
Forbidden Stars = 8 Plays
This bulky title was the real stand out for me for this category. I was an avid Warhammer 40,000 player for 14 years (until 2012) yet I resisted the urge to get this galaxy spanning game due to the fact that it has a long recommended playtime. The great little minis and good reviews did it for me though and it turned out to be a great purchase since I ended up playing it 8 times despite the long game time. It REALLY captures the feel of the universe and playing with or against the 4 factions also gives you the feel of how they are supposed to behave compared to their tabletop counterpart. It's just a shame Games Workshop Ltd. and Fantasy Flight Games had a falling out as I was looking forward to official expansions with the rest of the factions.
Really captures the flavor of the Warhammer 40,000 factions. Shame that there will be no more official expansion!
Risk: Star Wars Edition = 10 Plays
I got the Black Box limited edition online and while it took some time to get my copy I wasted no time getting it to the table. While it's very thematic the quick playtime (around 30 minutes) puts it in the filler category for me for the 2 and 4 (team play) player count. The game really captures the feel of Episode 6. Some criticize the game as being "scripted" but I disagree since the fact that you roll dice to resolve the actions means that the script you intend to follow may always go awry and the fact that you also need to play the right cards to activate the specific action means that you may also run out of the right cards, so this game is as much how quick you adapt and react to the situation and make the most use of the cards you have in order to win. So far it's 50-50 between the Empire and the Rebellion so it's balanced in my eyes.
Episode 6 in a box...nuff said!
Arcadia Quest: Beyond the Grave = 6 Plays
Arcadia Quest was a great hit for my group in 2015 so this expansion was a must buy. It did not disappoint as the undead monsters and new characters (I also splurged on character packs) gave the campaign a different feel from the base game. Looking forward to the Arcadia Quest: Inferno expansion!
Great expansion campaign for a great (and great looking) thematic game!
Content Generation For A New Generation
2016 was a year of feast or famine, as far as my boardgaming was concerned. I attended UK Games Expo in June and LoBsterCon in December, with a corresponding ballooning in my number of new-to-me games; but in other months I had two or even one new game.
Onto the awards, then:
The I Only Have One Friend Award for Best Two-Player Abstract
Nominees: Santorini · Carnivores · Crosshairs · Interplay · Onitama · Lines of Action · Hey That's My Fish! · Murus Gallicus
And the winner is: Circle of Life (5 plays): I love this little game. The Circle of Life around the board makes it seem like you're being inducted into some manner of arcana, but instead you're being inducted into a beautiful, tense placement game, where the board is always slightly too small for you to place safely and where your groups threaten and are threatened in incisively balanced turn until you strike or are struck. Sensational.
The Soundproofed Room Award for Best Fillerish Game That Probably Involves Shouting At Someone
Nominees: Spot it! · Deep Sea Adventure · You Robot · Pairs · Fuji Flush
And the winner is: Deep Sea Adventure (1 play): I didn't play any of these as much as I'd like to have but Deep Sea Adventure's sexy form factor gives it the edge. Drowning has never been so much fun.
The Romanian Stables Award for Best Meaty Game
Nominees: Food Chain Magnate · Dominant Species · Antiquity · Terraforming Mars · Concordia
And the winner is: Food Chain Magnate (8 plays): 2016 was the Year of the Splotter for me, with two others (The Great Zimbabwe and Indonesia) new to me as well as my first non-solo play of Roads & Boats. As much as further plays of Terraforming Mars with the full rules did reveal it to be a lovely little gem, the title can only go to the trusty FCM. Delightful theme, simple rules, and a grin on your face as you fight to stuff burgers down throats like a cyborg John Gummer.
The I Don't Want To Play A Game That Much Award for Best Shortish Game
Nominees: Chicago Express · Pax Porfiriana · Mottainai · Eternity
And the winner is: Mottainai (5 plays): Maybe it's recency bias but I love the big C.C. and Mottainai is another whizz-bang delight. Chicago Express is a stock-trading delicacy in under an hour and Pax Po is a great be-dicks-to-each-other-until-someone-wins experience but Mottainai is as moreish as crack-frosted Coco Shreddies. Rome demands turtles!
And finally, the The Other Hat Trick Memorial Award for Most Interesting Weird Little Game That Probably Got Me Onto The 'Games Only You Played This Month' Geeklist
Nominees: sightlesswordfight · MeM · Lakota
And the winner is: sightlesswordfight (1 play): I remain vaguely convinced that there exists an optimal strategy despite having not found the time to itemise and prove it since playing the game in March. But there's no denying that it's an adorable game, a smart and original idea for a two-player vocabulary duel to the death.
2016 was another great year of gaming with family and friends. Just for a bit of perspective when it comes to my list I managed 842 plays of 196 distinct games, with 105 of those games being new to me.
My favorite new to me game of 2016
Guilds of London, 2 plays in 2016
Guilds of London is amazing, the love child of Race for the Galaxy and El Grande. I'd be willing to play this game any time, it is absolutely a top notch design. Yes it'll take a few plays to understand all the iconography, but it's time well invested. This is a highly interactive Euro where each turn you are building a mini tableau using multi use cards to take actions. Add to that the ninjas (neutral liverymen) and screwage abounds! Not for the faint of heart.
The rest of my top 10 of 2016 (in alphabetical order):
Bargain Hunter, 2 plays in 2016
I grew up playing cribbage with my dad, and he is teaching my son how to play. However; neither of us like cribbage as a 3p game so I started to look for card games that all three of us could play together. Diamonds and Parade were instant hits, from there things didn't go so well. Three isn't the best number for a lot of card games, but I got plenty of recommendations and tried almost all of them Potato Man, Qwixx the Card Game, Sticheln, Stichling, and none of them were hits. Bargain Hunter was the most recent acquisition and it has been a hit. It takes a game to figure out how the game works since it doesn't play like other trick takers, but once it clicks this is a very good and confrontational game. I'd highly recommend seeking out a copy if you're a fan of card games and it works exceptionally well with three.
