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  • Writer's pictureJW

End Times 2023: Game of the Year Awards

Everybody loves awards. Let’s hand out some at Solitaire Times as well!


First a few words about games I left out.


I received some crowdfunding games this year, but I’m not sure if they should count as 2022 or 2023. Like both Hoplomachus boxes, Solar Sphere, One Deck Galaxy… Or I bought a previously crowdfunded game in retail this year, like The Witcher: Old World and ISS Vanguard. It’s a bit tricky to date them, as some backers will have played them in 2022, while others are waiting for a “second wave shipment”, and retail fell in between. Way too confusing. No awards for them.


Then there were a lot of games I didn’t buy this year, that could easily have won. Dune: Imperium - Uprising comes to mind. The original Dune: Imperium is in my Top-3 for solo. But I was a bit frustrated to have to buy another base game, even if it looked improved over my version. But of course most games weren’t bought for the simple reason that I could’t afford to buy EVERYTHING. And I may have made some bad choices causing other games to miss their award. I apologise.


One such mistake was Earth. An honest mistake, the game appealed to me – it has nice illustrations, I love tableau builders. But it’s too much to keep track of 500 scoring options, and I can’t say I like playing against the AI. It’s alright, but not great. Another mistake in the same vein, is Evenfall. Nice art, tableau, the works. But this was worse. The game sucks! And the AI is completely rubbish, you might as well roll a die for its actions and set a score to aim for. My biggest buying regret of the year. That is, if I had not received Astro Knights at the beginning of 2023. I forced myself to play this Aeon’s End-without-all-the-fun joke of a game at least ten times to see all content and try to get used to it, and then got rid of it utterly disappointed. I hope to never, ever, ever see it again.

 

Expansions

Expansions 2023

I got back into Marvel Champions in 2023, after I’d stopped buying for a while. I was too curious for what they'd done with the X-Men. So one of the boxes I got was NeXt Evolution. Alas, I haven’t played that one yet, so maybe a new one will get an award NeXt Year?


The expansions for Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition were a bit of a mixed bag. I did not enjoy the coop one (Crisis), but loved the one that brings more content and comes with upgraded phase selection cards (Discovery). Then again, that last one also brings milestones and awards, that I can’t use in solo and don’t care about multiplayer. 🤷‍♂️


I am happy with Rook City Renegades, but I don’t think I’ll buy more expansions for Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition now. Something is missing these days when I play it. – On the other hand, I love some of the characters, so I might get back into it some day in the future.


I am playing through Roll Player Adventures with my daughter at the moment. It’s a good narrative game, and we’re having fun. I am not sure this is something I’d enjoy solo though. I get easily frustrated with navigating paragraph books and making uninformed decisions when alone. So I think the new Gulpax’s Secret will have to wait for future multiplayer sessions.


Stand-alone, Get Wasted Award

Unsurprisingly, Maximum Apocalypse: Wasted Wilds gets an award. The original game is a favourite of both Athena and me. This new box can also be played stand-alone and as such serves as a good introduction for new players. It has a few new mechanisms, but I would have bought it just for more content.


🥁


Expansion of the Year 🏆

The best expansion of 2023 may be small, but it is utterly fantastic. Jump Drive: Terminal Velocity does not only have Epyo’s solo campaigns that were previously available on Board Game Geek, but also starting worlds, goals and some really fun new cards for the deck. It may not just be the expansion of the year, but the best expansion I own, period. Terminal Velocity turned Jump Drive into one of my favourite solo games.

 

Games

Board games 2023

Some games I rated very high, but you won’t find them below. Here are my excuses.


Pirates of Maracaibo is really good fun, but “unfortunately” easy to explain to others. So I ended up playing this more multiplayer than solo. The solo bot is good and I absolutely enjoy the game, but it does need some time to set up and for games that are not so heavy and do not take so long, I’ve got alternatives for solo. Still, good one.


Another game that suffers from the exact same problems, and not coincidentally is by the same designer, is Great Western Trail: New Zealand. I prefer it over Argentina, and like the extra board better that of Rails to the North, but still. I can play it multiplayer, it takes long to set up, and even though the solo bot is good, it will lose out to other soloable games when I sit down to play on my own.


I absolutely loved the new edition of Shipyard, so if we had a “Second Edition Award”, it would certainly win this year. But we don’t.


So far Legendary Encounters: The Matrix ranks third in the series, after Alien and X-Files. Not GotY material, you'd think, but to be honest I haven’t played it enough.


Banish the Snakes was the best new coop game I’ve played this year. The event deck system is cool and the game also has great table presence. Alas, I haven’t played it solo. 🤦‍♂️ Sorry!


Other games I haven’t played at all are Cyberion, Freaky Frogs from Outaspace, Micro Cosmos and Roll for the Great Old Ones. The end of this year just came too soon… Next year I might as well hand out awards for 2014 or so.


Anyway. The Awards. Finally.


Save the Planet Award

With Earthborne Rangers both production of the game and story are environmentally sound. But Hana hates it so it doesn’t win. 😉 I’ll give you my thoughts in a series of posts next year.


Punch & Pack Award

It was so exhausting to punch and pack Voidfall, that I consider this activity a game in itself. 🥵Mindclash Games produces the greatest big boxes on earth. I am happy to own another one.


Hardship Award

One of the most peculiar games I played was Endurance. It’s a narrative game in the good way: you don’t have to read paragraphs in a book while you play, but the event cards, your decisions and bad luck make the world and the (admittedly) sad adventure come to life.


