So for me, the Best Game of 2009 isn't limited to only games that came out in 2009, but rather the best new game from my Cult of the New 2009 list. This year I have a number of games that could make the cut: Pokémon Trading Card Game, Hive, Steam Barons, Combat Commander:Europe, Confucius, and Chaos in the Old World were all games I enjoyed an awful lot. Interestingly all of these games seem to have a very different feel, which makes it hard to choose one. It's like trying to say whether you like ice cream, chicken fried steak, or sushi better. Me? I love em all and they are different so you aren't comparing things of equal "value".
Steam Barons is a really excellent variant to Steam. Its complexity really strikes a chord with me, and I really enjoy stock manipulation games. I'm not sure how much anyone else in the group will want to play it, but I'll be trying to push this to the table again soon.
Combat Commander:Europe is exactly what I think a WWII game should be like. To me, this captures the feeling/flavor of the WWII combat on a small scale. The decisions are interesting and I really like way the cards drive everything. The game is so engrossing, you forget about the fact that you are playing with chits. I know some guys that dislike the amount of randomness and chaos, but I think it likely captures the true flavor of the combat. It is also just feels clean. Everything is driven with the cards and you don't have the crazy complexity of something like ASL. I really want to play this a little more often.
Hive isn't a game I talk about much or think about, but when I start playing it, I'm totally engrossed. It is both complex and simple at the same time. It is really a fun game. I wonder if this could be played by 4 players using multiple sets? I also like that the expansion piece is interesting but isn't required to make the game better. There needs to be a travel edition of this game!
Pokemon wouldn't normally be something you'd think of as that great a game and maybe I'm just swept up by my son's enthusiasm for all things Pokemon. Maybe it just satisfies my craving for a CCG / deck building game with its variation and yet simplicity. Whatever it is, this was my most played game this year. That doesn't mean it should be the game of the year, but it is one indicator that I enjoyed playing it.
Confucius was a game I had barely read anything about before playing. All I knew was that it had some system for giving gifts to other players that obligated them to you. There is more to it than that of course. This is at its heart a worker placement game, but the players have a higher level of interaction than most of the other worker placement games I've tried recently. There also seems to be multiple ways to score points and block other players. Really an interesting game.
Chaos in the Old World was another game I had not heard a single thing about until Mike Gingold emailed me to ask me what I had heard. Not having heard anything, I did some reading and discovered that this was a new FF game based on the Warhammer universe (which didn't mean a thing to me). What caught my eye was a set of unique mechanics and four asymmetrical forces. Initial reports seemed to make it sound as if one side or another was easier, but after playing this a few times it seems to be very well balanced. There is a good amount of randomness to parts of the game that can suddenly make one faction stronger or weaker and there is dice to resolve combat, but for the amount of complexity and options here, the game is quite fast to play. Not only is it fast, but its entertaining. The last one is why I've settled on Chaos in the Old World for my Game of the Year 2009. The game entertains me and I still want to play it. It isn't a brain burner that has me replying my turns and wondering what I should have done on my third turn differently. Rather it has a couple of - "that was awesome" moments each game. Like when you get a single die and roll multiple 6s (six is a hit plus another roll) and wax a stronger force. Or use your cards to completely neuter another player's forces. From a game I had never heard of to my favorite game of the year!