This should come as no surprise, really. This year's game is one I've played a handful of times with several different crowds of very different levels of gaming experience - and all of them have enjoyed it.
My Game of the Year this year is, of course, Concept.
The rules are simple, but there's a surprising amount of depth there, so let's go over the basics:
It's a guess-the-word game. The twist is how players give clues to the guessers.
You don't use words. No acting, dancing, singing, drawing. No sculpting. Instead, there is a board with about 120 symbols on it. There s a big green exclamation point, and several colored question marks. And then cubes in colors that match the exclamation point and question marks.
To get people to guess a word, you first place the exclamation point on one of the symbols on the board. This is your "core" concept. It could be Person, Place, Thing, Idea, Profession - any number of things, really. 120 or so things, actually.
Then you use cubes that match that exclamation point to tell you about the concept. Real, Fictional, Tall, Short, Wide, Narrow. You can also use the question marks to tell you more about it.
Say, for example, you're talking about a building - the Empire State Building, for example. You would put cubes on "Tall" and (maybe) "old." But how do you get its location - New York - using just cubes?
That's when you'd grab a question mark. Put one of the question marks on the map - that means that cubes of the same color as the question mark are there to tell you about the location of the building.
It takes a few words for it to really click, but once it does, it's awesome.
As an added bonus, you're not doing this alone. You and one of the players next to you is working on trying to get everyone else at the table to guess. If you manage, you and your partner will score one point each - and the player who successfully guesses it gets two points.
But - realistically - you don't need to keep score. In fact, I've found that the more I play, the less inclined I am to keep score. Because it's just fun to play continuously. And who cares about the score?
I don't say that about many games.
Sure, if you're playing with competitive hardcore gamers, then scorekeeping is going to happen. But I've found that even the hardcore aren't as worried about keeping score with this one.
It's one of those games that I look forward to playing when I'm not already playing it.
I also find it fascinating, because I've played with a couple of different groups - and each group is developing its own dialect for the game. For example, one symbol on the board means "unity, solo, one" according to the quick reference - but one group I've played with put multiple cubes there to indicate "trilogy" or "three." Another group placed multiple cubes there to indicate "very alone" or "very united." And that's not the only symbol for which I've seen dialects forming.
So this game has deep replayability, plays well with different numbers of players, plays with all skill levels and ages, and can be played as a quick filler or all night.
This is why my Game of the Year is Concept.
If you're at GenCon, ask me for a demo. I'd love to show you how to play it.