Friday, 5 December 2014

The 15 best new games (to me) of 2014

It's that time of year again, time for all the look back posts and all the wishlists. All the holidays, feasts and parties. All the gaming!

This is one of those look back posts. Here I'm going to list the best new games I played this year. Note these are games that are new to me. They may not have been released this year but I played them for the first time this year.

Lastly: these are in the order I discovered them through the year, not ranked by how good I think the games are.

Trajan - I'm cheating just a bit with this one. Technically I played it on New Years Eve 2013 as part of my annual Gaming In The New Year party. That's close enough for me and if I remember correctly the game may not have ended until after the ball dropped.

2014 was the year I discovered how much I love Stefan Feld. I picked up no fewer than four other games by him this year. Of them all though Trajan remains my favourite.

Like most Feld games it's a point salad. This one has a cool Roman theme and uses a very unique mancala based action selection system that I really dig. There are so many paths to victory and so far I've yet to find 'one true way'

Thunderstone Advance Numenera - I received the Thunderstone Advance Starter set during the holidays and really enjoyed it. I had heard that Thunderstone was an amazing deck builder and after playing; I agree. It has a very cool RPG feel where you collect your heroes, get gear and allies and then delve into the dungeon to kill some monsters in order to get points and xp to level up your heroes.

The problem with the starter set is that it didn't come with enough variety. I did some research and found out that the Numenera set was the most recent core set and had some really cool new rules.

Those new rules are what keeps this on the list at the end of the year.

Space Cadets Dice Duel - I really wanted to love Space Cadets. I love the concept: playing a Star Trek style bridge crew where each player is at a different station and trying to do their best to keep the ship in one piece and complete their mission. It sounds awesome. It should have been awesome, but it just wasn't. It's a solid game but just not great. It's very long, hard to teach, and very unforgiving.

Space Cadets Dice Duel on the other hand is awesome. It's even more awesome as it's a team game. It gives me everything I had initially wanted from Space Cadets and makes it faster, easier to teach and I have to say: more fun.

Takenoko - this was a birthday gift from my oldest daughter, but that's not the only reason I really like this game. Besides having some of the cutest game pieces ever made, Takenoko is also a great game.

It looks a bit like a kids game and yes I can play it with my kids but there's more than enough here for adults to love.

This one has also been very popular at local WGR gaming events. The look of the game just draws people in and the strategy keep people coming back for more. I can't remember the last event I didn't see at least one game played.

Suburbia - I picked this one up at 401 games in Toronoto and immediately after looking at it my wife questioned my sanity. She went on to ask me what the heck I had bought and why I picked that game out off all the choices at 401.

Though it doesn't look like much and probably has the most boring art out of all the games I own, Suburbia is a fantastic game. A contender for the top 10 games I own.

It's a very tight, highly strategic, thinker that keeps calling me back for more. I love the way this game makes me think. I love the sense of accomplishment when you pull off a big combo. If you've avoided it for some reason, you really should give it a try.

Marvel Dice Masters Avengers Vs. X-Men - I was lucky to get a starter set of these highly sought after dice before they became almost impossible to find and I'm glad I did.

I hadn't gotten bit by a collectible game since Magic the Gathering, but Dice Masters bit hard. One of my most fond memories of the game so far is opening all the dice packs, in a gravity feed, at a local coffee shop.

There's a reason this one was hard to find, it's a fantastic game. Dice Masters takes what was started in Quarriors! and improves it in many ways. With the low entry cost (as long as you get the starter's that are actually in print) I highly suggest everyone give this one a shot. You may love it as much as I do.

Tokaido - the most peaceful zen game I own. So relaxing and enjoyable. A stroll through the park of a game. Until that #@#$%@! took my spot! Did you see that! That @#$%. That's it I'm totally going farming for cash, even though I don't need it, just so that 2$^@$ can't eat at the next stop! Like that shopping boy? How's starving?!?

Tokaido is awesome. The most zen pretense for a game ever. All you do is walk down the Tokaido, see things and meet people and try to have the most rewarding experience. Then it changes. Once people grok the game it becomes one of the most backstabby games out there and is a ton of fun because of it.

Tokaido was also recently featured on Wil Wheaton's Tablet Top.

Russian Railroads - I would have had no interest in this one if it wasn't for the variety of gaming podcasts I listen to. I started to hear that this was one of the best worker placement games out there and one of the best engine builders (no pun intended) ever made. I love both of those things so had to check it out. I was not disappointed.

