Awards for a 5th straight year. That's basically a tradition now.
As per usual, the awards are inconsistent year to year, somethings I just play/do more years than others.
Oh, and reminder that games can win awards even if they were not published this year. If it's new to me, it's new to me.
The "Pass me the lotion, I need some alone time" awardFor best solo game of the year
I added this award last year, and it's steadily growing in importance. I do a lot of solo gaming and have really enjoyed it.
I've played a lot of solo games this year, and a lot of games that were new to me. But I really want to call out three games in particular who stood above the rest. This War of Mine, Anachrony, and Spirit Island.
All three of those games were top notch for me, but the winner goes to the game with the best solo opponent in a euro game I've played.
Anachrony is a beast of a game, a literal and metaphorical heavy weight game. It's worker placement, which is nothing revolutionary in and of itself, but it does worker placement with a neat theme, smooth systems and oodles of replay-ability.
And the solo mode pits you against "THE CHRONOBOT" and AI opponent who is a cheating bastard guaranteed to screw you out of moves and places to place your workers.
I highly recommend this game to anyone who like worker placement, solo or in groups.
2016: Terraforming Mars
The "leading cause of paper cuts this year" award
Collecting, trading, selling cards, building decks, winning tournaments. I've done a bit of that in the past, and Millennium Blades is the board game of that.
The game is thoroughly meta, as you play characters involved in those tournaments and card collecting, and their is real time card buying and trading, as well as collecting extras and building your collections for extra points.
Then, once the trading is done you play through a tournament, where you try to score "ranking points" with your small deck of cards. The game is full of combos and neat things you can do, and it really rewards quick thinking and creativity.
Also, the game has a metric butt load of content. You could play this game many many times without really burning through the options or locking on to an "optimal" approach. It's too haphazard and chaotic for that.
2016: Blood Bowl Team Manager: Foul Play
2015: Smash Up
2014: Android Netrunner
The "The distant future, the year 2000" award
Not really a new idea as such, but one that seems to be gaining a lot of momentum, and that is solo support apps for games.
Asmodee/FFG seem to have clicked to how big the solo gaming community is, due to their descent app, and have created one for Imperial Assault.
There are a lot of games out there that could benefit from solo apps, and its not just dungeon crawlers.
And there is real money to be made by opening your games to an audience that might have passed them by otherwise. The solo boardgamers group lit up with people buying Imperial assault for solo play alone when the app was released.
And I can't imagine that group was the only audience for it.
Apps, and solo apps in particular, keep a game fresh, increase their audience, and still require the physical game to play. Seems like smart business to me.
2016: Tabletop Simulator: Playing boardgames on your PC
2015: XCOM. Mobile app and integrated game play.
The "What shall we do tonight, Pinky" award
The Arkham Horror LCG is a great game in a group that gets in character and can roll with the punches that a brutal game like that brings.
We played through the entire Dunwich campaign and it was an absolute blast with everyone have a unique character and deck, their own role to play and their own contributions to the team.
And the story was excellent, and while i'm a little worried that it won't have high replay value, the story itself was great fun and involved.
That group is looking forward to doing the Carcosa campaign once that is all out.
2016: Star Wars Rebellion
2013: Battlestar Galactica
For best "This is serious mum" game of the year
The "T.I.S.M" award
Serious games aren't about complexity, they are about the content matter. A game that isn't about wizards, heroes and other escapist tropes. But games that make you think a little about the subject matter.
If I had this award last year, it would have gone to Freedom:The Underground railroad. Which is an excellent co-op/solo game with a serious topic that makes people think and reflect on a dark chapter of US history.
But this year, one game in particular made me create this award and got me thinking about mature content in board games and the hobby as art in general.
And that game is This War of Mine
I backed this one on Kickstarter, and despite its delays, it was worth the wait.
This is not a game for children, or people who throw temper tantrums because the game is unfair. If you are "playing to win" or trying to optimize your game, you are missing the point of this one.
