I find narrowing down board games very difficult. I played quite a lot last year, and played quite a few new releases. I enjoyed some old Euro favourites like Madeira and Archipelago. I also played Food Chain Magnate and The Gallerist pretty regularly (though I hesitate to say I enjoyed FCM as much as I was super frustrated that I could never seem to win no matter what strategy I tried) and I played many games that I never thought I would be ‘into’.
But for my ‘5 Top Games of 2016’ post (although please note not all released in 2016) I decided to talk in brief about 5 games that really hit the spot for me and why…
The Big One
Arkwright seemed at first like a big complicated number laden puzzle to be solved and it freaked me out. I am exceptionally bad at mental mathematics, actually all mathematics makes my brain switch off almost entirely. But I love a challenge, and I heard good things about the game, so I endeavored to give it a try and found that I actually really loved it. What’s more I was not too shabby at playing it either once I got the general gist. I never actually reviewed this one for reasons I’m not sure of now, but you are basically choosing 1-4 factories to set up shop; lamps and bread for example, and sell shares in your company whilst balancing the incomings and outgoings in competition with your opponents. This may strike some people as dull but it’s anything but, it’s like Monopoly if it were fun and you had absolute control over what you are doing. If you add the ‘waterframe’ to your game you can increase your profits through shipping and even more to consider when taking your turns. There is so much tactical decision making to be done and you have 5 long ass rounds to do it in. I have a lot of love for this game, and it definitely improved my mental math skills. It also includes paper money that didn’t make me feel sick when I touched it. Win!
The Hyped One
I reviewed Terraforming Mars back in October/November so please feel free to go back and have a look if you want a full view of my thoughts on the game. I also did a ‘first thoughts’ video (which was a terrible webcam experiment so never again) and as I mention in the video I really had no clue it was getting a lot of hype. I saw it on the Stronghold Games website and thought it looked liked the kind of thing I would enjoy. Economy in space! Building! Space cows! Which really were like regular cows but on Mars. So I was looking forward to it but didn’t have a load of hype to hold it up to. However, as I say in my review it was definitely deserved of the build up because it is a really good game; part deck builder, loosely co-op, all the mechanics integrate really well with the theme and it is just a beauty of a game. One of its detractors (and of course not everyone is going to like it) mentioned that it’s a bit ‘random’. I really can’t see that though. You decide how many cards you want to purchase, and yes, they are blindly drawn, but you also decide whether to keep them, ‘sell’ them and what to do with them once you have them. From the starting hand you kind of decide from that point what you want to capitalize on and then it’s up to you to build from there. So I just don’t think there’s too much randomness here. IMO. It’s a great game.
The Kickstarter Hit
I first spotted Mint Works on Instagram, pre-Kickstarter campaign, and was first drawn to the retro mint tin look that made my eyes light up. So, intrigued, I hit up the designer Justin Blaske for an interview (which you can find back in August’s blog posts). The concept behind the game stemmed from a design competition on BGG, the idea being to create a game experience wherein all its contents were packed into a little mint tin. Justin’s design focused on using cards and mint tokens in a worker placement game set in an industrious little town. I successfully managed the PnP for this one and found it to be a really delightful, smart and fun little game. I do love my filler games and I like them to be enjoyable and light but have some interesting decision making elements, and this really ticked all the boxes for me. The great news is this game funded within hours, pummeled its way through stretch goals and funded at over $89,000. What I have found really admirable though is that post-campaign Justin has really worked hard to keep all of the backers regularly updated and happy. Which I hear doesn’t happen all the time in the aftermath of KS campaigns, and the amount of work that actually goes into managing the project is crazy hard and time consuming. More recently Justin entered the second mint tin competition on BGG, is having a supersized Mint Works playable at a convention in his home town of Nebraska, and is play testing some new and interesting ideas, so keep an eye out! You can still pre order Mint Works here.
The Retro One
Legendary Big Trouble in Little China, in case you hadn’t guessed is one of my favourite films from the 80s, kind of a childhood classic. I really fancied Kurt Russell and his ludicrously tight vest. It’s got the best lines, the best silly monsters and OTT fighting scenes. I was so thrilled that there was to be a Legendary version, and I already liked the game system from playing Marvel. I am pleased to say it did not disappoint me. The artwork is fab, the story telling is good, and the combat is great fun. I’m going to sound corny but it really is like a trip into the movie. I love the way that some of the cards worked to reflect the characters and it fitted in to the Legendary system nicely. Sometimes I just stare at the box. It’s dreamy.
The Unexpected Charmer
Odin’s Ravens is a simple racing game using cards and two wooden ravens, no more or less but something about it works so well. It is just elegant and charming, and a sweet little two player about racing over the land and getting round to the other side before your opponent. You play the cards in your hands to move over the cards on the table, and the Loki cards provide tricks up your sleeve for those ‘oh dear, I appear to be stuck’ or ‘take that, because there’s no way in hell you’re winning this race’ moments. Very good fun, so reasonably priced for great quality and definitely one I’ll put in my ‘games that just work’ category.
So, as hard as that was to do, those were my five choices from 2016. Let’s look forward to all the new and exciting stuff that’s happening this year, and if you want some ‘games news’ my new video is below. Thanks for reading!