Recently we saw Tom Vasel and the crew at Dice Tower conduct their annual Dice Tower Awards. Individuals from across the games industry are asked to decide the best games of 2018. It was indeed an excellent year for board gaming, but how did their choices fare?
Game of the Year, Best Game from a Small Publisher - Root
Leder Games’s Root took the top spot, and it’s easy to see why. The game’s war elements are offset by cute and inoffensive artwork, and the asymmetric playstyles add plenty of replay-ability. This was one that I was lucky enough to back on Kickstarter in late 2017.
The learning curve of understanding all four factions in order to teach the game was definitely very tricky. Once I was ready, however, I ended up having some amazing four-player sessions. The Riverfolk Expansion is also well worth checking out if you’re considering picking Root up. It adds two new factions which require you to approach the game much differently.
Best Artwork - Everdell
The reasons why Everdell is fully deserving of Best Artwork goes beyond its beautiful box art. Much attention-to-detail was placed with the aesthetic quality of the overall game. From the 3D tree stand to the lush card arts by Andrew Bosley and Dann May, this is a game that stands out on the table.
It’s one I haven’t personally played yet, but an 8.0 BGG average score from over 4,000 ratings shows promise. Definitely a worker placement game to consider if you value aesthetic value.
Best Board Game Production - Rising Sun
There was some stiff competition in this category with Everdell and Brass: Birmingham also competing. However, Rising Sun had indeed risen and earned the Best Board Game Production award. Artists Edgar Skomorowski and Adrian Smith opted for a fascinating colour palette for the game’s board and pieces.
CMON proved why the M stands for Mini with some beautiful miniatures in shades of pink and light blue. The game is a pleasure to look at and helps keep players engrossed during its 90-120 minute playtime.
Best Co-operative Game, Most Innovative Game - Chronicles of Crime
Chronicles of Crime is truly a game of the modern age. The game utilises a smartphone app, which you use to scan the game’s components to create scenarios. If this wasn’t enough, you can also purchase VR glasses to place onto your device to immerse yourself.
Best Expansion - Scythe: The Rise of Fenris
The Rise of Fenris is a fascinating addition to the suite of Scythe support from Stonemaier Games. The expansion includes new factions along with an eight-session campaign, adding a legacy element to the game. However, the expansion is modular and can be added to regular non-campaign games of Scythe. This allows for extended replay-ability once the campaign is over. These modules also can potentially convert Scythe to a pure co-operative experience.
It’s amazing seeing the Scythe system being pushed to this extent and still succeeding. Props to Jamey Stegmaier and co-designer Ryan Lopex DeVinaspre for bringing Scythe to the next level.
Best Family Game, Best Reprint - Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar
This was a game I kept a very close eye on during its Kickstarter campaign. Restoration Games had previously seen success adapting Top Race to a modern audience with Downforce. Was Fireball Island too much of a task to take on? Obviously not. The team fixed many of the original game’s issues by changing how movement mechanics work.
The main appeal of the game, of course, is still dropping marbles into the volcano and witnessing chaos unfold. The game succeeds in evoking nostalgia while also being a solidly-made game, and earns two awards this year.
Best Game from a New Designer - The Quacks of Quedlinburg
What a year for Wolfgang Warsch. I’m a huge fan of That’s Pretty Clever and its sequel Twice as Clever, and The Quacks is held to the same standard. The game is an interesting take on push-your luck with a wacky art style and premise. His game, The Tavern in the Deep Valley, will also soon be getting an English printing. He really shows plenty of promise, and I’ll look forward to his games in the future.
Best Party Game - Just One
This one took me by surprise when I first played it. The game requires you to secretly come up with a one-word clue for a word. However, if you write the same clue as someone else, they both get cancelled out. One player can’t see the word and must guess what it is based on everyone’s clues. The game requires creative thinking and is hilarious when someone comes up with a ridiculous clue. Personally I prefer Decrypto, which was also nominated, but both games are excellent party games.
Best Strategy Game - Teotihuacan: City of Gods
This one is as tricky to play as it is to spell. Players use dice as workers to either complete actions or obtain bonuses. The game uses a tower of tiles to represent the pyramid which players work together to complete. The production quality of Teotihuacan is exquisite and the game design feels reminiscent of designs by Vital Lacerda and Uwe Rosenberg.
Competing against Root and Brass: Birmingham, it has managed to establish itself as the Best Strategy Game of 2018.
Best Theming - Detective: A Modern Crime Game
The second crime-themed game to win an award, Detective pushes its theme immersion to incredible levels. Unlike games like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, players are required to search the Internet for clues for their case. The game transcends regular tabletop gaming and becomes an experience like no other.
Ever binged Wikipedia to find information on various things? Detective gives it meaning and context, and is why it deserved Best Theming.
Best Two-Player Game - KeyForge: Call of the Archons
I only started playing KeyForge upon the release of Age of Ascension, however I wish I started sooner. As a Magic: The Gathering player, this game fixes many issues I’ve had with Magic. Decks are relatively balanced, as they are algorithmically generated and cannot be changed out of the box.
The ‘choosing a house’ mechanic is also interesting as it allows players to do actions regardless of their hand quality. Sometimes it’s fun just to see what the name of your new deck is. Hightower, the Rogue of Eaglesbend? It adds to the fun factor of KeyForge for sure. Richard Garfield’s proved that he’s learned from his mistakes of the past.