The 2010's are ending and what a decade its been, especially for gaming! After a lot of thinking, here's what we've decided are the best games of the decade!
At the beginning of the decade, Marvel was still relatively... let us say, niche. Over the last ten years though, the MCU has brought the likes of Iron Man, Dr Strange and Black Panther to a wider audience. (the Hulk has always been popular on account of his appeal as an uncontrollable rage monster). Leading to Marvel films being not just fan-pleasing labours of love but bona-fide blockbusters. In a similar way, board gaming has experienced a resurgence and there. Right at the beginning (ish) of the whole thing was a game that not only introduced the extended Marvel universe but also a mechanic mostly lacking in mainstream gaming: deck building.
Dominion set the tone, for sure. I could have gone with Ascension as a) I love it and b) it showed what could be achieved by a couple of Magic players who were peeved at the TCG money-pit model. However, Legendary not only aced it as a Marvel-themed game, it also managed to combine the modular nature of Dominion and the fighting element of Ascension whilst introducing a semi-co-operative, narrative-based deck builder. It also wasted no time in producing expansions. This pleased Marvel fans and gamers alike by introducing favourite foes and heroes and new mechanics as well. It is a testament to the game’s lasting appeal that expansions are still being produced. Favourite foes and heroes are still being found.
There’s more; Legendary is not just a Marvel thing, baby. There have been Legendary games produced that are based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files, Aliens, Predator, Firefly and so on – the formula is so versatile that even these very different franchises can find a Legendary home. So even if Marvel is not your bag, you can still make your games collection legend – wait for it – dary.
Game of the decade for me would have to be 2015’s The Gallerist. It isn't my favourite game of all. But there is more than just personal preference which should come into play here. The Gallerist is a top 3 game for me, for sure, but it has something else to make it my game of the decade.
So why is it so good? Why would I rate it above all other games released over the past ten years? For a start, it was one of the first games of that kind of weight that I ever played, and even then it felt so reassuringly good. All of the parts seemed to fit together so well. I had no idea what I was doing on that first play, but I knew I wanted to play it again.
On reflection, there are a couple of things which The Gallerist does very well. These are the factors which influence my choice in calling it game of the decade. Firstly, it isn't overwhelming. In order to learn to play - to make the basic mechanics work - there isn't too much to take in. Secondly, the theme and mechanics of The Gallerist are very well integrated, which makes it more comfortable to learn,and the game itself makes sense.
It took that first play to realise that there was a huge void between knowing how to play the game, and knowing how to play it well. I’ve come a long way since that first game...
I had never played a Vital Lacerda game before, but this was the beginning of a long love affair.
What a fantastic smorgasbord of board games these past ten years have provided! The range, quality and depth to the hobby has once again improved ten-fold. Production values have smashed through ceilings. Kickstarter has offered another angle for designs to see daylight. New gaming mechanisms – unheard of back in the noughties – are now the norm.
My pick for game of the decade doesn't have bells and whistles. It doesn't have minis, dazzling colours, nor a bazillion stretch goals. It's beige. It has regular 1-6 pipped dice. It's Castles of Burgundy, and it's a masterpiece of modern Euro-style board games. It may be beige, but it is fierce.
Burgundy doesn’t need to hide sub-standard gameplay behind fluorescence or wacky components. It is my game of the decade because of its tip-top mechanisms shine as bright today as they did back in 2011.
Designed by maestro Stefan Feld, Castles of Burgundy is a classic 'point salad' game. (You score points for doing pretty much everything and anything!) This is fantastic, because there's loads of ways to win. Which is the most efficient? That changes game to game.
There are varying player boards. There's modular set-up, with different tiles out each time across five rounds. It’s impossible to break or 'beat' the game. 2-4 players compete to buy and place tiles into their player board (the French countryside). The earlier you complete sections, the more points you earn. Roll your two dice, and activate them using the numbers. You can mitigate bad rolls, but it costs you. While the dice provide a random output, there's no punishment for rolling low.
Castles of Burgundy might be the king of point salad. In fact, it might be the king of all Euro-style games. It’s the bedrock for a decade of design, the benchmark a founding father. It’s might look bland, but it is, in fact, the jewel in Stefan Feld’s crown.
