I don't believe in "best games of the year" lists. Mostly because of the abstract naming of the list itself. It's really a biased list based on the plays the person who's compiling the list. When I come to terms with that, THEN I'm fine with reading these lists.
At first, I thought making my own wouldn't really benefit anyone else reading it. Given that my plays were very sparse and mostly solo, I honestly thought it would do no one good except for myself. But a number of people made a good point - that people read these lists to get a feel for others' choice and taste in games, not as anything "definitive," by any means. So, without further ado...here's mine. (Hint: The number of plays shown above is in no way an indication on how this list is ordered...much.)
What? Where you expecting 10? This is MY list, and it starts at "nine." Anyways, Castellion was a late acquisition, but it's the third in the Oniverse series of games from designer Shadi Torbey that packs in a lot of gameplay in a small box. Deviating from the first two games (Spoiler: they'll appear further down - or rather, up - the list.), Castellion uses a stack of tiles in addition to some cards in its gameplay. What it boils down to was a thinky tile-laying game where you had to match certain criteria before you ran out of time/tiles. Because of its simple gameplay, it was easy enough to set up and get in a couple of games within a short amount of time, and the rules are simple to grasp. And while the packaging isn't as velvety as its previous two games, the design is still elegant and gorgeous.
8. Fields of Arle
From the one game I had of this, Fields of Arle was massively...relaxing. I mean, a game where you're just cultivating your farmland? You have all this land to grow out, a lot of swampy areas and peet to get rid of, and all the handy skills you need to manage it all. You can even level up your skills to earn you more resources with less actions. Plus, you can take your goods to other cities for extra bonuses. Need a bigger cart? Then buy another one! Really, I can't recall much of the gameplay, but the sheer table coverage of it was phenomenal, and just watching your land grow under your hand was soothing. Definitely going to get this to the table again for another game. Plus, Fields of Arle gets the award for "Least Different Ruleset Between 2 Players and Solo Play," with just omitting one action from the rules. That's it. Really. Go play it.
7. The Gallerist
The theme first appealed to me months before this Kickstarter began, and I was enthralled with the aesthetics of the game, from its double-sided art tiles to its banal-looking museum figures admiring the artwork. Add to it some top-notch quality components and a well-thought-out insert, and you have a VERY HEAVY euro in the literal sense. In the one play I had, it was maddening trying to figure out how everything connects to everything else. It was only after making my decisions did I figure out the consequences, much to my delight/horror. So many moves I could've done, so many choices I want to have again. Plus, this is SUCH A GORGEOUS GAME TO SET UP!
6. Imperial Settlers
For a game I didn't know until I received it, Imperial Settlers has the award for "Most Surprising Board Game That I Never Asked For." Really, read about part 1, part 2, and part 3 here. All deck-building aside, the main game is fun to play all on its own. You choose your settler type, and work to create a mini civilization that you can grow and cultivate. And the solo variant's no chump. With an interesting AI, it forces you to carefully plan your growth in such a way that the AI won't completely destroy it all. Add to this two other expansions, one of them being an entirely-new settler type, and you have a game that won't stop being played.
5. Hostage Negotiator
When a game comes out that's specifically for just ONE player, there's a lot weighing down on it. Either the gameplay is great, or it's crap. And you have only one person to make a lasting impression. Fortunately for Hostage Negotiator, it does the job splendidly for me. Most people will be put-off by all the random dice-rolling, but beyond that, it's a hand-management game with hostages on the line. What's great about this is how solid the foundation is, to the point that scenarios are just puzzle pieces that complete the game setup. This makes adding extra scenarios as simple as a new pack of cards, which they have done with their first 4 abductor packs! Then all you have to do is slot in the new scenario, set up extra cards and rules, and there you go! Probably the best part of Hostage Negotiator is the VERY FAST reset time. Once, I got in 4 full games in a half hour. That's brilliant!
Oh man, getting close to the top of this arbitrary list is exciting, isn't it? I mean, we're now more than halfway through it! Sorry, just anticipating what someone may be feeling while reading this list. Or maybe you're just wondering when this guy will shut up and post his thoughts for the next game.
Where was I? Oh yeah, number 4: Sylvion.
Sylvion's the second game in the Oniverse, where you're trying to save a forest from a growing fire. It's a tower-defense-like game, but that's only half of it. The other half is setup. What, that doesn't sound exciting? What if I told you that you don't start with a pre-defined deck of cards? What if I said you had to BUILD that deck with a unique drafting procedure that will leave you with half that deck? It's crazy to think setup would be fun, but drafting your own deck you'll take to battle the fire is a puzzle in itself. You're choosing cards you want to have in your deck, running the risk that other cards may be lost if you don't grab them in time. This truly makes each game unique, because you're starting them with a different variety of cards. This is SUPER fun for me, because it changes up the game so much!
It's no surprise that Onirim's pretty high up in this list, seeing as I talk about this game a LOT. The first in the Oniverse series, Onirim (2nd ed) comes packed already with 7 expansions, all of which can be plugged in and out between games in any combination, for a multitude of gameplay styles and difficulties. I've played through the base game many times, and combined with each expansion on its own at least once. Only recently I've started combining expansions, and oh boy...things get a little nuts! The game's abstract dream theme is only matched by its abstractly-beautiful artwork that graces each and every card. Each romp has the player trying to find all the doors to escape the dreamscape, but you'll have to dodge a LOT of nightmares doing so. Really such a gorgeous game on the table, Onirim is one I'll enjoy for years to come.
2. Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
Surprised that this landed so high? Don't be. Why? Because this is MY list, remember? Like other games on this list, I've had only one play of Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, but wow! A game all about family trees? I love it already! And the fact that the solo variant is NOTHING like the main game is a boon. For most games that try to create solo variants, it's either the main game chopped up, or with dummy players, or sometimes both. But for Legacy, not only is the game literally flipped on its head, but instead of planning marriages, you're figuring out your family heritage. This game is a BEAST on the table, with your family tree taking up the majority of table space. But when you're all done, it looks so EPIC that you can't believe this became a game at all! It's high on my list because of the lasting impression that one game left, and it's one I certainly want to play again.
Here It Comes...
Are you ready for this? My number one game for 2015?? CAN YOU NOT FEEL TEH GOOSEBUMPS????!?!??!!
My number one board game...
...for 2015 is...
1. Richard Scarry's Busytown: Busy, Busy Airport
I don't even have to explain why. It's that awesome.
No? Okay, I didn't have anything prepared to explain this, but here it goes.
I got this game for my daughter this past Christmas, so I could play with her. Something that's more closer to a board game than all the other ones she's been playing. Sure, she has played Animal Upon Animal and Rhino Hero, but we fudge the rules here and there just so she can still enjoy the fun of it. But this? Busy, Busy Airport was the first game we played together where we played properly by the rules with very little frustration through to the end. And do you want to know the best part? Immediately after we played the first game she said "can we play this again??"
Number one, hands down.
As an added bonus, the second game we played of this, my daughter got mommy to play along, too! I can already foresee Family Game Nights in my future!
For me, this is my number one game of 2015. What's yours?