Top Board Games 2016
Welcome to our second "Top" article of 2016. I've asked contributors and friends to submit lists of their favorite tabletop games played or released this year. Thank you to everyone who contributed!
Emily is a teacher in Georgia who enjoys video games and tabletop gaming. She participated in Geekundspiel's Extra Life Game Day.
Although I have always been fond of board games, it wasn’t until this past year that my journey into the depths of the board game world truly began. I have been introduced to so many new games and genres of games that it was hard to compile a “Best Of” list, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
Best Board Games of 2016
10. Smash Up
If you would have asked me 6 months ago if I thought this game would be on my “Best Games of 2016” list, I would have replied with a hesitant no. I was not the biggest fan of this game at first, and now I have no idea why that was. I have grown to absolutely love the ridiculous nature of this game—I mean, where else can you play as a team of the undead and giant bears?!
9. The Grizzled
A game that is inspired by war and all that comes with it, including the emotional and physical consequences on the soldiers involved, seemed at first unlikely to be a favorite. Don’t judge this game by its cover though—this quick game requires strategic planning and at some points can be very serious, but it also can result in comical situations (I once had to be silent for an entire game, unable to help my group at all). This is a great choice for a quick board game fix.
8. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
This game is one that I can pull out when entertaining family or a group a friends, knowing that it will be a sure hit. I have not met a group yet that did not enjoy playing this social-deduction game against villagers and werewolves. Whether you enjoy lying, accusing other’s of lying, or desperately trying to prove that you are not lying (have I mentioned there’s lying in this game?), you are sure to have a blast playing this party game.
7. Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill
I love to play this game when I don’t want to play anything too serious and I just want to let loose for a quick game. The spells you can create are absolutely ridiculous, and this second edition brings fun new battle wizards to the arena. I played this game with a few friends (and strangers) at Dragon Con and had so much fun that I had to buy it for myself.
I was introduced to this game via Wil Wheaton’s TableTop and instantly knew I wanted to play it. Even though this can be a really competitive game, I always feel so at peace playing it. I love how you can choose your own style of play throughout this game and how easy it is to teach to beginners.
5. Betrayal at the House on the Hill
I have always been a horror fan, so when I was introduced to this game I was instantly drawn to it. What I love most about this game is its horror movie-like plot twist that is activated once the dreaded Haunt begins. These plot twists reveal a new traitor every game and can follow a multitude of different horror-filled storylines that makes it feel like a brand new game every time.
This game has been a favorite among our board game group since our first play of it at Dragon Con. It reminds me of the classic Clue game mixed with the beautifully designed DixIt art style. We have so much fun every time we play this game, and I think the Clue-like concept makes it such an easy game for new table top players to jump right in while still offering intriguing gameplay for experienced players to pick up over and over again.
Even though I have a love for zombie/apocalyptic dystopias, I understand it has been overdone in recent media which made me at first skeptical about this zombie-killing game. I am so glad I still decided to try this game though, because it has definitely become one of my favorites. The zombie themes are classic but still interesting enough, and with the traitor mechanic this game keeps me on my toes every time. I recently was gifted the expansion The Long Night and look forward to the new scenarios and mechanics it introduces.
This game was love at first sight. Jacob showed me the art book for this game and I was instantly drawn to the steampunk machines and weapons juxtaposed to the peaceful environments of the Scythe world. Even though this game is competitive and definitely involves some player interaction, your victory is solely up to you and the choices you make along the way, which makes me want to play again and again to improve my own strategy.
1. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Science was never my forte growing up, but that doesn’t stop me from diving in to the plot-twisting, chaotic, and overtly challenging world of Pandemic Legacy. Unlike regular Pandemic, this game changes each “month” (gameplay session) and based on the choices our group makes. Every time we sit down to play there are new obstacles or rewards from our previous session, and opening the boxes makes me as excited as Christmas morning. I have never played a table top game of this nature, but as we continue through our campaign I’m excited to play more.
Anita is a pharmacist in Georgia who plays board games with her husband and friends. She represents the perpetual spouse that is forced to engage in her significant other's hobbies, so her reviews are from the point of view of someone who enjoys playing games, but is not nearly as obsessed. She participated in Geekundspiel's Extra Life Game Day to raise money for her hospital.
10. King of New York
I was a big fan of Yahtzee growing up, so King of Tokyo is naturally one of my favorite modern games. King of New York adds a little complexity to a very simple game, but I enjoy the additions and the location change (being originally from Queens and having been to NYC many times). The new monsters are a lot of fun as well.
The art is very unique and captivating. It's an easy game to learn, but gets fairly complex when you're trying to figure out the most efficient moves to complete the "friend" cards. It reminded me of Lanterns in how mediative it was (if Lanterns wasn't a game I played last year, it would definitely be near the top of this list).
