Since my game collection is going to expand in 2014, I would like to leave a snapshot of what I have experienced so far in the board gaming arena, hopefully to compare with new things I discover as I look forward to attending gaming conventions this summer. To that end, this is my current Top 10 list of games. The caveat here is that this only includes games that I A) personally own and B) have played in physical form. That means it excludes games such as 7 Wonders (which I played but don't own), Freedom: The Underground Railroad (which I own but haven't yet played), and Carcassonne (which I have only played in digital form).
This is a Japanese game that was introduced to the board gaming world at the Essen convention in October. It wound up becoming a surprise hit. I couldn't attend the convention, of course, but I avidly followed numerous reports and reviews, and it seemed this would be a game I might find interesting. I managed to pick up a copy during my trip to Japan just before Christmas, and it turned out to be a light and fun dice game. It narrowly beats out Lords of Waterdeep and Takenoko on my list due to its advantage of portability.
In this game, players manage a studio of artists who perform tasks such as buying paints and mixing pigments to obtain new colors, all toward the goal of painting the ceiling of a cathedral to earn points. What I love most about this game is that it plays to my obsession with color. It's also relatively simple to teach, and the expansion modules give it quite a bit of flexibility with regard to the game experience.
In this cooperative game, players work together in an attempt to locate pieces of a flying machine hidden by shifting sands and put them together to escape the desert before the sun and storm winds bring them to an untimely end. I enjoy being able to work toward a common goal, and I also like the game components, which are fantastic quality for the price.
This is an older game that still holds up well. Players select secret roles that allow them special abilities each round as they compete to build the most valuable city, represented by cards with delightful art. This game is wonderfully flexible with respect to number of players, able to handle anywhere from two to eight, and it is highly portable.
This is the card game version of a classic Euro-style board game called Puerto Rico. It is currently out of print in English, but I managed to pick up a Japanese copy. In this game, each player selects a role that determines what actions all players may perform that round. One distinction of this game is that the cards act not only as buildings (as in Citadels) but also as the currency used to purchase the buildings, so players must weigh carefully how to use each card. This gives it an added layer of strategy that appeals to me.
This game is almost exactly the same as San Juan, except with a science fiction theme. The one other difference is that all players choose simultaneously from the total pool of roles each round (not just from whatever remains after previous players have chosen). I like that the role selection aspect gives each player more options than San Juan, so it has a slight edge in the ranking. I find this game exhilarating and highly addictive.
This takes Race for the Galaxy and turns it into a deck building game. It also adds little model fighter ships, which give the game a great tactile element. Due to the streamlined nature of the game and the simplified symbols compared to RftG, this one is easier to learn and therefore gets a slightly higher ranking.
In this deck building game, players are tribes in a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland competing for supplies needed to survive. I like how well the art matches the theme. I also appreciate the tactical decisions players must make each round as they select which cards to use for their abilities and which to hold in reserve to skirmish over valuable supplies.
By far my most played game of 2013, Dominion is widely considered to be the "granddaddy of deck builders" because it made the genre popular. Easy to teach even to non-gamers, it is quick to play and offers quite a bit of variation from game to game, particularly when expansions are taken into account.
My favorite game of the year, Morels is just brilliant. It has lovely art, simple rules, and a relaxing theme. It is a short game in which players are "walking" through a forest gathering mushrooms to fry up for a delightful meal (and of course points). It consists of a deck of cards and some cardboard tokens, so it is very portable, and though it is competitive as players vie for the same mushrooms, there are no attack cards. Despite the simplicity, it offers the opportunity for complex tactical decisions, making every game experience unique and exciting. I would no doubt play this a lot more if it weren't a 2-player-only game.