Well, it’s the beginning of a new year, so let’s take a look back at some of our favorite games from 2015. These are all titles that were reviewed on GeekDad during 2015 (regardless of actual release date).
Since we’ve really stepped up our Kickstarter game reviews this year, we decided to put those into their own post–it’s tricky because many Kickstarters reviewed this year during their campaigns aren’t actually available at retail yet, so we decided to separate them out.
So, let’s dig in! Here are my own picks, plus selections from Rory Bristol, Jenny Bristol, Rob Huddleston, and Dave Banks. Be sure to read to the end to find out our Game of the Year!
Jonathan Liu’s Picks
Best replacement for Zombie Dice: King’s Gold
I played a lot of Zombie Dice when it first came out: I like press-your-luck games and it was a short, quick game that was easy to teach even to new gamers and young kids. But, hey, some games get old. King’s Gold is a nice replacement–it’s not exactly the same, and gives you more choices, leading to a touch more strategy and a lot more player interaction. Read the full review here, or buy a copy.
Best party game for your friends who will only play Apples to Apples: Stinker
I had to include this one because my kids love it so much. The mechanics are best described as Bananagrams meets Apples to Apples, and it’s a lot of fun. The main difference is that this requires you to come up with your own answers from a limited set of tiles, rather than using answers provided for you by the game. Have trouble getting your casual gamer friends to branch out? Give this one a shot! Read the full review here, or buy a copy.
Best party game for your friends who play a lot of games: The Worst Game Ever
And now for your friends who play anything and everything: sometimes even the hardcore strategy gamers want to kick back with a silly party game. The Worst Game Ever is chock-full of funny references to gaming pet peeves and tropes: the people who have played the most games will get the most jokes. Kickstarter-funded, and now available for purchase. Read the full review here.
Best educational game that isn’t an educational game: Evolution and Flight expansion
Evolution is a strategy game, but it’s also a fantastic way to see the evolutionary arms race in action. Grow your species and give them special traits to get food, protect themselves, or prey on others. It’s a gorgeous game, and the Flight expansion adds the challenge of creating winged species, which have access to other food sources but burn a lot of energy to fly. Pick up Evolution and Flight, or read my “Reaping the Rewards” post for more details.
Best strategy game for a big group that won’t take hours to play: Between Two Cities
When you have a big group of gamers, you often have to choose: play a party game that includes everyone, split up into smaller groups for more strategic games, or be ready to invest a couple of hours in a massive game. Between Two Cities is great because it goes up to 7 players, plays in about 20 minutes, yet still has some strategic depth to it. Buy it online, or read the full review here.
Best game for being spiteful to your friends: Nevermore
Nevermore is a drafting game (like Sushi Go!), where you have a hand of cards, pick something to keep, and then pass the rest to your neighbor. But Nevermore is all about the hate-drafting: sure, it’s important what you keep, but it can be even more important what you pass along. It’s from Smirk & Dagger Games, so you know it’s got a lot of fun back-stabbing fun. Read the full review here, or pick up a copy.
Best new use of deck-building: Web of Spies
I’ll give an honorable deck-building mention to Valley of the Kings: Afterlife because it’s such an excellent game, but it’s the second in a series so it’s not really a new use of deck-building. Web of Spies requires you to get to a location and secure it before you can acquire a new asset for your deck. And what do you do with these assets? Eliminate enemy spies, of course. Fantastic artwork, good thematic mechanics, and a lot of direct conflict–this is no multi-player solitaire! Read the review here, or buy a copy.
Best game to start the week: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous
I’ll end my picks with the game that starts off my week every Monday: The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Two years later and I’m still enjoying it just as much. The latest set, Wrath of the Righteous, kicks up the difficulty a notch and adds some fun new mechanics. It remains the game with the most plays on my BoardGameGeek tally and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. Pick up a copy, or read more about it here.
Rory Bristol’s Pick
Battle Sheep is an abstract strategy game in which players try to fill fields with their herd of sheep. The modular board is made up of identical 4-hex tiles, placed in rounds before play starts. Players then move stacks of sheep tiles across the board as they maneuver for strategic positions and try to trap opponents’ pieces. No reading, writing, or language skills are required to play, making it a great game for all ages. With 2-4 players, families and small groups can pull out Battle Sheep for a quick, intuitive play experience. Battle Sheep is great for kids because the plastic tiles are near-impossible to destroy or stain! Buy a copy here, or read the original review.
Jenny Bristol’s Pick
If your creative storytelling has more of a superhero angle, check out Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman. With plenty of villains, impossible situations, and locations to inspire you, you can take Batman and crew on new adventures to solve crime and clean up the streets! Buy a copy here, or read the original review.
Rob Huddleston’s Pick
I’ve been a fan of Thunderbirds since I was a little kid. I’ve been a fan of Matt Leacock since I started really serious gaming a few years ago. When I heard that the two were being combined in a cooperative board game, I was, needless to say, more than a little excited. The end result is, quite simply, magnificent. It combines the things I love about Leacock games–great cooperative mechanics and real difficulty–with the things I love about Thunderbirds–the ships. Buy a copy here; the original Kickstarter review is here, with a look at the finished product here.
Dave Banks’ Picks
Best way to pick up Mjölnir, the Ark of the Covenant, and Aladdin’s Lamp at bargain prices: Warehouse 51
Warehouse 51 probably got the second most plays from me this year (see the bottom of this article for #1). I love the theme and the unique auction/bidding mechanic in this set collection game. Warehouse 51 forces you to make some tough decisions … which might not be the right ones because your opponents have information about some items that are fakes, but you have other secrets at your disposal. What items should you bid on and what should you pass on? It’s all very fast-moving and fun in Warehouse 51. Read the full review or buy a copy.
Another “best educational game that isn’t an educational game”: Discoveries
I really like Evolution (which Jonathan suggests as an educational-ish game), but Discoveries also fills this niche very nicely. Like the wonderful Lewis & Clark: The Expedition before it, Discoveries uses the Corps of Discovery as its theme. Players collect and roll dice to travel through the wilderness and catalog the fauna, flora, and people they see. It’s ultimately a game about journaling, but it is beautiful, it is engaging, and – like its predecessor – it is full of educational tidbits about the expedition. Read the full review or buy a copy.
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for … <drumroll>
Game of the Year: Codenames
I think I speak for most of the GeekDads when I call Codenames the Game of the Year. [Jonathan says: I agree! This game is the best.] No other game has come up more often around the GeekDad clubhouse when talking about games we have played. Interestingly, discussion of Codenames usually goes something like this: “We sat down to play some games last night. I broke out Codenames and we played eight or nine games before moving on to something else.” Seriously, it’s that fun. Simple to learn and easy to teach, but always challenging and always a great time. Read the full review or buy a copy.
So, those are our favorite games from 2015! Stay tuned for a lot more gaming in 2016. What were your favorites this past year?