If you’ve been following the articles that Larry Levy and Tom Rosen post to OG, you know that we have very different opinions when it comes to games. What you may not know is that we share some things in common: a deep interest in the history of games; a fondness for big projects; and way too much time on our hands!
All of these led to us trying to answer the following question: what were the most notable games of the year? Not our favorites–everybody and his dog has a favorites list. Rather, which are the games that will be best remembered from that year, that are acclaimed to be the best or the most buzzworthy? So if you got a bunch of gamers of all stripes into a room and asked them which were the best games of the year, which ones would they collectively come up with? And what games would they select from 10 or 20 years ago?
That’s still pretty vague, so we agreed on three criteria for selecting our most notables:
How well was the game received when it first came out? Were lots of people playing it, lots of people loving it, lots of people giving it rave reviews?
How well did it do with the gaming awards? We placed the biggest emphasis on the 3 major awards (SdJ, DSP, and IGA), but also considered awards like Fairplay’s a la carte award (best card game), Golden Geeks, Meeples Choice, Games Magazine, and Dice Tower. Wins had the greatest weight, but nominations and top 10 finishes were considered as well. We also gave some extra weight to games which have been selected for the Sumo/Counter Hall of Fame.
For the older games, how well has it held up over time? Has the game’s reputation faded over the years or is it still well regarded? Do people still play it with some frequency?
We then set the boundaries for the process. We decided to use the gaming fiscal year, from July to June, for each set of picks, since that coincided with the period covered by the major awards. We would list the five most notable games of each year, ordered from 1 to 5. We tried to be inclusive of as many types of games as possible, but we acknowledge that since neither of us are wargamers and neither of us has kids, that wargames and children’s games will probably get less attention than they deserve. Finally, we decided to do this for the last 20 years, taking us back to the 1993-94 period. Not only is this a nice round number, but it’s a good starting point for modern gaming, as Magic: The Gathering first debuted during this timeframe.
We considered coming up with consensus picks, but we realized that our articles are at their most entertaining when our considerable differences are emphasized. So we each came up with our own lists completely independently. Neither of us knew what the other was selecting until after we wrote it down in our jointly composed article. Just for fun, we added some global comments for the year and some of those mention what the other fellow had selected. But what you’re seeing in these lists is unvarnished Tom and unaffected Larry, with each selection followed by a brief explanation of our reasoning (or lack thereof). Occasionally, we even agree, which, given our different points of view, is probably a pretty strong testament for those games. But we hope you like our varied approaches to the lists.
Doing the math, 20 years and two lists of 5 works out to 200 games and that’s a lot to take in for one article. So we decided to split it up into five articles of four years apiece. Hence, we declare this to be Notable Notables Week on the Opinionated Gamers site! We’ll work our way backwards, so that the games that are probably most familiar to you will be presented first. Today, we begin with the most recent full year, 2012-13, and go back to 2009-10. But don’t let us have all the fun! Please add your own comments about which games you think were the most notable for these four years. If you think one of us has got it right, let us know, and if you think one is full of crap, tell us! The best part about projects like this is arguing which person is right, so let your voice be heard and join in the discussion!
Okay, let’s get started with the first year.
1) Terra Mystica – This is the clear #1 for the year.
2) Tzolk’in – Those gears just totally captivated people.
3) Android: Netrunner – Number five on BGG and no signs of slowing down.
4) Love Letter – Broke through as the minimalist Japanese game to have.
5) Bora Bora – Yet another Feld hit.
Bonus Theme for the Year: Big new “lifestyle” games come out and are very well-received, including both Mage Wars and Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Games. Keyflower is my personal favorite for the year, but I didn’t think it quite made the list. Also note that Hanabi is an absurd selection for the 2012-13 list.
1) Terra Mystica – Wins DSP and IGA and is a top 10 game on the Geek
2) Tzolk’in – Runner-up in DSP and IGA and a top 15 game
3) Android: Netrunner – Top 5 game, but “retread” status reduces its significance
4) Keyflower – Well rated, won a Meeples Choice, and got DSP and IGA mentions
5) Hanabi – Yeah, I know it’s from 2010, but with SdJ and a la carte, it got gamer’s attention this year
Larry says – Minimalistic games become all the rage: Love Letter, Coup, et al. As a game designer, you’re a bum if you use more than 16 cards. Still, I am very satisfied that it never occurred to me to include Love Letter on my list.
