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Top sellers for the first half of the year were Patchwork and Sushi Go, both in short supply during the previous festive season so pounced upon when they returned. Then came two considerably larger games, Dead of Winter A Crossroads Game – zombie game of choice among the cognoscenti - and Castles of Mad King Ludwig, an excellent mid-weight game. In at number 5 was Harbour, another middleweight, less well known but a local favourite, followed by the ubiquitous Splendor. I have played it many times with a variety of people, have yet to win but am happy to keep trying.
Number 7 was Sheriff of Nottingham, a bluffing game very much in vogue last Spring, in 8th place was Star Realms, a very good deck-builder that is quick, fun and a lot more portable than the many (also good) alternatives. Machi Koro was at the height of its popularity; another game that I get consistently beaten at, but at least I can blame my famously bad luck with dice. Red7 rounded out the top 10, a card game with simple rules but quite fiendish to play.
So, a good mix with no real surprises, but it was all change for the second half of the year, except for Patchwork which retained its number 1 spot and was the runaway winner for the year. As a purely two-player game its sales might be expected to be restricted compared with the many good 2 - 4 player games, but it suits so many people – it is a gamer's game that also attracts puzzle lovers and quilt fanciers, and can be explained in two minutes flat.
Current second place goes to Codenames, a newcomer in October that immediately became the quick multi-player game of choice. In third place is Ticket to Ride UK expansion – we had a very successful launch day for this, which takes TTR to a new level. It would still be selling like hot cakes were it in print – tragically, Days of Wonder have been taken over and currently the entire TTR is unavailable apart from what we still have in stock. Hey, That's My Fish! is number 4, only missing from the earlier lists while it was being reprinted, the delightful Takenoko continues to be a steady seller and a surge in popularity takes it to number 5. Sushi Go has slipped to number 6, but as a good, quick filler game it is always up there somewhere. 7th place turns up a surprise: The Grizzled, a WW1 co-operative game giving a taste of life in the trenches, appropriate for the 100th anniversary of the Somme, but not exactly mass market. 8th is TTR Europe, on the back of the boost to Ticket to Ride following the UK expansion. 9th is the Salsa expansion for Concordia – we play Concordia in the shop at the drop of a hat so expected to sell a few of these, but it went well through mail order too. In 10th place is Spyfall, a competitor to Codenames, and while it lost that battle, it has still gone pretty well.
Looking at 11th to 20th makes interesting reading too, but this will do for now.
Christmas has come round once again and that generally means lots of get togethers with family and friends, and as I'm sure all gamers do, we're looking forward to sitting down and getting some quality gaming sessions in over the holiday period with some new Christmas acquisitions and maybe also some longstanding favourites. Like many of you perhaps, my Christmas gaming sessions will encompass a variety of different ages and gaming tastes so my choice of games will be quite varied! Here are a few that I'm most looking forward to most…
Two player games
This seems to be something of a speciality of mine as I play a lot of 2 player games with my wife. However there are often opportunities to bust out a 2 player classic when others are taking a nap and there are just 2 of you up for a quick game! I have a copy of 7 Wonders Duel for Christmas that I'm very much looking forward to playing as it has received excellent ratings and been very well received by almost every reviewer. However if the tight competitiveness doesn't suit you then I would strongly recommend Patchwork which is a recent acquisition and one that has immediately become one of our favourite games as a couple. Don't be fooled though, this game has a lot going on, with plenty of resource management and also a puzzly aspect to it as well. The theme may seem to favour a female audience but this would be a misconception. I played this with my brother in law and he thoroughly enjoyed it despite losing to me! My other firm recommendation which has been one of my best value purchases of the year would be Star Realms, a small deck building one on one battle game. I'm excited about getting some more quick battles in, as this game is fast and fun! My two brothers in law both enjoy this so I'm thinking a mini tournament might be in order…
Artifacts Inc is a 2015 release from Red Raven Games (Ryan Laukat) and is waiting for me under the Christmas tree to bust open. I think as a dice placement game, with a bit of economics and set collection it should be ideal for families, especially those who enjoy the Indiana Jones artefact hunting theme! It looks reasonably straightforward and plays in well under an hour. I’ve heard good things so looking forward to that one. Takenoko is another 2015 addition for me that I enjoy greatly as a lightweight family style game. This is an action selection game with adorable components (a Panda miniature no less!) and has gone down famously with everyone I've played it with. Admittedly this isn’t one for lovers of strategy heavy Euro's but nevertheless it is fast and fun, which is often a feature of the games we enjoy. I'm hoping that Santa brings me the new Chibis expansion, as I've heard it is an excellent expansion that adds some depth and variety in modules (and another Panda miniature!)
