Okay, in an effort to include as much info and coverage of Origins as possible (but let's face it I'm still not doing it justice here), get ready for a rapid-fire rundown of everyone I spoke to at Origins!! Aaaaand GO!Read More
Well, it's 2014, and it's early enough in the year that you're still writing 2013 on things... That sounds like the perfect time to trot out our Top 10 Games of 2013! So what made the cut? Let's see...
Okay a few things first...
1) These are in no particular order—in fact, they aren't even numbered. These are our 10 favorite games of the last year, and trying to slot them into specific numbers seems like more trouble than it's worth. We did, however, each pick one game as our personal Game of the Year.
2) Some of these aren't strictly from 2013. But for each of them, they were widely available to play here in the States in 2013. That's where we live, and it's our list, so those are the rules we're playing by.
Let's start with a few honorable mentions...
Two Rooms and a Boom—There are two reasons this didn't make our main list. First, it's only available as a print-and-play right now, so it's hard to count that as coming out this year. Second, it really needs a larger group to work well. But if you have a large group, THEN YOU SHOULD PLAY THIS. I fully expect to see this game on next year's main list...
Space Cadets: Dice Duel—This one is conditional, too. If you're playing with the full complement of eight players—three players and a captain on each team—then this is an incredible gaming experience. Anything less than that full complement is just...less.
Lords Of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport—Neither of the two included expansions are "necessary," but they're both fun and interesting, and add some legs to this good worker-placement game.
Kemet—It's a highly confrontational game that encourages fighting over turtling. And everything on the map is the same distance from every other thing, so you're not fighting someone because they happen to be closer, but because they happen to be the person who most needs to be attacked. Plus it's got cool minis. Plus it's got tons of tiles with cool special powers. Wait, why isn't this on the main list...?
Walk The Plank—Two of my (Firestone) pals designed this take-that piratey madness. It's really fun, and just missed making the Big List.
And without further ado...
THE TOP 10 GAMES OF 2013
Coup is a small little card game that's just full of bluffing. There are roles, and you can bluff that you've got a role in your hand. If someone calls your bluff, though, you better hope you're telling the truth... Don't believe us? Well Wil Wheaton loves it, and
This little card game took me completely by surprise. You can't see your own hand of cards, but you can see every other player's. Your challenge, as a team, is to place down the numbers 1 through 5 in each of five suits, in order. It's challenging and thrilling and nerve-wracking. Those are all good things. You can read our review of the game
I (Firestone) wasn't sure anything could replace Ticket To Ride as my go-to game to bring out with nongamers. But then along comes La Boca and does just that. Part of the reason is that it works with gamers, nongamers, kids, youth groups, parties—EVERYONE! And there's a tricksy red piece you can add to up the challenge. Watch for a review of this one soon.
It's like SimCity, but not mind-numbingly boring. Okay, it's more than that. You're building a borough, and buying new areas based on what you have, and what your opponents have, and what you can afford. Some people don't think there's much interaction here, but I respectfully disagree.
If you've played Pandemic or Forbidden Island, you'll have no problem picking up Forbidden Desert. But this game adds completely new and clever mechanisms and ideas that make it more than just a retheme. This is a great cooperative family game that we'll be playing for years to come.
That mad genius Stefan Feld came out with four games in 2013, and I (Firestone) was able to play three of those four. While the others were "merely" good, Bora Bora was clearly the best of the bunch. It has a ridiculous number of ways to score VPs, but despite that, it all just...fit.
This is the first release from Stonemaier Games, and what we believe should be the measuring stick for all Kickstarter projects. A very in-depth worker-placement game, Viticulture exceeded all of our expectations—in gameplay, components, and everything. This game is great from top to bottom. If you're into worker-placement games at any level, snatch up a copy of Viticulture—well, as soon as the reprint is available! You can check out our Double-Take review here
If you've read Theology Of Games for any amount of time, you know that we don't often see eye-to-eye on games. We have two distinct gaming personalities, and though we do sometimes agree on games, it's rare for us to both love or hate one.
We both love The Duke.
