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Games of the Year: 2009 Edition

Well, this isn't quite just for the year 2009, but for every year up to and including this year, featuring the games I have enjoyed the most in several categories. These are games that are perfect for holiday presents and, in many cases, for playing with friends and family when you get together over the next few weeks.

Best Overall Game: Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

This game has won my heart by being the most fun for me. The box is large enough that I think it ate all of other games and absorbed all of their fun.

This game is not for a light afternoon of gaming: it is a fairly serious all-day affair. It incorporates a wide variety of game elements including alliances, politics, strategy, tactics, turn order, resource management, and more. However, for a moderate to serious gamer, I can think of no better way to spend most of a day.

Best Cooperative Game: Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica is a cooperative game in the loosest of senses: all of the players (theoretically) are working together to survive the Cylon swarms and numerous challenges to get to Kobol. However, there is guaranteed to be at least on traitor in the game, with the possibility of two or three.

The game has a unique twist that halfway through, players are dealt an additional loyalty card, meaning that whether or not you are a traitor can change halfway though. So, you can't do too well in the beginning, even if you aren't a traitor, because that may change.

This dynamic as well as the fully fleshed out gameplay makes this a big win over comparable cooperative games for me.

Best Word Game: Bananagrams

Bananagrams is short and sweet: everyone rushes to make a complete Scrabble board at the same time as other players. There is no scrounging for points for two-letter words and no score to keep track of, making it ideal for players who haven't bothered to learn the two-letter word list but still want to have fun with a word game.

It's low price, portability, and replay value make this game a huge favorite these days.

Best Card Game: Dominion

Card games normally suffer from many problems that have limited my playing them in the past: too many cards increases the randomness of the game, too few reduces the replayability and fun, too complicated detracts from people playing it, too simple also reduces the fun (generally). Managing a massive deck of cards can be daunting, and hand management is almost too simple.

Dominion strikes a delicate but amazing balance between all of these elements, creating a game that is not too long (30–45 minutes), is flexible with the number of players, has a good selection of cards, and is not too complicated. How well you do in the game is essentially how well you manage the randomness of the cards in your deck, so in a way you are fighting against the randomness.

Best Random Game: Galaxy Trucker

Sometimes, you just have to say screw it to deep strategy, alliance making and breaking, and lots of thinking. You just want to spend an hour and a half with some friends laughing over how well the tiles have screwed you over, or how bad the draw pile is going to mess up all of your work.

Enter Galaxy Trucker. It is a game that embraces its random nature. Your job is to build an interstellar piece of junk that can get you from one end of the galaxy to other, maximizing your collection of cargo along the way. You also must survive a swarm of pirates, slavers, asteroid fields, laser blasts, and (yes) open space.

Photo — Chris Blakely

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