I mentioned previously that Tekizen and I had been playing a boatload of board games lately, and there is nothing I love more than passing on cool experiences. These are some of the tabletop games that stood out for better or worse in “Nowhere” in 2015!
Best Overall Games
Pandemic Legacy is my absolute choice for best tabletop game of the year. The runners up are good, but they are second and third for a reason. Pandemic is the second ( third if you count Playtest) to get the “Legacy treatment. The first was Risk, which I had up until now avoided. Risk is not one of my favourite games, but we will most likely play it this year based on our feelings for Pandemic Legacy. Vanilla Pandemic is a really great cooperative game in which you work as a team to save the world from disease breakouts. It is pretty cool, so what makes it better you may wonder? They added a campaign element to it. Every session you play effects the next. If you lose a city, it stays lost. If you build a building it stays in place. This is done with a series of stickers that are applied to the board itself. Even cooler are the surprises along the way. There are tons of pull tabs and eight small boxes that you open when certain requirments are met. We absolutely loved some of the goodies that popped up. Did I mention your character could die? This game is unreasonably fun to play.
Mysterium is my runner up. If I had not played PL in 2015 Mysterium would have been a shoe-in. This is another cooperative game. In this game, one player sits behind a cardboard screen giving vague clues to the other players in order to solve a mystery. As a team of psychics, the other players job is too find out how the ghost became such. There are three clues that each psychic must solve; the room, the weapon, and the culprit. The ghost will give each investigator a card with an abstract image on it that they must interpret into their respective clue. It is a lot more difficult than it seems, but it is super fun.
The last of my top 3 is Scribblish. this game gets pretty crazy. It kind of mixes telephone with pictionary. Each player takes a little easel tube and rolls their paper into it, so that the top box is available, they then draw a card and write the topic on the paper such as “I like big books”. They then roll that part into the tube, mix them up and pass them on. The next player looks at the topic, and draws a quick image to represent it before passing it along again. The third person to get the paper looks only at the image and then gives it a new caption such as “This book is as big as me”. This continues until the scroll is full. At the end you can only see the bottom picture, and you need to try and figure out which one started off as yours. This is pretty awesomely entertaining!
Worst Overall Games
I really love Castle Panic so I thought Dead Panic would be pretty cool as well. I was wrong, and so were the rest of us that chose to play it. I can honestly say that I am glad I tried this game at the game cafe. I would have been pretty sad had I paid for it. The only thing that is similar to its sister game is the structure in the center. This game is more focused on you moving your pawn, as opposed to clever use of your cards. It may work for some players, but I was really expecting a similar game.
Cards Against Humanity probably….well may have been fun when I was 15. I had heard a lot about this game, and insanely offensive it was, and boy it is offensive. I think, however that the most offensive thing about the game is that it takes absolutely zero skill or wit to play. Everything about it is offensive so nothing really stands out. Apples to Apples you have to be pretty clever to play a joke, or make an offense (which we have done), but CAH you just play a card and everyone giggles. It is pretty stupid.
This last game, Kittens in a Blender, honestly offended me more than the last one. First off it is tasteless, second the play is super redundant. You just try and keep your kitties safe, while you kill everyone else’s. It is pretty similar to Sitting Ducks, but with less charm, and less creative card use. I would just stick with the latter. On a plus note….all three of these awful games were played from someone else’s collection. Dodged a couple bullets there.
Most Fun Games
Pandemic Legacy once again tops my list. If the explanation above doesn’t do it justice; I can also say that never before have I been so excited to sit down and play a board game again. It reminded me a lot of when I used to enjoy D&D. There is a earnest anticipation of what will happen next.
Cb27ded picked up Get Bit on a whim one day, because it looked pretty fun. We ended up toting it to dinner that night. It was a blast! You each have a little colored robot that is trying to out swim a shark. If the shark catches you, then you remove a limb. As long as one appendage survives you can still win the game. You simply have outwit your opponents with your tiny hand of numbered cards. Our waiter at Outback Steakhouse was so amused by this game that 7 months later while we were playing it at an entirely different restaurant he recognized it, and knew who we were from before. That was amusing.