It's a 2-player abstract where you're trying to move different pieces around the board in an effort to capture your opponent's Duke. It's like chess, except fun.
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar—Tribes and Prophecies—
This is the lone expansion on the list, but with good reason. It is EXACTLY what I want in an expansion. First, there are the Tribes, which basically give you a unique special power. When you first read one, you think, "That's crazy and overpowered!" Then you read the others and realize they're ALL crazy and overpowered! And it's awesome!! The Prophecies are events that make the game a little harder by causing some things to cost a little more to achieve—but then you get some VPs for achieving those things. Great, great expansion.
Great Heartland Hauling Co.—
Our pal Jason Kotarski designed this neat little pick-up-and-deliver game with a trucking theme. It doesn't break new ground, or change the landscape, but it's a fun and clever little game. Our families have had some great times playing this one. And
here's the review.
Firestone's Game of the Year—Hanabi!
I played this more than any other game that came out in 2013. It's portable. It's cheap (when it's in print). And it's soooooo fun. And if you use one of the print-and-play decks (after you've bought a legitimate copy first, of course), you can add in some variants, such as multicolored suits, that up the replay value.
Jeremiah's Game of
the Year - The Duke!
The last half of this year my time to game has been more and more at a premium. While I LOVE lengthy and in-depth games, there's something great about a game that is incredibly engaging, strategic, super-streamlined, and that plays pretty quickly. I've played a few of the expansions, and they add a lot to the game—we'll talk about these expansions very soon. I first played The Duke at Origins and fell in love with it, and after dozens of plays The Duke still excites me every time we bring it to the table!
Well, there's our list. What would your list look like? What did we forget? What should we have left off? Sound off in the comments. And thanks for reading!
This section of of our Holiday Gift Guide is for small games that can fit inside a stocking. Most of them fall into the "filler" category, but some of them have deep gameplay that belies their simple packaging.
The Great Heartland Hauling Company—Breaker, Breaker! Welcome to America’s heartland. It’s time to grab your trucker hat and hit the open road. In The Great Heartland Hauling Co., players will travel the heartland picking up cargo and selling it for profit. Clever design and great thematic gameplay! It's between printings right now, but you can preorder from the Dice Hate Me Games Web site.
Ages: Box say 8 and up, but we've both played this with younger kids.
Maximum Throwdown—In Jason Tagmire's card-flinging free-for-all players choose a team (deck of cards). Then they start throwing down... Literally. Each card has special icons that either score points or give special powers to the player who threw them, but if someone covers your cards you lose those powers and points! A fun and unique card game for all!
MSRP: $19.99 (Find it online)
Ages: The box says 12 and up, but that seems way high. Should be fine with 8-year-olds and up.
Qwixx—This is a wonderful, fast, easy-to-explain dice game that's completely portable. It's a great filler, and would definitely work with nongamers. We've even played with my 5-year-old. Don't hesitate to pick this up.
Ages: 8 and up, though younger should work fine with just a little coaching.
Coup—Coup just came out in a retail release. And you should buy it. There's so much bluffing in this game. So much intrigue. So much awesomeness. The actor Wil Wheaton even encouraged readers of his blog to read MY review of the game.
MSRP: $14.99 (Find it online)
Ages: 10 and up.
Hanabi—This is on my (Firestone) short list for Game of the Year; it would easily fit on the Gamers' Game list, but is here based on size. You have a hand of cards that you only point away from you. The other players are trying to give you clues about your hand, while trying to figure out clues about their own. And the whole point is to lay down cards in the various colors, in numerical order. It's fantastic.
MSRP: $10.95 (Find it online)
Ages: 8 and up
Council of Verona—The first title in Crash Games' Pub Series, a series of games that can be played anywhere. Council of Verona packs lots of game play into a tiny box. It features a good deal of bluffing and intrigue. And fits nicely into any gamer's stocking!
MSRP: $14.99 (Find it online)
Ages: 13 and up
If you're gamer doesn't have The Duke, you should seriously go buy them a copy... Like right now. And what would be a better addition to that game, and a perfect stocking stuffer than a sweet four tile expansion pack featuring the legendary characters from the work of Robert E. Howard!? That's right you can bring Kull, Soloman Kane, and even Conan the Barbarian to fight along side your Duke and hack and slash your way to victory!
