New Year, Old Year: 2015 Revisited
Day Five: Left Over!
What I Got Right!
Would it be too presumptuous to say everything? If so, I guess I’ll toss a couple bones down to the bottom of the heap, just to appease the grumpy geese.
First of all, each and every party game on this list was an absolute wonder, and I love them like my own child. Not really, but close. Okay, not all that close, but adjacently. Spyfall proudly bears the distinction of getting the smartest person in my extended family to stammer adorably while he contemplated which questions to ask, which is quite the feat. A Fake Artist Goes to New York is as wicked-smart as it is cute, and possibly the greatest fun-per-cubic-centimeter I’ve ever seen. And Codenames was the first game I played in 2017, which isn’t even a little surprising. It’s that excellent.
The others are a little trickier. A few people have abandoned ship on XCOM after the initial honeymoon period, but I still think it does wonderful things with its app, and I’d love to play its brand-new expansion sometime soon. Sure, it needed more variety, but it managed to impress and stress out one of my graduate student friends who’s walked through distant streets during a revolution, so that seems pretty neat.
Three of these games are still among my all-time favorites. Blood Rage is very nearly the Platonic ideal of what a violent dudes-killing-dudes game can be. Forbidden Stars is an outright tragedy since the Fantasy Flight split with Games Workshop means we’ll never see more factions added to its colorful roster, but at least we have this single burning point in the firmament to remind us just how rad it is to have space battles and land battles and technology and base management and everything else this game folded together into a single coherent whole. Best of them all, of course, is Pax Pamir. Not only did it get a truly excellent expansion this year called Khyber Knives, but I also managed to convince its designer, Cole Wehrle, into verbally dominating me with his knowledge of game design and historical stuff. 2015 was an amazing year for cardboard and cards.
What I Got Wrong!
Everything down here is nitpicking, pure and simple. Colt Express might not have held up as the most thrilling game of all time, but it’s still perfectly good as an introduction to programmed movement. Above and Below is still as delightful as ever, though the shortness of its playbook did unfortunately mean that certain scenarios started to become familiar, the death-knell of any game that relies on telling tales. And while Cthulhu Wars was big brash fun, it was also stupid fun, and far too simple for my tastes. Slamming one of the elder gods onto the table so hard that it shook was pure adolescent delight. If only pulling off a victory felt as satisfying.
And that’s it! Every game from Best Week 2015, evaluated down to their barest naked core. Some have stuck around, others have waned. So it goes.