It is entirely about the journey, not the destination. It is about having a glimpse at the lives people live inside a siege during a modern war. And in those circumstances, sometimes a bomb just lands on your house and you die.
The game isn't fair, because war isn't fair.
But that is the lesson the game is trying to teach.
I recommend it to anyone who wants to take part in a sad/bittersweet story.
The "Toy soldiers are serious business!" award
There are several reasons for that, but one huge one was that I didn't have to paint a damned thing. Just crack the game open, put it on the table and its done. And it has oodles of neat little sci-fi ships drawing from a lot of different fandoms and sources.
Probably the best time killer game I have, you can just fiddle about mining, raiding, trading, upgrading your ship, taking courier missions and a bunch of other tasks. Good simple fun.
Also, one of the first PC games I ever really got into was Elite, and XIA is pretty much Elite as a boardgame. it's a wonderful sandbox game, where you pick a ship, pick the 2nd star to the left and fly on til morning..... or at least until someone else fires a rocket at you.
And, as an added bonus, the expansion adds in a solo mode which is pretty damned good.
2015: Imperial Assault
The "21st Century Digital Boy" award
Mansions of Madness was a flawed masterpiece of a game. A fantastic experience and enjoyable every time we play it, but a complete pain in the ass to set up and play. The app has completely gotten rid of the Keeper role and the game is now 100% co-operative.
And it is a much better game because of that.
The app builds atmosphere with a narrated introduction and spooky sound effects, as well as randomizing the map and parts of the scenario, and in a way that a human just can't.
Mansions 2 has already been played more than twice as much as I had played Mansions 1, and I really liked mansions 1.
I cannot overstate to people who have only played Mansions 2 how much of a book keeping pain in the ass being the keeper was in Mansions 1.
The "The Computer counts as a friend, right?" award
For best PC adaption of a boardgame this year
With Asmodee digital becoming a thing this year there are bound to be more and more quality boardgame adaptions coming to PC.
But the one that did it for me this year was Lords of Waterdeep, a game I quite like but don't really love and we never really play very often. It's one of those "good, but not great" games that you would never turn down playing, but would be unlikely to recommend first.The PC adaption is great though, no setup time, a lot of the book keeping is taken care of, and the AI isn't too dumb. You can pretty much knock out a game in 20-30 minutes and its perfect for that.
2016: Twilight Struggle
The "Bob Ross" award
It's all incremental improvements and pondering about the game now, with the odd bit of testing. I recently finished doing a massive rewrite of the rulebook and am trying to update all the content to fit the new game.
Current plan is to get some serious testing of version 2.0 done in the new year.
2016: Radlandz - Game design - Terrain and scenery
The "Golden Kriegy" award
A tricky one this year, and this is a bit of a fake out as normally the Golden Kriegy winner wins one of the other categories. But this year was such a solid one for games that I really wanted to give some other games their proper respect before calling out my favorite and winner.
And before we get to that, there are legends in Aotearoa of mystical beasts that live in our rivers and water ways. They are called Taniwha, and growing up I was told that one lived at each bend of the Waikato river which ran through my home city.
I remember going up that river on a raft as a kid and counting each bend and thinking "That's a lot of Taniwha".
Now Taniwha are funny odd sorts, some are vicious loners who don't like people much. Some, like Ngake and Whātaitai, the Taniwha of Wellington harbour are playful scamps, and others like Awarua from Porirua are competitive.
But they are always guardians, spirits that protect the local area from negative influences.
All their stories are part of the rich mythology and culture that makes Aotearoa/New Zealand a unique place to live.
And this year someone made a game about spirits like that and it was amazing.
It's hard, it's deep, but damn its rewarding.
2016: Terraforming Mars
2015: Talathen Sector Star Wars (Combined X-wing, Armada, Imperial Assault)
2014: Age of Rebellion RPG.
2013: Android Netrunner