In the first few years of doing this column, I would always do a Game of the Year award thing. It's the kind of thing you're supposed to do at the end of a year, right? You look back over the months and follow your heart to the place where everything was magical for you. There was a time when a game would absolutely stand out over all the rest, and you'd feel like you'd seen enough of the rest to make a confident call on what you thought was “the best”. But times have changed.
Boardgame Of The Year 2015
So what was my Game of the Year in 2015? Well, how can I possibly say? I write this column ever single week, missing one or two for holidays and such. So that's about 50 columns in 2015, and the vast majority of them were reviews of games. Not just reviews of games, but recommendations of games. So that's good games. A whole load of good games you'd suggest people should buy.
So you just pick the best of those and give out the award, right?
Well, maybe. See, there were an unbelievable amount of games released last year. I'd guess that there were more board games released last year than ever before, and I haven't played all of them. I won't have even come close. I won't have even played half. Or a quarter. Or even a sixth maybe. Or even, let's be frank, an eighth. Or maybe even one of the more obscure fractions, like an eleventh.
Further than that, there are a few games that other people have stated were important releases from 2015 that I haven't yet touched. Pandemic: Legacy is sitting there unplayed, and people are raving about it. On Her Majesty's Service is a game that I can see sitting across from me as I write this, and who knows how good it is? I haven't got to that yet.
Forget about all the big-name board games that I haven't had a chance to get to – what if the best game of the year was some obscure, indie board game that hardly anyone has seen? A little game of sheer genius that really needs the exposure of a Game of the Year award from a major website like this to increase its sales. What if that is out there somewhere, waiting for me to find it? There were more obscure indie board games released this year than ever before too! It's endless. It is ENDLESS.
So as each year goes by, it's almost like I am less qualified to hand out any kind of Game of the Year award. What am I supposed to do? Change the name of the award to THE BEST GAME THAT I HAVE PLAYED THIS YEAR AWARD 2015? That's entirely meaningless, right? What if I'd only played three games? What if I'd only played Star Wars Monopoly, Star Wars Cluedo and Star Wars Guess Who? What would be the point of that award?
So it's with some reluctance that I approach this whole endeavour, but I kinda sorta think I have to say something. I have to give out an award of some kind, or what kind of games writer am I? What games writer doesn't give out awards or make lists?
Okay, so here, for what it's worth, are my top three games of 2015. Of the ones that I've actually played. They're all brilliant, don't worry about that. And the actual winner is a delight.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
While Star Wars: Imperial Assault was released in 2014, it was the start of 2015 that saw it spread properly into players' hands, and it was through 2015 that the game really developed as a full experience. The expansions brought a huge amount of variety into both campaign and skirmish play, and now Imperial Assault is the perfect Star Wars figure fighty sandbox in a box. When you're in the middle of a skirmish, with stormtroopers firing at Han and Chewie, and Vader striding towards the battle, and R2 and C-3PO messing around with the control panels – it immerses you in the Star Wars universe beautifully.
Squeezing in towards the very end of 2015, and reviewed here just last week, T.I.M.E. Stories is a remarkable co-op storytelling game that promises many further delights. I also love the fact that people are disagreeing about the value of the game, the design of the game, the story of the game. This isn't just another release to be forgotten about in a few months time. This feels like landmark stuff.
Game Of The Year 2015: Three Kingdoms Redux
And here is my choice for Game of The Year 2015.
This indie-published, strictly 3-player board game set in Three Kingdoms era China is an experience like no other. The 3-player dynamic is dramatic and elegant, and the game is full of tight strategic decisions. It's gorgeous, beautifully designed and deserves to be more widely known and far more widely praised.
I told you before to get it. Now you MUST, because it just won a fucking award.