Whose bright idea was it to try and condense all of the games I played this year into a top 5?! There were some great titles that were released in 2014 but as a whole I do not feel it was as strong as the past 2 years. Here are the ones I played that stood out for me (note: I am going on a “widely available in the USA” release date):
5. Lords of Xidit
I am going to be honest I had heard nothing about Lords of Xidit until about 2 weeks prior to Gen Con. Boy, was this one a great surprise. A new implementation of Himalaya this game combines programmable movement with a unique elimination scoring method for a refreshing twist. Did I also mention that the production quality was above and beyond? Everything from the tiny resource figurines to the map was beautifully rendered and enhances your immersion into the world even more. Lords of Xidit has quickly climbed the charts to one of my favorite programmable movement games. I chalk this up mainly to the fact that there are no pits or conveyor belts for me to fall into.
4. Camel Up
Pure fun. I love this game, ‘nuff said. For a more detailed look at the game and my thoughts, check out our recent Camel Up review.
This game was featured on my Intriguing 14 of ’14 list earlier this year and it did not disappoint. I made it a mission this year to search out games that were unique and/or quirky and Quantum certainly fits the bill. Production quality issues aside (which have since been remedied), this game stood out as something special the minute we started playing it. The dice as ships is perfectly executed and combined with the variable board set up and player powers this one is a winner. It also helps that it can easily be taught and understood within 5 minutes of cracking the box. I hope to get Quantum on the table more often in 2015.
Another game that made its way on to my Intriguing 14 of ’14 list was this heavy euro player’s wet dream (get it?! There’s water…and boats…). This was easily my best purchase of Gen Con. I rushed the hall early Thursday (thank you, press pass) to snag one of the limited copies and thankfully I was not disappointed (I had to wake up at 5 am to get said press pass!). Panamax offers players a strong economic experience driven, or should I say pushed, by its innovative “dice as cargo” and movement system. While the rules take a good amount of time to explain, the game itself is intuitive and fairly easy to grasp once you roll up your sleeves and hit the shipyard. This game provides all kinds of mind-melty goodness.
A game about dress making? Are you serious? Did you see what she was wearing? Who would like this? ME! Claiming top honors on my list this year, the Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee (which deserved to win in my opinion) wowed me from the outset. I have to say that the theme was actually a draw for me; as I mentioned above unique and quirky were high on my list this year. However, this could have been a game about anything and I would have fallen in love with it because the core mechanics are what really breathe life into this game. The deckbuilding element is clever and not overly burdensome like I find most deckbuilders typically become. This mixed with resource management, set collection and a touch of area control provide for an amazingly elegant experience from start to finish. I cannot recommend this game highly enough! If you have not played it, do yourself a favor and make it a priority.
Imperial Settlers: Excellent engine building card game with cute artwork.
Imperial Assault: I’m a sucker for Star Wars. This would have easily made my Top 5 if I had played it more before writing this post. 2 missions into the campaign and I absolutely love it.
Medieval Academy: A light family friendly drafting game with an added twist of jockeying for position on a number of skills tracks to score end game points. This has taken a step above favorites like Sushi Go and Fairy Tale.
La Isla: A “lighter” more approachable Feld game (its ugly as hell though). I really enjoyed taking a random hand of cards each turn and tactically manipulating it to my advantage. This actually sparked my desire to try more of his games, which I had been slacking on after not enjoying Bruges.
Eggs & Empires: Great pub-style filler game with simultaneous bidding and lovely artwork.
Here’s hoping that 2015 continues to bring us more amazing experiences on our tabletops. Stay tuned for my Intriguing 15 in ’15 list in the next couple of weeks.