Board Game of the Year

I was going to write an article on my pick for game of the year in various formats, but realised that it would largely be a repeat of my enthusiastic blurb about Resident Evil 4. That being the case, I’ll assume you’ve all dutifully obtained a copy of RE4 and are now dying to know which board game to rest the console of your choice on. Read on…

In a strong year for board games, my choice for board game of the year is Bonaparte at Marengo by Bowen Simmons. For those unfamiliar with the game (which I imagine is most of you, given that it’s self-published), BaM is a block wargame of the Battle of Marengo.

As a block game, one of Bonaparte at Marengo’s distinguishing features is that information about a player’s pieces is hidden from his or her opponent. The pieces are blocks with information on one face only, and the information side is kept facing the piece’s owner (as in the classic 1950s game game Stratego). When a battle occurs, the pieces are revealed and the winner determined.

Close-up of wooden blocks showing hidden unit markings

Why do I like BaM better than any other board game released this year? There are many reasons, but the main ones are:

  • It’s lavishly produced: the blocks are made of wood, the board is attractive and properly mounted (a rarity in wargames, which commonly use paper or cardboard maps), and two copies of the rules are provided.
  • There’s plenty of strategic interest: both sides have different pieces, objectives, and playing styles, with an emphasis on manouvering that feels like chess with a wide open board
  • A game takes 90 minutes, which means that you can play a game, switch sides, then have a rematch, and still get to the pub before closing time.
  • The rules are brief (10 pages) and comprehenisble, though admittedly it’s not the sort of thing you could play with a random family member.

Bonaparte at Marengo will be hard to find in a retail store, but if you’re interested in it you can buy it direct from Simmons Games, or from an online retailer such as Boards and Bits. The BaM page on boardgamegeek.com has reviews and other information if you’d just like to check it out.

BaM photo by Kurt Tolley used under CC licence.

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