Barony, 18 plays in 2016
I'm cheating a bit including this, but I only got a few plays in at the end of last year and I really wasn't sure if it would have staying power. Long story short, Barony has become one of my favorite super fillers and a game I'll break out at any opportunity. The game scales well and is just as good with two as four. The game play is simple yet deep, the game moves along at a quick pace and it is absolutely beautiful set up on the table. Barony is an excellent game that I'm surprised doesn't get more love since it was designed by Marc Andre (the designer of Splendor). I just picked up the expansion which adds some different ways to break some of the rules while not introducing any random elements into the game play.
A Feast for Odin, 12 plays in 2016
Uwe is by far my favorite designer (from heavy games like this to card games like Bargain Hunter and Mamma Mia) and it is becoming more and more difficult for me to pick my favorites. At this point I've played all of Uwe's heavier games and at a minimum Odin is in the top 3; fighting for space with Agricola, Ora et Labora and Glass Road. As far as game play goes I really enjoy the Tetris style tile laying in this game and occupation cards are back. While they are not quite as central to the game as in Agricola, they add tons of variety to the game. Figuring out how to find synergies between them while sometimes difficult is extremely rewarding.
Kingdomino, 19 plays in 2016
One of the best gateway/filler games I've ever played. A stellar combination of tile laying and drafting. At it's best with the 2p extended game or 4p since it removes the randomness of having to remove tiles. This would be my number one pick to give to someone who isn't a gamer.
La Granja, 7 plays in 2016
La Granja manages to combine a bunch of different game mechanisms found in other games into a cohesive, fun game play experience. First of all I really enjoy multi use cards in games and it is nice to see it executed so well in a heavier Euro game. The dice drafting also works well and forces you to sometimes rethink your plans. Every time I play I enjoy figuring out how I am going to approach scoring points since there are multiple paths you can go down. However; this is not a point salad game, you are rewarded for focusing on a specific path. The variety in card powers really make this game a joy to play since you are constantly uncovering different synergies between all the mechanics of game play.
Ora et Labora, 6 plays in 2016
Ora et Labora was the last big Uwe game I played and it has become one of my absolute favorites. It takes everything I loved form Le Havre (resource conversion/management) and added a spacial element to laying out your tableau of buildings, has a better theme and removed the ever present feeding requirements (which I don't have any problem with in Agricola but Le Havre was another matter). I am looking forward to many more plays and my son and I are planning on playing the long 2p game over Christmas break. My favorite of Uwe's games has been shaken up this year with Ora et Labora and A Feast for Odin probably becoming two of my absolute favorites.
Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan, 1 play in 2016
Sekigahara is a game I wanted to play for years and never got the chance, until a few days before the New Year. It ended up being one of the gaming highlights of the year for me. This game is exceptional, it strikes the perfect balance of simple rules coupled with extremely deep strategy. I am making it a point to get more plays of this game in 2017 and I'm looking at getting a copy since a buddy of mine has showm interest in playing.
Triassic Terror, 3 plays in 2016
How I wish I could get this to the table more. It is right up there with El Grande when thinking about my favorite area control games, for that matter any game (it's in my personal top 10).. My quick sell is imagine El Grande with hungry dinosaurs. Triassic Terror is more confrontational than El Grande since you can wipe out other people's herds of dinosaurs, but that's the point of area control right? There can be only one.
ZhanGuo, 5 plays in 2016
Probably the biggest surprise hit for my son and I when it came to Euro games this year. Is it dripping in theme? Not really, but there is enough there to hold together an excellent game. It seems more complex than it really is, all of the mechanics work seamlessly together and offer a rich decision space to explore. All of my plays have been with two so far and works well at that player count (I will mention that you can't let someone run away with the governor action or it's lights out). This is the first What's Your Game game I've played and I'm looking forward to trying more. In fact the designers of ZhanGuo just released Railroad Revolution which I am eager to play.
Honorable mention goes to ICECOOL (13 plays in 2016) for the best family game of the year.
What makes this game amazing is the penguins themselves. They are similar to weeble wobbles which makes flicking them fun and sometimes unpredictable. However; the more you play the more consistently you can pull off some amazing shots. My kids right now are focused on getting their penguins to jump walls. Ice Cool is pure fun, if you have a family you should definitely get this game. If the folks you game with enjoy games like Loopin' Louis I'd highly recommend Ice Cool. Ice Cool has replaced Animal Upon Animal as my favorite dexterity game.
Thanks for reading and feel free to ask any questions!
Happy New Year,
May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
I really do love creating these lists at the end of each year...
Let's start with the contenders for game of the year in the order I discovered them in 2016. There may not be 12 because some months a smaller game may have won and that has its own category further down the list.
This is another strong batch of contenders. I've even popped Castles of Burgundy in here even though it came second in its month...such is its strength and the fact it is in my wheelhouse.
In the end there are 5 solid contenders for the title - images #1, #4, #5, #7 and #10 from the list above. Arctic Scavengers is the most thematic and engaging deck builder I have played to date. Three Kingdoms Redux is just an amazing experience with so much depth, I've already mentioned CoB, Unfair is just a gorgeous tableau building game with excellent artwork and Destiny blew me away at the end of the year and has me deck building and spending dollars like you wouldn't believe.
Game of the Year - Three Kingdoms Redux
Man this was a tough decision but in the end I had to give my gong to 3KR. It takes balls to make a game like this as it is so unique on the market in both the mix of mechanisms, the depth of play and the fact that it caters to the 3-player only market (no more, no less).
It also takes passion to create a game that looks this gorgeous and I have no doubt that this was a labour of love. To think that they produced this game on their own without major publisher backing is amazing.
3KR is essentially a worker placement game but there are so many interwoven elements that add to that and they are not just tacked on. I am certain that I could play this for a lifetime and still be exploring the depths of the 3 asymmetric houses and the generals they have to offer.
Sadly I may not have the playgroups to get this one to the table anywhere near as often as I would like but maybe I just found my first 'must play convention game'.
I will be reviewing this in January 2017 to celebrate its win. I am also happy to announce that the game has picked up a publishing deal with Capstone Games to release a second edition to America and Europe. I hope I can play a small part in getting the word out on this one as it deserves to be more widely known and played.
Plays - 4
Status - Own original but may look into 2nd Ed if it is a substantial improvement on components (would be difficult)
Runner-Up - Unfair
I'm still not sure how I haven't picked this one to take the prize. I really was left weighing up what makes the better game...the more unique and deeper experience or the game that feels quite familiar but is totally accessible.
