This year has seen plumbing woes, illness, emergency pet surgery, and the like but! in the words of Mrs. Peacock, I have been determined to enjoy myself and in that spirit I documented all the different board games I played this year and will now bring you the end result. Most of these are ones my son Martin and I played and you’ll read both of our opinions plus those of various other players as they pop up. This list is in order of when I first played it with another person this year and to give you a sense of how much we play, by the end of January we had played the first 22 games on this list at least once (although not always to completion) and some many many many times. This list also does not include solo plays or tinkering to learn the mechanics or just setting it up to look at it or it would be much much longer. Maybe next year.
Let me know your thoughts!
1:Space Marine Adventures – Labyrinth of the Necrons
A Christmas gift for Martin from his uncle Van. Players work cooperatively to maneuver The Emperor’s Finest through cramped hallways while Necrons keep beaming aboard and generally being in their way. Short and simple with lots of replay potential as you mix and match the different marines with their different abilities and special cards.
Martin’s opinion: “it’s fine. I hate the monsters.”
2:Disney Happiest Day – Magic Kingdom
Spinners, balloons, and a board that changes from day to night! Cute and simple searching game where you roam around the park trying to find various rides and locations that match the cards you draw before the clock runs out.
Martin’s opinion: “I like it!”
3:It’s a Small World!
Another simple search game where you’re moving your boat through the titular ride while trying to find figures that match your card. Game should be played with a lazy susan as you’ll often need to see different parts of the board at different times and there are literal walls in the way.
Martin’s opinion: “I just like it.”
4:Elf – Journey From the North Pole
A competitive path building game where players zig-zag Will Ferrell around trying to hit certain locations to earn points while avoiding the locations that will earn other players points. Cute and quick if deceptively cut throat.
Amanda’s opinion: “too messy.”
Martin’s opinion: “don’t skip my turn!”
5:EVO – The Last Gasp of the Dinosaurs
This cute game of moving dinosaurs around, making dino babies, and evolving them is deceptively warm and fuzzy but in reality is cruel and cutthroat. Every turn you roll to see how climate changes which impacts where your dinosaurs can safely live. There’s a mutation auction that lets you try to make your dinos more adaptable but you’ll still look on in horror as other players roll in and eat your dinos or you’re forced to lay an egg in a lethally cold space with no hope for survival.
Martin’s opinion: “it’s just fun”
Part deck-builder, part race, all wholesomeness. Players cycle through their decks, move along three different tracks trying to earn merit badges and score points to have a better summer camp experience than your feckless peers. Pretty cute.
Martin’s opinion: “wait how do you win?”
7:Star Wars Talisman
It’s the Reese’s peanut butter cups of board games! If you like both ingredients, then it’s right up your ally! Outer Rim is still a better game that still keeps a lot of fun Talismanic qualities but this is much simpler and kid/spouse friendly.
Martin’s opinion: “it’s fine. I don’t know what’s fun about it.”
Amanda’s opinion: “there’s more than two girls!”
Rachel’s opinion: “I get to be Rey”
8:Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Early Reading Game
Make simple words or match vowels with the cast of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and earn prizes! The box also comes with cards to play a matching game.
Martin’s opinion: “i wanna play!”
9:Space Station Phoenix
Holy poop this might have just blasted to the top of my very competitive fiddliest game ranking. players are intergalactic… real estate developers who burn through their dwindling reserve of space gems to operate a fleet of ships that gather resources, build space station components, shuttle aliens about, abduct….I mean hire humans, and dismantle their very ships to get more metal to build more real estate to house more aliens and humans all while greedily eyeing the ever shifting diplomacy track to see if you are owed kickbacks.
Martin’s opinion: “it’s good. Is it my turn?”
10:Empires of the North
Chibi Vikings, Celts, and Inuit scrabble for islands in this city builder and resource management game where players take turns building, harvesting, raiding, and setting sail in order to build the cutest and mightiest arctic empire.
Martin’s opinion: “I think it’s fine, Dad.”
11:Disney Villains Clue
It’s Clue with Disney villains! Ursula in the Cave of Wonders with the Magic Mirror! Benoit Blanc would still disapprove.
Amanda’s opinion: “it’s mine and it’s fun and it’s secretive!”
Martin’s opinion: “I just like the game.”
12:Ticket to Ride
Traaaaaaains! Filling up maps with happy train cars trying to complete routes and score points while blocking your friends and loved ones from doing so. Classic game. No complaints.
Eleanor’s opinion: “I just like playing games. It’s all about strategy.”
Robin’s opinion: “”I like it when the cards make sense.”
