The Laurels: Best Daredevil Games Of 2016

The Cardboard Republic has rolled out the second annual Laurels of the Republic awards, celebrating the best new games released in 2016 for each of the gamer archetypes. What follows are the finalists for one of those groups. 

DaredevilLargeAlways the penultimate gamblers, Daredevils like living on the edge. This group adheres to the idea of high risk and high reward, never letting a silly thing like failure get in their way of possible victory – or a good time. That said, this group doesn’t avoid or dislike strategy either. Rather, they’re just far more willing to take chances for a better payoff, be it on the battlefield or the board room. Essentially, Daredevils like to win, but they want to do it on their terms. They adore games giving them a wide variety of options to cross the finish line, and if they have to embrace a bit of luck to accomplish that, then so be it!

And with that, here are The 2016 Laurel Finalists for Daredevils:


Honorable Mention: Dragoon

Publisher: Lay Waste Games | Players: 2-4 | Play Time: 30-60 Minutes

dragoon coverDragoon asks a single question: what if everyone was Trogdor? No need to fight over the rights to pillage and loot; everyone can have fun terrorizing the countryside.

The game puts forth a relatively simple concept: be as much of an egotistical, hoard-mongering, antagonistic dragon as you can. Over a series of rounds, players (acting as reviled dragons of the land), proceed to move around the gridded countryside in the quest for gold and burnination. Through the use of action points and single-use cards, you proceed to demand tribute from villages and / or raze them to the ground, hunt down thieves, and attack one another with giddy reckless abandon. No one and nothing is safe in this highly chaotic landscape.

Dragoon is known for two traits in particular. The first is its iconic visual presentation, with hewn angular metal player pieces and a cloth carrying bag doubling as the game’s board. The second is that Dragoon is prone to heavy swings of fate. Between regular use of dice rolls to determine item placement and combat, as well as the luck-of-the-draw nature of the cards, Dragoon has plenty of randomness and conflict.

We never said that was a bad thing, however.

Dragoon is shiny, unpredictable, and capricious as hell. Designed to be a 40 minute lesson in why dragons don’t get along with one another, it is a prime example of the kind of lightweight strategy game where you jump in just to see where it leads you. You don’t have complete control over your chances at victory, but part of the fun is trying to see if you can shift the odds in your favor just enough times to win.

For Daredevils, this is precisely the kind of game where the journey is more interesting than the outcome.


The Nominees

2016 Daredevil Laurel Nominee


Number Five: The Pursuit of Happiness

Publisher: Artipia Games / Stronghold Games | Players: 1-4 | Play Time: 45-90 Minutes

the pursuit of happiness nomineeMaybe you’re an engineer who obsesses over geek culture. Perhaps you’re a happily married female couple who loves the outdoors. Or perhaps you spent the bulk of your life in a clerical job, with no relationship, focusing on your poetry and eerie doll collecting habits.

Any of these are thematically possible in The Pursuit of Happiness, which in a nutshell is a cross between The Sims and The Game Of Life.

In this card-heavy worker allocation game, players spend a number of rounds progressing through a person’s life from youth to death, trying to score as much long-term happiness (VP) as possible.

Interestingly, The Pursuit of Happiness doesn’t make this year’s Daredevil list based on its mechanics, but rather the manner in which you can get involved with its metagame. Mechanically speaking, Pursuit is about as straightforward as a worker-based game can be: accumulate the most VP via a series of largely interchangeable card choices. From a thematic standpoint though, it makes perfect sense why we’re talking about it here. Nearly every acquirable card may help you inch closer to victory in some way, but this game’s selling factor rests with the style in which you pull that off.

The Pursuit of Happiness does a decent job pairing the quest for points with a self-crafted ability to create a narrative for your character in the process. You can play purely for points sure, but in this game, much of its entertainment value comes from developing a persona over the course of that player’s life.

For Daredevils, exploring the extensive surface-level flavor and the plethora of identities which you can concoct with them will be incredibly enticing. So much so that you shouldn’t be surprised if some people focus on that aspect even more than trying to win.


Number Four: The Oracle Of Delphi

Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games | Players: 2-4 | Play Time: 75-120 Minutes

The Oracle Of Delphi nomineeTwo words we never thought we’d say when compiling this category are Stefan Feld. Feld is a renowned Euro-style game designer with a reputation for making complex point-generating game engines driven extensively by player’s actions. The vast majority of his titles are brain-burning, crunchy strategy games that provide plenty of options but don’t exactly reward you for trying terribly unconventional paths.

In other words, his stuff is generally seen as a bit restrictive to Daredevils.

As with any rule though, there’s always an exception. And in this case that means The Oracle of Delphi.

Delphi is still very much in that familiar multi-prong Feldian style of needing to focus on more than one thing at a time to win, but it ends up here partially for the same reason many Feld lovers have mixed feelings over it. That is, unlike many of his games, this one has a big ol’ helping of randomness thrown into the equation.

In this game, players are tasked by Zeus to complete a series of objectives, from erecting monuments, to slaying monsters, making temple offerings. Most goals are color-coded to items and spaces scattered randomly around a series of randomly-assembled island tiles. To accomplish tasks on your turn, you roll three Oracle dice with different colored faces and hope to match a die face to the action to wish to take. Some turns will be highly lucrative. Others will…not.

