As another year comes to a close, I am reflecting back on my favorite standout games of 2015. This is not a top 10 list of new games this year, nor my all-time favorite games list. Some of these games were published years ago, but I was just introduced this year. I played lots of great games this year, but these really grabbed my attention and kept it, often for reasons outside the games themselves. Why did these stand out to me? As I share about my standout games of 2015, I hope you will gain some insights into why I am so passionate about gaming and its community.
504 intrigued me when I first started hearing rumors about it earlier in the year. Really, a single box with 504 games within in it? How is that possible? What would it look like? You can’t help but be fascinated by the audacity of this game’s design. After reading about this for a while and pondering what it would be like, I was pleasantly surprised at Gen Con 2015 when Stephen Buonocore offered me a chance to work on this unique project. Being part of the team working on the game manual gave me an insider’s view of the design process, and it was so fascinating. When the box arrived and I finally saw the physical components, I was in awe of the game. I still have only scratched the surface of this game but I am already intrigued with its design elements, the mechanics, and the multi-use components. We will definitely be discussing this game’s design in our upcoming Game Studies course.
I learned about this fun and educational game through Twitter and was instantly intrigued. My wife is a former middle school teacher and I work in higher education, so when we hear of a game that merges strong educational components with a fun and entertaining theme, we want to learn more. The challenge was acquiring a copy since they didn’t have US distribution yet. As I got to know the publishers, I worked out purchasing one of a handful of copies being hand delivered to the US for Gen Con 2015. I am so thankful to the transporters of the game, for what they brought was even better than I had hoped. What a whimsical take on zombies with great educational aspects that disappear into the game play. I have remained in contact with the publisher and assisted with the expansion/stand-alone game, Times Square.
I first played this game while attending ICCM Europe in February. Evenings at the conference are often spent playing tabletop games late into the night. When my friend, Jacob Coon, taught us this game, I was instantly hooked. Back home, Diamonds quickly became a hit with my wife’s family and spawned its own unique running gag that I think I will keep as our own little family secret. Regardless, this has been my go to game this year for introducing others into the larger world of hobby games. If your friends and family know how to play hearts, spades or euchre, then the mechanics of Diamonds are easily recognizable. The shiny gem stones just add to the attraction for new players.
The first edition of Feng Shui has been my go to game for one shot rpg adventuers since it was released in the mid 90s. This new edition is gorgeous, and the minor changes to the game mechanics really make the game even smoother and faster. To be honest, I have never run the campaign world included within the book. Instead, my players over the years have experienced some insane over-the-top heroic action including swashbuckling musketeers, comic book monster hunters, 80s action heroes, pulp masked avengers, anime fantasy heroes, steampunk cowboys, and more! Feng Shui always encourages characters with huge personalities, highly narrative combat, and insane antics which often leave me in tears of laughter by the end of the session. I look forward to Feng Shui 2 increasing the adrenaline while maximizing the fun and laughter with my gaming friends and family.
This classic gem came into our collection as part of a thrift sift find at our local Goodwill. I found the small box tucked away on a shelf and was surprised to see Reiner Knizia’s and John Kovalic’s names on the box. We brought the little box home and fell in love with the games humor and simple play. Gold Digger was also a huge hit during work lunch hour gaming. I let John Kovalic know on Twitter how much we enjoyed the game and he to said stop by at Gen Con to talk to him about the game. My daughters and I got to meet John, learn a little about the history of the game, and walk away with a fun personal piece of art. Memories like these make games truly stand out as special. Each time we play the game we remember our time chatting with John Kovalic.
How I overlooked this game for so many years I will never know, but I am glad I was introduced to it this year. This game quickly has become an addiction as both a board game and an iPad game. This game proves that great strategy games do not need a box full of expensive miniatures to be incredible. The simple design and components fade into the background as you delve into the depth of the strategy and tactics of this game. A special bonus I gained from this game is it gave me a chance to get to know Mike Perna of InnRoads Ministries even better when we both attended the Neuroshima Hex Grudge Match at Gen Con 2015. Fun to play and building stronger friendships, isn’t what games are all about?
My final standout game of 2015 goes to New York 1901. The game play is fun, the theme is strong, and I love the visuals, but that is not why I chose it for this list. Each play of this game will forever evoke fond memories of an incredible road trip to New York City. This amazing and memorable Daddy & Daughters trip celebrated my twin daughters’ sixteenth birthday. A very special time for just the three of us to build memories together. While on the trip, we stopped by the Compleat Strategist in Manhattan where I was hoping to find this specific game. Purchasing New York 1901 in New York City and dinging the box up some as we continued to walk all over Manhattan fills this box of cardboard and plastic with more than just a game, it fills it with memories and emotions. As we build buildings during the game, we visualize the skyscrapers of Manhattan, the streets we walked upon, the sounds, the smells and the emotions. Games merge with memories truly standout in any collection.
What games stood out for you in 2015 and what made them standout? I am curious what makes games special to you.