Given that I’m restricted by what I or my friends happen to have around, I don’t always learn games right when they release. This list represents my favourite games that I was introduced to during 2016 that were actually released prior to the last year.
#5 – Endeavour (2009)
I was introduced to this game not knowing much about it and, after playing it, was left so aggravated at not being able to get my hands on a copy. The game has players increasing their capacity for various actions by gaining on a series of tracks and constructing buildings. Using their improved actions, they can gain influence in various colonies and trade routes to gain victory. Interestingly players can take advantage of slavery to make early gains, but at some point in the game slavery will likely be abolished, turning those early advantages into negative points as popular opinion turns against those who profited from the practice. It’s an interesting handling of a sensitive subject, and I appreciate the acknowledgement of this nastier side of the exploration & growth of the time period.
#4 – Shakespeare (2015)
Theme drew me to this game, and on a whim I added it to a CSI order when reaching for free shipping. It finally got to the table during RUTHCon, and despite us learning from the rulebook which can get tricky, it ended up being my favourite game of the con. Players work to put on the most successful play by gathering actors, building sets and costumes, and rehearsing during the week before the big performance. In addition, the Queen will be in attendance and she knows what she likes, so tailoring your play to her demands can earn you extra points. One of the quirks I enjoyed most about the game is that you don’t have to pay your troop until after the show, which allows you to take a chance on making an expensive choice early on and hope to be successful enough to afford it later. I liked the game so much after one play that I purchased the expansion as soon as I could, despite the fact that I hadn’t even begun to fully explore the base game yet.
#3 – Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (2013)
Yup, the PACG makes it onto its third list in this series! Since obtaining this game in July, it became my most-played game of 2016, and therefore couldn’t not be included yet again. The campaign aspect helps keep the story aspects going – we have certain enemies that cause groans when they come up, have tales of someone’s horrendous luck when exploring particular locations, and even have particular dice placed in time-out due to their seeming inability to cooperate. The game is fairly quick to set up, offers a ton of variety in character styles, and keeps everyone constantly engaged.
#2 – Argent: The Consortium (2015)
This beautifully produced worker placement game from Level 99 Games has a lot to offer and I’m glad I got to discover it in 2016. Players are vying to earn votes in order to be elected to lead the wizarding academy; however, they don’t know exactly who gets to vote and what criteria they’re looking for in the new leadership. Players send out their students to learn at least some of the hidden identities, and better their chances of winning votes. The fact that not everyone knows the same information means players have to pay close attention to what areas others are focusing on, and the variable set up of the school & voters mean every game plays differently. Add in powerful world-breaking spells and individual player powers and Argent is tough to beat.
#1 – Madeira (2013)
This dice placement game takes a number of familiar elements but combines them into something that feels fresh. Players draft sets of available dice which determine their available regional actions; however, this draft also determines the scoring tile they’ll pick up, the guild they can refresh, and turn order which makes the first stage of every round a nerve-wracking decision … and I love it! In addition players can take and use pirate dice during the game but, by doing so, may limit their opportunities in the later stages of the round, and can lead to negative consequences. There are a ton of strategic approaches in this game of gaining influence in the cities, of harvesting goods in the fields, and of trading both locally and with the colonies. It’s incredibly interesting and I love seeing all the parts come together so smoothly making it a game I’d love to add to my collection.