It’s Pictionary with cubes and pictograms! Desperately search for the combination of images that will get your friends and neighbors to read your mind. We appreciate that while the rules as written call for a competitive game, the creators noted that people might just want to casually all play and guess cooperatively which is the only way I have ever played.
Martin’s opinion: “I’m trying to think, Dad!”
14:The Wizard of Oz Trivia Game
Dear lord I remember more of this movie than I thought.
Amanda’s opinion: “i like it because I get to answer questions!”
15:It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
It’s a race around the board to costume up, collect candy, and avoid rocks before returning to Linus to wrestle with theological disappointment and I guess win?
Martin’s opinion: “I just like games a lot.”
These Jim Henson games are stressful as butt. This one is a cooperative game where you run around the titular labyrinth, drawing cards that all do terrible things to you while you desperately hunt for the one card you need to get into the Goblin City where your battered and bruised heroes have to face yet more harrowing challenges before going up against the Goblin King himself all while racing against the clock before Toby is lost forever.
Martin’s opinion: “I like turning the clock”
A simple tile laying game where you’re creating routes for your dragon (or uh Luigi happy meal toy) to fly around while avoiding colliding into one another or flying off the edge of the map. The last dragon standing is the winner! Very calm and serene game that plays quickly. Often pulled out as a warm up/cool down game.
Martin’s opinion: “if I do that, that would kill me.”
When your kid loves organs and surgery videos, this becomes inevitable.
Martin’s opinion: I like the buzz!
19:The Magic Labyrinth
While this game has a startling absence of Goblin Kings it makes up for it with magnets and hidden walls. Move your pokey apprentices around trying to avoid unseen collisions and collect the various tokens you pull from a mysterious cloth bag before your friends!
Martin’s opinion: “What I’m trapped!”
For a board game based on an app game based on a video game, this worker placement game is pretty clever. Run around collecting resources to either attract more dwellers, hunt for items in the wasteland, build more rooms in your vault, or fight off the many monsters and raiders trying to take over your vault all while trying to earn more happiness so you can become the Overseer and win!
Martin’s opinion: “i like getting happinesses!”
Clever tile laying game of trying to outmaneuver your friends and make pretty patterns of betrayal and deceit. Pretty good!
Martin’s opinion: “this game is called Blokus?”
22:Talisman (fantasy flight version)
Updated version of my childhood favourite with less racist art but significantly less ridiculousness. Not a good game by any stretch but maybe an amazing game. Essentially analog World of Warcraft.
Martin’s opinion: “l wanted to be the troll!”
This cute game of forest critters scrambling around a giant tree collecting the cutest resources to build farms and post offices and attract other forest critters to build up your happy little village
Martin’s options: “i like getting all the berries and stuff to build stuff.”
Classic, simple, brutal, meeples. Everything you need in a game.
Martin’s opinion: “I just like it. Where’s the die?”
A game of 8 bit nostalgia as you build your murder house to attract and mangle meddling heroes. Not a brilliant game but the graphics are very cute and it goes quickly.
Martin’s opinion: “I like fighting the heroes”
Taking all the brutal galactic colonialism and diplomatic knife fighting of Twilight Imperium but distilling it down to a 20 minute game. Wacky. Unbalanced. Completely silly and yet not arbitrary. Compelling and fun. Yes Martin is having his rathtar toy be our third player.
Martin’s opinion: “i just like it.”
Quick and deadly puzzle of moving bugs and trying to trap your opponent’s queen bee. We’re missing a beetle but still making it work.
Martin’s opinion: “it’s good. Let’s play.”
28:Lords of Waterdeep
Shut Up And Sit Down described this game as “aggressively mediocre” which while apt, does not deter me from playing this game. There’s something so satisfying about treating fighters and clerics as disposable resources. Due to a certain someone’s lack of reading skills, we’re foregoing intrigue cards.”
Martin’s opinion: “it’s good. I like it.”
Boom! Splash! A classic for a reason.
Martin’s opinion: “I don’t want to play anymore.”
A cooperative deck-builder where players work together to blast the bad guys while acquiring new spells, allies, and helpful items to cycle through their decks to better blast bad guys before time runs out. Not a full campaign game, the game has seven separate boxes of cards to make the game more and more complex with every game. Pretty good.
Martin’s opinion: “it’s good”
Amanda’s opinion: “fun fun funny fun fun!”
Rachel’s opinion: “I am quite enjoying it”
31:Ticket to Ride Europe
I prefer it to the original although with Martin we ignore fiddly tunnel rules and destination cards and focus on the trains. The pieces are very fun to clack into place and the colours pop delightfully. All in all a fun classic.
