We can't believe it's been a year since we last posted our Top 10 list of 2015. Tempus fugit. (Which means "Time is Italian," we think.) This year Jeremiah and I each offered up five games that we played in 2016. We tried to stick to games that came out in 2016, but sometimes a game actually came out in late 2015, or wasn't broadly available until 2016. Ergo ipso facto: These are the best, newish games we played in 2016. Also, there are some games we just didn't get a chance to play. We wanted to try Star Wars Rebellion, and Inis, and Great Western Trail, and so many others. They might be on the list if we'd played it, but we just didn't!
As a bonus, we asked you, our readers, to weigh in, too, so we have a separate Top 5 Readers list, too. Without further ado, let's look at the best board games from 2016!
2016 was a really good year for games, so there are a few games that nearly made the list.
The Grizzled: At Your Orders: The Grizzled is a remarkable little co-op that's unlike any other I've played. The At Your Orders expansion adds some complexity in the form of Missions, which also add focus, and the ability to tweak the difficulty to match your group's level.
Mystic Vale--This uses an innovative gimmick where you're placing cards inside of sleeves in order to upgrade them. Very clever.
Commissioned--This unique game lets you play through Paul's journeys to bring the Gospel to the world. Here's our Preview.
Captain Sonar--For those rare times when you have exactly 8 players, Captain Sonar is a good choice. You'll be hunting another submarine, while that sub's trying to hunt you--all while keeping your boat repaired. Tense!
Secret Hitler--I've (Firestone) played this a number of times now, and the only thing keeping it from my Top 5 is the tension I feel regarding the theme. I'm coming around, but I'm not ready to make it a top pick. Still. Seriously. This is a fun, fun game, and probably my 3rd-favorite social deduction game.
Food Chain Magnate--I've only played this once, and I got CRUSHED, so I didn't feel that was enough experience to put it on the list. But despite the loss (seriously...I got just amazingly wrecked), I could see that this is a solid game. If you like zero-luck games where you will win or lose solely by your choices (in my case lose), this is the game for you.
Descent: Road to Legend--Not sure we can count this as a "new game," but the Road to Legend added new life to an already great game. There are three campaigns and a delve available, and the campaigns are free! I've had SO MUCH fun playing this with my kids.
Firestone's Top 5 Games of 2016
5) Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition: The new edition of this co-operative game uses an app to drive the action. It's got fun and compelling stories, tough combat, and puzzles! Fantasy Flight is going to make so much money off of this...
4) Clank: There are plenty of deck-builders out there, so you've got to bring something new to the table. Clank is a highly thematic deck-builder with a push-your-luck element. You're diving into caves and caverns in search of treasure--all while trying not to "Clank," and disturb the dragon guarding the goodies. It's light enough that this is a perfect family game, but you can adjust the difficulty for gamers by simply removing a few black cubes from the bag.
3) Codenames: Pictures--Codenames was very nearly my Game of the Year last year--eclipsed only by the excellent Pandemic: Legacy. While I don't like Codenames Pictures quite as much as regular Codenames (I am, after all, a "word guy"), Pictures is still a terrific game. And combining the two games works remarkably well, too.
2) 7 Wonders: Duel--I realize it's an unpopular opinion but I think 7 Wonders is a completely average game. Every time I play it I feel as though there's something missing, and I can't even explain what that missing thing is. But the 2-player version of Duel is terrific. It's clever and tense and works in every way. And I haven't even played with the expansion yet!
Firestone's Game of the Year: Terraforming Mars--I wasn't sure we needed another tableau-building game. But one play of Terraforming Mars convinced me I was wrong--and every subsequent game has verified it. Each game plays differently, based on starting powers, cards you get, and the way your opponents play. It's between printings, so the price is sky high, but the latest printing should be out soon. If you like medium-weight Euros, definitely check this out.
Jeremiah's Top 5 Games of 2016
I feel like I should further disclaim that my list of games to choose from is fairly short this year. You can go back and listen to our last couple podcast episodes to find out why, but in short I didn't have much gaming in me this year because of new career choices, a new house, house renovations, and a new baby on the way (to name a few). I say this in NO WAY to diminish the greatness of the games on my list, but to quell the outrage that may come when you find that game "XYZ" is not on it. Had I had more gaming over the last year mayhaps it would have made it, or not. Regardless, 2016 was a FANTASTIC year for gaming and the choices are terribly difficult!
5) Onitama--A great 2-player filler, Onitama is a mix of The Duke and chess. High replayability and elegant game design that lets you teach the game in just a few short sentences--and from there the game just takes off. Here's my review.
4) Mafia de Cuba--Add another social deduction game to the horde of them chasing The Resistance. The great thing about Mafia de Cuba is its unique mechanisms that keep the game within the game box itself. Unique game play and stylized components make this one not "just another social deduction game"!
3) Flick'em Up!--I'm not usually a fan of dexterity games. I want to sit down and out-think, out-strategize, or out-roll my friends. But there's a really nice charm about Flick'em Up! that's hard to deny. Cool scenarios, and a lightweight design make this a joy to bring to the table--every time!
2) Orleans--What can I say about Orleans!? Not only in my top 5 for the year but steadily creeping into my top 5 all time. Somehow this game is both deep and simple, heavy and light. I really can't get enough of this one! Here's our review.
Jeremiah's Game of the Year: Royals--If you've been listening to our podcasts (both That's How I Roll, and the TOG podcast) this probably isn't a surprise to you. I've been in love with this game since I played it at Origins. Gorgeous artwork, lots of player interaction, and a familiar yet fresh take on area control. Outstanding work from Arcane Wonders! Here's my review.
There's our Top 10, but we also compiled all of the votes we got from our readers, and here are your Top 5.
Readers' Top 5 Games of 2016
5) Mystic Vale
4) Cry Havoc
3) Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
2) Terraforming Mars
The Readers' Game of the Year: Scythe--Firestone's played this one once, and it's obvious why readers picked this as their favorite game of 2016. It mashes up worker-placement mechanisms with elements of other games--all with perhaps the most fantastic art we've ever seen on a game. We've come to expect excellence from Stonemaier Games, and Scythe is no different.
That's it! Thanks for reading! And share your own games of the year in the comments.