Justin’s Highs and Lows for 2022!

Justin wrote 169 articles last year and logged more than 500 plays. Let’s see where he lands in our traditional Diamond Climber categories, plus a few categories he came up with just for this article!

What a year. I’m really proud of both our team’s collective output as well as my own output last year. Personally, I posted 169 articles, with 139 of those being game reviews; hopefully, you enjoyed reading them just as much as I enjoyed writing them!

While our formal end-of-year article is in the works, I wanted to share my thoughts on the best and worst moments of my 2022 gaming experiences right away. (Besides, now you know how I think when I write my reviews!)

A note about the awards below: these winners are based on my game articles that were published in 2022. Game release dates are pretty fuzzy, between crowdfunding prototypes, retail releases, second print runs, and deluxified anniversary versions. Just pretend that everything rated here came out in 2022, because it did (at least, to me).

With that, let’s jump in, using some of our standard Diamond Climber award categories and some of my own categories too. Let’s go!!


Best Individual Game Component: Monster Tire Dice, BIGFOOT: Roll & Smash

It’s not even close; the first time I saw the dice from BIGFOOT: Roll & Smash at GAMA Expo, I knew we had a component for the ages. Then I got my copy of the game during Gen Con 2022 and proceeded to roll those sweet, sweet dice over and over again. These dice aren’t a looker, but I still can’t believe how sturdy the tires are: whether you roll them on hardwood floors or shag carpet, they almost never fall over. Well done, XYZ Labs!

Honorable Mention:

  • The project tabs, Carnegie. I just love the way these tuck into the player boards!
  • Megacredits, Galileo Project. Poker chips are the BEST.
  • Landmarks (those handsome white picket fence pieces), Cape May. The visual appeal when combined with the Victorian homes is sensational.
  • Die-cast metal trains, Maglev Metro. My kids tried to make these toys their own!

Best-Looking Dice: Dinosaur Island: Rawr ‘n Write

Solid year for dice, and a solid year for dice games. But the Dinosaur Island series of games will own this category for the rest of time. The DNA dice from Dinosaur Island: Rawr ‘n Write just look so good, but then you add the level of chunk they bring to the table? Oh boy, these are the dice I enjoy rolling the most!

Honorable Mention:

Best Rulebook: Tiletum

The saddest thing about this category: it was not a crowded field. I’ll take the high road and share that rulebooks had a rough year!

Whether someone enjoyed Tiletum (from Board&Dice) as a game or not, every single review I have read/seen/heard has called out the rulebook as one of its greatest strengths. I’ll be interviewing the rulebook’s lead writer in an upcoming piece. It is a model for what everyone should look for in a great set of rules. Pictured examples, crisp writing, no extra flavor text, coverage of all of the game’s edge cases, an appendix, and a living rules website/QR code so that you can always stay up to date on any changes. The only miss? There’s no table of contents. Of course, the rulebook is so strong that I never needed it; after a single read of these rules, I was up and running.

Honorable Mention:

  • Crescent Moon. A very close second place. Extremely well written, I just wish it had more pictured examples.
  • Terracotta Army. Board&Dice should change their name to Board&Dice&GreatRulebooks!

Cryo Box Art

Best Player Aid: Cryo

Here’s the rule for this category: Can I teach the entire game, and reference all the game’s icons, from only the player aid?

Cryo can be taught entirely from the two-card player aid. All the deploy actions, the recall stage, and the end-game scoring. All of it is right there. Cryo was already a great game, but whenever players had a question, I first asked them to look at the player aid. 99% of the time, a meek “ahh, there it is” was the only response from that player.

