The year 2014 was fantastic for tabletop gamers. Thousands of new titles hit store shelves from established game companies and independent publishers via Kickstarter.
Here is a list of the year's 10 best new board and card game titles that are suitable for families.
First of all, several games that didn't quite make the list are worthy of honorable mention. Fantasy Flight Games' Age of War is a delightful little dice game set in feudal Japan, while AEG's Valley of the Kings, for two to four players, is a deck-builder set in ancient Egypt.
For two to five players, Tiny Epic Kingdoms from Gamelyn Games is wonderful little fantasy 4x game of conflict and adventure, and Victory Point Games' Imperial Stars II is a fun, two-player sci-fi war game.
10. Splendor, from Space Cowboys, is an abstract game where two to four players use gems to purchase cards with victory point values. Some cards discount the number and type of gems needed for future purchases. The first player to gain 15 victory points wins in this tense and engaging game that is easy to learn and play.
Splendor is recommended for ages 8 and up.
9. Ares' Games The Battle of Five Armies is set in J.R.R. Tolkien's mystical world of hobbits, goblins and wizards and re-creates the stunning climax of the recent movie of the same name. One player takes on the Shadow Army while one player commands the Free Peoples' Army in this light war-game adventure that brings the magic of "The Hobbit" to the tabletop.
The Battle of the Five Armies is recommended for ages 13 and up.
8. Level 7: Invasion, from Privateer Press, sees up to five players battling an alien invasion of Earth. Players must work together as best they can to help build a super-weapon, but each will have his or her own agenda throughout the game.
Level 7: Invasion strikes a fun balance between working for the greater good and selfishly looking out for individual interests.
Level 7: Invasion is recommended for ages 14 and up.
7. From White Wizard Games, Star Realms is a fast-paced, two-player deck-builder set in space. Players can buy and use cards to attack their opponent's authority cards, which act as hit points.
Playable in about 20 minutes, Star Realms packs a big, fast-paced game into its small deck of cards and is perfect for gaming on the go.
Star Realms is recommended for ages 12 and up.
6. It seems like there is no stopping Upper Deck's brilliant Legendary deck-building system, and building on its fantastic Marvel game, the company released a new stand-alone game this year: Legendary: Villains.
With up to five players using Marvel bad guys to take out heroes like Professor X and Nick Fury, this game is a wonderful twist on a fantastic game system.
Legendary: Villains is recommended for ages 14 and up.
5. Race car driving is the theme for GMT Game's amazing Thunder Alley. Up to seven players control various numbers of race cars on the track. Players use cards to advance their cars, but frequently a cars' movement pushes or pulls other cars along with it. This is a game that keeps players invested even when it is not their turn because the positions of all the cars are constantly changing.
Thunder Alley is recommended for ages 14 and up.
4. Days of Wonder, known for lighter, more accessible games such as Memoir '44 and Ticket to Ride, produced Five Tribes this year, a slightly heavier game intended for more serious gamers.
For up to four players, Five Tribes is a tour de force of strategy, victory point accumulation and meeple manipulation. Moving colored meeples around the board and dropping them off at certain points, players gain different kinds of advantages in this inventive, highly addictive game.
Five Tribes is recommended for ages 13 and up.
3. Harebrained Schemes' Golem Arcana takes a big leap forward with board games by integrating a smartphone app. This light, tactical two-player war game sees players moving beautifully detailed fantasy miniatures across the board, even as they use a stylus to tap the minis, the board, cards and the smartphone app itself in order to do battle. The result is a magnificent, seamless blend of board game and video game that brings something new to the table.
Golem Arcana is recommended for ages 14 and up.
2. Xia: Legends of a Drift System, from Far Off Games, is a grand space adventure that allows three to five players to command a merchant starship and navigate throughout the hazards of deep space. A sandbox game, players have all the options: Will you be an honest trader or a cutthroat pirate? Will you risk flying through planetary shields to get the cargo you need, or will you hazard the long way around the system that might see you ambushed by scoundrels? With so many choices and featuring 18 fun spaceship miniatures, Xia: Legends of a Drift System is a fantastic tabletop experience.
Xia: Legends of a Drift System is recommended for ages 12 and up.
1. With less than a year to go before “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” opens in theaters, Fantasy Flight Games added to its considerable Star Wars catalog of games by releasing Star Wars: Imperial Assault. Featuring both a two-player skirmish mode and a five-player campaign mode, Star Wars: Imperial Assault is a Star Wars-themed dungeon crawl where rebel forces and imperial bad guys duke it out over a series of missions. Set after the events of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” this fun and intense game features characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, as well a host of new aliens, heroes and villains from the Star Wars universe, and promises a hefty dose of expansion packs down the road.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault is recommended for ages 12 and up.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: [email protected]