This list consists of my 10 favorite games I’ve played this year. This is not a list of games that came out in 2015. It might be called a list of my favorite games of all-time in the past year.
There is a mix of games here, and even a kid’s game or two. The two main criteria for making the list are as follows:
- Is this game well thought out, supplies variances in subsequent plays, and does my mind keep going back to the mechanics and strategy of the game while I sit in my cube at work? Does the theme ring my bell/push my button/cut carrots for my same stew (™ SGreenwell)?
- Did I have a damn good time playing this thing?
Links to purchase these games on Amazon have been provided which sends a kickback to the whole YPB gang at no extra cost to you.
#10: 7 Wonders
30 minutes | 2-7 players, 8 with expansion | age 10+
7 Wonders is a tableu building game where you play as a single civilization trying to amass the most victory points. It is played over three “ages” and has an interesting mechanic where you only directly interact with players on your immediate left or right.
This game is a favorite of mine because it is able to handle a large amount of players and have little-to-no downtime. Every player plays their turn at the same time.
#9: Puerto Rico
90-150 minutes | 2-5 players | age 12+
For a few years this has been my #1 game. This was my gateway game. It was the one that really pulled me into the hobby. I played Catan and a few other before this one, but after I tried this I became a collector. After all this time a few hot new games on the block have pushed this down, but I had to keep room for it.
In Puerto Rico you are a Colonial Governor from your “motherland” that is abusing the land and people of the New World. The goal of the game, like any classic Euro, is Victory Points. Each player has their own settlement play-mat in front of them with room to plant crops and build a few buildings.
Each round the players take turns selecting a role for the round. For example, one role is Builder and you get a discount for building on that round. You earn victory points by shipping New World goods back to you homeland.
This game also has the #1 rank in my list of best games about European colonialism and exploitation.
#8: Lords of Waterdeep
60-120 minutes | 2-5 players, 6 with expansion | age 12+
Lords of Waterdeep is a Dungeon and Dragons-themed game, but is really a euro-style worker placement game in disguise. The heavy D&D theme applied to an abstract euro base really hits my sweet spot.
Each player controls a guild or group in the city of Waterdeep where you place your minions on different building to performs actions in an effort to complete quest cards and earn victory points. This is the perfect….Ameritrash-Euro….Euro-trash game that checks all my boxes.
40-60 minutes | 2-5 players | age 10+
Ahh the majesty of being a merchant and pushing your wheelbarrow all over the streets of Istanbul! Sounds like a dream vacation….or possibly a Euro-style game with resource cubes. In Istanbul you are a merchant travelling around the city to different districts trying to be the first player to acquire five rubies. You can only travel one or two spaces and must have an assistant with you to perform these tasks.
What I like about this game is the variety in setups that are possible because the city districts are tiles that can be placed differently every time. The quality of the game pieces is also quite high.
#6: Sheriff of Nottingham
60 minutes | 3-5 players | age 13+
M’lords and m’ladies may I present to you a humble game about simple tradesmen, just trying to get his completely legal goods to market? There is most assuredly no contraband in mine trading bags! In Sheriff of Nottingham you are a goods trader trying to get your wares to market. You put them in your pouch and can also slip in illegal goods such as crossbows, mead, and spices.
Each turn the role of Sheriff goes around the table. The Sheriff is able to inspect the goods that the merchant has declared are in the bag and will levy a fine on the merchant if any contraband is found. If all goods are legal and as declared by the merchant, the Sheriff must pay the merchant the value of their good for wasting their time. They may also opt to let them pass, unmolested.
A game of bribes, trading, bluffing, and sneakery, and a hell of a lot of fun.
#5: Arkham Horror
2-4 hours | 1-8 players | age 12+
Fiddly is how I like my games. I also like them simple enough a 5 year Todd Jr. is able to join in. But mainly I like them complex enough that I need to print out crib sheets for all the players and have to refer back to the rule book on every single turn because of some new question that comes up about what can and can’t be done on a turn.