In the end I had to give second place to Unfair...but even 2nd this year is a hell of a good thing. Unfair for me is just a delight to play. The mechanics are simple and streamlined to the point that you play the game and not the rules. The thematic integration here is excellent and the way that theme decks integrate with one another make for almost limitless exploration (well it will when all the theme decks drop). But best of all it is just fun to construct a theme park.
I could easily play this twice a week and not get sick of it. I have been very lucky this year as both of these games came to me as review requests from the designers. If only every such request were games as strong as these - I would be in heaven.
Also worth a shout out to Aussie designers, who are doing great stuff. This is Joel Finch's first major release and he is in good company with Phil Walker-Harding (Imhotep, Sushi Go Party and Cacao), David Harding (Grail Games Publishing) and Peter Hawes (Lancaster vs York & Francis Drake).
Want to know more about Unfair -
Unfair - A Detailed Review
Plays - 9
Status - Full Kickstarter on the way and plans to buy every additional theme deck released
Best Small Game of the Year
I had to look back at last year's crop of contenders but I can easily say that this is the best 10 game line-up of small games I have played in a calendar year to date.
The contenders are -
I mean...how do you pick a winner out of that?
Winner - Targi
Targi is just a crackingly good 2-player game. The strategic depth is spot on for a 30-40 minute game and the options and sense of control you have, whilst posing you several objectives is fantastic. At this point I would say that Targi is definitely my favourite game in the Kosmos 2-Player series at the present time.
I will definitely be looking to pick up the expansion at some point in 2017. For those that don't know the game well -
Targi - A Detailed Review
Plays - 3
Status - Owned
Small Game Runner-Up - La Granja: No Siesta
This was one of those games I had no knowledge of and no intention to play, but a mate introduced me to it at a Con late in the year. The basic play style reminded me a lot of Roll Through the Ages, but this had more meat and didn't finish just as you were getting going.
I really liked the communal resource pool and the various approaches one could take to completing the many aspects of their scoresheet (farm?)
This is one I would like to acquire at some point. I received the bigger brother this Christmas so we will see if that scratches a similar itch or not.
Status - Likely Acquisition
Best Expansion - Cacao: Chocolatl
Wow...9 months of this year did not feature an expansion play at all. That has to be an all-time low for me. This is largely due to playing more 'unplayed' games in the collection for sure.
So the title goes Cacao: Chocolatl, which takes that cool modular expansion approach that allows you to mix and match your Cacao experience to taste. Nice.
Status - Son Owned
Best 'New Game of the Year' Record
2016 – Three Kingdoms Redux
2015 – Imperial Assault
2014 – Tokaido
2013 – Village
2012 – Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar
2011 – Through the Ages: A Story of Civilisation
2010 – Claustrophobia
2009 – Runebound 2nd Ed.
2008 – Stone Age
2007 – Streetsoccer
2006 – Saint Petersburg
2005 – Nexus Ops
2004 – Memoir '44
Best 'Small Game of the Year' Record
2016 – Targi
2015 – 7 Wonders: Duel
2014 – Splendor
2013 – Wurfel Bohnanza
2012 – Revolver
2011 – Palasgefluster
2010 – Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game
2009 – Money
2008 – Archaeology: The Card Game
2007 – Tichu
2006 – Starship Catan
2005 – Queen's Necklace
2004 – Bohnanza
Best 'New Expansion of the Year' Record
2016 – Cacao: Chocolatl
2015 – Machi Koro: Millionairre's Row
2014 – Runebound: Sands of Al-Kalim
2013 – Memoir '44: Breakthru
2012 – 7 Wonders : Cities
2011 – Ascension: Return of the Fallen
2010 – Memoir ’44: Campaign Book Volume 1
2009 – RftG: The Gathering Storm
2008 – Last Night on Earth: Growing Hunger
2007 – Memoir '44: Eastern Front
2006 – Ticket to Ride - 1910
This was another excellent year for new discoveries. Three Kingdoms Redux takes the crown an is the meatiest Euro on my winner's list since Through the Ages.
2017 promises to be one of the best ever as my new games room is fully functional and the games should flow with ease.
Board Game: Orléans
[Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:26]
Darryl with one "R"
#1 favorite game of 2016:
Before playing Orléans, I was pretty sure I would enjoy it. I have always liked the deck building in Dominion, but always wished there was just a little more to the game than just the deck building. Orleans keeps much of that feeling (with its bag building), but then adds a few more elements, including buildings which provide player-specific worker placement spaces (which is a favorite "unofficial mechanic").
I have read complaints about a lack of replaybility, but fortunately (or perhaps not), my wife & I typically go months between playing the same game twice, so we haven't encountered this issue yet.
#2 favorite game of 2016:
Dungeon Petz was on my wishlist for several years before I finally acquired it in a math trade in the spring of this year. A fun, whimsical theme stands on top of a quite complex game. In fact, I thought that handling each pet's needs might even be a bit overly complex.
But the decisions in the game are very interesting. There's some ability to plan ahead, so it's not purely tactical. And the mechanics of the game fit the theme very well. Excellent!
#3 favorite game of 2016:
I purchased Grand Austria Hotel in December and played it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. A fun & pleasant theme, wonderful art, an interesting dice drafting mechanic, many things to balance, and a lot of staff cards should provide excellent replayability. Great fun.
Best "New to Me" Board Game of the Year 2016
Although coming second to 51st State: Master Set in total plays for 2016, The Voyages of Marco Polo is the best new game I played this year from the pool of 28 that I tried.
I like that although there's a lot of randomness in The Voyages of Marco Polo, most of it is in the set up and once set up, the only other bit is the die and how the contracts come out. And the randomness of both is mitigated by, for the dice, using camels to re-roll or modify them, and for the contracts, by there being six available each turn. It's very rare that all the available contracts are unappealing.
The random board layout makes each game feel just a bit different. Some games money is plentiful and other times it's very tight. Some games, travel is easy as there are locations and contracts that give movement points aplenty, and some games there aren't. In other games, VPs can be made in cities, and other games, VPs are primarily from contracts. Which means each play there's a different optimum strategy (which may or may not have to be flexible given what other players are doing).
