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Top 10 New To Me 2022

In 2022 I played 23 new games, not all from 2022, in fact probably very few from that year, but I wanted to make a top 10 list of the best ones I played...

10. Welcome To...

The Welcome To series of games could have easily passed me by had we not had a global pandemic decimate the world of gaming. Confined as we were to our houses simple games, like this excellent Roll & Write started to make more regular appearances in my gaming repertoire as they could be played online more easily than their big brothers.

Welcome To Your Perfect Home has players planning out a neighbour of houses, attempting to create runs of sequentially numbered houses surrounded by fences. Each turn three pairs of cards are offered to the players, a number and a symbol. The number can be used to fill in any blank house in a row, while the symbol can used for a special action.

The special actions allow players to cross off trees or pools, create fences so they can subdivide their housing plots or even extend their houses into larger mansions. Each game also has a series of randomised scoring goals to keep the experience varied across multiple plays. The whole package has a nice 1950's look to it and is infinitely expandable with new map packs.

For those looking for a challenge beyond Welcome To's more introductory style, Welcome To The Moon provides a more intense game with 8 different scenarios baked right into the core box, along with campaign play for those that want it.

9. King of Monster Island

The game of kaijus fighting kaijus fianlly goes full co-op as King of Tokyo reinvents the wheel in King of Monster Island. This full co-op version of King of Tokyo takes all the dice chucking fun you're used to and turns that into a boss battler. Players will roll dice to smash minions, build support boats, heal other monsters and ultimately earn fame while taking down the big bad!

The game is focused around a giant volcano in the centre of the table which acts as a dice tower and an obstruction for seeing anything happening on the far side of the board. Each round players throw enemy dice into the volcano to spawn new minions and activate the boss, who trundles to the location with the most dice, triggering their effects and causing more bad stuff to happen.

During their turn players can roll their action dice up to 3 times until they choose to stop and activate their dice for actions. The different sides of the dice allow players to move, deal damage, gain fame which activates special powers, gain energy which allows them to buy special cards, heal damage or build support ships which can be activated by any monster to gain additional actions. Unspent dice can be locked-in on spaces around the board allowing for greater co-operation.

If Monster Island has a downside it is the scale of the production, the standees and volcano dice tower create obstacles which makes it very easy to miss what is happening on the table. Meanwhile the dice being chucked into the volcano spill all over the board knocking everything over with reckless abandon before flinging themselves from the table needing then to be thrown back into the volcano to repeat the carnage.

The game also doesn't scale brilliantly, as two players can make much more efficient use of their powers and skills than say five. That said we've really enjoyed our plays and with three different bosses and two difficulties for each, there's plenty of play to be had within this box.

8. Vagrantsong

The critical darling of 2022 is Wyrd Miniature's Vagrantsong. This boss battling campaign game has wowed players with its 1930's inspired art and innovative level design. This is one I was enjoying solo but I ended up putting it to one side after half a dozen plays as I felt I would enjoy it much more with a friend.

In Vagrantsong you take on the role of a vagrant trapped on a train haunted by spirits of the past known as Haints. It is your job to remind the haints of who they once were by completing rituals, allowing them to regain their humanity and pass on to the after life... Usually this is achieved by punching them. However Vagrantsong is more than just a beautifully illustrated beat 'em up.

Each level has different rituals, different ways you can interact with the haint and each haint has a whole page of text to explain how they will activate based on a token pulled from a bag. In fact many of the haints have two different moods meaning they each have around 12 different actions they might take, making the game much less predictable and more much challenging as an AI driven boss battler.

Between missions your vagrants will encounter small story moments that change their path through the campaign, offering them new skills or equipment and allowing them to level up. Vagrantsong manages to offer a very replayable and interesting experience with a minimal number of components through clever use of its design space, highly recommended.

7. Aftermath

Aftermath is a campaign driven sandbox adventure game from the mind of Jerry Hawthorne, the designer of Mice & Mystics. In Aftermath the world has ended in calamity, humanity vanished in the blink of an eye and the animal kingdom became self aware, adapting the human world to fulfil their own agendas.

Each player takes on the role of a Provider, a vital member of the colony tasked with undertaking dangerous missions out in the world to find food and scrap and ultimately help the colony thrive. Each game of Aftermath is played on the Storybook, a spiral bound book that acts as the game board. What happens on each page is dictated by the rules found on the opposite page, but also by your chosen mission.

Players can choose to play out missions in any order, as long as they meet any shown prerequisites. Players are ultimately trying to complete their campaign goals, these are long term objectives that must be fulfilled in order for the players to complete the campaign. In this way there is no "final scenario", instead players play until all their goals are met.

Aftermath uses a similar system to Jerry's previous games Stuffed Fables and Comanauts, but with dice replaced by cards offering a little more control over your actions than the previous titles.

Aftermath is a sad game for me because it sets up a wonderful world with lots of forward planning around expansions that will ultimately never be released. Despite that I love what we do have and the writing is wonderfully crafted, being both funny and nostalgic and doing what Jerry does best, exploring difficult topics through an unusual lens.

