Front Page

Content

Board Games

Forums

Site Tools

Submissions

About

You May Also Like...

MT
Matt Thrower
May 24, 2020
I
idamayer
March 11, 2020
MB
Michael Barnes
December 20, 2019
Hot
W
WadeMonnig
December 18, 2019
Hot
MT
Matt Thrower
December 16, 2019
Hot
JL
Josh Look
October 31, 2019
Hot
W
WadeMonnig
February 27, 2019
Hot

Top 5 Family Card Games

Lists & Guides
A
AndrewMcAlpine
January 17, 2019
Hot

Andy's 2018 Game Awards

Lists & Guides
W
WadeMonnig
January 01, 2019
Hot
MB
Michael Barnes
December 31, 2018
Hot
MT
Matt Thrower
December 09, 2018
Hot
R
repoman
December 08, 2018
Hot
SI
san il defanso
December 02, 2018
Hot
W
WadeMonnig
September 03, 2018
Hot
J
Jackwraith
July 31, 2018
Hot
J
Jackwraith
June 26, 2018
Hot

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

Hot
MB Updated
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. 

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.

It’s been a great year for games- and not just because I played and reviewed more this year than I think I ever have before, but because there were a number of really high quality, innovative releases that came both through traditional publishers as well as crowdfunding. My collection has a high turnover rate- I don’t keep games that don’t get played regularly beyond the review period- but this year I found myself constantly struggling with finding space to put new games that I want to keep around for a while.

So of course it’s the last day of the year and it’s time to hand out the Barnes’ Best Awards. This year was pretty tough, and I had something of a dry run with the Win, Place or Show feature I ran over at Miniature Market’s Review Corner. I picked three games there- all three are represented here as well- but I was limited to games that Miniature Market stocks. Which actually cut out my Game of the Year choice. I’m also once again changing the format because I can do that, so that I can make sure that the runners-up get their time to shine. Let’s get right on with it then.

Barnes’ Best Honorable Mentions

These are all great games that I felt deserved at least a curtain call before we hand out the awards and head into 2016.

Broom Service- Like a lot of modern Eurogames, this one made a big splash and then sort of disappeared. It sold out as soon as it came out. It even won the Kennerspiel des Jahres. But it’s quietly shuffled away, out of the limelight. Which is a shame, because this is a charming family game with a toothy edge- and a really cool “brave witch”/”cowardly witch” mechanic driving the action. I still love this game, and I find myself trying to get folks to play it quite a lot. If only my kids were just a little older.

XCOM– It’s kind of been shunted off to the side now, but Eric Lang’s “other” 2015 release was a compelling, innovative game that used an app that everyone worried would be obsolete ten minutes after it was released. This was a cool co-op that tried a few new things…and scared away the old folks. It definitely qualifies for a spot on the list.

Blood Rage– And here is the Eric Lang game that everyone liked. Blood Rage is a stunning piece of design work, demonstrating a level of discipline and restraint rare even in the hybrid sector. It’s more Eurogame than Ameritrash in many ways, but it is just about as bloody and breakneck as any other game out there. A great production rounds out one of the best packages of 2015.

Space Cadets: Away Missions– Dungeoncrawlers were a dime a dozen in 2015, but this is the one that had the most heart and the most fun to offer. The golden age sci-fi setting paired up with a couple of exciting, innovative mechanics made for one of the year’s best examples of the genre.

Argent: The Consortium– Level 99 doesn’t make bad games, I’m convinced. But Argent: The Consortium is the best thing they’ve done to date. This is a heavyweight worker placement game that dares to be openly confrontational, competitive and cutthroat. Rich with detail and narrative, Argent would be the best Harry Potter game of all time…if they had the license.

Evolution– Dom Crapuchettes took a Russian card game design and built a surprisingly narrative, thematic game on it. Evolution is really quite simple, but just like in biology things can get complicated pretty quick. I love how this game effectively creates a different biome with each play. The Flight expansion only made it better.

Magic: The Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers– After much angst over whether or not Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro would support this sort of sideways resurrection of Heroscape, the deliverable was a top-notch mass market game with plenty of fun right out of the box. It of course did leave me wanting more, but this game has nowhere to go but up. If the powers that be will let it.

Risk: Star Wars Edition– 2015 was the year that Star Wars returned, and this $25 mainstream title completely surprised everyone by turning out to be a redevelopment of the old Queen’s Gambit design from the Phantom Menace. But this time, the action is set during the three-layered Battle of Endor that closes out Return of the Jedi. Simple, fun, full of drama and loads of Star Wars love.

Before I get into the “big” awards, I want to hand out a special merit badge for Most Improved. This one goes to Star Wars: Imperial Assault. I did not like the core box when I reviewed it late last year. I didn’t feel like it captured any sense of Star Wars, and I didn’t care for the Descent-derived mechanics. After a great mini-campaign expansion (The Twin Shadows), numerous villain and ally packs, and a new Hoth addition, I’ve come around on it. Not quite 180 degrees, but when my friends ask me to bring it over I don’t cringe. Both the skirmish mode and the campaign have improved greatly with more content

Now, the Barnes’ Best Awards for 2015.

2nd Runner Up

Warhammer Quest Card Game

Warhammer Quest: Adventure Card Game– I’m kind of surprised that this little game beat out some of the above, but pound for pound this is one of the best card games on the market. It blows its competitors out of the water by offering a rich, challenging dungeoneering experience with meaningful cooperation, interesting mechanics and a genuine sense of that old Warhammer Quest atmosphere. I keep coming back to this game- specifically the Delve mode- over and over again and I come away satisfied every time. It’s the game that I wanted the Lord of the Rings LCG and Space Hulk: Death Angel to be. It’s also the game that I wanted Pathfinder to be. Adam and Brady Sadler completely knocked it out of the park on this, and I think with expansions it will be a game we are talking about throughout the next year.

1st Runner Up

shadows

Shadows of Malice

Shadows of Malice- I don’t think any game touched me in 2015 quite the way that Shadows of Malice did. I requested a review copy of this game from one-man-band Jim Felli almost exclusively because it looked so different than anything else from the graphic design to the concepts to the gameplay. And it is very, very different. It’s lean, spare and minimalist but it somehow manages to evoke the same kind of storytelling and engagement that a great D&D campaign or a game of Magic Realm might. It’s a little awkward, a little alien but once you dig into Mr. Felli’s unique vision, an incredible adventure game like no other unfolds. Compared to other, similar designs this game felt like something on the vanguard- daring, risky and challenging.

BARNES’ BEST GAME OF THE YEAR 2015

Cthulhu Wars

Cthulhu Wars- It’s something of a Cinderella story for this $200 gorilla because I never thought I would cover it- let alone own it. But Sandy Petersen and his gang agreed to send me one, and I’m glad that they did because it turned out to be my favorite game of the year. It was also the most surprising game of 2015- it wasn’t bloated or underdeveloped at all like most crowdfunded games. Instead, it was lean and quick, managing to feel both old school and forward thinking at the same time. Of course, the production was just insane, with HUGE plastic figures that managed to pop even my miniatures-jaded eyes. Above all else, Cthulhu Wars provided some of the most fun sessions I had all year and I’ve found myself counting down the days until the next wave of expansions ships- I can’t wait to see how the other Great Old Ones, maps and other features work in this system.

So that’s it folks, everybody go home. Wait…what’s this then…apparently there is another. I’m so sorry, there has been a mix-up. One of the games of 2015 is upset because it did not get a medal. So I’m going to go ahead- on behalf of my children, River and Scarlett- and invite this game up to get the MOST AWESOME GAME OF 2015 Award.

Ladies and Gentlemen, LOOPIN’ CHEWIE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Loopin Chewie

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

Log in to comment

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.