When I browsed through the pages of BoardGameGeek (for those who don’t know about it, it’s a great website to find information about board games) I saw that ten games from 2014 have entered the top 100 games of all time. So, it seems like it was a pretty good year, right? So, we are halfway through 2015 and it’s about time that I give you you my favourites of the year. I haven’t played all games that came out in 2014 (not even close), but who has? For those who are interested; here’s my Top 10 Board Games of 2014.
As a comparison, only seven games from 2013 made it into the top 100. However, 2012 was a much better year than last year, with fourteen games in the top 100, of which twelve even made it into the top 50.
The BoardGameGeek top 100 is not the ultimate truth, but that’s a whole other discussion and I will not go into that here.
What I do like to go into, is how I made this list. It’s pretty simple really, I looked up all the games that were published in 2014 according to BoardGameGeek and picked my favourites. It did not mater to me if I played the game once or fifteen times. If I had a good time playing it, it was a candidate for this list.
Honourable mentions: Red7, Orléans and Patchwork
These three games just fell of the list. Red7 is a really clever little filler, Orléans is a wonderful classic ‘euro’ game where you, instead of building a deck of cards, build your own bag of tokens from which you draw throughout the game to do actions, and lastly, Patchwork is a nice two-player puzzle game from Uwe Rosenberg that was far more fun that I expected.
And now on to the top ten!
10: La Isla
This, more family friendly, game from Stefen Feld is wonderful. I like the cards the most. They are the heart and soul of the game. Everything you do is a result of the ‘multiple purpose’ cards you assign to every action phase. You can use a card for its special ability, to manipulate the animal stock market or to get resources that you need to move your explorers on the island and capture valuable animals.
You have to make some tough choices, but they are manageable and that’s why it’s also a nice family game.
Designer: Stefen Feld. Publisher: Alea, Ravensburger.
9: La Granja
My number nine is a game that also centres around multifunctional cards. It’s La Granja from Michael Keller and Andreas Odendahl and although it’s not designed by Stefen Feld, it does feel very Feldian to me. And that’s a good thing, by the way. For me at least.
The cards in La Granja can help you produce goods on your little farm, give you more income, help you make more deliveries, or they can be use as orders from customers, which give you points if you fulfil them, and, lastly, you can use it for its special ability.
Every round you have to decide what to do with your cards and it’s just really fun to build your own engine with them.
You also do actions every round by choosing two dice. A certain value corresponds with an action. Players pick two dice, two actions, and the last die that’s left on the board can be used by everyone. This is also a cool idea and you can play with the fact that you can use the last die too.
The goal of this game is to manage your little farm is such way that you can fulfil different orders, deliver goods to the other markets on the main board and, most importantly, get points in many ways.
There are lots of small, but difficult decisions to be made in this game and that’s just fun.
Designer: Michael Keller, Andreas Odendahl. Publisher: Spielworxx, 999 Games.
8: Valley of the Kings
My number eight is Valley of the Kings, a deck-building game that fits in your pocket.
Well, it might be a small game,but it is a great one. First of all, the cards have different functions. (Do you like other game or what?) You can use them as money, for their special action and they give you points at the end of the game. That sounds very basic. Yes, we’ve seen that before. However, Valley of the Kings does it in a different a very fun way.
In a deck-building game you have to buy cards to build your deck. In VotK, you buy from the bottom row of a card pyramid. Every time you remove a card from the bottom row, the pyramid crumbles, and the ones in the rows above are move downwards, so you can buy them too. I find that really clever.
The different special actions on the cards are nice too. But what makes this game stand out is the way you score points and that’s by set collection. In general, more cards of the same colour give you more points. However, to get points you have to entomb the cards, removing it from your deck. You can’t use these card any more.
The choice of keeping a card in your deck or entombing it for points is really hard sometimes. And when do start with entombing? Great fun!
Designer: Tom Cleaver. Publisher: AEG
If you have read my Top ten two player only games you know that I like this game. It was my number three favourite two-player only game.
Akrotiri is a puzzle. Where can I build my temples according to my maps? How do I get money to do so and can I do it all with the action points I have at my disposal? Tile laying, pick-up and deliver and a bit of deduction.
A nice brain burner and a very fun two-player game. My number seven of 2014.
Designer: Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim. Publisher: Z-Man Games.
My number six is one of the heavier games on this list. It’s ZhanGuo from Marco Canetta and Stefania Niccolini. In my review, half a year ago, I already said it was one of the most fun heavy games of the year and I still think so.
Again, like in La Granja and La Isla, the game centres around these multiple purpose cards. Do you slide them underneath your player board to get bonus actions or resources in the future when you do an actions or do you discard them and use them for an action on the board, with a bonus if you discard a card with the right number?
You have to manage so many things on the main board and on your own player board that playing this game will sometimes hurt your brain, but I like that pain.
