Best Art: Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule!
Art by: Mike Maihack
I’ve known Mike for years. He created “Cleopatra in Space” about the same time time that I did “Holiday Wars” so we’ve existed in the same corner of the internet for awhile. In fact, in our house we even have an old Cow & Buffalo print of his hanging on the wall. So from the very first second I saw Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! I instantly recognized his work. The color palette, line strokes, and overall cuteness simply screamed Mike Maihack and it is all beautiful.
Best Graphic Design: Compounded
Graphic Design by: Darrell Louder
Art is one thing. Graphic design is something completely different. A good graphic designer can easily make or break the art of a game. So when taking a graphic design viewpoint there is no other game this past year more clean than Compounded. Darrell did an amazing job laying out the game and The Periodic Table scoretrack is not only recognizable from across a convention hall floor but pretty enough to be framed and hanging on a wall.
Best Components: Nothing Personal
Designed by: Steve Avery and Tom Vasel
I photographed hundreds of games this past year and one of the most important things that make photographing a game fun is having a lot of nice components. I was simply floored when I got my review copy of Nothing Personal. It is a heavy game and the box is chalked full of yummy goodness. It has real metal coins, an actual metal ring, the money punchboard is thick, and there are both custom meeples and custom dice! All the bits and pieces make it a fantastic game.
Best 2-Player Game: Le Fantôme de l’Opéra
Designed by: Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc
We play mostly two player games because there happens to always be two of us so a good two player games is really special. Without a doubt, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra is the second most played game that we played all year! That’s a big deal in our house. It’s modeled off all the other Mr. Jack games but there is something so much cleaner and simpler about it. Plus the board looks nice and the clean up and set-up takes all of thirty seconds.
Best Family Game: Augustus
Designed by: Paolo Mori
We don’t have a lot of gamer friends so when you come across a game that works well with young and old as well as non-gamers it’s a must buy. Augustus is a great game because at it’s core it’s just bingo and everyone can understand how to play bingo. Yet at the same time it has just enough of a nice euro feel to make it satisfying to regular gamers.
Best Co-Op: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords
Designed by: Mike Selinker
There were a lot of great co-op games this year, but none were a addictive as Pathfinder The Adventure Card Game. I took to the game right away because to me it felt like playing an RPG on my Xbox only in card form. However Lisa enjoyed it because it reminded her of D&D only without all the extra work of creating characters and role playing. At first I was wary of dice rolling and having to deal with skill checks but there are so many way to mitigate the luck in the game that it feels much more like a luck based puzzle that you have some control over as opposed to random dice rolling.
Best Dice Game: Space Cadets Dice Duel
Designed by: Geoff Engelstein and Sydney Engelstein
Space Cadets Dice Duels could’ve easily also been the Best Party Game of the year because it’s such a great game when you have a large group of people. It’s a frantic mess of dice rolling and chaos that gets your heart pumping and adrenalin rushing. What really makes it work is that although the luck of the dice roll matters in the game what matters more is a team’s ability to work together. A team who knows what they are doing and who has bad rolls can still easily trounce on a team who is getting lucky with their dice.
Best Card Game: Sushi Go!
Designed by: Phil Walker-Harding
Sushi Go! is such a small little game. All you do is draft a card and pass your hand to the next player. That’s it. It should’t work or even be fun, yet somehow it is. Somehow it manages to do everything just right. Plus when you factor in it’s size and easy to learn rules it makes it perfect for traveling or playing with non-gamers.
Best Party Game: Going, Going, GONE!
Designed by: Scott Nicholson
Going, Going, GONE! is another one of those games that sounds so simple that it shouldn’t work, but yet it does. It’s fun and the bigger the group you have the more fun it is. Scott Nicholson really created something special here and it’s another one of those fantastic games that work with both gamers and non-gamers.
Best Inovation: Patchistory
Designed by: Yeon-Min Jung and Jun-Hyup Kim
Patchistory is a different beast all together. It looks like a light game but in actuality it’s a dense civilization builder. The innovation though comes from the cards themselves. You actually patch them on top and below each other forming an almost quilt pattern so that by the end of the game you have this odd patchwork that is quite beautiful.
Designed by: Jason Tagmire
A lot of games this year had great themes but none of them integrated it into the gameplay as well as Pixel Lincoln did. It’s a deckbuilding game based on the nonexistent retro video game. The best part is that it really feels like like an old school 8-bit game as you jump cards and move across the board just like you would in a classic side-scroller. Adding to the theme of course is the crazy humor and fantastic pixelated art.
