One of the ways players can customize their Minecraft experience is through the use of texture packs. Texture packs alter the game’s appearance by changing the textures of blocks, items, and even the game’s user interface. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. By picking the greatest texture packs, any of them may be tailored to your preferences and made to look amazing. Whether you’re looking for a more realistic, medieval, or whimsical Minecraft experience, there’s sure to be a texture pack on this list that will fit your preferences.
Lithos 32x is one of the most popular Minecraft texture packs available, with the trend of vanilla-friendly texture packs continuously growing. But the increased detail to the blocks, goods, and monsters set this texture pack apart from many others.
It’s ideal for players who don’t like to witness significant or jarring changes in their Minecraft landscapes because every block will still have a fairly recognized design. For players who value crisper, higher-definition textures, it enhances the vanilla experience. With some fantastic modifications to how some of them look, the mobs are arguably this texture pack’s best feature.
Even though there are many shaders, HD texture packs, and powerful modifications available, many gamers can still need help executing this material on their Minecraft servers. It looks quite plain and basic, with textures that resemble cartoons.
The blocks have little depth but produce a distinctive look that gives the game a more vivid and upbeat atmosphere. In reality, Bare Bones closely resembles the texture design used in official Minecraft images. One of the better texture packs for Minecraft on low-end PCs is Bare Bones, which wonderfully smooths out everything.
The Jicklus texture pack gives Minecraft an indescribably endearing sweetness. Even though there are obvious modifications to block textures, most are subtle yet distinctive enough to keep things interesting. Even though this texture pack doesn’t entirely feature pink, there’s something adorable about its simple, vaguely medieval-style textures that make it perfect for gamers who like to construct tiny houses and adorable cottages in the game. It’s a wonderful Minecraft texture pack for novices who want to try something different but don’t want to change how their game seems completely.
Given how straightforward and colorful Minecraft is, a more cartoonish texture pack is practically demanded. That is the core idea behind Sapixcraft. The way the texture pack handles tree leaves is one of its main selling points. Now that each leaf is precisely depicted in leaf blocks, they appear wonderful.
Rich color palettes, straightforward textures, and a lively creative style may make gamers think of lighthearted RPGs. The texture pack doesn’t spare details because it’s fun and artistic. If you’re new to Minecraft and don’t know much about the greatest Minecraft mods, we created this list with a straightforward answer.
One of the first and most well-known texture packs in the Minecraft world is Dokucraft, and with good reason. Dokucraft, available in three variations—light, dark, and high—is somewhat more influenced by roguelike games. A magnificent texture collection in a medieval and fantasy design, it’s ideal for multiplayer servers or RPG adventure maps.
Players can select from several varieties according to their preferred color scheme and saturation. It is similar to the well-known John Smith texture pack in many aspects. The muted, gloomy colors are ideal for creating elaborate medieval castles and unpleasant RPG adventures.
Since many gamers genuinely appreciate Minecraft’s current appearance, they favor texture packs that maintain the game’s original aesthetic. While it may not be obvious at first glance, the texture pack cleans up and enhances many of the game’s textures, making them higher resolution and more detailed.
Given how faithfully it upholds and enhances Minecraft’s original look, this is likely how Faithfulgot its moniker as a texture pack. Players have been playing the same game since it was released in 2011, but with higher-quality textures. Given the right texture packs, this could be one of the nicest designs for a survival house in Minecraft.
The default aesthetic of Minecraft is OK, but it could need a little more cartoonish. To do this, Sphax’s PureBDCraft fuses art and setting. It’s a fantastic option for gamers that enjoy cartoonish, humorous, bright, and wholesome art styles. The advantage of this texture pack is that despite many of the blocks and monsters having various appearances, they are still quite recognizable. The color scheme is still quite similar to Minecraft, but the textures are far better and cleaner, giving them a less cluttered, more comic book-like appearance.
Install the most recent Minecraft shaders to appreciate and savor the beauty of whatever Minecraft texture packs you choose. Whether you’re looking to enhance the game’s visuals, create a unique atmosphere, or simply add a touch of your style to the game, we hope this blog has given you some helpful insights into the best Minecraft texture packs available.
If you’re a fan of Borderlands, or just looking for a good dungeon crawler to play, then Tiny Tina’s Wonderland is the game for you.
