So word on the street is that 2015 has been a great year in board-gaming. As social gamers who don’t take blogging too seriously we haven’t found ourselves in a situation where we’ve had to play a game we have hated. To be clear from the outset we’ve not played a comprehensive list of games released in 2015.
These are the games we’ve played; XCOM, Tides of Time, New York 1901, Nevermore, Voyages of Marco Polo, Cthulu Realms, Codenames, Cacao, Lanterns, Artifacts Inc., Dice City, ...and then we held hands, 7 Wonders Duel, Pandemic Legacy, Grand Austria Hotel, The Grizzled, Time Stories & Raptor.
So here’s the Yellow Meeple’s Top 5!
5. Tides of Time is probably our most played game of 2015. I think there are a few reasons for this; it’s 2-player only, it’s quick, it’s very portable and I actually have a chance of winning this game regularly. It’s great to have a drafting game that works with two and is really simple to play. I do worry that it will have limited replayability due to having a very small deck, but at around 15-20 plays so far we’ve not hit that point which makes it a great value game!
4. T.I.M.E. Stories is a fantastic, unique gaming experience. The main reason that it is only number 4 on the list is because I do like to see value for money in my game. We’ve played the asylum scenario in the base game – it took about 3 hours and now we can’t play any more. That said, for me, this style of co-operative game feels unique – it’s far more exploratory than most, the best group decision is not based on weighing up the chances of different cards being drawn or calculating the optimal move, it’s more based on the elements of the stories you’ve read and simply what the ground wants to do. This is really refreshing and could’ve gone either way for me because I do love puzzle-style co-operatives, but it’s great to enjoy a thematic game so much and be entirely engrossed in it.
3. New York 1901 is quite a lightweight family game but one that for us is quite unique. It’s a very spatial game of tile placement where you are trying to build and upgrade your different skyscrapers and maximise your use of different end-game objectives which differ between every game. We’ve not played this game as many times as we’d like but it fills a good niche in our collection and feels like it crams a lot of game into 45 minutes. It also takes care of the 2-player count really easily and scales well with 3 or 4.
2. Pandemic Legacy is definitely my most anticipated game of 2015. We finally unwrapped the game just 5 days ago and have played 4 games, winning all four! We definitely still enjoy the original Pandemic, and love many co-operative games. I wasn’t 100% sure I’d like the legacy aspect, but there’s quite a lot of joy to be had in destroying elements, adding stickers, writing on the board and seeing the game develop. In just a third of the game we’ve probably doubled the complexity of Pandemic but it’s manageable because it’s incremental. I also think we co-operate even better in this game, coming up with contingency plans in case the game changes, including things we’ve learnt from previous games and discussing how we can choose characters in order to better prepare for future games.
1. XCOM: The Board Game has been in or collection now since January 2015, definitely making it the oldest game on the list, but it is one of our favourite games and possibly even our favourite game ever. Again it’s really heavily co-operative, but the timed phase of the game means that you do have to make your own independent decisions and no-one can be an alpha player and influence you. The app adds tension and I don’t think the game could work without it. I suppose the final positive thing I have to say is to talk about how immersive the game is – I’m always amazed by how quickly the time passes when we play XCOM, which is definitely a good thing!
And finally a few other highlights of 2015...
Best Expansion – Ticket to Ride UK Map
We have only played the UK side of the map, but it was great to add something new and fresh to Ticket to Ride. Ticket to Ride had become a game which we really only ever played as a gateway game to teach non-gamers, but I think the UK map with its technology cards absolutely makes this more of a gamer game and will bring Ticket to Ride back to our table. I’m interested to try the Pennsylvania map too, although this does seem somewhat simpler.
Best Standalone Expansion – Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron
Dice Masters is not a new game, but it is new to us and our introduction has been through the Age of Ultron Starter Set. I love deck-building and Amy is a big Marvel fan, so this game seemed like a good hit. We probably only got it a month ago and we’ve played it 8 times and get a ton of enjoyment out of it every time. If I had considered it as a 2015 release it would probably hit number 2 or 3 in my list.
Best Gaming Experience – T.I.M.E. Stories
Time Stories is at number 4 for the reasons described above, but as a one of gaming experience this was fantastic and hopefully we’ll get the Marcy Case to the table soon.
So here’s to another great year in 2016. Sadly, with a new job with a long commute and long hours starting in January we may not manage to play so many board games, and we still have plenty of 2015 titles that I'm desperate to try!