MSRP: $9.95 (Find it online)
Ages: 13 and up
Review: (of the Duke) http://wp.me/p2hTk7-122
A card game that has an obvious holiday theme, so it seems obligatory that we should add it to the list of games that should be stuck in stockings! 12 Days was also JUST featured on the latest episode TableTop featuring geek hero Wil Wheaton, if you want to see it being played, click here (Just be aware they use a lot of cuss words -that are mostly bleeped out- on the show)
MSRP: $15.95 (Find it online)
Ages: 8 and up
Stay tuned for our final entry: The Gamers' Games! Thanks for reading!
Designer Antoine Bauza teased a pic on Twitter that revealed a deluxe edition of the game is in the...works. (See what I did there?)
This one will feature tiles instead of cards. Matthias Wagner of Abacusspiele has dropped some details.
The material will be similar to the bakelite used in Hive.
They'll be engraved.
I love the idea of being able to stack these, turn them sideways, move some forward or backward, or group them. The maneuverability of the tiles is much better than the cards. But the price of this beauty will be $90, so I'll likely just be sticking to my $10 copy.
Will you be picking this up once it's out?
Thanks for reading!
The game was recently printed in the US by R&R Games, so that's one I'll be reviewing.
Hanabi is a cooperative game for 2 to 5 players, where your team is trying to put on the best fireworks show. It's possible to lose the game, but that's fairly rare—it's usually just a matter of how awesome (or crappy) your fireworks display will be. The best you can do is 25 points, and it goes down from there...
60 cards—there are six suits, each with three 1's, two 2's, two 3's, two 4's, and one 5.
8 Blue Clock Tokens
4 Black Fuse Tokens
Place the blue clock tokens faceup on the table, and stack the four black fuse tokens nearby, with the longest fuse on top and the explosion on the bottom.
You only use five of the six suits—the sixth one is a multicolor suit that is for an advanced variant. This isn't one of those games where you should just jump into the advanced game right away—the basic game will kick your butt.
So you take the 10 cards in the five suits, shuffle them all together, and deal five cards to each player in a 2- or 3-player game, or four cards in a 4- or 5-player game.
Here's the unique thing about this game: You never, ever, look at your own cards! EVER! When the cards are dealt to you, you hold them facing away from you.
The point of the game is to try and get each of the five colors down on the table. You have to start each color with the 1, and continue on with the 2, 3, 4, and finally the 5. You have to go in numerical order for each color, and there can only be one of each number in each color.
On your turn you can do one of three things.
- Give someone a clue.
- Discard a card.
- Play a card.
If you give someone a clue, you are telling that person one thing about his or her hand. If you choose to reveal color, you would point to the appropriate cards and say, "This card is a red," or "These two cards are blue." You can also choose to reveal numbers, so, "These cards are 2's," or "That card is a 5."
Frequently Forgotten Rule: You have to give complete information about a hand. So if someone has two 2's in hand, you can't just tell them one card is a 2, even though sometimes that would be super helpful—you have to tell them about both 2's.
When you give a clue, you also have to put one of the blue clock tokens into the box lid (or just move them to the side, but the box lid makes sure you don't screw up which pile is which). If there are no more blue clock tokens on the table, you have to do one of the other two actions on your turn.
If you discard a card, you simply choose one and lay it aside for all to see. The rules say to make a discard pile that anyone can look at at any time. That's just dumb. You should just lay all cards off to the side, and place them such that everyone can see all of the discards all of the time—you can put them perpendicular to the main display so that you don't confuse the two, but in practice, this isn't really a problem.
You obviously have to be very careful about what card you discard, but every card other than the 5 has more than one copy, so you often have another chance to get that number out. If you discard a card, you can take a blue clock token from the box and put it back on the table—and then you draw a new card.
If you play a card, you choose one and attempt to play it to the table.
If it fits in an open space—for instance, if you play a red 2 and the red 1 is already down, you simply place it down in the correct spot, and your turn is over. You don't have to "call" which card it is before you pull it out of your hand and finally see what it is. If it fits, great!