Honorable Mention:

  • Starship Captains. CGE almost always lands in this category for me
  • Kanban EV. 75% of this game’s questions can be answered from the aid. Eagle-Gryphon/Lacerda games usually get this right.
  • Free Radicals. The only aid on my list that doubles as the only included instructions for each faction, but that also means all of your rules are on a double-sided sheet!
  • Dice Realms. Everything you need is here, but there should be four aids in the box, not two.
  • Wildstyle. In terms of listing just a game’s actions, this one might be the best on this list.
Carnegie (2022, Pegasus Spiele)

The Table Presence Award: Carnegie

Which game did you play this year that looked best on the table? When you played it at a board game cafe, which game made everyone who saw it stop and ask “what do we have here?”

Carnegie won this award with ease. I have the peasant-level retail version, and I think it’s better than the deluxe one, especially when considering the money tokens. Doesn’t matter: both versions look incredible. The game board is so elegant; it’s a beautiful specimen, one that could be a piece of artwork on its own. The components, such as the money tokens, goods, and Department tiles, are incredible and the player boards are fantastic. Carnegie is one of the best games ever to both look amazing and play just as well as it looks.

Honorable Mention:

  • Vinhos: Deluxe Edition. All of the Lacerda/O’Toole boards are great, but this one rises to the top.
  • Anachrony. Exosuits for the win!
  • First Rat. Those rats are just so cute! (Said no one, until playing this game)
  • Maglev Metro. The finished game state, with the colorful transparent track tiles, is something to behold.
Kanban EV (2020, Eagle-Gryphon Games)

Best Box Insert: Kanban EV

First, a big thanks to the world’s best publishers: you finally get it. Games are complex and they come with a boatload of stuff. Setting those games up is a lot easier when I don’t have to spend extra to buy a third-party organizer or use plano boxes to keep everything in one place. And with all due respect to “friend of the program”, BGG’s W. Eric Martin, not all players can commit to a completely disheveled dumping of all of the stuff back into the box. I’m still shocked at how many games have no insert at all! Come on people, don’t make us write even more soapbox pieces about this!

The insert for Kanban EV crowded a few other worthy contenders out of the way because of the way it stacks inside its outer box. I just love the way everything fits in there, from the various small and medium-sized tiles, to the cars, to the player boards and the test track fitting snugly inside. I think Kanban EV might be my favorite Lacerda to unpack; it’s busy as hell as a board, but putting things away makes me smile no matter how many points I get beaten by during play.

Honorable Mention:

Crescent Moon (2022, Osprey Games)

And now, some of the standard-issue best-of winners:

Best Filler Game: Anansi. Those cards shine as brightly as the snappy 20-minute playtime.

Best Roll and Write/Flip and Write Game: Dinosaur Island Rawr ‘n Write. Finally, a game that feels like a board game but stands apart from its tabletop big siblings!

Best Two-Player Game: boop. And that table presence! With a big cat comforter!!!

Best Co-Op Game: The Adventures of Robin Hood. I don’t like co-op games, but I loved this one.

Best Solo Game: Paperback Adventures. It does take too long to play. No matter; I loved the combination of mechanics and this boss battler made me reconsider my stance on not sleeving cards!

Best Artwork: Crescent Moon. The distinctive card art and beautiful box cover won me over.

Best Family Game (also my pick for Best Light Game): Pictures. The 2020 Spiel des Jahres winner works with everyone, ever; my kids can’t get enough of this one.

Tiletum (2022, Board&Dice)

Game of the Year (also my pick for Best Heavy Strategy/Euro Game): Tiletum

Tiletum made this pick easy because it checks a lot of my personal boxes: dice drafting, big combos, lots of standard Euro mechanics, fantastic replayability. Also, I’m more of a tactical, “read-and-react” player, so Tiletum lands right in my sweet spot. There is always going to be a debate on what constitutes a medium-weight game versus a heavy strategy game, but I think Tiletum fits right in the middle. I don’t care that the board is ugly or that the game struggles to engage with any theme. (However, I do wish that Board&Dice used different colors for the dice.) Tiletum’s design is timeless, and I expect this to land on BGG’s top 100 later this year.

My 10 Best Games of 2022:

My 10 Most Disappointing Games of 2022:

And, there you have it. Looking forward to 2023!

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

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