With the time of gift giving very fast approaching (far too fast if you ask me) I thought it would be a good time to look back and see what new games I enjoyed playing the most in 2013.
Note these aren't necessarily games that came out in 2013, they are games that were new to me this year. Also note: these aren't in any specific order. I wouldn't say the first game on the list is better than the last.
Core Worlds as I kept hearing it listed as various podcaster's favourite deck building game. Many of them ranking it well above Ascension which was my favourite deck building game. Note "was" The podcasters were right. This is a great game and is now really the only deck builder I've been playing. I really enjoy it. It reminds me of a mix of Race for the Galaxy and Dominion, which is a really good mix. This seems a lot more strategic and less random than many other deck builders. I've heard, but not yet proven, that it's even better with the expansion.
I got into the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game at the start of 2013. I even wrote up an X-Wing Buyers Guide that has ended up being the most popular post on this entire blog. I still think that this is an awesome game. Besides having the best looking pre-painted miniatures you will find on the market, the game play is excellent. Though I see quite a few people complain about the price, it's still one of the cheapest miniature games to get into. It really does bridge the gap between boardgamers and miniature wargamers. If you haven't tried this one out yet check with your FLGS as demo events and organized play are common.
I picked up Quarriors! with a gift certificate I received for my birthday this year and I've never regretted that choice. Quarriors! takes deck building to a new 3D level. Instead of building a deck you are building a dice bag full of dice representing spells and monsters. The basic game is quick to learn and fun though a bit broken (buy the biggest thing all the time and the first one to get a big monster often wins). There are some advanced rules that really make this game shine though. Plus, what gamer doesn't love dice?
The best big group game I found this year was The Red Dragon Inn. This game is all about the party after the fantasy adventure. What the group does with their loot after they've saved the kingdom and killed the dragon. This is fantasy RPG themed screw your neighbor last player standing card game that is at it's most fun when the players get into character. Now the base game only plays 2-4 players but each stand alone set ads 4 different characters and they can all be combined. Right now with all the sets out there you can play with up to 14 players. This one has proved to be very popular at Windsor Gaming Resource Events.
Wizards of the Coast was going to put out a D&D based Euro-Game. It's not really their niche and I'm not sure if it's their market either. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally got to try Lords of Waterdeep though. I immediately went and bought myself a copy. This is a very light worker placement game with a very solid D&D theme (as long as you can convince the players to say Fighters instead of orange cubes). The core game is easy to explain and is designed in such a way that the final scores are usually very close with no run away winner problem. I personally find the base game a bit light for my taste, but all you have to do is toss in the Skullport expansion and the game goes from good to great.
Primordial Soup is an old one. It's from 1997. I first got to try it at a friends birthday part this year. He noted it was his favourite game and I can see why. You start off this game just playing single celled creatures floating in the soup. At first you have very little you can do besides just flow with the current and eat food cubes. As the game progresses though you buy evolution cards. Maybe you gain mobility being able to go against the current, maybe you grow armor to protect you from other evolving animals, etc. A very unique and rewarding game.
Catan Junior based on some very positive reviews, reviews that were dead on. This is a great game to introduce kids to hobby gaming. It teaches the basics of resource management and trading and planning ahead. It's a simplified version of Catan with a pirate theme. The great part being that it's not overly simplified. It's still actually quite fun to play even as an adult. If you've got a growing little gamer in your life I can't recommend this one enough.
Stronghold Games. Maybe it's due to how often Stephen Buonocore shows up on various podcasts. Space Cadets is a very unique game that attempts to capture the chaos of being a starship bridge crew. Each player takes a different station like Helm, Engineering or Weapons and then has to play a mini game while on a 30 second time limit to get their station ready and hopefully follow the captains orders. The games vary from dice games to dexterity games from puzzles to memory. This one isn't for everyone though, some people really dislike it. Personally I'm a fan. Now I've heard the new Space Cadets Dice Duel is better. I'm going to have to check that one out in 2014
Mastermind Toys. For their grand opening they had 50% off any one item: Qwirkle was the item I chose to buy at that sale. I had recently listened to an interview with the designer and the game sounded solid. Since then Qwirkle has become my favourite abstract game. Pretty much replacing Ingenious for me. I love the simplicity of the rules combined with the rather deep strategy of play. Even better: the rules are simple enough even kids can get this one. Play a set with one thing in common shape or colour: get points based on how many tiles are in the complete set. Get a bonus for completing a set of 6. That's pretty much it.
La Boca was the surprise hit of our Extra Life charity gaming event. It was donated by the awesome people at Z-man Games and gathered a crowd every time it was played. La Boca is an interesting dexterity game that has players teaming up to try to assemble a stack of coloured and oddly shaped blocks to a pattern shown on a card. A timer is started each time and both players get points based on their combined time. The interesting bit is that the card is different from each side and only shows one player's viewpoint. Each pair is timed and the game is played round robin so that you team with every other player twice. The player with the most points at the end wins.
This is another one that we are playing with the kids and they are loving it. In Mice and Mystics you take on the role of medieval fantasy characters who have been turned into mice and despite their diminutive stature must save their kingdom from the evil sorcerer queen. The game is a highly thematic dungeon crawling game reminiscent of classics like Heroquest or Descent. Mice and Mystics is completely co-op though with no Zargon hiding behind his screen. The combination of richly detailed story, amazing components and very thematic mechanics makes this one a must buy for anyone with kids. Added to that the game is actually good enough that there's no reason you have to save it for the kids. I know plenty of adults that love this game.
So there you have it. Eleven of the best games I tried for the first time in 2013. What new games did you get to try out this year? Which would you recommend as great gifts this holiday season?