Top 10 Games that were released in 2016
Fair warning…homer list incoming. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, because I like the games I buy, and I buy the games I like: 5 of the games on this list I own, 4 of which constitute the Top 4. There are a lot of games from 2016 that I didn’t get to play because of conflicting schedules in the second half of the year. So check out Grant and Tim’s lists when those pop up, because they bashed out many I couldn’t get to, as well as playing a bunch at Origins that I missed out on also. But without further ado, here’s the Top 10 Games (that I played) which came out in 2016.
#1 Secret Hitler – I had my eye on this game when I came across some artwork for it by accident, but I had already missed the Kickstarter, which was a shame, but I was determined to get it whenever it eventually came out. The theme, the style of game, and the production quality seemed to be top notch so when I saw it was available at Gen Con 2016 I picked it up immediately. I was pretty sure that I would like the game before I bought it, because I love bluffing, social deduction and in-game deception. That being said I had no idea that this would become my favourite game of 2016. I make sure to play this with ‘the right people’ because I can guarantee you it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve never been able to sit down and play just one game. There is always clamour to play just one more game afterwards, so outside of Pandemic Legacy and Combat Commander this is my most played game of 2016 as well.
#2 Mare Nostrum by Academy Games – I Kickstarted this board game back in 2015 and it was finally released this year, and it was very much worth the wait. I never played the original, but from what I gather, the game is basically unrecognizable from its predecessor. The game is actually very simple, from a mechanical standpoint, after the first round or two we had the phases down pat and churned through the game that is well structured and clearly organized. There’s so many ways to win, and each one of us was within a hair of winning the game at one point or another which is a great feeling. The components are very high quality and I couldn’t be happier about doing the Kickstarter.
#3 Silver Bayonet by GMT Games – This game is technically an anniversary edition of an older game, but so few people had played it (or at least rated it on BGG) and the overhaul was so significant that for me it’s basically a new game. And it’s an extremely good one! This is my kind of war game, and what I mean by that is that the game presents a level of detail in the design and mechanics such that the realism is ramped up to a palpable level. There’s an incredible amount of stuff in the box, from the variety of pieces, to the manifold scenarios, to the pages of historical notes that really bring the campaign alive. This game might not be for everyone, but for a newly fledged war-gamer this provides me with a deep challenge and being able to use all the mechanics, units, and abilities to maximum effect is a real treat.
#4 13 Days by Ultra Pro – This was advertised as Twilight Struggle’s little brother, and that was immediately intriguing, because as incredible as TS is, I don’t always have 2-3 hours to play that. Grant and I demoed this game at Gen Con and as soon as it was over I stood up, walked to the counter and handed over my cash for a copy. It really is what it is touted as. The game plays in an hour or less, but carries so much of the tension and tug of war found in TS as well as having a great theme to boot. There are times I feel like this game can be even more tense than TS, because the VP track is just SO small and one big blunder can swing the game away from you, so you have to proceed with care. Production value is fantastic and for the price this game is just bursting with greatness that allows you to get it to the table far more often than not.
#5 Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games – At the first day of Gen Con 2016 we literally ran to the Stronghold Games booth so that Grant could get this game. It did not disappoint. I like a good mid/heavy euro, and the sci-fi theme is a great plus for me. You’re effectively building an engine [your corporation] in order to contribute the most to the terraforming of Mars and stake your claim to the newly created forests, cities and oceans. There’s a card buying and placing element, as well as a resource manipulation aspect in order to gain VP’s. I highly recommend playing with the unique corporations and the advanced cards as soon as possible after learning, because they really knock the game up a notch.
#6 Liberty or Death by GMT Games – This was my first ever COIN game. Grant got this early in the year, and since he bought it and we played it, I’ve played another four COIN’s on top of this one! The COIN Series is fantastic, but this game was their first non-modern game, and the production really ramped up from a graphical standpoint. The combat is very different than the earlier COIN’s, it’s less lethal, and whittling down armies is much harder, which feels historically accurate to me. The alliances are tenuous and strained, and the board is very tight. Sometime it’s really hard to expand, but you’re also terrified about getting bogged down in stalemates. There’s just so much to consider at any given time in this game. You are rewarded with timely moves and excellent planning, so put on your big boy pants and God save The King! (I wonder which faction I play?..)
#7 Great Western Trail by Stronghold Games – This is one of the newest games on the list, and as soon as Grant bought it I knew we had to get it played, and low and behold here it is on the list. This game fits in the same slot as Russian Railroads for me, not from a mechanical or thematic standpoint, but from a weight, meat, and length standpoint. There’s just so much to do in this game, and so many ways to accrue points. The decision making is manifold, but also important. It’s a point salad, where you cannot afford to neglect anything completely. I really liked the way that building adjacent buildings on the trail allowed you to do a lot more in one turn as buildings often allow you to move for free and take the next action, so you can get some great combos going to maximize your movement and get you back to Kansas City a few more times throughout the game!
#8 Silent Victory by Consim Press – This was my first strictly solitaire game and it opened the flood gates for me. I got this on the GMT P500 because of the good reviews of its sister game The Hunters. The game is more of a simulation, and there’s a lot of dice rolling and following along a story more than anything. But the stories that I have lived have been really fun. The more you role-play this game the better it becomes, but even if you don’t like doing that there’s a lot of tension in being depth charged for 10 straight rounds watching your ship get bigger and bigger holes in it. There’s a lot of replayability in this one, the charts are huge and whilst the gameplay doesn’t vary that much, there are a lot of subs that all feel different, and there’s also historical Captains and as such you can play as, or try to compete against their historic results. Will you sink the most Japanese ships and ascend to fame and repute, or will you find a watery grave in the Pacific?
#9 High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel by Victory Point Games – This game came out of absolutely nowhere for me, as I had never heard of it and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I say that most people probably haven’t. This is a strictly 2-player game that recreates the trial of Louis Riel, a contentious icon of French Canadian frontier history. You take either side of the trial and try your best to sway jurors and influence their opinions, as well as the value of the topics being covered in order to get the outcome that you want! The components are great, and gameplay is very tight, tense and tug-of-war like. Highly recommend checking this out, especially for the price point!
#10 Valeria: Card Kingdoms by Daily Magic Games– This is a great, fast playing tableau building game, where you’re trying to obtain characters that have a dice number value, so when that value is rolled they can activate, providing your resources to buy other cards. Trying to get cards that combo off each other and build up to more powerful results is a fun challenge with the limited cards out there to purchase. Then you have to use those cards to fight monsters for VP’s in which you want to fight the small ones to uncover the bigger better valued ones. Here’s the crux though, you don’t want to uncover a big baddie just to have someone else kill him and claim the spoils between your next turn, so planning is key in this one! Fast playing and fun this is a great little game that I very much enjoyed with great artwork too.
So what were your favourites of the past year? 1 Honourable mention for me is Star Wars: Rebellion. Also I think I would like Scythe and Cry Havoc but somehow I’ve not played them yet…!