Top 10 games of 2016

2016 was a great year for board gaming! Rankings will never tell the full story, but it is absolutely wonderful to see 8 games from 2016 in the BGG top 100 games. This year’s games have provided me with so many laughs and wonderful experiences. Here are my 10 favorite games of the year.

10. A Feast for Odin

Uwe Rosenberg married Agricola/Caverna with Patchwork to create an absolute monster of a game. A Feast for Odin gives you so much to do, in a wide open fashion but it doesn’t feel that big. Even though there are 61 options, you tend to have a goal or two on your turn and you can take the actions to accomplish that. I’ve only played this once, or else it may be higher up on my personal list.

9. Sushi Go: Party

Accessibility is an important characteristic in games and Sushi Go: Party is perfect for that. Drafting is such an exciting way to play a group game like Sushi Go. You never know what you are going to be handed and the decisions you make are tough choices where you need to mitigate randomness and hopefully build a long term strategy.

I already loved Sushi Go because it was a simple drafting game. Party added variability to the base games with new cards that are races or set collection. When I teach the game, I pick the first meal game, but after a round all of the players get it and we tend to try something more complex. The game has several recommended sets of cards to play with. It’s just a wonderful party game that everyone should have in their collection.

8. Captain Sonar

Games which make me laugh are not typically my favorite games. Captain Sonar is something special. The team aspect combined with the impending doom from the other team is stressful but it’s fun. After you’re done playing, you just want to talk about the game you just played. “How did the other radio operator find you?” “I can’t believe you had torpedoes ready!” Captain Sonar provides unique experiences for the players and is just fun.

7. Lotus

Abstract games are all the rage right now. Lotus is a beautiful game about collecting flowers. What is so great about lotus is that you’re competing at a collection game with very direct conflict. The guardians allow you to infiltrate a flower that your opponent has a lot of control of. That sort of interaction is great because it’s direct confrontation but you aren’t attacking any player directly. They can always come back from that.

6. Harry Potter: A Hogwarts Battle

I’d be lying if I said I’ve never had vivid dreams where I was reliving some Harry Potter style fantasy. “You’re a wizard, Andrew.” Unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet but I can keep hoping.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is not the best deck builder I’ve ever played, it’s not the best co-op I’ve ever played. The thematic goodness is what pushes it so high up for me. I love being able to play a Ron Weasley and buy things like quidditch gear and chocolate frogs. For me I like the opportunity to debate what cards your character would have played. If you like Harry Potter, this game is for you.

5. Key to the City — London

I love Keyflower, I think it was an incredible game with fascinating innovations on mechanisms. So much of the gameplay is tense and there are so many avenues for victory. Unfortunately, these two aspects make the game not appealing to new players. These considerations, along with a few other rules changes, led the designers to bring us Key to the City — London which is a streamlined and simplified version of Keyflower. Key to the City — London feels so different when playing it, that I’m happy its part of my collection alongside Keyflower. If you want to know more about how these two games compare, you can check out my review: Key to the City — London Review from a Keyflower Lover.

4. Pandemic: Iberia

Yes, it’s a re-theme of Pandemic, but it’s not just any re-theme of Pandemic. It’s the best version of Pandemic. The game is HARD especially compared to base Pandemic. Iberia is punishing and you just can cover enough space on the map. We also always run out of cards and we find the role that goes cards out of the discard pile useful.

The game also comes with two built in expansions. The patient movement expansion moves patients toward hospitals, as you would thematically expect. This is a neat system and it both makes the game easier and harder at times. The second is the historical diseases. These give the diseases you’re battling special powers as well and they are awesome. If you’re a Pandemic fan go check this one out.

Also the building the train is the most fun thing I’ve ever done in a Pandemic game. I don’t know why. It just is.

3. Manhattan Project: Energy Empire

Engine building in games is fun! Building a system which you can run to generate resources or victory points is an awesome experience because it gives you a sense of accomplishment in the game.

I’ve never played a smoother engine builder than Manhattan Project: Energy Empire. There are three types of actions: government, commerce, and industry. When you take an action of each type you can then activate structures of that type which you’ve previously built. The engine building is completely ubiquitous in the game and running your engine is a fun process.

2. Great Western Trail

Who knew herding cattle was fun? Great Western Trail is a heavy game all about delivering cattle to Kansas game. It has deck building, a rondel that you build, and several paths to victory.

The game gives you three different tracks to specialize in, which allow you to be an expert in acquiring high value cattle, making deliveries, or setting up the game board to your advantage. Each of these strategies provides a unique experience and feel of the game. The most successful players will combine multiple strategies.

1. Terraforming Mars

Enough has been said about Terraforming Mars. This is one of the best engine building games I’ve ever played. There are over 200 unique cards which interact in interesting and exciting ways.

A lot has been made of the “take that” cards in the game. This is probably because the game is a Euro and they’re a little out of place. Honestly I don’t find them to be that big of a deal. I only take use them when one of my opponents has a big lead. Otherwise I can generally find other things worth doing.

Honorable Mentions

Automobiles, Imhotep, Secret Hitler, 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis