2016 Top 25 25-21 (Brandon Kempf)
It's that time, time to look back at the year 2016 and see what has stood out as the best of the best for me.
Much like the 2017 Top 25, this list will be a living list, as all Top whatever lists should be. Things will change over time, games will rise and games will fall. There are a couple of notables absent from my Top 25 of 2016 and we'll get those out of the way now so you all can pre-judge me. I tried Arkham Horror The Card Game a couple times, and it never managed to stick, so much so that when I went to sell my box, I have no idea where it went. It's somewhere in the house, but I'll be damned if I can find it at the moment. The big one missing that folks will zero in on pretty quickly is Scythe which I have played once, and that was enough for me. It's a fine game, but I think you all are completely insane bumping it up to #7 all time on the BGG List.
So, how I did this. Over the past year or two, I have been trying to be better about rating my games, it gives me a better eye for what I liked when I played it. So, for games published in 2016 according to BGG, I had 28 titles that I rated a 7 or higher. Everything below that, I ignored. Exception to this being the new Agricola, it'll always be a 2007 release to me, I know they changed some things and narrowed the card list, but it is still Agricola. Three games narrowly missed making the Top 25, Planet Defenders, Jorvik & Archaeology The New Expedition. These were also rated as 7s, but I felt I liked the others just a little better so those three are the "Honorable Mentions".
Also, since this is a list of games are no longer the new hotness, I wanted to highlight the number of plays that they have received over time and the last time we played them.
#25 Kodama designed by Daniel Solis
Last Played 11/21/17
I am fully convinced that there is not a designer out there who is more thoughtful in his designs than Daniel Solis, so much so that it kind of saddens me when I don't like something he has designed. That isn't the case here, this wonderful re-implementation of Kigi allows you to organically grow your trees for the Kodama Tree Spirits. The Kodama may want to see worms, or flowers or stars, but that's individual to the player. You see you score the game three times, using a card from your hand to determine your score, timing is important, you have to know when to use a card and which one you need to ignore. Fun, light, beautiful and just strategic enough to make you feel as if the drafting you do really has a lot of importance. Kodama is a wonderful game.
#24 Glux designed by Jakob Andrusch
Last played 3/18/17
Glux is a wonderfully colorful abstract that has the disadvantage of being published by Queen Games, a company that seemingly just takes great delight in churning through games and not supporting them before or after release a lot of the time. To me, it's honestly a surprise when one of their games actually stands out and Glux did for us. In the game each player has buttons of their color with different values between 1-6. In the game you are trying to get your buttons into the rooms on the board to "illuminate" the room the most. Movement is based on that value of the button, so if you have a 4 chip on the board, you can place another chip, 4 spaces away from that chip on your next turn, all in hopes of getting majorities in the rooms you are trying to illuminate. This one got little push and thus was dwarfed in the Abstract category by a game that is coming much later on my list, but Glux is good, really good.
#23 Kerala designed by Kirsten Hiese
Last played 4/28/18
Kerala is a tile placement game where the players are trying to keep their tiles of a same color together on the boards they are building. The bigger the group, chances are the bigger the score, but if you have separate areas of the same color, negative points happen. You gain tiles through drafting, the first player pulls a number of tiles from a bag equal to the number of players and chooses one. They then place it on their growing board adjacent to a space that contains one of their two elephants. Everyone does the same and play continues until all the tiles have been pulled from the bag. Kerala is just a wonderful puzzle each and every game, and the movement of your elephant to facilitate the proper placement of tiles is crucial to doing well.
#22 Fields of Green designed by Vangelis Bagiartakis
Last played 7/8/17
I wanted to like Among the Stars, I really did. But it sat languishing on the shelves for 3 years before I finally sold it off. The space theme is not the best seller among my family or my game group. So when I had a chance to demo games for Stronghold at Geekway to the West last year and saw that this was one of the options, I leaped at it. Now, I didn't get to demo this, I demoed Frogriders & Get The Cheese! over and over instead, but this is the game that I took home with me. A wonderful theme of building a farm using that drafting that made Among the Stars such a hit. I think this added another resource or two to the mix to make it a bit more strategic than Among the Stars as well. It's a game that definitely needs to hit the table again, but even after only playing it one time, it really manages to stand out to me as a wonderful game.
#21 Terraforming Mars designed by Jacob Fryxelius
Last Played 9/20/17
I'm honestly surprised that I have this one in the list, and to top it all off, as high as 21. I think that is partially owed to the fact that I recognize that there is something here, I personally, just have not found that something, but yet, I've had a good enough time in 4 plays. I recognize that there are strategies here, and I see that folks know what they are doing, but to me, this feels almost as top deck-y as one of my least favorite games of 2017, Ethnos, which I lovingly just call, Top Decking: The Game. But enough about that, TFM has some things going on that I like. I enjoy the tile placement, you know the actual terraforming, and I like the management of resources. I just wish that the cards felt right to me, and that the combos showed up. But hey, it's number 21, that's not too shabby.