8. 7 Wonders Duel
It's a little complicated at first but I grew to really like this one. It reminds me of a combination of Splendor and Jaipur. There are several ways you and your opponent could win before the game reaches its final round, so it keeps you on your toes.
Smash Up is another one of my favorites. It took me awhile to get a handle on the game, but I began liking it a lot more once I started beating Jacob. I normally don’t like super-competitive games, but I love how Smash Up doesn't take itself too seriously. A lot of past expansions had difficult-to-use factions, or factions that just weren't that impactful, but the new ones in Cease & Desist are much easier to just pick up and play. I really enjoyed the Star Trek and Star Wars inspired ones.
6. Legendary: Captain America 75th Anniversary
While I really enjoy Marvel Legendary, it can get overwhelming with all of the expansions. In the base set, Captain America is a powerful character that draws strength from using a variety of different heroes. This new expansion capitalizes on Cap's versatility and his ability to lead other heroes. It also offers great Cap-centric characters like Falcon (also as Captain America) and the Winter Soldier.
Dixit is another favorite of mine, so I'm naturally drawn to the beautiful Dixit-style cards. Trying to solve the murder mystery alongside your teammates makes for an engaging and entertaining experience. While you're trying to figure out your own mystery, you are commenting on the other player's choices while they comment on yours, leading to a lot of shouts of "No, you're wrong!" and "It's obviously that guy right there!" It's a frustrating but entertaining experience.
I was taught Chess once when I was in high school, and I could see that it would take me a long time to master the game. Onitama is a lot more approachable, and reminds me of a mixture between Chess and Checkers. I enjoy the design of the board and pieces, and I like the variety of moves that change from game to game. Unlike Chess, it also plays in a few minutes.
3. Takenoko: Chibis
Takenoko is one of my favorites: It’s fun, easy, and adorable. The Chibis expansion is a welcome addition with its new tiles, lady panda, and baby pandas. Chibis also adds a lot more complexity and difficulty with new harder-to-complete goals that have very specific requirements.
2. T.I.M.E. Stories
I played this before Pandemic: Legacy, and it was the first continuous story-driven game I had ever played. This style of game, where you have characters trying to complete a storyline that can change depending on your choices, has become a favorite of mine. There's so much happening and so much to see that you can't possibly experience everything in one play-through, let alone win the game in only one round.
1. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
What's NOT to like about it? Being a pharmacist, any game that lets me play as a medical professional will most likely be a win for me. The original Pandemic is probably my favorite game for obvious reasons. I like how the Legacy game offers a continuing story with evolving infections and significant changes that persist from game to game. I also enjoy the variety of traits and abilities offered between the characters, all of whom you can name or create important relationships for.
Shawn is a physical therapist living in Georgia who enjoys soccer, video games, and tabletop games. He participated in Geekundspiel's Extra Life Game Day.
Now, I don’t have quite the caliber of board gaming history as some of the other contributors to this site, but I’m continuing to explore this medium of entertainment. Before I jump into what makes my “Best of 2016” list, allow me to list the 18 games that I played for the first time in 2016.
So without further ado, here are my top 3 games played in 2016.
Top 3 Board Games First Played in 2016
3. The Grizzled (2015)
The Grizzled is a cooperative card game for up to five players about surviving during the Great War. Ultimately, the game is composed of short rounds where players try to play all the cards from their hand without playing three identical threats that would spell defeat for the soldiers. There are fun game mechanics designed to make each round unique, and some really fun rules such as making a player mute which adds to the complexity considering how much communication is key. This is one of those games that you will be frustrated with and laughing at the same time, and it is fairly quick, meaning it is a great warm up for diving into a full afternoon of gaming.
2. Mysterium (2015)
It’s the 1920s, a special group of clairvoyants have been summoned to a house in Scotland by one of their peers, Mr. MacDowell. The task at hand? Use clues provided from a spirit residing in the house to uncover the truths about a murder that took place there. One player takes control of the ghost and communicates only by handing out cards with abstract pictures on them to help the clairvoyants identify the clues of who, where, and what weapon was used for this murder. To add more player interaction, players can bet whether other players are right or wrong, which will help them in the last round of the game.
The only true way to appreciate the game’s difficulty is by playing as both the ghost and a clairvoyant. The ghost only has a hand of seven cards that sometimes seem to have no relevance to the persons, places, or things they are trying to identify, but the ghost must try to aid the clairvoyants without confusing them in order to finish in the allotted number of rounds. The game is incredibly fun, breeds discussions (as well as arguments), and challenges all the players to think a little differently. This is a great game for people who obsess over board games and those who don’t (yet) alike. I’ve been incredibly frustrated when I think the ghost is doing a bad job, only to realize I missed something so obvious that it’s shameful. Words cannot do this game justice, but simply put, it’s a sure-fire hit for newbies and seasoned game veterans alike.
