Best Week 2015, Overlooked!

The SB! award for most overlooked thing of 2015 is... *drumroll* SB!

With so many games releasing each year, it’s inevitable that some of the best will slip through the cracks. Today is about those lost souls, the bright crazy children who dwell at the periphery.

Of course, the danger of not paying all that much attention to the prevailing hotness is that I could be completely wrong about some of these. For all I know, this might as well be a list of the ten most popular games of the year. My only criteria are: one, that the games in question must be superb, and two, that I haven’t heard much about them.

No exceptions. Not even that Winnie-the-Pooh signing autographs at Disneyland. The real Winnie can't write. Just think about that for a minute.

Dudes in bear masks are bad news.

#10. Camp Grizzly

With its fooling-around teens and campy slasher gore, Camp Grizzly was always going to occupy its own sadistic niche. It’s also a hilariously good time, particularly when a couple of your doomed camp counselors decide to get nekkid in the boathouse, thus supernaturally attracting Otis the bear-masked killer to their location.

Like a stain at a murder scene.

The world as it might have looked.

#9. The Golden Ages

The very nature of 4X games (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) is that they take a rather long time to complete. Not so with The Golden Ages. By stripping out everything but the barest essence of each X, it presents the entire sweep of the human experience as a 90-minute exercise in history, transition, and victory points.

I mean, isn't this pretty much an explicit rendition of "What Pirates of the Caribbean should have been"?

It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean, but better than the movies or ride.

#8. Rum & Bones

I know what you’re thinking: how can a game that raised nearly three quarters of a million dollars count as “overlooked”? Well, that’s a good question. Pretty much, Cool Mini Or Not has produced so many high-quality games that we can now slide a “merely” in front of that $730,000. Also, Rum & Bones is ultra slick, skipping straight through the tedious sailing and scurvy of pirate life in order to get straight to the good stuff: boarding enemy ships, swinging from the rigging, and unwittingly attracting a kraken to chow down on both sides.

Little do they know that one of them is a turncoat. Man, this game is so cool.

Hunters comb the area for an Agent.

#7. Specter Ops

Like far too many titles from Plaid Hat Games, Specter Ops has been widely forgotten only a slim half year after its release. This is nothing short of a travesty, because its asymmetrical brand of stealth action is the one game of 2015 that put my heart in my throat. Playing as the Agent and slipping through a cordon of Hunters, each with their own abilities, is scary. Playing as a Hunter and slowly closing the net, only for the Agent to slip through your fingers once again, is galling. Excellent stuff.

Because the, ahem, service was TOO good, monsignor, I assure you.

There have been some mysterious disappearances from our roadside inn.

#6. The Bloody Inn

Since 1831, The Bloody Inn has single-handedly shown that being grisly can make your game more interesting. The mechanics themselves are fun enough, but it’s the fact that you’re murdering and burying the unsuspecting guests at your inn that makes it so wickedly amusing.

More colorful than I pictured it, actually.

Welcome to the CIA.

#5. Homeland: The Game

If this were a “most overlooked games of 2015” list rather than a “best overlooked games of 2015” list, then Homeland would be number one. Just when it seemed like Gale Force Nine could do no wrong, they published this fantastic hidden role game… which was then promptly ignored by pretty much everyone. This only means that pretty much everyone is missing out, because this is one smooth ride. Chiefly, rather than delineating between the usual “Good Guy” and “Traitor,” it also tosses in the opportunist, which is basically a “Bad Guy Who Isn’t a Traitor.” It’s a bold move, muddying the waters and making its game of deduction and stalwart watchfulness tougher than ever.

Someone's brought a horse to a horse, knife, spear, & sword fight.

Two of the three kingdoms face off.

#4. Three Kingdoms Redux

Portraying the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history as a complicated worker placement game was a risky maneuver, but Three Kingdoms Redux pulls it off. Here, one of the most devastating conflicts in human history is about more than just warfare. It’s about court intrigue, changing alliances, strained economics, the burdens of occupation, appeasement of the peasantry, technology, and more.

The inclusion of "memory" is actually incredibly fitting, if you think about it for a bit.

Requires some free memory to install.

#3. RESISTOR_

RESISTOR_ could have been entitled War Games: The Game. By casting its players as a pair of supercomputers hacking each other’s defenses so that the ensuing nuclear war will favor only one side, it transforms itself into a game of cold logic and murderous intent. Swap circuit boards, flip switches, and play your resistors at the best possible moment to send a jolt of movie-hacker energy into the enemy mainframe. It’s like watching the DEFCON count down as entire control rooms full of suits stare in agonizing silence.

Especially this set. I *love* being able to wipe out an enemy player without making a single honest attack.

At the very least, the cards tend to be cooler than in other magic dueling games.

#2. Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn

The hype surrounding Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn raged like a storm during Gen Con. Weeks later, it was all calm skies and foggy memories. This continues to be the best evolution of the Magic: The Gathering formula, but it remains to be seen whether it will thrive or die on the vine.

In part because the entire West, from Denver to Auloma, looks the same. Promise.

My backyard looks exactly like this.

#1. Gold West

There isn’t much to the setting of Gold West, but that’s the last thing on my mind while holding an internal debate over how to spend all the copper, silver, and gold I’ve pulled out of California’s sun-baked hills. This is a points buffet of the best kind, packed with tasty morsels and ways to pull ahead. The end result might strike some as forgettable despite its crisp visuals and simple gameplay, but for me, this is one of the best games of 2015.

That’s all! What stood out to you as the best underrated or overlooked games of 2015?

Posted on December 30, 2015, in Board Game and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. This is the list that keeps on giving. So glad to see Specter Ops get more love.

  2. So why aren’t these in the same order as your respective scores on BGG?

    • Because numeric scores are meaningless.

      The less glib answer is that I just don’t invest all that much thought into what number I assign a game or into the supposedly iron-clad ordering of the items on this list. Sometimes I’ll be in the mood for The Bloody Inn, while in another instance I’ll want to play RESISTOR_. I often see people parsing games in terms of how “This will definitely be in my Top Five of the year!” or something like that, but that’s just not how I think.

    • Dan’s dislike for numeric scores is known by all. Chances are he just doesn’t give a damn.

  1. Pingback: Best Week 2015: The Index | SPACE-BIFF!

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