We decided not to do a top ten list this year, instead opting for each writer to contribute their one favourite game of the year and three honourable mentions. It’s been fun to go through everyone’s picks and although there’s been some crossover, everyone’s pick for best game of the year is different. 2016 was an interesting year for games. Less revolutionary, than 2015, but still with a lot of solid designs and some great, young talent emerging. It makes us already excited for what 2017 will bring.
This is our last post of 2016, and we wanted to say thank you to all of the people who have followed, read, and commented over the past twelve months. Interacting with readers and getting your feedback helps us get better every day. As this year comes to a close, we hope that you are somewhere safe, playing games with people you love.
Honshu is my pick for game of the year: All the fun of a city builder packed into a tidy little card game. Honshu is a simple game with great depth – a little bit of trick taking, and a lot of tile-laying tinkering to get you to your best 12-card city. I’ve enjoyed my plays of this, and cannot wait to try the modified 2 player game (which balances out the trick taking for the low player count), as well as starting to introduce some of the “advanced” elements. Import only now, this will be coming from Renegade Games in February to the North American market and beyond.
Honourable Mentions: Kanagawa, Feast for Odin, the Networks.
Not many people are going to drop “Game of the Year” honors on a silly little dexterity game, but Ice Cool was exactly what I was looking for in 2016. This was a year where the turnover in my collection wound down, and my focus shifted to repeated play of the games I already own. While I did try most of the strategy hits of 2016, I couldn’t pin down one that was definitively better than any of my existing favorites. Enter Ice Cool, which stood out as the jack-of-all-trades among casual flicking games: easier to store than a Crokinole board, simpler to set up than PitchCar, and more accessible than a Catacombs or Ascending Empires. Then there’s Ice Cool‘s unique twist, where it eschews the simple wooden disc in favor of a custom round-bottom penguin figurine. Watching penguins chase one another from room to room, one flick at a time over a slick high-gloss surface, is a crowd-pleaser guaranteed to draw players in. The penguin figure itself seals the deal, as it specifically engineered to perform trick shots (curves and jumps) without a steep learning curve for the player.
Honourable Mentions: The Networks, The Oracle of Delphi, Agility
I didn’t get to play enough new games this year, and missed out on some reportedly awesome ones like Inis, Terraforming Mars, and no further scenarios of my favourite from last year, T.I.M.E. Stories. Despite that I did get to try a lot of fun ones and I really love my fav of the year, Kanagawa. It’s a beautiful, set collection game. Players are art students in 1840s Japan. Each round cards get laid out to make lots and, in turn, players can either choose one of the remaining groups of cards or pass and hope for something better. Once you have your set of cards, you’ll add them to either your painting or to your studies, developing your skills and earning bonuses. As your overall painting takes shape you can try and collect trees, animals, people, and buildings. Depending on the sets you assemble, you can grab certificates for the masterwork you’re producing. The presentation of Kanagawa is really nice. The art on the cards is beautiful, as you’d expect, but little touches like the bamboo board and the little wooden paint brushes in their pots take the experience to the next level for me. I never wanna say that a game is ‘the best’. That’s a very subjective phrase, but I can say that from this past year, Kanagawa is the game I most want to play, most often.
Honourable Mentions: The Networks, Imhotep, Oceanos
Star Wars: Rebellion
When I think about the games that were released this year which I got a chance to play, none has left such a vivid memory as Star Wars: Rebellion. Being able to craft a story that spans Star Wars Episodes IV-VI in your own gameplay is such an incredible experience. In my very first game, the battle of wits between Mon Mothma and the Emperor almost took over the game, and I still tell the story of that game to this date, with two Death Stars stalking the rebels, a savage conflict on Corellia, and the Rebels winning despite never having more than four systems. Few games leave such a lasting impression, and that is what marks this as my favourite game of 2016.
While there are a lot of games I have not played yet, including many with a solitaire option I cannot wait to try (Terraforming Mars, Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Scythe), my honourable solitaire mention goes to Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Take my favourite game, my favourite component, and make a great one player game of them together? Yes, please! Karmaka takes the second mention as a phenomenal game with the most beautiful artwork, and the most intriguing theme this year. Lastly, The Others is such a great one vs. many game with such a cool theme, and that takes my third honourable mention.