Although it may seem like a simple reskin of Borderlands 3, there are plenty of new features and improvements that make this game worth playing. The shooting and looting loop is as fun as ever, and the humor is much more consistent than in the previous game.
However, if you’re getting bored of Borderlands’ formula, then I wouldn’t recommend picking up Wonderlands. The structure of the game has barely changed since the original Borderlands, so it might not be what you’re looking for.
If the notion of a “What if Borderlands, but with D&D rules!” sounds strangely familiar, that’s because it does. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep was a DLC expansion for Borderlands 2 based around the same concept, and this is a near-direct follow-up set after. In fact, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep: A Wonderland’s One-Shot Adventure has just been re-released as a standalone title. It doesn’t matter whether you play it or not; you’ll know what’s going on without playing it.
Of course, let’s start with the basics; Tiny Tina, along with two of her friends named Valentine and Frett, has crash-landed on a planet while waiting for rescue. Tina decides to bring out Bunkers & Badasses, a role-playing game with a lot of weapons that just happens to be set in the Wild West. Tina creates her own campaign in which you must fight the malevolent Dragon Lord, as voiced by Arnett, the voice of Batman from the Lego Batman movie, as a nameless rookie. How do we know he’s bad? He chops off the magnificent, most amazing, and prettiest pony’s head in all of existence: Queen Butt Stallion. The bad guy has to die clearly.
I had hoped that Wonderlands would be more edgy and dark in its humor, avoiding the subjects that the Borderlands series is known for. There’s always been a dark comedy lurking behind the fart jokes and insanity in Borderlands. Tiny Tina, for example, is a hilarious illustration of this; she’s a completely broken kid who had undergone an immense amount of trauma and wound up dealing with it by adopting a mad persona.
Over time, the more tragic aspect of Tiny Tina has been pushed into the background, and in Wonderlands, it’s barely even addressed; nevertheless, despite the coarse humor, there are no curse words. That’s because, unlike all previous Borderlands games that have received an M rating, Wonderlands gets a Teen rating.
Let’s be honest here: an age rating on a video game doesn’t immediately improve the writing and humor. The idea of Wonderlands being rated Mature doesn’t make it any more funny, but it does limit the jokes somewhat. The writers themselves poke fun at it several times, noting that the hundreds of Pirates you encounter drink Soda, not rum. In my opinion, the game does not feel as much like a full-fledged Borderlands game as it does previous entries in the series. It also lacks some of the same trademark humor that has been characteristic of this franchise since its inception. With more cooperative play and less focus on exploring, Tiny Tina’s Wasted Potential is a far better fit for younger gamers than its predecessors were. As a long-time Borderlands fan, I did miss the black comedy and adult jokes in this release. The game is rude and crass, which was where much of my enthusiasm for it stems from.
But the good news is that despite the ESRB’s rating, the writing is far superior to Borderlands 3’s cringe-inducing efforts, although it still falls short of the highs set by its predecessors. The tone is lighthearted and enjoyable, and most of the jokes land favorably, however, there’s a feeling that the writers are just flinging joke after joke at you without giving you any rest. The story is also a little on the self-referential side, cramming in subtle and not-so-subtle references to just about everything from the Monkey Island games to role-playing clichés. It relies on it a little too much, though, forgetting that referring to anything isn’t humorous in and of itself.
Tiny Tina is in top form as the insane, erratic, and loud Bunker Master. Ashley Birch provides the voice of Tina once again, and her role as Aloy in Horizon: Forbidden West was somewhat flat. She puts everything into voicing Tina and would have fooled me if I hadn’t known beforehand that she was playing both parts.
Tina is likely to be as divisive as ever. Her wild behavior, loudness, and tendency to end every statement with a YELL can be quite charming and amusing, or totally irritating. Her voice plays a crucial role in the Bunker Master’s job of narrating activities and even altering the planet in front of your eyes. If you found her annoying in the past games, you may wish to skip Wonderlands entirely or just lower the volume. However, if you’re one of the many people who find her distinct brand of insanity charming, this game is for you.
