Andy Nealen's Tabletop Games of 2014

2014 is a year in which games and their mechanics were not so much invented or revolutionized, but rather expertly refined. We have seen a consolidation of mechanics, with many interesting re-combinations and hybrids. And, in a welcome change of pace, they do not generally degenerate to gimmicks and one-trick ponies that lack replay value. What has taken place is experimentation with the known, given a better understanding of the current designer tool set. What I believe we could use much more of is insightful writing and speaking about game design details, along the lines of my current favorite, MtG lead designer Mark Rosewater’s Drive to Work podcast. I have plans for this in the form of an NYU Press hosted and published, online only, open access Game Design Journal, for which details will be available soon (early 2015, if all goes well).

But not all great games this year are strictly competitive, and many of them challenge more than two players?—?I don’t only play card games. The dominant themes in my list besides the aforementioned 1v1 card and dice games are refined Euro games, a few very accessible fantasy war games, one free-for-all battle arena game, and cooperative games; one of those cooperative games has the potential of a betrayer, a mechanic popularized by Shadows over Camelot (2005) and Battlestar Galactica (2008). And there are werewolves and orcs?—?both fantasy and science fiction?—?and zombies and sheep. You know, the usual suspects.

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