A while back, a reader asked me to tell him what games I really like. Then a couple weeks later, someone else had the same question. I guess people actually do like Game of the Year lists, even if I think they're overrated and just created to give people a good reason to argue on the Internet. But I'm not going to do a Game of the Year list, because the games I love might be the ones you hate. Instead, I'm just going to tell you about some of my favorite games. I've linked the headline for each game to my review of it, so you can find out more, if you feel like reading even more.
To start off with a bang, my favorite game (right now) is Warhammer Quest. I know these things are supposed to have a bunch of build up and then a big reveal, like when you find out who was the runner up in the beauty pageant and which one gave a handy to the judge so she could get the crown, but the audience doesn't know which girl was using hand sex for bribes, so they're all excited (unless they've got more than three brain cells to rub together, in which case they're not watching in the first place). But I'm impatient and lazy, so I just started with the big hitter and I'll wind up at the end with nothing but dick jokes and boring games.
Warhammer Quest is the greatest dungeon crawl game ever made, if you ask me. There's no DM, and you can play it solo. The boards and figures are gorgeous, with cool plastic doors that clip together, and you can make your own dungeons by customizing your deck of bad guy cards. It's fast and brutal and fun as hell. I have spent so much money on Warhammer Quest that I could have replaced my washing machine by now (though it would have been a very crappy washing machine).
This one springs to mind easily because I just played it the other night. It's a fast-paced racing game that rewards risky maneuvers but penalizes stupid moves. The new Asmodee edition is sparkly and pretty, with cool little gear boxes and neat plastic cars. Plus it's only one of two racing games that have ever made me feel like I could actually smell the burning rubber.
Many people will compare Formula D to Rush N Crush, and that's a very fair comparison. Rush N Crush uses a different method for controlling speed and adds in deliberate violence. While we are always seeing dead bodies in Formula D (thanks mostly to torn up tires or shredded fenders), Rush N Crush is virtually guaranteed to result in a very steep body count.
I guess the reason I prefer Formula D is that it feels like a tighter game. Rush N Crush is a blood-soaked blast of adrenaline, but it can get a little sloppy, and the rules are not as easy or as flexible as Formula D. I will play the crap out of both games, really, but Formula D edges out Rush N Crush by a dented bumper.
It seems almost sacrilegious to praise Rush N Crush and then talk about Dominion, and that's probably why I'm doing it. But no matter what anyone says, Dominion is one hell of a good game. It's got hundreds of cards (if you have the expansions), and you only use ten in any given game, so it's really long on replay value. Which is nice, because I play the bejeezus out of it.
Now, anyone with any sense will admit that the theme is practically non-existent. The cards have very generic abilities and only need names so you can tell them apart. And unless you get some pretty good attack cards going, there's very little interaction. All the complaints people aim at Dominion are totally fair, but in the end, they don't really matter. The game is just amazing, and the longer you play, the better you get. It's a huge hit at my house, and at a hell of a lot of other houses, too.
Last Night on Earth
I hear complaints about Last Night on Earth, people who say the game play is weak or the various rules are tweaky. Those people are entirely missing the point. Last Night on Earth is fantastic because when you play, you really feel like you're in the middle of a zombie movie. A story develops around the game, and the best games are the ones with the most cool twists (though I did really love the game where the humans found everything they needed to escape in the first ten minutes, which would have made the stupidest zombie movie ever).
The expansions for Last Night on Earth are really not all that necessary unless you've played the original at least a dozen times. But once you get tired of protecting the manor home and escaping in the truck, there's an enormous line of add-ons that will provide you with new heroes, new scenarios, even new zombies. And still, every time you play, you'll feel like you just finished watching a zombie flick, except that you won't have had to sit through two hours of ridiculous George Romero dialog.
OK, this is kind of a new one, and I swore I wouldn't name anything I hadn't owned for at least a year (I swore it to myself, way before you got here, which is why you didn't hear it). But Alien Frontiers jumped up to the top of our repeated play list after just a couple weeks, and has proven to have considerable staying power. It will probably lose its glossy luster after another dozen games, because unlike the other games in this article, it's doesn't provide a different experience every time you play. But it is a unique game, really solid, and it makes it to the table at least once a month. It's a little too European in flavor for lots of people, but I love it, anyway.
I think the main reason HeroScape didn't start this list is because I haven't spent as much time on it recently. But there was a time - a long time, really, like three or four years - where I played HeroScape at least once a week. Any of the other games on this list so far, I've played dozens of times, but I can say with no hesitation at all that I've played hundreds of games of HeroScape. And I still get my ass kicked by the people who are really good at it.
Sure, part of the appeal of HeroScape is that it's like playing with toys. You build a mountain pass, or a craggy desert, or a fortress on a lake. Then you take all your plastic people and send them rampaging at each other in an incredibly violent manner, crushing, maiming and spindling until only one of you has anyone left. But on top of looking like a million bucks, HeroScape is just plain brilliant, and one of the best tactical games I've ever played. Wargames are fine, and admittedly have a lot more depth, but HeroScape is brilliant without being complicated, and exciting without being capricious.
Unless you're using Deadeye Dan. Then it's a crap shoot.
While you probably recognized all the games so far, there are a lot of people who have missed the absolute genius of Nostra City. I don't know why, but Nostra City just never got as popular as other games that are a lot weaker. It's devious and tricky and clever and more fun than a barrel of monkeys stoned on apple cider and roofies. It's a mind-bending conglomerate of cooperation and cutthroat competition, with the possibility of a rat trying to send the game spiraling into chaos.
You may have tried all the other games I named so far, but most of you have probably not played Nostra City. I seriously recommend that you make a concerted effort to score a copy of this fantastic mob game. If you're like me, it will take you an hour to fall in love with it, and then it will stab you in the testicles and steal your wallet, and you'll still want to play again.
I'm getting tired of typing, so I'm going to finish with one of my favorite games. Well, OK, these are all favorites, but I couldn't end the article before I mentioned Bootleggers. It's a great game about selling whiskey during prohibition, and while you'll spend most of the game trying to out-maneuver your opponents and send the cops around to bust up their stills, you can also kill their goons and steal their trucks. It's practically a staple of game night at my house, and while we haven't played in six months or more, there's no doubt in my mind that I could get everyone in my family to play with me tonight.
In fact, I think that's exactly what I intend to do. I'm going to quit typing and start pestering my family to play Bootleggers with me tonight. Buy these games, or don't. I'm weary of entertaining you.