December 2010

2010 was a very solid year for my boardgaming experience. The local gaming group is completing its fourth year next month, and we’re still going strong. In addition to providing me with a great way to occupy my Tuesday nights, it has also been a fertile ground for this column; part of me still doesn’t believe that I’ve completed a full year of this without running out of topics.

We have played some awesome new games this year, and since it is apparently required by law to issue forth a year-end recap, I might as well go ahead and put them in order of my favorites. I’ve covered almost all of these in the last twenty-five columns; hopefully I’ll get to the ones I’ve missed in the coming year. Thank you all for reading!

10. Hansa Teutonica: Of course I’d have to lead off with a game I haven’t written about, but it really couldn’t be helped. Hansa Teutonica came out very late in the year and is in many respects the quintessential Eurogame. Somewhat affectionately dubbed “Cube Placement: the Game” by my group for its dry, theme-light nature, HT combines the attribute-leveling aspects of Endeavor with some Ticket to Ride-like link-forming. There are various paths to victory, and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the options. HT takes some getting used to, and is definitely not for everyone, but is one of the “heaviest” games I’ve played in some time.

9. Carson City: Role selection, worker placement, territory developing, and good old-fashioned shoot-outs combine for this wild west experience. Carson City has a lot of moving parts, but is fairly easy to grasp and offers some interesting strategic decisions. Included variants offer fresh takes for future plays, providing additional value, but the core game alone will keep most groups occupied for some time.

8. Fresco: Possibly the only game ever created where you have to choose the time you drag yourself out of bed (or at least force your underlings to do so), Fresco‘s colorful take on worker placement will have you mixing paints like a kid in kindergarten as you work to restore a masterpiece. Additional variants are included for future replays in case the mix goes stale.

7. Catacombs: Part-dungeon crawl, part-dexterity challenge, Catacombs is a rare role-playing style adventure where actual skill will be beneficial. No dice or cards are involved for combat; instead, players (one of them representing the forces of evil) take turns flicking wooden disks at each other — and around obstacles. Challenging yet fun, Catacombs is definitely a unique experience.

6. Tobago: Tobago‘s map-building scratches the logic puzzle pleasure center in my brain, in what is probably my favorite new mechanic of the year. The board and bits are very well designed, and piecing together the locations of the treasures is great fun. Tobago doesn’t hold up well to extended repeat sessions, but is well worth the occasional excursion.

5. Forbidden Island: Pandemic‘s younger sibling offers all of the cooperative strategy of it’s world-saving predecessor in a quicker, lighter package. Ridiculously bargain-priced, Forbidden Island deserves its spot in any gamer’s collection as a perfect filler game.

4. Cyclades: Bid to win the favor of one of the ancient Greek gods each round as you progress your civilization towards the construction of two metropolises, waging war and enlisting the aid of mythical creatures as necessary. A game of Cyclades is sadly often determined by the random appearance of one or two specific creatures (usually Pegasus), but aside from that offers a cornucopia of strategic options.

3. Jump Gate: The indie publication that could. If nothing else, Jump Gate is a testament to how simple choices can make for complex game play. Kudos to designer Matt Warden for his award-winning design.

2. Race for the Galaxy: the Brink of War: I’ve been one of the biggest fans of Race for the Galaxy for the past few years now, and this third and final expansion elevates the game from its filler roots. The addition of Prestige as both a resource and source of victory points complicates things just enough to give the game the weight it was previously lacking, and also adds another subtle layer of player interaction to a game that many deride as “multiplayer solitaire”.

1. Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer: I probably would have picked up Ascension even without its being designed by three Magic: the Gathering pros. I like the idea of deck-building games, but until Ascension I never really found one that felt right to me. Ascension strikes that chord in a big way, and I eagerly look forward to seeing how it develops in the coming years.

One of Snackbar Games’ traditions is to have staffers pick their top ten games of the year. We’re so all over the map in our tastes that our lists are never similar. Today, we have writer and new dad Justin Last. This year’s list isn’t so baby-safe.

10. Heavy Rain (PS3). Heavy Rain is not without its warts, but it kept me engrossed from start to finish in the story of the Origami Killer. Quantic Dream handily proved that interactive fiction can work and that story can take precedence over gameplay. It’s something that everybody should play and the branching paths increase the replay value tremendously.

9. Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC). I love building bases and then slowly marching siege tanks across the map to wipe out my opponent. SC2 doesn’t really allow for that, and it’s better for it. Each campaign mission has a theme, and it forces you to play in new and interesting ways. I learned how to properly (for single-player) micromanage caster units, saw the usefulness of the firebat, and helped keep the galaxy safe. What more could a person want?

8. Alien Swarm (PC). Alien Swarm hits a bunch of right notes for me – it is free, it is cooperative, and there are tons of aliens to kill. With four classes and two characters for each class each trip through the Jacob’s Rest campaign will be unique, fun, and tense – especially when you realize that nobody brought a hand welder with them. READ MORE

One of Snackbar Games’ traditions is to have staffers pick their top ten games of the year. We’re so all over the map in our tastes that our lists are never similar. Today, we have staff writer Gerry Pagan. He picked a PSP game as his favorite of the year. This makes him special.

This was an interesting year for games, with a huge variety of genres getting some good representation. There’s many more games released this year that I wish I could have played, whether for monetary or hardware reasons. Some of the games I did play, however, were good enough to place in my list of favorite games of all time. Here are my choices for best games of 2010.

10. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3/360): There’s not much to be said about this game that hasn’t been said already, whether it’s praising the game’s gorgeous visuals and atmosphere or criticizing its lack of towns and hallway-like dungeon design. However, the game gets major props from me for being able to completely turn around my opinion of nearly the entire cast, from disdain and hatred to making most of them my favorite new characters of 2010. Plus I had fun with it, and that’s what really counts in the end, right?

9. BlazBlue Continuum Shift (PS3/360). Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely loved BlazBlue Calamity Trigger, the precursor to this game. So it’s not much of a surprise to see the sequel rank as one of my favorite games of the year. It probably would have ranked much higher if Arcsys had decided to ditch studio GONZO, which just about ruined the story cutscenes in the game with abysmal art. Here’s to hoping the next game does everything better.

8. 3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3). Andrew would probably argue that this game has no merit being on any top ten, but I disagree! 3D Dot was one of the games I looked forward to the most, and its retro-styled dungeon design, feel and gameplay topped with well-done references to games from past generations won me over. READ MORE

One of Snackbar Games’ traditions is to have staffers pick their top ten games of the year. We’re so all over the map in our tastes that our lists are never similar. Today, Paul Bishop shares his picks. We think he has a type.

10. Bayonetta (PS3). Last guilty pleasure of the year, I feel like apologizing to every female I have ever known after I play it, but I come back again and again for unadulterated action and over-the-top scenes. Unabashedly it is what it is, beyond description it goes for the gusto with a smile on its face the entire time. Worth the experience 100%.


9. Star Wars: Force Unleashed II (360). Although it didn’t improve too much on the original it was still a fun game that traded length for memorable set pieces. I never thought falling to my death would be very fun, but then again I am not the accomplished Jedi like Galen Marek who completes boss battles as such.

8. Arcania: Gothic 4 (360). Another minor blip on the radar turned into a truly rewarding experience. A no-nonsense RPG that has an awesome, if not easy, combat system and a skinnied down leveling system that is as rewarding as it is fun. Looting and leveling were never better. READ MORE

One of Snackbar Games’ traditions is to have staffers pick their top ten games of the year. We’re so all over the map in our tastes that our lists are never similar. Today, we have staff writer Mike Clark. His list indicates his favorite game series. Also his insanity.

10. Poker Night at the Inventory: The Texas Hold ‘Em within this game is rather basic and very prone to cheating. If you don’t mind this, or can look past it, Poker Night is a great game. The characters were animated well, interact great and without incessant repetition the lines they spout are gold. I look forward to more characters or sequels in the future.

9. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair: Had this game had more substance I would have ranked it higher. As it stands it is up here more for the fun I had in multiplayer than the game’s worth as a whole. Too little substance for too much cost, but with three to five friends one could overlook this as they ran around the various maps kickin’ some serious tail.

8. Ys: The Oath in Felghana: Also being my top PSP choice for the year, Ys: The Oath in Felghana was another great example of how to do a remake. Fast-paced action combat with an RPG system and a good plot overpowered the frustration I had dealing with the tough bosses. A great challenge and a great game. READ MORE