The Meeples Choice Awards Voters Speak: Comments on the Best Games of 2022

The voting for the 2022 Meeples Choice Awards has just been concluded and the winning games are Heat, Cat in the Box, and Challengers!.  But who determines which games are chosen each year?  It’s not some high-powered anonymous jury, but more than 50 gamers just like you, who have taken the time, many of them for over 20 years, to vote on their favorite games from the previous calendar year.  And, of course, they have good reasons for why they pick the games they do.

Jacob Lee is one of our long-time voters and is also one of the OG website’s most loyal and interactive readers.  He came up with an excellent suggestion:  why don’t we ask the voters for their reasons for their picks and publish them in an Opinionated Gamers article?  A bunch of the voters enthusiastically responded, so all I had to do was collect the responses and organize them.  Instant article!  As always, the voters’ reasons are interesting and well thought out.  I think they make a fascinating summary of the best games of last year and will be a fine starting point for anyone who, now or later, wants to know which 2022 games to check out or buy.  Most of the comments are positive ones, but there are a few negative critiques as well.  Here they are, in game alphabetical order, with each comment attributed to the voter who made it.  I hope you find this enjoyable.

A VERY fast playing tile laying game without all the fluff of the various (and somewhat over-complicated) animal and forest tile layers. – Simon Neal

Rated lower than it deserves mainly because it’s a retheme and minor revision of Macao, and I always feel weird giving full credit to these.  But I love Macao, and this one I think actually improves on it a little in some ways.  If I were judging it as something brand new, it probably would be my #3 game of the year. – Anye Shafer

Cover German First Edition

It actually surprises me that this is third on my list, as I only learned it a couple weeks ago, and have only played it on BGA, and have played it wrong more than I’ve played it right.  But lately, despite my overall preference for meaty games, I’ve been finding quasi-abstract games with simple rules very addictive (I’m looking at you, Chakra) and this hits a similar sweet spot for me. – Anye Shafer

Rosenberg-style worker-placement farming simulator, this time taking place in Ghana with lots more fruit bats. Acquiring more land is key in this game, as you’ll need lots of space to store your ever-multiplying plants and animals, and fortunately the game contains a wide variety of different parcels that add a lot of flavor. Populating your land with families is the end goal here, as these families can mine for gold and are worth a ton of points in and of themselves, but also eat increasing amounts of food which depopulates your land, and can cause pollution which can make land unusable for the duration of the game. The game had a very nice rhythm and created a lot of tension with the double-edged sword of population growth. A fun experience without a lot of the bloat of Rosenberg’s previous farming titles. – Doug Faust

Another Rosenberg WP harvest game, but this one has a nice open feel and some innovative touches that made it very enjoyable to play.  Still plenty to think about and the interconnectedness between the different resources (including bats!) makes it a nice challenge.  It’s also nice that it shines a spotlight on the efforts being made to improve the environment of Ghana. – Larry Levy

The meatiest game of this year’s picks.  It felt very fresh when I played it (one play only thus far) and I felt I played badly and wanted to try again. – Anye Shafer

Beer & Bread - English edition cover by Pegasus Spiele

Beer & Bread
I loved my first play and liked my second.  I’m not sure if it will have legs or not (or if I should just be playing Jambo) but I enjoyed it. – Jimmy Okolica

Blood on the Clocktower
A lot of games are proposed as “game xxxxx killer” and this is one has the best case of all of being a Werewolf killer. It takes the Werewolf game and makes it into a truly memorable experience with zero player elimination. – Simon Neal

Snappy 2p area control game that reminds me a bit of Samurai. – Martin Griffiths

Caldera Park
I love Savannah Park and jumped to get Caldera Park.  After one play, I’m not sure if I need to own both or will Caldera Park again… which isn’t to say it’s a bad game.  I enjoyed it, but I think I like Savannah Park’s simplicity a little more. – Jimmy Okolica

Carnegie box front

A multi-faceted and highly interconnected game that requires a good deal of planning, without it being overwhelming.  The action selection mechanic that simultaneously determines which action each player will take and which “event” will occur works well, and the game seems well balanced between building, infrastructure, and making charitable contributions (for end-game VPs).  It’s a heavy-ish title that still manages to be pretty accessible. – Larry Levy

