Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 in Review, part one

As is usual, we round off another year with a look back over the previous twelve months. This post is all about the stories and characters of the year.


This month was notable for two castle building games. Castles of Mad King Ludwig had been a Christmas present for Sam and became a firm favourite in the early part of the year with its mix of bidding, bonuses and spatial awareness. Versailles, on the other hand, did not go down so well and lasted two games before being consigned to history.

We were also introduced to Pairs. As an end-of-evening filler, it's hard to beat and it was played an amazing thirty-one times this year on Tuesdays alone. It has caused many a heartbreak, but perhaps none more than in this month. Adam foolishly let slip that he'd just won his fourth game in a row at the end of an evening. Quickly a game of Pairs was arranged and poor old Adam finished in fourth.


Mad King Ludwig's reign continued into February, as other games came and went. Flowerfall, Members Only and Empire Engines made their debuts and haven't been seen since. More successful was Verflixxt which entertained us by using dice in a good way.

We also discovered Kobayakawa, the simple betting game which had a decent run of appearances at GNN, before dissatisfaction with its too-powerful final round meant it faded from view.


This month I met my evil nemesis in board game form: Quartmaster General. I disliked it so much I was in a bad mood for the rest of the next day. Coming so soon after Memoir 44, it was a very warlike start to the month. Also, Shadow of the Empire had been lurking on Sam's shelf for some time, but did not impress on its first play to warrant a second attempt.

On a happier note, Mysterium was a fun murder mystery using dixit-like game mechanics and bespoke card-holders.


A month of pleasant returns for GNN.

El Grande made its presence felt after years in the wilderness. It was a bit underwhelming as I sped off into an early lead and stayed there, while pensive Steve thought about every move in great detail.

And Eclipse reappeared, thanks to Sam buying a copy. This is an epic in both space and time, and our first go (with Ian, Sam and me) lasted three hours. Still, a worthwhile endevour, I think. Nice to see it back.

We also had debuts for Letters from Whitechapel, Witness, Tower of Babel and Welcome To The Dungeon.


While I holidayed in Japan, GNN hosted the Really Big Board Game Day. This was an opportunity to raise money for the NSPCC and perhaps gain a few new recruits for board games. It was, by all accounts, a success and I received emails from Bristol asking me to track down a couple of games of Deep Sea Adventure, a Japanese game that had gone down rather well. Was this the event that turned Tim into a fledgling GNNer?

Meanwhile, Caverna popped back on the GNN radar, and Scoville reinforced Martin's prejudices about “Kickstarter crap”.


Midnight Party arrived at GNN in almost magical circumstances. While discussing wat we wanted to lay, Joe mentioned an obscure game he'd heard of but couldn't find called Midnight Party. Andy reached into his bag and said “I just happen to have it here.” Amazingly, we ignored such a good omen and didn't play it there and then, but it went on to become a favourite. Perhaps too much, since it is currently banned in two venues due to the raucous nature of the game. Or of us.

Otherwise, GNN slip merrily into summer with Tigris and Euphrates, more King Ludwig and Caverna, and Lords of Vegas.


July saw Darjeeling come and go, and Sumeria and Africa, too, passed through GNN portals. In A Bind made more of an impact, if only for being absurd.

And I had to play Carcassone again.


August slid by in a haze of summer. The biggest new arrival was Riener Knizia's compendium of Rome-themed games, Neue Spiele im Alten Rom. This package serves up a range of games of different types for different numbers of players. Circus Maximus and Imperium have been the only two to feature on the GNN leaderboard, though.


This year has been notable for the large number of physical games that have appeared on the blog. In September, the epitome of this new trend arrived: Bandu. Mixing cruelty, fun and dexterity, this tower building game has swiftly risen in stature as a new favourite. As well as Bandu, Villa Paletti was first seen in September and it was fun if a little rule-heavy. And this has been followed by Hamsterrolle and Polarity and Push It in more recent months.

Add to this, the first sighting of Codenames, the cunning game of lateral thinking. Or, in our case, sadly obtuse thinking. And if that weren't enough, Mystery At The Abbey encouraged us to ask insightful questions about monks in a search for a killer.

But if this makes you think we'd barely touched a meeple all month, panic not: Caverna, Castles of Burgundy, Bruges and Macao all helped maintain our love of Eurogames.


Mystery At The Abbey continued to intrigue and Roll For The Galaxy and Giants both had their moments in the sun and may come back soon. Hard to tell. Luckily, Ben made his GNN debut and he did come back. Martin introduced us to the card games Beasty Bar and Njet.

Also GNN got to experience Tales of the Arabian Nights, the clever story-telling game where you use your skills (given to you at the start of the game) and your judgement (should have brought it with you) to weave a story of magic, money and derring-do.


Novocon II! Games! Beach! Toddlers! A bad Snowdonia variant! A seemingly endless game of Mystery At The Abbey! Everything electric was broken! What fun.

In the regular GNN world Celestia, Broom Service and Chocolatl made their debuts. And so did Martin's brand new walk-in games cupboard. Celestia became a hit and Chocolatl gained some fans (except not Katy who showed her contempt by going Dirk through most of her game) and Martin's cupboard was similarly well received. Samarkand didn't not fair as well, being a set building/selling game with a tricky way of getting from A to B. Sam didn't not approve.


It was all about trains as we sped towards the festive season. Colt Express rode into town again having not been seen in months. It's proved itself to be a very entertaining half-hour six-player game and we also cracked out Railways of the World and Ticket To Ride UK. And Oregon has train stations in it.

The Sheriff of Nottingham made its first appearance and was notable for how carefully your had to open the bags of goods that you were trying to get past the Sheriff.


  1. I think Keyflower is my game for this year. Even though San Juan is quite old I'd never played it and really enjoyed it.

  2. Codenames has to be mine - it's been a hit every time, and played so much over Christmas. Along with Take it Easy :-)

  3. Did I play Eclipse for the first time this year? I'd go for that and Codenames. And Bandu, which always makes me laugh.

  4. Btw I have no idea what Shadow of the Empire is/was. It's not even on the geek!

  5. Ah, I meant In The Shadow Of The Emperor.

  6. (New) Game of the year for me is probably Codenames, too.