Best of 2015

Review Corner Writers

Posted by Review Corner Writers on Dec 1, 2015

It’s the end of 2015 and we are tearing across the finish line at full speed. It’s been a great year for gaming with a lot of spectacular new titles- and the inception of Miniature Market’s Review Corner! I asked our writers to give me their win, place and show picks for the year’s best games. Speaking for myself, this was a tougher than usual call because there were so many good to great games new to the market this year. Looking over these photo finishes, I can’t help but note how many notable (and even award-winning) games aren’t even listed here among them- XCOM, Broom Service, Flick ‘em Up, Champions of Midgard, Evolution, Risk: Star Wars Edition, Loopin’ Chewie…the list goes on, and we may not have even picked your favorites. But here are the titles your Review Corner critics handed in to be recognized among the top releases of the year.

Michael Barnes

Editor-in-Chief, Miniature Market's Review Corner


Nothing I have played in 2015 has brought me pleasure quite like Fury of Dracula. Fantasy Flight’s second Re-development of the classic Games Workshop title has sanded away every problem with the last version, while sacrificing none of the atmosphere or narrative. A stripped down combat system and new turn structure makes the game much more intuitive, and Dracula has plenty of new nasty tricks up his sleeve. Every game has been down to the wire, filled with narrow escapes and eerie tension. It’s the best game experience I’ve had this year, and I can’t wait to play more.


Beyond the IP and the chrome (not that they're insignificant), Armada delivers compelling strategic gameplay and massive amounts of variety, allowing players to field bare-bones craft or fully upgraded synergistic combo-delivering machines via the tabletop genre's go-to balancing mechanism: a points system. This variety allows casual pilots and hardcore list-maximizers to get the same amount of joy out of a contest and greatly enhances the game's appeal. For a fraction of the cost of other tabletop systems, players can launch a variety of fleets with a panorama of special abilities, ensuring the game stays as fresh as the source material, and helping me keep from growing up just a little bit longer.


Designer Jim Felli came out of nowhere with this maverick design that challenges what we assume an “adventure game” to mean. It is at once atavistic and forward-thinking, it skims abstraction but it is also hugely evocative. It’s not a game for everyone- I don’t think the typical Runebound player will go in for it, but I think those who are looking for something a little more experimental and singular, something a little more daring should take a look at this fascinating game. There’s nothing else out there quite like, and it delivers gameplay unlike anything else released in 2015. That’s game of the year material as far as I’m concerned.


Raiding and pillaging the war torn countryside with Fire Trolls and Frost Giants is the Euro/Thematic hybrid equivalent of In-N-Out burger. It makes your insides tingle and your mouth warm. This game seamlessly combines multiple tactical fronts - a card draft, board position, and controlled tempo - into a package that manages to feel natural and impressive without ever feeling mechanical. It's a Euro game where you lop off your neighbor's head and send his broken body to Valhalla. It's an Ameritrash game where you decisively strategize upon multiple point vectors to maximize your return. It's one of the only fresh releases I've played that instantly felt like a measured classic, etched in stone to be enjoyed for years to come.


Magic the Gathering resonates with me as a game that brings its unique world of shifting planes and shady mages to life. You can almost see the fearsome creatures and deadly fireworks show of attack spells dancing across the tabletop. So when I heard a game was coming that actually spelled those duels out in front of you with miniatures, terrain, and the same great art and sense of world-building, I bought it sight unseen. Luckily, it doesn't disappoint, adding a brain-tickling layer of card play on top of the classic Heroscape formula. It's a skirmish game that scales well and has enormous potential for expansion, as long as Hasbro continues to support it going forward.


Alchemists seamlessly combines worker placement and deduction into an integrated whole. Players take on the role of fussy academics attempting to not only decode the secrets of alchemy, but also rushing to be the first to publish their theories to the greater academic community. The title features strong competition, multiple competitive strategies, an app that allows endless replay value, and unbelievable amounts of fun. While a little on the heavy euro side, it is an amazing treat to play and one that I always eagerly anticipate.


Clockwork Wars smashes down the old barriers that categorize games into Euro or Ameritrash buckets. Slamming together stripped down versions of resource gathering and engine building with hidden simultaneous deployment orders and disruptively asymmetric technologies, Clockwork Wars pits you against up to three friends in a tense war that packs more into a 90 minute game than many 6 hour behemoths. You’ll feint, bluff, and try to think a turn ahead of your opponents while you muscle your way onto a board that never feels quite big enough to contain everyone. It’s the kind of game that makes you jump up in celebration and yell at you friends in the best kind of way.


With a slick presentation and daring, novel mechanics, Space Cadets: Away Missions delights gamers of all ages. It's a fantastic game to play as one-off adventures or as a campaign, and it never seems to get stale.


Although technically released in 2014 ( late November), most people didn’t start discovering or experiencing Colt Express until into the new year. Still others probably didn’t take notice until it grabbed the 2015 Spiel des Jahres. Colt Express is a pre-programmed movement game. But that doesn’t begin to describe the raucous Old West action and hilarious energy packed into this box. This chaotic romp is simple and innocuous enough to appeal to a wide range of ages and gaming experiences. You can easily introduce this action-packed yarn to any mixed group without feeling like a low-down, no-good, yellow-bellied varmint.


In spite of an eminently burnable rulebook, a tome of errata, and a weirdly harsh timer Mistfall remains the best game I've played this year. It easily topples Pathfinder Adventure Card Game as the best RPG-like experience that doesn't require a $50 player's manual, and it does so without dice or a GM, putting a wealth of tactical choices directly in your hands.


In an era when worker placement games are trying to both flex their muscles and reinvent the wheel, a few stand out as prime innovators. Argent is bananas. It's the only worker placement game, for instance, where an occupied space — the library, say — can be overcome by phasing one of your workers into an alternate dimension where nobody bothered to lock you out. It's also the only game of 2015 that's bothered to let me blast an entire room of hapless teenagers with a fireball spell, speed up time to finish half my desired actions before anyone else even realizes something's up, or so completely realize my ambitions at unlocking the secrets of ancient spellbooks. This is fabulous stuff.