Ahh, a new year. Time to think of the possibilities. The future is nigh, and all that stuff. I wish you all the happiest, safest, and most prosperous 2016 possible. As a mostly self-respecting geek, I look forward to playing as many tabletop games in 2016 as I can. But before we move ahead, it is sometimes helpful to look back – a chance to gain perspective, to gauge the journey, to be thankful. About 5 years ago, I rediscovered my love for tabletop gaming. It has been great to rediscover the human connection that tabletop games bring to a time when everyone is looking at a screen. I love screens, but I also love the face to face interaction that makes us the unique and wonderful creatures we are, and I am pleased to be able to perpetuate this truth through Dice Drop Games, my almost two year old company. So as we start to look forward to all the things yet to come, I thought it would be fun to tell you about the games I played the most in 2015. Maybe as you read this, you’ll find a few games you haven’t played, or maybe you’ll at least remember to appreciate this amazing hobby.
1) The Grizzled
I got a chance to play it at Dragon Con in Atlanta and I was pretty much blown away. Even in a convention setting with dozens of games being demoed, the box art of The Grizzled immediately caught my eye. The artwork perfectly captures the melancholy and darkness of war. I picked it up and it has been a hit every time we’ve played it since. It is a difficult game, in my experience. I’ve played it more than 25 times and won it only twice. I don’t care. I love the challenge. It requires real teamwork and concentration, and isn’t that what a co-op game should accomplish? Well, I think so. It’s easy to learn and quick to play. When you lose you want to play again and when you win it is quite satisfying. Check it out. For my full review of The Grizzled, click here.
2) Firefly Shiny Dice
If you are a fan of the Firefly TV series, you’ll probably enjoy Shiny Dice. As press your luck dice games go, this is one of the more rules heavy ones I’ve played, though it is still easy to learn. Shiny Dice immerses you in The ‘Verse, allowing you to take control of the crew of Serenity, complete missions, and hopefully beat up Niska, Saffron, and Badger, misbehaving, and banking money and supplies. It takes about thirty minutes for a two player game, yet it feels like you are squarely in The ‘Verse. I really like the Firefly board game from Gale Force Nine, but it takes 2-3 hours to play and I don’t always have that kind of time. Shiny Dice is a good occasional replacement and also a nice gateway game to introduce non-gamer-Firefly-fan friends to the hobby. My wife and I play this often while we watch T.V. and enjoy it quite a bit. Give it a shot. Misbehave, even. For a more thorough review of Firefly Shiny Dice and other “press your luck” games, click here.
3) Nations: The Dice Game
This is a dice rolling civ-building game that allows players to take a fledgling nation and develop it over four eras. It is based on a card game called Nations, which is its more time consuming and involved big brother. During each era, players will get to roll a number of dice which are used to purchase improvements for their civilization. Nations, TDG is a game that plays in under an hour but feels way more epic than that. It is easy to learn, but has enough strategy and dice rolling to keep you coming back for more. Every time we’ve played it – which is often – there is sufficient smack talk and fake nationalistic rhetoric around the table worthy of FDR and Churchill. And most of the games are tight until the end. There have been some decent come from behind victories as well. But regardless, at the end of the game you should find yourself looking down at the board and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Not everyone can say they have built a flourishing nation in 15 minutes. Nations, TDG was definitely a highlight in my 2015 gaming experiences. For my review of this game and other games that make you feel like you’ve accomplished something even when you lose, click here.
It is difficult to find a game that pleases a wide variety of gamers as equally as Biblios does. It has been my experience that games with thick rule books, deep strategy, and longer play times tend to turn off non-gamers or party game types. Games with fewer rules and less strategy cause many veteran gamers to play once (if that) and chuck ’em. I have played Biblios at family gatherings with non-gamers, the local beer garden with casual gamers, and at game day with the hard core players, and it seems that everyone digs Biblios. The simplicity of the goal and mechanics in Biblios is deliciously disproportionate to the amount of stress and intensity involved in a play-through. The draw of Biblios is the number of difficult choices you have to make on every turn for such a relatively short game. Also, the design is tight enough that every time we play it seems the games are extremely close. If you’re looking for a game that can please the masses, you can’t go wrong with Biblios. It is so ordained. For my full review of Biblios, click here.
5) Letters From Whitechapel
If you are looking for a game with some meat on its bones that does not have a ton of rules to learn, I think you cannot be disappointed with Letters From Whitechapel. It is easily near the top of my list, period. And for pure cat and mouse strategy, I don’t think it can be beat. This is a must have for any serious gamer. Get it or regret it.
Whitchapel is a game of one vs. many. The rules of the game are simple and there is no combat. One player takes the role of Jack and the rest of the players (up to 5 of them) take the roles of the police officers. If Jack successfully commits five murders in four nights and makes it back to his hideout all four nights, Jack wins. If Jack gets arrested or gets blocked from making it back to the hideout after move number fifteen each night, the police win. Whitechapel is intense, to say the least. I got it in December and have played it three times since. Each time, I couldn’t wait to play it again. Heck, I want to play it right now! This game is a classic. For my full review of Letters from Whitechapel, click here.
Well, I hope that whets your new year’s whistle. Here’s to a great 2016! Enjoy yourselves, play some great games, and… nerd on!
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Rob is a board game lover who owns an inn for nerds located in Macon, Georgia. He also likes writing articles for us. Check out his inn at www.madrigalinn.com
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