Every year, dozens if not hundreds of new games hit the market. It can be a lot to sort through. As a normal person with those pesky real-life responsibilities like a job, family, or – dare I say it – other hobbies, you won’t have the time to play all of them. Sadly, neither do I. Instead, I give you my top 5 new (sorry Netrunner) games of 2012 I’ve seen and/or played up to this point. Also, I list ones were not crowdfunded. There are plenty more fantastic games out there in 2012 that I did not have the luxury of getting to, but there’s always tomorrow right?
And why non-Kickstarters? Stay tuned for next week!
5. Rex: Final Days of an Empire
Rex takes place in the same universe of the big-box game Twilight Imperium, but it’s set several millennium beforehand. It’s also substantially shorter than TI sessions, and anyone who has played that will tell you that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you are a fan of the Twilight Imperium universe, this game should pique your interest as all of the typical things you would expect are present: fleshed-out races, diplomacy, warfare, bartering, threats, and a truckload of flavor. Moreover, the game’s core mechanics are from the famous but hard to find Avalon Hill classic, Dune. If you have ever been lucky enough to play Dune, you won’t be disappointed to play this even if you can’t keep straight the XXcha from the Jol-Nar.
4. Iron Kingdoms RPG
The long awaited tabletop version of Privateer Press’s Iron Kingdoms was released this summer to much fanfare. The expansive steampunk world of The Iron Kingdoms melds steam power and sorcery into a realm of unique and hearty adventures. Lovers of the genre will find a happy home here. Iron Kingdoms had existed principally as a miniatures game until this point, but for many the cost and effort involved in collecting the necessary miniatures was a big road block. Not only has the port to tabletop removed this hurdle for many cash-strapped gamers, but existing fans of the miniatures version are able to celebrate that much of the game mechanics are the same.
3. Level 7 [ESCAPE]
Coincidentally another PP game, Level 7 [ESCAPE] wants to let you know one thing: Subterra Bravo doesn’t exist. Officially, it is not a top-secret military facility where the government allows unfortunate citizens to be experimented on by aliens. In this game, however, you are an unfortunate citizen about to be experimented on by aliens in a top-secret military facility called Subterra Bravo. Sorry for the plot spoiler there. In Level 7, you play as a team of potential escapees working together trying to make your way past guards, aliens, and a seemingly never long enough timer in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the facility and get to the surface. If it were that alone, it probably wouldn’t have caught my attention: a board game with aliens – got it. What makes Level 7 so entertaining is that it comes with a complete Scenario Guide, where each scenario level you play corresponds to a different layout, different objectives, and above all, increasing difficulty. It blends storytelling with board gaming in a manner similar to Mansions of Madness, but with a much darker flavor. The only thing missing is Mulder and Scully.
Yes, this is is a game referencing the “glory” that is being a Red Shirt Ensign of Star Trek. (For further information, see this instructional video.) If you are a fan of Star Trek, you will appreciate the over-the-top references the game provides. If you are not a Trekkie though, fear not. The game has no bearing on knowing anything about Star Trek, and for likely legal reasons isn’t actually referenced. Players portray Captains of starships and are given a hand of cards that allow them to travel to different worlds, use items, and give out missions to their junior ranking officers. In this fast-paced game players work towards, well, having their Redshirts meet unfortunate ends in crazy ways. It’s up to you to save other player’s crew. Your own guys, not so much. It was a limited run on the first printing, so don’t be surprised if some sites have stopped selling it temporarily. Fear not – the creators are going to be releasing an enhanced edition of the game in early 2013.
1. Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre
Yes, that is its actual name. It’s a lengthy title, and yet I often find myself lacking words to describe this game beyond ‘ridiculous’. In a similar manner to a kid’s card game where you mix-and-match up various animal body parts to create bizarre monsters, Epic Spell Wars follows the same idea for wizardry. Only much more brutally. This is a no-holds-barred sort of event. Here, you combine various spell components from your hand in order to create the most devastating (and devastatingly absurd) spell combinations you can. The more components that share the same spell type, the more potent it becomes. Once ready, you unleash their fury upon the other players. You keep doing this until you’re the last one alive. Then, you shuffle the cards and start all over. Why? Because you’re not just a regular wizard – you’re a Battle Wizard. The game is incredibly fun, provided you accept the premise and get into the spirit of blowing everyone up just because you can. Oh, and read the intro in the booklet. It’s not to be missed.
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