Originally published to the Daily Worker Placement on November 13th, 2020.
The passing of time carries weight, pain, joy, relief, and a rainbow of other emotions. A decade can both feel like an eternity, and a finger snap. Many would say that 2010 had plenty of awfulness to rival the year we’re currently experiencing, with events such as the volcanic eruption in Iceland that halted most European air travel, the earthquake in Haiti that claimed nearly as many lives as COVID in the US, and of course the ecologically disastrous BP oil spill.
Fortunately, not everything was terrible that year. The tabletop gaming world had a truly delightful year, which I recently asked my Nova Scotian gaming community about. What games 2010 are still finding their way to our tables today? Let’s look at a handful…
No list of notable 2010 tabletop game releases is complete without mentioning 7 Wonders. Accommodating 2 to 7 players, with a peppy pace and a playtime well under 60 minutes, Antoine Bauza’s masterpiece drafting game continues to be one of the most played games in the entirety of BoardGameGeek!
Although drafting has existed in many games prior to its release, this release brought the mechanic to the forefront of the casual mainstream boardgaming world, creating something of a paradigm shift. Its structural simplicity, alongside the teeth-grindingly difficult decisions that pop up throughout the game, make for enduring experiences that keep players coming back to the table.
In addition to four major expansions, 7 Wonders also celebrated a new edition this year, refreshing the artwork while keeping the game’s brilliance intact.
On the heels of 2008’s smash hit Pandemic, family game publisher Gamewright assisted in bringing that game’s cooperative framework to a younger audience in the form of Forbidden Island. In addition to being an accessible and addictive experience, it is one of the most visually appealing family games on the market, being stored in an eye-catching tin, with quality components, and just the right amount of plastic bling.
In speaking of his enjoyment of cooperative games, designer Matt Leacock speaks of the ease of teaching them, as well as the lack of sour feelings at their conclusion. As such, it’s no surprise that the Forbidden series of games have found a uniquely passionate audience, keeping them in print after many others in the genre have faded into obscurity.
Most remarkably, at a time when the cost of so many tabletop games are climbing, Forbidden Island remains one of the most affordable titles available. The game continues to offer tremendous value a full decade after its arrival!
Although it would eventually go on to win the 2013 Spiel des Jahres award, Hanabi was first published in 2010 by Chinese publisher Broadway Toys. In this tense cooperative game of thematic and emotional fireworks, players hold their cards facing away from themselves, so that everyone can see all cards except the ones in their hands. Giving clues around the table, the team is attempting to put their cards into organized piles, and guaranteed to have at least one Vader-esque “NOOOOOOOO!” moment per game. Simple, but brilliant!
I recall the French tin-stuffed edition showing up at Snakes & Lattes in Toronto before it exploded into an international success, and it was immediately clear that it was something special. Hanabi is a small package that can create big moments and memories, making it a game that will continue to grow its audience for many more years to come.
The ultimate trivia game for folks who dislike trivia! Players are collaboratively creating a timeline of events, inventions, movie releases, etc, by guessing where a card fits in compared to what has already been revealed. Despite that collaboration, this is a competitive game, with each player trying to be the first to deposit all of their cards into the timeline. The rules can be explained in one minute, the gameplay is dead simple, but actually winning the game becomes more and more difficult as the timeline grows.
Over the last 10 years, a seemingly unlimited stream of Timeline theme variations have been released, including Sports, Star Wars, Music, and even the beautiful Province of Quebec! Back in 2010, however, it was just Timeline: Inventions, a tiny square-shaped tin that would go on to find infinite popularity.
Slipping through the deck building portal opened by Dominion, Ascension uses the same core element of a limited starting deck, as players fight off hordes of enemies pouring through an actual dimensional portal. Two currencies available to spend – Runes for acquiring other cards, and Power for defeating monsters and other miscellaneous baddies. Each game starts with an Honour pool, and once players have earned all of the Honour in the pool, the game ends, and whoever has the most Honour (between tokens and special cards) is declared the winner. The game system has grown to include over a dozen expansions (some of which are standalone), as well as a miniatures game which is due to hit the market next year.
Ascension might be most notable for its digital implementations, which many consider to be superior to the tabletop experience. The mobile app may be showing its age now, but it’s still a much, much quicker way to play the game than bringing it to a physical table. Not only that, but it manages to feel just as satisfying, especially when playing on a larger screen.
PERSONAL AND HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Although I have played the games mentioned above an untold number of times, my personal favourite 2010 release is Alien Frontiers. One of the Kickstarter tabletop game pioneers, Clever Mojo Games has brought together area control, worker/dice placement, along with the management of cards and resources. It’s such an imperfectly delicious stew of a game, which I continue to play with more frequency and consistency than any other game released that year.
While I don’t play many meaty games myself, my Nova Scotia gaming pals have assured me that 2010 was an excellent year for complex chonky games. The most celebrated ones include GMT’s Dominant Species, Asmadi’s bare bones civ title Innovation, the euroriffic dice pie from Pearl Games, Troyes and the Z-Man Games ameritrashy romp Merchants & Marauders.
Of course, as the curator of Little Thumbs, Big Thumbs, I’d be neglectful to not also mention some of the great children’s games from 2010. The most important release from this year is absolutely Ghost Blitz, which continues to be an exceedingly popular dexterity game for both kids and adults alike. The adorable Loch Ness also released in 2010, which we previously reviewed for the DWP. However, our absolute favourite kids game from a decade ago is still Sumo Ham Slam – we’ll never tire of the absolute ridiculousness of smashing hamsters into each other to win the honour of a scooby snack!
When it comes to All Star Board Gaming years, there are few that offer more riches than 2010. From evergreen gateway games to crunchy strategy gems to cherished children’s games, one could build a completely satisfying game collection from titles released in this year alone!
If you have a favourite 2010 game we missed featuring in this article, please let us know. Send us an email, or reply to our posts on social media! Until then, happy gaming to all, whether it’s in the present or the past!