If it doesn't fit, you put the card in the discard display, and you take the top black fuse token and put it in the box.
If you place the number 5 card onto one of the fireworks—thus completing that color—you get a bonus, free blue clock token back and available.
The game ends in one of three ways.
If you pull the third black fuse token (i.e., you make three mistakes when playing cards), the game ends and you all lose.
If you are able to fully complete all five colors of fireworks, you've won in spectacular fashion with a perfect score: 25 points.
How the game usually ends is that a player takes the last card from the draw pile. Each player, including the person who grabbed the last card, gets one last turn. Once that round is over, you count up your score.
You add up the highest-valued card you managed to play in each of the five colors, and that's your score. The rulebook breaks down what each range of scores means. And that's it!
The game comes with a number of variants, and if you're insane, it comes with a sixth suit, that's muticolored and counts toward every color when you're giving a clue.
Youth group/party game? Yes! I actually think this could be a great game for that. Expect to do terribly, but it forces the teenagers to think...
Family game? Definitely! Well, it won the Spiel des Jahres, but I really do think it would be great. The game recommends this for kids 8+, but I think that's probably too young to play the game well; it's actually fairly hard to give great clues here, and I don't think my 8-year-old would be able to figure that out yet. (But there's no reason not to try; that's how they learn, right?) If you have older kids, this one would definitely work.
Gamers' game? Absolutely! Our group is completely taken with this game. It's been the go-to filler for a while now.
In case you can't tell from the Recommendations section, I think this game is perfect for anyone. It should be in your collection.
I love how different it is. There have been other games where you can't look at your hand (Code 777, for instance), but this one just feels unique to me.
I also like how you can still win, even if you don't play perfectly. This adds to my argument that this is a great game for nongamers. You won't play perfectly—or probably even particularly well—the first few times, but it's okay: You can still win.
The cards are of good quality—though I'll probably still sleeve them. The backs of the cards are asymmetrical, and in this case that's a good thing, as it helps you organize your hand as you want.
One of the cool things is that each group and each person can create their own conventions about how to organize their hands. Some people only put new cards in on the left side of their hand, and will discard off the right side of their hand. If other people know that, and there's a precious 5 on the righthand side and you know she's about to discard it, you might want to make sure she knows it's a 5!
A problem that sometimes crops up in co-op games is that one person will completely dominate the game and basically play the whole game for everyone. In Hanabi, that's not really possible. For one thing, there's never complete information since you don't know your own hand—until the very end of the game. Also, you're really not supposed to talk unless it's your turn and you're giving a clue.
If there's one thing that could doom the game in your group, it's that the game puts a lot of pressure on you. I felt, at least, that I needed to give the perfect clue. This was especially true when I played the first time. Everyone else had played a few times, and since I hadn't, I was always afraid I would "blow it." I'm not normally a nervous player, but for some reason this game did it to me.
The Final Verdict
Look, this game is terrific. It's one of my favorites of this year, and I was pleasantly surprised when it won the Spiel des Jahres. Plus, it's cheap!
In a delightfully surprising move, Hanabi won the SdJ award—the other nominees were Qwixx and Augustus. Hanabi is a co-op card game where you're trying to put on the best fireworks display. It's also one of my favorite games of the last year.
The Kennerspiel award is for a deeper game, though it's still aimed at families, so it kind of straddles the line between light and meaty. Winner Legends of Andor is als0 a co-op game—but one I've not yet played. The other nominees were The Palaces of Carrara and Bruges—I've played Bruges and it's a solid middle-weight Feld game.
Keep an eye out for our review of Hanabi later this week! And we'll have a Bruges review up soon, too. Thanks for reading, and make sure you sign up to follow the blog via email----->. This week we're giving away a copy of Sunrise City from Clever Mojo Games!
First up is the big one: The Spiel des Jahres, which is the German game of the year. This is a highly sought-after prize, as a win here can mean big sales—look at Ticket To Ride!
There are only three nominees:
Qwixx, by Stefen Benndorf
Augustus, by Paolo Mori
Hanabi, by Antoine Bauza
I've played Hanabi, and it's terrific.
