As members of The CR celebrate the annual Winter Harvest and end of year festivities, we’re spending this week closing out 2014 by recapping the best new games released for each of the gamer archetypes. We announced the overall winners in our podcast, but here we look at the final five choices for each group.
Whether it’s amassing the largest armies, hoarding the most gold, or building the best village, Architects are always on the lookout to expand their sphere of influence as much as possible. These world builders thrive on games where they feel the game has a point and that the best way to secure victory has more options than simply cracking skulls. Careful, methodical, and always looking to trade short term goals for long term opportunities, games of this nature reward strategy and persistence more than anything else.
And with that, here are the top five games of 2014 for Architects:
#5. City Hall
City Hall by Tasty Minstrel Games in some ways is the game that almost wasn’t. Touted as a solid city management game even before release, it took a second effort to initially get the game published via Kickstarter. Luckily it panned out favorably, and the result is one worth mentioning.
In City Hall, players are fighting over the seat of the next mayor of New York, and to secure their chances, some politicking is necessary. The game revolves around an interesting mix of tile placement and auction mechanics, wherein you are trying to guide the direction of the city in whichever manner you feel is best. However, other players can (and will) lean heavier on their influence and derail your plans.
City Hall possesses more negotiation and player coercion in levels higher than Architects generally favor, but what makes it redeeming is how the game takes a slightly different tact in regards to world building. Through its mix of role selection and jockeying for votes, players can often pivot less desirable actions into better ones in subsequent turns.
In the end, only one person can be mayor, and this combination of basic theme with the desire to build up influence in NYC is one that will catch this group’s attention.
The subgenre of 4X Games isn’t incredibly large, so it usually catches people’s attention when a new one of note enters the scene. In early 2014, this was Hegemonic by Minion Games.
We initially billed the game as a “3X” when we demoed it in 2013, as our early impressions presented us a game with a clear 4X scope but without much of an emphasis on the ‘eXterminate’ part of the equation. While that aspect is indeed present in Hegemonic, subsequent experiences have reinforced the idea that it thrives far more on the exploration and exploitation side of the spectrum, favoring area control and resource manipulation over giant space battles. Twilight Imperium this game is not.
For Architects, this is hardly a negative. In fact, it makes the game all the more endearing.
Hegemonic is a 4X game that favors careful planning, the expansion of territory and technology, and the keen sense of balancing control of your sectors of space with the need to cut into other player’s territory. This somewhat spartan 4X rewards a long term approach and strategic thinking over lucky or risky moves, making it the perfect way that an Architect would want to take over the quadrant if given the opportunity.
The hardest part will just be getting it to the table.
Another civilization building game in the top five for Architects is Hyperborea by Asmodee Games. Officially released at Gen Con, the game went unnoticed by a lot of people (mainly because of the game’s higher price point). This is unfortunate, as it appears to be one of the company’s better releases of the year.
Hyperborea centers around a mystical realm whose land was magically separated into regions, each safely isolated from the rest. Well, those magical barriers have fallen, and old grudges once again have flared up amongst its inhabitants. You, as one of said factions, have been cooped up in your meager territory for so long, but now you once again have the chance to expand. All that stands in your way are those pesky other players.
The game does have a decent amount of potential conflict, but Architects will enjoy that it’s only one part of a larger managerial focus. Hyperborea utilizes a fascinating style of resource and action management through the use of pulling positive and negative cubes out of a resource bag. The more a player advances their progress of military, technology, trade, and so on, the more your city develops wasteful aspects too. As a result, you have so strike a healthy balance of wanting to continue your rise to dominance on the continent with not having your fledgling empire quickly crumble under your feet due to too many negative components. Architects will love working on finding the healthy medium necessary in their march onward to victory.
Who would have figured that the Kennespiel-winning Istanbul by AEG would have made a list for a group of people who adore concentration and resource management?
It’s not surprising, then, that Istanbul would come to be favored by Architects. The game revolves around players making a variety of important choices in a bustling bazaar. By guiding the actions of a reputable merchant and their retinue of assistants, players are trying to buy and sell goods for the best possible outcomes. The apprentice worker system is novel enough, and although the theme is semi-generic, it still has plenty to offer those who enjoy maximizing resource control.
In what amounts to be a rigorous Pick Up and Deliver game, Istanbul provides a rewarding experience for this archetype without asking you to focus on too many areas of interest at once. Ultimately, rubies are your goal here, but as is the case for many Architects, the beauty of a game is in the journey more so than the destination. Istanbul is yet another example of that mentality at work.
#1. Castles Of Mad King Ludwig
A latecomer in the 2014 nominees, Castles of Mad King Ludwig made its debut at Essen after a brief demo period at Gen Con. The game won almost immediate acclaim from fans due to its wonderful blend of building mechanics with its quirky theme.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig is made by Bezier Games, being the same folks who sell Suburbia and the similarly Architect friendly 2014 release Subdivision, and this one adds to their increasing repertoire of fun planning games. Whatever it is they’re doing over there at Bezier, Architects writ large certainly aren’t complaining.
In Castles, players are given the job of creating the most wonderful and amazing castle for the ever-eccentric King Ludwig II. The thing is, the mans’s whims never seem to be fully satiated – which means the castle needs constant alterations. Players take turns leading the group of builders overseeing the construction (and reconstruction) of these rooms, negotiating prices while trying to emerge as the one most deserving of the king’s praise.
Beyond simply being a fun and spirited game with a rather unique theme, Architects have a lot to appreciate with a tile game like this. Castles is competitive without being confrontational, and the entire methodology of victory is based around the expansion and exploration of an ever-growing castle. Winning via growth and planning is the Architect’s ideal blueprint of a game.
But, uh, could you move those bricks a few feet to the right?
Be sure to check out the 2014 Top Five lists of the other archetypes!