In the last year we have seen a huge deluge of games dealing with area control. And Area Control isn’t even that sexy of a board game mechanic, so it got me thinking ‘Why’? Perhaps it was the challenge or perhaps it was a hearkening back to a time when gamers interacted with other gamers. This lead to me to pondering about changing dynamics in gaming trends due to previous years efforts. There was certainly a connection between the two, however, instead of continuing my diatribe I will let you, the reader, connect the dots. Instead I thought it would be much more fun to look at the top games from each year in the last decade to try to summarize what sort of game that year brought. So without further adieu… let’s take a look!
2017: The Year of Dungeon Crawling
The year began with hits like Clank! and Gloomhaven! and continue even now. The games are numerous and some of them I have been following through development like Greenbrier Games’ Folklore: The Affliction. Other notables include:
- The 7th Continent
- Dark Souls: The Board Game
- Massive Darkness
- Arcadia Quest: Inferno
- Sword and Sorcery
- Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia
- Deep Madness
- Thunderstone Quest
- Imperial Assault Expansions
- 5 Minute Dungeon
Sure, there were other games like Roll Player and Sagrada that mark this year with great gameplay, but without a doubt Dungeon Crawling has reached a pinnacle this year.
2016: The Year of Area Control
Without a doubt, this was the year of area control if there ever was one. The first game I took note of in 2016 that was an area control game was Scythe. It was an interesting mix of agrarian resource management and freaking Mechs! It was heavily anticipated and folks were following it well before it was ready for Kickstarter. But the Kickstarter just blew up! Speaking of Kickstarter campaigns, Blood Rage! Good Lord. That game took Kickstarter by storm and is likely one of the crowning reasons why the designer, Eric Lang is now the lead designer at Cool Mini or Not. But Blood Rage and Scythe weren’t the only reasons, Ignacy (and Portal Games) had Cry Havoc, and El Grande was republished this year. Other notables include:
- Star Wars Rebellion
- Forbidden Stars
- The Others
- Tiny Epic Galaxies
What an epic line up! And that’s coming from a guy that doesn’t love the Area Control mechanic.
2015: The Year of Legacy
This year was tough to call. There were many notable games and many notable mechanics at play, however, none of them reached the same level of popularity as the Legacy mechanic. It was all anyone was talking about back in 2015. For this I include Pandemic Legacy as the most obvious example, but others included the Time Stories games. Although Time Stories isn’t a true Legacy game, one could argue that it shares many of the same traits in regards to its shelf life as well as replay-ability and elements that are carried over from one game to another (spoilers!).
2014: The Year of The Renaissance
Sure, I cheated a little bit with this title. But regardless of what category of items you look at, you can find some amazing times. For cars, the late 60’s was chalk full of amazing designs. For Artistry, Science, and Culture most look to the 14th-17th centuries. For Games, I look at the year 2014. Such amazing titles as Orleans, Dead of Winter, Five Tribes, Patchwork, Roll for the Galaxy, Fields of Arle, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and Alchemists. This list could go on and on. You really need to do yourself a favor and pull up an advanced search on BGG and look at the year 2014. It’s a very impressive list of gaming golden hits.
2013: The Year of Worker Placement
There were some notable hits outside of the Worker Placement Genre and yet Worker Placement was really the core of this year’s hits. We saw the rise of Stonemaier with Viticulture. We also saw a tweaked version of Agricola with Dwarves, aptly named Caverna. Other notables include:
- Russian Railroads
- Lewis and Clark
- Bora Bora
- Francis Drake
Shall I go on? Sure, worker placement existed before 2013, but 2013 really made it a whole lot better. (Pipe down you Agricola Lovers!)
2012: The Year of Cooperative Play
This was a tough decision. There were so many great games that came out this year, but an underlying theme appeared to be cooperative play games. Games like Pandemic and Shadows over Camelot had popularized it in previous years. So it likely became a goal of many designers to cash in on its success. Games like Robinson Crusoe, the Legendary Deck Building Games, Mice and Mystics, Lengend of Andor, Zombicide, and my personal favorite of this group was Freedom: The Underground Railroad. All of these games forced players to work together intelligently to beat out the game itself. Much of the time, the game was just a randomized set of counters and events, but so often it was so finely balanced it would come down to the final couple of actions which lead to some nail biting and some laughter as you narrowly escaped defeat.
2011: The Year of Grid Movement
Wow. That’s a pretty lame Year of title. I agree! But after crunching the data that is what came out of it. Grid Movement. This is one of those mechanics that is more of an after thought and not something a game is initially designed upon as a center piece. But regardless, back in 2011 Games were all about the grid movement, the most notable of which was Mage Knight. After reading through 2 books of instructions, you would finally move your game piece through a set of hexes to pick up gems and go kill stuff. Occasionally you would take over a castle or get a hireling, but it was most about killing orcs. Stupid Orcs. Other notables included:
- Summoner Wars
- Flash Point
- D&D: Legend of Drizzt
- Tragedy Looper
- D&D: Wrath of Ashardlon
2010: The Year of Civilization and Culture
Good Gravy we were obsessed with civilization and culture back in 2010. I mean, we must have been based upon the games that came out then. 7 Wonders, Troyes, Navegador, Sid Meier’s Civilization (It is even in the name of this one!), Fresco, London, and the Age of Industry. Yup, we liked ourselves some civilization.
2009: The Year of Action Points
Back in 2009 we loved to be given time as a unit of currency. Oh, no! You can’t do this AND that. You only have time for one, unless you upgraded your time marker to ensure that your research tree gave you additional time, y’know, just like in real life. Notables included:
- Chaos in the Old World
- Hansa Teutonica
- Space Hulk (3rd Edition)
2008: The Year of The Greats
Honestly, there was no rhyme or reason to this year’s theme other than making amazing games. No, no. I mean… games that will sell for decades to come, not like the trash that sells well the day it comes out and then ends up at Goodwill the following month (looking at you Exploding Kittens). Instead, this year brought the best and brightest, these are games we are all still playing.
- Stone Age (I play this at least every month… still!)
- Dominion (Who doesn’t own this? Who doesn’t love this?)
- Battlestar Gallactica
- Cosmic Encounter
- Le Havre
- Space Alert
Look at that list. Just… wow. These were indeed the Greats.
There have been some amazing games over the years, but what makes this list interesting, other than it being a whose who of awesome games, is the fact that there are indeed trends in board game design. It almost seemed that increasingly so the trends are unifying. I’m curious to see what happens next in 2018! Only time will tell!