My Top 10 of 2015
I played 55 different games in 2015. I looked at the list of games I played over the year and I thought I would list the best ones. Criteria is entirely subjective. For the wargames, I tend to like those that have strong narrative and are on a topic I enjoy. For Euros, I prefer heavier games but not always.
I made a top 10 list with 15 items, so the first 5 are Honorable Mention status.
So in no particular order, here are the Honorable Mentions:
Triumph & Tragedy - I like the simplicity of this design and the way the pre-war diplomacy and economic building takes place. I haven't played enough to get a good feel for the military aspects of the game, so it is only an honorable mention. We'll see if it makes the 2016 list.
Fortune & Glory: The Cliffhanger Game - a fun family game with a strong narrative if you like Indiana Jones. I like Indiana Jones.
Unconditional Surrender: Case Blue - While not the full game, I enjoyed this little sampling of the USE game engine. I am very much looking forward to a full campaign game this year.
Twilight Struggle - I played this on Vassal and and we really enjoyed it, so I am giving a nod to the game and the most excellent Vassal module. It's so well done that we have struggled with other Vassal game modules by comparison.
Reds! - Ted Raicer's game on the Russian Civil War. I enjoyed a solo game of this late this year and found that I had a much better understanding of the conflict afterwards. A clever game system.
Now to the list:
At Number 10 is Fairy Tale Gloom. My family is a lover of the original Gloom game and its expansions. However, FT Gloom with the Fairy Tale characters, takes the game play to a new level of enjoyment. The "alternate history" narratives of old fairy tale stories is simply fun to experience.
At Number 9 we have A Distant Plain. This was my first experience with a COIN game and I was hooked almost immediately. I played this twice this past year and came away with a much deeper understanding of the conflict as a result. The COIN system appeals to me and I now own Cuba Libre, Fire in the Lake and soon Liberty or Death.
Coming in at Number 8 is Glen More, a Euro game about Scottish village building. This game uses a clever variable sequence of play determined by player actions. The riskier an action, a player risks sitting out of the game for a bit while his opponents pick simpler options, sometimes repeatedly. It is a very engaging game and hard to determine who is ahead so it avoids the beat up the leader syndrome common in many Euros.
My Number 7 game of 2015 was Quartermaster General. My kids wanted to try this out at Origins so we got it and we have played twice so far. It s a huge hit with the family and some of their friends. All of WW2 in 90 minutes and with a reasonable narrative.
Number 6 is another Euro Robinson Crusoe. RC is a cooperative game with the theme of survival on a desert island. The game is a Euro but it a heavy. The rules are almost as long as A Distant Plain and game play reminds of a coin game as far as having simple mechanics but a lot of interaction between the effects of decisions made. There are dozens of official and fan made scenarios for this game so it will be a fresh experience for many years to come.
Number 5 is another Euro Carson City. This game has a number of Euro mechanics such as worker placement and tile laying and structure building. The game theme is the building of a prarie town. Players have only so many choices each turn and almost all have an affect on the other players. Definitely not one of those games where is is 5 players in a vacuum. Carson City was my favorite Euro game of the year and maybe of all.
Coming in at Number 4 is an older game that only rediscovered and finally played in 2015 Fighting Formations. The system was a little hard for me to grasp at first, but I ended up sticking through and I am glad I did. There is a clever use of initiative and asset use. The game becomes fairly simple after while so I found myself far more worried about what military tactics would be best to silence that pesky infantry gun than about how to make gamey mechanics work in my favor. The system has great appeal to me and I look forward to volume two.
My Number 3 game is another old one and also by Chad Jensen, the design of Fighting Formations. It is Combat Commander. I must have been the last wargamer to get into CC. I am really glad I did. I noticed some similarities between FF and CC but CC gets the nod for being just a bit simpler and easier to get into with less time commitment. Yet the experience is just as rich as FF, just a little different. So impressed I was that I ended up with 3 or 4 of the expansions. This will be a go to game in the future.
My Number 2 game for 2015 was Mark Herman's Churchill. I was able to play twice last year. I enjoyed both game immensely and while it is lighter than many of the other wargames in my collection, I love the narrative and how it addresses the key aspects of the period. I'd rate Mark Herman as arguably the best wargame designer ever and this offering did not disappoint.
And finally, my Number 1 game of 2015 was not a GMT game or a Euro. It was D-Day at Peleliu from Decision Games and John Butterfield. JB is a genius when it comes to solitaire wargames. The D-Day series feature a unique card driven system that provides a very competitive opponent. In the case of Peleliu, I was able to read the rules and set up and play half a game in one long afternoon. So while it is not the most complex game to learn, it gave me headaches trying to dislodge Japanese position after Japanese position. When I finally stopped playing for the day, I realized I had been so absorbed that it was better than a movie or a book on the topic. I hope JB is not done designing game with this system. It is clearly a winner as it was my Number 1 game of 2015.