Hello readers, and welcome back to another Aficionado Top 10. This time, I’ll be looking back over all of the games I’ve played this year and showing you the ones that I would heartily recommend to any gamer. Thus, these ten games are games that I believe are able to be enjoyed by any gamer, whether they’ve been in hobby for 10+ years, or are just graduating from the mainstream classics Monopoly and Risk.

Note that these are NOT my Top 10 Games of 2016. This was probably the best year of gaming for me, the one where I played more games, wrote many articles, and rapidly expanded my collection. Throughout this year, I found my absolute favourite game of all time (Star Wars: Rebellion), as well as many other gems, some of which are included in this very list!

In addition, note that these games are not all from 2016; rather, they are games that I played this year for the first time. None of them are too old, with the oldest one going back to 2014. As such, you can expect to see some real gems from the recent renaissance of board gaming.

Now that you’ve heard more than enough blabbering about technicalities, let’s begin with…

10. Evolution

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For context, I only played Evolution on one night this year. The two or so games I did play of it left enough of an impression on me that I can recommend this wholeheartedly. Part hand management, part long-term planning, part outthinking, part take that, and a whole lot of fun.

Evolve your creatures from tiny insects into intelligent herbivores or savage pack hunters who feast on the other players! It can be a bit mean, but it’s a whole lot of fun, as well as being quick and simple enough for everyone to enjoy. Don’t let the number 10 slot fool you; this was a fantastic year, and even games 11-15 are ones I would recommend any day of the week!

9. Patchwork

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This is my lovely girlfriend’s all time favourite game, and it’s VERY close to my favourite quick two player game (being 7 Wonders: Duel. This gets the nod for being more accessible and simpler to explain). Uwe Rosenberg has designed many hits over the years, and Patchwork is no exception.

Combining tetris with a puzzle, this little game has been a riot every time I’ve opened it up. In particular, if you’re looking for a fun game to play with your SO that is simple yet very strategic, look no further!

8. Animal Upon Animal

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A quick disclaimer; the version I have of this is slightly different, involving many animal noises and a spinning board. However, the crazy stacking game that is Animal Upon Animal has been a stunning success with kids and adults alike.If you ever loved Jenga, then there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time with this kids’ game!

The aim of the game is to stack all of the animals in front of you onto the crocodile. Unfortunately, unlike bricks, animals don’t stack very well, mainly because of all their fun shapes and sizes. And that’s the point; it’s fun to try and make as large a tower as possible, and hilarious when all the furry and scaly friends come crashing down onto the poor crocodile.

7. Sushi Go: Party

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I played Sushi Go a few years back, and thought it was very cute in both senses of the word. The issue was that it just ran out of steam far too quickly; there were only so many times I could play with the few cards in the game before I would grow tired of it.

Enter Sushi Go: Party. With more combinations than there are types of sushi, it really is “the deluxe pick and pass card game”. 7 Wonders can be a little daunting with all of its iconography, but Sushi Go: Party fixes that by stripping drafting down to its bare roots. While some cards are more interesting than others, there are more than enough combinations to keep the party going for many years to come.

6. Apotheca

Apotheca Box Cover

It’s very possible I may be this game’s biggest fan. Apotheca ABSOLUTELY blew me away when I first saw it. Having heard nothing about it when it first hit the table, my jaw dropped at its elegance and subtle complexity that, to me, spelled a winner.

When I finally did get to play it, I was sold hook, line and sinker. Mixing hidden information with logic and puzzle solving, Apotheca is the type of game that will just keep on giving. It’s a little more thinky than many of the other games on thie list, but its mechanically simple enough that I believe many people will fall in love with it. If you can find a copy, scoop it up!

5. The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness Box Cover

My most anticipated game of the year comes in at number 5. The so-called eurogamer’s “Game of Life”, The Pursuit of Happiness is a great gateway into some slightly heavier games. It’s a little more complex than many of the other games on this list, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more thematic game this year.

Just recently, I played a game where my character started off working diligently as a pizza/newspaper delivery boy, before becoming a gym junkie millionaire who wrote his own books on how to be financially successful, despite not at all being qualified to do so! Yet such was his confidence and charisma that he attracted many investors and a very wealthy girlfriend, who ended up funding many of his endeavours in life. Tell me the last time you played a game like that!