They also released a list of "recommended games"—kind of a consolation list of games they think you still ought to play.
Libertalia, by Paolo Mori
Divinare, by Brett Gilbert
Hand auf Herz, by Julien Sentis
Escape: The Curse of the Temple, by Kristian Amundsen Østby
La Boca, by Inka and Markus Brand
Riff Raff, by Christoph Cantzler
Rondo, by Reiner Knizia
Mixtour, by Dieter Stein
Yay!, by Heinz Meister
I've played Escape: The Curse of the Temple, and Libertalia, and the latter is one of my favorite games of last year.
Bruges, by Stefan Feld
Legends Of Andor, by Michael Menzel
The Palaces of Carrara, by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling
I've played none of these. The recommended games for this category are:
Terra Mystica, by Jens Drögeüller and Helge Ostertag
Tzolk'in, by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini
I've played Tzolk'in, and you can check out my review of it.
And finally, the Kinderspiel des Jahres—the children's game of the year—nominees:
Mucca Pazza, by Iris Rossbach
Gold am Orinoko, by Bernhard Weber
Der Verzauberte Turm, by Inka and Markus Brand
And the recommended games:
Kakerlakak, by Peter-Paul Joopen
Kuddelmuddel, by Haim Shafir and Günter Burkhardt
Move & Twist, by Kerstin Wallner and Klaus Miltenberger
Pingi Pongo, by Peter Neugebauer
Bim Bamm!, by Lukas Zach and Michael Palm
Baobab, by Josep Maria Allué
Linus, der Kleine Magier, by Wolfgang Dirscherl
Mix Fix, by Andrew Lawson and Jack Lawson
Madagascar Catan Junior, by Klaus Teuber
Star Wars—Battle Of Hoth, by Bastiaan Brederode and Cephas Howard
I've played none of these...
Which ones have you played? Were there any glaring omissions in the nominees? Which ones do you think will win?
This is a special interview for me (Firestone). Jared and Shane are the designers of the new game Walk The Plank, which you can find on Kickstarter here. But more than that, they’re members of my own game group, and friends. I’m thrilled they agreed to let us interview them.
So tell us a little about yourselves.
J—I spend a good chunk of my time playing games or studying and dissecting games to better understand their inner workings. When I’m not playing or designing games, I find myself interested in other creative pursuits such as programming or cooking.
S—What would you like to know? Born and raised Colorado native. Spend most of my time working, sleeping, or gaming. On occasion I’ll go outside, but the sun is not my friend.
How did you guys get started playing these type of games?
J—I’ve been a gamer all my life. This was mostly limited to video games until a college buddy introduced me to the local boardgame store and I’ve been hooked ever since. I still love digital games, but board games offer something different, and it’s awesome to have such a wide variety of games available to explore.
S—I started playing board games with my family when I was a little kid. The usual classics, and as I got older I spent a lot of time by myself playing board games and video games. When you switched schools every year as I did from 2nd through 6th grade, it’s hard to keep friends. So I really got into gaming and it just grew from there.
How did Walk The Plank come about?
S—I had a dream. It was about pirates all trying to shove each other off the plank. It seemed like it would be a cool game, so I came up with a quick, and pretty much all random, dice game. I showed it to Jared, and with his help it turned into a much better and way-more-fun design.
J—Shane came up with the core idea near Talk Like a Pirate Day 2007. Shane’s initial game was mechanically weak, but I loved the concept. So, drawing on our experience from other games, we worked together to find better mechanics to truly make the concept shine.
What was the process for getting it published?
S—To be honest, most of that was on Jared. He pushed for getting it published, and so I'll let him tell the tale.
J—We’d had some prior interest from Indie Boards & Cards, but they decided to pass. We also got a narrow 2nd place in a design contest run by Rio Grande. It was clear people really liked the game from this interest and our playtests, but we didn’t have the time and resources to pursue it further.
I was fortunate enough to have a chance to go to Origins 2012—my first gaming convention. Making sure not to squander this opportunity, I printed up several spec sheets for the game, planning on presenting the game to as many publishers as possible. I was nervous and not really sure where to start; I’d already been chatting with the people at the Mayday booth a bit, so I decided to start there.
