My Thoughts On The Golden Geek Awards 2014

The Golden Geek awards on BoardGameGeek have now been released and as with every year there are always the discussion threads on why some games deserved their spot or more often than not, why some games shouldn’t be anywhere near the list.

I didn’t vote last year but I took it upon myself to vote this year and despite seeing some of my choices appear in the runners up often (bar the best podcast, that was pretty easy to do and no I didn’t vote for myself because let’s be frank you can see the Top 3 coming from a mile away) I only got a couple of winners and there are (IMHO) some obscure choices made this year.

So as a quick addition to the blog I’m going to do a short write up on my opinions on the results as they stand. Please note that this is based solely on my opinion and if I don’t agree with a result, it doesn’t mean I don’t like anyone who does. I’m also not going to comment on War Games, Childrens Games or Print and Play games as these are not categories I have any exposure to and thus cannot form a fair opinion. I’m also going to leave out Abstract games as I haven’t had enough exposure to these in 2014.

So first of all, here are the results from the awards in full.




Board Game of the Year
Winner - Splendor 
Runner Up - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game 
Runner Up - Five Tribes 

2-Player Game
Winner - Star Realms 
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers 
Runner Up - Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men 

Abstract Game
Winner - Patchwork 
Runner Up - Medina (second edition) 
Runner Up - Lagoon: Land of Druids 

Artwork & Presentation
Winner - Abyss 
Runner Up - Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary 
Runner Up - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game 

Card Game
Winner - Star Realms 
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers 
Runner Up - Sheriff of Nottingham 

Children's Game
Winner - Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise 
Runner Up - Doodle Quest 
Runner Up - Ivor the Engine 

Expansion
Winner - 7 Wonders: Babel 
Runner Up - Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice 
Runner Up - Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture 

Family Game
Winner - Splendor 
Runner Up - King of New York 
Runner Up - Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary 

Innovative
Winner - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game 
Runner Up - Alchemists 
Runner Up - Five Tribes 

Party Game
Winner - Ca$h 'n Guns (second edition) 
Runner Up - One Night Ultimate Werewolf 
Runner Up - Sheriff of Nottingham 

Print & Play
Winner - ...and then we held hands... 
Runner Up - Elevenses for One 
Runner Up - 1066, Tears To Many Mothers 

Solo Game
Winner - Imperial Settlers 
Runner Up - Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game 
Runner Up - Pandemic: The Cure 

Strategy Game
Winner - Five Tribes 
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers 
Runner Up - Castles of Mad King Ludwig 

Thematic Game
Winner - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game 
Runner Up - Star Wars: Imperial Assault 
Runner Up - King of New York 

Wargame
Winner - Fire in the Lake 
Runner Up - The Battle of Five Armies 
Runner Up - 1944: Race to the Rhine 

Best Podcast
Winner - The Dice Tower 
Runner Up - The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast 
Runner Up - Shut Up & Sit Down: The Podcast! 

Best Podcast

Well this was a given wasn’t it? You could see this coming a mile away, you called it, etc. I still enjoy listening to the Dice Tower podcast and am happy to see that they appeal to other gamers as well. However even though I’m not a big fan of Shut Up And Sit Down’s style, it’s nice to see a UK based podcast hit the list. I can only dream of being in a podcast that did so well.

Thematic Game

I can see why Dead of Winter would be high up, but as a winner? No, definitely not. A game that is thematic should stick to the theme as best as possible without giving reasons for immersion to suddenly cut out. Dead of Winter does that to an extent, but let’s consider some thematic “flaws” of the game.

(1) You have a dog that is capable of wielding guns, driving trucks, carrying lots of items………need I say more?

(2) You are able to catch frostbite from a 3 minute stroll to the shops multiple times – if it was that cold, I highly doubt there would be any survivors at all period. And the locations aren’t that far from each other given that anyone with a rifle can shoot to any other location on the board.

(3) The secret agendas in general – now having a Betrayer is fine, but some of these other agendas like “collect the most food” etc. If you’re desperate for group survival, these agendas seem rather counter-productive to the greater good here. Also the problem that players can tank the game easily if they know they aren’t winning individually among the survivors is a very anticlimactic ending. This might be a weak argument, but it breaks it for me.

