Our Favourite Games of 2016 - Specialty Awards December 16 2016
2016 was a tough year for many. And where there is hardship endured, there is always quest for escape. Some folks bury themselves in books or Netflix, isolated from their cruel realities. But others find communal catharsis with friends, family and even strangers. Board games allow us to visit new worlds and explore exciting puzzles, all while having people to share the experience with.
Every year we look at the year in board games, to celebrate our favourites that made us laugh and ponder. This week we'll be handing out our Specialty Awards to a handful of games that excelled in a unique way. Next week we'll bring your our Top 10 favourite games of 2016.
2016's 2015 Game of the Year - Patchwork
Despite of all 2016's offerings, our most played game of the year was actually a 2015 release. Well, if you wanna get technical it was a 2014 release, but it wasn't widely available until very late December so we're not counting it. Patchwork slides nicely into the niche built around easy-to-pickup and quick-to-play games for 2. Games like Jaipur, Star Realms and Lost Cities have occupied this space for most, but Patchwork stands atop them.
Patchwork carefully juggles its gameplay mechanics among time, space and economy. With all these things to consider, each turn in Patchwork feels important. The players feel a level of control where each decision will impact both players. And yet, every game feels different from the next. There's no "optimal path" as the games will change with the arrangement of tiles and the moves of your opponent.
Uwe Rosenberg has given us yet another game that will be a staple on all tabletops for years to come.
Prettiest Design - Knit Wit
As the years go by, visual design quality in board games continues to rise. Designers are beginning to take the aesthetic of their games as seriously as the mechanics. Looking at a shelf of games, you begin to see the distinct artstyles among different illustrators. And in a year with games as gorgeous as Inis and Mansions of Madness: Second Edition, our choice comes in a very understated, but carefully crafted Knit Wit.
Upon lifting the magnetic flap and revealing the contents of the package, players are greeted to the contents of what could be mistaken as a sewing kit. Sturdy spools line one side of the box. A plaid-checkered flap holds the rules of the game on the upper portion of the box. Instead of opting for simple cards, each adjective is printed on a ticket. The tickets are stored in a paper-crafted, almost handmade holder. The colour palette of yarn and clothespins are carefully selected to fit the feel of the game. And the notepad which stores the player sheets even has a strap to keep it sealed when not used. Oh, and buttons, just because.
You may think we're crazy for calling a game that revolves around knitting the most beautiful package of 2016. But the challenge of making that statement true only adds to the impressiveness of it. Each phase of the game, you are aware of how everything meshes together. It's eye-catching beyond a traditional sense. And that's what makes Knit Wit special, and our choice for Prettiest Design of 2016.
Budget Game of the Year - Happy Salmon
With production costs increasing and the dollar performing poorly, the cost of board games has risen at an uncomfortable rate. Not everyone has the ability to afford the collecting aspect of this hobby, and that's what board game cafes are for. But for those who want a cheap, take-home experience there are plenty of budget experiences for those with a tight wallet.
At its worse, Happy Salmon is a silly game. At its best, it's an absolute mess of chaotic, uncontrollable laughter. Games like Ghost Blitz have maintained popularity because it's funny to play and sometimes even funnier to watch. Happy Salmon takes the Ghost Blitz formula and cranks it up a few decibels. Being left hanging, anticipating a high five or fist bump is always embarassing, and Happy Salmon is an entire game revolved around turning that experience into a game.
It's fast. It's furious. And it's packaged in an actual salmon (not actually a salmon). You can play roughly 120 games of Happy Salmon in the same time it would take to finish 1 game of Agricola. You may even enjoy it more. At just $14.95, Happy Salmon makes for a perfect last-minute stocking stuffer. Give the gift of fish, this holiday season!