It's now 6 months later and Russian Railroads is still my favourite worker placement game. I love the way things escalate in this game. How 5 points matters so much at the beginning and then you are scoring 280 points the last round. I find you really fell like you have built something by the end. 

Castles of Mad King Ludwig - I first got to try this at Origins 2014. I even listed it as one of the best games of Origins. This one finally came out to the public only a couple weeks ago and I jumped at the chance to buy it.

The final release copy is just as good as the copy I played at Origins. While similar to Suburbia, I currently like this one more (we'll see if that stands the test of time, the game is still pretty new to me). The theme is cooler than Suburbia and I love the way the economy works with the Master Builder,not only setting the prices on the rooms you build, but also being the person that collects the money from the other players instead of the bank.

Star Realms - this was another one that I first got to try at Origins 2014. Our demo game was so good that I bought a deck before the demo ended. I'm glad I did too, as this one went out of print by the end of the con and was going for dumb prices online.

I did up a review back in July and you can check it out for more info if you want. You probably don't need to though. If you like deck builders you should like this game. It's my current favourite and has been since July. I don't see that changing any time soon. While I type this review I'm actually playing a game of Star Realms right now. The free app/PC version is just as good as the card version and if you pay to unlock it you can play other players online. Come get me, username: gilvanblight

Fleet - this was another one I learned about on a podcast. On that show it was said that Fleet was "The most tight card game we've ever played. It's pretty much perfect." It doesn't get much more positive than that.

You know what though? That podcast was pretty much right. Fleet is an amazingly tight game. So well balanced. Quick to teach, difficult to masters. No one path to victory. It's a near perfect game, even if the theme is a bit, uninteresting. 

Caverna - I like Agricola, I really do. I don't love it though. You know what I don't like? The cards. I hate how random they can make the game. I've had games where after the initial hand of cards is dealt, I've been able to predict who would win. Accurately.

Know what would be cool? A game that's as good as Agricola, with a similar feel, that didn't have that randomness. Know what would be even more cool? If you made it about Dwarves, and you had ways for those Dwarves to not only farm but go on adventures and level up? Wouldn't that be awesome?

That's Caverna.

Blood Bowl Team Manager - This one definitely isn't new. I think it's the oldest game on my list. Why did it take me so long to try this great game?

I thought it was a LCG. One of those sorta collectible card games where you build your deck and play out a 2 player battle and where, in many cases, the player who bought the most stuff wins.

That is totally not this game. Blood Bowl Team Manager is fantastic. You pick your team, you put out the highlight real and then play your players onto each match up trying to win upgrades, star players and fans. After the season the team with the most fans wins. It's fantastic and really feels like the classic miniature game.

Camel Up - this odd game won the 2014 Speil Des Jahres. That, by itself, should be enough to make most board game fans interested. It was enough for me.

Camel Up is a fascinating, very quick, race betting game. The neat bit here is that the camels stack up, each one moves once per round and if a camel moves the camels on top move with it. As the camel move you can bet on which will have the lead after each leg and you can place bets on first and last place at the end of the race.

Very cool looking bits, with fun graphics makes this one looks simpler than it is. It's ridiculously fun and it's very cheap for what you get.

Mars Attacks - I haven't been into a miniature game in years. The last time I was playing one semi-regularly was Warhammer Fantasy Battle, I think 5th edition. Maybe even 4th.

Mars Attacks changed that. I love this game! A copy was donated by Mantic for our Extra Life 24 Gaming Event, It hooked me then and I've been hooked since. I'm currently waiting for my flaming cow minis to show up.

This is a fantastically quick miniature game with great scenery and very cool minis. What makes it for me is the brilliant gridded movement and combat system. I will never play a miniature game that needs a measuring tape again.

So that's it. These were the top 15 new games I tried in 2014. 

What did you try new this year that you loved?


  1. A great list, and I can't believe that I have actually played a lot of these, and actually own a couple!

    Ok, I've only played six, but considering most of these lists, I've played at most one or two, that's not too bad.

    I love Blood Bowl: Team Manager. I wish I could play it with a group rather than just my wife, because I'd love to play 3-4 players. My wife doesn't go to game nights with me, so when I play with her, it's just 2-players.

    1. There were so many awesome games that came out this year (plus all the stuff like Team Manager that I finally got around to trying).

      Blood Bowl really is great four player. If you are in the Windsor area, come out to one of our events and I'll happily play. I just picked up the first expansion and I'm looking forward to trying out the Undead teams.