1. Scythe (2016)
Ars Technica reviewed Scythe back in July with an article titled “Scythe review: The most-hyped board game of 2016 delivers.” Scythe is one of those games you didn’t know you were missing until you play it. Outrageously gorgeous artwork, elegant figures, and unique gameplay mechanics make this arguably my favorite game of all time, let alone 2016. I will say the first game you play, or teach someone to play, is played at a much slower pace than normal, and this is no short game to begin with. Everyone who I have played it with, however, has wanted to play a second game immediately following the first. It really sinks its teeth into you and once you start to understand it you want to put your own strategical twist on it.
Every game is different, and my group typically randomizes what faction and what player mat we use, which means you may not know exactly how you want to approach the game until you are already a few turns in. It’s a little bit tough to explain, but if you can convince someone to play, be ready to play nonstop!
Jeff is a frequent contributor to Geekundspiel and an avid gamer who lives in New York. He has previously reviewed several games and participated in Geekundspiel's Extra Life Game Day.
Hello! I play a lot of board games… a lot. I think my friends are planning an intervention. This is a list of my favorite games that have been released in 2016. Many of the games I’ve played this year have been released before 2016 so I can’t add them to this list. I may make a list later on showing all of them.
Star Wars Rebellion
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Designer: Corey Konieczka
For those looking to relive the original Star Wars movie, this is an amazing game. For those looking for a more balanced experience (me) this is not going to be the greatest game. This game is dripping with theme as the Rebels struggle to survive as the Empire tightens its hold on the galaxy. I personally hate this game, but I can see how this game can be a lot of fun, it just rubbed me the wrong way. This game deserves an honorable mention because it is thematic and can be fun for the right people.
Designers: Roberto Fraga, Yohan Lemonnier
Captain Sonar is a game where there are two teams of players controlling submarines trying to sink the other. Think of it as team Battleship. Where this game differs from Battleship is that it can be played in real time. The submarines play a game of cat and mouse as they move around the map trying to destroy each other. This is best played in real time. The only reason why this is not in my Top Five is because of the amount of players needed to play. This is a 2-8 player game, but you need an even number and at least 6 players to fully utilize the real time mode.
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Designer: Nikki Valens
Mansions of Madness is a game taking place in the same Cthulhu mythos as Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror. Mansions of Madness takes place in a single location, and uses an app to control the game. The app is where you perform combat, and reveal secrets as your characters explore the building. Unfortunately I’ve only been able to play it once, but I hope to get it back to the table very soon.
Top 5 Board Games of 2016
5. Mystic Vale
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Designer: John Clair
Mystic Vale is a competitive deck building style game where you don’t add cards to your deck, but add abilities to your existing cards through the “Card Crafting System”. What makes this a unique “Card building” game is the Push-Your-Luck mechanic where you can play cards until you decide to stop or spoil where you pass your turn. Even though the theme is very much pasted on compared to the others on this list, this is a very fun game, and will only get better as expansions are released.
4. Mechs vs. Minions
Publisher: Riot Games
Designers: Chris Cantrell, Rick Ernst, Stone Librande, Prashant Saraswat, Nathan Tiras
Mechs vs. Minions is a fully cooperative game based on League of Legends, which also happens to be by Riot Games. In this game players draft cards to program their Mechs, and try to complete missions before the minions overwhelm them. Each mission is relatively quick, and you can play multiple missions in a game night. This is a beautiful game, and definitely worth taking a look at.
Publisher: Cool Mini or Not
Designer: Eric Lang
Bloodborne is a game in which up to five players work together to work through a dungeon filled with horrific monstrosities. The catch is that you want to be the most successful hunter, so if you “accidentally” kill one of your compatriots then so be it. The game is based on the popular PS4 game of the same name, and it may not be for everyone.
Publisher: Cool Mini or Not
Designer: Eric Lang
The Others is a game that pits a team of players against a single player. The team of players controls a member of F.A.I.T.H. where they must complete missions while the single player controls an aspect of the seven sins. The game is tense, and can come down to a dice roll. So far I have lost all the games I’ve played as the Sins player, but I absolutely love it. If you want to learn more about the game please check out my review here.
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
Scythe is a 4X game in which you compete against other players to claim the most territory in an alternate history World War 1. I was first introduced to this game at Dice Tower Con 2016, and I absolutely loved it. Each time I’ve played has been different. It is a long and epic game. An expansion introducing two new factions has just been released, and I can’t wait to try them out.
