GOTY 2015 Day 5 – Board Games!
If you listen to the podcast regularly, you’ll know that board games play a large part in our gaming lives and that, this year, we decided to have a whole host of awards for board games rather than the “we love Letters from Whitechapel” section we have had at previous GOTY discussions. We also decided that because the three of us haven’t played as much board games together as we would like, we would enlist the help of our friends who write for the site and play games with us to help deliberate on the best games we played as a group. For the ultimate prize of Board Game of the Year, the GFG Board Game Council (our fancy name for this group of rapscallions) submitted their top 5 games of the year which were then given points depending on their position. The resultant top 5 is therefore fair, democratic and a good representation of what GFG has been playing this year. It also means that because the results were already known, it was the calmest part of the podcast!
Party Game of the Year
For this category, we were looking for a game that held a high player count, was easy to teach, engaging and fun to play. Codenames is a team game where each team’s captain is trying to get them to guess a number of word cards laid out in front of them by giving one word clues. For example, to get my team to guess the words bond and horse I may give the clue of “Glue” followed by the number 2, which points to the number of words. You want to avoid letting your team guess the opposing teams words or even worse, the “assassin” card which means instant loss for the team who reveals it. The game is very simple but also a lot of fun which is why it ticked all the boxes for the Party Game of the Year.
Light / Family Game of the Year
Winner: Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game
Democratically picking games for awards can sometimes lead to a tie. This was the case for the Light / Family game of the year. Reiner Knizia’s Amphipolis (a set collection game set in a famous archaeological dig) came into a dead heat with Aza Chen’s incredibly cute Kitty Paw ( a game that has players placing cat tiles down in a certain pattern as well as meowing and raising their”paws” like the lucky cat). In the end the high board game council (Kieran and myself) decided the split the difference and go with the Portal board game. We felt that Portal was light enough to teach to newcomers to the hobby with relative ease whilst the theme would draw videogamers straight in. The take that style of gameplay combined with how quick the game plays also seemed to go down well with our separate play groups which summarised what we were looking for in a light game.
Micro-game of the Year
Winner: Eight Epics
Micro-games have definitely been on the increase recently. Most of them tend to have gameplay that mirrors their components: minimal. Seiji Kanai’s Eight Epics however manages to take 16 cards, 10 dice and 8 cubes and create a game that had eight people whooping and screaming as they rolled dice for over an hour. The game sees players taking control of eight heroes and they tackle five disasters that threaten humanity. The disasters are averted by submitting certain dice results and the trick comes in where players need to decide which hero (and their particular dice manipulating skill) to use. The fact that the game is as challenging with 2 to 8 plays as it is solo is just another reason that Eight Epics is a must buy for us.
Thematic Game of the Year
Winner: T.I.M.E Stories
Best described as a cross between a point and click adventure and Quantum Leap with a bit of DnD roll checking thrown in, there was no way T.I.M.E stories was not going to be the top pick for Thematic game of the year. The engaging storylines of the game coupled with the time loop mechanic made us feel like we were in the classic TV show trying to set some weird anomaly straight so life as we know it wouldn’t go all screwy.
Best Production Values
Winner: Galaxy of Trian
Another noticeable trend in board gaming is that Kickstarter games are now rather decent. From the handful that we backed this year, we loved the quality of space Carcasonne-like Galaxy of Trian but in terms of a complete game, Thunderbirds did it for us. This cooperative game for up to 4 players not only has the nostalgia factor of the original Thunderbirds series but it is desingned by the master of the cooperative game, Matt Leacock. Borrowing heavily from his successful Pandemic game, Thunderbirds still has a few new tricks up its sleeve to deliver one of those “good stress” gaming sessions.
Epic Spell Wars 2 & Exploding Kittens
Epic Spell Wars is still one of GFG’s go to card games – it fast, frantic and always ends in fits of laughter. Its sequel however, fails to cash in on this. The game seems to have too many ideas that slow the gameplay down to a crawl. The cards from Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards – Rumble at Castle Tentakill (to give it its full title) combine with the first game to work well as an expansion but as a standalone game it left us cold and disappointed .
Winner: Five Tribes – The Artisans of Naqala
There’s not much to say about this one. The Artisans of Naqala takes an already fantastic game and adds new benefits from an additional tribe and excellent challenges from the mountains that cannot be passed. It adds that additional head scratchiness that we love to our favourite strategy game of 2015 and we cannot recommend it enough.
Board Game of the Year
And here they are, GFG’s top 5 board games of the year based on the combined opinions of the Board Game Council:
5. Pandemic Legacy Season 1
My personal choice for the board game of 2015. The only reason I think it didn’t rank any higher is that not many of the council played it. There’s not much we can say about Pandemic Legacy that
A) we haven’t mentioned before on the podcast and B) would spoil the entire experience for everyone else apart from the game takes the tried and trusted game of Pandemic and manages to add a story arc that will turn you into a believer after the first game.
4. Eight Epics
As mentioned before, Eight Epics is deceivingly involved for a game consisting of 16 cards and 10 dice. It has left a lasting impression on our game groups and is a constant reminder not to judge a game by its physical size.
3. XCOM the Board Game
Released in early 2015 and one of the first board games to rely on an app for it to be played, XCOM is an evil bastard of a game that wormed its way into our hearts. It delivers a nerve racking experience that is completely brutal in its treatment of its players. XCOM the Board Game seems to have forgotten that it is meant to be fun and let the players win once in a while. Even after a year of owning it (and still not winning a game) I’m not entirely sure whether I love or loathe it. What I am sure of is that it is one of the most innovative, thematic and infurating games of the year which deserves its number 3 spot.
2. T.I.M.E Stories
Again, there is not much that can be said about T.I.M.E Stories without fear of spoiling the entire game. Yes, the game has zero replayability and yes, it costs £20 for every new adventure that lasts around 5 hours and while these may be new issues to board games, these are commonplace in videogames. In fact, T.I.M.E Stories can best be described as a videogame in board game form and you’d be daft to miss out on one of the best games of the year.
Mysterium is a bit of a strange one on the surface. With gameplay very similar to Dixit, you would expect a calm and gentle casual game. What you get, however, is a serious murder mystery with players working together to decipher the mysterious clues left for them to point them in the direction of the suspects. Or you would do if you don’t play with our mad bunch of lunatics. Mysterium with this lot involves threats to the spirit of “One more rotten clue from you and I’ll get the Ghostbusters to suck you up with a Dyson!” and the ghost spookily shouting “F*#k the lot of youse!” It’s a testament to the game when you can play the game either seriously or with great hilarity and still have the same amount of fun. It is for all of these reasons that Mysterium was voted GFG’s board game of the year.
So that was all our picks for the board games in 2015. Let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments, or even if there was a game we missed out on.