(4) Equipment can teleport all over the place to other players regardless of location.

(5) The zombies are completely pasted on and barely do anything in-game. You could replace the zombies with wild wolves and have the infection be rabies instead of "zombie-itus" and it would completely fit into the setting here. When you can take an element of theme out and set it elsewhere in its entirety, then you've got a pasted on theme.

So for me, I’d accept it as a runner up, but not a winner. I'd be mad to say it's devoid of theme, completely untrue, but with those glaring points, you can't make it No 1! No idea why King of New York is a runner up either, but it’s good to see Star Wars Imperial Assault up there, it really does feel like Star Wars in a box. I’d have given a nod to Legendary Encounters: Alien though.

Strategy Game

Two of these games are great games (I’ve not played Mad King)……….but I feel that people are missing the concept of the word “strategy” because there is no way that Five Tribes is “strategic”. The board layout changes so often in a turn that you cannot possibly be strategic and are forced to adapt constantly in order to win. That’s a tactical game, not a strategy game – I see strategy as “long term planning” so why not something like Fields of Arle? In that game you can plan how you’re going to play the game from the word “go” and play each turn according to that plan. No sudden change in the game then makes you completely change your original plan.

Imperial Settlers, again you don’t know what cards are going to come out so how can you make a long term plan right off the bat? I would put this in a tactical camp as well.

Solo Game

This was an interesting grouping. I never expected to see Imperial Settlers take the trophy though. The Solo Variant in that game is fine, but nothing ground-breaking. You just play the game as normal and occasionally your buildings blow up. Legendary Encounters is a great choice, I really enjoy playing that one solo and kudos to Pandemic: The Cure as it’s very quick as a solo game and in my opinion, I think the game is better with less players than more.

Again, no Fields of Arle though, which is disappointing. There’s so many paths to victory and choices to make in that game that as a solo experience it’s fantastic. I think however that an expensive Euro heavy game is unlikely to top the charts for many gamers which is why it’s not getting as much love as it should. Probably why something like Kanban: Automotive Revolution didn’t make the strategic list? But seriously give this one a try if you want a good solo game.

Party Game

WHAT?!? Cash and Guns?! Ok, first of all it’s merely a reprint with some minor tweaks, which I don’t mind too much for being on a 2014 list, but as much as this game can be fun, I’ve seen it fall flat a lot of times and I don’t like how you can be eliminated from the game and be forced to sit back and wait for several rounds to end. I own the game but for how much longer I wonder when there’s far better about. For example, the two runners up are on my Top 10 of 2014! ONUW and Sheriff of Nottingham are fantastic party games and for me easily beat out Cash and Guns. Runner Up is fine usually but not in this instance.

Innovative Game

Hold up!!! What the hell?? NO! NO! NO! Alchemists is fine, the potion mixing mechanic is definitely an innovative use of app technology and combining worker placement with logic and deduction is a cool idea. The game could have been streamlined a bit and made less fiddly, but it’s definitely innovative and probably should have had the top spot along with an under-rated game that I’ll get to in a second.

Five Tribes isn’t what I would call innovative. The mechanic it’s based on has been done before, we’ve seen turn order bidding and other than that, it’s a giant points salad at the end of the day. It’s a great game, in my Top 10, but nothing fundamentally new or different is present here.

But here’s the big one. Oh god this is up there with 7 Wonders. 7 Wonders is a fantastic game but I wouldn’t call it innovative or at least certainly not highly innovative. But Dead of Winter is not innovative as it’s basically another version of Battlestar Galactica with some minor tweaks. Zombies have been done to death and beyond (pun intended) and many of the traitor/crisis mechanics are ripped straight out of Battlestar.

But the main innovative point that people touch on is the Crossroad system so let’s examine what that is. You draw a card from a deck with an “encounter” on it and if you meet the conditions, it triggers and the effect happens”. . . . . . . kind of like drawing from an event deck right that has “if” conditions on it? Event decks are not new, they have been used many times and reading it out for your neighbour is no different to me picking up an Eldritch Horror encounter card and reading it out to him instead. Except at least with Eldritch Horror, the encounter cards ACTUALLY go off as opposed to barely 40% of the time.