I met Seth, the owner of Mayday Games, shortly thereafter and showed him Walk the Plank. He was interested right from the start; the game fit perfectly into Mayday’s product line, and he found the theme and mechanics a lot of fun. A little later I had a chance to play a full game with Seth and his son—and he loved it. Two days later I had a contract in my inbox.
Are there any other games you guys are working on?
S—I haven’t worked on any others with Jared, but there are always game ideas in the works. None that have turned out to be worth showing off yet. The closest I got to one I thought was playable, but haven’t finished, was my attempt at a dice game. I didn’t look to see if anyone else has done it yet, but after talking with another guy from our group, Devin, we decided there needs to be an Oregon Trail Dice game. If anyone wants to give it a go, let me know.
J—As Shane said we aren’t currently working on anything else together, but I have a handful of designs in progress. Several have interesting mechanics or concepts, but I don’t currently have anything I’m happy enough with to start playtesting heavily. I’d like to have a 2nd finished design within the next 1-2 years, so we’ll see what comes to pass.
What are your five favorite games right now? And what do you like about them?
J—My all-time favorites would probably be Time’s Up, Crokinole, Mao, Galaxy Trucker, and Liar’s Dice. The 5 I’m currently most interested in would be Hanabi, Article 27, The Resistance, Time’s Up, and Tzolk’in. Hanabi is an amazing cooperative game of deduction with a lot of room for clever plays. Article 27 I’ve only had the chance to play once, but it’s such a pure and elegant negotiation game that I’m very enthusiastic about trying it more.
The Resistance continues to be a fantastic team game of deduction, though I wish it wasn’t so heavily biased in the spies’ favor. Time’s Up is always a blast and it’s just a great feeling to be in that zone where you and your teammate are in synch, nailing card after card. Tzolk’in deserves the hype and the gears aren’t just a gimmick—a fresh and interesting take on worker placement with a strong back-end to support it.
S—Favorite anything for me changes on a daily basis, but if I had to list them off the top of my head I’d do so in this order: Galaxy Trucker, Twilight Imperium 3rd Ed., Space Alert, Merchants & Marauders, and Ghost Stories. I love games with theme. I don’t care how long it takes to play as long as I can immerse myself in the story.
So many to choose from! Probably the most recent great memory was the ferocious dinosaur-beast known as Winnie the Pooh... Other classics include the inability for anyone to remember Mr. E. Lee’s first name, Buzz Lightyear the Nazi, and of course Maya Angelou the fighter plane.
Shane, you’re a big Vlaada Chvatil fan. What is it you like about his games so much?
He is my favorite designer. Why? Theme and mechanics. I find most of his games just grab my imagination. And most of his designs are very different, so you can play several and know that each is its own game. I haven’t found one yet that I didn’t enjoy.
What upcoming games are you most looking forward to?
S—There’s a lot coming out lately that I want. I can’t wait for Zombicide Season 2, looking forward to trying Sails of Glory, and Star Trek: Attack Wing, to name a few.
J—I’m cautiously optimistic toward Bora Bora—I haven’t especially liked a lot of Feld’s recent games but I like what I’ve heard of the mechanics so far. Compounded looks interesting simply because I like alchemical themes. Beyond that, I’m sure there are plenty of other interesting titles coming out within the next year—I just don’t know about them yet!
5 Questions with 1-Word (or Phrase) Answers
Best thing about Babylon 5?
J—The... space... pirates?
J—It’s 110 hour-long episodes, so I probably won’t get around to actually watching it. Ed note: This explains your answer to Question #1...
Llamas? Yea or nay?
J—Llama School or bust!
S—Llama llama duck
The Cheat or the Poopsmith?
J—Does the Poopsmith perform lightswitch raves? I didn’t think so.
What is “the” word?
S—Is this where I’m supposed to say bird? I’ll play your game and say bird.
Thanks to Jared and Shane for answering our questions! And go check out the Kickstarter campaign! There's less than a week to go; trust me: This is a really fun game.