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New comment on Blog Post Best of 2016!!!

Singapore Hello all!Well, i decided that it’s finally time to get down to listing my top games of 2016. I wanted a bit more time to play some of the games that i had bought but had not tabled, and also to make sure that those i had a great early impression of are still holding my attention multiple plays laterI will also list some games that could have made the list had i played them, or were just flat-out disappointmentsBut before that, just a short summary of thoughts on 2016 for me2015 kinda was one of the most (maybe the most) amazing year for games if you would ask me. I can maybe only think of 2 other years that i would rank up there with 2015. So when 2016 came along, i was hoping for a continuation of more gaming goodnessThere were quite a few games throughout 2016 that really caught my eye; and i can thankfully and gratefully say that i managed to play almost all the games that i was looking out for. But frankly, the crop of 2016 games just weren’t all that greatIn total, i played 54 unique games from 2016, and honestly, i would struggle to call even 10 of them great. Seriously. Like, the top “10” that i will share later? I think only the top 7 or 8 of them are greats for me. The last 2/few are pretty good but that’s where it stopsWell, every year can’t be an amazing year i know, and 2017 doesn’t look like its gonna be much as well So anyway, what games really laid a BIG FAT DISAPPOINTMENT on me? I have 2 games i will talk about, just in brief. Don’t want to be too nasty. LOL Crashed & Burnt (the higher the hope/hype, the longer the fall) Adrenaline Adrenaline was a game i was seriously seriously super looking forward to. LOVED the idea. FPS board game? Sign me up! Tons of weapons, free for all destruction, seemed like there were multiple ways to lay the hurt on your opponents. But after playing it, it just wasn’t as exciting as the premise sounds. It became a bog down count-y euro fest. Each time it came to my opponents’ turns, it was, hmmm, if i shot this person, i may be the majority for now, maybe get the kill, then move there pick this. It was just slow and draggy and not a lot of funThe weapons were interesting but really they were mostly situation based and some were far superior than others. All in all, i tried so hard to love this, but it just couldnt match what the theme and premise kinda promised. The gameplay was mostly flat and rather dull Cry Havoc I hadn’t really any expectations for Cry Havoc, but man, everyone was hyping it up like hell, so i guess i kinda went in expecting at least a decent solid game – i was so wrong. The game is really boring and unexciting for a tactical combat Dudes on a Map kind of game. The asymmetrical aspects was interesting but led to the birth of a super unfun faction – the pilgrims. Its just, i don’t know, they felt forced into the game just to be different that it kinda throws off the whole game for me. The combat system is truly innovative, but there just aren’t that many instances that really make you consider what is the right move to make – the right move is right there! the math will tell you that. So yeah, a bad bad game for me. I can understand why people might like it, but yeah, i wouldn’t want to play this at allSo those were the most disappointing games for meNext up are the games that i HAVE NOT PLAYED that might have made the list based on my knowledge of what i generally like and dislike in games Out of Sight, Out of Mind (unplayed games that might have made the list) Mechs vs. Minions Mechs Vs Minions is literally sitting on my room floor unopened and untouched. My co-op group just hasn’t been as free as i would like them to be. So no attention has been given to robot programming destruction goodness. Well, it is a co-op (which i love), and its got card drafting (more love) and programming (something i enjoy every now and then); so i really expect that this would have made the list had i had the time to enjoy it Mansions of Madness: Second Edition Another co-op game that i think i would really enjoy but have not been able to find someone who has a copy so that i could try it out. I’m slightly hesitant to buy this if my co-op group is so irregular. Anyway, i love the theme and the sense of mystery and exploration that the game looks to be able to provide. All the reviews so far have mentioned how involved and story driven it is that i think its one i will definitely have an affinity for should i get the chance to play it Roll Player Last on the list for games that could have made my top 10 is Roll Player. I love drafting games, esp dice drafting games, so this is certainly high on my want to play list. I also love puzzles in my games and well, the whole game certainly looks like one big mish mash of a puzzle. If only it weren’t so darn hard to find and expensive, i think i would have certainly taken the plunge a long time backAlright, enough of the wishy washy, on to the awards!! Best Art Scythe This was a no-contest really. I cannot think of another game in 2016 (nor many other games in any years since) that