A phenomenal number of games hit the G3 sweet spot this year — so many that I not only had a hard time limiting the main G3 Guide to just ten, but picking only five runner-ups will be difficult as well. That said, here are some other games worthy of your consideration.
- Aquadukt (Uberplay Entertainment, 2-4 players, 30 minutes, $22): This only reason this one was omitted from the main G3 Guide was because the list was already packed with simple, short, well-designed, semi-abstract family games, and I needed to make room for a few games of other genres. In Aquadukt, players first build houses, and then construct canals from the local spring to your humble abode. But as players take turns adding to the aqueduct, you never know when the flow of the water might zig when you desperately want it to zag. [More info]
- Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (Days of Wonder, 3-5 players, 60 minutes, 45$): As with Aquadukt, I could have easily swapped this one into of the main list in place of, say, Masons or Blue Moon City. Players work together to construct a palace for the Queen of the Nile, but some may be tempted to cut corners and engage in shady deals. In the end, the richest player wins … and the most corrupt player is sacrificed to the gods. Days of Wonder has a well-earned reputation for producing beautiful games, but they’ve outdone themselves with Cleopatra — take a look at these components. [More info]
- Voltage (Mattel, 2 players, 15 minutes, $16): Mattel is one of those enormous game companies not known for producing well-designed, elegant, “German-esque” games. What a pleasant surprise, then, to find Voltage under their banner, a simple but engaging card game for two players. Players place numeric cards to four terminals, striving to have the highest total if the polarity of the terminal is positive, and lowest total if its negative. Simple enough — except, in a Machiavellian twist, the rules allow players to play cards on their opponent’s side of the board, foiling their best laid plans. [More info]
- Pickomino (Rio Grande Games, 2-6 players, 20 minutes, $20): The genre colloquially known as “push your luck games” (epitomized by the TV show Deal or No Deal) contains titles, that are simple, fun, and often nerve-wracking. Pickomino, for instance, has players as chickens, rolling dice Yahtzee-style and trying to acquire the tastiest worms off the barbecue. But if your total isn’t high enough, don’t despair: just steal another player’s hard-won snack. Suitable for kids as young as eight, playable by up to seven people, and taking only 20 minutes to complete, this is a game suitable for just about any occasion. [More info]
- Tempus (Rio Grande Games, 3-5 players, 90 minutes, $50): This one’s a smidge heavier than some of the other games I’m recommending (which is the only reason it didn’t quite make it to the G3 Guide proper), but it was one of my favorite of the year. The buzz of Tempus, before it was released, was that it was going to be “Civilization in two hours” — that is, the wildly popular computer game distilled to its essence and shorted by about 99.7%. When the board game finally hit the market, though, people began carping that this wasn’t exactly the case. Yes, you start at the dawn of time and shepherd your society up through the age of flight, occasionally expanding your territory and sparring with your neighbors. But to get the whole thing down to a reasonable time scale, designer Martin Wallace (one of my favorites) hand to simplify things — oversimplify things, if you believe the critics. What they seem to have missed is that Tempus, stripped of the unrealistic expectations, is a great little game, even if it’s a bit more abstract than folks had anticipated. Judged on its own merits, this is one of the better “city-building” games to come out in years. [More info]
And while I usually only include new games on these G3 lists, there were three reprints this year that I’d be remiss not to mention. Winner’s Circle is a renamed version of one of my longtime gamenight staples, Royal Turf (full review here). Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe Edition is an expanded version of one of my all-time favorite two-player games (full review of the original LotR:C here). And Simply Catan is a beginner’s version of what I have often called the best Good Gift Game of all time, The Settlers of Catan. If you’d prefer to pick up a game that has already stood the test of time, check out one of these.
Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2006 best game of the year” lists.
- Winner: Thurn & Taxis
- Special Prize for Complex Play: Caylus (my favorite new game of 2006, but too long and complicated to qualify for the G3 Guide)
- Special Prize for Fantastic Play (I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean): Shadows Over Camelot (one of my G3 picks from 2005, and fully reviewed here).
Deutscher Spiele Preis (A.K.A., “The Other German Game of the Year Award”):
- Winner: Caylus
- Second Place: Thurn & Taxis
- Third Place: Antike (haven’t played this one, but it sounds great)
- Best Multiplayer Game: Caylus
- Best Two-Player Game & Best Historical Simulation: Twilight Struggle (Man, I gotta get that …)
- Game of the Year: Vegas Showdown
- Best Abstract Game: PUNCT
- Best Advanced Strategy Game: Reef Encounter
- Best Family Strategy Game: Hacienda
- Best Family Game: Tricky Town
- Best Card Game: Trumps, Tricks, Game!
- Best Party Game: Wits and Wagers
- Best Word Game: Parlay
Where To Find
If you live in Seattle, check out the stores page of SeattleSpiel, which lists all the outlets for these games in Puget Sound. Online stores are listed there as well, for those readers who live elsewhere.