Every year around this time I compile my Top Ten Games of the year. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I had so much trouble narrowing down the selections. There were just so many great games released in 2015, it’s a testament to the theory that we are in a golden age of tabletop gaming.
So I did my best and chose the games that have excited me the most throughout the year. Some, just barely missed the cut for various reasons, notables being 7 Wonders: Duel, Flick ‘em Up!, Champions of Midgard, and Neuorshima: Convoy.
As always, this list is divided into two parts: my top ten games that I’ve played and my top ten games that I want to try. Since we get so many late releases out of the annual Essen game fair, I started making two lists in fairness to these late debuting games (and my lack of free time to play every game released in a year).
So with that all in mind, let’s get on to the lists.
Top 10 Games of 2015
10. The Grizzled
Just barley edging out Flick ‘Em Up in my rankings is The Grizzled. It’s an abstract, cooperative game where players are trying to survive in the trenches of the great World War. The game play, while fairly light, is actually really engaging as players really do have to work together if they hope to win. Sadly, The Grizzled also made news earlier this year when the game’s artist was killed in a terrorist attack.
9. XCOM: The Board Game
This was a game I was really excited to try when I first heard about it. It’s based off a video game franchise that I always loved and it also introduced a new, real time aspect in the form of an app integration. In XCOM: The Board Game, players are tasked with running a UFO defense organization and most work together to save the planet. The game is timed and the integrated app drives the gameplay ensuring a unique experience every time.
8. Tides of Time (review)
I’ve long been a massive fan of card drafting games, but until now, no one has really been able to make a compelling two player game. Sure, some have 2 player variants with “dummy players”, but those never did much for me. So props to Portal Games for coming up with a game that’s both easy to learn and also a lot of fun to play. Tides of Time also makes an excellent gateway game into the card drafting mechanic. I am not a huge fan of micro games in general, but I love me some Tides of Time.
Chances are, you’ve heard of Codenames by now. This social game has received a ton of hype since its Gen Con release. In Codenames, two teams are competing to get their fellow players to deduce a series of words on a grid. While that in itself doesn’t sound very exciting, the Codenames game play is surprisingly addictive and works well with large groups. Players have to think outside the box if they hope to lead their team to victory. Codenames has become one of our go-to party games for big groups.
6. Blood Rage
Designer Eric Lang makes another appearance on this list with Blood Rage (X-Com was his first). This tactical miniatures game combines a bit of area control, some combat, and a healthy dose of card drafting into a game that is an absolute blast to play. Blood Rage has been getting glowing reviews since its debut and after playing it, it’s not hard to understand why. With some amazing looking minis and excellent replay value, Blood Rage is worth checking out.
5. Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game
This was a surprising addition to the list as I only got to play Warhammer Quest recently. In this card game, players take on the role of heroes fighting off the denizens of a fantasy world. With both one shot and campaign play, Warhammer Quest sucked us right in with its fun, cooperative game play. I am looking forward to the eventual expansions for Warhammer Quest that I’m sure will be coming down the pipeline.
4. Star Wars: Armada
I never thought I’d want to replace Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures as my go-to tactical minis game, but then came Star Wars: Armada. In Armada, players jump out of their X-Wing fighters and take command of the large, capital ships like the Star Destroyer or Nebulon-B Frigate. A much more strategic game than X-Wing, Star Wars: Armada does so many things right that I’m always itching to get these ships back to the tabletop. It’s clear that publisher Fantasy Flight Games learned a few things from X-wing and brought it over to Armada.
3. T.I.M.E Stories
I love a good mystery and T.I.M.E Stories presented me with a unique game that actually can’t be won in your first game. Players have to solve a mystery over a series of games, learning more clues and the proper way to do things with each play through. Much like the plot of the movie Sourcecode, players are given limited information and must work through a series of loops to solve the mystery. I love lateral thinking and logic puzzles, so T.I.M.E Stories was in instant hit with me. I really enjoyed my play through the included scenario and immediately bought the first expansion.
2. Cthulhu Wars (review)
You will be hard pressed to find a minis game that looks as stunning as Cthulhu Wars. With massive, and I mean massive, miniatures to dominate the game space, expect to quickly draw a crowd when you bring this game out. For its game play, Cthulhu Wars is an asymmetrical, area control game with each faction playing the game in their own unique manner. I absolutely love how different each of the four factions feels in the game. If you can afford its hefty price tag, it’s definitely worth getting a copy.