will surpass Scythe for its art and presentation. The art is absolutely stunning to meWhich thus leads to my one complaint about it (the art, not the game, the game i have more than one complaint about, LOL) – the art is kinda wasted when it is squeezed on such small cards! I know its to make the game more playable, but art like these just screams to be on Dixit sized cards. Yeah, so that was the only thing bad i have to say about the artThe presentation is also pretty amazing. Its not just form, its all also about functionality. The player boards are amazingly done up and super useful in storing the games’ pieces. And the game also comes with plastic trays for resources. I love those traysAll in all, this really surpassed my expectations on what Stonemaier Games could deliver. I have always had full trust in Jamey to provide great production values, but this was way better than what i could envision Most Innovative Vast: The Crystal Caverns Honestly, i was going to award this to one of the Escape Room games that came out in 2016. We had not had an escape room type board game being released before, so that certainly qualifies as innovative and unique. But so is Vast. Now, asymmetrical games are not innovative, but when you have it so much so like Vast where the asymmetry is all the way down to the board that you play the game on (the cave player), that to me is innovative. And considering we have had multiple escape room games released in 2016, but only 1 type of game like Vast, that was reason enough to award it to Vast insteadThe asymmetrical roles in Vast is certainly something that has never been done before (not that i know of at least). Not only do the players have different goals and abilities and ways to win, they all are intricately woven together so much that it feels like everyone is functioning as one organism. That if one role plays poorly, the rest are affected as a result. The balance in the game is so fine that a lot of things in the game depend on the outcome of everyone’s actions. This is definitely one of the more innovative games to come out in recent times and i hope that future games will find a way to follow its approach and perhaps build on it to create a game of similar feel and even more excitement Best New to Me Game (that is not a 2016 release) Kingdom Death: Monster From the moment i played this, i knew it would win this award. Nothing else is close. The overall experience and gameplay just blew me away. Yes, it is a luck/dice fest most of the time, but the experience is something out of this world. I don’t think i have ever (or will ever) play a game that will give me the extreme highs and lows that i have felt throughout my time with Kingdom Death MonsterI’m really fortunate to be able to get the chance to play this even though i know that my next game of it may be a long time away (or perhaps never). But honestly, i will never forget the moments and the memories i have gathered from this game. The cheers, the defeats, the depression, and the absolute elation and humor from those one in a thousand chance kind of events/situations. Unheard of in board gaming is all i can say. And a big thank you to Poots for the universe and the game he has created Honorable Mentions (also known as number 10) I had a tough time picking a number 10And this is mainly because it was hard to justify any of the above games as better than the other. They were all good in their own right, but also not good enough to actually warrant a number 10 slot. So instead of a few honorable mentions and an actual number 10, i decided to scrap number 10 and put them all in honorable mentions instead. Yes, a downgrade. Too bad Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers This is Libertalia in space, but much quicker and more varietyI love the reading and double bluffs and the card powers are sometimes so whacky that you wonder how you can arrange yourself in a situation to pull it off. Love the decision on whether to grab points or blast your opponents out of space. Always a fun time for me StarFall StarFall is a new game in my collection, but i’ve really taken a fancy to it. I love the minimalist art, and the straight out set collection gameplay. But what makes it all the more interesting is the auction mechanic whereby you lower the price of a piece hoping that your opponent will lower it again to what you want, or maybe they will buy something you didn’t want at a price you want them to pay. Nice set collection game with push your luck elements that is great for all types of players Kingdomino Kingdomino is a quick playing tile drafting and laying game that has highly impressed me by how easy to pick up it is, yet giving the player sufficient decision choices within its short time frame. I’ve played this with non gamers and they have picked up quickly and the game became competitive quick. The 2 player 7×7 castle is also very fun and leads to some cut throat moments with your opponent. A nice little gem from Blue Orange Games Avenue Last but not least is Avenue. This is really the equivalent of board gaming crack. It’s always played multiple times and its always