Top 10 games I played for the 1st time in 2016

We’re almost at the end, folks! 2016 is coming to a close. It’s been one of my most interesting years, for sure. I’ve met so many new folks in the board-gaming world, and I myself have gone through a lot of personal and professional changes. I’m glad to move on to bigger and better things in the upcoming year, and to leave behind 2016, aka “celebrity killer” year (I’m still super bummed about David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Carrie Fisher — and hopefully nobody else). So without further ado, I’m counting down the best games that I played for the first time this year.

10. Happy Salmon

I love, love this game. It’s so freakin’ adorable, and it’s super easy to teach! It’s my favorite party game to show people, and it never fails to bring about chaos and laughter. I was lucky to be in The Game Boy Geek’s video review of this game, and I squeed when I saw the ginormous fish at BGG Con this year. I also introduced this game to friends in Los Angeles, and they eventually took it to a UCLA game for some tailgating fun. Most recently, I showed countless relatives this game during my Christmas vacation. This game is a riot!

Despite its semi-clunky name (in my opinion), Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a great social-deduction game.

9. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong

This game is my favorite deduction-style party game. It has elements of Codenames and Mysterium rolled into one. A murder has taken place, and the Forensic Scientist — who knows who the murderer is and which items were used in the murder — is trying to help other investigators solve the murder without speaking. He instead is leaving clues on scene tiles. There are a couple other roles you can throw into the mix such as the Witness and the Accomplice. The Accomplice helps deflect the group so the Murderer doesn’t get caught. The Witness knows which items were used, but he or she can’t be too obvious in steering the conversation, because the Murderer and Accomplice can kill the Witness at the end and win.

Scythe, probably one of the most-hyped games of 2016, delivers on that hype. It’s a great game.

8. Scythe

I saw so much hype about this game on Kickstarter, and I initially thought it was just a dudes-on-the-map game, which I’m not too keen on. But one game of Scythe totally made me a believer in all the hype. The game has great components, and each civilization has its own unique powers and starting resources. The game operates more like an engine builder than an area control, and players are trying to upgrade their actions to become more efficient while gathering resources. Lastly, the post-World War artwork is great.

Orleans is quickly becoming a game-night favorite!

7. Orleans

I bought my copy of Orleans way back in February with some game winnings from Strategicon. This game quickly became a favorite at Game Night among my core gamer friends. I like the bag-building aspect of it, which is a new mechanic that I’ve encountered this year in a worker-placement type of board game.  Also, despite it being 18 rounds, the game goes by pretty quickly. I also recently purchased the Orleans: Invasion at BGG Con, and I’m super excited to get that on table.

The board for Gallerist looks busy but once you understand all the iconography, there’s really four main action spaces on the board you can take.

6. Gallerist

The Gallerist is so thinky and the board looks really busy, but there are just four main action spaces on the board (granted each action space has two actions you can choose from). You are the owner of an art gallery and you’re trying to promote an artist, buy and sell artwork, and build your gallery reputation. As your artist gets more famous, you can sell his artwork for a big profit, and use that money to gain victory points and achieve end-game goals. I liked the mechanic of getting kicked off of a location so that you can take an extra action.

After 11 hours, turquoise ended up winning 1st, purple in 2nd and beige in 3rd.

5. Mega Civilization

Oh, Mega Civ. How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways …. and I’ll get back to you in 11 hours. Because this is exactly how long it took for me to play this game when I attended Strategicon in May. I had a printout of the super-thick rulebook, which I spent the previous week going over, but it still didn’t prepare me for how involved this game is. Note that I didn’t say complicated, because it really isn’t. A lot of this game is about avoiding catastrophes and collecting sets of cards to advance in technology so that you can expand your civilization and gain victory points. This game is seriously epic; it can accommodate up to 18 people and scales well with smaller amounts, too. I can’t wait to play this game again in 2017. Now if I can find 12-18 people who would be willing to give up an entire day to game …

Leaving Earth has no board, just cards that you lay out in a specific location.

4. Leaving Earth

This game my friend @idontknowrules randomly found, and I cannot say enough great things about this game. What’s even amazing is that this game isn’t even from a board-game company, but a company that sells puzzles, sewing tools and felt kits. (Check them out here.) Leaving Earth is about planning and managing risk, and building your rockets to go into space and completing objectives. There’s no game board — cards are laid out on the table, and everything fits nicely into a box the size of a book. I also love the artwork; it has the retro look of the Space Race from the 1950s.

Magicians and their people can take actions in the theater, which is where you get the fame to win the game.

3. Trickerion: Legends of Illusion

It took me 11 months to play this game from the time I bought it, and I’m still so bummed it took me so long to play it! It’s a heavy euro-style worker-placement game, with elements of simultaneous action selection and a little bit of tile laying. Players are magicians trying to gather resources to perform the best tricks (cue the “Illusions, Michael” joke from Arrested Development)  to gain prestige. I especially liked that the game came with four player guides. Players can then plan their strategy without having to pass around the one chart that most other games would normally provide to show the different types of tricks. Lastly, I love the Victorian art and theme. It’s like Prestige the board game, but way, way better than the film.

There are many paths to victory in Great Western Trail. Unfortunately, I have yet to discover them. Great game though!

2. Great Western Trail

I first played this game at this year’s BGG Con, and I immediately fell in love with it. You are a cattle rancher trying to herd your stock from Texas to Kansas City, moving along the “Great Western Trail.” This game was designed by Alexander Pfister, the same guy who designed Mombasa, which is another Top 9 favorite of mine.  There’s a lot going on in this game — deck management, tile placement, building, train movement and employing workers. It’s a heavy game, and there seems to be a lot of different ways to victory. It’s crunchy and I love building my buildings in the way of others, who then have to pay to get past it. (As my friend puts it: You’re such a troll).

The actions you can take in The Colonists are determined on which spaces you can reach within 3 movement spaces.

1. The Colonists

Lastly, my favorite new game that I played this year was The Colonists. This very much feels like an Uwe Rosenberg game!! And Uwe is my favorite game designer. This game is your standard euro worker-placement game, but the super fascinating mechanic about this game is that your three actions are limited to where you’re located on the board. Your mayor pawn is on the main board, and you can only take actions at locations that you can reach within you turn. Plus, if somebody is on that action space, you have to pay that player. The goal of the game is to build buildings, gather resources and ensure that people you hired are gainfully employed. I like how cards are phased in with each round, and there are different levels and scenarios you can play with. I definitely want to get a copy of this game when it comes out in the U.S.

And with that, 2016 comes to a close. Happy New Year, and here’s to even more gaming in 2017!

Happy New Year, folks! Hope you catch a big one in 2017!
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