Martin’s opinion: “I like it”
32:Star Wars Outer Rim with the Unfinished Business expansion
This game is way longer and busier than it needs to be but I have such a warm spot for it in my heart. It’s essentially Star Wars Talisman (not to be confused with the actual Star Wars Talisman) where you fly around, flipping cards, hunting bounties, delivering sketchy merchandise, collecting gear and crew and better ships, and generally being a galactic nuisance. It’s ridiculous and unnecessary but so much fun.
Martin’s opinion: “I like getting the money”
Big Terraforming Mars energy only it’s a zoo! There’s a lot of upfront complexity with multiple scoring tracks and a wack-load of icons you have to decipher but actual turn by turn gameplay is quick and easy. Build your zoo, put animals in your zoo, send your meeples off on quests to secure partnerships with other zoos and universities, repeat! The end game scoring system might be breaking my brain a little but otherwise, I’m enjoying my initial pokes and playthroughs.
Martin’s opinion: “I like making animals”
34:Tales of the Arabian Nights
I haven’t played this game in far too long. It’s so ridiculous and so fun. A multiplayer choose your own adventure with just enough orientalism to be awkward but not completely unbearable.
Alison’s opinion: this is bananas and I’m loving it!
Jonathan’s opinion: it’s so wonderfully story-centric it’s not gameifying which for me is freeing!
Rachel’s opinion (not playing): oh I like this game!
35:Chutes and Ladders
Calvinism the board game.
Martin’s opinion: “ehhh it’s good.”
Shapes! Colours! Brutal positioning and blocking! (Peppa pig not included)
Martin’s opinion: “meh, it’s good”
So I unabashedly love this game and so when the Kenyon tableting club asked me to run a game for their one shot rpg night, i cheated and modified this legacy campaign board game to fit the bill and it was an absolute success. I essentially acted as a GM and guided the new players through two games and they seemed to really enjoy it. They banned slavery and abstract art! They weaponized wasps and approved novel medical techniques! They bribed each other shamelessly and regularly! Such a great game of voting and politicking. Cannot recommend enough.
“I maked these!” A cute and brutal game of attacking your friends’ organs. Martin has given me cancer, tonsil stones, and love. Pretty good.
Martin’s opinion: “it’s good”
39:Star Wars The Deckbuilding Game
This game is much better than it has any right to be as an obvious IP cash grab and yet! Plays quickly and uses the theme remarkably well. Possibly one of my best recent game purchases.
Martin’s opinion: “it’s…. Good. I like blowing up Daddy’s planets”
Fairly basic game of flipping over cards to either power up, fight enemies, or collect treasure. Not a whole lot of game but kids enjoy it enough.
Martin’s opinion: “I’m doing my Gravity Falls face”
Classic game of bourgeois indoctrination and acquisitiveness with a janky spinner. Its greatest impact is that when anything mawkish or sentimental happens, my brothers and I will shout “Life!” at each other.
Amanda’s opinion: I really like how it’s about money
Simple game of playing numbered cards in ascending order to represent eating cereal or drinking milk to combine cards. Different monsters have different powers.
Martin’s opinion: it’s good
Amanda’s opinion: I liked it because it’s silly. It’s monster Uno
43: Terraforming Mars
I love this game y’all. There’s just so much theme and fun packed into this bonkers maelstrom of cubes and cards. We used Prelude, Venus, and Colonies which added just little dollops of variety without being overwhelming. I fulfilled my standard goal of sending an interstellar colony ship out to the stars while Brian Cannon actually did most of the work of making Mars wetter, hotter, and greener while sneaking ants into my labs to eat my tardigrades.
Brian’s opinion: I came here to nuke Mars and eat tardigrades and I’m all out of nukes
44: Black Orchestra
This surprisingly tasteful game about killing Hitler is a fast game of lurking around Europe, catching trains, trying not to draw attention and eventually work up the nerve and wherewithal to take out the fuhrer. We were incredibly lucky and Sam managed to blow up his train en route to a Nuremberg rally and so we won with incredible speed
45: 7 Wonders
Man alive it’s been a minute since I’ve played this but it’s so much fun. I got pretty handedly trounced but enjoyed it nevertheless. This game introduced me to the idea of sharing a hand of cards with your neighbors and also only directly interacting with the folks on your immediate left and right which is such a great twist on normal gameplay. My standard plan of arranging my economy so I can build the Palace in the final round paid off and I got a full wonder so I won the completely worthless emotional victory.