remained challenging (for me at least). It surprises me how difficult it is to manage your routes and your points from round to round. There are games where i can score 100+ points, only the falter quickly and end up with 30+ points the following game. Pushing your luck and being prepared must go hand in hand to secure a victory. This is one of those games where they give you a large pad of paper to write on and i might actually finish the whole darn thing! Number 9 The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire Energy Empire sits pretty at number 9 for the very fact that i don’t know how many more plays of this game will i get before i’m finally done with it. After 4 plays it seems like i’ve explored most of the options that the game presents to me. I like games where i can pick a poison and drink it to the last drop – win or lose, but in Energy Empire it seems like you must dabble in certain areas all the time to be somewhat in the running for a win. Like, i can’t envision NOT playing the UN track at all, that seems a sure way to defeat. I do like that i can focus on just one type of building, but at most that is 3 options for me and that’s itNow, its not a bad game, it’s just that i am worried about whether it has the legs like the other euros i am generally fond of. I have had a good time with Energy Empire so far and i like the quick pacing of the game coupled with the combos that the buildings offer. The achievement system is also quite delightful – giving up utilizing all your assets to claim an end game scoring bonus is sometimes a very tough choice. It’s just not one that i think might stick around long enough for me Number 8 Vast: The Crystal Caverns I’ll be honest, i’ve only played Vast twice. But those 2 plays were so memorable for me. I was the Goblins and then the Cave and i was one turn away from victory each time. I love the asymmetrical roles and how you must play differently for each character. I also found the game pretty well balanced considering all the different options and play styles in the game, that is quite an achievement in and of itself. I clearly remember staying awake at night thinking about how i would like to do things differently should i play the same role again, and what i was looking forward to for the other rolesI really should get this to the table again, but frankly, the one problem with the game is why this is only at number 8, and that is how difficult it is to teach the game! With so many roles, its quite a task on having to clarify each rule and to remember what everyone can and cannot do. However, it is more or less pretty essential to know these to play optimally, so its been difficult to enjoy the game a whole lot more. I wish it were less complicated, that would make it a perfect take that role against role game. Hopefully i will get to take this out again soon.. Number 7 Yokohama Yokohama is one of the earlier 2016 releases that i’m still enjoying very much. There really is a TON of options on what you can do in the game, and every time i first make my early game moves, i am always telling myself “i really like this game!”. The sheer amount of options and things to do really appeal to me, and is what i look for in my euro games of choice. The cube placement and movement of the president also creates some tension (and frustration) as you will always find yourself being blocked out of where you want to go at least a few times in the game. And there’s also a very subtle race element in game where you find yourself trying to one up each other at the various end game scoring spots or also for the 5 power bonuses on each tile. A nifty game that i am really glad i took a dive for despite not knowing much about it initially Number 6 Clank! Clank and Yokohama could actually switch places and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, i really like both of them equally. But Clank gets the nod mostly because it is more accessible than Yokohama. I could teach Clank to new gamers as well and i think they will grasp it rather quickly – whereas that will not be the case for YokohamaClank really embodies what i want in a deck building game – a board with some variable elements, shifting row of cards (ascension style), some player interaction, and some push your luck elements, oh, and a theme. The treasures and artifacts in Clank really make the game so much more meaningful and purposeful rather than just a straight out make the best deck possible. Sometimes you can play as a fighter to defeat enemies for points, or play a buyer who hoards cards with high point values, or just rush for the better artifacts and leave for points as wellIts seldom straightforward gameplay in Clank due to the dragon attack and the presence of the opponents. I really enjoy this one and love the expandability with new maps and hopefully some added mechanics Number 5 Automobiles Automobiles came out really early on last year, and was the first 2016 game i played. But you know what, it is definitely still one of the best of 2016. Many games came out after Automobiles, but very few managed to be as fun or as excitingAs a bag building game, i