It’s no secret that I love discovery. I crave new experiences, and will choose to explore a new game over a game that I’ve played before and know I like 9 times out of 10. For some, this character trait is annoying, but I am who I am. in 2022 I played 105 different games 235 different times, and of those 105 different games, 41 were new to me. I’ve compiled the games that were new to me in 2022 that I enjoyed the most
Now, these games may not have been released in 2022, but I played them for the first time this year. While it’s tempting to be seduced by the new hotness every week, it’s a reminder that sometimes you should look back a bit and see what gems you missed.
#1 – Bullet⭐ (2022)
This one is a bit of a cheat in that it’s kind of an expansion to my favourite game from 2021, Bullet❤️ . And by expansion, I mean that it’s the full game again, just with 8 different heroines and bosses that can be mixed and matched from the original game.
If you’ve somehow missed my myriad of posts about Bullet❤️ and ⭐, here’s a quick rundown. Bullet⭐ is a push your luck pattern matching game for 1 – 4 players. Players pull bullets out of their bags, and assess the colour and number. The bullet slots into the column of the matching colour, and moves down the number of open spots. If the bullet hits the bottom row, BANG, you lose a life. Lose all your life, and game over!
I’ve exclusively played Bullet⭐ solo, which has become my favourite way to play. I love the symmetry of the bosses and characters, and I love mixing and matching, discovering which bosses are a cakewalk against which characters, and I love the push your luck gameplay. The multiplayer mode is also quite fun, if you’re a fan of real time games. It’s fast and exciting, but also, isolating. When the game is on, you are 100% focused on your own board, and all the interaction you get is flinging bullets back and forth between your opponents. It’s a fine experience, but the solo boss battle mode is where this game really gets to shine.
#2 – 6 Nimmt (1994)
6 Nimmt by Wolfgang Kramer is brilliance in a box. A mere 104 cards manages to contain a world of tension and excitement. 6 Nimmt pits players against 4 growing rows of cards. Everyone plays a card simultaneously, then they’re slotted into a row in ascending order, placed next to the card they’re closest to. If someone’s card would be the 6th card in that row, they instead take all those cards into their play area as their score. The catch of the game is, score is bad. The first player to hit 66 points triggers the end game, and once the game is over, the player with the least points is the winner.
6 Nimmt achieves what many much larger and more expensive games aspire to, generate tension and excitement and audible groans as the gameplay unfolds. I love the double-think as you desperately try to figure out what your opponents will be doing. If you’re successful, and you sneak in the 5th card in a row just ahead of someone else, it’s immensely satisfying. If you’re wrong and end up taking a terrible handful of cards, the jeers from your opponents do nothing to ease the sting of failure.
Luckily, 6 Nimmt only lasts for ~15 minutes. Once it’s done, you sweep the table and go again, no harm, no foul. If you like card games, especially simple to learn and easy to break out at the local pub, than 6 Nimmt is an excellent choice.
#3 – Viticulture World (2022)
One of the best things about having friends who are just as enthusiastic about board games as you are, is that when you buy them a game as a gift, they’ll generally play that game with you. It may be a little selfish, but it makes it really easy to buy gifts for your friends when that gift will facilitate a couple nights of hanging out.
Viticulture World designed by Mihir Shah and Francesco Testini is the cooperative expansion to Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone’s 2013 game, Viticulture. In Viticulture World, each player is still managing their own farm, and each player must reach 20 victory points by the end of the game, or the players lose the scenario. In addition to those personal goals, there’s another track that all players can contribute to that also needs to be pushed to its limit to claim victory.
I’ve complained about Viticulture‘s luck before, and how getting the right cards at the start of the game can launch you into a powerful position, and while that still holds true in this expansion, a player doing well benefits everyone. The goal isn’t to try to catch up to the leader despite the luck, but to take the situation the game throws at you and form a winning strategy out of it.
If I’m being honest, I don’t really want to go back to base Viticulture after playing Viticulture World. Now, I don’t always LOVE cooperative games, but this one is pretty special. There are great moments of collaboration, but players still get ownership over what they can contribute to the team.
If you want to read more, I did write a full review of Viticulture World, which you can read here
#4 – So Clover (2021)
As a seasoned gamer, I can often dismiss party games as not for me, as the vast majority of the games that I play are in serious settings. Four grown men silently sitting around a table with furrowed brows, pushing cubes for 2 hours until a final exclamation of emotions at the very end, is my idea of a good time. So when these word association party games show up, I’m perpetually tempting to crush them under the very weight of a superior game, such as Scythe.