My enjoyment of the game is also enhanced by the fact my wife enjoys playing it as well. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization may well have been number one, but it's a bit too heavy and long for it to get many plays around here.
Best New to Me that I Only Played Once
So many game this year only got a single play in spite my really enjoying them. These include Locomotive Werks, Scythe, A Feast for Odin, Lignum and a number of 18xx games (see below). But I think my favourite had to have been Yokohama. So much so, I almost imported it from Japan after playing it, but decided instead to be patient and wait for the TMG edition.
Yokohama is a resource collection, set collection game which borrows a bit from everywhere. In fact, it reminds me a bit World's Fair 1893, in the set collection scoring and that your action is to place cubes into one or more areas (and then your "President" pawn) and then take the action/items. But Yokohama is so much more than that and I enjoyed it so much more because it also has elements of Sail to India in it's multiple use of cubes, and a bit like Le Havre in that the pawn can block others from use of an area and that there's just more things you want to do than you possibly can.
Best "New to Me" 18xx
In my quest to play as many 18xx games as I can, this year I got four new ones to the table: 1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways, 1859, 18NY, and 1844. Of them, 18NY surpassed my expectations the most, but still came third after 1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways and my favourite of the year 1844.
On first play, I found 1844 rather overwhelming with so many companies and such a large map (of tiny Switzerland). It's a game that rewards building strong companies and long term track development and not stock manipulation. And it throws in some interesting smaller companies which might seem weak because they haven't the capital for really good trains so they don't earn as much, but their share density pays out twice as much so they only have to make half as much to compete. I look forward to playing this one again in 2017.
I resisted buying this expansion for a long time and probably wouldn't have it still had the games from Essen 2016 been released sooner in Canada. The German boards give players more flexibility over what strategies they'd like to pursue and the new "coal" resource and foundries allow players to boost key trains or factories as they see fit.
Well looking over my entries for the best games of the month here's my ranking to find out the best of the best.
1. Baseball Highlights: 2045 - It's a stunning design and this is not just because I won the LoB tournament. It feels properly like a sporting contest without bogging down in simulation, gradual evolution of your decks but leaves you with a team very definitely your own at the end. I really ought to have listened to the LoB buzz earlier.
2. Pax Porfiriana - Another game other LoB members have been saying is great for years, a really interesting game and story emerges from the mass of unique cards which doesn't feel like anything else out there.
3. Terraforming Mars - The hit of Essen 2016 if LoB has anything to say, throughout our Eastbourne gaming weekend there were at least tables of this going at all times of day. The theme genuinely fills integrated, I like a tableau builder and it's all concentrated on the terraforming and so you're not left feeling any of the mechanics are extraneous.
4. Mask of Anubis - So much more fun than it has any right to be, it's the best of co-ops in that it tests your ability to actually work together. The VR while certainly a gimmick is also well implemented to give you a gaming experience that wouldn't be as much fun without it.
5. Mexica - It's really refreshing to go back and play some classic Euros, I don't dislike modern games but occasionally the busyness of them does get too much. This is simple in comparison but great for that simplicity.
6. Twilight Struggle - Well I'm hardly pushing the boat out by saying this is great but it really is. Hopefully will actually get to play this more as I'm just feeling I'm getting to the point where I have enough of a handle on the cards to properly play the game.
7. A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition) - The most played game on this list, the pull of Magic definitely still remains. This is a great LCG, the factions feel genuinely different, the plot cards are a great way to deal with the resource issue and it definitely fits the theme.
8. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game - The movement system remains a genius idea and the simultaneous choosing of movement does make it feel like a dog fight. I think I prefer Armada but I'm glad gaming snobbery didn't stop me playing a gem of a miniatures game.
9. Through the Desert - It's good enough that I really liked it despite spacial abstracts basically not being a thing I really like. A classic and deservedly so.
10. Blood Rage - Big, fun dudes on a map game with a chance to draft your special powers. Not a game I want to play every week or own but it does what it does well.
11. Welcome to the Dungeon - It's a fun filler but not ultimately not more than that. May was the one month I look back at and can't see what I was thinking when choosing my best game, see more below.
12. Too Many Cinderellas - To be fair January was a shit month for new games, this isn't even near the top of my best fillers of 2016.
Finally one bonus mention will go to the best new to me game that somehow didn't make it as my best game of the month. Quite how I didn't pick Mottainai as my game of May I don't know but this is a game I now own and will be playing a lot in 2017. It's slimmed down Glory to Rome and all the better for the cuts, just enough bullshit card power based game play to enjoy the interactions without getting frustrated.
#1 Mansions of Madness 2nd edition
I absolutely love this game and I'm on board for all the upcoming expansions too. The app integration is very well done and obfuscates the enemy systems sufficiently that you can't game it like a typical system. There's no token threshold or thinning deck to tell you just how long you have until that chanting ends and a star spawn appears to kill everyone. Exploration feels suitably RPG-ish as each interaction point is uniquely described by the app, which means there are far more of them than the typical generic cards with a few unique ones per scenario. It's also smart enough to keep a good chunk of the game out of the app so it doesn't feel like we could just be passing the tablet around instead of playing a board game.
Each scenario has limited replay (3-4 plays is my personal threshold for most) but I don't really care when it's this much fun getting there.
#2 Pax Renaissance
Another great game in the Pax series and easily my favourite so far. This stabilises the game slightly and has a much more complex map to make it feel more like a board game and less like a card game, despite the importance of the cards. I also think the move to a higher scale game world suits the mechanics more than previous two. I know I won't get to play this too often as the real world theme and heavy mechanics put off most of the people I play with but I can't wait for the times when I do manage to get it played.
#3 The Voyages of Marco Polo
The player powers are absolutely the best part of this game. The core dice placement mechanics are interesting and I like the balance between moving around the map and completing contracts but the player powers move this from good to great. They all feel incredibly powerful and your choice of character will often change how you have to play the game to keep up. I continue to enjoy this one as much as I did first time.
T.I.M.E Stories: A Prophecy of Dragons
T.I.M.E Stories: Under the Mask
TIME Stories continues to be one of my (possibly the) favourite games with its expansions.
