Games of the Year 2018

So my New Year’s resolution is (once again) to blog more regularly. Rather than start with a rant about the state of the world in general, and Higher Education in the UK in particular, I’m going to keep this one light, to focus on the pure delight of play at the start of a hopeful new year.

Over the last year I have played a variety of new games, with family, friends, and alone. What follows is a reflection on my five favourites (presented in no particular order), and what I find interesting or engaging about them. I’d be interested to know if you agree, and what you would add.

  1. Journal 29. A book, and a game, and a puzzle. Unlike anything I’d come across before (although have since also discovered The Librarian’s Almanac) and an interesting take on embedding puzzles within a narrative.
  2. Stranger Things. A late addition to the list, as I only started playing this over the Christmas holidays, this isn’t my usual type of game. It’s similar in look and playing style to Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass with a 2D retro feel, and provides a large world to be explored, a party of different characters (with different special skills) to build and play, interesting puzzles, baddies to fight (or outwit), and – best of all – lots and lots of things to smash. How satisfying.
  3. Time run. This has to be the best escape room that I have ever played. The attention to detail is amazing; from the second you step though the door into the game you are transported to another world, and immersed in the story with a guide in character from the get go. Not only was the staging and atmosphere among the best I have seen, but the puzzles were original, clever, totally logical, and deeply rewarding.
  4. Dixit. A board game that is actually fun to play for a family of vastly different ages, and – best of all – very simple. I’ve started to play a lot more board games recently as the kids are getting older, and I’m amazed at the length and complexity of the rules of many of them without a simple way of getting started quickly (board games could learn a lesson from video games here). The game is based around a set of cards depicting complex and multi-faceted pictures; players have to describe the cards (non-literal description is better), present red-herrings, and guess the original card. Despite being simple to learn, I particularly like this game because of the way it works on may levels to encourage lateral thinking and creativity.
  5. Universal paperclips. Surprise entry in the list here, given that this game involves nothing but clicking. Click to make paperclips. Click to release the hypnodrones. Click to turn all the matter in the known universe into paperclips. Very clever and surprisingly addictive. (And the fact that it’s based on AI principles means that it’s work, not mucking about, honest.)

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