Valentine and Frett are secondary characters who appear in and out, parodies of D&D players. Although Valentine isn’t the brightest knife in the drawer, he is a fan of the idea of being a hero, and he is more guided by his emotions than Frett, the Robot. These two reconciling their two very different approaches provides a great lesson for all D&D players: there’s a time for rules and a time for winging it.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Wonderland’s narrative, and I especially liked the Dragon Lord, who gets a lot of words and backstory. Arnett seems to be having a blast voicing the character, and it shines through in all of his lines. What I’m trying to say here is that the tale accomplishes its purpose; it provides a bare minimum of plot explanation for everything while also eliciting a chuckle or two, such as when Torgue violently destroys the entire ocean.
The artists and animators who have stretched their abilities and raided the color box appear to have benefitted from the D&D concept. The settings are vibrant, colorful, and full of fascinating views of ransacked pirate ships or villages that have been lifted into the air by a magic beanstalk. There are several interesting elements in the levels, as well as some enjoyable opponents. Enemy variety is insufficient for the game’s scope; basic skeletons make up the majority of it.
The game surprisingly ran well on my Ryzen 4800 and the aged but still kick-ass GTX 1080. I had everything turned up to maximum, and I didn’t notice any significant framerate drops. The only problem I encountered was stuttering in windowed mode, which the game would occasionally switch to when first starting it up.
This is a Borderlands game through and through, with all the same drawbacks and strengths as its predecessors. This ends up being just as much of a liability as it is a benefit because, on the one hand, the shooting is still lots of fun and the weapons feel fantastic to use. After that, you’re probably going to die a few thousand times over. It is highly unlikely that you will survive the entire campaign on your first try (or even attempt). But hey! You may still have fun with a game like this if you put in the effort, and I’ll show you how further on. What awaits during your journey through Unholy Heights? There are thousands of skeletons and pirates and other cannon fodder who will happily charge at you with all the intellect of a goldfish attempting to solve a math problem, eager to be shot down amid a barrage of colors, explosions, and special abilities. There are still mountains of guns to loot and analyze. There are still heaps of pop-culture nods, dumb jokes, and nonsense for you to read and chuckle with.
Given the plethora of fantasy cliches, I was a little disappointed that Gearbox stayed true to their guns. In fact. You could be fighting goblins, climbing beanstalks, and battling an evil Dragon Lord while wielding an assault rifle or a shotgun, in general. A few weapons get a little more glamorized, such as pistols with crossbow parts or a shotgun with a bubbling cauldron of crystals, but I believe there was much more space for Gearbox to go creative and embrace the fantasy element rather than sticking to the franchise’s usual style. A handheld trebuchet that shoots flails perhaps?
The guns are still enjoyable to use, and they’re well-balanced. There is no longer a way to improve weapons, so if you find something you like, it will certainly be discarded after an hour or two, but with so many different gun models shot at your face, you’ll undoubtedly discover something else to fill the huge hole in your heart. Then wielding that boomstick to kill stupid opponents is satisfying, stress-relieving fun.
The new spell system adds a little bit of variety to the mix by swapping out grenades for spells. You may loot a wide range of magic abilities, such as meteoric fireballs or intense auras, in this D&D reskin. It’s not like these additions provide much gameplay value; it’s simply another ability with a Cooldown. However, throwing out spells is still enjoyable, and when combined with your class’ specialty, it provides you with lots to do. If you pick the spell-casting class, you can really hurl magical projectiles quickly, and even equip two spells at once.
In terms of class distinction, things have gotten a few improvements, owing to the fact that you no longer pick a predetermined character with a fixed class. When creating your own custom character, you may select from six different classes, but you can also adopt a second class later on. It’s not feasible to max out both skill trees since you only have so many skill points available, but it’s a lot of fun to mix and match your skills. Then, near the end of the game, you may swap out the secondary skill tree at any time to play around with it. I really like this alteration to the system because it allows for a lot more experimenting and varied play styles in terms of whether you want to go after elemental damage or buff spells or concentrate on your companion dishing out more hurt.
There has also been an effort to improve the melee combat. You may now obtain new swords, hammers, and axes with their own characteristics and special perks, and the fighting skills have a slew of bonuses for hitting people in the face. Actually, I believe that constructing a totally melee build is feasible. However, that would be a pretty boring way to play because there’s just one button for striking things, so doing so for 15+ hours is probably going to get monotonous. Plus, in a series about stockpiling weapons like some sort of military dragon, why would you want to?