Prophecy of Dragons was largely a fantasy RPG in TIME Stories format with lots of items, quest givers, etc. There's also a stage I can't really describe without spoilers in the second half that is unlike anything from another module and I'm very curious to see if that will be developed in the future. This one has the first real parts of the overarching story too and gives you an idea how everything ties together. Based solely on story, I think this is the best TIME Stories so far.
Under the Mask adds an entirely new mechanic at the start (that I also won't spoil) and I really do hope it's reused in later ones. That one mechanic added a lot to the game for us. I also like a return to a puzzle based module where combat was secondary, largely because I don't think the game does combat particularly well.
I'm so very excited for whatever else they do with this system.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
I've had a lot of fun with this game and I'm in for the future expansions too. The only reason this hasn't made the top 3 is that I think it's going to shine with expansions. It's still one of the best games I've played this year even without them, it's just that it will be so much better with.
Best New Game 2016
Of the two games I got for Christmas in 2015, Roll for the Galaxy got played the first week (therefore not on this list), while Concordia languished on the shelf for 11 months. What a mistake! I've played solo, two-player with my wife Sheryl, and four-handed at gaming group and always enjoyed the play. I was worried initially that the end of game scoring might not make sense (see Goa below), but the scoring "gods" for the most part are quite logical. Initially, it seemed odd that there was no weighting (additional card multipliers) for money at the end, but I'm okay with it pending more plays.
Time to count points.
I'm aware of the criticism that not all roads to points are equal, that there are really only three or four areas that will get you the win, but I need to play more before deducting for that.
Rating: out of 10.
Another late-to-the-table entry, I had somehow missed Goa for years. After watching a foursome at gaming group play last spring, I was so taken with it that I had to get it. I really enjoy engine-building games, though I don't generally care for auction mechanics. This one hit a sweet spot, however, and my only "ding" against it is the victory points of expedition card melds at the end. Still, I'm willing to put up with that for the overall game play.
Goa (second ed.) for four.
Rating: 7.8 out of 10.
Silent Victory: U.S. Submarines in the Pacific, 1941-45
In third place, top spot for a solitaire design, is "Silent Victory." While The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43 didn't grab me, I found the U.S. in the Pacific much more immersive. I've only completed one campaign so far but intend to start a second soon.
USS Batfish's final patrol, 1945.
Rating: 7.6 out of 10.
Space Cadets: Away Missions
Fourth place goes to SC:AM, a tongue-in-cheek dungeon-crawl-in-space that I enjoy in doses. Although my wife has played and enjoyed it (we won the Earth Orbital Station scenario), she's not wild about it, and it's a shade too light to interest the gaming group. Still, I don't regret picking it up. As with most cooperatives, it plays solo quite well.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
Played once at gaming group (and not owned), this is one that didn't grab me. With only one play, I need to try this one again now that I know the rules. For that reason, I haven't rated it yet, though I expect it will come in around 7.1 to 7.3 out of 10.
Another purchase after viewing "Rahdo Runs Through," I was taken by this at first. However, even playing the quickstart version (which we always do), it's too slow to get the engine building going. Then it ends just when you feel like you've got an engine worth running! I don't regret it, as Sheryl will play it. I was surprised when she picked Kashgar: Merchants of the Silk Road over Briefcase for our New Years play today.
Rating: 7.1 out of 10.
Not bad for what it is, but Burgle Bros. has not hit the table that much since its initial plays. Although my wife enjoyed it, it is subject to the luck inherent in most card/tile drawing games. Sometimes, in spite of careful play, the cards just beat you. There are some good design elements here, and I'll probably play again if I'm in the right mood. Sheryl even mentioned it recently, so we may try another two-player run. It solos okay if you accept the luck element. At least it's easy to set up and put away, unlike Arkham Horror.
Rating: out of 10.
Peloponnes Card Game
The biggest disappointment for 2016, for me, was PCG. I love civ building games and wanted to like it, but I just couldn't. In fairness, I knew going in that Peloponnes was tough on the players, more of a disaster-management than city building game. I should have know that PCG would be more of the same. I need to try using the house rule (sorry, don't recall which reviewer suggested it) to keep the disaster tokens off the chart until the first hits, effectively giving one more space before the disaster occurs. I'm still not sure that will do the trick.
Rating: out of 10.
Edit: spelling errors.
...Of The North Sea should really be viewed as a trilogy of light-hearted euro games (with a common theme and wonderful illustrations).
This tile-laying exploration game adds nicely to the mix, with cute longships that actually carry viking or animal meeples, building up islands and majority-controlling them. The game feels dreadfully tight, which is a good thing.
(Also, the North Sea trilogy offers one metagame, playing three different games in a row and gaining achievements in one helping you in the next. That is, to me, a rare concept.)
Oceanos - a quick and gorgeous take on card-drafting in family games. The players also improve their little 5-parts submarines, each part controlling one of their ingame abilities. Quick, cute and with reasonable amount of victory paths.
Cacao: Chocolatl - while Cacao is a nice game, it feels almost too simplistic. This adds what has been missing.
7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon - clever expansion making the game richer (albeit longer) and less predictable. And 7W Duel is to me the best duelling game currently on the market.
Greatest board game disappointment:
Fields of Green - let me start with saying I LOVE Among the Stars. According to descriptions, Fields of Green were supposed to finetune those mechanisms (eg. scoring at the endgame only, instead of delays caused by each-turn scoring) and shrink the setup time. While this is true, it also removed the fun. Despite watering your fields, the game feels dry to the bone, with each card just being more of the same. I guess until playing FoG, I never realized the main strong point of AtS were the special locations... new and surprising set of them for each game.
P.S.: Yeah, all the games I played are shortish and on the lighter side. That's what having the first baby does to you.
Two of my top 4 spots go to family weight euros which is probably my favorite category these days. My patience with the needless complexity in many heavier games is waning.
This game features card drafting, area control, a variety of ways to score without being a point salad, and quick turns. It has vibrant art that is functional and eye catching. I played someone else's copy twice before purchasing, and I have played my copy about 10 times since buying it in October.
A stellar game that borrows a bit from Coloretto in that your moves sometimes help your opponent and you are trying to minimize that effect. The game also feels influenced a tad by Knizia. Very easy to teach and the options on any turn are not overwhelming, yet they are still meaningful.
