Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! It's time for our list of the 10 best games we played in 2014. Not all of these came out in 2014, but 2014 is when we played them for the first time. There are inevitably some games missing here--ones we just never got a chance to play, or played in 2015. Aquasphere, for instance. Aquasphere is AWESOME, but I just played it last week, so it'll be on next year's list. So what are we waiting for? The envelopes, please!
First we'll talk about a few games that just missed the list. This might be because we only played them once or twice, or because they're a good filler in a field of good meatier games. Whatever the reason, they're good games in their own right.
Sheriff of Nottingham
Sheriff of Nottingham is a bluffing game that's a remake of an older game called Hart an der Grenze, which was about smuggling things across the border. This more-PC version has you trying to fool the Sheriff of Nottingham by smuggling goods into Nottingham. You tell him what's in your pouch, and then basically dare him to check the bag. If you're telling the truth, he pays. If you aren't, he gets to keep some of the stuff. The role of Sheriff rotates, and then you score.
Dead of Winter
Believe me. I'm as sick of zombie games as anyone. But in Dead of Winter the zombies are just a device to move things forward. This is a semi-cooperative game where your group is trying to fight off zombie hordes, all while trying to also fulfill their own hidden goals. And one of the players might be actively working for the group to die. It's paranoid-inducing and fun. But the best part of the game is the Crossroad mechanism, where certain conditions pause the game, and you have interesting decisions to make, creating angst, and the feel of a real story.
We both played this a bunch last year. Our kids love it. Our spouses love it. We love it. And it's just a fast, fun card-drafting game. Here's our review.
Do you like to get kicked in the teeth? Then Shadowrun: Crossfire might be the game for you. This brutally hard co-op based on the Shadowrun universe has a gritty aesthetic, and gameplay that forces you to play well. But as you slowly--VERY slowly--level up your character, things get a little easier. Until the next time you don't play perfectly. Come to think of it, this is the Dark Souls of board games. NOW do you want to play it...?
Star Realms may just be the spaghetti of deck-builders... China invented the noodle but the Italian culture perfected it. Likewise, Dominion was the first deck-builder but Star Realms may have perfected it. Star Realms is an inexpensive 2-player game, and it's expandable to more cards and more players if you choose to invest more into it. It is amazingly simple and easy to learn, but packs a huge punch in the fun department. If you have any interest in deck-building, go grab this game!
The last few Days of Wonder games have been mediocre at best, but they're definitely back to form with Five Tribes. The game starts with tiles out in a random order and full of meeples. The rest of the game involves moving meeples around, and taking the action on those tiles. As there are fewer meeples out, your options narrow. Suddenly it's over, and you're breathless, realizing that was a great, tactical game that's brilliantly simple, and simply brilliant.
This Rudiger Dorn design also has a set of tiles you lay out in a unique pattern each game, but the similarity to Five Tribes ends there. You're moving through the bazaar with your assistants, trying to make the most of your limited options and be as efficient as possible. Fill your wheelbarrow with goods, turn those goods into cash, and buy the rubies that will win you the game. This was a deserving winner of the German Gamers' Game of the Year Award.
Warhammer 40,000: Conquest
The latest addition to Fantasy Flight Games' Living Card Game line finds seven different factions vying for control of space. You're a warlord leading your team into planetary battle against your enemy. Tension-filled gameplay, unique and distinct factions, and gorgeous artwork add up to a big hit. We'll have our full review up next week! We'll come back and edit this when it goes live.
Pandemic: The Cure
We're usually suspicious of dice versions of popular games--too often they feel like half-baked money grabs. Pandemic: The Cure is NOT that. It's a great game. It might be better than the original game. It's tough. It's fun. And it's lost none of the tension you love from the original. And it's my (Firestone) 6-year-old's favorite game right now, which is pretty cool. Just like the original, some role distributions will make the game easier or harder at the basic level. With this one you have the added randomness of the dice thrown into the mix. It doesn't matter. This is a GOOD game.
Keyflower has easily become one of my (Jeremiah's) favorite Euros in 2014. I know it's technically from 2012, but it first showed up on my table last year, and quickly dominated most game nights. Bluffing, bidding, resource management, there's a little bit of everything in this one, and it all pieces together seamlessly. Players start out with meeples of random colors and use them to either gain tiles into their village, or use the abilities of tiles (either in their village, other villages, or up for bid), but you're going to lose some of your meeples depending what you do with them, so weigh every decision very, very carefully!
Designer Mac Gerdts has taken a simple idea--a rondel mechanism for action options--and made numerous games using that concept. Concordia is the latest, and this time the "rondel" is made up of cards--and the game ends up feeling like a deck-builder. It's an opportunistic game of establishing trade in the Mediterranean, and using the favor of the Roman gods to help your efforts. Each game will be different, thanks to the card distribution and the way cities are seeded with goods. And beyond that, there are two different boards that play differently. His games just get better and better.
I (Firestone) played Doomtown: Reloaded shortly before Christmas, and immediately went out and bought a copy. I was completely intimidated by it, and completely taken with it. It's a card game that follows the Living Card Game model, where AEG will release monthly-ish small expansion packs, and occasional larger expansions that add new mechanisms. There are currently four factions that each play differently. All of them are vying for control of the town, and you'll use properties, posses, and pistols to fight your opponent. It's on the complex end of the card-game spectrum, but worth the effort.
Jeremiah's Game of the Year: Tiny Epic Kingdoms
A 4X game with no downtime that packs a giant-sized gaming experience in a... wait for it... TINY package! My gaming group keeps coming back for more of this time after time! This easily takes my epic top spot.
Firestone's Game of the Year: One Night Ultimate Werewolf
A Werewolf game that plays in 10 minutes or less? That'll never work... Right?
I played this more than any other game this year--by a long shot. Jeremiah and I played it with a bunch of youth pastors, and it was a huge hit. The game takes 10 minutes at the most, and it's easy to play "just one more." And there are so many roles and player-number combinations that this won't get old for a LONG time. Oh, and did we mention that Daybreak, a new expansion with a slew of new roles, just came out? I played this very early in 2014, and wondered if anything would unseat it from the throne it immediately occupied. Nothing did. I love this game.
So what did we miss? What game are you surprised we added? surprised we forgot? Let us know in the comments. And thanks for reading!
Next week we'll have reviews of Diamonds, Warhammer 40,000: Conquest, and a new contest! Stay tuned!