Rampage was another game cafe game. I am p
lanning on buying this one this year. In Rampage you play as a raging giant dinosaur that is trying to eat more meeple than your opponents. Buildings are stacked on layers of meeple, so your job is to knock over the buildings, and eat the residents. You get to drop things on, blow things at, and flick things towards the buildings to knock them over! I think we spent more time looking for dinosaur feet under the table than we did playing.
Most Tedious Games
Munchkin was sooo boring that after awhile I just gave up. I can’t think of any other game that I just stopped playing. I continued to take my turns, but I just stopped playing. There was no fun to be had. I don’t have a particularly vindictive gaming group so in games like this we all usually have a pretty good chance, but the gameplay is so unbalanced in this game that if you don’t have a first couple of good draws than you are sitting there bored out of your mind. I don’t really get the craze for this game.
Dice City is a game that I would like to try again with more agressive players. We didn’t spend any time trying to shut each other down, so it played out over an hour of roll and build, roll and build, etc. We could have just played Machi Koro. I think we would have been better off.
In Kittens in a Blender you watch someone move your cat into a blender, then you move your cat out, then they move your cat in….you do the hokey pokey and that’s what it’s all about!! One of my pals excitedly pointed out there was an expansion to this game, and I felt like I didn’t even know them….
Most Engaging Gameplay
Pandemic Legacy is my first choice. I know that is a big surprise, but from the moment they told me about CODA I knew I had to find a cure. This was like a personal mission that I had to see through!
I have been a total sucker for coop games this year. Could you tell? My second most engaging game of 2015 is Flash Point. This one caught my eye because it gave me the opportunity to play as a fireman, which people that know me know this is a big deal. Flash Point plays very similar to Pandemic, instead of stopping virus outbreaks you are putting out fires and containing hot spots while trying to save the occupants of the building. This must be done before the building collapses!
Castle Panic is another fairly engaging coop game. Unlike the previous two entries you have no pawn. You are commanding troops (cards in your hand) to slay monsters before they reach and destroy your stronghold. You must defend your towers. If they all fall you lose the game.
Mysterium has some of the most beautiful and unique game art that I have ever seen. The last time I saw art this full of wonder was in Dix it, which coincidentally was similar in style. Even the less magical images look really nice!
Another really pretty game is Tokaido. This game has an oriental theme, and artwork to match. The characters look really unique and the sweeping lanscapes are gorgeous. The art style fits the game really well.
The last game that I picked for this category is Gwent. If you played The Witcher 3 then you may be familiar with this card game. I was pretty excited to get my hands on a physical copy of it with the “Hearts of Stone” expansion. I wasn’t fond of the “in game” version, but having the chance to play it in person gave me a better appreciation for it. The characters and monsters are all exceptionally awesome looking. It is kind of hard to build a deck based on ability and not aesthetics, because some of the most gorgeous cards are utterly useless.
Most Confusing First Play
I had a hard time sorting out the rules to Pandemic The Cure I think we played this game wrong several times before actually figuring out what was going on. It is a bit confusing, but thankfully much more challenging when played right.
Dice City was fairly straight forward, but since we hadn’t realized that we were supposed to be trying to shut each other down it turned out fairly boring. We could have played another game, but it was seriously boring.
Shadows Over Camelot somehow we missed a rule about placing siege weapons on the board after completing certain quests. It wasn’t until play two that shit got serious. After getting a feel for the rules we reread the rulebook, and cleaned up our play. It went much better there after.
Most Eye Catching Box Art
The first time I saw The Big Book Of Madness I knew that I wanted to play it. The characters on the front looked really cool, and the title sounded great! After reading the premise it sounded like evil card captors. I was totally in for this one!