This one is only slightly above family weight. It is a fantastic area control game where players carve out the area and attempt to dominate them. Movement seems to be more important in this game than other games in the mask series as you only have one worker/noble and he needs to be in so many places at once. Hence, I think it is a much more dynamic game than Tikal, Torres, or Java as in those titles, workers will often find a place to roost. I would say Mexica is tied with Tikal and is slightly better than Torres.
This is cheating because I have had Battle Line for several years and have played it many times. But I will include it because it is not exactly the same. Regardless, this and Hive are my two favorite 2 player only games.
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
I've played only half as many new-to-me games as a normal year, and only a third as many games in total, thanks to something else new to me this year taking up rather a lot of my time! As a result, it's not really a spectacular list and I haven't got to play some of them enough to tell how good they are. That said, here they are...
Push It - about as simple as a game can get and all the better for it. Just a set of beautifully-made wooden flicking pucks and a drawstring bag to pop into a pocket on the way to the pub.
Team Play - nice rummy-ish partnership set-collection game.
Imhotep - I like my Euros simple and interactive and this fits both nicely.
Origin - as does this one, and it's beautiful too!
Medina - yet another of those 'old-school' Euros with lots of interaction on a shared board.
13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis - love a modern historical theme and this is a great abstraction of the Cuban Missile Crisis, full of brinksmanship as you'd expect.
Fresh Fish - only one bewildering play so far, but I was very intrigued by the unique spatial play.
The Ravens of Thri Sahashri - and this asymmetric 2p co-op hasn't had nearly enough play to figure it out either, but I don't know anything else like it and that's a big plus.
Paperback - crossing Dominion-style deckbuilding with Scrabble is just such a great idea.
Eggs of Ostrich - lovely Japanese bluffing microgame for three players only.
Board Game: Orléans
[Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:26]
Not that much great new games, this year. But Orléans is awesome. Solo, multiplayer, coop, loved it.
3. 7 Ronin
Socialism will win.
I have eaten some Netrunner counters, a treasure token from Nemo's War, and a First Martians condition token. Also maybe a Fallout "L" token.
For details and the rest of my top ten, go here.
Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
I'm going to discount Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization (which I rate higher than anything on this list) as well as Codenames: Pictures and Santorini - since they all feel more like tiny revisions of games I've previously enjoyed than New Games to me. Here's my remaining top 11 for 2016. (Why eleven? My first draft had two #5s, and I didn't feel like removing the mention of KLASK!)
(All rated an _8_)
#1: Ponzi Scheme - a charmingly entertaining "party game for economic gamers."
#2: Ni-Ju - engaging, intriguing (and very hard) abstract.
#3: A Feast for Odin - loads of moving parts; and yet strangely pleasant.
#4: Mombasa - fascinating puzzle; the theme isn't the most appealing, though.
#5: Chicago & NorthWestern - stark and spare distillation of a train game. I still have no clue how to play well after four attempts.
(All rated a _7⅔_)
#6: 横濱紳商伝 Yokohama Shin-shō-den 'Yokohama' - fractional worker placement; nice replayability.
#7: 1859 - cool (and surprisingly tractable) 1830 variant.
#8: Evolution - a game that continues to increase in my estimation as I play.
#9: Scharfe Schoten - delightful little trick-taker.
#10: The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet - charmingly nasty game. Short and sweet.
#11: KLASK - frenetic dexterity havoc. Yeah; that's fun, too.
Edited for grammar; to add tiny descriptions of the games; to correct numbering.
Keeping it short since after playing 75 new-to-me games this year I decided to break tradition of a geeklist and do a blog about it found here, Fount Gaming. I will feebly try to update it on Mondays and add other content.
25. Qwirkle - a rare good multiplayer abstract
24. Neuroshima Hex! - somewhere in the middle of an abstract and yet not. Only would play this 2-player though.
23. Wits and Wagers - cheating since I played it before being on BGG. Still the best trivia game out there.
22. Vast - The most ambitious title of the year. I really hope I get more plays of this.
21. Five Tribes - A perfect example of a game I'll always be terrible at and still enjoy.
20. Broom Service - Love how you have 10 cards and yet only pick so many from them and the push your luck aspect.
19. Seasons - Magic: The Family edition
18. For Sale - Might be my standard entry level game I use although I think No Thanks! will forever hold that title.
17. Game of Thrones 2nd ed: LCG - Gives me a Star Wars: LCG vibe which is a good thing. I just need to try to find 8 decks being as balanced as possible.
16. Blood Rage - Balance issues aside, this is near perfect for a dudes on a map type of game. It was a lot higher until the balance issues, see double quest points card, became annoying.
15. Captain Sonar - Stood out due to how it handles a higher player count and making a modern take on Battleship. I'm still not settled on how it rates out over time. It could be high. It could be a 6.
14. Ascension - not really new feeling now, but I keep coming back to the app so it gets a boost.
13. Baseball Highlights: 2045 was much higher until I started playing on the app. I'm going to go back to playing it live, so it might go back up later on. My first play might have been my favorite initial play ever and that includes Cosmic Encounter.
12. Lords of Vegas - It feel like any criticism of the game can be summed up in one word, Vegas. One of the best experiences of the year.
11. Scythe - I need more plays to settle the balance issues with some of the secret goal cards. The game did not click as much as I wanted to on my initial play. I think it will at least settle in as a good game. I'm not sure if it is great or even one of the best things I have ever played.
10. Star Wars: Rebellion - only one play so I would like a couple more. I was not a fan of the battles and we didn't even do the mass one in the end and the game was over before that. I see how I could have played better, but I'm still pausing on giving this the praise so many others are giving it.
9. Arkham Horror: LCG - so good of a year this is 9th, and this might be the best LCG yet. Kind of mad I don't want to get this and yet happy I know someone who has it.
8. Codenames - because I never played a new-to-me game more in a year. I'm not a fan of the clue giver role, and AP can be an issue for a party style game, but this got played like 30+ times, IIRC.
7. Terra Mystica - And finally got to play a game I repeatedly tapped out when watching a review of the game. I like a whole lot of it, but to me there does seem to be something missing, and I'm not sure what right now. It might be that it still feels a little too Euro for something that tries to do a theme.