would even say it could be the best of its genre. I would be hard pressed to pick between Automobiles and Orleans as my favourite in the genre, but for pure excitement and genuinely delightful moments, Automobiles is the sheer winner. The player interaction and the board movement is what makes it stand out. Some turns you will feel crappy because of the wear you may have, but there will always come those times when you are pushing it to the limit, just literally racing towards the end game – and the game is so much fun in that aspectFurthermore, the variability in the card layouts really make each game feel unique. There are certainly some powers that are must haves, and you will see it when the cubes of that color is out, but from there, it is all dependent on how you have further tuned your engine compared to your competitors. I have seen and employed multiple paths to victory – spamming the white and grey tracks only, flirting with having the black cubes at the right times, or just using some turbo and kicka** handling to steer yourself to victory. The combinations are as endless as the amount of fun i have whenever this hits the table. Am really looking forward to the new map and hopefully some other new elements (player powers anybody?) Number 4 First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express First Class is constantly described as Russian Railroads the card game, and i will not argue with that. While i really do like Russian Railroads, i think First Class completely replaces the game for me. First Class gives the same feel as RRR but plays faster, and has more variety in the game. The one drawback is that First Class actually requires more table space than RRRAnyhow, i love the card drafting in FC. There are usually multiple good choices to choose from and always so much you want to do. This is one game where i need to keep telling myself to focus and not fall into the temptation of just doing one more good action other than what i am currently pursuing as my long term strategyThe modules in the game also keep the game fresh each time. I have played with all the modules already and i will gladly combine any 2 of them and take it for a spin – yes, even the murderer module. Its my least favorite but i have no problems if people would like to play that. Its not THAT badThe game also retains the points combo/engine from RRR, and so you will see yourself scoring a sh*t load of points near the end of the game. I’m really enjoying this one a lot, and i love how there are always multiple things to pursue and to push you forward with greater and greater combos. It may seem like you can’t do much with just 18 actions the whole game, but by the end, i swear you will have problems keeping up with the things you can do with just one card draft. If you love RRR, or combo/engine building games, i think this one will bring you much enjoyment in a very short timeframe Number 3 Escape Room: The Game I will confess, my love for escape rooms is the only reason this is so high on the list. The game is good, and a whole lot of fun for me. But i am not sure if it is for everyone. This game is a whole bunch of puzzles in a box. No strategy, no competitive flavor, just using the old noodle to try to accomplish the task at hand within an hour’s timeBut for puzzle lovers, the tension is there and the mechanics are rather interesting. No case is the same and they all require a different thought process throughout. I have been able to breeze through some but also have been genuinely dumbfounded by one of the casesIf you are a cooperative gamer, i am still not certain if this would be for you. The countdown might be irritating for some, and the “game” being broken down into parts (that at times may have to be individually explored) may also lose the attention of others. So honestly, i am highly enamored by this for my own personal love of all things escape room and puzzles. I can see this being a dud for those who aren’t inclined to find fun in trying to decipher messages or to breakdown clues or to stare at pieces of paper looking for connectionsBut, for those who feel the rush of excitement in being locked in a room with only your brains to figure a way out, or to those who have encountered a puzzle and were kept up all night trying to decipher its secrets, this is the game for you! I think of all the escape room games i have played in 2016 (and i have played ALL of them), Escape Room: The Game is the shining star of the lot. The decoder is an ingenious method of time keeping and puzzle solving, and the experience is the most complete of the lot. Sure, it doesn’t have the same tactile feel as the real escape rooms, but i would be happy to get to play this every time (not the same case of course). More expansions please! Number 2 Great Western Trail Great Western Trail held the number 1 spot in my mind for a really long time. I was certain when i finally make this list, it would be number 1, no questions asked. But alas, here it stands at number 2. Frankly, it’s not through any fault of its own, its just that number 1 grew on me too much, and i could not ignore the calls in my head