This is a business simulation game where you can expand your office with rooms providing different special abilities, and move your workers around to the rooms to use them. Use of many of the rooms sends the workers to the main board, which is good because they can claim bonuses there and be sent back to your office board, but also bad because it takes time and effort to shuffle the workers back and forth. Workers on the main board also propel a connection mechanic on the map. There are a ton of different room options to buy, providing lots of cool combos and differing strategies. Despite all the different facets of the game, everything fits together very well and the game provides lots of opportunity for long-term planning. This one might become a new favorite. – Doug Faust

One of the two heavier game on my list.  I think it’s one of the cleanest “heavier” games I’ve played making it an easier teach and one I’m more willing to pull out with new players. – Jimmy Okolica

I felt neutral after one play.  Need to try it again.  There was some interesting stuff going on. – Anye Shafer

Already an IGA winner last year, Carnegie is a challenging game which veers on the heavy side. I like the mechanisms and there is enough going on to make a good long-term intrigue. – Simon Weinberg

Cat in the Box
Probably my favorite “new to me” on the list.  I’ve stopped looking for the newest “weird” trick taker because I find people new to trick takers struggle with the new rules.  For some reason, I haven’t had any problem teaching Cat in the Box and people have really enjoyed it.  I like that going for high tricks or the area control are both viable strategies. – Jimmy Okolica

I love this game.  Many plays.  I love trick taking, I love Schroedinger, I love cats, and I love the concept of this game. – Anye Shafer

*I* found the rules confusing, but someone else at the table taught and then they made sense.  There’s a lot of estimating, anticipating, strategizing, and even some agonizing over which number/suit to play.  There are also times when the moves are almost automatic, giving a break from the tension…but also a reason to congratulate oneself for having set up such an excellent play.  I’ve played it with at least a dozen different people and everybody has enjoyed it.  A LOT of gaming enjoyment in a simple package. – Chris Brandt

I think this might be the most novel game of the year.  The actual card duel is mostly automatic with occasional decisions when a special power activates, but the upgrading of the deck in between fights is a pretty interesting choice.  It kind of captures the feeling of a draft of Magic or other CCG but with a WAY lower barrier to entry…I can explain this to people in a few minutes.  It’s super light and fast and random but the battles have a tension to them and you get to duel various opponents and make a lot of deck choices along the way. – Clay Blankenship

I’ll be the first to admit that reading the rulebook of Challengers! left me cold – on paper, it reads like “War!: The Deck-Building Game”. (Credits for that humorous title go to one of my fellow OG writers.) On the table, however, it’s delightful. One of the major complaints has been the lack of control… but I’ve managed to win 4 out of 8 games I’ve played (against a variety of opponents and group sizes) and made the final match in all but one of those games, so there is definitely some level of skill in deciding which cards to draft, which cards to cull, and how to play cards that give you options. – Mark Jackson

I love that this goes up to 8 players (though I’ve only played it up to 4).  Easy to teach and I think there’s enough decisions that the better player will win most of the time.  Also, it’s fun kibbitzing when all but one match is finished. – Jimmy Okolica

I don’t think that Challengers! is a bad game–it achieves exactly what it sets out to do.  But it is very much not for me.  I’m terrible at deckbuilding and have almost no experience with Magic and other games of that ilk, so just about the only decision making in the game (the preparation prior to each match) was lost on me.  The fact that the matches themselves are 95% on autopilot was another strong negative for me.  Consequently, it was my least favorite game experience of the year.  But I suspected that would be the case before I even played it.  I’m happy that so many others love it, as long as they don’t force me to play it! – Larry Levy

A big tournament of this generates a really fun atmosphere and the deck-building decisions do make a big difference to the outcome despite the randomness in how the cards come out. – Martin Griffiths

This is a great party game and even if you cleverly build your deck, you can be thwarted by the card draw. So enjoy it for what it is and not what you think it should be. – Simon Neale

One of my favourite games of last year due to its clever original play and interactive tournament-style experience. It’s great fun to watch other players succeed or fail as well as to make the big decisions to ditch a card in your deck. Love it. – Simon Weinberg

Clank!: Catacombs
I like how this now has exploration and discovery. – Clay Blankenship