1) Terra Mystica
3) Android: Netrunner
Uncharacteristically, Tom and Larry completely agree on the top three. Don’t get used to it!
1) Eclipse – No question that Touko Tahkokallio’s breakout hit takes the top spot.
2) Mage Knight – Chvatil returns with another epic.
3) Risk Legacy – Hasbro tries something incredibly new and innovative.
4) King of Tokyo – Garfield returns to the designing world (not counting 2006’s Rocketville of course).
5) Trajan – More Feldian Feldness.
Bonus Theme for the Year: Successful designers go back to the well with games like Ora et Labora and Kingdom Builder that don’t quite make the list. Village wins the prize for most amusing song of the year.
1) Eclipse – Not a slam dunk, but #6 rating, Golden Geek, and general acclaim carry the day
2) Trajan – Not many games win both the IGA and Games Magazine awards
3) Mage Knight – Top 10 game and very high regard from gamers for Vlaada’s obsessive genius
4) Village – Won Kennerspiel and DSP and turned death into a gamer objective
5) Ora et Labora – Got mentions from SdJ, DSP, and IGA and a top 25 game
Larry says – Didn’t think of Risk Legacy and maybe I should have. Glad I didn’t think of King of Tokyo. And an honorable mention to an extremely clever solitaire game: Friday.
2) Mage Knight
A trio of heavy games make up the 2011 overlap selections.
1) 7 Wonders – One of the most obvious #1 picks of course.
2) Qwirkle – Breaks through, kicking ass and taking names in Barnes & Noble.
3) A Few Acres of Snow – Sparks countless interesting debates on brokenness and award selection methodology.
4) Dominant Species – GMT does eurogaming and does it right.
5) Die Burgen von Burgund – Your annual dose of Feldtastic Felditude.
Bonus Theme for the Year: Before there was Nations and Patchistory, before there was Clash of Cultures, FFG took on TtA and did epic civ in Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game.
1) 7 Wonders – Won every award known to man, so yes, a very obvious choice
2) The Castles of Burgundy – Mentions for all 3 major awards and ranked #12; Feld’s most popular
3) Dominant Species – Top 20 game and Golden Geek winner; still has a strong following
4) Navegador – Strong finishes in DSP and IGA and a fine rating
5) Troyes – Top 50 game, good buzz on gameplay and artwork
Larry says – Wallace has a couple of near misses with London and A Few Acres of Snow. The latter would have made the list two years ago, but concerns over its “broken” status has caused its reputation to diminish.
1) 7 Wonders
2) The Castles of Burgundy
3) Dominant Species
1) Dixit – The SdJ actually picked the most notable game of the year? What, huh?!
2) Glen More – Launched Matthias Cramer’s career.
3) Homesteaders – Launched TMG, for better or worse.
4) Summoner Wars – Managed to draw attention despite its paper boards and launched Plaid Hat.
5) Macao – Mr. Feld does not miss a beat.
Bonus Theme for the Year: Apparently Larry and I are in different hobbies or something, with no overlap for this year at all. Hansa Teutonica is one of my personal favorites for the year, just behind Stronghold, but didn’t seem popular enough to make the list here.
1) Hansa Teutonica – Golden Geek winner and consensus GotY choice for serious gamers
2) Endeavor – Top 100 game with mentions in all three major awards, plus a Meeples Choice
3) Chaos in the Old World – Top 50 game and darling of lovers of thematic games
4) Fresco – DSP winner and a game that is always more popular than it gets credit for
5) Dungeon Lords – Top 100 game and the best I could come up with in a thin year
Larry says – A weak year overall, but Hansa T still seemed like a pretty obvious choice for the top spot. I’m kinda surprised Tom didn’t even put it in his Top 5.
Tom and Larry have NO agreement in their Top 5s? Who hired these guys anyway?!?
What do you think were the most notable releases from 2009 or any of these years based on the criteria laid out at the top? And be sure to check back tomorrow for 2005 to 2008.