Picking one game from the last decade is never going to be easy. Some of my all-time favourites like Ticket to Ride, Pandemic and Carcassonne were on the tip of my tongue until I realised they are amazingly too old to qualify. Other games I have loved playing, such as King and Assassins and Star Wars X-Wing, are still not quite the Game of the Decade - a game needs to tick a lot of boxes to gain that accolade.
So I narrowed it down to three games: Colt Express, Splendor and Kingdomino. All are award winning games, but I can only have one game of the decade. So, drumroll please... my game of the decade is Kingdomino. A Spiel des Jahres winner in 2017. It may be one of the lighter games offered here but we all need a good filler or family game on the shelf too.
Why did I choose Kingdomino? Well, let me tell you. Firstly I asked myself if I could only have one of the three games which would it be – the answer was Kingdomino. It plays well at 2, 3 and 4 players so it gives me a lot or replayability. As an entry level game it is simple to teach and has enough thinking and plotting to keep more experienced players entertained too. Different ages can all play, meaning it is a great family game. It is generally quick to play too. The theme is great and components portray the theme perfectly. The box doesn’t take up much room. Oh, and what’s more its RRP is £17.99 which makes it amazing value. In short, Kingdomino is absolutely brilliant!
Betrayal at House on the Hill 2Ed was the most obvious choice for us for game of the decade. It sneaks in being released in 2010 and it wasn't having the most time in the decade that made us choose it. For those who don't know, Betrayal is a game set around haunts - spooky happenings that trigger mid game - that are generated from two books. It's a tile laying, semi-cooperative game for 3-6 players. It's cooperative before the haunt, and semi-coop afterwards. When the haunt triggers, the traitor is decided and they read from the Traitor's Tome which dictates how they win. Everyone else reads the Secrets of Survival. Then all bets are off.
Players go from working together to explore to chasing each other down with knives and whatnot. What's unique about this game is that there are 50 haunts with different triggers. It's always triggered on an Omen being discovered in a specific room, but they give depth and lore as to what and why. Some of them are brutal, dark and sinister, others are more silly or fun. But they're all different. We found these make for lovely memories of the games we played, as we rarely talked about the winning and the losing and more about the things we did!
The game is our game of the decade because it's what got us back into gaming properly. After a good long break from the hobby, it's what really rekindled our love of it! Since then everything has escalated and we've got a decent sized selection of games, but we always end up coming back to Betrayal. Not because it's superior, but it's our nostalgia. Plus, we love a quality semi-cooperative game!
Suburbia, a 1-4 player, tile laying, city-building game originally published in 2012, holds a very special place in my heart.
Originally purchased due to artwork induced nostalgia (it really does recall the old Super Nintendo version of Sim City) Suburbia drew me in with its sense of humour before unveiling a previously unknown world of heavier economic and engine building games.
It starts so simply. Pick a tile, place a tile, adjust Income and Reputation, then score points based upon Population levels.
The city then grows from a simple suburb of just three tiles – Residential, Industrial and Civic – to a megalopolis sprawling in any direction you choose. Both physically and thematically; leafy residential paradise, bustling commercial centre, hellish industrial wasteland; it’s up to you.
Of course, the city must be paid for somehow. And what good is a city with a reputation so poor no-one lives in it? This is where Suburbia truly shines. In the delicate balance of Income and Reputation and their effect on Population. In timing the switch from a focus on one to the other.
The secret lies in tile placement and how each tile interacts with tiles adjacent, tiles in the wider suburb and tiles in other players’ suburbs. In true engine builder style, it’s possible to string together combinations that produce rapid gains in Income, Reputation and Population. However, as the Population grows, Reputation and Income fall - surely one of the most thematically appropriate catch-up mechanisms in board games.
Elegant it may be, however, it’s the stories that come from its wicked sense of humour - Fancy Restaurants next to the Slaughterhouse, the Hotel by the Landfill, an Environmental Protection Office surrounded by Heavy Factories - that make Suburbia a shared experience worth repeating.