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Barnes on Games- Barnes' Best Game of the Year Awards 2015

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Barnes on Games- Barnes' Best Game of the Year Awards 2015
There Will Be Games

The last best-of you need to read in 2015.

Let's get it done and call it a year. Barnes' Best 2015 is now up at Nohighscores.com.

Now, this year is a little weird because I have TWO best-of features. The other is a Win/Place/Show thing I did for MiniatureMarket.com with my other writers. It's here. I couldn't put my GOTY pick there because MM doesn't stock it, so it's sort of a different top three. But on the Barnes' Best article, you've got not only the "real" winner but also...an additional one.

Overall, it was a good year. Lots of really good stuff, and I haven't even played some of the things I was hoping to get around to like Flick 'em Up, 504, Armada, and so forth. But I still managed to review more games this year than I think I ever have before. And here I am looking at six review copies begging for my attention as we speak. So I'mma keep on rolling with that.

Happy new year y'all!

There Will Be Games
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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Ken B.'s Avatar
Ken B. replied the topic: #218763 31 Dec 2015 18:42
Fuck yes, bro. Nice column. Damn fine year for board games.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #218764 31 Dec 2015 18:43
Good list and I like the format.
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #218769 31 Dec 2015 19:12
Couldn't post what you honestly felt to be the best game of the year because MM doesn't stock it?

Hahaha.....so much for journalistic integrity.
Ken B.'s Avatar
Ken B. replied the topic: #218772 31 Dec 2015 20:24
Also my favorite anecdote about the stock "Barnes lays down the law" photo above--I'm seated two to the left of Barnsey, about to play Cosmic Encounter for the very first time. Ah, memories.
CranBerries's Avatar
CranBerries replied the topic: #218775 31 Dec 2015 21:28

repoman wrote: Couldn't post what you honestly felt to be the best game of the year because MM doesn't stock it?

Hahaha.....so much for journalistic integrity.

The Friday Freak out is tomorrow. Unless you're posting from London.
Black Barney's Avatar
Black Barney replied the topic: #218792 01 Jan 2016 05:50
Who's the oily-haired nerd in the pic?
ThirstyMan's Avatar
ThirstyMan replied the topic: #218793 01 Jan 2016 05:59
Barnes' avatar needs changing anyway. Mark E Smith got implants and now he has a brand new pair of choppers. He looks like a model for a fashion magazine (well maybe not).

6 months of surgery to correct a lifetime of abuse.
Chapel's Avatar
Chapel replied the topic: #218798 01 Jan 2016 09:31
A card game, a coop, and a underdeveloped craptastic plastic...uggg. And I still don't understand the geek draw to loopin louie, my four year old thought it was cool, but he's four! There was a lot of great games this year, but none from Barnes list. I guess Barnes simpatico to my Euroness has faded away in 2015. ;)
DukeofChutney's Avatar
DukeofChutney replied the topic: #218801 01 Jan 2016 09:44
Good list, surprised to see Cthulhu wars so high up, not that i've played it just unexpected.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #218805 01 Jan 2016 10:39
I'm curious to hear your GOTY, Chapel. In the thread Legomancer created, maybe?
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #218807 01 Jan 2016 10:55
Listen. As someone who also contributed to the Loopin' Chewie Hype Machine of 2015, I'm going to shoot straight with you all here, and I doubt Barnes can dispute this. Yes, it a children's game and it's one that's been around for a long while. But here is the honest appeal.

Imagine Loopin Chewie doesn't exist. You've never heard of it nor have you ever even considered putting the words LOOPIN and CHEWIE together. Erase the whole thing from your mind.

Now imagine you work for Hasbro.

Now imagine that you've just put the words LOOPIN and CHEWIE together. It's so ridiculous, but there's simply no way it CAN'T exist now. You just think of it and say, "Of course. Loopin' Chewie."

That, my friends, is a paycheck you can be really damned proud of.

Is it a fun game? Yeah, for what it is, yes. But the appeal isn't the game (unless you have kids, which I then assume it's pure magic), but it's more that it does exist, and the mere thought of it guaranteed that it had to.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #218813 01 Jan 2016 12:59
SCAM should've been 1st or 2nd place. Bollocks.
Hadik's Avatar
Hadik replied the topic: #218826 01 Jan 2016 17:24
Happy to see titles I can obtain/play for a decent price on this list. Though I will need to take your word for it in Cthulu Wars.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #218844 01 Jan 2016 22:38

SuperflyTNT wrote: SCAM should've been 1st or 2nd place. Bollocks.


Out of the games on the list, I have to agree. And I've actually played all of them this year!
moofrank's Avatar
moofrank replied the topic: #218962 04 Jan 2016 07:28
Not an awful list. But....no Kingdom Death. Everything on Barnes' list except for Shadows plays like a game we've all seen before. And this year we got quite a few things that feel oddly fresh. (Cthulhu Wars is awesome, and remarkably well developed.)