6. Tikal - I'm finding area control Euros from 10 years ago and older are really in my wheelhouse. No ton of rules, VP salad, or multiplayer solitaire. Just a few rules and let the depth come from playing off of other players.
5. Mombasa - And the area control aspect in games continues. I remember ignoring this since it looked like just another Euro and then bought it on a whim. It took a bit to learn on my first play, but once it clicked, I ended up winning decently.
4. Orleans - The number one debate this year might have been this or Mombasa. I'm still not sure. I think I like the pool building aspect versus the non area control aspect in Mombasa. Mombasa has a far better area control though.
3. Mechs versus Minions - Fills the programmable spot in my collection. The more I play it, the more I want to play it again.
2. Food Chain Magnate - Maybe the one game after I played it I wanted to play it again more than any other. I found the intro game kind of lacking, so I might just do a minimal money version of the full game as a teaching game.
1. Through the Ages - As a Vlaada fan boy, this is a not a surprise. For all of what the initial teach might take, the depth and length of the game, this plays incredibly smooth. I have a love/hate most hate relationship with event decks. With players seeding the deck here, I wished this was done way more often.
Games I rate a 9
Triumvirate is somewhat akin to if Konig von Siam were a trick taker. The similarity with KvS is that you are not an empire, but you are aligning yourself with an empire and pushing for that empire to win. However, unlike in KvS, you don't know where other player's alliances lay as they tuck away (up to three times per game) a single card which potentially gives them currency within a particular regime. All in all, this is such a cool little game with a lot of nuances for trick taking, taking cards out of circulation, and holding onto cards between rounds. Furthermore, the fact that you play up to seven rounds gives you some time (but not much) to get a feel for which potential Roman emperor the other is aligning themselves with, as well as which cards they might be holding onto between rounds. Too bad it is out of print!
However, most importantly, this is my partner's favorite game of the year as well and is seeing many plays in which the game is opening right up!
2. Champions 2020
Corné knocks this one out of the park; THIS is now my favorite sports game.
Champions 2020 builds upon the bare-bone structure of Streetsoccer to include a full-team, full-sized field, as well as a fair deal more nuances to the the play. These include: fouls, interceptions, players who move to anticipate passes, diving saves, substitutions, throw-ins, corner kicks, you name it. The best part is that (bearing that you have two players who are happy to play by making split-second gut decisions) the game moves at a great pace, the positioning feels all the more important (and limited substitutions allow you to quickly rectify this), and there are even rules for multi-games series (e.g., injured players, banned players from red cards). Sure, it's nowhere near as elegant, but it's a heck of a lot more fun!
Maria is an absolutely splendid game. I knew that I would like it before I played it, but I did not or could not know just how much. This game blends a whole slew of elements that I generally appreciate to create a game that is at once (mostly) intuitive while also being deep. Between the hand management and traditional-esque card-play, the explicit negotiations made between powers and the subtle communication of where one's strength lies, the military logistics, the bluff and counter-bluffing all come together to create a highly memorable Machiavellian experience for three (in roughly 3-4 hours). I can't think of a better game for three players within this time frame as it is lovingly designed such that all three sides must push against one another, keeping the others in check within ever-shifting relations, the whole length of the game.
Furthermore, the elements which support the game only make it all the richer: the map and the cards are an absolute delight to gaze at; the introduction within the rules provides enough history to set the stage (but beg a personal exploration at another point in time); the designer's notes provide insights into how Maria was birthed from Friederich and what was required to bring the "third side" to this uneven balance of power.
4. Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan
Sekigahara achieves the difficult task of providing a deeply thematic and psychologically tense that is barely more difficult than many traditional card games. The map limits what can be played, providing you some knowledge of what your opponent can do, but the the wall of cards cannot tell you what they are unable to (as fielding armies are not enough, you need to be able to "motivate" them to fight!). Like with a good poker game, you have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em; but the power of bluff can go a long way as you move a mammoth stack of units towards enemy forces.
Not to mention the aesthetics of the package are absolutely gorgeous, and no, not just "for a wargame." Period.
Games I rate an 8
5. Food Chain Magnate
Food Chain Magnate is pretty darn cool: it's a competitive fast food economy in the era of booming fast food. It's quirky, it's vicious, and surprisingly pretty straight forward for a game of its weight.
As the newest Splotter on the block, this game offers more of what they boutique publisher is known for heavier Euro fare with a focus on economics, logistics, timing, and positional play -- all of which pulled together by a sensible theme. FCM does not buck this trend but rather pivots on it a bit. It's closest relative, the Great Zimbabwe, has a closed economy, but not here! Money is earned, money is spent in ways that are open (who knows where that money goes, its the American dream/nightmare!) -- in turn, you are *almost* wholly responsible for your revenue... if it weren't for everyone around you undercutting your costs, advertising products you can't deliver on, or even hiring key staff before you can! The small-ish map means that every game has players coming into inevitable competitive and collusive relationships: this is where the fun occurs! Throw in a bit of typical Splotter turn-order shenanigans and it is tense. As an economic game, it provides milestones (i.e., powers) as an incentive to not treat the structure strictly as a snowball: this encourages many different approaches (e.g., early food spoiling means you get a freezer for keeping up to 10 food items between turns - great if demand surpasses supply!).
While this isn't the most mechanically accessible Splotter, the congruence between theme and mechanics create a real sense of narrative that many players may already be familiar with. Splotter definitely has a hit on their hands with this one.
Nyet is a traditional trick-taking game with a pre-trick-taking round in which players choose what properties will not be in play for the round makes the game what it is: "Trump is Nyet red, comrade!" This becomes a subtle wink to those around the table, a means of jockeying for position when picking fruitful and not so fruitful partnerships. The shifting alliances in this game are a real riot -- the possibility for negative trick hands really make this game shine. A clever twist on a timeless style.
The new IELLO edition is also absolutely gorgeous, and highly portable.