6. Meadow

In a world of increasingly beautiful games Meadow still stands out as an impressive spectacle with over two hundred unique cards containing hand-painted watercolor illustrations. So the game is unquestionable beautiful to behold but it is actually also really fun to play.

The decisions in the game are simple at first, you take 5 actions using the action tiles in your supply. Each tile can be used to take a card 1-4 spaces away from where it is inserted around the edge of the main board depending on the number printed on the tile you used, i.e. 1-4. However as other players place their tiles the spaces around the board dwindle reducing your options.

Action tiles can alternative be played for a special action at the campfire board instead. Here you can blind draw cards from the decks, pick a card from the display, play cards from your hand or gather road tokens which allow you to play landscape cards for bonus points. Taking an action at the campfire also allows you to score specific combos if they are present in your tableau.

Speaking of your tableau this is the main way you're going to score points over the course of the game. Players begin with a single land card and a grub or insect but as they gain new cards from the central board they can build out their tableau adding new cards on top of their existing ones by matching the icons shown on the new cards prerequisites.

While Meadow is one I only got to the table once last year, it is one I am eager to return to discover more of what this game has to offer.

5. Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition

Terraforming Mars is one of those games that is spoken about in hallowed tones, it is one of the holy grails of gaming that has achieved legendary status and it is one that almost completely passed me by. I played TF for the first time last year and only via the digital version on steam. I thought it was great but didn't feel the need to own it as I doubted it would see much table time with my group.

So, when Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition seemed to offer a similar engine building experience in a smaller time frame and smaller footprint, well, this time I was onboard. In Ares Expedition all the players are attempting to terraform Mars and make it habitable. To do this you need to raise the Oxygen Level, the Temperature and flip over all the ocean tiles.

While much of what Ares Expedition is doing is cribbed straight from it's big brother, the primary action selection mechanic is borrowed from San Juan or Race for the Galaxy. Each round each player selects one action they would like to perform, then all players reveal which action they selected. All chosen actions are then performed by all players with the player who selected it getting a bonus when the action is carried out.

In this way Ares Expedition is a little less predictable than its older brother, as not all steps of the turn will always be carried out. However, the game makes up for this increased randomness in my opinion by cutting down the play time by at least two thirds. Ares Expedition also features all new artwork which looks fantastic.

And while the game is certainly simpler than Terraforming Mars, it's not a babyfied version by any means, there's tons to do, 200+ cards all with different and varied effects, tracks and resources to manage, variable starting corporations and 3 more expansions in the pipeline for when you get bored!

4. Paleo

Paleo is a critical darling praised for being a co-operative game that is different... And that praise is spot on. The "Pandemic" formula of 4 actions, draw cards, do bad things, repeat is a good formula and it has been copied and iterated on so many times because it works really well, but it is refreshing to see something completely different happening the cooperative games space too.

In Paleo you play as cave people simply seeking to survive. You win by painting your story onto the wall of your cave, represented by collecting 5 pieces of a mammoth painting. You lose by collecting 5 skulls, typically gained through the death of your tribesmen or through failing to meet conditions in the night phase.

Each game of Paleo is created by shuffling together two decks of cards from the ten that come in the box. Each deck has a mission card that states what you need to do satisfy that card, often times it is pay a certain number of resources or items in the night phase, but they all vary from deck to deck. They also come with a series of cards that are shuffled into the basic deck, changing up what you'll find when you go exploring.

Each "day" in Paleo the deck is shuffled and divided amongst the players evenly. Players then draw three cards off the top of their deck and look at the backs, choosing one to face and placing the other two back. The backs tell the players a possible type of encounter they will face, Camp, Stranger, Dream, Animals, Woodlands, Mountains or Threat. The red Threat cards are always bad, but choosing to ignore them means you'll take a damage each time you discard them, where as facing them head on can allow you to clear them from the deck.

Players play through their deck, drawing three and facing one, until they run out their deck or until they choose to sleep. When all players sleep the night phase happens where they must feed their people, complete their missions and if they have not yet won, shuffle up the deck and face a new day.

Paleo reminds me of Robinson Crusoe, in that events have consequences that are coming back to bite you. You will face things you are not ready to face on day one and typically you'll live to tell the tale. In this way you can prepare better, stockpile resources you need and set up your group to tackle harder cards together rather than facing threats alone armed with the knowledge of what dangers are out there. Most cards in Paleo have a help icon, this allows you to forego completing your own card to instead join another player and help them succeed. In this way Paleo manages to really bring cooperation back to the table in a simple, yet challenging and visually gorgeous way.

3. ISS Vanguard

Awaken Realms for me is one of those companies where I love their concepts and visions for games, but I also tend to feel that they are overwrought and full of rules overhead that starts to impede the gameplay. However, with ISS Vanguard, I was willing to put those reservations aside to get the opportunity to explore the galaxy in search of new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!

