2016 was a good year for reviews. I was able to write 21 reviews within a 12-month timeframe and played many more games that I didn’t have time to review. I’d like to reflect by picking my favorite games that I’ve reviewed for various categories.
Best Worker Placement Game: Viticulture Essential Edition
This was by far my favorite worker-placement game I played last year. I thoroughly enjoyed both the multiplayer and single player variants as well as the versions available on Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator. Viticulture Essential Edition and Istanbul were both major deciding factors in me purchasing metal coins to replace the cardboard money. This has become one of my all-time favorite games to play.
Best Card Game: Diamonds
This category was a close race between Diamonds and Jungle Rummy. The reason I chose Diamonds is because it’s constantly interactive between all players. Every time you play a card, there’s a good chance you’ll get to take an immediate action on your turn. Collecting the physical diamonds, not knowing how many your opponents have, and stealing diamonds from the other players has a nice strategic engagement that keeps us coming back. It’s easy to teach, plays quickly, and is a lot of fun for anyone who likes card games.
Best Kids’ Game: The Magic Labyrinth
My 4 year-old had me play this game about 3 dozen times since we purchased it in 2016. It challenged her memory and she loved the physical components of the large wooden pieces that magnetically hold onto the metal balls underneath the board. I watched her go from trying to understand the “invisible” walls to beating me on a consistent basis. This was a great game to teach memorization without feeling like you’re learning.
Best Party Game: Codenames
This game was a favorite with our friends and family last year. With so many double-sided cards, the re-playability is high, and the limited clue-giving strategy is very challenging. It’s a true test of how well you know your teammates and fun to figure out how obscure they’ll be with their clues and guesses.
Most Disappointing Game: Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail was a bit of a hassle for me to obtain since it was a Target-exclusive that was only available to buy in-store, and was often sold out. Once I was able to finally get a copy to relive the days of the 1980s computer game, I was very disappointed. The rules aren’t very good at explaining possible scenarios, there’s a chance that you can die and be out of the game in the beginning, and in one play-through, we actually got to a point where we just couldn’t play anymore. Everyone was still alive, but we didn’t have any useable cards and the instructions didn’t provide any clarity. This game felt rushed and like it was solely relying on nostalgia instead of trying to be a well-made game.
Best Expansion: Viticulture Tuscany Essential Edition
I really enjoyed the amount of depth the Tuscany expansion added onto Viticulture essential edition. It doesn’t feel like it was just slapped on to make more money, it truly adds a new level of gameplay to an already great game. The new wooden meeples and stars, new game board, and cards make this expansion feel worth the extra money.
Best Family Game: Potion Explosion
Everyone seems to love this game as soon as they play it. There’s something very satisfying about choosing a marble and making more marbles clack together. I was able to teach my 4 year-old how to play it and have been fortunate enough to be a beta tester for the mobile app version. Between the physical copy and digital version, I’ve played about 50 or more games of Potion explosion, and it never seems to get old. I was even recommending it to customers looking for a family game during my visit to The Compleat Strategist in New York City. It’s definitely a game that everyone can enjoy.
Most Anticipated Game of 2016: Cottage Garden
As a big fan of Patchwork and Agricola All Creatures Big and Small, I was really looking forward to this game. I had worked with Nick from FunAgain Games at my day job, and they were shipping copies to the U.S. from Essen, but I had waited too long and they were placed on backorder. Thankfully, Carmen at Game Surplus helped me get a copy here in the states, and it was everything I had hoped. My wife, who is a gardener and big fan of Patchwork, enjoys this game and I love the quality and strategy behind it. It took a lot of work to get to our table, but it was worth it.
Games I’m Hoping to Play & Review in 2017: Karuba, Ice Cool, and Mysterium
I’m hoping to pick up copies of these games at some point in 2017 and reviewing them, as they all look like something my family and friends would enjoy playing. My wife and I have been enjoying the Mysterium mobile app and look forward to playing the physical version. My daughter may need to be a bit older to play Karuba and Ice Cool, but maybe later this year she’ll be able to play.
I’ve backed these games on Kickstarter and will be posting reviews and unboxing videos of each one as soon as they’ve been delivered.
Thanks for your continued support!