A really solid entry to the Clank! universe – the additional mechanics all shine (prisoners, lock picks, etc.)… but the star is the exploration of the dungeon board. – Mark Jackson

Creature Comforts
Dice-based action-selection game that involves a little bit of push-your-luck. Each round, players roll their two personal dice, and then assign their four pawns to action spaces requiring certain configurations of dice. Then, the four public dice are rolled, and players assign the six total dice to the places where they placed their pawns. If a given action cannot be executed because the right dice didn’t turn up, that player receives a “lesson learned” token that will let them modify a die +/-1 in a later round. The available dice actions change each round, and there is a display of buildings that can be built for permanent benefits. The rest of the game is a pretty standard collect resources and build cards worth points sort of game. I really enjoyed this one–this game really managed to hit the sweet spot of planning out your turn and adjusting on the fly. The game is billed as a family game, but it was plenty engaging for a player like me who usually enjoys heavier fare. – Doug Faust

I’ve had two plays, thoroughly enjoyed both.  It’s middle weight, it’s cute, it’s fairly straightforward, and very comfortable.  I don’t think it’s earth-shatteringly new in any way, but it works for me. – Anye Shafer

Dead Reckoning Box

Dead Reckoning
My first play of this card-crafting pirate game was fun, but I had questions. Another game played the next day, and I still wondered if it was worth the time. Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself still thinking about the game and how to better work my crew. I’ve now played it three more times (both multiplayer and solo) and am trying to figure out how to get it to the table again as soon as possible. – Mark Jackson

Dice Realms
Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s customizable dice – a genre that hasn’t always produced the most interesting of games. But don’t let that stop you. This is a very quick and unbelievably cunning bit of game design with huge variability in set-up. I know that my Tom Lehmann fan status makes me more likely to enjoy this – but it is objectively a great design separate of that. Big props to Rio Grande for including the proper storage solution in the box for the multitude of tiny bits. – Mark Jackson

I need to play this more times in a row.  Each time I play it, I need to re-learn it and that sucks some of the fun out of it. – Jimmy Okolica

Eleven: Football Manager
While there are still some rules questions to be resolved, the underlying game system works like a charm and is fun to play, especially if you are (like myself) a fan of Premier League soccer. Match play is important – but the game is much bigger than winning matches… it’s actually an economic/management game. – Mark Jackson

This game has been a massive success with everyone I have played it with – a lot of whom then rush out a buy a copy! It plays in around an hour even with 5 players. You build an engine by optimising actions and use these to drive your race to the end. – Simon Neale

First Rat
Works as both family and gamer filler game, as the more you play it the more interesting it becomes as you “race” to thwart your opponents. This is far from a simple race along the track as you can combo moves. Great, fast fun. – Simon Neale

I’ve only played this once, and it was a while ago, so I don’t remember a lot of details but I remember I wanted to play it more. – Anye Shafer

Free Radicals
It is a weird mix of everyone doing their own thing on their own board with only some overlap in how you deal with the buildings on the center board and, frankly, it should not work. The wild thing is that it does… and is a lot of fun to play. – Mark Jackson

Great Western Trail Argentina
As a long-time fan of GWT, I was excited to get this one to the table.  Honestly, I had trouble figuring out a strategy at first, but my opponents did and I got crushed!  But, seeing their actions allowed me to get a better grasp of how to move forward.  Some of the elements that are different from the original game that I appreciate the most are the timing of the ships.  If you don’t get a cargo onto the ship before it sails, tough luck!  This forces you to make some decisions about what might be suboptimal deliveries just so that you can get a disk into a European harbor.  The combination of trains and grain to maximize your deliveries provides more options than the original rail line.  We had on instrumental flamenco music in the background which actually improved the experience, too!  Better than GWT, a game I love?  Hmmm… maybe, but at least AS good. – Chris Brandt

I’m absolutely blown away how one of my all-time fave games could get better. I love this. – Simon Weinberg

Heat: Pedal to the Metal, Days of Wonder, 2022 — front cover, English-language edition (image provided by the publisher)

Heat: Pedal to the Metal
I usually don’t like race games, but this one minimizes the luck and puts a real focus on hand management, so it’s one of the few such games that really works for me.  The rules are straightforward, but there’s still plenty of tactical planning you can do.  The different ways you can utilize (and recover) “heat” definitely make the game—don’t be shy about using it! – Larry Levy

