As many people have lamented, 2016 was a pretty bad year. A dumpster fire of a year, to be exact. But not for board games. There were a ton of great board games published in 2016. Some amazing, innovative, and crazy fun board games were published. So as you’re drinking champagne and counting down to the New Year, honor some of the best games published in 2016 by playing them like crazy on New Year’s Eve.
Secret Hitler is now one of my all-time favorite social deduction games. If you’ve read some of my other board game articles from this year, you’ve probably already heard me rave about this game.
It’s a hidden identity game with two teams, the Fascists and the Liberals. And of course there’s a secret Hitler. The Fascists know who the other Fascists are, and they know who Hitler is, but Hitler and the Liberals don’t know who anyone is.
The game plays in rounds. In the first round a random person is selected to potentially be the President. They then nominate a Chancellor. Everyone votes on whether that pair gets elected. If they aren’t elected, the President passes to the next person and the whole thing happens again.
Once a pair is elected, the President picks up three policy cards. They then discard one and pass two to the Chancellor. The Chancellor then discards one and enacts one of the policies. During this time neither the President nor the Chancellor are allowed to make any kind of noise or facial expression about what they were passed. After the policy has been enacted, then they can talk about what they drew and what they were passed.
The Liberals win if they get five liberal policies passed or if they kill Hitler. The Fascists win if they get five fascist policies passed or if after three fascists policies have been enacted Hitler is elected Chancellor. There are more fascist policies than liberal policies, so it can be much harder for the Liberals to get their policies passed.
This game will have you scheming, lying, and mistrusting all of your friends. Pretty much the perfect way to end 2016.
Secret Hitler is for 5-10 players, takes about 30-45 minutes to play, and costs $35.00. It is currently only available in the U.S.
In the same vein of mistrusting all of your friends, AssassinCon is a competitive game about assassins at a convention trying to kill each other. There are color-coded character standees on the board. Each player knows who they are controlling, but they have no idea which character the other players are controlling. Each player is trying to kill their target, while also avoiding the person that is trying to assassinate them.
Everyone is randomly assigned a character, and each character has their own color-coded deck (the backs of all the decks are the same, so no one knows which color you have). In order to move your character around the board, everyone selects a movement card to play. The cards are all shuffled and then all the movement goes off at the same time.
At the end of the movement phase, you check to see if you can kill your target. If you kill your target, they are removed from the game, you score a point, and you get a new target. The goal is to either be the last one standing, or to try to identify which character is trying to assassinate you! If you identify which character is trying to assassinate you, you’ll also score points.
You win when you score five points. Often you’re playing multiple rounds, switching characters from round to round, to score those points. The hidden movement and hidden identity aspects of the game are really fun, and the theme comes through really well. It’s a quick, fun game that takes about 30 minutes to play. And hey, murdering people can help take some of the edge off from the year!
AssassinCon is for 4-6 players, takes about 30 minutes to play, and costs $29.95.
If you’re feeling more like working together, here’s a cooperative game for you. In Kreo, players take on the roles of Greek Titans who are attempting to create a planet that can support life.
The deck of cards is evenly split among all of the players. There are three kinds of cards: element cards which each have a color associated with them, nature cards, and then red cards which all negatively affect everyone.
The nature cards all build on each other. So the first tier nature cards can be played, but unless you’ve completed the pre-requisites for the level two nature cards, you can’t build them. In order to complete your nature cards, you’ll have to play the correctly colored required element cards to the nature card. If you play a nature card before it can be built, you have to just discard it. Likewise if you play a colored element card but there’s no place to put it, you have to discard it.
Sounds simple enough right? Well there’s a catch. Players cannot talk to each other about what they have in their hands. Players must all choose their cards to play at the same time, but then reveal their chosen cards one by one in order. So if the person before you plays a pink element card to complete a nature card and then you play a pink element card with no where to put it, you must discard the element card.
There is a mechanic that helps players organize and swap their cards, so it’s not just random how the game gets played out. Players have energy tokens that you can use to either show another player a card, trade a card, or trade a card with the discard pile. Energy is extremely limited though, so you’ll have to be extremely strategic with how you use it.
Kreo is extremely hard, and I love every nerve-wracking moment of it. The game is very simple to explain to players, but the strategy necessary to win can be very complicated and in-depth, which I think is pretty awesome. If, by some amazing miracle you think the base game is too easy, there are also rules to increase the difficulty.
Kreo costs $25, takes about 30 minutes to play, and is for 3-6 players.
Mansions of Madness
Mansions of Madness Second Edition is a reprint of the original game, with one major change. Instead of needing a player to act as the Game Master with the rest of the players working together to try to solve the case, the running of the game is now handled by a free app.
The app is spectacular. It’s beautiful, smooth, and takes care of all of the fiddly rules that would be super annoying to keep track of. It keeps track of the damage done to monsters, reminds you to spread fire if something is on fire, and randomizes all parts of the encounters. The music also helps set the creepy Cthulhu mood!
The game puts you, a team of investigators, on different cases of weirdness that you have to solve. You will attempt to hold onto your sanity and your health as you explore your surroundings looking for clues, gathering evidence, solving puzzles and fighting horrible monsters.
The options that the game gives you are truly awesome, and the app keeps track of everything. It easily brings up all the flavor text and the information about everything that you can investigate, which makes the game go super smoothly. The quality of the components is freaking amazing as well. Everything from the art to the game board pieces is super beautiful.
Mansions of Madness is a bit pricey, at $99.95, but it’s super worth it. Since getting the game, I’ve played at least 10 times. It is for 1-5 players and the scenarios take about 2-3 hours each.
Betrayal at House on the Hill Widow’s Walk
And finally, continuing in the creepy game theme, Betrayal at House on the Hill finally got an expansion this year, Widow’s Walk. The base game is a tile-laying mostly cooperative exploration game.
You are a gang of investigators who are checking out the creepy house on the hill. As you discover and explore more of the rooms of the house, unsettling stuff starts happening to you. Think Scooby Doo, but way spookier.
Any time an omen card must be drawn, the player has to roll to see if the haunt begins. As more and more omen cards are in play, the more likely the haunt is to begin. Once the haunt begins, one person becomes a traitor and has to hunt down the rest of the players.
At that point, there are now two teams, the investigators and the traitor. Each team reads from a book of scenarios to figure out what their win conditions are. Neither side knows what the other must do to win.
The Widow’s Walk expansion introduces 50 new haunt scenarios, new monsters, new event cards, new omen cards and new item cards. And the list of people who helped write the new haunts is pretty impressive, from Max Temkin (Cards Against Humanity Creator) to Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time Creator) to video game designers Zoë Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.
The mechanics are simple to understand, the feel is super creepy, and the game is extremely enjoyable. In order to play with Betrayal at House on the Hill Widow’s Walk, you must have the original game as well. It is for 3-6 players, takes about an hour to an hour and a half to play and costs $25.