Best Reprint: Downfall of Pomeii
Designed by: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
The only way to play this game is to make death screams and gurgling sounds as you throw your opponent’s non-meeples into the volcano. It’s soooo much fun. Then factor in the tile laying and mancala style moving mechanics and you got yourself a real hit. Not only does it have a nice production quality but it’s a flat out fun game.
Most Excited for in 2014: Dead of Winter
Designed by: Jonathan Gilmour and Isaac Vega
I’m so excited to not only play this game again but to share it with people I’ve been hyping it up to. To see more of my thoughts about it you can checkout my full preview here.
Best Expansion: Scoundrels of Skullport for Lords of Waterdeep
Published by: Wizards of the Coast
Lots of expansions come out. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are just blah. Then every now and then you come across an expansion that transcends the base game and brings the whole thing to a new level. That’s exactly what Scoundrels of Skullport did for Lords of Waterdeep.
Best Boardgame Event: Unpub
Unpub was my gateway into hobby games and by far the best gaming event I attended all year. It’s not about sales or showing off or anything flashy. It’s a convention that’s just about the games. The best part is that it’s all unpublished games which means you get to meet and chat with designers one on one. Then there are also a ton of publishers who attend looking for the next big thing so between them and the designers, Unpub is thet easiest way to access the heart of the industry. If you’ve never attended Unpub then you should really consider it!
Best Gaming Youtuber: Rodney Smith of Watch It Played
I watch a lot of YouTube but the sole YouTuber who Lisa won’t miss an update from is Rodney Smith from Watch it Played. His instructional videos are awesome for learning a game and his playthrough videos are fun and entertaining. You actually feel like you are apart of the game when you are watching. Lots of other people make How to Play videos but no one else’s compare to Rodney’s. His tone and friendly smile make games feel less scary and horrible rule books less daunting. He’s a true boon to the industry.
Best Gaming Podcast: Flip The Table
Hosted by: Chris Michaud, Flip Florey, Jared Hunnefeld, Chris Barter
There are soooooo many gaming podcasts. Some are how to plays, some are all about opinions, some are talk shows, but none of them are as entertaining as Flip The Table. On the show they play old or random boardgames and devolve into hilarious discussions about them. What really makes Flip The Table work, other than its awesome production values, is the guys aren’t mean spirited. They genuinely want to like the games they play which is part of what makes it so funny when the games are god awful. If you’ve not given it a listen you NEED to.
Most Played Game: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords
Designed by: Mike Selinker
Pathfinder is the only game to make this list twice and it really deserves it. It’s easily one of my three favorite games of the year and if it weren’t for a few fiddly rules then it would’ve been my pick. As is however we’ve still played more Pathfinder scenarios than anything else this year, which is saying something because we didn’t get our copy till October!
Best Game: Gravwell
Designed by: Corey Young
Gravwell is everything a good game should be. It’s fun. It makes you think. It’s easy to pick up. There is strategy in your actions and meta gaming when trying to figure out your opponents. Plus the board design is gorgeous and the way it scales from two players to four is fabulous. I’ll have a lot more to say about Gravwell next week when I do a full post about it, but for now just know that it is easily my pick for the Best Game of 2013!
I don’t plan on doing a “The Top 10 Games of 2013” but if I did I wanted to give a shout-out to a few other games I really enjoyed that either didn’t fit into a category or were simply edged out by a better game.
- Steam Park – Great art design and a perfect family game.
- Forbidden Desert – This is what Forbidden Island should’ve been. It’s fresh and different enough from Pandemic that it feels like it’s own game.
- Eldritch Horror – If you are looking to immerse yourself in theme then you can’t go wrong with Eldritch Horror.
- Bruges – I wanted to name this the best card game of the year but on a technicality I couldn’t because it has dice, a board, and components.
- Star Trek Attack Wing – Attack wing is great and switches just enough from X-Wing that it feels like it’s own game. My only regret is not getting to play more of it.
Disclaimer: I played hundreds of games this past year but I did not get to play them all. For example, I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Robinson Crusoe, Kemet, and Level 7 Omega Protocol, but I’ve not gotten to play them which is why the list you see above should be considered the best games that I played and not the definitive best overall.