Heat is what happens when you partner the designers of Flamme Rouge with the production quality of Days of Wonder – an auto racing game that zips along and is very enjoyable to play. My first play was a lot of fun… but now that I have 17 (yes, seventeen) plays under my belt (including racing the 1961 campaign solo and the 1962 campaign head-to-head against my son), I’ll declare Heat as one of the best racing games I’ve played. It’s easy to teach the base game – and then easy to add the extra elements (upgrades, weather, etc.) after that. Recommendation: use the Legends expansion to fill out the field to 6 cars regardless of the number of players… makes the race much more race-like! – Mark Jackson

I fully acknowledge that Heat is a good game to play with a full complement as long as people are playing it fast, and as long as you use the upgrades, and avoid the automaton mechanics like the plague.  If we had a group of 6 I’d happily play it – but, I don’t think I’d ever suggest it on my own. – Anye Shafer

I love racing games.  I played Speed Circuit as a kid and have long participated in leagues, often with some success.  Heat: PTTM takes the skill needed and tension generated and throws in a great deal more fun with a much shorter learning curve than the many racing games I’ve played.  Sure, there’s luck in the draw, but the hand size is large enough that skillful hand management enables the better players to consistently finish on the podium.  Interestingly I got to play Flamme Rouge for the first time immediately after finishing a game of Heat and was impressed by the evolution from Flamme Rouge, which I thought was very good, to Heat.  I swear I’m trying to cut back on buying games, but I think I NEED this one.  For the record, I hate Formula D/De. – Chris Brandt

I’m not a big fan of Flamme Rouge as I can’t get my head round coping with the luck factor, so I came into Heat dubiously. I really enjoyed my games of it though. It has more control than FR and I really liked the variants that I’ve tried so far. – Simon Weinberg

Inside Job
I’m not a big fan of social deduction in general but this hybrid with a trick-taker works really well in giving you information to work with rather than just arguments. – Martin Griffiths

This just made the cut into my 10 choices. It is beautifully produced and works well with multiple paths to victory. – Simon Neale

Marrakesh Cover Retail Version

Players draft 12 different colors of tokens to place on their player boards to perform different actions. The different colors all do different things, including buying buildings, gaining dates, moving up on one of two tracks on the main board, erecting gates, revealing and activating end-game tiles, trading goods, advancing your ship, etc. These actions are all interconnected and linked by the game’s three resources. While players must do most of the actions, there are large end-game bonuses for finishing sections with the same color of token, so specialization and making sections work with one another is also key. The colors that are available each round are determined by a cube tower. I really enjoyed the gameplay of this game, and thought that the interplay of the different colored actions was fantastic. However, the game feels much longer than it needs to be, and the cube tower was largely superfluous. – Doug Faust

Lots of Feld’s games feature disparate and independent mini-games tied together by a central mechanism; this is another one that works really well.  Choosing which Action tokens to contribute (and which ones to wind up selecting) is an interesting challenge and deciding when to build up your areas and when to implement them is also nice.  I’m not completely convinced the cube tower is necessary, but it doesn’t detract from the game, so I’m fine with it. – Larry Levy

Merchants of the Dark Road
A contract fulfillment game in which players move their pawn around a rondel representing the town, gathering resources, commissions, and passengers, and then when they are ready, untaking an excursion to deliver these items to far-off villages. The game uses a dice system which determines both how far along the rondel you move, as well as possible bonuses you can get. The game also features “illuminated” dice, which also activate nearby spaces all in the same action. When a player goes on an excursion, the other players can join in to gain both the rewards (or penalties) from the journey, as well as making any deliveries to the chosen destination. Usually, journeys feature a number of dice being rolled, and those dice being drafted by players in turn order to gain the reward or penalty listed on the journey card; “shortcut” journeys can also be embarked upon to gain double rewards for the journey undertaker, but that player also goes last instead of first in the dice drafting. Final score is determined by the lower of prestige points, which are mostly gained from commissions, and money, which is hidden during the game and mostly gained through selling goods to passengers. There’s really a lot going on here, and the whole system is very interconnected. I thought the dice action system was more convoluted than it needed to be, but I found that everything else worked together very well. An enjoyable game, if a little difficult to wrap your head around. – Doug Faust

