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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Best Games of the Decade (according to Nicole)

by | published Friday, December 20, 2019

All of a sudden, it is alarmingly close to ticking over into 2020. So naturally, it’s time for me to share my picks for games of the decade! I really started easing into the hobby in 2010, and in 2011 it was what took up most of my spare time. Things have evened out somewhat in the years since, but it’s safe to say that board gaming’s stuck around for me. Now, if you know me at all, it’s so very hard for me to pick favourites – and when looking at an entire decade’s worth of games, that is quite an intimidating task.  

Rather than go at it category-wise, or just as an overall list for the whole decade, I went year by year and have featured my stand-out pick, with some honourable mentions. Because they’re all good games, Bront. You’ll notice that those honourable mentions start to bloat at the decade progresses, as does choosing just one game for my pick – it was astounding to see the list of releases grow and grow by the year. Which means the narrowing down becomes even harder. Seriously, how does anyone even get to a nominating process for awards nowadays? Now without further adieu, enjoy my picks from the 10’s!  

2010 – Alien Frontiers 

This was a fascinating new type of game for me to try – not only was there some resource management and area control, but there was the fascinating use of dice as workers! The space colonization theme tied it all together for me, and it’s become one of my all-time favourite games.  

Honourable Mentions: 7 Wonders, Ghost Blitz, Dragonheart. 

2011 – Castles of Burgundy 

It’s kind of awesome to think that I’m currently waiting for my very nice Collector’s Edition of Castles of Burgundy as I write this. This was the first game that I ever experienced advance excitement about playing – I’d heard the buzz about its release at Essen, and I played it as soon as I could once someone in Toronto had it. I’d not played a Feld game before, and it was really a whole new world of gaming for me. I never looked back! 

Honourable Mentions: Lancaster, King of Tokyo, Skull, Pictomania. 

2012 – Ginkgopolis 

Won’t someone just reprint this already? If Castles of Burgundy was my first experience of Essen buzz, this was next-level for me. Fresh out of Essen, I played it right after my then-partner grabbed it at the fair. It blew my mind a bit, with all of the tableau building and resource management and the unique ways of building out the city and the area control within that. I love it just as much today, and I really wish more people could get their hands on it! 

Honourable Mentions: Lords of Waterdeep, Targi, Terra Mystica, Suburbia, Love Letter. 

2013 – Sushi Go 

“Nicole, why are you picking Sushi Go this year when 7 Wonders wasn’t your 2010 pick?” Well, as much as I love 7 Wonders, Sushi Go is a hella cute and far more accessible card drafting game. I know a lot of folks don’t want the complication of 7 Wonders, so Sushi Go is a perfect pick for something that has a little fun with set collection but is super easy to learn & play. If you’re interested in the bulked up party version, see my review here

Honourable Mentions: Hanamikoji, Bruges, Rise of Augustus. 

2014 – Istanbul 

This wonderful puzzle of balancing movement and actions taken to obtain gems and become the most Istanbulest is an all-time favourite. This variable set-up light strategy game breathed fresh air into the idea of resource management and efficiency in turns for me. I did give the expansions a try, but honestly, this game is just pretty much perfect as-is (except perhaps some of the unfortunate lack of representation in there). Even the app is great! 

Honourable Mentions: Pandemic The Cure, Splendor, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Orleans, Patchwork, Dead of Winter, Akrotiri, Port Royal, Deep Sea Adventure. 

2015 – 7 Wonders Duel 

It always bothered me that the 2 player rules in regular 7 Wonders just had a sort of dummy player – it felt very unsatisfying overall to play. So, when the 2 player version was released I was extremely hesitant – but it turned out to be a fabulous translation of the game into a head-to-head. The layout of cards determining the drafting that’s possible is great, and the race to try and have a military or science win as an alternative to points win gives it a great, different feel to the original — and in fact, this is the only one of the two I keep in my collection! David’s review is here

Honourable Mentions: Pandemic Legacy Season 1, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Grand Austria Hotel, Isle of Skye, Cacao, Dale of Merchants. 

