My top games of 2022
One of the doctrines of the Grand Order of Games Media (or so I’m told, I’m just an Initiate) is:
Thou shalt release a top ten games of the year, every year, lest you be fed to the Ancient One, Kuh’Nhizhya
Pretty serious stuff, right? So, to make sure I’m not fed to he-of-the-infinite-bow-ties, here are my top games of 2022, in no particular order. I know they’re numbered, but don’t pay too much attention to that. It’s also worth noting that these games weren’t necessarily released in 2022, they’re just the ones I enjoyed most last year.
1. Atiwa (Lookout Games, 2022)
Coming straight out of the blocks with a new one. I’m not one to buy into hype and The Hotness™, but when I played Atiwa at GridCon (convention report here), I instantly fell in love with it. I love Uwe Rosenberg’s games, and this is no exception. It’s a game about the bats, trees and families in the Atiwa region of Ghana, and it’s just gorgeous.
The gameplay loop is fast and easy, and as with so many of Uwe’s games, there are a lot of different ways to build your score. What sets this one apart from a lot of his games is the lack of cards. The only cards in the game are the big square ones which you draft to grow your community in your tableau. It’s extremely fast to setup and play. and the solo mode is great. I’ll have a full review soon, but for now it’s enough to say I’ve played it three times in the last two days.
2. 44 BCE (Gray Forrest Games, 2022)
If you haven’t heard of 44 BCE before, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. It’s a game I previewed earlier in 2022, which turned out to be my most unexpected hit of the year. It’s a game set during the Roman Empire which sees each player trying to become head honcho – or Imperium Maius as they’re better known – and to stay there.
It’s a fantastic mix of Euro game engine-building, secret auctions, and massive player interactions. The theme is woven into every strand of the game, and I love it. It has this fantastic mechanism where players must work together to ensure the current leader doesn’t end the round as the leader, but at the same time need to be self-serving. It leads to loads of temporary partnerships with all the breaking strain of a wet noodle, and it’s fabulous.
3. Gorilla Marketing (Roxley Games, 2020)
I have more opportunities to play party games than any others for most of the year, so I make sure I keep plenty of good ones on my shelves. Gorilla Marketing is just such a game. The premise is simple. As an advertising agency made up of primates, you need to come up with some catchy titles and slogans. Between you, you come up with these ideas, choose the ones you like the best, and laugh. Laugh a lot.
There are loads of categories of things to come up with ideas for, from movies to bands, and loads of sub-categories to award your votes for. In a game I played with my local group at our Christmas meet-up, one player had to award a tagline for a religious movie, in the category of ‘most extravagant use of explosions’, or something similar. Whenever I play this, and whoever is in the game, it always results in a good time and a lot of laughs. Highly recommended.
4. By Stealth and Sea (DVG, 2020)
Over the last year I found myself taking a much greater interest in wargames. Combined with my lifelong interest in submarines (yes, really), when I had the chance to review By Stealth and Sea, I jumped at it. It’s a solo game which puts you in the role of Italian submariners in WWII. These guys weren’t your standard submariners, however. Instead of being stuck inside a metal tube underwater, they rode torpedoes into Allied harbours, manually attached the warheads to ships, and tried to make it to shore in the hope of being picked up.
And you thought your job was bad.
If you want to know the full low-down, check out the review I wrote last year. It’s an incredible game, and it’s also highly emotive, and tells stories. Every member of your crew was a real person, with their photograph included on the cards. The missions you take part in really happened. Things break down all of the time, and it results in a game of trying to make the most of a bad hand. Awesome stuff.
5. IKI (Sorry We Are French, 2015/2022)
IKI is a reprint and overhaul of the original game from 2015. I never played that original, and instead took on the newer version. IKI is a game set in feudal Japan, in which you’re trying to fill shop space with your craftsmen, make plenty of money, and hope your business doesn’t burn down when the fires hit!
