Handicapping The Dice Tower Nominations!

Came down with a nasty bug last week, so I was not able to update the blog. I am feeling much better this week. I woke up on Monday to news that The Dice Tower has released its nominations for 2016!

Here are the nominations, along with some of my comments and handicapping.  What is your take on the potential winners in each category?  Spoiler alert — 2016 was a very strong year in board gaming. Do you agree? I would love to hear from you on Twitter at @boardgamegumbo!

Best Game from a New Designer:

Note: The game has to be the designer’s first or second published game to qualify for this award.

• Kingdom Death: Monster – designed by Adam Poots; published by Kingdom Death
• Vast: The Crystal Caverns – designed by David Somerville; published by Leder Games
• Adrenaline – designed by Filip Neduk; published by CGE
• Terraforming Mars – designed by Jacob Fryxelius; published by Stronghold Games
• The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire – designed by Luke Laurie; published by Minion Games

Still mulling over the potential winner of this one, but Kingdom Death: Monster is impressive in scope, and Adrenaline is the first RTS I have seen work in a board game. People are still clamoring for Terraforming Mars (a fifth printing I hear?) and was one of my best Euro experiences in 2016. But, Vast is the most impressive in design and had a lot of buzz coming out of GenCon and during the Kickstarter for 2.0.  I think it is the leader heading into the second turn, but there’s plenty of track left before July.  

Best Artwork

• Arkham Horror: The Card Game – illustrated by Christopher Hosch, Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, Henning Ludvigsen, Mercedes Opheim, Zoe Robinson, and Evan Simonet; published by Fantasy Flight Games
• Inis – illustrated by Dimitri Bielak & Jim Fitzpatrick; published by Matagot
• Islebound – illustrated by Ryan Laukat; published by Red Raven Games
• Kanagawa – illustrated by Jade Mosch; published by Iello
• Scythe – illustrated by Jakub Rozalski; published by Stonemaier Games

Who doesn’t love Ryan Laukat and his whimsical artwork? Plus Kanagawa is itself all about art!  Inis surprised me — I heard complaints about the art, but when you see it in person, it is gorgeous. And Arkhasm as The Rougarou! But let’s face it, Scythe is the front runner here at least in terms of buzz. 

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Best Theming

• Black Orchestra – designed by Philip duBarry; published by Game Salute
• Captain Sonar – designed by Roberto Fraga & Yohan Lemonnier; published by Matagot
• Roll Player – designed by Keith Matejka; published by Thunderworks Games
• SeaFall – designed by Rob Daviau; published by Plaid Hat Games
• Terraforming Mars – designed by Jacob Fryxelius; published by Stronghold Games & FryxGames

I have not played or seen Black Orchestra yet, but hope to play it soon, especially after Carlos (@taquitopls) from the Krewe de Gumbo North called it an incredibly thematic adventure. Roll Player is a dice fest of fun, and has a theme that has never been done so far to my knowledge, but is it really “thematic”? Looks like its Capt Sonar and Terraforming Mars in the lead so far, with SeaFall making its one and only appearance on the list.  

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Best Two-Player Game

• 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis – designed by Asger Harding Granerud & Daniel Skjold Pedersen; published by Jolly Roger Games
• Arkham Horror: The Card Game – designed by Nate French & Matthew Newman; published by Fantasy Flight Games
• Codex: Card Time Strategy – designed by David Sirlin; published by Sirlin Games
• Star Wars: Destiny – designed by Corey Konieczka & Lukas Litzsinger; published by Fantasy Flight Games
• Star Wars: Rebellion – designed by Corey Konieczka; published by Fantasy Flight Games

Unfortunately, I have not played enough — yet — to really form an opinion, but the two Star Wars games are going to be tough to unseat in my opinion. Unless they cancel out each other? 

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Best Reprint

• 51st State: Master Set – designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek; published by Portal Games
• Escape from Aliens in Outer Space – designed by Mario Porpora, Pietro Righi Riva, Luca Francesco Rossi, & Nicolò Tedeschi; published by Osprey Games
• Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edition – designed by Nikki Valens; published by Fantasy Flight Games
• Arkwright – designed by Stefan Risthaus; published by Capstone Games
• Robinson Crusoe – designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek; published by Portal Games

This was is surprisingly the easiest so far. I enjoyed my play of 51st State, but since I started on Imperial Settlers first, I liked that theme and system better. Let’s face it, all of these are great reprints, but Mansions has some serious pedigree, and this is the perfect category for it. Sentimental favorite at least. 


