Towards the end of the year, I typically dedicate a couple posts to talk about my favorite board games and video games of the year, but this time we’re going to do it all in one go, mainly because I already talked at length about my favorite games. So we’ll be running through that, and then we’ll move on to other things like TV shows and movies because, well, I want to.
So strap in and get ready for lots of opinions.
Board Game of the Year
Well, it would probably be a bit silly of me to name my own game, Forge War, game of the year, even if it is the game that came out this year that I most enjoy playing. No, let’s not do that. That would most certainly be silly.
Instead, I’ve got to go with T.I.M.E. Stories, a game I have talked about both here and here. Without rehashing old territory, I just have tremendous respect for what the game is doing. I might not have overly enjoyed its execution with The Marcy Case, but I deeply respect the idea behind its structure and the potential of that structure. It is an innovation in board gaming that flips everything on its head, and I’ve gotta give it points for that.
Video Game of the Year
Back in February I expressed a deep and undying love for Darkest Dungeon and, well, that love hasn’t died. Everything I said then is just as accurate now, plus the game is still in beta and new character classes, monsters, bosses, dungeons, items, features, etc. are still being added constantly to make the game better. The game is wicked-awesome and easily takes the top spot for me.
I do have to give a shout-out to the expansion for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, though. Rebirth was my favorite game of last year, and the latest expansion just continues to send the game into higher and higher elevations, possibly even outer space, with new items, new characters, new game modes and daily challenges. I was stunned at how good Rebirth was when it was released, not able to fathom how it could be any better, but, well, the expansion made it way, way better, so I am very pleased.
I’d also really, really like to play Undertale, which I have heard nothing but good things about. I’ll definitely have to pick it up during the Steam Christmas sale and see what all the fuss is about.
Convention of the Year
See? We’ve already exhausted the stuff I usually talk about, so let’s move on to something else board game related: conventions. I feel like I should probably split this up into two categories. One as someone who likes to play board games and one as someone who is trying to sell board games.
Actually, no, as someone who likes to play board games, I can’t really decide. Geekway to the West, Origins and BGG Con were all fantastic. I tried to pick one over the other, but they were all such wonderful experiences, I’m just unable to choose.
As someone trying to sell board games, though, GenCon was the greatest thing ever, placed as it was directly before the Gloomhaven Kickstarter launch. I think all the work I put into demoing the game and getting it in front of the board game media had a significant impact on the success of the Kickstarter, and I enjoyed the exhausting experience the entire way through. Even though I wasn’t able to score a booth, I couldn’t have asked for a better convention. I didn’t play many games other than Gloomhaven, though, so it’s hard to rank it with the other conventions from that perspective.
Movie of the Year
I will just tell you right up front that seeing Mad Max: Fury Road was the best theater experience I have ever had in my entire life. Anyone who doesn’t like this movie is dead inside.
With non-stop mind-blowing action from start to finish, it would seem implausible upfront that a feature-length chase scene could keep an audience’s attention for 2 hours. You might have doubts that such a thing could work. After all, there are plenty of terrible action movies that are terrible specifically because of the weakness or absence of their plot. But Mad Max manages to cram in more characterization and plot points than most action movies, which also throwing in two to three times the action.
And the awe-inspiring spectacle of the action cannot be understated. I love a good drama as much as the next person, but Mad Max set a new high water mark for the entire history of action cinema, and for that, I must give it props.
Television Show of the Year
Though I never really talk about it, I watch a lot of television. TV shows are great, and it’s a little intimidating just how many wonderful shows are on in any given season. I mean, right now I am following The Good Wife, Survivor, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Last Man on Earth, Agents of SHIELD, Jane the Virgin and Jessica Jones while intending on catching up on The Affair and lamenting that I don’t have the Amazon Prime access to watch Transparent. They’re all fantastic (give or take a few episodes of SHIELD) and I’m sure there are plenty more great shows that I am missing.
But there is one show that easily rises above the rest – Hannibal. I could probably spend a lot of time talking about Hannibal, but it would probably end up being a jumbled mess. I think the most important point is that while almost any other show out there concerns itself primarily with communicating ideas and events to its audience, Hannibal’s primary focus is on communicating feeling.
From the music to the lighting to the cinematography to the sound effects to the acting – every imaginable aspect of the production is aimed at your gut instead of your brain. In this sense, it becomes more terrifying than all but the most expertly crafted horror movies, and more heart-wrenching than all but the most expertly crafted dramas. The only other television show I can think of that was able to do this effectively is Twin Peaks.
I was incredibly sad to hear that Hannibal had been cancelled, but the journey of the final season, from picking up the pieces left by the previous season’s finale to the final scene on the cliff – it was monumental and satisfying and just a wonderful, emotionally draining experience from start to finish. After this and Pushing Daisies, I am fully on board for whatever show runner Brian Fuller does next.
So anyway, I hope that little list was edifying. All in all, it was a great year to be alive and experiencing media. There’s more crap than ever out there vying for our attention, but there is also more amazing, life-enhancing stuff than ever out there as well, and it’s simply a matter of finding those gems among all the crap. If this post helps you to do that at all, then I will be happy.