Best Week 2015, Overlooked!
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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
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.
#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.
#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?