As Paddy said in his last post, 2015 was a banner year for gaming for us. Both our collections grew hugely, and the breadth and diversity of games we played and people we played them with was both joyous and refreshing. It says a lot about the selection available and the quality of games being produced that there are no matching games on either of our lists.
(Oh and again this is games played in 2015, not released. So swallow that smart comment mister.)
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Like Paddy, this year I got my first real hit of social games. A few years back one of our actor friends had us play Werewolf while over at a party. I don’t remember much of it beyond another of our friends vehemently screaming “I’m a f%$*ing villager!” and none of us believing him (spoiler: he actually was a villager). I played Resistance and Avalon this year and thought they were… fine. Generally it seemed to boil down to yelling at each other, which I guess can be fun but I’d rather laugh with my friends than argue with them (usually).
When I got One Night Ultimate Werewolf (ONUW to us cool kids) as a gift for Christmas I was excited but slightly wary – I had had it on my wishlist for a while but worried it would become another screaming fest. Thankfully I was completely wrong. In the short time I’ve had it I’ve played easily over 50 games and with a wide range of people.
Typically in a game of ONUW you have two Werewolves, and everyone else is a Villager who’s trying to spot and kill the Werewolf through the deadly weapon of pointing (pew pew). Roles are dealt out randomly so you don’t know who is who. Unlike Resistance, which mostly comes down to who can shout the loudest, ONUW has a selection of various roles that hugely change the game. Some, like the Seer, provide guaranteed knowledge by allowing you to look at another player’s role card. Others, like the Drunk, just add a little extra fun by swapping your Drunk card with an unused role card in the middle of the table and leaving you with no idea who you are.
It’s become my go to game now for those people who don’t really play board games or are a little shy in social games. It also has an app that makes the whole thing a lot easier and a lot of fun. Do yourself a favour and buy it. Right now. Or right after you read the rest of my post at least.
Dead of Winter
I have a love/hate relationship with zombies. I’m a big fan zombie films, and religiously watch The Walking Dead and read the comics, but I also hate how they’ve become the go to “big bad” in a lot of media, or worse yet a bumbling flesh-eating joke.
When I heard that Dead of Winter was about working together to survive during a zombie apocalypse rather than simply blasting as many undead brains as possible I was intrigued. The possibility of there being a traitor amongst the group gave me evil little tingles. And when I saw the game played on Wil Wheton’s Tabletop I was sold. This game was what zombie fiction should be – the zombies were just set dressing, the real horror of an apocalyptic event would be how quickly we’d turn on each other and lose our own humanity.
Dead of Winter is not a game for a relaxing evening. It demands you set aside a few hours and brace yourself for an onslaught of crisis after crisis as you and your crew desperately scramble through the wreckage of society for food, medicine, and fuel just to stay alive. You’ll find yourself rushing out to help a friend on a food run only for both of you to be overrun by an undead horde; or sacrificing Sparky the Stunt Dog to save the helpless survivors at the colony; or even coming across a poor lost soul looking for help only for your group to begin gleefully chanting “Let’s eat people! Let’s eat people! Let’s eat people!”
That really happened.
I’ve always enjoyed the idea of alchemy. Magically transforming the nature of something just seemed fun, and the possibility of royally screwing up added a dash of danger. I once played a character called Cinders in a D&D campaign who was an alchemist. You can probably guess from his name how most experiments went.
I would have been interested in Alchemists simply because of the theme and with it being essentially a worker placement game. The inclusion of an app as a key component really intrigued me and I knew it was something I wanted to play.
You are, shockingly, an alchemist. You spend your day searching for ingredients, selling your wares, publishing research, and experimenting on helpless interns. The app allows you to select two ingredients and see what potion you can make. Gaining mastery of these and deducing the nature of the ingredients on a sudoku like sheet is at the core of Alchemists. And the nature of the app means that there are hundreds of different combinations!
Don’t worry though, I’m sure you’ll find the right… solution.
(That’s a chemistry joke FYI)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I’ll be honest, I considered writing this whole section in sonnet form. After a few ghastly failed attempts I quickly abandoned the idea. I’m no poet and I’d rather not butcher The Bard’s words and be strung up by my wife. The fact that I even tried speaks volumes – let the intention of my failed prose be reason enough for you to invest in Love Letter.
Originally a Japanese game, Love Letter sees you taking on the role of a would-be suitor to a beautiful and glamorous princess (or, y’know, The Joker if you bought the Batman version like me). Your aim is to try to deliver your love letter (see what they did?) to the person closest to the princess. You’re dealt out a single card with values ranging from 1 to 8 representing anything from a lowly Guard, to a middling Baron, to the prized Princess herself. On your turn you draw a card and play a card, with each role allowing (or forcing) you to take a specific action. Once all the cards are gone or all players are eliminated the player with the highest card wins.
This is a beautifully simple game (I explained all the mechanics in a single paragraph for feck sake!) and the quick pace of it means that
- Player elimination really isn’t a big deal
- New players can grasp it very quickly (or make mistakes and not have to worry)
- You can play multiple games in a very very short space of time.
- It’s suitable for the tiny humans in your life
Seriously, if we have a “quick game” of Love Letter we usually end up playing about 10 games in a row.
Buy it, love it, write a sonnet about it and email it to me so I can pass it off as my own.
My final favourite game of 2015 was originally published almost 40 years ago. Don’t say we’re not on the cutting edge here at The Crafty Players!
Cosmic Encounter was originally released in 1977. It’s gone through a few rules tweaks and gotten a new coat of paint but the fact that it’s still around today and still so highly regarded says it all really. It comes in a nice meaty box but it’s actually quite svelte when you get it onto the table. Each player is given five planets to start with and you win if you control five planets outside of your own solar system. The mechanics of claiming a planet boil down to highest number wins, with ships, cards, alliances, and Negotiation cards rounding out the experience. Simple right?
Cosmic Encounter comes with a whopping 50 different alien races straight out of the box, and each of these races breaks the game in its own special way. The Tricksters for example reduce combat to essentially a coin flip; the Parasites can force themselves into alliances, and the Pacifists can win with a Negotiation card. It’s just a beautiful way to ensure a huge amount of replayability in the game.
Cosmic Encounter makes my list for the simple reason that it is a game built to create stories, and the different races pour gasoline on this already blazing inferno.
(It also helps that I played a game as the Tricksters and essentially conquered the universe with a single ship.)
So there you go, my top 5 of 2015. One of our friends pointed out that at the start of the year I had flagged ONUW, Alchemists, and Dead of Winter as games to play this year and lo and behold they end up being some of my favourites! Now to ear mark a few more games and see if my wallet can cope with the strain…
Join us on Monday when Paddy will give you his Top 5 Beers of 2015!