Smee’s Top Five of 2014

January 9, 2015

And thus, the traditional lists were compiled, hand-scribed upon the finest parchment and delivered for the criers to announce to all the lands. “Hear ye, hear ye!” they spake, announcing to all who bothered to listen: “Smee’s favorite games of 2014 are as follows: “

5. Pagoda

What’s this, you say? I’m putting forth a two-player game for consideration?! Well, such games do catch my attention from time to time, and AEG‘s Pagoda is one of them. A careful back-and-forth game where you must try to advance construction of the aforementioned pagodas as far as you can without giving your opponent too large of an opportunity to score, and you’ve got my number. The fact that you get to play with building blocks to actually make them, is just icing on the cake! I picked this up at Origins this year, and it’s been great fun.

4. Abyss

When was the last time that you saw a board game with alternate art covers for the lid? The production and artwork for Abyss was impressive enough that showing it off feels natural. A set-collection game with several layers of related, yet complementary mechanics makes you put a decent amount of thought into how you want to handle your strategy! I’ve played this a number of times, both inside and outside of the League, and haven’t had a bad game yet.

3. Istanbul

A second successful release from AEG this year is Istanbul – a game in which you need to carefully plan your movement through the crowded bazaar in order to collect and spend resources, racing to be the first to collect five rubies. Efficient planning and a touch of luck with the dice is needed to see you through to the end!

2. Hyperborea

Civ-building games have always been my high point, and while Hyperborea falls on the light edge of that spectrum, the method by which you advance your civilization and take actions during your turn is unique enough to be enjoyable. Cultural improvements let you stack your deck (bag!) towards a specialization in warfare, growth, research, or other such niches in your quest to dominate the board.

1. Lords of Xidit

Another dark horse that didn’t seem to get the buzz it deserved, Lords of Xidit was a surprise the first time I played, and it quickly cemented itself at the top of my list for this year! Featuring programmed movement, a bit of area control, set collection, and a malleable scoring system (You don’t have to be the best at everything, just don’t be the worst!), Lords of Xidit is easy to teach and quick to play. Set in the same universe as the Seasons card game, the artwork is bright and friendly and you’ll find many of the same characters inhabiting this world.

Honorable Mention

These games were released in late December of the year prior, but I’m adding them as honorary members of the class of 2014.

Caverna – Dwarves! Adventures! Caverns! Mining! Donkeys! A version of Agricola that people will play with me!
Russian Railroads – A nice and heavy worker-placement game, although the scoring tend to snowball quickly. In Soviet Russia, trains ride you!

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SENIOR EDITOR : Refined gamer, collector, consummate geek. Hoarder of miniatures, reluctant painter. My tastes run towards the strategic side of the fence, with city / civilization / empire builders at the focus. I've moved away from direct-conflict games these days, unless they're two-player or one versus many, so one can properly admire the beatdown put upon the opposing side. Yes, I've been known to wear hats with fuzzy ears on them.