ISS Vanguard puts you in the captains chair of a multi-year voyage into deep space, you aren't just playing as a single crew member thrust from obscurity into the limelight by fortuitous circumstance, you are the big kahuna, you choose which crew to awaken from deep sleep, which tech upgrades to research, develop and build, which star systems to visit and planets to explore and ultimately which crew, landers and equipment to take on the away missions.

We're over 20 hours into our campaign and we're only just scraping the surface of what is possible in this game. We're already regretting earlier decisions and missed opportunities and I think that has to be the hallmark of a good story game. Are there rough edges? Sure. The app, while great for immersion, with it's fully voice acted story, is pretty janky in places meaning we still have to look things up in the paper logbook and there's no account save system so you always need to play on the same device. Of course the app isn't required to play, you can use the log book instead.

The game can also feel quite mechanical at times, despite the in-depth story and the wonderful art. ISS Vanguard is dice driven, most turns you are moving to a location and attempting to roll specific symbols and it is only the story that stops this game feeling repetitive. Mechanically speaking I failed to roll enough spanners on my dice, but thematically speaking I killed an entire eco system on an alien world through my own ineptitude. However if you don't allow the story to sweep you up then the planetary exploration is little more than pattern matching and dice manipulation.

Planetary exploration though is only half the game, the other half is a resource management tech tree. Aboard the Vanguard you must spend command points, energy and crew members to deal with situations, such as new alien cults or power being diverted to holosimulators, research new tech and build it, explore nearby points of interest and even heal your injured crew or mourn your dead! There's a lot going on in ISS Vanguard but you'll be hard pressed to find another game that gives you such an in-depth space exploration feeling.

2. Zombicide: Dark Side

It almost feels like cheating to put a Zombicide game on the best of year list, after all, they are all the same, right? Yes and no. As I said of Invader, many years ago, the Sci-Fi Zombicide's position the survivors differently. They aren't officer workers and diner staff, they are capable soldiers in a base that is under siege and because of that you feel powerful right from the off. You can split the party with a reasonable expectation that you'll make it back alive.

While I played Invader back in 2019 when it first arrived I skipped over Dark Side because, a - it wasn't painted and b- how different could it be. Well I can say I was pleasantly surprised with this one.

In any given Zombicide players are cooperatively trying to survive against a horde of zombies in order to complete a series of objectives. If any survivor is killed the players collectively lose. In Dark Side you play as the marines of Green Team facing a horde of Driller Xenos. These Xenos have all the same traits as regular zombies, however if they are in a Pit Zone they gain Xenos +1 health, making them harder to kill at range and as they generally spawn from the pits, they will be harder the turn they spawn.

To make things worse, the equipment deck contains cards that open new pits and the Driller Abomination does so too. After a few rounds of this the whole base will be crawling with xenos! Then there's the dark... Rather than the inside/outside rules from Invader, Dark Side has light and dark zones. The dark limits range to 0. Without equipment to help you navigate the subterranean world you find yourself in you're fighting blind. This combined with the pits makes Dark Side feel much more claustrophobic than previous Zombicide titles, forcing you to get up close and personal with the enemy.

Zombicide is pure ameritrash, but it's a great example of genre, it's a dice fest, but it's one filled with genuine tension, a great art direction and fun mission designs.

1. So Clover!

I know most reviewers wouldn't put a party game at their top spot for the year but when it comes down to it, this is one I always want to play and the nice thing is it's so quick and easy and simple that I can always play it! So Clover is the spiritual successor to Just One (my number 2 in 2020). It is a cooperative party game where each player has a grid of words arranged in a square. Each side of the square is composed of two words, players must write a word that connects those two words together.

When all players have done this the cards are removed from the grid and the other players must attempt to arrange your cards so that they match your written clues. The wrinkle is that an additional unused card is added to the mix which may help or hinder the players.

While the game is scored, the score is irrelevant, the fun of the game is in the activity, not in the winning and losing. And for me, both parts of the game are fun. I love the word association part, coming up with clever clues that link two seemingly disparate words, just as much as I love trying to get in to the mind of the other players to work out their bizarre clues.

If you want a clever, quick playing party game for a social gathering, I'll still recommend Just One first because it is easier to teach, but if you want to know my favourite party game of the moment, well it is So Clover!

All 23 New Games

  1. So Clover!

  2. Zombicide: Dark Side

  3. ISS Vanguard

  4. Paleo

  5. Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition

  6. Meadow

  7. Aftermath

  8. Vagrantsong

  9. King of Monster Island

  10. Welcome To...

  11. Pandemic Legacy: Season 0

  12. Break the Cube

  13. Steampunk Rally Fusion

  14. Welcome to the Moon

  15. Trek 12: Himalaya

  16. Flip Ships

  17. Keep the Heroes Out!

  18. Concept Kids: Animals

  19. Anomia

  20. Cheating Moth

  21. Museum Suspects

  22. Cross Clues

  23. Titan Race

And so that's it for 2022, the over arching theme from this list seems to be that I like co-op games, with 7 of my top 10 being playable cooperatively. What new games did you discover in 2022? Let me know down in the comments. Until next time, have fun gaming!

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