Best Board Games of 2016


Looking back on 2016 and forward to a fresh 2017.

Happy New Year!

So we may be a few days late in wishing you a Happy New Year, but better late than never.

The last couple weeks around our house have been full of relaxing fun. So much so, that I’ve totally set aside our game reviews for a bit of a reprieve.

Well, now that the new year is under way, it’s time to dust off the keyboard for our 2016 Year in Review!

A few months ago, I wrote about my Top 11 Games and Experiences YTD.

Codenames: Pictures card game

A new and improved Codenames is among us.

It was split about 50/50 between board games and game experiences (like going to Gen Con 2016 and D-Day Commemoration with Memoir ’44). And of the games I mentioned, only 3 were games published in 2016.

So rather than rehash that list, today I’m sharing my current picks for Best Board Games of 2016!

There’s 3 simple criteria for this list:

  1. The game was published in 2016
  2. I’ve played the game
  3. I’ve had a great time playing it and get excited thinking about playing it again

While there are still a number of “hot” games being talked about for 2016, if I haven’t played it, I can’t yet make a judgement call on it. So naturally those don’t make my list (yet).


183 Board Games Played!

Before I dive into my list, I’ll share a quick recap of my year in board gaming.

I love looking back from year to year at the games I’ve played and the people I’ve enjoyed playing them with. And this year I started using a a new and very cool app for tracking my game plays – Board Game Stats.

In 2015, I played 132 different games and wondered if I’d be able to hit 150 during 2016.

Best Family Board Games

The 15 games I played the most in 2016.

Well, I seem to have knocked it out of the park by playing 183 different board games this year!

Total number of game plays = 449

Total number of new games played = 131

That’s right, I played about as many “new to me” games in 2016 as I did total games in 2015.

Or in other words, 71.5% of my games played this year were ones I played for the first time.

As a game reviewer, it shouldn’t be surprising that such a high percentage of my game playing is with new games. (Good thing I’m intrigued by learning new game rules.)

My most-played games for 2016 include: Dominion, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, Mr. Jack Pocket, Codenames: Pictures, Fugitive, Six, Luchador, Quixo, Ice Cool, Love Letter: Batman, Spyfall, Longhorn, Patchwork, Magic Minds, Indigo, Memoir ’44, Onitama, and Abyss.

In addition, my stats show that I played games with 102 people in 19 different locations.

We also posted 57 game reviews during 2016 – the most we’ve ever done in 1 year!

I share this mostly as background to say that when it comes to picking the best board games of 2016, we’ve got a solid base from which to evaluate the games.


Best Board Games of 2016

So without further ado, here are our picks for the best board games of 2016:


7. Star Trek Panic

Considering we’re not even Trekkers, Star Trek Panic is a fantastic cooperative board game. It definitely lives up to the “Panic” heritage yet also includes different missions to complete as well as being able to maneuver the Enterprise.

Star Trek Panic board game

Good thing we can maneuver the Enterprise to have a shield in front of this attacking enemy ship.


6. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

A introductory deck-building game with a theme that appeals to families all over the world (Harry Potter). Plus, it’s a cooperative game where families get to work together to defeat the villains.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle card game

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battles is a fun cooperative, deck-building game.


5. Ice Cool

I never would have guessed that either a children’s game or a dexterity game would make my “best games” list, but we’ve had a genuinely fun time flicking penguins all around their icy school. Great game for families of all ages.

Ice Cool board game

Flicking penguins around is lots of fun.


4. Mechs vs. Minions

This massive game produced by Riot Games is an absolute hit. It’s a cooperative game where players program their mechs to complete missions (including destroying tons of minions along the way). It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite games (RoboRally) with programmed movement but instead of racing each other, now we can work together.

Mechs vs. Minions board game

Programming Mechs to take out all the Minions and complete objectives.


3. Codenames: Pictures

I couldn’t imagine an improvement on the super fun group game, Codenames. But it turns out that Codenames: Pictures brings out even more creativity in our clues and allow us to more frequently locate multiple agents on a turn. After having the game just 2 months, it quickly shot into #4 on my “most played” games for 2016.

Codenames: Pictures card game

A bottle as a cannon? Chess pieces with a mallet?


2. Star Wars: Rebellion

Perhaps the must-fulfilling Star Wars board game I’ve every played. It’s an immersive game that nails the theme and keeps players engaged the entire time. We don’t own a copy yet, but after my first experience playing, it quickly shot to the top of my game wish list. Can’t wait to play it again.

See our full review of Star Wars: Rebellion.

Star Wars Rebellion board game

Major battles between the Empire and the Rebellion.


1. Scythe

There’s no doubt Scythe got a lot of buzz this year. But I’m also happy to report that it completely lived up to my high expectations. There isn’t enough time to cover everything I find so cool, so I’ll simply refer you to check out “17 Things I Love About Scythe“.

Scythe board game

Vying for control of territories and resources in Scythe.


More to Come

2016 was definitely a great year in board gaming. Not only are game designers and publishers continually improving the quality of game components, but they’re also designing such engaging and rich game play experiences.

There’s no shortage of great board games, card games, and more for people to enjoy playing together face-to-face. And we expect the same trends to continue through 2017.

We also anticipate playing even more 2016 games in the coming months which could have a chance to break into our Best Games of 2016 list. We’ll just have to see…

In the meantime, we’ve still got plenty of games in our review queue that we’re excited to share with you!

So keep an eye out for many game reviews to come…



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