Board Games are currently in a revival. Seemingly more popular than ever. Yet a game still needs to draw people in and often a good gimmick will do this. Be it unnecessary visual flair or props to over elaborate components that are questionable for their practicality.
Sometimes though, gimmicks work and enhance the game playing process. The rules for this list are simple - the game must be released and be considered as good. Given that, here's my Top 10 Gimmicks That Work:
10) High Heavens - High Heavens is a two-player battling game that sees the Greek, Norse and Egyptian Gods duke it out in the heavens, err high above. The production quality of the game is excellent with a neoprene play mat included, but the gimmick here makes the game really standout. Health, armour and other effects are represented by disks that are placed under the miniatures. This means a quick glance at the battle field tells you all you need to know. The gameplay is relatively simple but enjoyable.
9) Mystic Vale - Mystic Vale took deck-building, added transparent sleeves and cards, and created deck crafting. Rather than simply building your deck ala Star Realms, in Mystic Vale you are sliding upgrade cards into the sleeves of existing cards improving their stats or giving them new powers. In any deck builder it is great to finally get to use that card you have been saving for, but here you get to improve the ones you start with.
8) Outfoxed - Outfoxed is an excellent children's game that teaches basic deduction concepts. Only that sounds boring to most kids, so they included a magic bit of plastic that shows whether a certain item of clothing is being worn by the potential theft or not. At the start of the game a card is selected and slid into this plastic voodoo and when you place a clue in the relevant place and slide the door you are told whether the theft is wearing this clue or not.
7) New York Slice - This pizza splitting game not only has pizza shaped pieces, but a pizza box styled box and a takeaway menu styled rule book. Though some of the pizza pieces look more appetising than others the effort is appreciated and works to serve the theme. Each round one player will split the 11 piece pizzas into as many groups as there are players but then they get the last choice, encouraging them to split fairly. As an added bonus anchovy's are worth negative points.
6) Star Trek Panic - I'm not a 'trekkie' by any means but even I know that when the Enterprise goes out on a mission it usually limps back looking like Rocky Balboa mid-fight. In Star Trek Panic, not only do you construct a cardboard enterprise, but you are provided with explosions and damaged sections to slide on it to show the state of the Enterprise as you lark around the universe. The satisfaction you get from returning home with only one half working booster and a bridge that has blown up more times than you have snuck board game shaped boxes into your house, is hard to replicate.
5) Wok on Fire - Wok on Fire is, in my opinion, Sushi Go with a better collecting method. Strong words from a weak, weak man. Don't get me wrong I love card drafting, but Wok on Fire let's you flip cards over like they are in an actual wok! I'll wait while you clean up the exploded pieces of your mind... Now obviously this creates some less strategic and more luck based card play, BUT you get to flip cards over - with a card that has a flipping utensil on it! Good fun, with only overly complex scoring letting the side down a little.
4) Rock, Paper, Wizard - Sometimes I imagine how things might have been created. Were the devs of Rock, Paper, Wizard arguing about whose turn it was to make a brew whilst trying to come up with their new game? Did one of them suggest they sort it out with a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors? Did another casually mention that 'scissors' sort of rhymes with 'wizard'? Almost certainly not, yet somehow we end up with a Rock, Paper, Scissors game set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe!
Each turn players will choose a spell (hand gesture) from available cards and decide who they will point it at with the aim of moving opponents away from the gold while moving themselves nearer the gold. When everyone has decided players point their spell at someone else at the end of the 'Rock, Paper, Wizard' chant and then spells resolve in turn order. Of course by the time you resolve your own spell it could be pointing at someone else and doing something entirely different. An overlooked gem.
3) Potion Explosion - We all knew this was coming right? The marble matching game comes with a marble dispenser that you build from punchboard. Fill in with the eight included marbles of four colours, and try to make potions by causing marbles of the same colour to 'explode'. It's a visual treat that is integral to the game play and well worth a look.
2) Ice Cool - Brain Games hit Ice Cool has a couple of gimmicks. The first being the weighted penguins themselves that can be flicked in such a manner then they curl and jump. I'm reliably informed that after much practice you can actually do these things on purpose too! The other gimmick is the 'box in a box' design of the, um, box.
The gameplay area is made up of cardboard 'rooms' of a school that are all housed in the main box which is also part of the play area too! Often with dexterity games you mark out the bounds yourself but here you get a bigger than imagined play area with no extra shelf space being stolen!
1) Dice Forge - This is a gimmick that has been long thought off and often put off due to practicalities. Though it has been tried before Dice Forge nails the 'dice crafting' element in a satisfying and surprisingly affordable fashion. Yes it does rely on luck more than deck or bag building to some degree, but the game is a lot of fun and very quick to play. Although it looks complex, if anything it's the opposite to the degree that I sometimes wish there was a bit 'more'. However even if there is never any more Dice Forge remains not only a great gimmick but also a brilliant game.