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Cody K. Carlson
The game board from Hasbro's Risk: Star Wars Edition is shaped like a TIE Fighter, and facilitates three battles at once.

2015 was another year filled with great tabletop games. Here's a look at several of the best.

10. Risk: Star Wars Edition: There have been a few Risk games that incorporated the Star Wars theme, but this new edition captures the end of “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” so brilliantly it deserved to be recognized. Two players take turns fighting a space battle around the Death Star II, attempting to blow up the shield generator on Endor, and fighting as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in their iconic light saber duel. The board is shaped like a TIE fighter, and what happens in one part of the board affects what happens in all the others.

Easy to learn and play, Hasbro's Risk: Star Wars Edition is great for younger players and experienced gamers alike.

Time: 30-60 minutes

Ages: 6 and up

MSRP: $29.99 (Most of these games are available for considerably less from online retailers.)

9. Isle of Skye: Set in Scotland, this tile placement game from Mayfair Games plays a lot like the classic game Carcassonne, but offers a bidding mechanic and even more ways to score points. Each round, players must bid for the tiles they want to place, and they can select what tiles they want to put up for bid themselves. Players then place tiles to create a map and score points. Different scoring mechanisms kick in for each round, and every game is different.

Isle of Skye is great game for two to five players.

Time: 60 minutes

Ages: 8 and up

MSRP: $37

8. Triumph & Tragedy: With its map of early 20th century Europe, this GMT game looks a lot like a standard block war game — but it's so much more. The game begins in 1936, and two to three players take on the roles of Western Allies, the Soviets or the Germans. Players first play cards to develop military and technological resources, as well as influence diplomacy with smaller states. Anybody can attack anybody else at any time, however, leading to a very different World War II than history remembers.

Triumph & Tragedy belongs on the shelf of every serious war gamer, and many who don't go in for traditional war games will find something really special here.

Time: 3-4 hours

Ages: 12 and up

MSRP: $89

7. Homeland: The Game: Based on the Showtime TV series, Homeland: The Game is a tense, who-can-you-trust challenge. Three to six players are either loyal CIA agents, trying to avert terrorist attacks, political opportunists who benefit from some attacks succeeding, or even a terrorist mole actively (but secretly) trying to help all the attacks succeed. Each round, players play cards secretly on terrorist threats that may help or hinder them, depending on their secret loyalty.

Gale Force Nine's Homeland: The Game is the kind of game you play with friends and family who don't mind in-game betrayal, and it's the kind of game that will keep you guessing right up until the end.

Time: 90 minutes

Ages: 14 and up

MSRP: $49.99

6. Legendary: A Predator Deck Building Game: Upper Deck's Legendary deck building system has been applied to Marvel superheroes and the Alien universe. Here, two to five players can play in a cooperative mode as humans trying to defend themselves against the evil Predator hunter, or they can play competitively as Predators trying to hunt humans. Though a card game, the way cards move around the map makes this game feel much more like a traditional board game.

Legendary: A Predator Deck Building Game does contain some gory artwork, so it's not really for kids, but older players will really enjoy its creative and tense game play.

Time: 45 minutes

Ages: 17 and up

MSRP: $59.99

5. Forbidden Stars: The rich Warhammer 40K universe is at the heart of Fantasy Flight Games' Forbidden Stars. Two to four players take on the roles of the super-human Space Marines, the enigmatic Eldar, the rampaging Orks, or the evil Chaos Space Marines. Players must reach objectives held by their opponents, forcing conflict with a very unique and engaging combat system. A wide selection of minis and components complement this stellar game.

Forbidden Stars is a wonderful science-fiction light war game adventure that doesn't let up.

Time: 2-3 hours

Ages: 14 and up

MSRP: $99

4. Churchill: While most games centered around World War II are war games, GMT's Churchill takes a different approach. The diplomatic conferences between Stalin, FDR and Churchill are at the heart of this game, and one to three players play cards to debate issues like military offensives, the atom bomb and strategic production. How the conferences play out determines what happens during the course of the war.

As educational as it is fun and engaging, Churchill may go down as one of the best World War II themed games of all time.

Time: 1-5 hours

Ages: 12 and up

MSRP: $89

3. Cthulhu Wars: While many games based on the writings of horror author H.P. Lovecraft focus on preventing monsters from taking over the world, Sandy Petersen Games' Cthulhu Wars assumes that the monsters have already defeated humanity. Now, two to four players take on the role of one of four monsters fighting amongst themselves for control of the Earth. The game boasts massive “minis,” an intuitive combat system, and easy to learn rules.

In addition to offering amazing game play, Cthulhu Wars is simply one of the most beautifully produced games ever.

Time: 60-90 minutes

Ages: 14 and up

MSRP: $199

2. XCOM: The Board Game: Based on the video game XCOM, Fantasy Flight Games' XCOM: The Board Game sees four players taking on different roles as they work together to defeat an alien invasion of the Earth. What makes XCOM: The Board Game unique is that it uses an app to feed the players information and to time certain phases, leading to an intense cooperative experience. Each of the four roles is different and gives each player their own little sub-game to manage.

XCOM: The Board Game is a brilliant mesh of traditional board game and high-tech video game.

Time: 90 minutes

Ages: 12 and up

MSRP: $59

1. Star Wars: Armada: As opposed to Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, Star Wars: Armada focuses on capital ships as they fight for the Empire or the Rebellion. Two or more players build fleets of Star Destroyers, Corellian Corvettes and more, and can outfit their ships with different weapons, abilities and even iconic characters like Darth Vader and Admiral Akbar. Players maneuver their ships, then roll dice to fire their weapons, while defenders can perform actions to mitigate or avoid the damage. Each side can also field swarms of TIE Fighters and X-Wings for more options in combat.

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The game brilliantly captures fleet combat from the Star Wars films, and players can purchase additional ships for larger battles.

Time: 2 hours

Ages: 10 and up

MSRP: $100

Honorable mentions: Hasbro's Magic the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers wonderfully adapted the classic card game to board game form, and USAopoly's Game of Thrones: Risk brilliantly replicated the intrigue of George R.R. Martin's books. Gold West from Tasty Minstrel Games is a fun eurogame about prospectors, and Cool Mini or Not's The Grizzled is a tense cooperative game set in the trenches of World War I.

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: ckcarlson76@gmail.com