The strict adherence to the Borderlands game template is perhaps the most significant problem with this, as we saw in the first game and which has barely changed in the years since. It’s a little vexing that Gearbox hasn’t advanced their quest-making methods for decades, despite the fact that so many games have come and gone. The story’s writing team does a fantastic job of disguising the tasks with interesting themes or concepts, such as when Tiny Tina is attempting to complete a quest while Valentine and Frett are distracted by an unimportant NPC. These portions are fantastic, and most of the side missions are good, but I found myself growing bored with the same basic structure over and over again. There aren’t any. It would have been nice to include a few surprising pieces or turns to make things seem new and exciting, but there aren’t any. I get the impression that I had a good time playing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, yet I can’t recall anything in particular.
The new overworld, like the previous games, is constructed similarly to that of classic D&D campaigns. It acts as a connecting link between all of the objectives and is full with ruins and dungeons to explore. Your character’s head becomes a bobblehead; there are shortcuts to discover and even a few abilities that allow you to return and access previously inaccessible locations or collect special loot dice that boost your chances of finding valuable gear. The new Combat Encounters are self-contained arenas full of monsters to fight, essentially condensing the whole Borderlands concept into a few rounds of combat. I enjoy some of the smaller overworld elements, such as fallen Cheetos serving as barriers or soda rivers that neatly convey the idea that the overworld is a genuine D&D map. It can’t be denied that the overworld adds nothing to the game in and of itself; after all, it’s just a hub world with a different camera angle – but I still appreciated its inclusion for what it was.
The shooting and looting in Borderlands have always been its two major pillars. The first game was advertised as containing “millions” of weapons, and that number has only increased thanks to the game’s ability to combine distinct parts to create new bullet-spewing equipment. Most of the time, this implies minor statistical variances and elemental properties, but it’s not uncommon for it to produce interesting results. There are also the new legendary items, such as a screaming Banshee blade or the Queen’s Crey, which can call frost meteors. Hunting down valuable loot, obtaining slightly superior gear that fits your build, and the thrill of a Legendary emerging from a chest are all as pleasurable, gratifying, and addicting as they’ve ever been.
However, when it comes to the rainbow showers of weapons, armors, abilities, and trinkets, I must confess that Borderlands has gone a bit too far. With the introduction of lootable spells, armor, and cosmetics there’s now more gear than ever before coming from foes and chests alike; all offering minute changes in stats. I soon found myself ignoring almost all of it, only pausing to investigate the purples and legendaries, and maybe the odd blue. The rest remained on the floor, like a carelessly discarded handful of Skittles destined to be thrown away. I don’t believe there will be that many die-hard fans who will go through every single drop, but I feel like the typical person would be similar to me and overlook the bulk of it, in order to save hundreds of hours of their life. Perhaps I’ll be alone with this viewpoint, but I think Gearbox needs to reel down the loot a little so that it starts to seem valuable again.
I’m really not a fan of how the game manages cosmetics. It’s nice that bad guys constantly drop new tattoo designs and colors for your custom character to use. However, it is aggravating to have them take up room in your inventory if you do not remember to go in and open them. All this in mind, cosmetic collections are a waste of time and money. When you have hundreds or thousands of cosmetics, they take up a lot of room until you finally toss them out. It’s an ill-advised game design that takes away essential inventory space in a game all about hoarding things like a rampaging vacuum cleaner. The obvious answer is that cosmetics should be added straight to your collection. Simple, right?
It’ll take you 10-15 hours to finish the game, and if you want to complete the numerous side-quests and challenges that dot the overworld and major areas, it’s certainly going to be double that. There’s a decent amount of end-game content after that, in which you may participate in the Chaos Chamber fights. These are a sequence of arena fights against a variety of foes, with curses and blessings being picked up between rounds. A currency is gained during the journey that may be used to obtain loot, with new kinds of gear not seen in the rest of the game appearing along the way. It’s a fantastic method to extend gameplay time without detracting from the overall experience.