Best Expansion

• 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon – designed by Antoine Bauza & Bruno Cathala; published by Repos Production
• Scythe: Invaders from Afar – designed by Jamey Stegmaier; published by Stonemaier Games
• Stockpile: Continuing Corruption – designed by Brett Sobol & Seth Van Orden, published by Nauvoo Games
• TIME Stories: Prophecy of Dragons – designed by Manuel Rozoy; published by Space Cowboys
• TIME Stories: Under the Mask – designed by Guillaume Montiage & Manuel Rozoy; published by Space Cowboys

And this one is surprisingly one of the toughest so far. Need to think on this one more, but I love what Continuing Corruption did to boost the game play of Stockpile. Should part of the reasoning behind voting in this category be the necessity of the expansion? 

Best Party Game

• Codenames: Pictures– designed by Vlaada Chvátil; published by Czech Games Edition
• Captain Sonar – designed by Roberto Fraga & Yohan Lemonnier; published by Matagot
• Happy Salmon – designed by Ken Gruhl & Quentin Weir; published by North Star Games
• Junk Art – designed by Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim; published by Pretzel Games
• Secret Hitler – designed by Mike Boxleiter, Tommy Maranges, & Max Temkin; published by Goat Wolf & Cabbage

I need to try Junk Art and Secret Hitler before really handicapping this one, but Happy Salmon is a lot of fun and will be hard to beat. Heck, Alex from the Dukes of Dice played this one ’round the world! 
Best Cooperative Game

• Arkham Horror: The Card Game – designed by Nate French & Matthew Newman; published by Fantasy Flight Games
• Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – designed by Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, & Andrew Wolf; published by USAopoly
• Mansions of Madness, 2nd Edtion – designed by Nikki Valens; published by Fantasy Flight Games
• Mechs vs. Minions – designed by Chris Cantrell, Rick Ernst, Stone Librande, Prashant Saraswat, & Nathan Tiras; published by Riot Games
• Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu – designed by Matt Leacock & Chuck D. Yager; published by Z-Man Games

Snarky comment of the week — “Have you even played Pandemic: ROC?” Reply: “Do I really need to?”   Snark aside, this might be one of the strongest categories, as each has great merit. My gut feeling here is that Mechs v Minions fans want it to win at least one or two categories, and this one seems to fit here. But man, that Rougarou!

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Best Family Game

• Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – designed by Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, & Andrew Wolf; published by USAopoly
• Ice Cool – designed by Brian Gomez; published by Brain Games
• Junk Art – designed by Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim; published by Pretzel Games
• Karuba – designed by Rüdiger Dorn; published by HABA
• Sushi Go Party! – designed by Phil Walker-Harding; published by Gamewright

I have not heard much scuttlebutt on this one, so I have some investigation to do before calling a leader. Just based on my own plays, and the 2016 buzz, I would think Karuba has the initial advantage (lots of podcasts have this one highly rated), but Junk Art and Ice Cool have been darlings on Twitter.  Hmm, tough to call yet. I’ll try to get some more feedback and update, but let’s call it Karuba by a nose for now. 

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Best Strategy Game

• A Feast for Odin – designed by Uwe Rosenberg; published by Z-Man Games
• Great Western Trail – designed by Alexander Pfister; published by Stronghold Games & eggertspiele
• Scythe – designed by Jamey Stegmaier; published by Stonemaier Games
• Star Wars: Rebellion – designed by Corey Konieczka; published by Fantasy Flight Games
• Terraforming Mars – designed by Jacob Fryxelius; published by Stronghold Games & FryxGames

And the debate rages on–does the Tower mean “Best Euro” by this category? Or just best strategy in a game? I think a list this long should have a category for the Euro players, and this is the one that fits the best. But that knocks out Rebellion, and it may have some of the best strategy of any of these games. Out of all of these, the one game that makes me replay in my head my moves with anticipation for the next game is definitely Scythe. But in the end, it is hard to think that Great Western Trail and Terraforming Mars are not amazingly designed strategic romps, so I’ll handicap them one and two, respectively…for now. 