I’m only kidding. I’m actually super impressed with how great a game can be with so little. So Clover has a few decks of cards with 4 words, one on each side of the card, and a handful of plastic clovers, so you can align the cards easily. Your goal is to connect the two words on the outside of each wall. What I like about So Clover over other great games like Codenames or Just One is that everyone is involved for a lot of the time. In Codenames, players sit and wait while the codemaster hems and haws over the clue they’re going to give. In Just One, the active player sits with their eyes closed as all the players write their words and compare notes. In So Clover, all players prepare a clover at the same time, then, players go through the clovers one by one, keeping everyone involved and engaged.
I had a blast playing So Clover at Cabin-Con this year. The next time I go to visit my family, I’m going to pick up a copy of this excellent game, as I know it’ll be a hit anywhere I pull it out.
#5 – Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun
I’ve had a bit of a complicated relationship with the T-series of games (Tzolk’in, Teotihuacan, Trismegistus, Tiletum, etc). Initially, I didn’t like Tzolk’in at all. Then, I disliked Teotihuacan even more. Upon revisiting Tzolk’in, I found myself enjoying it much more than I remember. Then, I got my hands on Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun and found myself really enjoying the game.
If you haven’t played it before, Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun is a big and complex game, but the crux of the mechanics is an obelisk sits in the board and casts a shadow over some of the action spaces. Die are rolled and placed into each of the 6 action spaces, and the colour of the die dictates if that die is pure, tainted, or forbidden. When taking an action, the pip value and colour may affect the action, and the purity dictates where that die goes onto your scales of karmic balance. There’s a lot to consider in every action of the game, and the player who can balance all these aspects the best, will emerge the winner.
Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun has an incredible table presence. A plastic spire rises off the table, and chunky dice lie around it, displaying all the options available to you. There is much more to do than you could ever hope to achieve in a single game. I only got a single play of Tekhenu in this year, but it’s one I’m keen to return to.
#6 – War Chest (2018)
Once upon a time in cold, bitter Winnipeg, I had a roommate. This fellow and I were both avid gamers, but our time together was prior to my discovery of board games. We’d play Gears of War 3 and Borderlands 2 and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game into the wee hours of the morning. We also played a fair amount of Chess, Magic: The Gathering: and Yu-Gi-Oh together. Xel was the perfect opponent, we were both equally enthusiastic, evenly matched, and both grew in our strategies, developing a meta unique to us and figuring out how to counter that meta.
It’s my great regret that I left Xel behind in Manitoba before getting into the world of board games. He installed a deep love for two player direct conflict games in my heart that I still hold to this day, despite not having a gaming partner with the same proclivities over nearly a decade now.
Image via Mai B @Lilou84x via BGG
War Chest by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson is the kind of game that Xel and I would have dove deep into. It’s an abstract game with a hex map. Each player has a different set of units available to them, each with their own unique abilities. Your units are represented by chips, and you take actions by pulling chips from a bag, and spending them. Some actions can be spent by using any chip, while others require chips matching the unit you want to use the action with. The goal of the game isn’t necessarily to wipe out your enemy forces, but to control certain points. While attacking and removing your enemies can be very helpful, I’ve won games without attacking a single time and while sustaining heavy losses.
As soon as I get a gaming partner who enjoys these two player direct conflict games, and we start playing games more regularily, I’ll be picking up my own copy of War Chest and any expansions that are available. I really enjoyed my plays of War Chest and can’t wait to explore it further.
#7 – Canvas (2021)
Canvas, by Jeff Chin and Andrew Nerger was a bit of a surprise to me. My wife and I went down to our local board game cafe and plucked this game off the shelf simply because it looked pretty. I vaugely knew that it featured plastic transparent cards. What we discovered was a pretty puzzle game about creating works of art and trying to satisfy the conditions of score cards to earn points.
Now, the actual artwork on the cards is unnecessary to the gameplay, the only thing that really matters is the icons along the bottom. Players take turns drafting plastic cards into their hands that feature different icons. They can then stack 3 plastic cards and slot them into a plastic sleve to create a masterpiece and submit it for scoring. Once all players have submitted 3 artworks, the player with the most points is the winner!
I know I just said that the artwork was unnecessary, and from a gameplay perspective, it is. But it gives the game lots of charm and a lovely theme, even if the composition of some of the artworks feels like it leaves a bit to be desired.