Borderlands 3 is a fantastic addition to the series, with more shooting and looting than ever before. Although there may be too much loot for some players, the game still offers an enjoyable experience that can last for dozens of hours. The end-game content is also well-done, providing extra challenges and rewards for players who want to keep playing after finishing the story. Whether you’re a fan of Borderlands or not, this game is sure to please.
My wardrobe is full of spaceships. So many spaceships that there’s barely room for clothes. Most of them live in an enormous box which crushes my shirts out of all recognition when it’s squeezed in and out for play. It’s a good job I play with spaceships a lot more than I wear shirts.
Having a cupboard crammed with spaceships is awesome, but it’s also a little tiring. Each comes with cardboard and plastic that must be meticulously selected and laid out before playing. That was, up until recently, where most of the game was in x-wing, and that’s sad. What was sadder is how often I’d ruin the suspension of disbelief just to make a better list.
Take Poe Dameron. Poe’s an incredible fighter pilot, and it shows in his skills and abilities. He’s also an incredibly expensive fighter pilot that you’ll want to preserve to cause maximum carnage and deny the enemy victory points. So, given that his ability lets him benefit from focus tokens without spending them, it makes sense to give his ship an astromech droid which can spend the token to regenerate shields. Right?
Of course it does. Poe with R5-P9 is a great combo that I’ve seen used to great effect in many games. It’s also completely and utterly wrong.
You’ve seen The Force Awakens. You know that Poe would never take to space without his beloved BB-8 and focus tokens be dammed. So, with the Force Awakens base set for X-Wing and one each of the existing expansion models, that’s exactly what I did. I flew Poe as he’d want to be flown. With BB-8 on board, a rookie wingman, and nothing else.
They ran into an ambush on the wingman’s training flight. Three members of the First Order’s Omega Squadron and their fearsome ace. Similarly unequipped with any modifications. The TIE f/o’s caught them in an ambush and smashed down the rookie’s shields with a volley of plasma fire, before smartly executing a k-turn and coming back in for the kill.
Poe screwed up. He panicked, and no matter how much he weaved and used BB-8 to barrel roll, he could barely make it into the fight beyond a couple of stray bolts. The rookie, meanwhile, took a deep breath, concentrated on the force and flew straight and true into the heart of the enemy swam.
When the dust cleared, only Omega leader was left flying and the rookie, his hull hanging together with prayers and sticky tape, joined up with Poe and caught the wicked ace in a murderous crossfire. Game over.
It was simple. It was fast. And it was brilliant.
Armada had the same feeling of freshness when it was first released. That’s part of what I liked about it: a rich, epic game that played in a couple of hours and didn’t need lots of pre-prep work. What mattered were the decisions you made on the table, more than the ones you made beforehand. Wave 1 didn’t overburden that dynamic too much, and the game did need a few more ships.
So now we’ve got wave 2 and so far I’ve picked up the rebel releases. How could I not, with Admiral Ackbar coming in the Home One expansion and giving me the chance to shout “it’s a trap” when my fleet came into contact with the enemy? Plus, Home one and the MC30 rebel frigate are sweeting looking models. The Frigate also promises to bring some much-needed black dice firepower to the Rebel side. I still haven’t tamed my inner wargamer enough to resist pre-painted plastics.
Throw in the Rogues and Villains expansion and you’ve got a plethora of ships to play with. And that, for the moment, is all I care about. So I’ve started doing the same there – forgoing lots of detailed upgrades in favour of a fleet commander, a couple of capital ships and a few characters and fighter wings.
It’s hard to leave out Han and the Falcon when you’ve got them in your collection. You can even take the little plastic ship off its stand and perch above the bridge of a Star Destroyer if you’re a real geek.
The first time I ran a list like this was against someone who’d tooled up with upgrades just like usual. Because there’s still not a fleet builder for Armada that actually prints the card effects on the output sheet, it took a while to get set up. I’d seized on the concept of using Garm Bel Iblis and just taking as many ships as I could, to maximise my free tokens. It seemed like a good plan. It wasn’t.
In truth, it was a massacre. I didn’t play well, treating it more like X-Wing and going in all guns blazing than the more thoughtful approach required for Armada, but even so, I don’t think I took out a single Imperial big ship. Upgrades, it seems, are more important in Armada than they are in X-Wing. Which makes the lack of a fully-featured fleet builder all the more annoying.