Best Board Game Production

• Conan – designed by Frédéric Henry, Antoine Bauza, Pascal Bernard, Bruno Cathala, Croc, Ludovic Maublanc, & Laurent Pouchain; published by Monolith
• The Others – designed by Eric M. Lang; published by Cool Mini or Not
• Mechs vs. Minions – designed by Chris Cantrell, Rick Ernst, Stone Librande, Prashant Saraswat, & Nathan Tiras; published by Riot Games
• Scythe – designed by Jamey Stegmaier; published by Stonemaier Games
• Star Wars: Rebellion – designed by Corey Konieczka; published by Fantasy Flight Games

Wow, this is another big Bataille here. Every single game can lay claim to being the best Board Game Production. I think Scythe may suffer from some post-BGG awards backlash, where it won every category except Best Podcast (deservedly so, in my opinion.) I’ll go with my gut here and say that the backlash let’s Mechs v. Minions sneak in. But, Scythe and Rebellion are just a nostril behind on the last turn. 

img_1460Most Innovative Game

• Captain Sonar – designed by Roberto Fraga & Yohan Lemonnier; published by Matagot
• Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure – designed by Paul Dennen; published by Renegade Game Studios
• Millennium Blades – designed by D. Brad Talton, Jr.; published by Level 99 Games
• Mystic Vale – designed by John D. Clair; published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
• Vast: The Crystal Caverns – designed by David Somerville; published by Leder Games

This category shows the strength of 2016. These are some dang fine choices. This might be the toughest to handicap of all, but I am going to go with my gut and figure Vast is due for a win here, although Clank! has been a monster on Twitter and Millennium Blades has some REALLY hard core fans. 

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Best Game from a Small Publisher

(Note: The published must have published five or fewer games at the beginning of 2015)

• Arkwright – designed by Stefan Risthaus; published by Capstone Games
• Cottage Garden– designed by Uwe Rosenberg; published by Edition Spielwiese
• Not Alone – designed by Ghislain Masson; published by Geek Attitude Games
• Roll Player – designed by Keith Matejka; published by Thunderworks Games
• Vast: The Crystal Caverns – designed by David Somerville; published by Leder Games

Of all five of these, Not Alone is the one I want to play right now. Cottage Garden has so many fans in social media, but the furor kind of fell out as the game became hard to find. Hmm, let’s call it even between Vast and Cottage Garden, but the horses are only reaching the first turn. Plenty of time to investigate this category. 

Game of the Year

• Adrenaline – designed by Filip Neduk; published by Czech Games Edition
• Captain Sonar – designed by Roberto Fraga & Yohan Lemonnier; published by Matagot
• Cry Havoc– designed by Grant Rodiek, Michał Oracz, & Michał Walczak; published by Portal Games
• A Feast for Odin – designed by Uwe Rosenberg; published by Z-Man Games
• Great Western Trail – designed by Alexander Pfister; published by Stronghold Games & eggertspiele
• Inis – designed by Christian Martinez; published by Matagot
• Mechs vs. Minions – designed by Chris Cantrell, Rick Ernst, Stone Librande, Prashant Saraswat, & Nathan Tiras; published by Riot Games
• Scythe – designed by Jamey Stegmaier; published by Stonemaier Games
• Star Wars: Rebellion – designed by Corey Konieczka; published by Fantasy Flight Games
• Terraforming Mars – designed by Jacob Fryxelius; published by Stronghold Games & FryxGames

How can the professionals handicap such a large field? This feels like The Kentucky Derby of categories. I will bet you could list another ten games this year and make well-supported arguments for any of those games, too. 2016 was a monster year, but the monster of all has been Scythe. While I think Terraforming Mars may get a late break now that Stronghold announced it will be in stock again soon (with a HUGE printing), and Star Wars Rebellion / Mechs / Great Western Trail have lots of devoted fans, I think it is Scythe’s race to lose at this point. But, that final stretch is looming! 

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So there you have it, the very earliest of handicapping thoughts on the big race for games of the year in each category.  The awards will be announced at The Dice Tower Con in July, so there’s plenty of time to scour the ‘nets, feel the drumbeats, and stick a finger in the wind (that should be plenty enough metaphors?)

Who would you vote for in each category? Is Scythe the front runner for Game of the Year, or do you have your own personal favorite? I would love to hear from you on Twitter — hit me up at @boardgamegumbo!

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.