Jacob is the creator of Geekundspiel and writes about games, movies, comics, and books.
This is a list of the games I enjoyed the most and played for the first time in 2016. There might be some older titles on there, but hey, if I played it for the first time then it was new to me.
Games First Played in 2016:
These are the games I played for the first time in 2016 that did not make my top 10 or honorable mentions. By no means does that mean I didn't like them (although there are a few here I ended up not liking). Because these are games I played for the first time this year, you won't see titles for some past games I reviewed, like Lanterns or Specter Ops.
Expansions First Played in 2016
I didn't bother rating these this year, but all the expansions I played are pretty fantastic. Stand-out ones include the two Smash Up expansions (Cease & Desist and It's Your Fault), Scythe: Invaders From Afar, The Grizzled: At Your Orders, Legendary: Civil War, and Takenoko: Chibis.
These are games that didn't make it into my Top 10, but were in consideration. Some of these were very difficult to cut from the list.
Top 10 Games First Played in 2016
10. Ultimate Werewolf: Deluxe Edition (2014)
Social deduction games are probably one of my favorite genres of board games. There's nothing like having a secret role and trying to convince others that you are (or are not) on their side. While I've previously played Resistance: Avalon and One Night Ultimate Werewolf to exhaustion, 2016 marked the first year I was able to participate in a 20+ person game of Ultimate Werewolf. At Dice Tower Con V, Jeff and I jumped in to some rooms to play two rounds, not getting back until about 3am, and it was without a doubt one of the most stressful, frustrating, and fun things I had ever done.
9. Dreamwell (2016)
This game with beautiful art by Tara McPherson really surprised me. It's certainly not the most complex of games, but its simple play and alternate variant modes keeps bringing me back to it. It reminds me of one of my past favorites, Takenoko, but with a creepier edge.
8. Codenames (2015)
The party game hit of 2015 and 2016. I finally got around to playing Codenames at Dragon Con, and I can easily see its appeal. This is a fantastically challenging game with a lot of chances for humorous interactions and clever deduction. It can be played with a smaller group, but it's at its best with more players.
7. Star Wars: Rebellion (2016)
Due to this game's size and length, I have not gotten to play this game more than a handful of times. I have no doubt that If I had played it more, it would be higher on this list. But as it stands, Star Wars :Rebellion lived up to all of the hype it received on release, and here's hoping that I'll get to break out the giant board and hundreds of miniatures more often in 2017.
6. T.I.M.E. Stories (2015)
Along with Pandemic Legacy, this game was one of the top hits from 2015, and it's easy to see why. I've played the base game several times and have two expansions, but have yet to try them out. The truth is that my group has yet to beat the first encounter after several plays, so it has the downside of being a bit repetitive and unforgiving. That being said, it's a delightful little mystery in a box with a fun dice-rolling mechanic, great art, and a choose-your-own-adventure aesthetic that keeps me wanting me.
5. 7 Wonders Duel (2015)
I got to play this game almost randomly at Dragon Con, and I knew from the time the game ended that I had found something special. This is one of the most perfect 2-players games I have ever played, and it has enough variety to keep players interested for quite some time. Expect a full Geekundspiel review in the coming months.
4. The Grizzled (2015)
This game has been a hit with almost everyone I've played it with. It's a cooperative card game that's easy to learn but difficult to win, and fits in easily between larger games. The expansion At Your Orders! improves upon it and adds a different solo and two-player variant.
3. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (2015)
By the time this posts, I'll only be a quarter way through this game, but every single round brings something exciting. Pandemic was already one of my favorite games, and adding a "legacy" component (where the board, cards, and pieces are permanently altered, added, or destroyed while it's being played) was the perfect way to take this game to the next level. I have some of those "worried nerves" I get like when I'm watching an exciting but intricate TV series for the first time, where I'm dying to keep going because you want to know what happens next, but at the same time I put it off because I'm nervous about what happens next.
2. Mysterium (2015)
I can't believe it took me so long to play this game. This is one of the coolest games I've played in a long time, and each game is different due to the change in cards and players. Of all the games on this list, this is probably the best choice for a family game.
1. Scythe (2016)
As much as I love Mysterium and cooperative games in general, there are few games I've played that have given me the sense of fun, strategy, and satisfaction as Scythe. Every time we break it out, we know it's going to be a great time. I've sunk a lot of time and energy (and money) into this game, and I can safely say that it's paid me back several times over in sheer enjoyment.
What were your favorites from the past year? Let us know your thoughts here or on Facebook. We can't wait to play some new titles and old favorites in 2017! Have a great year!