While there is luck mitigation, it’s inescapable that luck definitely plays a factor in The Oracle of Delphi. Yet for Daredevils, that’s not a deal-breaker. Indeed, this combination of plans being partially up to the whims of the Fates and the ability to accomplish their goals in whatever manner and order they see fit removes much of their perceived Feldian stuffiness to its gameplay, opening up a more dynamic – if chaotic – experience.


Number Three: Get Rich Quick

Publisher: FoxMind | Players: 3-5 | Play Time: 30-45 Minutes

get rich quick nomineeGet Rich Quick didn’t generate a ton of hype around it. With quiet launch at Gen Con, it continues to circulate despite not having a high level of attention. It’s even possible you may not have even heard of it, which would be a shame. Because if you like titles that reward chance and mild risk-taking but aren’t into the myriad of press your luck dice games out there, this one is worth a look.

Get Rich Quick is a simple game that embodies the spirit of classic economic mobility titles like Monopoly and The Game of Life. Except less shorter and less painful than the former and more interesting than the latter.

At the heart of the game lies an enjoyable implementation of the role selection mechanic. At the start of each turn, players reveal three of seven different action cards. Each action is resolved in its numerical order, and once done, the process repeats.

The twist is that you usually want to be the only person with the same card. This mechanic isn’t unique to Get Rich Quick, but it nevertheless does a pleasing job of mixing up the ramifications for when it does (or doesn’t) happen. Some actions reward you for being the only one. Others punish you. And some don’t care at all. Moreover, many actions can be improved by buying various board upgrades to help you in your quest to becoming the 1% (aka 25 VP). They aren’t cheap, but hey, you’re worth it.

It also gives you a more interesting thing to do than simply hoarding cash.

Get Rich Quick is a short and sweet casual title that plays wonderfully into what Daredevils enjoy at the core of their gaming: trying something out simply to see what happens while still giving that decision some purpose.


Number Two: Ponzi Scheme

Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games | Players: 3-5 | Play Time: 60-90 Minutes

ponzi scheme nomineeOn the other hand, sometimes hoarding cash is precisely what you need to do.

In this Can’t Be Possibly More Aptly Named title, Ponzi Scheme is about, well, running a Ponzi scheme.

The concept is simple. Each player is a con artist trying to walk away with the most money using an inherently unsustainable model of growth. You start by getting someone to invest in your fake business on the promise of a high yield of return on their investment. Eventually you’re going to need to pay dividends to that investor to keep them happy, and so you go out and promise a new round of investors the exact same thing, using their cash to satisfy the demands of the previous group.

The need for more and more investors grows to keep the whole thing afloat, but, inevitably, the whole thing will come crashing down. And Ponzi Scheme captures this maddening, risk-fueled dance perfectly. Turns are straightforward and concise, consisting of acquiring new investment cards, making shady deals, and painfully having to pay for existing investments every 3-5 rounds.

The moment someone is unable to pay their skyrocketing costs, they lose and the game ends. The remaining player with the most VP wins.

Ponzi Scheme marvelously encapsulates that snowball effect of unsustainability and the increasingly frantic efforts needed to keep going just one more round. There’s a certain amusement to an economic game knowing that anything you do is already guaranteed to fail, and that your goal is to ultimately keep the plates spinning as long as you can.

For Daredevils, Ponzi Scheme not only effortlessly captures their love of high risk and high reward, but it champions you for doing so. After all, in the world of the con game, playing by the rules means you’ve already lost.


The Winner

2016 Daredevil Laurel Winner

2016 Daredevil Laurel – A Feast For Odin

Publisher: Z-Man Games | Players: 1-4 | Play Time: 30-150 Minutes

a feast for odin winner

What drives Daredevils most is freedom of choice. They want to take the road not taken just to see where it leads and push the big red button just to see what happens. They are the rogues and the gamblers, and they love games that let them express their inner empiricism. They don’t want predictable, which is generally why they don’t mind cozying up to elements of luck and chance to achieve their goals.

Yet while A Feast For Odin isn’t a game high in randomness, it’s nothing if not littered with choices.

In the same vein as Agricola, Caverna, and Patchwork, your goal at the most basic is to remove negative space in your tableau. How you do that is up to you. A Feast for Odin boasts literally dozens of actions to take and paths to go down. Whether it’s focusing on gathering materials, attaining food, or buying ships (as just a few examples), Odin has an almost staggering amount of possibilities to generate money and VP. The person who creates the most effective combination of effects in their tableau will be the Viking champion.

Not only is A Feast For Odin a massive array of player-driven decisions, giving you the freedom to explore different combinations of strategies and actions, but it’s also open-ended enough that if a particular direction isn’t working you can pivot and try something else without being overly penalized for doing so.

A Feast For Odin harnesses and highlights the Viking drive for adventure in a very Euro-styled way. Between the game’s excellent components, depth of replayability, and an abundance of sandbox-like opportunities, this game leaves plenty for Daredevils to consider every time they sit down.

And because of that, this highly sought after title has been bestowed the Daredevil Laurel for 2016.


Be sure to check out the 2016 Laurel Award pages for the other archetypes once they go live!

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