2016 – The Networks 

Sign stars, create lineups, get ad revenue and bring in ALL the viewers. This is what awaits you in the Networks. This is a solid action selection game that builds up over 5 “tv seasons” and there are lots of laughs to be had at the show titles and star names – not to mention some of the weird products you can advertise. There’s also some great and worthwhile expansion content – I especially love the UK pack “Telly Time”! If you would like to read more about what I think, my review is here

Honourable Mentions: Honshu, Kanagawa, Junk Art, the EXIT series, Aeon’s End, Terraforming Mars, Great Western Trail. 

And now, the portion of today’s programming where Nicole fails to pick a favourite.. 

2017 – Barenpark / Azul 

As games have become more prevalent and wide-ranging in their experiences, there’s a lot of things that satisfy different gaming needs for me. Azul is a beautiful, tactile puzzly little game of planning and sometimes screwing your opponents over. (No, I needed those orange tiles!) Everything about it shouts play me, and it’s a favourite of mine to introduce to casual gamers. On the other hand, Barenpark is also a great puzzly game, but in many different ways. Using tetromino pieces with various types of bears (and yes yes koalas aren’t bears, it mentions it in the rule book!) which you’ll puzzle together in your park. This has knock-on effects of getting more tiles or adding space to your park, and gaining points for completing portions of your park – so thinking ahead is key, especially to score for the game’s goals. This has enormous replay factor and I love revisiting the game – especially adding in the Bad News Bears expansion, which I have yet to try everything out in. Sean’s review of Azul is here, and read David’s thoughts about Barenpark are here

Honourable Mentions: Spirit Island, Majesty for the Realm, Gaia Project, Fog of Love, Dinosaur Island, Sagrada, Istanbul Dice, Fox in the Forest, Downforce. 

2018 – The Quacks of Quedlinburg / Just One 

Oooh boy, I love a good push your luck game. Can’t Stop being the classic, of course, but I love newer additions to the genre such as Gold Fever and Port Royal. The Quacks of Quedlinburg takes this core mechanism and wraps up bag building and strategy with it to create one of the most fun games I’ve tried in years. It’s satisfying in so many ways! Just One is the co-operative word game that everyone needs to try, in my humble opinion. There’s so much fun in the simple concept of giving one-word clues (that aren’t repeated) to someone in order to have them guess a topic. Perfection for large gatherings! Sean’s review of Quacks is here. And listen to me rave about Just One on The Five By

Honourable Mentions: Teotihuacan City of Gods, Underwater Cities, Ganz Schon Clever, Coimbra, The Mind, Sprawlopolis, Railroad Ink. 

2019 – Wingspan / Silver & Gold 

Surprising nobody who knows me, this is yet another pick for a Phil Walker-Harding game! Up against Wingspan, Silver & Gold is impossible to compare. The two games fill important niches in my collection. Silver & Gold brings some life to a crowded genre for me – roll & write/flip & write games. The big thing I love is that you’re working your way through multiple “maps” throughout the game and able to gain points from a few different sources. Plus: writing on cards! It feels so good, and so wrong. Wingspan, of course, is the game on everyone’s tables this year. If you’ve not heard of it, Elizabeth Hargrave’s debut game is a wonderful game of hand management, set collection and gathering beautiful bird cards and pastel eggs for your enjoyment. It’s a fabulous addition to light strategy games, and I’m definitely keeping my eye on games Elizabeth’s got coming out in the future. Read more about my thoughts on Wingspan here. I’ve yet to do a full review of Silver & Gold, but I did give it a mention in my Gathering of Friends wrap-up

Honourable Mentions: Paladins of the West Kingdon, Museum, Point Salad, Detective City of Angels, Cartographers, Letter Jam, Draftosaurus. 

Farewell to you, the 10’s! Let’s see where the 20’s takes this hobby and our voracious thirst for tabletop fun. 


  • Nicole H.

    Nicole had played a lot of backgammon, Life and Monopoly when younger. She started playing hobby games in University after trying out D&D 3rd edition, and then joining her University game club. After a while she gravitated towards board games as a casual gamer. After moving to Toronto in 2009 she started gaming more and met her (former) partner Adam through the hobby and hasn't turned back. It's hard for her to pick a favourite game, but if you really stared her down she might pick Castles of Burgundy. When not gaming, Nicole enjoys cooking/baking, reading comics, watching tv/movies and visiting museums! And cuddling every dog she can.

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