1. Pandemic Legacy (review)
This was probably the easiest choice I had to make for this list. No game has had me as addicted or excited as Pandemic: Legacy did this year. I’ve played Pandemic: Legacy more than any other game this year and absolutely loved it. Z-Man games created an amazing gaming experience that hasn’t been replicated on my tabletop since. I even bought a second copy of the game so I could play it with another gaming group. Hands down my favorite game of the year so far and I’d expect to see Pandemic: Legacy this coming spring when we announce nominees for our game awards.
Top Ten Games I Want to Play
10. Tail Feathers
Published by Plaid Hat Games, Tail Feathers is set in their Mice and Mystics universe and pits two players against each other in a light, skirmish game. If the game plays half as good as it looks, then it’s definitely something I want to check out. Mice and Mystics was a fun, family friendly dungeon crawlers so I’m curious to see what they were able to do with a skirmish game, especially one that’s promised a story driven campaign.
2p – 60 min – 8+
9. Bomb Squad
In Bomb Squad, players must work together to try and disarm a number of bombs, all as a counter ticks down in real time. Borrowing some game play from house favorite Hanabi, players are forced to work together as their cards are held facing their fellow players. As a fan of both coop games and also real time ones, I’m excited to give Bomb Squad a try.
8. Zombicide: Black Plague
I was as huge fan of Zombicide (review here), however even I admit the game isn’t without its flaws. So I have been looking forward to trying out Cool Minis newest game in the Zombicide universe, Black Plague. No longer set in a modern day society, Zombicide: Black Plague takes players into a fantasy world filled with knights and necromancers. They appear to have made a number of upgrades to the rules over the base Zombicide game and so I’m expecting a bit smoother game play in this title.
I remember when the Kickstarter for Ghostbusters debuted and it definitely generated a lot of hype. However, I held off buying it as I wanted to know more about the game play as its publisher Cryptazoic doesn’t exactly have the best track record with licensed games. Some of them tend to be nothing more than a cheap tie in to the source material. However, as a huge Ghostbusters fan, this is still on my list to check out. Here’s hoping it plays as fun as I would like it to be.
6. The Undercity: An Iron Kingdoms Adventure Board Game
The Undercity puts its own spin on the classic dungeon crawl game by setting it within a vast underground labyrinth inside one of the Iron Kingdoms cities. As a fully cooperative, campaign based dungeon crawl, The Undercity checks off a lot of points in what I like in a dungeon crawler, notable not requiring a game master to run the game.
5. Spirits of the Rice Paddy
The first thing that intrigued me about Spirits of the Rice Paddy was the great looking visuals. As one of the handful of eurogames making this list, Spirits of the Rice Paddy has players competing with fellow rice farmers to construct and tend rice paddies. While that doesn’t sound like the most exciting of themes (not unusual in a eurogame), I’ve heard some good things about Spirits of the Rice Paddy and am looking forward to giving this one a try.
4. Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
This one definitely flew in under the radar for me this year and I only recently found out about it after someone mentioned it to me on Twitter. After checking it out, it seemed like a game I would enjoy. In this tile-laying game, players are chieftains trying to build out their kingdom to score as many points as possible. With some unique mechanics, Isle of Skye appears to have a good amount of replay value as well.
3. Burgle Bros.
This is actually a game I backed on Kickstarter and just haven’t had a chance to get to the table yet. In this cooperative board game, players must work together to try and pull off a successful heist. This is a theme I don’t see too often on my tabletop so that, combined with being a fan of its designer Tim Fowers (Paperback), convinced me to back it on Kickstarter. I’m hoping to try this one out soon.
2. Forbidden Stars
As a big fan of Warhammer 40K, Forbidden Stars looks pretty awesome. It comes with a giant galaxy map, spaceships, space marines, so what more could you want? The game play looks epic and the production values are the typical awesomeness I’ve come to expect from Fantasy Flight Games. Forbidden Stars is said to be a reimplementation of the StarCraft Board game, which I do own and am a big fan off.
1. Stronghold (2nd edition)
Coming in at the top of the list of games I want to try is Stronghold: Second Edition. I was a fan of the 1st edition of Stronghold, even though it wasn’t the easiest game to learn or play. This second edition, a combined publishing venture between Stronghold Games and Portal Games, offers quicker game play, more streamlined mechanics and rules, and upgraded components from the first edition. All that and a theme that really excites me, makes it a game that I’ll have to get to my table in the near future.
Well that about wraps up 2015 for us. It was an amazing year for board games and it has left me really excited about what’s to come in 2016. Did I miss your favorite game of 2015? Let me know in the comments below.