Designer: Marco Canetta, Stefania Niccolini. Publisher: What’s Your Game?.
This is not a game for everybody. I got mixed reactions from the people who I’ve played it with, but this is my top 10, so it had to be in it. Witness, is my number five.
It is a really unique game. First of all, it’s only playable with four players. Secondly, it’s a game of whispers. You are all detectives and something happened, a murder took place. You all read about the setting, but then everybody has its own clue book, with a different clue per player. And now you have to whisper that little piece of information to your neighbour, so she now knows a bit more about the case. The group whispers four times, back and forth, and then you are presented with a couple of questions. Answer them correctly and you solved the case.
I love this game. It’s so much fun to make sense of it all. You know what the setting is, but you don’t know what the questions will be, so you try to remember as much as possible.
That memory and deduction element is really fun, plus I like the Blake & Mortimer theme, and therefore it’s my number five; Witness.
Designer: Dominique Bodin. Publisher: Ystari Games.
4: Five Tribes
Five Tribes is Analysis Paralysis in a box. But I don’t mind, because it’s so much fun as well.
Pick up all the meeples from a tile and move them, dropping one meeple on every tile you move through, around the board. You remove all the meeples from the last tile that have the same colour as the meeple you placed there. If it were the last meeples on that tile, you control it now, points for you. Then execute the action belonging to the tribe of the meeple(s) and also perform the tile action.
The board is full of meeples with different colours. You have to think about which tribe action and which tile action you want to do and if you can get there with the amount of meeples you picked up from the ‘starting tile’. And in addition you have to make sure that you don’t set up a perfect move for your opponent. Oh, there are so many possibilities, you want to do them all, but you can’t.
A very fun tactical board game that looks great too.
Designer: Bruno Cathala. Publisher: Days of Wonder.
Murano takes you to a group of islands near Venice known for making glass. The whole game evolves around the track with action spaces that’s surrounding the islands. On this track you find several gondolas. A gondola is used, if you move it up to just before a spot where another gondola is located, to select an action you want to do.
You can acquire and build different buildings, build streets with customers, buy special character cards or place your personal gondoliers next to an island. The character cards have conditions on them that will give you points if you assign them to one of the island where you have a gondolier.
What I really like about this game is the way the gondola rondel works. You constantly have to figure out how to move these boats, so that you can do the best action for you at that time, but you also have to make sure that you don’t open up the board for other players. You cannot not always do the action you want, but you have to do the best you can.
You must build buildings and get customers on certain islands and figure out a way to get your gondoliers to the islands that give you the most points in combination with the character cards.
However, you also have to be able to alter your goals quickly, because there are lots of opportunities for screwage in this game. Other players can change the configuration of different buildings on an island, so your character cards might suddenly not be so fitting any more, or players can beat you to a gondolier spot and now you have to pay more to place it next to an island.
You have to be able to adjust. That’s the most important thing in Murano. It’s a very fun tactical board game and one that made it to the number three spot of this list.
Designer: Inka Brand, Markus Brand. Publisher: Lookout Games.
2: Roll for the Galaxy
I am a big fan of Race for the Galaxy. So, I was really excited when Roll for the Galaxy came out and it did not disappoint at all. It doesn’t replace RftG for me, because I think the games are different enough, but they do have many similarities.
Rolling your dice is fun to begin with, but then you need to assign them to certain phases, similar as in Race, and that’s where the real fun start. What do you really want or need to do? What do you think other players might want to do? You can choose from a lot of planets and developments, and there’s always something that fits your strategy or gives you points.
The game is fast, because, after one or two plays, you can play simultaneously. This also means that Roll for the Galaxy plays well with every player count.
It’s really fun and it’s almost the best game of the year, but the next game is just a little more fun. Only just.
Designer: Wei-Hwa Huang, Tom Lehmann. Publisher: Rio Grande Games.
The best game of 2014 is Alchemists from Matúš Kotry. It’s so much fun. It’s a worker placement game with a very strong deduction element.
You are Alchemists and you try to find out what the molecular composition of different ingredients are. You do that by secretly mixing different ingredients. As a result, you’ll get a certain type of potion. You have to test it on yourself or on an innocent student to find out what it really is. That gives you information about the composition of the two ingredients. Once you know all about a specific ingredient, like the toad or the scorpion, you can publish your theory for points, but you don’t have to be entirely sure, as long as no one objects and proves you are wrong later in the game. You can also buy handy artefacts or sell potions to adventurers for money.
It’s all really fun. It’s a heavier Euro, but the art is gorgeous, the theme is light and works well and the game is pretty funny too. It does work with an app, but that thing works like a charm. It’s only a randomiser and a bookkeeper, so it doesn’t draw you away from the board game experience.
Alchemists is a real winner and my favourite game of 2014.
Designer: Matúš Kotry. Publisher: Czech Games Edition, The Game Master.