4. Camel Up

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Here’s a funny story. A while ago, I purchased City of Iron, a relatively rare game that had gotten rave reviews, from an online board game group. At the same time, the man also had Camel Up for sale, at a heavily discounted price due to a damaged box. Knowing it was the Spiel des Jahres winner of 2014, I grabbed it on a whim. I expected it would be a fun filler game in between others…

Now, several months later, Camel Up has been played more times than many of my other board games! Combining luck, simple probability, and the outrageous notion of camels leaping on top of each other, this game is more than worthy of its award. It never overstays its welcome, and I’ve never felt more stressed (in a good way) than when I’m shaking up the pyramid to see which camel moves next. This is one of my new favourite fillers, with another one being…

3. Karuba

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Karuba is a relatively late addition to my collection. In fact, I picked it up mere weeks ago. In this treasure hunting game, players are trying to guide their explorers through the jungle and to the temple, where a jewels and riches await them. Everyone has the same board and gets the same pieces at the same time, yet just how they get their adventurers through the jungle will be wildly different.

The game takes no more than 5 minutes to explain and around 20 to 30 minutes to play, and all of that time is thrilling. Its simple enough for younger or newer gamers to learn without feeling intimidated, yet challenging enough that connoisseur gamers can feed their competitive desires with it. I love every bit of it, and just this week, I’ve happily played five or so games of it. If someone asked me to play right now, I’d stop writing this and go join in the hunt for treasure!

2. Pandemic: LegacyPandemic: Legacy Box Cover

I can understand why this one may be a little more controversial. Unlike every other game on this list, Pandemic: Legacy is not a filler or lighter game. It’s simple, sure, but it requires dedication and a willingness to commit to playing the whole way through. That can be tough, especially in the busy modern lives we lead. However, it is far and away the best gaming experience I’ve ever had, and that’s why Pandemic: Legacy makes this list at number 2.

That said, the way the story unravels, the rules slowly get more complicated, and the masterfully crafted legacy aspects of this game make this a game without parallel. Introduced to newer gamers, this could very well serve as an awesome launching pad into our wonderful hobby. If not, you could always just grab Pandemic, though that would be a lot lower on this list. Everything that Pandemic: Legacy is is just awesome, and what better way to capture people’s hearts than with this stellar entry.

1. Codenames

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“Oh look, Codenames came first on a recommended games list. What else is new?”

Yes, yes. You’ve probably heard of Codenames. You’ve also probably heard of how brilliant it is and how it won the most coveted award in all of gaming. You may have also heard that it sold the most copies out of any board game this year (at least according to CoolStuffInc).

The reason you’ve heard of all this is because it’s all true. Codenames is the definitive party game, and a hit with absolutely everyone who plays it. Designed by my favourite designer, the simple rules, near limitless combinations and flexible player count mean that Codenames is far and away the number 1 most recommended game from this year. I’ve played this with gamers, family, university friends, fellow church goers, and not a single person has disliked it. In fact, some of them now also own their own copies, and have likely taught others the joy in finding the links. As the rulebook says “win or lose, it’s fun to solve the clues”.

To make it even better, you’ve even got more options now; if you’re not a words person, try out Codenames: Pictures. I personally haven’t tried the adult version, Codenames: Deep Undercover, but if that’s your shtick, know that they have you covered. If you haven’t tried this out yet, I’d urge you to find a copy and play it with friends and family. You’ll be in for an amazing time!

That about wraps up this Top 10 list. Other games on my shortlist included 7 Wonders: Duel (which was just slightly too complex), Kodama (a beautiful game that was probably number 11 or 12) and Burger Up (a relaxing game by Australian company Rule and Make). What about you guys? What were your favourite games that you played during the year? What would you recommend? Let me know, and as always, have fun gaming!

Wanna grab some of these awesome games? Links down below!

Codenames
Pandemic: Legacy
Karuba
Camel Up
The Pursuit of Happiness
Sushi Go: Party
Patchwork
Evolution (note, this Climate version includes all the stuff from the core game)