46: Twilight Imperium
Pew pew! Kaboom! Meow! I finally get to play with humans! Thanks to my brother and nephew for indulging an old man’s dream
47: Joust For Fun
Playing cards to whack your friends and impress fans. Nice mind reading game with cute art and friendly violence!
Martin’s newest game is a tricky cooperative game of silently putting down cards in numeric order. Very pretty and meditative but has the potential to be hard af
Martin’s opinion: good.
49: Risk Junior
Very simple game of bouncing around a board and shooting dice out of your cannons. Does not accurately teach where Kamchatka is.
Martin’s opinion: it was brilliant! I won!
Quick and clever game of building ecosystems and populating them with fussy animals that poop out points based on their various whims and desires. A potentially meditative game with a very satisfying tableau at the end.
Martin’s opinion: I had all the birds
Fast moving game of acquiring satisfyingly heavy and clacky gems and trading them for mines and caravans and real estate to attract constipated looking nobles to your establishment to hopefully poop out some points.
Martin’s opinion: it’s good. Can we play Waterdeep now?
52: Ex Libris
Build a library! Send minions on errands! Please the Mayor! Fiddly game but so satisfying to fill up your shelves and snag books from friends. I was a mummy this game!
What if Talisman was excessively fiddlier? Not a question anyone was asking but the answer isn’t terrible. Fun and busy with some truly unnecessarily complicated combat and movement rules but it makes up for it by getting to dramatically read aloud cards like “sky full of wasps!” or “like animals before a storm!”
54: Disney Cookie Swap Game
Sweet little game of making matches and swapping cookies with a shared middle board. Requires some memory and strategizing.
Martin’s opinion: it’s good.
55: Dixit, Disney Edition
Dreamlike game of hints and misdirection, now with more Mouse o’clock! Teaches kids the importance of being vague.
Amanda’s opinion: it’s Disney and it’s fun!
Devilishly cutthroat game of building civic infrastructure. So much murder. So much fun.
This game really is a fantastic variation on the Balderdash & Apples to Apples family of casual psychology and sideways deception. Dixit’s genius of only granting points to the clue giver when they generate enough ambiguity that some get it right and some get it wrong is a masterful mechanic. Combined with the dreamlike art of the game, the whole game really does cast a spell on everyone while playing it.
58: Reiner Knizia’s Kingdoms
Quick and thoughtful game of plonking down mines and farms and monsters around your castles to secure the best view while snarling up the view of your friends. Classy fun.
A quick and easy city and army builder where you treat the titular Groo as a terrible hot potato, bouncing him back and forth between municipalities as he wrecks infrastructure and personnel with good intentions. Martin’s opinion: it’s good
60: Charlie Brown Trim the Tree Game
A decent cooperative game of adding ornaments to a spindly tree until it collapses under the weight of all the holiday cheer. A fitting metaphor for getting through the holiday season intact.
61: Grave Robbers From Outer Space
Dracula eats a robot! Teenage werewolves maul the creepy innkeeper! The bookish girl with glasses gets cleavage and a flamethrower! It’s been way too long since I’ve played this amazing game.
This game becomes much more difficult with kindergartners who struggle with reading and secrecy. Still pretty good.
63: Dice Throne
63rd board game of 20A fun back and forth dueling game of rolling dice and spending cards to try to whittle down your opponent’s hit points. Fast and furious!
64: Castle Panic
Work together with your friends to fend off wave after wave of monsters in a colorful anxiety generator. Pretty good.
65: Deadly Dowagers
Marry sensibly, manage your estates, avoid scandal, murder your spouse, collect the inheritance, repeat as needed until you attract the amorous attentions of the Duke and win! A fast and delightful game to play with family!
66: Welcome To
Draw cards! Build homes! Erect fences! Municipal planning! Mild kickbacks! I’ve been wanting to play this for a while and I’m glad I got the chance this trip!
67: Nightmare Before Christmas Merry Madness
Frenetic game of flinging presents at each other and into Sandy Claws’ bag. Fast and/or furious simultaneous dice tossing. Martin’s a fan
Fiddly but fun gardening game! Collect all the fungi! Summon a hurricane! Make a bison happy! Very pretty game with excellently tactile pieces.
69: War of Whispers
It’s a war game where the actual war is secondary to the secret machinations and behind the scenes schemes of the secret societies, cultists and other nefarious groups whose loyalties to the warring houses are flexible and up for grabs. Nice.
70: Disney Chronology
Stressing your Disney knowledge to pinpoint just when various movies and shows occurred in relation to each other.