to reverse the order of the number 1 and number 2 gamesAnyway, Great Western Trail is such a surprise for me to be honest. I had expected NOTHING from it. Its cover was drab, soulless, and i only bought it to fill a space in my cart. But after playing it, it has won me over. The player customized rondel is so fun and interactive. The deck building hand management aspect is also somewhat different – i can’t think of any deck building game whereby you get to decide to keep your cards for future turnsThe game is just choke full of interesting choices – do i want more cows? do i rush my train? what buildings are worth building for the here and now? am i going to want to invest in those bigger better badder buildings? how do i manage all of these at once!!Every session of this was painfully fun. So much you can and want to do, and many chances to deny or interrupt the plans of others by clever building placement. And speaking of buildings, those player buildings are the meat of the game. Each double sided, thus ensuring that you can always find a fun one to influence the outcome of the gameNo matter what path i choose in GWT, its hard to fully execute it to its finest, and that is what makes me enjoy the game more and more – trying to optimize my opportunities in a game that offers lots of choices, but makes it hard to fully realize your beautiful plans Number 1 Habitats For those who follow my blog, i think this comes as no surprise. I’ve been raving about this game on my blog each week that i get to play it (and i try to play it often). I’m really loving this game so much. In fact, it could go down as one of my favorite games of all time. I love the spatial tile laying puzzle, the closed area drafting of the tiles, and those ceramic animals pieces!! So damn cuteThe closed area tile drafting mechanic is really cool as you can see what you could get and combo off if you were to travel in a certain way, but then again, you can never fully account for the plans of your opponents as the area is large enough for choices but small enough that a few moves later, you will see an opponent in your way. The puzzle of the tile placement is also super delightful. You really want to draft tiles that complement each other and can in a way, satisfy each others’ habitats, but that is very hard to do, and when the time arises when you realize you can’t satisfy everyone, which animals do you let down for the greater good of the rest?The other scoring factors in the game also help you to focus and perhaps alter some of your plans along the way. The yearly scoring offers small and incremental scoring, but those points are crucial to winning the game. You have to gain some points along the way especially when the game scores can often be quite tight. And the watchtowers, tourists and roads are all situational based, but they can really give you a chunk of points if you can carefully plan around themI really really love this game. I get a high when i play it all the time. I love having to choose from tiles that you need now versus tiles that you think you can eventually score for big points come end of the game. And this plays fast. So it packs so much fun in such a compact period of time. And did i mention? Those ceramic animals are so damn cute! Give me moar!!Well, that wraps up my top games for 2016!If you were to ask me what i would remember 2016 for, well actually, 2016 to me is going to be memorable for mostly 1 thing, and that is the year that Escape Room Board Games burst into the scene. Like, seriously. We went from having no such games ever, to a release of 6 in the year (3 released in English, 3 released in German only – Exit: The Game series). There was even a kickstarter for one that was supposed to arrive in 2016 ( Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment ) but will now be coming in 2017 onlyAnd from there, i think the rest is history. Unlock! is out now for 2017, and recently won the AS Dor award (a big French award for games). And more games for the Exit: The Game series is scheduled for 2017, and i hope we will also see more Escape Room: The Game expansions by the time the year is over (2 expansions were already released in 2016 as well)I’m actually slightly surprised that no one has brought this up before. Or is it that escape rooms are just not that big or popular with the masses? I’m really thankful that escape room style activities were introduced to the board gaming scene and it really has made my year in many ways. I played some of them with friends, with my cousins, solo, and even with children. It is just very accessible and something that i think can relate to most people in some way shape or formWill i ever get sick of them? Seriously i don’t know haha. Maybe eventually, but right now, i am gobbling them up as they come. And they are really burning a serious hole in my pocketsAnyway, that’s all for 2016!If you have anything to share or ask, or if you agree or disagree with the selection of games, do leave me a note in the comments!Jon

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  1. moneyPn

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