TTG’s Top Board Games of 2016: Once Upon a Time and Baron Munchausen designer James Wallis


27 December 2016
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blank-business-card-in-hand-93835.jpg An artist's rendition of Wallis' student's game to rival Exploding Kittens
The games designer, lecturer and consultant gives his opinion on this year's tabletop offerings

James Wallis will be a familiar name to devoted readers of Tabletop Gaming magazine, where he contributes the regular All the Jahres section – a chronological exploration of all of the Spiel des Jahres winners from the acclaimed tabletop accolade from 1978 until now. (If you’re curious, the latest entry from December’s issue is 1982’s Enchanted Forest: a game of hunting fairytale treasures in the titular habitat that, as Wallis magnificently puts it, “feels like something from the other side of an antediluvian age”.)

However, as much as we hate to admit it, Wallis is probably better known outside the pages of TTG, where he is a successful designer and industry consultant. He ran Hogshead Publishing from its creation in 1994 until 2003 and now heads up games consultancy Spaaace, which helps other games designers perfect their next release. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, he’s also a visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster.

Wallis has the proof in the pudding, too: he created card game Once Upon a Time and fantastical storytelling RPG The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which was nominated for two Origins Awards and an ENnie. In 1999, Wallis was named the 18th best game designer of all time by tabletop magazine Games Reporter.

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TTG asked Wallis for his Game of the Year, and here’s what he succinctly told us:

"I've not been blown away by any game in 2016 the way I was by Mysterium, Pandemic Legacy and Codenames the year before, so my Game of the Year goes to one that my students created: a deck of cards, all blank except one with a picture of a scrotum on it. Deal the cards until someone gets the scrotum.

“This is far funnier than it should be and in a world of Exploding Kittens could probably kickstart for a million quid. I might give it a go."

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