With the board a rondel and fantastic artwork and production, this resource pick up and deliver game works smoothly. – Simon Neale

I haven’t played this a lot yet but I like the way it condenses a combo-filled duel into a small deck and the clever trick of letting you twice in a game steal one of your opponent’s cards. – Martin Griffiths

Mosaic: A Story of Civilization
Glenn Drover has managed to condense a convincing civilization building game into about 90-120 minutes… including technology development, jostling for influence, establishing trade, and building wonders. Best of all, each player’s turn is a single action, so the game never drags.  I’ve played Mosaic primarily with 2-3 players and enjoyed it immensely.  I would like to try it with a larger number of folks, though. – Mark Jackson

Emphatically disliked this with 6, and saw enough other problems with it that I was unmotivated to play with fewer.  One of the biggest issues I had (aside from the massive downtime and chaos with 6) was that there were technologies that were only useful early in the game that came out literally at the bottom of the deck.  It’s a problem that’s been easily solved in many other games (dividing the technologies into ages).  I also remember feeling like there were a number of turns where I didn’t have useful actions I could do and choices felt limited. – Anye Shafer

This seems like the kind of game I would like–I am a big fan of civilization games.  But I didn’t really care for it.  The civilization advances and wonders did not seem all that impactful.  In Through the Ages or Civ: A New Dawn, I feel like I am progressing through eras of history.  When I get a wonder that gives me a special ability, it is exciting.  Here, not so much.  The point scoring for area majorities is not very exciting either. – Clay Blankenship

To follow up a little bit on what Anye said, my only play of Mosaic was with 5 and while I enjoyed my game, I did feel it would have been better with fewer.  4 seems like the sweet spot (and 6 is right out).  I didn’t mind the less impactful and somewhat abstract gameplay as much as Clay did, as I viewed it as a reasonable trade-off for a shorter and less militarily focused game.  There were some potential issues, including the possibility that money might be overpowered.  However, it’s definitely a game I want to explore more, preferably with 3 or 4 players, because it does an awful lot of things I like.  So I have some mixed feelings about the game, but in the end, it was one of my 10 favorites of the year. – Larry Levy

Nemesis: Lockdown
This is Aliens in all but the IP. Yes, it’s hard and when you’re out of weapons and try to punch the alien then the outcome is very clear – “it’s game over, man!” – Simon Neale

Next Station: London
I’m a sucker for network building despite not being the biggest fan of roll and write (though I think I like Voll Verplant a little more). – Jimmy Okolica

This has gone under the radar but I love the way it combines a tile-laying spatial element with stock-market like shared incentives in a small deck and 15 minutes. Deserves to be better known. – Martin Griffiths

Box Cover

Planet Unknown
Interesting and at times frustrating choice of tiles. However the lazy Susan turntable works well and when your choice is not ideal you can always position it to make your opponents choice worse. – Simon Neale

I enjoyed my one play enough to overlook that the goals are way imbalanced.  It’s been awhile so I can’t remember the details but I remember thinking I would have pulled one or two of them out of the deck. – Anye Shafer

Ready Set Bet
Real-time betting game that really feels like being at the races. So loud it got banned from my friend’s house and I haven’t dared try it in mine! – Martin Griffiths

Return to Dark Tower
I managed to review Return to Dark Tower twice last year – the second one (linked here) is the more extensive of the two and includes my thoughts on Gritty mode, solo play, and even the competitive variant. Flat out, this was the best game of 2022. It is an immersive cooperative experience that utilizes the amazing tower and the app to create a game that wouldn’t work the same without them. I cannot recommend it highly enough. – Mark Jackson

This game has a little bit of everything, including exploration, deckbuilding, and engine building.  But it all hangs together really well and is just fun to play.  I particularly enjoy the way the multi-effect cards are employed.  A very slickly designed game that has plenty of variety and should be quite replayable. – Larry Levy

