2014 was a great year for games, and I was very lucky to get a chance to play A LOT of games. Some were great, some were terrible, and some just went past with nary a blip on the Game-O-Radar. Since it’s a new year though, I’d like to start on a positive, hence my list of my Top Eight games for 2014. Enjoy!
1. Waggle Dance
Top of the list is the Kickstarted Waggle Dance. A worker placement game featuring dice, the theme of workers building a hive to produce honey is beautifully realised through the well meshed mechanics. The use of dice for the workers also adds an element of chance which then turns to pure strategy as canny players keep tabs on the values of the other players’ dice. Wonderful to play, wonderful to look at, this is a classic in the making.
2. Camel Up
Winner of the Spiel des Jahres in 2014, Camel Up is the game of the punters (the players) betting on the outcome of a camel race around a pyramid that double as a dice shaker. Gameplay is simple, inclusive yet with a touch of analytical thought that gives some meat to the mechanics. Featuring the stacking camels and aforementioned pyramid as components, Camel Up has seen a lot of play at our table as it is easy to teach and quick to play. A great gateway game.
3. Golem Arcana
A blend of board game and war game, Golem Arcana features the innovative use of a bluetooth stylus connected to a smart phone or tablet to take all the crunch out of the statistics used to represent movement, attacking and continuous effects. This takes all the admin out of what could be a cumbersome system, speeding up the game significantly without loss of depth. Add in beautiful miniatures and continuous support via the app and this one is hard to fault.
4. Love Letter
The micro card game Love Letter sits comfortably in the middle of my list. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve played this. Short and sweet, LL can be played before, after and between games as its play length, complexity and size mean it can be chucked in a pocket or bag and be toted literally anywhere and played with anyone.
5. King of New York
The spiritual successor to King of Tokyo (follow the link to find out more about KoT), KoNY takes the gameplay a step further by increasing the complexity of the board and the scoring. Players now destroy buildings as well as the other players, however doing so increases the presence of the army, which can hurt your monster if you’re in a zone with them when a certain die result comes up. In addition, the scoring of VP by holding Tokyo has been stepped up for KoNY. All this makes KoNY feel more of a ‘gamer’s game’ and not just a milking of the KoT franchise.
6. Age of War
The second micro game in this list, Age of War is a Reiner Knizia riff on the yatzhee dice set mechanic and feels very much like Elder Sign lite. Don’t let this fool you though; AoW fills a very different niche as a much smaller game, with players conquering (read:collecting) Japanese castles and scoring VP based on each Castle’s difficulty. It’s not super strategic since dice rolling will never be fully predictable, but it works perfectly as a light filler or evening starter.
A very late entry into the list, I didn’t get Hyperborea until the last quarter of the year but in only two plays I knew I was in love. The chief mechanic of cube drafting is backed by smooth, intuitive game play and a gorgeous set of components. I haven’t yet fully explored the full depth HB has to offer, but I look forward to finding out in 2015!
One of the hits of 2014, Splendor sees players ‘engine building’ in a game themed on Gem traders. The use of poker chips as the Gems adds an element of quality and ‘weight’ to the game itself. Its straightfoward mechanics and ramping up as the game progresses mean Splendor may indeed live up to the hype. As with Hyperborea, I’m looking forward to getting to know this game better in 2015.
So there it is, is all it’s grubby glory. Any of these games ring true with you? Any surprises on the list? Anything make you exclaim ‘This is Madness!’ as you fling your smart phone away from you in disgust? As always, we’d love to hear from you!