Abracawhat and Burgle Bros also would make my list. Possibly adding Dungeon Saga and Dark Moon. (OK. Dark Moon and Dungeon Saga are very familiar. Dungeon Saga actually feels a lot like a multiplayer Space Hulk with a fantasy theme. It is the first game I'd put against Space Hulk for that perfect mix of simplicity and tactical richness.


Abracawhat is a basic Take That damage people with spells game. The twist is that you are playing with Code 777 tiles. It is still as stupid and fluffy as all of the other games, but the one twist suddenly makes it feel like a game.

Burgle Brothers is a dungeon crawl without combat that plays like a board game version of Monaco. It is fairly simple, but with a completel random tile layout that generates really nifty puzzles.

And Kingdom Death. Completely reworks the dungeon crawl by getting rid of the dungeon, and focusing on the boss battle and the campaign system in absolutely terrifying detail. Couple that with completely new game systems, and a fairy tale hell setting that is unique, and you end up with a game which blows everything else out of the water.
Space Ghost's Avatar
Space Ghost replied the topic: #219009 04 Jan 2016 16:33
I have to 2nd Frank -- Kingdom Death gets my game of the year vote. It is so different and interesting. Michael, have you played it yet? I imagine this is the kind of thing that you would really like just because it is so weird.

Other than that, my #2 and #3 pics would be Cthulhu Wars and Shadows of Malice.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #219012 04 Jan 2016 17:20

moofrank wrote: (Cthulhu Wars is awesome, and remarkably well developed.)

Frank has spoken. To paraphrase, "Josh Look and Repoman are wrong."

Burgle Brothers is a dungeon crawl without combat that plays like a board game version of Monaco. It is fairly simple, but with a completel random tile layout that generates really nifty puzzles.


Burgle has me really interested. I just wish I had a money tree in the backyard.
Space Ghost's Avatar
Space Ghost replied the topic: #219017 04 Jan 2016 17:28

SuperflyTNT wrote:

moofrank wrote: (Cthulhu Wars is awesome, and remarkably well developed.)

Frank has spoken. To paraphrase, "Josh Look and Repoman are wrong."


I think that Cthulhu Wars is one of those games you have to play a few times before it starts showing how good it is. Usually, that is expected when the rules are more complex (e.g., Magic Realm or even Mage Knight) -- here it is because you have to see how the asymmetric factions really work together, and some of them can be a little hard to start playing well the first few times.
slumcat's Avatar
slumcat replied the topic: #219028 04 Jan 2016 18:43

Chapel wrote: And I still don't understand the geek draw to loopin louie, my four year old thought it was cool, but he's four!


I don't care how old you are, if you don't like Loopin' Louie, then you just don't like fun.
Ancient_of_MuMu's Avatar
Ancient_of_MuMu replied the topic: #219031 04 Jan 2016 18:56

Space Ghost wrote:

SuperflyTNT wrote:

moofrank wrote: (Cthulhu Wars is awesome, and remarkably well developed.)

Frank has spoken. To paraphrase, "Josh Look and Repoman are wrong."


I think that Cthulhu Wars is one of those games you have to play a few times before it starts showing how good it is. Usually, that is expected when the rules are more complex (e.g., Magic Realm or even Mage Knight) -- here it is because you have to see how the asymmetric factions really work together, and some of them can be a little hard to start playing well the first few times.

I thought the game was merely OK until I played it the first time with players who understood what their factions were trying to achieve, and then it truly shone.
moofrank's Avatar
moofrank replied the topic: #219126 05 Jan 2016 19:51

Ancient_of_MuMu wrote: I thought the game was merely OK until I played it the first time with players who understood what their factions were trying to achieve, and then it truly shone.


Yep. Hastur pretty much is destined to own just about every first game (anyone remember how "unbeatable" Nurgle was in Chaos in the Old World?). What really sold me on Cthulhu Wars is Sandy's article series on strategies for each of the factions which were part of the second Kickstarter.

In fact, my worst fear about that KS is that what is (now) a fairly small, tight (and psychotically overproduced) game will be overburdened with dubious expansion stuff. There is no way all of that can be tested cleanly. Way too many options when you start bolting on all of those expansions.

Kingdom Death is also getting a ton of expansions and options soon. Kingdom Death is a true onion skin of a game. Even after writing that review, I've ventured into a couple more layers which all contain "What....The....Fuck" comments in every play session. The game is surprising and weird and unfair and mean and evil. And it continually surprises me with just how cruel and twisted the entire affair is. We also just got challenge scenarios. Those range from interesting to awe-inspiring and without adding many new bits.
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #219133 05 Jan 2016 21:05
That also describes Pelopennes: THE CARD GAME.

So fucking brutal and horrible and delicious. If only it weren't so damned dry. If it had a post-apoc theme, better cards, and a more interactive design I'd be inclined to call it a masterpiece.