2013 Games of the Year and Other Awards
As part of our annual Buyer’s Guide to Games, we present our annual awards for Traditional Game of the Year, Electronic Game of the Year, and Best New Game in various categories. Here are the most recent winners, announced in the December 2012 issue of Games Magazine. Previous years’ winners can be found here.
Traditional (Nonelectronic) Games
Game of the Year: Trajan
(Ammonit Spiele; designer: Stefan Feld) Read review.
Best New Abstract Strategy Game: Matter
(SimplyFun; designer: Touko Tahkokallio)
Best New Advanced Strategy Game: Village
(Tasty Minstrel Games; designers: Inka and Markus Brand)
Best New Family Game: Takenoko
(Asmodée Editions; designer: Antoine Bauza)
Best New Card Game: Decktet/Decktet Book
(Decktet; designer: P.D. Magnus)
Best New Strategy Game: Zong Shi
(Gryphon Games; designer: Kevin G. Nunn)
Best New Party Game: Pluckin’ Pairs
(R&R Games; designer: Stephen Glenn)
Best New Puzzle: Cool Circuits
(ScienceWiz; designers: Harry L. Nelson, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Kevin Norman, and Penny Norman)
Best New Word Game: Kerflip!
(Creative Foundry Games; designer: Damon Tabb)
Game of the Year: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
(Bethesda, 360/PS3/PC, Rated: M) Read review.
Best New Action/Arcade Game: Batman: Arkham City
(Warner Bros.; 360/PS3/PC; Rated: T)
Best New Adventure/Role-Playing Game: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
(Electronic Arts; 360/PS3/PC; Rated: M)
Best New Strategy and Puzzle Game: Quantum Conundrum
(Square-Enix; PC; Rated: E)
Best New Mobile/Handheld Game: Where’s My Water? Series
Ammonit Spiele, 2-4P, $55.99
Designer: Stefan Feld
In last year's Games 100, we honored designer Stefan Feld by naming two of his games as Best and Runner-Up in the Advanced Strategy category. We never expected him to surpass those wonderful designs so soon!
In top place this year is another masterpiece for keen and experienced gamers. An ingenious adaptation of the mechanism of Africa’s classic mancala games presents a gargantuan feast of possible actions and numerous strategies.
Your personal mancala board’s six cups each start with two random cubes. Cubes are in six colors. Trajan tiles (six faceup thematic stacks) each show two colors; three Trajans also occupy three of your cups. Start turns by “seeding” all the cubes in any cup: Place one in each space clockwise from where you start. Execute the action printed on the cup where the last cube arrives. You also discard a Trajan in the last cup reached if that cup includes at least one cube of each color illustrated on the tile. These Trajans award you points and/or an additional action. What a mechanism to master before gorging yourself on actions!
Actions on the Roman Empire board are: (a) Add a Trajan tile to a vacant cup. (b) Occupy a vacant Building in the random plot, keeping each pawn adjacent to friends. Buildings in five types award points. First of each type you take earns an immediate extra action, and matching Buildings score extra at the end. (c) Draw commodity cards, or display combinations for points. (d) Select an Improvement from those revealed when rounds start. These include those you discard to take the matching action twice when executing it. (e) Move your General to an adjacent province to earn its random Improvement, or shift a pawn to the General’s province to score illustrated points. (f) Earn Senate points, which determine which players earn the two random Bonus Tiles revealed when rounds start. These score extra for required combinations when play ceases.
The number of cubes seeded determines a round’s progress. Three times per round a random People’s Demand (Bread, Games, or Religion) is revealed. When rounds end, anyone unable to spend Improvements with matching icons loses points. After four rounds, win with highest score.—John J. McCallion
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda, 360/PS3/PC, Rated: M
Even the worst years have some really standout titles, and 2012 is no exception. A gaming landscape with Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dark Souls, Quantum Conundrum, Uncharted 3, and Where’s My Water is a good year, if not a particularly title-rich one.
No game, however, hooked as many people for as long as Skyrim, the latest title in Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. With people logging well over 100 hours in-game, this was the great time-suck of 2012.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is vast. It is epic. It achieves moments of grandeur unlike anything we have ever encountered in role-playing games. Yes, it is flawed in places, but these are the flaws of a system that occasionally breaks down under the immense strain created by pushing current technology to its very limits.
Players familiar with its immediate predecessors from Bethesda Softworks—The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3—will see much that is familiar, on the surface. This is a still an open-world, action-oriented RPG, heavy on dialogue and filled with quests, places to go, and things to kill.
But everything is simply better this time around. The potential hinted at in Oblivion and developed further in Fallout 3 is now fully manifested in Skyrim. Bethesda has created a dynamic, highly developed fantasy world populated with an immensely diverse selection of characters and spread across the most fully realized landscape ever seen in an electronic game.
There is much to love in Skyrim, but the biggest star of the show isn’t the graphics, the story, the character, or even the gameplay, but Skyrim itself. This world just cries out for exploration, from its sunlit valleys to its frozen mountain peaks, from the depths of monster-haunted dungeons to the frozen plains where peaceful giants (deadly if provoked) act as shepherds for woolly mammoths. Farms, homesteads, fortresses, and ancient ruins dot the landscape, beckoning travelers. The different cities each have a unique character and even a socioeconomic profile, from grand imperial seats to squalid, poverty-blighted areas where thieves and cutthroats lurk in shadows. Never has a fantasy world been so thoroughly and appealingly realized in a video or computer game, not even World of Warcraft.
The combat mechanics are quite simple but provide for ample flexibility. Each of your character’s hands is bound to a button and can be assigned a weapon, shield, or spell. Favorite spells and gear can be called up while the game pauses, allowing you to cast a spell, switch to weapon and shield, and then switch back to a spell, with each hand acting independently. The spells themselves come in a wide array of categories, such as healing, summoning, attacks, traps, and more. The game also features an incredibly robust crafting element that allows you to make, improve, and sell all manner of items from armor to potions.
This is a masterpiece of worldbuilding and epic storytelling, rich in content and featuring an immense amount of gameplay. It’s impossible to say how long it would take to see and do everything in the game, but Bethesda has claimed 300 hours of potential gameplay. It’s easy to believe. This is a monster of a game, and a masterpiece of interactive art.—Thomas L. McDonald
Previous Game of the Year awards