Arkham Horror fills that niche. It’s a cooperative pseudo RPG where you play as an investigator in H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional New England town of Arkham where you are tasked to prevent an Ancient Old One, or some other Elder God, from coming into the world and laying havoc.
I have found this game very polarizing with the people I play with due to the turn downtime and fiddlyness, and has become difficult to get onto the table. People now seem to prefer Eldritch Horror to Arkham. I do not blame them. Eldritch is a more streamlined version of Arkham, but it feels less alive. In Eldritch you are jet-setting all over the world chasing down clues and closing portals while in Arkham you are doing the same with just one city (or two/three suburbs with expansions) and you get close and personal with it.
#4: Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
60-120 minutes (per case) | 1-any number of players, recommend 3 | age 10+
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a French mystery game from 1981. It has recently taken off in popularity in the English reprint this past year. In this game you play as a detective, or group of detectives trying to solve crimes, mainly murders, under strange circumstances.
You analyze the evidence provided and consult contacts via your London directory to try to solve the crime and present a solution. Your results and the number of steps you took to get there is compared against what Holmes himself would have done. It is the most abstract game on this list because there’s not many pieces provided and nothing such as “turn order” exists. You get a map of London, a directory, a case file (that contains dialogue for when you interrogate people), and newspapers containing information that could possibly help you out.
Grab your brandy snifter and and help these rich London widows find out who murdered their husbands! (Hint: It’s not the widow because that’s too obvious)
#3: Camel Up
20-30 minutes | 2-8 players | age 8+
The core of this game is simple: There are different colored camels racing around the track and you are betting on which will win each leg and the overall race. The magic comes in with added elements of the camels stacking up on each other, other bettors placing oases or mirages on the track, and a neat pyramid dice roller.
When the camels land on a space of another camel it will ride on top of it. The next time the camel on the bottom moves it takes all camels it’s carrying along for the ride. There’s a bit of strategy needed in this random race in placing your desert tiles and grabbing the betting chits for the current leg.
Great game for kids and for drinking.
#2: Love Letter
20 minutes | 2-4 players | age 10+
Fighting over the affection of a Princess has never been more enjoyable than in this game.
Love Letter is the quickest and simplest game to pick up on this list. It consists of a deck of 16 cards with different abilities that you use on other players or to protect yourself. Each player holds one card in their hand. On their turn they draw a card from the deck and choose between that card or the card in their hand to play. The objective is to be last man standing to win a token of affection from the Princess. The first player to four tokens successfully delivers their love letter to the princess (AKA wins the game).
There are multiple versions of this game available which are simply a retheme of the original Japanese game. A quick search right now shows The Hobbit, Batman, Adventure Time, the original version for the western world, and the one that I got: Kanai Factory Limited Edition.
This game has hit the table more than any other in 2015. At less than $10 it is by far the best enjoyment:dollar ratio game I’ve ever bought. It’s a quick filler game that we can jump into immediately while waiting on other people to come for the meatier games. Or just as a break between the meat.
#1: Betrayal at House on the Hill
60 minutes | 3-6 players | age 12+
Imagine any classic horror movie trope and it’s in this game. In Betrayal at House on the Hill you and 5 of your associates enter into a dynamically built tile-based mansion to play out events and discover mysterious omens as you explore the house.
At some point during your exploration of the house The Haunt starts and the second phase of the game begins. One person in the house will become The Traitor and the rest become Heroes against the traitor. The game comes with 50 different haunts, each based on some horror movie or book plot. As an example one of the haunts I’ve played changes the Traitor into The Mummy who must capture his lost love reborn in this generation, while the heroes must rescue her and escape the house.
The rules are not all that tight in this game and questions always come up on how to proceed in different scenarios. All recommendations I read online is to just come to a decision as a group to keep the game flowing. This game is complex enough and simple enough to put on the table many times this past year.
These great games hit the table a lot but didn’t make the top 10 cut.
- Cash n Guns
- Colt Express
- DC Comics Deck Builder
- Dead of Winter
- Dice Masters
- Eldritch Horror
- The Resistance