We’re a little freaked out that it’s almost 2015. The decade is half over! To try and make sense of time passing the Recorder staff is going to write about their favorite stuff from the past 5 years in a few installments between now and the end of the year. This month we’ll geek out about the best games (however our staff defines “games”) that have been played by us or others since 2010.
Yikes. “Games” covers such a broad spectrum, so where to start? First, I’ll leave sports games to others (besides: 17 seconds). If I go with video games, I’d struggle to decide amongst Portal 2, Civ V, or Arkham City. Since it also includes tabletop games, it’s even more difficult: do I talk about the industry-altering role-playing game (FATE), or some of the innovative strategy board games (Terra Mystica, Eclipse, Tzolk’in) I love?
Or… I could go with a real crowd-pleaser, like the board game Lords of Waterdeep. It brings aspects of strategy and worker-placement games, but adds the tried-and-true theme of Dungeons & Dragons and completing quests. It’s light enough to rope in more casual players, but deep enough to have tons of replay value. I have yet to play a game (on a table or via iOS) that wasn’t fun; its balance and art direction mean it’s always a suggestion for any group.
The AL Wild Card game this year had everything. Drama. Home runs. Rallies. Managerial lapses in judgment. (The birth of #Yostseason starts here) It was everything that baseball can be. Exciting. Riveting. Maddening. I missed much of the first two thirds of the game, being in rehearsal. Afterwards, I went to a bar nearby Second City, where I buckled in during the seventh inning. I watched as the Royals rallied. I stayed up far later on a weeknight than I should. When the Royals tied it up and won in the bottom of the twelfth, I was one of the only people left in the bar, but I could care less. That game is easily one of the five best I’ve ever watched live. While the Royals didn’t pull off the postseason miracle this year and win the World Series, I’ll always have that game. And that’s the whole point, really.
I had a similarly tough time deciding which sort of game to consider, but decided on a sportsball one. Their pleasure is more unexpected and creates reactions of pure ecstasty and despair.
There’s a lot of great games to consider, but my heart belongs to the Michigan Wolverines. They’ve played a lot of exciting football and hockey games since 2010, but I’m choosing the highlight of their run to the National Championship Game in 2013. They faced the daunting Kansas Jayhawks in the Sweet sixteen. That team was stacked with NBA talent, had a former National Title-winning coach, and were a #1 seed. It took a furious late rally for Michigan to even have a shot at the win, and it was a shot that Trey Burke took. I watched him drain that 30-footer with 4 seconds left via a webstream on Megan Grandstaff’s laptop. As her friends and family watched, I spasmed across the room in a state of pure ecstasy. Don’t even know what sounds or gestures I made. (Editor’s Note – It wasn’t pretty. – Travis)
Sports, man. They’re a hell of a thing.
Baseball will always be my favorite of games, but it’s made to be experienced in person. Fortunately, during the post-school summer of 2010, I made the effort to watch the World Cup for the first time and was enthralled by the breakneck pacing and sheer drama of a game that never stops moving; the perfect sport for televised viewing. This past summer, having better educated myself on football, I joined most of the Recorder in following the 2014 World Cup from start to finish, and the Brazilian collapse, the nail-biting final Dutch games, Germany’s ultimate triumph, and the images of thousands upon thousands gathering to watch the USA make a run are now some of my most indelible sports memories. It was impossible for me to even read or surf the web during some matches, which in my life is a clear sign that this is a truly beautiful game that demands our attention. (And along with my brother, I’ve transferred non-World Cup fandom to West Ham United, and am starting to live with them as much as the Indians.)
I have no sports to offer you. I do have Cards Against Humanity, and really, we all do. Often described as Apples to Apples for adults and the sick-minded, this game is a ton of fun. Break it out at your next Friendsgiving, but don’t take it home for Christmas — even if you’ve got one of special holiday expansion packs from which they donate proceeds. I first heard about this party game for horrible people when I worked at Groupon. One of the eight co-creators was an editor there at the time, and I bought my copy from him. I asked him how it came about and he told me it was just something he and his friends from high school did for fun. He left that job less than a year later, presumably to make the game his full-time gig. I love the story behind it, and I love the countless late nights I’ve spent playing it with friends.
Like Meryl, I’m not really a sports person. My game of choice from this past halfdecade is Lords of Waterdeep. Unfortunately, –J. got there first. We both recommend you try it out! With Lords of Waterdeep already covered, let me instead recommend The Witches: A Discworld Game. The Witches came out in 2013 and I first discovered it this summer at GenCon in Indianapolis. It was the only game I needed to buy at the con. The Witches is based in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, and is set in the town of Lancre. The game is filled with references to the novels, particularly those in the Tiffany Aching series (and she’s a playable character!). Haven’t read the Discworld series? No problem. The gameplay is simple: you’re a witch and you’re running around Lancre trying to solve problems with the roll of four dice. As you use magic to solve problems, you get crazier and crazier. Don’t worry, tea will solve what ails you. The humor of the Discworld comes through as you chase down problems in places like Long Man and Bad Ass. The Witches: A Discworld Game is a delight to play, and it’s fun both for experienced and new gamers, and I’ve tried it with both.
Folks, folks, folks, “The Resistance” is a glaring omission from this list!
The Resistance is a good one, although I’d list Love Letter as a just as glaring omission. I blame the fact that more of us don’t play tabletop games — we could’ve included Splendor, 7 Wonders, Nations, Castles of Burgundy… Well, I would’ve included them.