My one play blew me away.  I’m always looking for new and interesting mechanisms and this one delivered.  I liked the multi-use cards, including some instant and some permanent uses.  The theme and artwork are very cohesive and I found myself studying some of the more unusual details of the cards.  The tracks on the boards provided additional opportunities and the game presents some difficult choices about which strategic path to follow.  I really like “tile flipping exploration” mechanisms and Revive manages to combine that with action select, deck building, and set collection.  There are even slightly asymmetric powers.  Good grief, what DOESN’T it have!?!?! Overall, not just a challenging and interesting game but a lot of fun, too. – Chris Brandt

Anyone who has been following my review in Tabletop SPIRIT Magazine will know how much I love this game. It has everything I like in a game: streamlined resources, exploration, race to locations, engine building, mutl-use cards….the list goes on. This has had a LOT of plays since picking it up at Essen and it is still being regularly requested in my groups. – Simon Neale

A deck-building game with multi-use cards that feeds into a board placement mechanism. Cards are played into slots on the top or bottom of a player’s board depending on whether the player wants to use the top or bottom ability. Players have access to half of their deck at a time, and can reset to clear their card slots and access the other half. A big part of the game is manipulating the cards and slots, as players can gain abilities to move cards from half to half, play multiple cards in the same slot, play cards upside-down, etc. Board play involves flipping tiles for one-time bonuses, playing buildings on those tiles to gain track advances which can unlock various abilities, and placing meeples that let players activate their faction’s unique abilities. There is some scoring during the game, but most of it comes from secret goal cards for which players can acquire multipliers throughout the game. There’s a lot going on here, and after my second play I really got the hang of the combo-building in the game, which is very enjoyable. – Doug Faust

I’ve played it twice but have yet to have to teach it.  I’m not normally a 4X fan or an area control fan and before I played it, I was afraid it would feel like one of those… but it doesn’t!  I like the multi-use cards and the combos and the deck building… and a bit of exploration.  If I could play it more, it could probably become a favorite. – Jimmy Okolica

This is a great game which I think is faulted by a lack of development. While the experience of playing it is very good, I am unimpressed by the asymmetrical races (and in my games at least one person always felt slightly cheated by getting a bad one) and the objective cards as originally designed really sucks as the cards are so uneven. The variant of having a shared objective card improves that aspect; and overall I have enjoyed my many plays of the game. But I do wish it had had that tiny bit of extra development. Your mileage may vary! – Simon Weinberg

If you like tracks, you’ll love Rise!  There are 10 of them, each with two possible orientations.  Moving to certain spaces on some tracks allows you to advance on other tracks or have similar positive (and sometimes negative) effects.  The object, of course, is to best manage these cascading effects.  Pretty challenging and a good deal to explore. – Larry Levy

San Francisco, Rebel Studio, 2022 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

San Francisco
The one game I’m most disappointed I haven’t gotten to play more.  I loved my first play but haven’t gotten back to the table since. – Jimmy Okolica

Knizia experiments with the popular ‘take & make’ genre but can’t help sneaking in a lot more interaction than these games usually have. – Martin Griffiths

Sea Salt & Paper
A set-collection game with a push-your-luck twist that really makes it (but works best with 2 players in my opinion). – Martin Griffiths

Space Station Phoenix
I didn’t know what to expect on this one, having heard nothing about it.  But, as I mentioned, I’m a sucker for any space themed stuff so I gave it a try.  The timing of jumping on the best actions ratchets up the need for tactical expertise, but an overall strategy is necessary to optimize the advances that have been made in the different station section types.  It was fun watching my space station expand.  I am hoping to get into another game here in my game group, but nobody has heard of it and they’re a tough crowd when it comes to trying new games unless the game has some “hotness” notoriety and a member willing to work on getting up a critical mass of interest for the game.  Maybe at my next con? – Chris Brandt

An interesting WP game, in which you have to destroy parts of your starting ship (for resources), but this tends to also eliminate useful action spaces.  So it’s a race to build the new ship fast enough to give you spaces you can use.  Complicating things is that opponents can pay you to use “your” spaces, which is a bargain you’re almost always unhappy with. – Larry Levy

Splendor Duel
Even though I find Splendor to be pretty boring, I really like this 2-player spinoff of it.  It’s superficially like the parent game, but it feels quite different, which is a good thing.  There’s a good deal to think about, but it moves along quite well and you definitely care about what your opponent is doing.  A superior 2-player game. – Larry Levy

