Best Week 2022! Go Go Gimmick!
“Gimmick” doesn’t need to be a nasty word. When you get right down to it, a gimmick is something done to attract attention. Stretch that definition even the tiniest bit and you get nearly every board game ever made. Since that would result in far too long a list, today we’re examining the year’s games that used singular concepts to draw eyeballs — and won me over in the process.
Welcome, friends, to the first day of Best Week 2022.
Designed by Blaž Gracar. Published by Letibus Games.
Everybody’s done a word search. But have you done a word search that asks you to black out every single space, bounce around a grid via mind-teasing powers, and decipher nonsense words? That’s Blaž Gracar’s LOK in a nutshell. Here the gimmick is LOK’s signature twist on the familiar, producing a word game that’s not all that far removed from your daily crossword or Wordle — visually, anyway — but still morphs page by page into ever-tougher shapes. Publish these in newspapers and you’d delay the death of print.
#5. Twilight Inscription
Designed by James Kniffen. Published by Fantasy Flight Games.
We’re reaching peak saturation of roll-and-write games, or at least I hope we are. Then along comes Twilight Inscription, which inverts the genre’s pocket-sized format by being huge all over again. Played on four boards per player, plus some decks and a faction sheet, Twinscription represents a defiant yelp. It hollers, “Not every game needs to be short!” even as it compresses its six-hour granddaddy to a much briefer duration. It sheds some of its venerable identity in the process, but remains a compelling way to while away a couple of hours with a large group.
Review: Twilight Iconographies
#4. The Adventures of Robin Hood
Designed by Michael Menzel. Published by KOSMOS.
Part storybook, part real-space game, and part advent calendar, The Adventures of Robin Hood merges concepts so smoothly that after only one session it becomes impossible to remember how nutty its description once sounded. On paper, it shouldn’t have worked. Somehow, it plies subtle magic, stringing players from one chapter to the next via cornball cliffhangers and trickles of new ideas. It’s the ultimate breadcrumb game, offering fresh wonders in every glade and around every corner.
Review: Runnin’ Through the Forest
#3. That Time You Killed Me
Designed by Peter C. Hayward. Published by Pandasaurus Games.
Time travel is one of those tropes that board games struggle to represent, probably because board games demand consistent causality in order to function. That Time You Killed Me works by linking three timelines. A seed in the first era becomes a murder bush in the second, then a deadly toppling tree by the third. It’s not unlike the knotted periods of Dark, except the teenage brooding has been replaced with elephants in bowler hats. Above all, it’s a rare game that manages to be funny even while it’s asking players to painstakingly plot one another’s murder.
Review: That Time I Spoiled That Time You Killed Me
#2. All Is Bomb
Designed by Blaž Gracar. Published by Letibus Games.
The second of Gracar’s games on today’s list, All Is Bomb sets itself apart with sheer diminutiveness. Its core experience only requires eighteen cards. Even its host of expansions only add two or three extras apiece. Despite this, it feels many times its size through some combination of gumption, repeated reordering, and the pesky fact that everything is a bomb that keeps exploding before you can properly use it. I’ve been known to riffle through a hand or two while waiting for Geoff to take his turn.
#1. Return to Dark Tower
Designed by Tim Burrell-Saward, Isaac Childres, Noah Cohen, Rob Daviau, Justin D. Jacobson, & Brian Neff. Published by Restoration Games.
On the polar opposite of the size spectrum sits Return to Dark Tower, a loving remake whose core component is a heaping tower of plastic that hisses and screams and flashes lights, requires an app, and, above all, lavishes every quest and dungeon with an uncommon layer of polish. My reluctance to try this thing quickly gave way to borderline obsession. Where most games of heroic adventure swap flavor text for worldbuilding, Return to Dark Tower leverages the best advances of the digital age to offer a world that’s alive enough to be worth saving.
Reader! Which gimmicks won you over this year?
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Posted on December 26, 2022, in Board Game and tagged Best Week!, Board Games, Space-Biff!. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.
While I did play two highly gimmicky games for the first time this year, Reality Shift and Dungeon Drop, neither one of them won me over. I think Reality Shift had the better potential as a magnet based The aMAZEing Labyrinth, but the respawn rules (or rather, the ease of destroying the other vehicles) turned the game into a game with only a midgame, without a real beginning, and then a sudden end. I like more of an arc when I play a game. Dungeon Drop was a gimmick in search of a game. Nice gimmick. They just forgot to pair it with a game.
So the best gimmicky game is the played in hand Revolver Noir which… is a great travel game for busses, plains, and trains.
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