Our Favourite Games of 2015 - #10 to #7 April 03 2016
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.
Today we'll start going through our Top 10 list. There's a lot of things that get considered when looking at the list. How many times have we played it this year? What was our impression of the game, not just immediately after but a few weeks later? Is there still a desire to play it in the future? We put a lot of thought and care into our list, but at the end of the day it's just our own personal selections.
Let's get started! Here's #10 through #7:
10. T.I.M.E. Stories
I hate T.I.M.E. Stories. And then I proceed to play through it again, because the thirst to reach the end is too much. In many mediums, time is used as a device to tell a story in a non-linear fashion. The most recent example in Hollywood being Edge of Tomorrow. And in video games, T.I.M.E. Stories feels very much like Assassins Creed. The question is, does T.I.M.E. Stories successfully translate this device to board games. And the answer is: "kind of".
As a puzzle and mystery game T.I.M.E. Stories knocks it out of the park. The first case that comes with the game is full of character and excellent world-building. The game punishes you for making some rather obvious, bad decisions. It's an early lesson that you will suffer if you are the type who needs to see it all. The final solution is thematic and well-crafted. It's quite the ride.
Now let's talk about reaching the finale. It's entirely possible to get there in one playthrough - but likely will take two on average. After playing both cases (the game launched with a same-day expansion) I found myself reflecting on the overall experience of T.I.M.E. Stories. It may be a controversial opinion, but I don't think the game benefits from multiple playthroughs. I understand they want players to make smart decisions, or else risk running out of time. But if we removed the Time Unit device entirely, I don't think the game suffers or loses its identity. More often I found myself annoyed at the mechanic. Even travelling to new locations costs a random amount of Time Units, for no real reason.
I appreciate when designers try to go out and create a new type of experience in board games. I know I'm in the minority, but I just felt that a few mechanics of the game hurt the overall package more than it added to it. With the base game only coming with about 4-6 hours of play, it doesn't really feel like the most valuable experience - especially with Pandemic Legacy doing much more for a similar cost. Each expansion is almost as expensive as the base game, for what is essentially a deck of (very well produced) cards. The possibility of failing a mission and having to replay it almost entirely from the beginning, is supposed to add "replay" value but it feels more like a trope. It does make for a great cafe game, because of its limited shelf life.
I want to like T.I.M.E. Stories. Actually, I do. I just don't love it. Will I play the next expansion when it comes out? Definitely. It's still one of the best games of the year and the intrigue of seeing how they potentially tie the narrative arc together is worth looking forward to.
The party genre saw two big names bring an inferno-level of heat to your local game stores and cafes. The first one arrived in the spring/summer after a lot of hype being created through pen & paper and online versions of the game. Spyfall delivers a unique experience to the genre - which is something much easier said than done for party games. Players are dropped into a shared, remote location and everyone knows the location except for one; the spy. The goal of the spy is to figure out where they are, without giving up their utter cluelessness. The rest of the players put on their best suspicious face in order to discover the identity of the spy among them.
At first, the learning curve of playing the spy is a very delicate line - which often results in hilarity all around. But as players gain more experience with playing both sides, you will find yourself in the midst of some very tense games. Spyfall provides distrust on the same level as a game of Avalon, which I would argue has caused the most strife amongst my game groups - in an entertaining and good way of course.
The unfortunate reality with the boxed version is the lack of a player aid listing all the locations on it. Instead, players are forced to share the centrefold in the rulebook. Sometimes the spy will feel like they are being too obvious if they attempt to look at the list of locations, so it can be tough on first-timers. The online version of the game simplifies a lot of small nitpicky things like this. But at the end of the day it's still quick, great fun in a tight package. You'll find yourself playing through quite a few games (since each game only really lasts 10 minutes) and each play will leave you wanting more.
7. Flick 'Em Up
A few years ago I played a quirky, dexterity cooperative game called Space Cadets. I was bestowed the role of Weapons engineer. I had to prepare our missiles and aim them to defeat our foes. Preparing the missiles was a synch. I could prepare three easily in the time I was given. Then came time to shoot them. A simple flick of the finger would indicate how much damage we would deal to our opponents. The other four members would sit, eager in anticipation as a drop of sweat leaked from my forehead. I miss. No problem, I have another missile. Miss again. I feel like I'm shooting free throws in the deciding game of the NBA Finals. I am the Shaquille O'Neal of Space Cadets. My team shakes their head in disappointment. Shame! *rings bell* SHAME!
Fast forward a few years. and now we have an entire game focused on that one haunting experience of Space Cadets. Flick 'Em Up is the classic theme of cowboys vs. outlaws in the wild west, complete with duels. Dexterity games are always the eye-candy of board game cafes. Every time a new group watches a table play Riff-Raff they immediately ask if they can try it when they're finished.
Flick 'Em Up may just take the cake for best visual design of the year. Plenty of scenarios are provided to keep things fresh from game-to-game. It's one of the few games that can support large groups, without slowing down the pace of the game. Learning to play is easy, but mastering the techniques and nuances can prove to be quite the challenge. The inability to use your thumb for resistance on your index finger limits your ability to control the power of your flicks. It takes a while to get the hang of, but feels incredibly rewarding when you begin to snipe players across the map.
Flick 'Em Up is not a perfect game. But at times it perfectly mimics the emotion of a real sport. Team camaraderie, tension among teammates, and victory celebrations are all a very real part of the game. It's certainly the most intriguing game of the year for us. I'm very excited to play more Flick 'Em Up with different groups in the coming months. As Craig Mack once sang, "It's the Return of the Shaq" (ok, maybe those weren't the actual lyrics).
7. 7 Wonders Duel
I've always liked 7 Wonders. It's never my first choice of game to play, but if someone brings it out I'm always game to play it. Even with just three-players 7 Wonders can be quite entertaining. But the game has always been unsatisfying to play with just two. It just doesn't feel like the same game. Enter 7 Wonders Duel. Game designers Antoine Bauza & Bruno Cathala have accomplished the challenge of making a two-player game in 7 Wonders Duel, while maintaining the feel and style of the original.
Transitioning from 7 Wonders to Duel is simple, and when you get into the flow of the game it feels just like playing a traditional game of 7 Wonders. That's not to say they haven't added anything new. In fact, the new additions are so cool I think I now prefer Duel to the original. The way new cards are uncovered and made available each Age really gives players something to think about. The new alternate win-conditions force players into suboptimal play, constantly reminding them to pay attention to their opponents future moves. There's a deeper level of interactivity here, that the original sometimes lacked.
Two-player games are the most important cafe games, due to the volume of dates or two-person outings. We have our favourites here at For The Win, and 7 Wonders Duel is a new, strong staple in our collection of two-player options. I'm sure it will hit the tables many times in the coming years.
Images courtesy of BoardGameGeek and its users