I need more plays but I’m curious if I end up preferring this to regular Splendor with 2 players (something I didn’t expect). I really enjoy Splendor as a 2-player game and held off buying this until just last week.  I like it’s smaller size and so far I think it has at least as much replayability as its base game parent. I like the multiple end game conditions which (I think) promote multiple strategies more than in the base game. – Jimmy Okolica

I liked Splendor when it first came out, but its appeal started waning for me more than a few years ago.  Splendor Duel has reignited that flame for me to the point where I don’t know if I need my copy of Splendor anymore.  Splendor feels like a one trick pony to me… take gems and buy cards that give gems.  Duel adds multiple strategies for winning, more options on changing the game flow such as refreshing the game board, special effects, and wild cards.  Personally, it’s a hit in the Brandt household because Mrs. Brandt loves it and purpose-designed two player games are very popular in our house. – Chris Brandt

Very cute-looking push-your-luck dice game with slightly limited interaction. – Martin Griffiths

Starship Captains, Czech Games Edition, 2022 — front cover (image provided by the publisher)

Starship Captains
In Starship Captains, players move their starship around a map board, fighting pirates and completing away missions. Players’ starship boards have 3 different colors of crew pawns, each associated with different actions–movement, shooting, and upgrading the ship. As actions are taken, the used crew form a queue which determines the order you get them back in future turns. Missions can be completed by any crew members, but provide extra benefits when completed by listed colors. There are a myriad ways to upgrade your crew and your ship, including recruiting new crew and training them in a specialty, promoting a crew member to commander which lets them take double-actions, and acquiring technology cards that could be a new “room” to give a certain color crewmember a new ability, or a more general bonus. This is a lighter, faster-playing game than is usually in my wheelhouse, but the opportunities for planning due to the queuing of crew and the feel-good of being able to upgrade everything made this one really stand out for me. – Doug Faust

As a Star Trek fan… Okay… as a fan of all space stuff… I enjoyed this one quite a bit.  The production quality is excellent, even down to the differences between the different plastic minis, for which there was no real need.  Except for the space ships which were cardboard models.  This dichotomy set me on tilt, but didn’t keep me from enjoying the game.  There are lots of things to do to get points, lots of thematic items about space exploration, technology advancements, and a decent enough amount of interaction when ships get near each other and compete for opportunities.  My only problem with the game was that it didn’t seem long enough.  It played pretty quickly and I would have liked to have had more time to exercise the advances I had made. – Chris Brandt

The Green Fivura
A trick-taker with two great twists.  First, every card has a Green 5 on its back and can, with some limitations, be played as a Green 5, instead of its actual value.  Second, at the end of the game, you add up the values of the cards you used to win tricks and the object is to get as close to 25 as you can without going over.  This gives the game a great “Turn 0” planning appeal and the Green 5 mechanism gives you plenty of ways of carrying out your plans.  Probably my favorite of the innovative trick taking games that have come out recently (and there are a lot of them!). – Larry Levy

Played at the Gathering and enjoyed. For me it’s a simple and original idea to try to score the top card of your colours collected and get as close to 21 as possible, and the rules associated to playing the green 5 which is on the backside of every card is a touch of genius. – Simon Weinberg

I only played this once but it jumped to the must-buy-when-I-can-find-it list immediately.  It’s a super clever variation on trick taking. – Anye Shafer

The Guild of Merchant Explorers
I think this is the next step in the evolution of the roll’n’write/flip’n’write genre… not towards greater complexity (Twilight Inscription was fine but I don’t need to own it) but instead by finding creative ways to tell an ongoing story with good components and well-balanced variety. – Mark Jackson

This is a game with roll-and-write sensibilities but no actual rolling or writing. Each turn, a card is flipped which determines which spaces players can mark off on their identical boards. Instead of writing on the board, though, players place cubes on the spaces, which is important because twice during the game, all of the cubes are cleared off. Players are trying to connect their lines of cubes to spaces that provide points, special abilities, or they can complete regions which allows them to build a settlement that can be saved for future rounds. Each round features a special card flip that allows a player to choose their own very strong special move from cards drawn off a deck, which helps differentiate players’ strategies. The game comes with a variety of different map boards, each of which has different bonuses and in some cases slightly different rules. I enjoyed my play of this, and while I think playing the same map would get stale very quickly, I look forward to trying out other maps. – Doug Faust