7. The Bottle Imp
A trick-taker with a convincing theme? Who would have thought. The story, in short, is that there is a bottle imp who will convey its magical powers to any and all (here in the form of trump) but this devious imp collects its dues in the end from whoever is stuck with him in the end (in the form of negative points at the end of the round). Players dance the knife's edge by playing trump to take large sums of points but, with the bottle's value ever dropping, an increasing risk of being stuck with the bottle in the end. As such, the Bottle Imp is a trick-taker which places its players in an immediate and unavoidable proximal relationship. Between the 3 unevenly distributed suits, as well as the passing off and tucking away of cards (both to remove cards from the round and to shape how many negative points are earned by the bottle-holder), this game is in a constant state of un/knowability, vaccillating between being countable and not. A tense little ditty for 3.
8. König von Siam
Few games make eight actions hurt as much as Konig von Siam. Aligning yourself and making win a particular faction is the name of the game, but every other player around the table's play is shaped by the same limitations -- and to make things more difficult, everything is in plain sight. Accordingly, this becomes a game of chicken in which players wait until the last minute to turn the game around (if it isn't too late already!) -- which is thematically linked to the time and place. More often than not, this game is one of THAI BREAKERS, and playful nonchalance. So much from so little.
Thankfully, re-editioned as The King Is Dead, so no one has to miss out on this one! Also, as an addition TKiD also adds a variant with an additional game-ending condition which can make the playing of chicken devastatingly unrewarding!
9. For the Crown (Second edition)
The melding of Chess and Dominion has somehow created something greater than the sum of the parts -- such a simple idea creates such interesting ripples. The card play opens up the Chess play right up, and the chess board provides real pressure in terms of the card play breaking into a probabilistic game of economy-to-VP turn point (e.g., because it has a chess board, you can't even forget the pawns -- the threat of promotion to any available unit that game is simply too big). There are opportunities to make additional and/or non-conventional moves with traditional units, as well as all new units which are differential permutations of classic units -- but what you can do and can buy has a lot to do with what you draw. There's no hand-holding in this game, and it's all-the-more beautiful for it -- the game encourages and rewards risky plays. I think my rating will go up if I can sustain more plays -- I'm looking forward to seeing how games develop with other sets of cards on the table.
An irreverent, yet contemporary take on chess.
10. BattleCON: War of Indines
The original BattleCON, now remastered, means that all the archetypal characters are now re-balanced, re-arted, and re-packaged. Because they are fighting game archetypes, they may not provide the healthy flexibility of Devastation, but certainly provide a cleaner narrative of what each and every character should do: "oh you've got the gunner? You're probably going to turtle at long range (until you have to reload)."" Oh, you've got a high-powered goliath of a robot? I should probably keep my distance and poke as safely as I can!"
This whole family of games provides great tactical choices which are highly based upon reading: the board, the cards that are left, but most importantly, your opponent. I love when bluffing games give me a whole spectrum of valuations to work with when doing the guess work! This game provides that uneven valuation in spades.
Art of War: the card game
A Fake Artist Goes to New York
Power & Weakness
Board Game: Orléans
[Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:26]
You want to know something? I don't think Mozart's going to help at all.
8 games rated or higher in 2016...What a great year for new games!
Orléans: This one really hit all the marks for me. This bag-builder is really done right. Great tension. Good interaction level. Lots of meaningful, entertaining decisions. Yes, it slowed down a bit at the end, but it never was tedious. Loved the design and mechanics. Good production values. A keeper!
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1: What an experience! I've not played Risk Legacy, so the story and game-to-game play modifiers are quite a novelty to me. I was pretty tired of Pandemic before, but now, I'm on the edge of my seat! Very clever and spellbinding. Great components and theme. Bravo!
The Oracle of Delphi: Fun new Feld game. Lots of dice manipulation and sailing a ship around. This one bucks his "point-salad" trend for a straight-up racing game. Quite a lot of setup and rules for a game of this weight, but it was easy to get really into it. Felt closer to Macao to me than Burgundy.
Board Game: Codenames
[Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:60]
[Average Rating:7.71 Unranked]
As I do every year, I'm only going to post a top 10 list for new-to-me games. I may not have done a lot of gaming this year, but there were some very solid contenders for this list! (Also a disclaimer that I'm ignoring kids' games and expansions this year.)
== NEW GAMES ==
Codenames - 38 plays - 9
First Published 2015
Is it really any surprise this claimed the top spot? It was a game of the year all over the place for the reason. It's both simple and yet devilishly clever. Easy to teach, fast to play, always fun. I love it.
Auf Achse - 2 plays - 8.5
First Published 1987
This early SdJ winner was a breath of fresh air for me. Who knew that an old classic would hold up so well? So much more than just pick up & deliver - it really satisfied.
Olympus - 2 plays - 8.4
First Published 2010
This wins the award for best new game I don't own. Our friends picked this up and love to bring it to the table, and I'm happy to play. It really rewards experienced players, so I'm determined to get better at it.
New York 1901 - 1 play - 8.1
First Published 2015
Another surprise, this game of land acquisition and building was just a pleasant gaming experience. It's definitely been the game I have come closest to buying this year but didn't actually get.
Istanbul - 1 play - 8
First Published 2014
A game that looks far more complex than it actually is, it was a satisfying game that worked for the whole family. It has a lot of potential and is one I'd love to try again before I decide to buy it.
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King - 4 plays - 8
First Published 2015
Another big hit across the board, worth the accolades. It's Carcassonne with market pricing and just a treat to play. I can't wait to play it again.
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game - 3 plays - 8
First Published 2014
Another cooperative zombie game? Actually - yes, we do. This is a smart and challenging exercise for the group, and it's great that even when a character dies you get to keep playing with more. I don't need to own this, but I'll always be happy to play it.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game - 1 play - 7.5
First Published 2016
Burgundy has become one of my favorite medium-weight strategy games, so I welcomed a more streamlined card version. It turns out it's just a bit shorter and takes up just as much room, but it's a bit more accessible and I'm so glad I picked this up.
Las Vegas - 2 plays - 7.4
First Published 2012
What our gaming group needs are games that are fun, fast, and yet make you feel like you've got real choices to make. Las Vegas ticks off all those boxes. I played the app first and am glad to have the full version.
Dead Man's Draw - 3 plays - 7.3
First Published 2015
Another app to tabletop port! Such a fun little press-your-luck game, it went over very well with my friends and I love that it's a small box that's portable. I expect to play it a lot in the future.