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.
There are few things that Socializers want more out of games than a means to engage with other players as much as possible. If they were a clan, their credo would be ‘Light on Rules, Heavy on Interaction’. Games to this group are less about picking out intricate strategies or figuring out a way to win at any cost than they are about a means to collectively enjoy spending time with other people. As a result, this group prefers games that either have short and simple playthroughs or those that permit them the opportunity to, well, socialize with other players.
And with that, here are the top five games of 2014 for Socializers:
Whether you have the basic deck of Pairs or one of it’s 200 reskin variants (give or take 190), every iteration of this Press Your Luck card game by Cheapass Games works the same way. With a ‘pub style’ approach, Pairs is similar to many classic card games. In this one, players are given a single card, and on your turn you have to decide whether you wish to take another card Blackjack style, or fold. If you fold or if you hit and pair up with another card you have on your board (hence the name), the round ends and you take one of the cards for its listed value as points. Otherwise the round continues.
Unlike many modern games, though, Pairs doesn’t actually have a winner – just a single loser instead. Once someone reaches a set point value for their cards, they lose the game. Thats it, really. In a sense, Pairs is like a card game version of Hot Potato.
Pairs epitomizes the notion that a game doesn’t have to be all about winning to be enjoyable, and it’s a lesson that Socializers are very willing to be part of. Pairs shows that a game’s worth can easily be just as much about how you play the game (and with whom) as it is about crossing the finish line. With rapid-fire rounds and an almost binary ruleset, this is the type of light group game that Socializers never mind pairing up with.
Of all the games on this list, none got more fanfare than Splendor by Asmodee Games. This set collecting game hit the ground running and continues to earn praise. The concept is pretty rudimentary: you are a Renaissance-era merchant who is trying to secure the best jewelry production process around so that you can impress the nobility and earn prestige.
Because, really, trying to get fleeting attention from rich people is all that matters.
In this game, players collect gems so that they in turn can secure gem mines, jewelry shops, and a means of transporting said gems. In exchange, this makes you richer and more prosperous, pushing you towards the necessary 15 points needed to win.
For only being a half hour game, Splendor provides a decent amount of light strategy without ever becoming cumbersome, wonderfully illustrating that Socializers can enjoy games with mild depth to them. The mechanics are elegant and gameplay is quicker than it first appears, but it ultimately is kept pretty surface-level. Either way, Splendor makes a splendid choice for this group.
Red7 by Asmadi Games likes to bill itself as seven different games at once, but that’s not exactly true. What is true is that this is a simple card game from the same makers of We Didn’t Playtest This At All, so you should know the type of game you’re getting into.
Red7 consists of 49 cards – seven values in seven colors – and each player gets a handful of them to start. The game gets its namesake (and selling point) from the fact that there are seven different victory conditions in the game, but only one of them is in effect at a time.
On your turn you must play a card towards the current victory condition and / or discard a card to change to a victory condition that you would also then be winning. If you can’t, you lose.
This game requires a little thought to it, but as aforementioned, games don’t have to be devoid of strategy or substance for Socializers to enjoy (otherwise they’d only like bad games). Each lightning-fast round of Red7 can be over in as few as five minutes, making it a quicker exercise than more involved or complicated trick-taking games. It also endears itself to Socializers more than its contemporaries because, in typical Asmadi fashion, Red7 rewards you for engaging in a basic card game that could be over before the coffee is ready.
One of the lesser bandied titles of the year, Pyramix by Gamewright Games was even a surprise for us when we first came upon it.
Played out in about 15 minutes, Pyramix is a wonderfully simple game. In it, you have a pyramid shaped stack of dice that you are deconstructing. Turns are incredibly simple: you remove one die from the pyramid, which come with only a handful of restrictions. Different dice types are worth different points at the end of the game, making for a pretty straightforward and effortless game to play while chatting around a table. The most fun part about this game is that if you pull a lower-level die, the higher ones slide down, changing the landscape.
Pyramix is the ideal sort of game for a Socializer, as you’re able to carry on full conversations and interact with one another while still participating in an enjoyable pasttime. It’s easy to set up, easy to follow, and certainly worth a look.
#1. Camel Up
Although a close race between the two, Camel Up edged out a win in this category by a hair, and with good reason. It didn’t win the 2014 Spiel des Jahres for nothing after all. (That didn’t have a bearing on our selection, but the reasons for choosing it likely overlapped quite a bit.)
In this simple camel race by Z-Man Games, players are a bunch of wealthy folk who have decided to head on down to the track in the hopes of – what else – making some more money. In this half hourish game, a handful of camels speed around the track, while you bet on which one will place during each of the race segments and / or who will win overall. However, the camels in this game stack when on the same location, leading to a bit of brevity and light silliness while still feeling like it has purpose.
With short turns and a goofy premise, Camel Up makes for a surprisingly light and fun game that Socializers undoubtedly will enjoy. You can bet on it.
Be sure to check out the 2014 Top Five lists of the other archetypes!