SF Award

I love reading Science Fiction, and space is my favourite setting for board games. A close runner-up for Game of the Year is Evacuation. And not just because of the theme (moving your population by spaceship from one planet to another), but because it is actually great. The economy system, where production slowly moves from one planet to the other, is brilliant. Evacuation is just very new to me. It may still end up as GotY 2023 in 2024 😄


Should, but Shoot Award

This should have been the game of the year. But alas, Oranienburger Kanal shoots itself in the foot by having a learning curve that’s just too high. I don't mean that learning to play is hard, not at all, the actions are simple enough, and what you want to accomplish gets clear pretty soon every session as well. But. It has like 5000 unique buildings and they all have icons on them that I just can’t seem to be able to memorise. This may well be one of the best games by Uwe Rosenberg – I loved my plays – but I don’t know if it will get to the table again any time soon. And I know it's my loss. 🙁


Strictly Solitaire Award

Halls of Hegra is a wargame for non-wargamers. I like to play States of Siege games and for example Pavlov’s House, and to me this has the same kind of feel. It could have been this year’s #1, if not for the game that I spent a lot of time thinking about this year and that's up next. On the other hand, I may end up playing this one more often as it’s way easier to set up and get going.


🥁


Game of the Year 🏆

Okay, an unlikely choice this year, I know. I struggle with the AI’s in this game. Both with the simple and the advanced one. They are work. Still, worth all the trouble and I don’t see how a solo variant could have been done any other way. Hegemony: Lead Your Class to Victory is a fantastic game with a unique theme. It takes hours to play and I’m engaged all the time. How they managed to take complicated subjects like politics and economics and turn them into fun is a miracle. Well done. Surprise hit of the year.

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22 תגובות


Zerbique
Zerbique
31 בדצמ׳ 2023

I'll publish my own 2023 retrospective later in January (it will grant me some more time to play a few titles).


However, I play much less games than JW, and I rather play lighter, more casual, and generally more obscure games, so it's gonna be much less interesting and exciting, but if that's the opportunity to shed a humble light on a small yet valuable title, then in my view, it's already worthwhile.

לייק
SnowDragonka
SnowDragonka
01 בינו׳
בתשובה לפוסט של

I wear my weirdness as a proud hat :)

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Zerbique
Zerbique
31 בדצמ׳ 2023

I'm always surprised as the very small overlap between your plays and mine...


I have noticed only three games we have in common for 2023: Witcher Old World (and we seem to share the same feeling about it), Freaky Frogs (and none of us have played it), and Banish the Snakes (which, obviously, I haven't played yet: I had pre-ordered it in 2018 and did not expect it to show up so soon!).


I have decided to wait for the French localization of the Jump Drive expansion but it's going to be a sure buy. It's such an excellent filler game.


Your remarks (and that of Wouter) about Roll Player Adventures make it tempting to me but, this game is…

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SnowDragonka
SnowDragonka
31 בדצמ׳ 2023
בתשובה לפוסט של

Since I was an outlier with any list I've read this year, I didn't even notice how many of the games are like the oposite of my wheelhouse :D


Jump Drive is one that "haunts me" still, but I always calm myself down with Race for the Galaxy. There is Epyo's campaign even for Race, but I never tried it.

לייק

Wouter Cordewiner
Wouter Cordewiner
31 בדצמ׳ 2023

This was a fun read!


I'm surprised Dune: Imperium gets some much praise. It's an ok game and the action selection is well implemented. But the deck building OMG 😫


Earth is indeed ok but not great solo wise. Mistake of 2023 solo wise for me is The White Castle. Not sure what they were thinking.


I played Roll Player Adventures with a friend and don't feel the need to go through it solo. Story and adventure was fun and you have to accept it's a light game.


On Jump Drive and its expansion, I think you might be costing me money 😁


Would you recommend the new Shipyard for solo play?


Didn't expect Hegemony to be a number 1.…

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JW
JW
31 בדצמ׳ 2023
בתשובה לפוסט של

The solo in Shipyard is very easy to manage. So you're focusing on your own plans. I'll put it on the list for a session report 👍🏻

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SnowDragonka
SnowDragonka
31 בדצמ׳ 2023

Btw I don't want to be the one to tell you, but you can actually use the milestones and awards in the classic solo game of Ares Expedition. I've done that. It's maybe not as exciting as in multiplayer, but if you're into "hey I won, let me see how many points I got" and some nudge in doing certain things even though you wouldn't otherwise, it's a fun twist. Though not for everyone.


But funny to see my dislike has so much impact :D

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SnowDragonka
SnowDragonka
31 בדצמ׳ 2023
בתשובה לפוסט של

I've played with these things, cause in Race I was always bummed I can't have them. Well outside of the Epyo's campaign (I think it uses them, or maybe that's a different fan campaign). So I went on a splurge and tried everything that was possible for solo, which is everything outside of the 5-6p expansion. The infrastructure made me lose a lot.

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JW
JW
30 בדצמ׳ 2023

Out of curiosity I just checked, and some games released in 2013 I still consider my favourites. Perhaps I should do another awards post soon - 10 years late.

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SnowDragonka
SnowDragonka
31 בדצמ׳ 2023
בתשובה לפוסט של

Well yes, that's the one. I don't remember all the expansion release, so I count the base game release :) But it's still a fun solo mode.

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