Our Favorite Board Games of 2014

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  • As we reach the second anniversary of Unwinnable Board Game Club, Kearny Chapter, we realized this year was packed with great table top games. As with last year, most of the games we played didn’t come out this year, so this isn’t a traditional best of list. Instead, we thought we’d share our favorite games we played this year.

    DnD

    Dungeons & Dragons
    OK, so it isn’t technically a board game, but our group came back to Dungeons & Dragons in such a big way this year that it would be weird to leave it off this list. I’ve had the pleasure of both playing a lengthy run of classic First Edition modules (Scourge of the Slave Lords [A1-4] and Against the Giants [G1-3]) as well as reviving and running my homebrew Second Edition campaign. Both feel as comfortable and broken in as my harness boots.

    This year saw the release of a new edition of the rules, but I think we’re done upgrading. Fifth Edition may bring the ruleset back to the classic, with a modern twist, but we’re already back where we belong, playing the game we grew up on.

    – Stu Horvath

    Ticket

    Ticket To Ride
    I don’t think we knew that we would have as much fun with this game upon first introduction. Trains? Connect the dots? While we get a bit competitive with Ticket To Ride, it never brings out the worst in any of us. And yet, perhaps more than any other game we played this year, we played this obsessively, at the table top and on the tablet.

    The basic premise is to build railroads to connect cities that you are randomly assigned at the beginning of the game through ticket cards. You can always grab more tickets but sometimes it can lead to ones downfall. Then it becomes a race to collect cards to build rail lines. The real secret is to build one long, continuous rail line and nab the longest route award.

    Sound simple? It is. That’s what makes it so addictive.

    – Ken Lucas

    Werewolves

    Werewolves of Millers Hollow
    This is the ultimate party game. Made for 8 to 18 players, Werewolves pits players against each other in a paranoia inducing spin on a combination of poker and Marco Polo (it is a variation on a Russian party game called Mafia). Players take random roles that decide their fate as villager, werewolf, fortune teller, among others. When night falls in the game, players close their eyes and the werewolves pick a villager to kill. Once daylight arrives, and the villager is found dead, the players conspire to kill a suspected werewolf.

    What happens next resembles something out of The Thing or Panic Station; a kind of hysteria that leads to a mob lynching a suspect on little more than a hunch. This is where your best poker face or misdirection tactics come in handy. Villagers win when all werewolves are dead and werewolves win when all villagers are dead.

    What’s more fun that conspiring to murder your friends?

    – Ken Lucas

    King

    King of New York
    In the new version of the ever popular King of Tokyo, monsters descend upon New York for absolute destruction. While Tokyo seemed dependent on racking up stars for victory, this game truly brings on the monster fights. It introduces new elements like destroying buildings and the army, as well as bringing back old favorites like the card power Extra Head. While collecting stars is still a focus, it seems the game almost forces you to take out the other monsters. This game could give even Godzilla a run for his money.

    – Ken Lucas

    Unwinnable’s Board Game Club are huge marks for Richard Garfield’s King of Tokyo and its expansions. So when we heard that Mr. Garfield had a new monster game taking place in our own back yard, we were beyond excited. IELLO Games demoed King of New York at this year’s New York Comic Con. Charles Moran preordered the game on the spot.

    King of New York has the same basic dice and card mechanics as King of Tokyo, but it forces the players to evolve their styles of play by introducing new elements like property damage that results in military assaults as well as new cards that can modify a player’s dice roll. There are multiple paths to victory in the game and it gets intensely brutal. Bottom line: the game is a blast, regardless of whether or not you’ve played its predecessor.

    – Ian Gonzales

    Power

    Power Grid
    Power Grid is an endurance race. The careful balance of supply and demand as well as ensuring you spend wisely, all while keeping your opponents guessing, is a complete mind fuck. I’ve watched myself loose by $1, yes ONE DOLLAR, after spending more than 2 hours planning out my grid, only to keep myself up at night thinking that if I just bought that one extra oil barrel I could have won. Its basically Butterfly Effect: The Game.

    – Dave Trainer

    This game is in exercise in management and futures. You buy power plants. Then you buy resources for power. Next you buy cities to power and get paid to power them. The first person to successfully power a certain number of cities at once wins. This game can really teach you about futures and the rise and fall of natural resource markets. I’ve witnessed some players hoarding oil only to find oil to go from a dollar a barrel to 10 dollars a barrel thus forcing some players to get into coal, garbage or even nuclear power. Aggressive bidding and building can be your crowning victory but can also be your downfall.

    – Ken Lucas

    Honestly, I never thought that our vicious, warmongering group would ever get into Power Grid, let alone that it would become one of our absolute favorites. No combat? Economics?

    I love this game. The simple way the supply and demand of resources works against the bidding process for power plants against the race to get cheap connections between cities is such a wonder of mechanical balance. It is so sublime, so perfect, that I have won when I wasn’t expecting to and lost when I was sure I’d won – and still loved every turn and action.

    – Stu Horvath

    cosmic4

    Game of the Year: Cosmic Encounter
    Cosmic Encounter is amazing and all, but fuck Cosmic Encounter.

    – Stu Horvath

    Charles Moran will tell you that this is the board game version of Calvin Ball. He might not tell you that this game may cause a player to flip tables (we’ve all come very, very close). Cosmic Encounter is all about alien domination. Each player gets a random alien race and each race has a power that somehow breaks the rules. Aliens face off against each other, forming alliances and fighting each other using a mechanic similar to War. The alien that claims five planets wins.

    Sound easy? We have found out that when you think you have the upper hand, the game drastically shifts in the other direction. It is one of the few games this year that we found ourselves talking about outside of game night. With a staggering number of alien races to choose from, a winning strategy changes from game to game. And while you can share victory, a number of us will tell you that winning alone is the only real way to win.

    – Ken Lucas

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