It’s that time of year when we reflect on the best games of the year so, if anyone wants to let me have their Six Picks for 2013, I’ll start to publish these in the run up to - and over - Christmas.
15 December 2013
30 March 2010
With the new Days of Wonder game, Mystery Express, appearing in the UK this week, I decided to have a go at picking the cream of their releases to date.
Ticket To Ride is the obvious first choice. Although I could have gone for one of the subsequent variants, I like the elegance and simplicity of the original best.
Memoir ‘44 is a super game of soldiers and card play and will always be remembered for the classic game when Mark G and I got destroyed by a surprise barrage gun blast when I had insisted we didn’t need any medics.
Small World takes a good game, Vinci, and polishes it up while transporting it to a fantasy setting. And the different boards for different player numbers works really well.
Mystery of the Abbey remains one of Bruno Faidutti’s most popular games and any occasion where we can get Nige taking a vow of silence has to be a good thing. Sorry Nige.
Pirate’s Cove is an old game that needs to get played again. It is a classic blend of second-guessing and picking which battles to fight and, don’t forget, it’s got pirates. Avast me hearties!
Shadows Over Camelot possibly reignited the trend towards co-operative games but has that classic “who is the traitor” element that keeps people on their toes.
30 December 2008
These are my picks for the best games in 2008 in alphabetical order.
Agricola was the most eagerly awaited game of the year and, although it didn’t quite live up to the hype it received, it is still a very good game with lots of replay value due to the massive variety of cards. However, the family version without the cards is also a fine game in its own right.
Dominion was another game with lots of hype and is a fantastic deck-building game that is fast to play and very accessible. As you play with only 10 out of the 25 sets of cards, this one can be varied so you never have to play the same game twice. And with lots of expansion cards planned, this should continue to get lots of play.
Kamisado may seem a strange choice as I am not a fan of pure abstract two player games but this is an extremely clever design and plays ever so simply. The idea of you determining which piece your opponent plays by moving to a space of that piece’s colour is pure genius.
Kingsburg is a truly fun game where you allocate your dice to gather the resources needed for buildings, which not only give you victory points but other abilities for later in the game. However, each of the five rounds ends with the game attacking you and you potentially losing the stuff you’ve acquired.
Stone Age is another in the line of games where you allocate workers to various locations to gain resources for buying or building things, along the lines of Pillars of the Earth. There is nothing terribly new in the way it is done but it all fits together extremely well and plays in a reasonable length of time.
Uptown was our biggest surprise of the year. It is a very clever abstract game of placing your tiles to form the fewest connected groups as possible and the rules are so simple that you could be deceived into thinking the game is also simple. Far from it - There is a lot to think about every turn with plenty of opportunity to mess with other players’ plans over the course of about 30 minutes.
22 January 2008
These are the best games I played in 2007, not necessarily released in that year and ignoring those that I didn’t get to play. In particular, those that may have appeared had I managed to get them to the table before the year end include Agricola (waiting for the English version), Brass (a Martin Wallace economic game) and Race for the Galaxy (a San Juan development that I have played in 2008, but needs more plays to give a decent assessment). Anyway, these are my picks:
Phoenicia is a development of Outpost that retains the flavour of the original but plays much quicker. Lots of possible paths to follow to find a winning strategy and nicely produced by JKLM.
Age of Empires III is a brilliant game based on the computer game that is beautifully produced by Tropical Games. Again, plenty of different strategies to pursue and one of the few real gamers’ games released this year that plays with six.
Caylus: Magna Carta takes the original highly rated board game, simplifies and shortens the game play to make it even better and presents it as a card game. I’m not sure I need to play the board game version again as the streamlining is superb, in much the same way as I prefer San Juan to Puerto Rico.
Notre Dame was Alea’s big release of 2007 and turned out to be another superb game. Lots to think about in this one with a nice card drafting mechanic where the cards you play are determined partly by you and partly by the player on your right. Also, the need to control your rat population gives an extra layer of tension.
1960: The Making of the President is an excellent two player area control game. The cards do a great job of instilling atmosphere with the events portrayed and getting the balance between canvassing support in the states, controlling the media and gaining the upper hand in the key policy issues.
Pillars of the Earth was a worthy winner of the 2007 Deutsche Spiel Preis as it does a great job of translating Ken Follett’s book into an engaging board game. Similar in style to the way Caylus plays, PotE succeeds in streamlining the number of choices to be made while leaving lots of tough decisions to be made.
12 January 2008
Given how free-flowing the sport it is, soccer is quite difficult to translate to a board/card game and there are few examples of where the game works particularly well. Here are six of the best.
Street Soccer is a fabulous implementation of the five a side game. Even though it uses a die to dictate how the ball moves around the pitch, it can be played very tactically with the positioning of players and ball sometimes being critical.
Fireside Football is a card game based on Alan Parr’s play-by-mail game, United, that I played a fair bit of back in pre-email days. This one is more concerned with the managing side with players making team selections and managing their finances. Played in a league format, players also deal with injuries and overseas transfers. Good fun for up to six players.
Fastcard Soccer is perhaps more of a simulation than a game using team/player statistics to generate results. However, it is great fun and uses an ingenious commentary system on the cards that makes the game very atmospheric. It also has the attraction of being playable solo.
A list of this kind cannot ignore the granddaddy of tabletop football games, Subbuteo. Although I’ve not played in years, it brings back memories of trying to perfect those swerving flicks – something I never really got the knack of. A skilful game for those with the necessary dexterity to play well.
The World Cup Game just edges out the World Cup Tournament Football Game in the nod for the best knockout tournament. Guiding your teams through the group stages and then the knockout is often trickier than it seems, particularly if you’re playing Germany or Brazil as other players automatically target those teams for bad cards.
Zopp is my final choice and is another flicking game that is always great fun. The rubberised walls surrounding the playing area and the slick surface mean that you can get your players and the ball whizzing around the pitch very satisfyingly and there is always a nice clink sound when the ball hits the back of the net.
10 January 2008
These choices are not the games to turn your non-gaming family into avid gamers (that may be a future list), but they are the games that I have had the most success and fun in introducing to the family over recent years.
Diamant is a fantastic push your luck game that plays in 20-30 minutes. Searching tunnels for treasure, do you turn back early to preserve your loot or do you risk venturing into the next cavern. Lots of oohs and ahhs as the adventurers uncover diamonds, snakes or poison gas. Great fun.
Apples To Apples never fails to get people laughing as people try to match the subjects on their cards to the category for the round. Sometimes picking the most ludicrous answer can turn you into a winner if you think the person making the choice might think that way.
Igloo Pop is a frantic game of trying to work out the number of beads in the igloos simply by picking them up and shaking them. Guess correctly and you win cards for points, guess incorrectly and you lose playing chips.
Transamerica is a competitive and collaborative connection game where you try to link all your cities to the rail network before your opponents do. Games are always tight with a fair amount of tactical opportunities for such a simple game.
Wits & Wagers is a trivia game where you don’t need to know the facts to win. Good estimation is helpful but canny betting on which of the possible answers is closest to being right is usually the way to win. Played twice this year.
Tsuro is a simple game: Place your tile on the board to build paths that keep your piece in play while forcing others off the edge or into one another. Takes up to 8 players and a game can be played in about 15 minutes - so you can play several.