The Best of the Best Board Games of 2013
A number of sites have put together "Best Board Games of 2013"-style posts, so I thought I'd share those, and see if there is any commonality among the lists ... a "best of the best", so to speak.
Since we last surveyed the landscape, a wealth of fine new board games have appeared, catering to every taste and demographic. It doesn't matter whether you (or the folks on your holiday shopping list) favor intricate strategy or casual back-and-forth, or whether you prefer your games flavored with dinosaurs or politics – there's something good available for nearly everyone.
According to SFGate, the best new board games of 2013 include:
- Forbidden Desert – "Keeps everything that was great about its predecessor and bumps it up a notch; it's the 'Godfather Part II' of board games."
- Hanabi – "The year's other great new family game is also a cooperative one, based on a simple but ingenious premise."
- Piñata – "The world needs more casual but rewarding two-player games, and this one fills the bill superbly."
- Cavemen: The Quest for Fire – "As long as you don't mind portraying a prehistoric tribe of hominids subsisting on dinosaur meat, this whimsical card game offers a lovely balance of ease and depth."
- The Three Little Pigs – "The classic fairy tale makes a deft transition into this kid-friendly (if slightly thin) game version."
- The Phantom Society – "This beautifully crafted game is a family-friendly games of logical deduction, a nicely balanced tug-of-war."
- Cube Quest – "What we have here is something like a cross between Stratego and marbles."
- Spin Monkeys – "This is like a kiddy version of RoboRally, with the chaos and silliness quotients increased dramatically."
- Hey Froggy! – "The game requires some careful logic, as you try to maneuver frogs onto piles so that the layout matches the cards in your hand."
- Cinque Terre – "Players cycle through spaces representing the five towns on the Italian coast, racing to pick up different types of produce and drop them where they'll fetch a high price."
- Ghooost! – "It bears the name of Richard Garfield, the auteur behind the phenomenally popular Magic: The Gathering and many other top games."
- That's It! – "This is one of those games that seems like it should feel arbitrary, but turns out to be surprisingly lively fun."
- Spot It! Party – "Evidently the Spot It! phenomenon, purveyed by the San Francisco company Blue Orange games, has been around for a few years, but some of us are just catching up with it."
- Don't Panic! – "This one is as simple as they come, but under the right circumstances it can provide a little entertainment - at least for a while."
- Funny or Die – "It's funny if you have funny friends - but hey, if you have funny friends, you're probably laughing already."
- Dumb Ass – "This is a variant on the Smart Ass series of trivia games, with the retro game board and silly donkey jokes still in place."
- Uchronia – "But soldier on long enough to internalize the rules, and you will wind up playing one of the year's best and most innovative new card games."
- Renaissance Man – "One of the many delights of Renaissance Man is how little it resembles anything else available."
- Suburbia – "Board game enthusiasts and wannabe urban planners alike will love this terrific tile-placement game."
- Asgard's Chosen – "Two genres of strategy games are combined here with improbable success to form a highly enjoyable game themed to ancient Norse legend."
- Global Mogul – "This is one for devotees of strategy games in their purest form."
- Five Points: Gangs of New York – "All this game needs to completely evoke the savagery of 19th century ward politics is Daniel Day-Lewis himself."
- Corporate America – "A lot of wit and imagination went into this puckish satire on our plutocratic - I mean democratic - system of government."
- The Duke – "This rich and handsomely designed two-player game is a cousin to the practice (sometime called fairy chess) of varying the movements of standard chess pieces."
- Balance of Power – "This is a heartbreaker, probably the most gorgeous physical design I've ever seen lavished on a game with almost no playability at all."
Whew! They listed an awful lot of games, and some of them they don't even seem to like all that much. Strange...
Today is a golden age of board games. There are thousands of titles in print with more being released almost every day. After all, board games bring people together to have fun, can be enjoyed over and over again, and teach principles of teamwork, negotiating, math and reading.