Where is Paperback though? - a light game that uses deckbuilding in conjunction with scrabble mechanics to create a unique English teaching tool where you are trying to spell long words and combo off special abilities. That’s not only a really neat idea, but one that hasn’t to my knowledge ever been attempted. Scrabble deck builder? I’d have happily put this alongside Alchemists for innovation.

Family Game

Hooray, a list I can be positive about! This is a good list overall, though I don’t think Splendor is worth all of the praise it gets and we’ll get on to that more later in another category. However it is simple to play and teach and looks good so it certainly fits the bill of a family game. King of New York replaces King of Tokyo for me and yet with the rules tweaks is still perfectly simple to teach in families.
With Ticket to Ride, as much as it’s a perfect family game, technically it’s not a 2014 game as it’s merely a posh reprint. I can take it or leave it though as to whether it should be included in 2014 lists so it’s cool to see it there.

Expansion

This trio is about as perfect as it gets. Granted I’ve not seen how Tuscany works, but I’m eager to get hold of it for my Viticulture game. The other two however are great expansions and I agree that 7 Wonders: Babel was the best of the lot. I already enjoyed 7 Wonders but this has brought it up to a whole new level for me allowing it to reclaim the trophy of which is preferable out of this and Among The Stars.

I wonder where Clash of Cultures: Civilizations ended up? Sounds like the perfect expansion for that game in my mind as I wasn’t blown away by it – maybe the base game isn’t as popular?

Card Game

Saw this one coming! Star Realms is not my favourite deck builder ever, but it’s neat and certainly has taken to a lot of gamers so I’m cool with it winning. Imperial Settlers is also a very cool card game despite using other components as well. As much as I love Sheriff of Nottingham, I’m not sure I would have called it a card game per say, it’s really more about the lying and negotiation aspects rather than being crafty with cards so I feel this is a bit of a weak entry and could make way for something like Legendary Encounters: Alien.

I’m very surprised that Diamonds didn’t make the cut though. This game gets raved about so much on podcasts and blogs that to not even make the list was a big surprise.

Artwork & Presentation

This I’m ok with, Abyss has some of the most gorgeous artwork out there and as much as I rag on Dead of Winter, it does look good in the art department, no denying that. I’m a little hesitant on Ticket To Ride though. It looks gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a deluxe edition of a game that already existed years ago. So I would expect it to be good looking by default. It certainly did better than the Power Grid one. . . . . . seriously, how that can be called deluxe is beyond me!

2-Player Game

This has confused me a bit. Star Realms and Marvel Dice Masters were a given, both are solid games and will easily be the choice game for a 2 player setup. . . . . . . but Imperial Settlers? That I didn’t expect. Most of the games I’ve played of that have been 3 or 4 players – it’s not usually one I think of when I think of two players. I’m going to have to pull that out again and try it as a 2 player some more. I think I voted for Marvel Dice Masters in the end so I’m happy it got a runner up place.

Board Game of the Year

…………………………I’m a sad panda. No Sheriff of Nottingham? One Night Ultimate Werewolf? Legendary Encounters: Alien? Star Wars Imperial Assault? Imperial Settlers? Marvel Dice Masters? All of these games completely own Splendor and more. I accept that Splendor makes a good family game and maybe that’s why it got loads of votes as lots of parents are voting here, but no way is it the best game of the year. It’s ok for the first two times you play it but then you’ve exhausted all the paths to victory that exist in the game and it becomes really repetitive. It doesn’t have the legs to go the distance as a long-standing game. And I’m just going to ignore Dead of Winter, I’ve probably ragged on it enough in this post.


So that’s my opinions on the results and remember I must stress again, this is purely MY OPINION on the results. I’m not saying the system is flawed or anything and I don’t dislike anyone that differs on the views, this was just my response to seeing the winners given my experiences through 2014. I’m interested to hear about what you guys and gals voted for and why so feel free to talk about it!


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