Big heavy 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) games
This year Santa is bringing me a much lusted after game – Xia: Legends of a Drift System… This seems to be a fairly light way to get into the 4X category of gaming without getting bogged down in a lot of rules and heavy economic systems! From what I've seen the game looks amazing and gives players scope to explore, trade, battle or complete missions across the 'Drift System' in a bid for fame points. A rack load of pre-painted miniatures and top quality components make the game even more appealing. This game is getting rare now as it was a kickstarter, but Spirit Games have copies!
I have discovered that my brother in law is also getting a game from Santa that he has long been lusting after, and that is the epic space-opera Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition. Now while this game is almost definitely going to be too heavy and involved for me, I must admit I am looking forward to the challenge and experience of sitting down one day over the holidays to take part in what must be one of the biggest games there is available to buy. I’ve heard epic stories about games of TI3, and I think it is a 'must do' gaming experience, if only once!
I acquired Wits and Wagers Deluxe earlier this year but it has yet to hit the table, but what better time than over Christmas? This is the archetypal classic large group party game, with this version coming with some rather nice component upgrades such as poker chips, a better roll out mat, better dry wipe pens and boards too. It is extremely well reviewed and should hopefully give us lots of fun and laughs over the holidays. Jungle Speed is a fast dexterity/reflex game and is one that has provided a lot of banter in the past, no doubt this will come out again to provide some very light relief as a filler between some of these other games.
Large group games
For larger group games that provide a little less chaos and a little more strategy, you can't go wrong with a drafting game. I picked up a copy of Sushi Go earlier this year I have fallen in love with this game, from the gorgeous artwork on the cards, to the slick and easy gameplay and short round time. Definitely looking forward to rattling off some games of this one over the festive season! For the same reason 7 Wonders is an excellent choice and has been around in our family for a few years now. This game gives you the feel of building a civilisation in a very short space of time with plenty of decisions to make and 'turn angst' when drafting your cards. It takes a few plays to get the hang of the icons and rules, but once you're up to speed 7 Wonders is quick and satisfying, and there are very few games that play up to 7 players in less than an hour. If you've not played it yet, try and get hold of a copy for Christmas and give it a try!
My two oldest boys have enjoyed 'playing' Rory's Story Cubes with me in the past, the game is very simple – roll the custom dice and make up a story about the symbols that are displayed! It encourages adults and children alike to use their imagination and create a story, often with hilarious results! To spice up the game a little I picked up an expansion for it – Batman! This is one of the boys' favourite themes and so to get it into a game that they can participate in (they are only 3 and 5!) is fantastic. I'm so excited to see what stories they can come up with the new cubes rolled into the mix!
Games for the blokes
Neuroshima Hex 3.0 is a strategic tile-laying war game that has been a favourite of the guys in our family for a couple of years now as it offers something a bit 'different' from the usual skirmish/war-game. The game has a puzzle aspect to it as well, with players trying to place their troop tiles strategically so it best benefits them in the event of a fight being 'triggered'. All the factions are structured differently so they have a uniqueness to them, and this year I have bought a new army expansion 'New York' as a Christmas gift for my brother in law to switch things up a little!
Hopefully I will get a few more plays of the highly thematic deck-building game Arctic Scavengers over the Christmas holidays. This is my favourite deck-builder and is so much fun with its gritty violent theme set in a world that has been engulfed by an ice age prompted by global climate change. I thoroughly enjoy this game as it offers more than the usual deck-building model of 'buy better cards' with other elements such as resource management, digging in the junk yard, building buildings, special abilities and of course the bluffing involved in setting aside cards from your hand for the 'skirmish' phase, with the winner getting a highly valuable 'contested resource' card. Me and my brothers in law got a real kick out of this last time, so I'm looking forward to getting involved in some Arctic Scavenging this Christmas!
Hopefully there are a few suggestions and recommendations for you to follow up on and of course all are normally available from Spirit Games (of course things do run out temporarily close to Christmas).
Spirit Games (Est. 1984) - Supplying role playing games (RPG), wargames rules, miniatures and scenery, new and traditional board and card games for the last 33 years
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