Such an awful loss was partly down to an unfortunate feature of Armada that I don’t think I’ve spotted before. With the range ruler literally allowing handfuls more dice to be thrown between range steps, tiny distances can make a big difference in the outcome. His Gladiator-class Star Destroyer was in black dice range on a critical turn, and my MC30 wasn’t. If the opposite had been true, it might have been a very different outcome.
Frankly, I stopped playing miniature games to get away from exactly this sort of thing. But I like Armada too much to hold that against it. So next time, I think I might make both lists. Hang the upgrades and just take Akbar and Home One squaring off against some big Star Destroyers and squadrons, just like the denouement of Return of the Jedi. I’ll get to shout “it’s a trap!”, and I’d urge you all to do the same.
I’ve nurtured a long, slow hatred of American cultural imperialism. As a developer, having to spend every working day spelling “colour” wrongly in your code will do that to a man. So, petty as it is, wherever possible, I’ll pick a British version of a thing over an American one. And if a British one doesn’t exist, I’ll seethe quietly while I wait for one.
So it feels like about time that there’s a local version of Ticket to Ride for me. With it being such a great family game, my kids know the routes between Seattle to Atlanta and Essen to Sevastopol better then their own home town. Now they can learn the way around their own country too, with the help of some little plastic trains from either original set.
Or perhaps they can’t. It turns out that this is one of the least family-friendly iterations of the game yet released. Its gimmick is the addition of technology cards, which you buy using locomotive cards as currency. To support this the box has a whole new card deck with extra locos. Plus a new rule that allows you to cash in any four ordinary cards instead of a locomotive. So that’s more rules and a whole slew of new technologies to memorise. No hurdle for hobbyists, but it’s a steep slope for regular family folk.
At the start of the game you can only build poxy 2-space routes in England. If you want to build longer routes, build ferries, build in Ireland, Scotland or Wales you’ll need the appropriate technology to do so. Plus there are more esoteric options, like tech that gives you extra points or lets you cash in less cards for a route.
With all these new options on the table, it looks like a recipe for some new strategies. In reality, however, they function more as limiters. Everyone needs to be able to build longer routes to succeed. It’s hard to imagine doing well without building ferries or outside of England, too. So buying these is a given. As for the other stuff, well, let’s just say I’ve never seen a technology heavy strategy win.
Conversely, there’s a massive ten-space, 40 point route on the board and I’ve never seen anyone claim that and lose. It looks like a bit of a game breaker, although people who’ve grabbed it do tend to fail a few tickets.
In summary, it seems to add extra rules and extra luck of the draw for no particular extra gain. I’ve no problem with the latter, as Ticket to Ride is inherently a luck-heavy game. The former is less forgivable, though. So unless you have a particular geographical bee in your bonnet like me, there’s no real reason to favour the UK map over the vanilla one.
But wait. What’s this? Tucked away on the corner of the cover like an embarrassing elderly relative, there’s a little logo that says “Pennsylvania”. If you rummage in the box there’s a few more cards with funny pictures on. If you flip the board over, there’s another map, another bit of god-damn America.
The new mechanics for this map are a lot more easily digestible. Each time you claim a route, you can grab a stock certificate from one of several rail companies associated with it. At the end of the game, players total up their stocks in each company and get bonus points depending on how many they got. Simple.
Yet what looks like an afterthought turns out to be the better of the two maps. Those stock certificates are mean. They’re kept face down which means you have to try and keep a running tally of what other people are collecting. Unless you’re a human calculator that rapidly becomes impossible. So every selection becomes a cauldron of paranoia, as you wonder whether the card you’re picking is worthless, or a game winner.
Plus, each company operates on a small sub-area of the map. To maximise your points you want to spread widely. So that’s another thing to plan alongside making your tickets and gunning for the longest route. With plenty of blocking opportunities too, the game becomes gloriously brutal. And with both tickets and stock points waiting until the game end, there’s uncertainty right up until the last minute.
So the UK map is only for real Ticket to Ride enthusiasts. But Pennsylvania may be the best variant of the original game I’ve played. It’s almost a shame they made you pay for them both in the same box. Much as I hate to admit it, America wins again.