If you know me, you know I love a rondel, and IKI’s board is just a great big, delicious rondel. Combine that with me being a self-confessed Nihonophile, and I was always going to be keen on this. Fortunately, the game is fantastic, as I point out in my review. The artwork is bright and colourful, the gameplay is tense and tactical, and it’s just a very nice package.
I took my copy to the 2022 UK Games Expo and introduced some friends to it, who loved it. In fact, my favourite anecdote of the whole show came from that evening. One girl who had been demonstrating the game all day on the Hachette Boardgames UK stand (the folks who sent me the game to review) saw us playing, and enjoyed the game so much that she sat down with us to help setup and do a teach! Another great game, with an expansion on the way I believe. Watch this space…
6. Greedy Kingdoms (AEG, 2018)
Everybody likes to have a shock entry on these lists, and here’s mine. Hands up if you’ve heard of Greedy Kingdoms? Keep your hands up if you’ve actually played it. Not too many hands, I’m willing to bet. I picked this up on a whim from my FLGS, when I was out for the day with my son. I saw Bruno Faidutti’s name on the box, and that was enough for me.
Greedy Kingdoms is a two-player card duel which plays out really quickly. you try to build a tableau of cards which generates the resources you need to out-do your opponent, aiming to be the first to afford two royal palaces. The fun comes from the fact that you both have the same cards in your decks, and each round sees you select a card in secret, hoping that during the reveal you manage to read the other player’s mind to prevent them doing what it was they tried to. Or maybe you’re all talk and no trousers – there’s plenty of room for bluffing too.
It’s a gem of a game, so if you’re after something a little different for your two-player collection, check it out.
7. All Bridges Burning (GMT Games, 2020)
2022 was my real year of COIN game awakening. I added another three to my shelves, and I still adore them. All Bridges Burning, a game set in the Finnish Civil War has an unusual twist on the standard COIN formula, taking the player count down to three. The Reds and Whites posture and fight, while the blue Moderate faction try to use influence to keep things on an even keel.
If you like the COIN series, you’re going to enjoy All Bridges Burning. For the most part it is just more of the same, but the small tweaks really keep the game feeling fresh. Other than the change three players, it also splits the game into two distinct halves. The first is each side posturing for position, the second sees plans unfurl, come what may. I really like that the eligibility track works differently too. It’s a really neat package, of a well-refined system, in a period of history I had no idea about. Excellent stuff.
8. Scout (Oink Games, 2019)
Yeah, it’s Scout. So many people have raved about it this year, and with good reason. The recent Oink version is actually a redesign and reprint of an older game, and I think I prefer this modern version. As with all Oink games, this comes in one of those teeny, colourful boxes, which means you can (and should) take it everywhere with you.
Scout is built on such a simple idea. Play a better set than the one on the table. It can be a run of consecutive numbers, or a set of the same number. You just have to play a more powerful set than the one that’s there. If you can’t, you take a card from the set, awarding that player a point, and grow your hand. The kicker which makes Scout absolutely sing is the rule which says you cannot re-order your hand. if you’ve got five of a kind, with an odd card in the middle, tough! Find a way to take cards and play that odd one, leaving you to play your beast of a set.
Cheap, simple genius. Buy Scout. Go on, off you toddle.
There you have it then. My top eight games from 2022. Yes, I know you’re meant to do a top ten, but who cares? It took me a long time to whittle this list down, and I know I’ll look at it tomorrow and change something. There are SO MANY amazing games out there, just waiting to be played. I hope this list gave you some food for thought, and helps you realise that you can just ignore the Instagram hype and Facebook group hotness. Try something different, you might just surprise yourself and find the next sleeper hit.
Some of the games above are available from my partner retail store, Kienda. Head on over with my link – kienda.co.uk/punchboard – and you’ll save 5% off your first order of £60 or more.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like this, consider supporting the site by joining my monthly membership at Kofi. It starts from £1 per month, offers member benefits, and lets me know you’re enjoying what I’m doing.