#8 – Pandemic: Rising Tide (2017)
I would never call myself a Pandemic expert, but i’m also no slouch. Playing on the normal difficulty on the app, I have about a 70% win rate, and I haven’t lost a game of Pandemic: Fall of Rome yet. So maybe I had a little bit of hubris when I pulled out Pandemic: Rising Tide by Jeroen Doumen and Matt Leacock. I strode in, expecting another easy Pandemic experience but with a different coat of thematic paint. What happened was I got lulled into a false sense of security thanks to plentiful dykes, then when they broke and water flooded all across the map and I started to panic then promptly ran out of water cubes and was left a broken shell of a person.
I’m being dramatic, but, this version of Pandemic thumped me good, and I’ve been thirsting to go back to it. If you haven’t played it before, Pandemic: Rising Tide is set in the industrial age in the Netherlands, tasking players with building modern hydraulic structures that will prevent the country from being swallowed by the ocean. The feature that sets this version apart from other Pandemics, is that there is only one colour of cube to battle against, and water flows across the map. If a section of map has 3 cubes on it, all adjacent sections will get 2 cubes, then regions adjacent to those regions will get 1 cube each. Luckily, dykes are in place to prevent the water from freely flowing across regions. Unfortunately, dykes break and the torrents of water are relentless.
It’s great, it’s hard, and it’s really hard to pronounce any of the dutch regions. I hope to play more soon so I can figure out where it sits in my personal rating of Pandemic games!
#9 – SCOUT (2019)
I think… I like card games. It’s not something that I logically find myself particularly drawn to. When I’m pursuing the shelves at my FLGS, my eyes are naturally pulled to the big impressive boxes. More and more I find myself charmed by little games that can do so much with just cards!
Enter Scout by Kei Kanjino and published by Oink Games. In Scout, players are dealt a hand of double sided cards, and are explicitly told, under no circumstances are they allowed to rearrange the cards in their hand (I absolutely love this mechanic). On their turn, they can either ‘Show’ or ‘Scout’, and once per round you can ‘Show and Scout’. If you show, you need to take cards from your hand and place them on the table, either a set of cards (cards of the same value), or a run of cards (cards with sequential ascending or descending value). If there is already a show on the table, your showing must be stronger than that’s already there (meaning more cards, or, if tied, a higher value). If you can’t, or don’t want to show, you can ‘Scout’. This allows you to take one of the cards from the current show and add it to your hand. Finally, once per round you can ‘Scout and Show’, where you do both actions on a single turn
The round ends when someone runs out of cards, or, when someone plays a show, and all subsequent players scout. Points are tallied and the player at the end of the game with the most points is the winner
Scout is a little delight. It’s so frustrating looking at your hand and seeing how close some of the cards are, and it’s immensely satisfying when you’re able to scout a card and place it in the perfect spot in your hand. The box for Scout is literally the size of the cards, making it easy to travel with, and the gameplay is fast and easy to teach. I think Scout is the kind of game that could live in my travel bag forever, and would be a hit at every pub I pull it out at.
#10 – Ultimate Railroads (2021)
Much like Bullet⭐, Ultimate Railroads is a bit of a cheat. This version by Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler is the ‘big box’ edition with all the expansions for 2013’s Russian Railroads. If you haven’t played Russian Railraods before, it’s a worker placement game in which players are trying to build a rail line to earn the most points. Unlike most other train games, in Russian Railroads there is no central map or pick up and deliver aspect. Instead you have tracks of varying grade, and as you build the weakest track you unlock the ability to build better tracks over the ones you’ve already build. As the grade of track goes up, so does the amount of victory points you earn.
One of my favourite aspects of Russian Railroads is how the amount of points you earn each turn pretty much doubles throughout the game. On the first turn, earning 5 points is reasonable. Then in turn two, you’ll earn another 10 points, then 20, and by the end of the game you’ll be earning 135 points and riding that locomotive to victory!
The only module of Ultimate Railroads we played with this year was German Railroads, which introduces coal (a module I wouldn’t bother with again), and a modular player board, letting you choose how the rail lines develop and what kinds of benefits you’ll earn from those tracks. I quite enjoyed that playerboard, even if I came in dead last by a wide margin.
And those have been the top 10 new to me games I played in 2022! What were some of your breakout hits? Any games you’re looking forward to playing next year?
Honourable mentions: The Red Cathedral, Acquire, Unsettled
Dishonourable mentions: Maglev Metro, In the Hall of the Mountain King, The Pillars of the Earth, Azul: Queen’s Garden