Copac’s Top 10 Games of 2016
2016 mostly sucked overall. I’m not going to even get into how sucky it was, because it was that damn sucky. However, I WILL get into how awesome my favorite games of 2016 are! Click through to read my thoughts!
There are two trends as of late in my tabletop game collecting habit. The first of those trends is “Cards with Numbers” games. Some of the favorite games in my collection are literally decks of cards with numbers and some minimal iconography. 6 nimmt!, Tausch Rausch, Stichling, No Thanks!, Pairs, Abluxxen are some of my favorites. They’re straight forward to teach but have surprising depth. The newest CWN game in my collection is Fuji Flush from Stronghold Games. Conceptually it’s stupid simple. For the most part you’re playing cards to beat other people’s previously played cards, but he twist with Fuji Flush is you can pair up with people who’ve played the same number as you to turn your wimpy 5 into a 15 if you team up with two other players, for example. It’s fast, satisfying and is going to stay in my collection for a long time.
There’s not a lot of heavy games on my list this year, but Roll Player is one of them. Who would’ve thought that a game about building an RPG character sheet would be so much fun and thinky? Tons of chunky dice to roll, and not nearly enough opportunity to mitigate all of them exactly the way you want with theme all over the place makes this a real solid game. I just wish it hurt my brain a little less 😛
I love a good dexterity game now and then. They’re great to bring to holidays or family get togethers. Junk Art takes the simple concept of stacking in a variety of different directions. By using a deck of cards that represent each of the weirdly shapes pieces of wood in multiple colors, Junk Art provides 10 different modes of play that each have their own quirks and don’t end up feeling samey at all. Highly recommend this one for fans of stacking.
I’m a big fan of deckbuilders and especially ones that bring something unique to the table. One of these is Mystic Vale where rather than crafting a deck and adding more powerful cards to it, you’re taking a fixed size deck that never changes, but sliding clear plastic overlays on top of the sleeved cards. Add to that a satisfying push-your-luck mechanism and you’ve got a really fun and interesting twist on a familiar formula.
Continuing the push-your-luck theme, and the first of multiple games from one of my new favorite publishers, Renegade Game Studios, comes Dicey Goblins. Dicey Goblins is stupid good push your luck fun where you play goblins trying to get in and out of the dragon’s cave with as many dragon eggs as you can manage to swipe. If you decide to make your escape, you’d better hope you’re the only one or there’s enough eggs to share or you could end up getting out with a pittance. It’s simple, light and just plain fun every time I get it to the table.
World’s Fair 1893, yet another Renegade joint, was an early 2016 release that immediately jumped to the top of my list. It’s been able to hang around and keep the number 5 slot throughout the year, which should tell you something. It’s such a fresh feeling area control and set collecting game that you can tell got a lot of attention to balancing it’s various mechanisms. Balancing your influence over the various exhibits of the fair while trying to collect enough exhibits to install all the while strategically advancing the ferris wheel to force a round to end all adds up to a wonderfully tight but accessible experience.
Hey! Remember way back in Number 6 when I told you that Renegade was one of my new favorite publishers? Here’s their third game in a row making an appearance on my list! Clank!, like Mystic Vale, brings freshness to its deck building genre with the addition of a dungeon board full of paths and items and monsters to fight. Getting in, grabbing an artifact, and getting out is fairly straightforward. But will that be enough to beat someone who pushed just a bit farther into the dungeon to get a more attractive treasure? That card that gives you tons of movement or fighting strength while generating a lot of noise is a tempting purchase. But as the dragon awakens and you draw player cubes from the Clank bag to see who faces its wrath, you’ll wish you’d taken a quieter card! I cannot wait to see what Renegade does with Clank! There’s so much opportunity to expand upon it with new maps and new cards. Easily my Gen Con 2016 top game!
The other trend in my collecting habit lately is card/dice/compact versions of previously released titles. When I heard about The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game I was intrigued and needed to get my hands on it to see what it was all about. When I got my copy and saw how small of a deck of cards there were, I didn’t think there was much of a chance that it’d really feel like it’d have much similarity with the elder statesman that came before it. Somehow, they pulled it off and put most of the things I enjoy about CoB into a stack of cards I could fit in my pocket. It has its quirks, and while it’s not the same exact experience, it’s a solid lock in my travel game collection for many many years to come.
Ok, so I’m cheating slightly with my Number 2 pick. Yes, it was released in 2013. But I didn’t play it or own it until 2016, so it still qualifies for this list. Like Fuji Flush before it, Dicht Dran is another “Cards with Numbers” game that gives off a similar vibe to 6 nimmt with it’s goal of playing a card as close to a target number as possible. The twist comes from the constantly shifting “Safe Range” of numbers where even if you don’t end up the closest to the target, you’re still ok and not having to draw cards. Sometimes the range will be straightforward: Target of 32, Safe Range of 20 to 43. Other times the Safe Range is nowhere near the target, making your choice much harder. Do you think you’re close enough to the target number or should you play it safe and be in the range. Or maybe your only choice is to go for the target and hope for the best. Dicht Dran and all the other CWN games I’ve listed continue to astound me with how much amazing gameplay can be had from a simple deck of numbered cards!
If I could go back to August when I was standing in line at Stronghold Games‘ booth at Gen Con to purchase The Pursuit of Happiness, I would smack myself upside the head for not picking up a copy of Terraforming Mars. After getting to play it later that month, I quickly jumped on a preorder. I don’t do a good job of counting my plays, but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that TM has been played most this year. What truly makes this game for me is the deck of 208 unique project cards. There’s so much going on with those cards, and you want to play every single one of them, but even with a resource generating engine, you’ll still generally find yourself strapped for enough mega-cash to do everything you want. The co-petitive nature of raising the oxygen and temperature levels by planting trees and creating oceans which can help you meet prerequisites on that sweet card you’re just dying to play is tempting but needs to be balancing by triggering the right scoring category that you hope you’ll qualify for by end game. There are so many moving parts that all seem to move well together in TM. I cannot wait to see what the Fryxelius brothers have up their sleeves in terms of expansions!
So there you have it! My top 10 games of 2016! Leave a comment or tweet me your favorites of the year! I leave you now with my Honorable Mentions for the year. These are all solid games, but just didn’t quite make the cut for the top 10. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and that you get and play a ton of games with your loved ones.