Stefan’s Games of 2016
This year has been good to games. And not just board games either. We’ve seen a rise in unique gaming experiences across all types of gaming and it’s refreshing to see games that haven’t stagnated it a pool of its own expectations.
So, more that most years, I felt compelled to write up the year’s highlights in gaming. As lowly board game designers we don’t always have the funds to play all the games, but this list shows that you don’t need too many games to have a lifetime of amazing experiences.
San, Ni, Ichi
To ensure journalistic integrity, <pushes glasses up nose> I will say that this makes the list for its sentimentality. We’ve come a long way from the start of 2016 and this little game that could started it all off. I’m still forever grateful to all the people who saw San, Ni, Ichi and gave it a chance. Thank you!
Scythe is a barn burner of a game that asks you to build a barn as quickly as possible before those jerks in water town come and light that barn on fire. By all measures a game this dense should not play as fast as Scythe does. Stonemaire Games once again finds a way to thread the needle trying to give you everything in a tight, efficient package.
This is the game of 2016 for many reasons. Secret Hitler took a tried a true format and changed it just enough to create an even wilder experience. It can feel rough around the edges, but it is definitely a party game worth having.
This year’s Yelling at Friends for Fun Award goes to Captain Sonar! I love a good yell-y game. It’s the kind of thing that you can’t really replicate well over the internet. The team mechanics are interesting yet simple enough to get the ideas across. You feel smart playing it even when you lose. A game like Captain Sonar is why I’ll always be drawn to board games.
I don’t know if you knew this, but I really like Overwatch. It’s brought me back to why I love FPS games. Destiny and The Division are cool, but they don’t feel like FPS games to me. Overwatch somehow figured out how to make everyone feel like they’re a part of a team. Success requires everyone to participate, but does not require you to be good at shooting. The Excellent visual design and diverse character roster will make players think fondly on Overwatch well past 2016.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a video game-ass video game. Placing the campy story aside, you’ll find a game that looks amazing and feels really good to play. It’s open world without being overwhelming and it gives you just enough tools to make you feel clever.
This is a good good game.
I initially put this in the honorable mentions because I haven’t finished it yet, but I wanted to highlight it for a few reasons. For one, I can’t think of another game where just the quality of life changes has made a tremendous impact on my desire to play. I felt this way a little bit with X/Y, but now I wish all Pokemon games worked like Sun/Moon. The new Pokemon designs and island challenges also feel like a refreshing change of pace for a 20 year old franchise (Oh god, I feel old).
Rainbow Six: Siege
HERO BASED SHOOTERS. They’re good. I get why people are into MOBAs now. Character selection feels good and executing a plan with those choices feels even better. This game lives below Overwatch for two reasons: you do have to be good at shooting and you have to have a team to have fun with it. The tension is so real in each game and that it might not be your cup of tea. But if that’s what you like in your FPS mug then have a sip.
I bought this only a week ago so to throw Mini Metro up on this list means a lot. It’s visually stunning in a way I can’t always describe well. The organization and cleanliness of the UI reminds me of why I loved a game like Tetris. I started dreaming about subway lines and the chaos that could ensue! And it’s an incredible mobile game to boot!
Quadropolis is Simple and dense. Its smart mechanics play well. Very challenging but not complex. The game has pretty components. This is a good game.
I’m adding this to the list since we only got it when it was bundled with this year’s expansion. Monikers is a GREAT party game. It takes a game that has been around for a while and curated an extensive set of cards that really show off what makes it fun. Monikers stands on its own thanks to the freshness and surprising nature of the cards they’ve added (And do not think for a second you can get away with removing those super long title cards! They show off why the game works so well. Keep playing with them!).
The Genius/Zero Time Dilemma
Guys… GUYS. Why are you not watching The Genius? The Genius is a South Korean Game show that pits celebrities and high level thinkers together every week to play a game for survival. Think Survivor if they replaced the island for a mysterious mansion and the physical challenges for mind bending social games. So really not like Survivor at all, but kinda. I might have to write an entirely separate article about what’s so interesting about the game design in The Genius, but know that if you love social deduction games you will LOVE The Genius. All hat tips to our Sunbae, Quinns for always putting us onto the good stuff.
For the pedants in the crowd you can swap out The Genius from this list for Zero Time Dilemma. Both have a very similar aesthetic and offer a type of gaming that makes decisions interesting. And not just on a theoretical level either. In Zero Time Dilemma choice is the primary game mechanic, not puzzle solving.
Deciding who lives, who dies adds a level of gravity that doesn’t often exist when answering multiple choice questions. And the reveal of the impact of your choices only adds more to the storytelling. It’s important to always understand choice when designing games, but nothing boils choice down to the core like Zero Time Dilemma.
Games I need to finish but already love so much: Titanfall 2, Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk, Pandemic Legacy
Game that changed lives despite being disappointingly ephemeral: Pokemon Go
Game I probably should’ve put on the list instead of doing that dumb Quadropolis Goof: World’s Fair 1893
Other Nominees in the category of Yelling at Your Friends for Fun Award: Overcooked, Jackbox Party Pack 3
2016 game I’d like to play in 2017: Inside
2015 game I’d like to play in 2017: Undertale
YouTube game series you should be watching: CAR BOYS.
Game worth giving a try on mobile: Super Mario Run
Board game you should be playing if you’re into Overwatch: Cosmic Encounter
Game so good I can’t believe it came out this year: The Witness
Here’s to more good gaming in 2017!
- Stefan Salva Cruz
- December 28, 2016
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