Three Sisters
I think this pushed the complexity of roll and write games, with interactive systems. – Clay Blankenship

Tiletum ; Czech / English edition ; TLAMA games / Board&Dice - Front

More Luciani/Tascini goodness.  The central dice mechanic is clever (the more resources you get, the fewer actions you can take), there’s lots of cascading actions because of special tiles you can grab, and the whole thing represents a very enjoyable challenge.  Lots to think about and a great deal of replayability because of the random setup.  A little less involved than is usual for this pair and that’s not a bad thing. – Larry Levy

I enjoyed my one play, but I also felt it had some balance issues and was on the border between appropriately and unnecessarily complex.  I’d play it again to see which way my opinion shifts.  I do prefer it to several of the other games by these designers, as it’s not quite as “everything including the kitchen sink-y” as those. – Anye Shafer

Turing Machine
I find myself wishing this were longer, it’s super short, which I guess is a benefit in that I’d rather play this for fifteen minutes than most other 15 minute games.  The deduction is interesting though there’s definitely a meta aspect to “no answer that would not be conclusively determinable from the clues given can be the answer” which I had trouble explaining, and which felt a little weird to me. – Anye Shafer

Wonderfully intriguing game which I enjoy more because I’m so good at it. It’s all about getting your logic right. The development of this game is superb. It’s not one I’m going to play every day but it’s good to dip into every now and then and the rounds are pretty short. – Simon Weinberg

Twilight Inscription
I think this pushed the complexity of roll and write games, with interactive systems. – Clay Blankenship

Wandering Towers
Kramer/Kiesling family game with great components that feels a bit like Pachisi in that you’re racing to get several of your meeples round the track and ‘home’ first, while ‘capturing’ opponents’ pieces. But ‘home’ and other elements of the track can move too and there’s a memory element to where your meeples have been hidden. – Martin Griffiths

English Renegade Studios -- Box Front

Wayfarers of the South Tigris
This is a worker-placement game that splits actions between dice and pawns. Dice are used for actions on player boards, where pawns (which are not player-specific) are placed on the central board. Those pawns stay on the board until someone buys the card that is associated with that space to expand their player board, at which time they also get the pawn for a later action. This fuels a branching Journal path in the center of the game board, which has increasing requirements and can grant players more pawns and dice among other bonuses. Scoring is largely a point salad, with the majority of points coming from space cards, sets of land/sea cards (same and different), caravan tiles, and guild majorities. There really is a lot going on here, with a ton of different actions both public and private, but everything seems to integrate pretty well. While it is possible to foil one another’s plans, multi-turn planning is key, and it really feels satisfying when you’re able to carry out a plan over multiple turns. This one is definitely a winner for me. – Doug Faust

A contract fulfillment game where players are trying to build up their carpentry workshop and complete product cards. All the wood in the game is represented by three different colors of dice; the dice can be purchased from the supply, but then can be “sawed” into two dice with the same total pips, or “glued together” with other dice to form a single die with all of the pips. The game uses an action selection mechanism reminiscent of Shipyard, where actions that haven’t been taken in a while get additional bonuses. Additionally, there’s a wide variety of tools, helpers, and other items that you can use to augment your capabilities. I really enjoyed this one—it felt like a much cleaner design than Praga or Shipyard, but there were a ton of different ways you could approach the game that just made it feel really fun. – Doug Faust

This entry was posted in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Meeples Choice Awards Voters Speak: Comments on the Best Games of 2022

  1. Jacob says:

    Thanks, Larry! I did read the emails but I wouldn’t reread them. Much easier to read them here.

    Heat is the only one of the winners I’ve played and since an inlaw has it I’ve played it a fair number of times. Literally every time I play it I find myself wanting to play El Dorado instead. I think being able to change directions makes the difference for me.

  2. Derek Thompson says:

    This was good stuff, and I think these are the closest to the “right” picks from last year that I’ve seen of any awards. Great games that serve a variety of audiences, not too tough and not too light, with fun themes. Highly rated games for a reason.

Leave a Reply