Derek: It’s a new year! We’re back! And we’ve been playing games. Let’s get to it!
What We’ve Been Playing
Derek: My wife and daughter went to Florida for a vacay this month, while I’m stuck here teaching–and, of course, playing games. I’m on the Dice Tower awards committee, so I’ve been trying to fulfill my obligation of playing all the big hits from last year. I’ve played Cry Havoc, Inis, Star Wars Rebellion, Mechs vs. Minions, and several other big hits since we last chatted. I just listed those games from worst to best, by the way.
While cooperative games are not often my style, I can’t argue with anyone who calls Mechs vs. Minions game of the year. It’s truly gorgeous, and you really do have to see it in person to believe it. The box is huge and heavy, packed to the brim with wonderfully-sculpted (and several painted) miniatures. The game is card-driven, in a really cool mix of drafting and programming, and the whole game just screams fun. I wish it was competitive, but that’s just a personal thing. I’d always be willing to jump into a game of this, even if I won’t ever buy the game myself. I don’t play League of Legends so I can’t comment on that aspect, other than to say that you don’t need to be a LoLer to enjoy this game.
Chris: I’d like to play a game of Mechs vs. Minions, but I’m not sold on the hype, even though the components are beautiful. I’m sure it’s an okay game, and it has an audience, so I hope those players enjoy it.
Derek: I wasn’t sold either; you really have to see it in person.
Chris: Katie and I have embarked on an epic quest to complete 20 games from our collection, three times each, in our customized 20×3 challenge. We’ve got tons of games on the list, including: 1775: Rebellion, Abyss, Bora Bora, Twilight Struggle, T’zolkin: The Mayan Calendar, Scoville, and others. This year, I’ve also started logging games in an iOS app called BGstats. This way, I can keep track of my scores and who I play with, and how many games I’ve played over the year.
Derek: Word has it BGStats is coming to Android this year. Pleeeeeaaaaase.
Chris: I’ve also heard this, and I hope it happens! The app is incredible. I did get a chance to play Doom: The Board Game the other night with some good friends. In this one, one player controls the demons, while everyone else is a marine, equipped with loadouts and class abilities. It was an early mission, so the demons were completely destroyed, but I learned a lot about board movement and how marines can combo for huge attacks. The game is a lot of dice-rolling, but there is a ton tactical maneuvering and positioning you can use to make it challenging and interesting. Big fan of this one so far, and it’s a beautiful production.
Derek: There a lot of these out: Imperial Assault, Descent, the new TMNT board game, Conan, etc. How does Doom stack up against those?
Chris: So, Doom isn’t campaign-focused. You don’t carry weapons or cards or abilities over between games. This makes the game extremely manageable from the perspective of a group of friends who can’t schedule regularly enough to commit to a campaign-based game. Sure, the game ships with twelve missions you can play sequentially, but it’s unnecessary to do so.
As for the one vs. many concept, it works here, but I’ve heard TMNT and Conan do it better. I can’t speak for those games, and I’m only one mission in on Doom, so I don’t have enough clarity. My one game was unbalanced for marines, but I know that changes in different missions.
Derek: That sounds good to me. I’ve never been consistent enough to play one campaign from one game night to the next; we had to marathon Pandemic Legacy in a weekend.
Question of the Week: How Did 2016 Do?
Derek: My view of 2016 is strongly colored by two particular observations. The first is that, if you look through the top games from 2016 on BoardGameGeek, the games in the Top 100 are Star Wars Rebellion, Scythe, Terraforming Mars, Mansions of Madness Second Edition, Mechs vs. Minions, A Feast for Odin, and Great Western Trail. These are all very expensive and/or very long games, which is not really my style. I’m much more into party games or strategy games that take 60-75 minutes or less, and this year was definitely the Year of the Big Box. I didn’t even list the other popular, huge boxes that landed this year, like Inis, Cry Havoc, Adrenaline, Tyrants of the Underdark, and Conan.
The second issue with 2016 is just how fantastic 2015 was. We got a party game that’s sold over a million copies (Codenames), a new #1 on BoardGameGeek (Pandemic Legacy: Season One), and a slew of small(er), quick, amazing games like Mysterium, 7 Wonders: Duel, and Isle of Skye. It was, in my opinion, the best year board gaming has ever had.
There were still some great games that came out in 2016, but the very best were not aimed at me. There was also a lot of great expansions for those aforementioned 2015 releases. This pattern seems cyclical, so I’m hoping for another slew of exciting games on a smaller scale in 2017.
Chris: I wasn’t totally absorbed in gaming in 2015 as much as I was in 2016. At least, not as deeply. This year was a year of me learning more about game design and gaming history. It also opened a lot of doors as far as working with industry people, and what works and doesn’t as far as themes and mechanisms go.
It was a year of approaching “the great games” like Roger Ebert approached “the great films.” I’ve added a number of games to my “must-play list” in hopes to eventually play the predecessor titles that established the more robust gameplay we have been experiencing.
Other than that, 2016 was my first year of marriage, so along with moving to a new city came finding a new group of friends to play with. I’ve played tons of two-player games this year, and learned more about group dynamics and which games work for which type of person and which games to leave at home.
It’s been a great year I hope to savor. Avoid getting hyped about 2017, people! 2016 had so many amazing games, and there’s no need to get jazzed about stuff that isn’t even out yet. Take your time and enjoy last year.
Derek: Or even spend some more time with 2015!
Chris: Seriously, 2015 had plenty of amazing games that I’m only just now playing as well. I think we can all benefit from taking it slower and really enjoying the games we purchase.
Derek: What do you all think? How was 2016 for board gaming? Sound off in the comments or on Facebook!
I've been a board game reviewer since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.
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