Suburbia”. An excellent city… eh… simulator. Or, maybe, rather, “SimCity simulator”. I really enjoy the interconnected economies around reputation and inhabitants, income and money. As one might imagine, there are multiplayer solitaire aspects present, but there is enough interaction through the clever market (with a glimpse into the future) and buildings that impact all players (like restaurants that gives a significant boost to the economy at first, but slows it down for every restaurant opened afterwards). Definitely one of the best games I played in 2014.
Qwirkle” is a kind of “Scrabble” for players with different mother tongues. Or a “Scrabble” for people that hasn’t memorised an entire dictionary. Domino with more interesting choices. An abstract experience for people of all ages… from 6(?) to 199… Or so. This is probably the game I have most often introduced to people and it has ended up in their collections. (Even for people without collections as such.) It was launched in 2006, and got itself a “Spiel des Jahres” back in 2011, so it is not the newest game on this list, but it has to be here, methinks. (Interestingly, or, rather, sadly, it is one of the few games in my collection designed by a woman. (I hope there are more to come!))
BlueprintsWhereas 2013 was the year I rediscovered the importance of dice - and luck in games in general, 2014 was the year of the reinvention of dice as game component, I’d say. “Blueprints” is a very clever dice drafting game where the dice roll is less important than what dice are in play. An excellent game, albeit a bit too cerebral if you were excepting a visceral dice game. Also, some might find the theme a bit pasted on, but, hey!, that doesn't bother me.
Port RoyalThe biggest surprise hit of 2014 was the push-your-luck pirate harbour simulator of “Port Royal”. One might argue that it is terribly luck driven, but that doesn’t matter when the resulting ambiance feels so much like I’m sure it would be in a pirate harbour. One more card! Best 9 euro-coin spent all 2014.
JaipurThe big two-player hit in our household was the couple of years old game of “Jaipur”. It is a card trading game, but not in a “magic the gathering way”, more a set collection camel… exploiting… way. Great fun, even though I always lose.
Imperial SettlersAh, “Imperial Settlers”. This Ignazy-game was my only pre-order for Essen 2014. And, even after way too few plays, it has lived up to the buzz around it. The four-player game might be a bit long and chaotic, but anything less than that should work stellar - even solitaire is entertaining. As most reviews point out, this has nothing to do with neither the game “Settlers (of Catan)”, nor “Imperial”, so the name is arguably the most problematic part of this game… (That, and the somewhat small text on the cards of the player furthest away from you.)
MythotopiaAnother funny-sounding name is “Mythotopia”, but just like with the previous years’s “A Study in Emerald”, Martin Wallace presented with “Mythotopia” one of the best experiences of the Essen Fair 2014. This is a more-than-two player version of his excellent “A Few Acres of Snow” deck-builder, eh, “war game”. Excellent! (If you know when to lose a battle to win the war…)
Pandemic: The CureMy price for most clever uses of dice of 2014 goes to “Pandemic: The Cure”. For example, dice are infected people, dice are quarantined people, dice are grants (I’m sure that is the significance of the CDC ‘+’-dice.), dice are sample vials, dice are samples, as well as deciding available actions on any turn. Whereas its excellent namesake “Pandemic” is more of a strategic and game for thought and planning, “The Cure”, is more of a chaotic and hectic romp. Where you, to a way larger extent, just have to react to what the game throws at you. And that, for me, makes it an even better coop game, since it is more difficult to have a captain, or rather, dictator, that dictates (or captains?) what all players ought to do. Also, the game is hard. (Once you play with the right rules. Heh, Mathieu?) So far more of a challenge than its predecessor… Also, the components are amazing. All those diceses! Precious diceses...
Another splendid game with most excellent components is the tableau/engine builder of “Splendor”. (I’ve even heard/read some argue that they are too amazing, as it makes the game less portable than needed.) The use of poker chips for the various currencies in the game really adds to the game. It makes the game so much more tactile. Also, the gem trading theme, kind of, works, even though it at times, admittedly, feels rather pasted on. Overall an amazing game.
By far my most played game of 2014, both in number of plays and number of minutes, is “Minivilles”(, or “Machi Koro”, if you want). 21 plays. (“Qwirkle”, 2013’s hit “Love Letter”, and “Splendor” follows suit with 12, 11, and 10 plays.) It is really a guilty pleasure of a minimalist tableau building dice game, but, for some reason, it really works! Like a modern day Monopoly, where the rich, admittedly, gets richer, but with more interesting choices and ways to mess up the game for the leader. It is not really a game for much thought and contemplation, though, more of a gambling simulator, so “Minivilles” is… loud! (Many an evening I have invited people for a combo of “Splendor” and “Minivilles”. During the former silence reigns as people contemplate their future moves, during the latter there’s noise and chatter again. Oh, the noise.) Great fun, and probably the most important game of 2014 - for me.
VariousThis year I have also taken the time to write up some other random categories of games of the year…
Blast from the past“Coloretto” (6 plays)
Runner up:“Ticket to Ride Europe”
Best Children’s game:“Fort comme un dragon”
Not played (enough) to merit a place on the list, but would probably enter it if time allowed:“Caverna” (Felt like a very promising “Agricola 2.0”...), “Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age” (I've only played the solo variant), “Race for the Galaxy” (ditto), “Abyss”, “Five Tribes”, “Roll for the Galaxy”, ...
EpilogueSo, there you have it - my list of 2014. Lots of games could have been on it, I realize... Like “Takenoko” (I had some very nice moments with this tranquil game in my family over Jul.), good old “Perudo”, or, almost just as old, “For $ale”...
Also, for reference, here's my list from 2013.