Our Favourite Games - Specialty Awards

Hey guys! We're back again to bring you our annual list of favourite games that were released in 2015. We're doing it a little earlier this time to squeeze a chance for you to get your last-minute holiday gifts.

This year we're adding a couple of new categories to our end-of-year awards to compliment our Top 10 list. So before we get into the Top 10, today we're going to look at the winners for our Specialty Awards. Follow our blog as we unveil the rest of our list over the week!

2015's 2014 Game of the Year

Colt Express

This very special award goes to our favourite game that came out last year. Believe it or not, there are games even we didn't get to play last year. So we wanted to give an award to a game that would have certainly made our list if we played it in time for our last list. 

Recipient of the latest Spiel des Jahres, Colt Express is the full package. The art and design of the game is so nice it literally pops out. The components of the game take full advantage of all three dimensions. It's not the deepest game, but it's got enough to keep you entertained for all five rounds. Often, feeling like you have no control over what is happening would count as a negative towards a game. But in Colt Express the theme of "Wild Wild West" is replicated through the sheer chaos it brings to the programming genre. Making mistakes is rarely this much fun. Winning or losing became secondary to just watching things spiral out of control. 

Expansion of the Year 

Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala

2015 has been filled with very big and notable expansions. Just to name a few, we saw expansions for Takenoko, Camel Up, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Five Tribes, Colt Express, Kemet, Suburbia among many others.  

Many expansions could have easily taken the award here, but for us it mostly comes down to preference. We loved Five Tribes when it came out last year, and The Artisans of Naqala adds a lot, without bogging down the experience too much. Making meaningful expansions is never easy when the core game is already a solid and balanced system. This expansion adds a new type of meeple, 3 new tile types, and a handful of new Djinns.

The test of a great expansion comes down to whether you would ever consider playing without it. And we feel that after having played The Artisans of Naqala, there's no real need to go back to the vanilla game.  

Honourable Mentions

Rum & Bones, Epic Card Game, Exploding Kittens

This year we wanted to show some love for games that didn't quite make our Top 10, but still warranted appreciation.

Rum & Bones brings the very popular MOBA genre from video games to board games. It doesn't manage to capture the frenetic pace, but it does well to translate objective-based gaming and the importance of team composition. I was fortunate to have a roommate who bought every expansion and add-on. So we had a large roster of characters to choose from. The base game is decent but does lack diversity. 

Epic comes from the folks who brought us last year's surprise hit, Star Realms. Designers Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle give us their take on CCG's behemoth, Magic: the Gathering. Based off a variant of M:tG, Epic takes all the slower paced, build-up gameplay of most CCG's and tosses it out the window. Right off the bat, players are swinging massive monsters and spells at one another. And before you know it, the game is over in 2 turns. And still, there manages to be a good variety and balance to everything in a draft format. Epic doesn't have the same long-lasting appeal as Star Realms, but that's a tall task for any game at its price point.

Exploding Kittens isn't mentioned here for its aesthetic or technical merits, but it's still a landmark game and an important one when looking at the overall evolution of the industry. The game is entirely competent, even if it is a little too dumbed-down. The basic elements of deduction and luck are there. Exploding Kittens is important because of how it found success. It became the most backed project of all-time on Kickstarter, more than doubling the previous record-holder. Success stories in the board game world through Kickstarter are nothing new. But nothing has really captured viral success on a mainstream level like this since Cards Against Humanity. And even without knowledge of the hype, Exploding Kittens is often grabbed off our shelves and enjoyed greatly. So they're obviously doing something right.

Earl OliverosComment