Deseret News offers us 7 fantastic board game gift ideas for the holidays:
- Eight-Minute Empire: Legends – "Set in a fantasy world, the game objective is to send your armies out to control the many lands of the world."
- Triassic Terror – "The components of the game are first class, and the big, heavy box is filled with tokens, cards, a giant game board and plastic dinosaurs, including the Utah raptor."
- Relic Runners – "In this game, players are explorers searching temples for treasures that earn victory points."
- The Downfall of Pompeii – "This is a fun game with an interesting 'survival' theme. It has so much variety, it plays well again and again."
- A Distant Plain – "Players represent one of four factions fighting for control of modern-day Afghanistan. The game is brilliantly designed but fairly complex. The complexity adds to the realism, choices and excitement."
- Darkest Night – "A cooperative fantasy adventure game in which an evil necromancer threatens to destroy a mystical kingdom by sewing corruption and raising an undead army."
- Ticket to Ride Nederland – "A new map expansion for the hugely popular Ticket to Ride board game. This time players are building rail lines across the Netherlands by using double-track bridge crossings."
Board games aren't simply enjoying a resurgence right now. They're in a glittering golden age with fabulous releases every single week, the entire hobby evolving and adapting with Borg-like ease.
Moving along, the web site Kotaku has shared their picks for The Best Board Games of 2013, which are:
- Space Cadets: Dice Duel – "Dice Duel might have been the funniest game to come out this year if it actually gave players the time to laugh. Or breathe."
- Archipelago – "It has a whip-smart design that's had every single rough edge taken off. It's incredibly smart, absolutely gorgeous, and the island, tech and troubles reshuffle themselves utterly for a different game every time you play."
- Coup – "A lovely, accessible, razor-sharp game, with a lovely, compact, tiny container. Coup just ticks all the boxes. And then has the boxes exiled for treason."
- Netrunner – "There's so much possibility and joy just in the core set. Whether you want to develop a smash-the-state anarchist, a hacker-murdering sysop, a criminal who controls the corporation itself or a dozen other immensely appealing archetypes, Netrunner might well be the best scene you're not yet involved with."
The board game industry is alive and kicking, and as a result all good genres get proper representation. It seems horror resonates the most with board game companies, because we saw a slew of awesome new games come across our play table.
FearNet, "the premier cable television channel for fans of horror, thriller and suspense entertainment", brings us their list of Best of 2013: Top Five Board Games:
- Eldritch Horror – "Have you ever wanted to play a game where you felt like the world was crumbling all around you? In 'Eldritch Horror'... you can! Inspired by the stories and themes of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos, players of 'Eldritch Horror' take on the role of globe-trotting investigators attempting to unravel the threat of the Ancient Ones."
- Ghooost! – "This super-light board game (that means the rules are easy to learn and there isn't much strategy) is all about spooky family fun! If you've ever wanted to play a quick, crowd-pleaser of a game with a horror tinge... 'Ghooost' is the game for you!"
- A Study In Emerald – "In this wonderfully complex board game from designer Mark Wallace, players take sides in the tenuous struggle for control of 19th century Europe. Seeing as this board game is based on the Neil Gaiman-scribed short story of the same name, we know it's not that cut and dry."
- Rampage – "'Rampage' is all about doing as much destruction as possible. You score points when your monster eats people, you score points when your monster crushes buildings, you score points when... well, when anything devastating happens. Get out your aggression with this fun, rules-light board game!"
- Risk: The Walking Dead – "Life post-apocalypse isn't easy, but if you really want to control that Landfill you've got to fight for it! We love this game for giving 'Risk' the horror spin we've been craving, the fact that it's a 'Walking Dead' license is just icing on the cake!"
Well, I didn't see much commonality in those lists. Perhaps that's to be expected, given the huge number of games that come out each year, and widely-varying tastes and preferences.
The games that caught my eye this year include Forbidden Desert and Archipelago. Of course, there are some other notable games that weren't mentioned, such as Terra Mystica, Flash! The Lightning Fast Game, and Snake Oil.
So you have any personal favorite board games from 2013?
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