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The 20 best board games of 2014, finalists from Board Game Geek

The community at BoardGameGeek.com, known hobby games tastemakers, have announced this year’s nominees for board game of the year. If you’re a fan of the hobby, or interested in learning more, this is a great place to start.

BoardGameGeek is a massively popular gaming resource and online community, made up of board and hobby games fans. Every year the community votes on the Golden Geek Awards, celebrating the best games of the year in many categories, broadly including board games, role-playing games and video games. This year’s board game of the year category is crowded, with 20 nominees.

Alchemists – A strategy game for 2-4 players where each takes the role of a “budding alchemist” trying to discover the secrets of their “mystical art.” It includes a bidding system, as well as elements of worker placement games and features a companion app.

AquaSphere – Pictured above, players crew an underwater research facility and take the role of an engineer, a scientist, reprogrammable bots and exploratory submarines to “gather as much data as possible.” It includes a modular board, as well as multiple sideboards for players to crew their stations from.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig – A tile-laying game that takes its inspiration from ostentatious Bavarian castles like Neuschwanstein, the structure that inspired Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World.

Dead of Winter – From Plaid Hat Games, makers of the Bioshock Infinite-themed board game The Siege of Columbia. Taking its inspiration from multiple zombie-themed movies and television shows that came before it, it uses a unique Crossroads system of narrative cards to provide a dynamic story of cooperative survival.

Deus – A civilization building game run with a card-based engine. Players compete to build temples to their chosen gods and push back the barbarian hordes.

Five Tribes – A new title from the publishers of Ticket to Ride and Smallworld, this Arabian-themed game features beautiful wooden tokens. The designer Bruno Cathala describes it as a “worker displacement” game, where the way in which you move and remove the workers from the game influences what actions you can take. The goal, as described in this excellent YouTube overview, is to become the caliph of the city.

Imperial Settlers – A card game for 1-4 players, it pits barbarians, Romans, Egyptians and Japanese settlers against each other in a game that takes less than an hour to play. This review from GeekDad.com does a great job of explaining it.

Istanbul – A game for 2-5 players who take on the role of merchants moving through a bazaar. By tasking your assistants effectively, and buying and selling the right kinds of goods, you can become the first merchant to collect five rubies.

Kanban: Automotive Revolution – Efficiency is the order of the day on the Japanese assembly line. Managers will need to impress the company’s board of directors to advance their careers. Unique mechanics include factory manager who is a “game-driven non-player character” that can be alternately nice or mean.

Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game – Based on all four movies in the Alien series, this cooperative deck building game lets players take on the iconic roles of Ripley, Dallas, Bishop and Corporal Hicks.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf – A 10-minute version of the classic folk game, Werewolf for 3-10 players.

Orleans – In medieval France players will assemble a retinue of farmers, knights and monks to “gain supremacy through trade, construction and science.” The game features a beautiful art style that feels like it could have come right from an illuminated period manuscript. The deluxe version of this “bag building” game was funded on Kickstarter at over $250,000 just a few days ago.

Panamax – Named after the class of shipping vessels that travel through the Panama Canal, this game lets players manage their own shipping company. It’s received three nominations in this year’s Golden Geek awards, including Game of the Year, Most Innovative and Best Strategy Game.

Pandemic: The Cure – A dice-based version of the remarkably popular Pandemic, one of the most accessible and addictive hobby games around.

Roll for the Galaxy – A dice-based space exploration game where your dice represent your population, this is in many ways a spin-off of the classic Race for the Galaxy. There’s an exhaustive review available from Board Game Brawl above.

Sheriff of Nottingham – Recently featured on Geek & Sundry’s Tabletop, this Robin Hood-themed game has a lavish art style and a wicked sense of humor. One player takes the role of the Sheriff while others try to do business around him, alternately bluffing, bribing and brawling.

Splendor – A 30-minute game for 2-4 players, Splendor plays fast regardless of how many people sit at the table. Players will collect gemstones and use them to attract noble patrons to their store. The first to gather 15 prestige points wins.

Star Realms – A classic space combat game in the form of a deck builder. It has a digital version as well that’s available for less than $5.

Star Wars: Imperial Assault – A lavish tactical miniatures game from Fantasy Flight, makers of the XCOM The Board Game, it features a giant AT-ST chicken-walker as well as a dozen other miniatures and also has a modular board. It’s expandable with collections of allies and villains for sale.

Xia: Legends of a Drift System – A knock-out Kickstarter success from 2013, bringing in nearly $350,000, Xia is described as a sandbox style competitive space adventure for 3-4 players. The pre-painted starships give the game its character, and the folks at Shut Up & Sit Down have a video review that really sells it.

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