This time last year, I was so tired of the generic nature of most new board games that I’d started to wonder if my favourite hobby had passed its glory days. I’ve never been happier to have been proved wrong. After a couple of years of wretched releases, 2015 has been a stellar time for tabletop gaming.
When there was so much chaff in the machine, I couldn’t bring myself to do much more than pick a top three for my best-of-year posts. Sometimes it was difficult to find even three. This time I’m faced with an embarrassment of riches. I’ve never liked the idea of honouring games by category: it feels artificial. If the two best games this year were both dexterity games (they weren’t) then both deserve a mention.
So here’s what were going to do. I’m going to run through my favourite games of the year and, at the end, pick one for game of the year. But they’re all fantastic. All worthy of your time and money.
Before we get stuck in, I have to admit that there’s one title that ought to be in the running which I haven’t played. That title is Pandemic: Legacy. Not being an enormous fan of the original, I passed on this at first. By the time it became a must-have game and I wanted to review it, everyone else had it already. Hopefully there’ll be time for a review in the new year. I might think that Pandemic is merely average. But since I opened Risk: Legacy this year and it became my sixth-ever top scoring game, I ought to see how the legacy concept works with other systems.
Now, on with the show.
Star Wars: Armada
X-Wing looked fantastic on the table, but it felt more like a crapshoot than a tactical combat game. That’s slowly changing but, however good it gets, it’ll never offer as much game as Armada does. And even with unpainted fighters, Armada still looks the biz when it’s laid out. I was playing in a pub once, and a complete stranger came over and started taking photographs, muttering “that’s mint. That’s fucking mint.”
I’d argue it’s actually more accessible than its older brother due to fewer ships and upgrades and a more predictable play time. So, easy to pick up, fantastic looking, rich and deep to play: what’s not to love? Well, the price, I guess. But you don’t need a lot of ships to build a fun, functional fleet.
The sorts of games we love are often bloated with rules and components in place of actual theme. Sometimes this works, more often it just gets in the way of enjoyment. Yet when designers try to strip these things away to make shorter, simpler games, often all that’s left is a hollow shell.
Specter Ops is the grandest refutation of that conclusion I’ve ever seen. You can be up and playing in minutes yet you might end up playing for hours and hours over the shelf-life of the game. It’s built taut, asymmetrical and full of cunning deduction on a foundation that looks flimsy, but is rock solid.
Fury of Dracula 3rd Edition
Hidden movement is one of my favourite mechanics, so getting two top titles in one year is a real treat. And with the original Fury being one of my favourite games, it’s no surprise I see 2015 has being an out of the park year for quality.
You’ll need to put in a bit of work to figure this one out, but it does play fast and it’ll reward you a hundredfold. Dense, claustrophobic and slipperier than a box of frogs yet still full of depth and crazy see-saws of fortune. It’ll suck you in and never let you out.
People have been mining the seams of social games and word for so long that it’s rare anything of value turns up. So imagine my surprise when a designer known for mediumweight thematic titles turned up a great title that was novel in both genres.
The best thing about Codenames is its chameleon-like ability to be all things to all people. It works co-operatively or competitively. You can play it hard or for laughs. Teams can play it just as well as individuals. Whichever way up you turn it, it’s still just as much fun.
You’d not think, to look at the box or read the rules, that this is perhaps the deepest game I’ve seen in years. It looks and smells like a negotiation game, and there’s plenty of that to do. Yet underneath are layers and layers of mechanics to puzzle over and perfect.
That it presents such a compelling piece of alternative history too is just the icing on the cake. With such variety and replay value, Churchill would go on my “if you only had 10 games” list without a second thought.
And the winner is …
In keeping with the quality of this year’s games, this is the hardest choice I’ve had to make for some time. So I’m not going to make it: I’m going to let my friends and family do it, without them knowing.
They’ve had a great time with all of the games on my shortlist. But there was one that got asked for over and above the initial wow-factor of any well designed. One that got worked over, worried at, examined in a fierce competition to be the first to be best. One that shut out the world outside more effectively than the rest.
That game is the new edition of The Fury of Dracula.
I had always dreamed that one day, someone might be able to shoehorn the best bits of the two previous editions into one box, but I never really believed it would come true. Yet there it is, a special Christmas present for me. And for all of you, too, if you’re lucky enough to find one under the tree. Have a great solstice.