The Witcher Adventure Game has a really similar cover actually. There are four characters hunched together fending off some evil beasties. It looks really awesome! Then again it is pretty hard to make Triss and Geralt look anything but. To be fair if this had been a black box that plainly said “The Witcher”, and it would have caught my eye!
Bears also has a really cool box. The outside shows one scene, and the inside shows the following scene. I thought this was a pretty fun design. Initially we only got to see the outside of the box, but it still looked like great fun!
Best Quality Components
Splendor has some of the best components I have seen. The cards are nice, and printed very clearly. The cardboard nobles are also really nice, but what really stands out are the jewel chips. These things are high quality, and fairly heavy. They make me think of casino chips. I was really impressed with them!
Get Bit gets a nod for the awesome plastic toys that you get to play with. There are six colored robots with articulated joints, as well as a shark with an articulated jaw. These are seriously fun to play with. the cards are pretty nice too.
The last one that I really wanted to mention is Hanabi. I bought the deluxe version of this game last February, and boy was I surprised. I thought it would be cool, but I hadn’t expected it to look so nice. The pieces are similar to thick black mahjong tiles. There are images silk screened onto both sides. They are beautiful, and feel really nice!
Best Filler Games
Kabuki is short and fun. In this game you take turns placing colorful Kabuki masks on one of four piles. The catch is if you get caught putting a mask in a pile that already contains that likeness you lose a point. Ouch!
Get Bit as mentioned before is a fun little adventure in which you get to play with your pawn. That doesn’t happen to often.
Friday the 13th was a big hit with the family last year. This is a fast paced, quick card game in which you have to get rid of the cards in your hand by matching images, but you can’t have a pile that adds up to more than 13, or you will be picking them all up. Ick!
Flash Point is about saving people from burning buildings, as a team of awesome fire fighters! You don’t get to be much more heroic than that!
The Witcher takes several story points, places, and characters from The Witcher franchise. Having had read the first four books there were many cool bits to pick up. I am pretty fond of the world these books are set in so this was a real treat.
Then there is Night of the Grand Octopus, which says everything about resurrecting the great old one without actually mentioning his name. This is a mythos I never get tired of.
Best Two Player Games
Gwent was my favourite two player game from 2015. Colonel Fancy and I must have played that thing 6-7 times that first night we tried it. You each build a deck of ten cards from a faction theme. I played as the Squirrels. The ten cards are played over three rounds so if you play too many early on you may win that round but lose the subsequent ones.
Patchwork is a fun puzzle solving game in which two players do their best to fill in their grid with patchwork pieces. It is fairly challenging. I always liked Blokus, but it kind of failed as a two player game. This is the perfect thing for two players.
Another great two player game is Equinox. In this game you take turns placing tiles with different effects on the board. Each tile has a black side and a white side. You want to get as many flipped to your side as you can.
I expected Pandemic Legacy to be really cool. I had no idea that as I played it I would get so many new pieces! Every new box had a cool new surprise. I also really enjoyed the way the game grew as new rules were discovered. This was truly a memorable experience!
Mille Bornes was a game I really wanted to like. From the sound of it, it seemed fun. I think with a bigger group it might have been cool. My first play though, was with two players so it was just a lot of back and forthing. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I was expecting!
Most Versatile Game
Ice Dice is pretty cool. I picked up a clearance copy of this game for five dollars only to find that you can play a ton of different games with the pieces, seriously you can buy a book detailing more ways to play. This may be the coolest five dollars I ever spent!
Coolest Thrift Find
Tekizen picked Firefighter Search and Rescue up at a thrift store in Carroll. I instantly fll for this game. It is a bit juvenile but I swear that this game inspired someone to make Flash Point!
Most Anticipated Game of 2016
Wolf and Hound is the first game I ever Kickstarted. It looks adorable! The set up looks fun, the cards are charming, and the team play sounds really cool. I hope this one turns out good, because I am really excited about it coming out this May!