eXplorminate’s GotY/XotY Awards!

It was the weekend before Christmas, and all through the house, eXplorminate staffers argued about the best game of 2016. Not only that, they also argued about the best eXpansion of 2016. Previous awardees Endless Legend (2014’s GotY winner) and Thea: the Awakening (2015’s GotY winner) were both heavily discussed as well. The field was rather strong this year, but there was a solid consensus on all counts. So, without further ado, let’s briefly talk about the candidates.

Game of the Year

2016 was a good year for the 4X genre. We had several familiar franchises in the pool: Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars and Civilization VI. We also had a new kid in the pool – Stellaris – make a huge splash.


Stellaris was out of the gate first  on the 9th of May. Immediately, its hybrid nature was the talk of the town. Everywhere you turned, you could read about the hybridization of 4X and Grand Strategy. YouTube videos discussed optimal builds, updates, and how the game played. There was a massive ongoing discussion on our forums about the merits and shortfalls of the game too. The discussion continued, even during the GotY podcast. Was that enough for it to win though?


On the other hand, Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars, which came out on  August 25th , failed to make the same impact. Maybe it was because everyone was on Summer vacation? Maybe it was because the game was missing some key features that were present during Early Access? Or the streamlined nature of the game? The RTS combat model perhaps? Maybe it was because Wargaming.net didn’t get the community fired up enough, but whatever the cause, MoO:CtS just didn’t recieve the same reaction on our forums. It was a solid game, with high production values, and that “one more turn” feel to it, but was it a strong enough entrant to take the grand prize?


Finally, we have the 800lb gorilla in the room: Civilization VI, which released on October 21st,  on its 25th Anniversary. This is a franchise that has sold tens of millions of copies since it came out in the early 90’s. The sequel to the venerated success that is Civilization V. One that… Failed to stir the hearts of our community altogether. Could it be that after the fizzled-out reception and sales of Civilization: Beyond Earth and Civ:BE Rising Tide, the community was just tired of the franchise?

Civilization VI certainly brings some novel gameplay lifted from our 2014 GotY winner (Endless Legend) like unstacked cities and the warscore mechanics of Paradox titles like Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV. A game that at release was a much better game than several of its previous iterations, too. With a diverse set of factions, novel gameplay mechanics (for a Civ game) and the always fantastic soundtrack, was Civ6 able to grab the win?

So, who wins the coveted Game of the Year award? By a margin of 7 to 1 with one staffer abstaining. Stellaris was the clear winner. Let me repeat that again, Stellaris beat out Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars and Civilization VI to take our 2016 Game of the Year award.


Would you like to know more? If the answer is yes, listen to the 29th Strategic eXpanse.

eXpansion of the Year

2016 was a strong year for eXpansions for both new and existing 4X titles, as well.


We had two amazing expansions for Endless Legend called: Shifters and Tempest. EL:Shifters introduced the dual-natured Allayi faction along with revised global winter mechanic. EL:Tempest brought us the Morgawr faction with their newly added aquatic gameplay. Amplitude Studios is simply on fire. Joining SEGA might be just what they need to get the word out and make 2017 their best year yet with Endless Space 2 and whatever else they might be working on. But was that enough to take the top prize for 2016?


Meanwhile, Blind Mind Studios’ Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds brought us all kinds of crazy new gameplay mechanics, including: extrastellar invasions, advanced technologies, novel factions, and galactic attitudes. This is a title that deserves a lot more attention than it got when it first came out. But was this latest expansion enough to secure the win?


Finally we have StarDrive 2: Sector Zero from Zero Sum Games. A game that has a rocky history with a developer that can polarize the community with nothing but a single word. A game that was the closest any Indie developer has come to capturing the magic of Master of Orion II. Sector Zero brings us: overhauled ground combat, new win conditions, a new hex-tiled strategy map, deep space construction and more. But is that enough to wrest the title from the other contenders?

Clearly, the winner is… Amplitude Studios. With two solid releases in 2016, Endless Legend took 5 of the 9 votes. It was a close battle, but Tempest (3 votes) narrowly beat out Shifters (2 votes). The remaining 4 votes were split between SR2: Heralds and SD2: Sector Zero. There was a lot of debating going on but the winner was clear. Endless Legend: Tempest brought out its A-game and took the top prize.


Would you like to know more? If the answer is yes, listen to the 29th Strategic eXpanse.

With that, I’d like to wrap up eXplorminate’s awards for 2016 because we have a lot of celebrating to do. 2017 is going to be another fantastic year – so much so, that we are going to have to introduce an additional award to add the Strategy genre to our already established 4X prizes. As always, thank you for reading, watching and listening to us. All of us at eXplorminate wish you a happy and safe holiday season.

14 replies »

    • Working on getting it up now. There are a few sound issues with 7 minutes left of the podcast, and we’re trying to figure out if it’s possible to re-record it in the next week or if I should just put it up. The show is fantastic, but the technical difficulties are… bothersome.


  1. excellent choice for both awards!

    to be honest, i wouldn’t even have taken Civ6 into the top3 games.
    CivBE as a desaster and Civ6 seems like to follow that new way.
    i.e. the update frequency is the same (bad) form. Civ6 seems to be the first Civ franchise game i won’t buy.


  2. Civ6 is my most anticipated game of all time, but since it still doesn’t have a Linux release, I must continue to wait. *sad face*

    But Stellaris… I guess I’ll have to break down and watch one of you guy’s play it. I had written it off because I hated CKII. After two hours I still didn’t understand what half of the icons on the screen represented or how to do anything and I just don’t have the patience for that.


    • Good news. Stellaris is a much easier nut to crack than CK2/EU4/HoI4. Much much easier. Bad news… It’s a 4X/GS hybrid, so there is a learning curve. Good news… It should be fun, especially if you like to ROle Play your 4X games.

      I definitely suggest watching some LP. We have some good ones!!!


    • I have/had the same reaction to CK2 that you did, and I can confidently state Stellaris has none of those problems. Everything is very clear, the tooltips are exceptional, and the interface is a dream.

      Trust me, I’m a moron, and I am enjoying the bejeezus out of it.


  3. I don’t understand your attitude towards Civilization VI. It’s the best civ game on release to date. Sure, it’s a rough diamond and could use some polishing and extra content. But you haven’t covered the patches and the DLC (ok, they are just new). Everytime Endless Legend lets out a fart it’s covered here. While those are great games, the new Civilization also is. It feels like you guys are biased against the big guy in the room. Well, he’s not going away. I could understand the need of highlighting lesser known games like Thea, and how great they are. The criticisms feel condescending. Maybe civ VI is too broad to appeal to the masses instead of the self pronounced elite 4x player.


    • How so? We cover it. We talk about it. We mention every bit of news that comes out. Especially on the next WeX (winter update).

      We have a “relationship” with them. Behind the scenes, we’ve had some very intense exchanges with their pr department. We’ve been to both Firaxicons and covered them as well. How else should we cover it?

      Should we give them extra-special considerations and allowances because they are the “big guy” in the room?

      By the way, just in case someone thinks that we are biased against Firaxis, look at our XCOM2 coverage and at this year’s Monday modness series.

      What else can we do?

      On edit – We covered the hell out of Civ 6 before release. Since release, we covered the fall and winter (next WeX) patches. I think the problem you have is that we aren’t playing it. So, we aren’t really discussing it.

      The real question is: Why aren’t we playing it? Well, every time we talk about it, we discuss that, especially during the next WeX. I keep saying that, I know. Check it out on Wednesday and let us know what you think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. the community was just tired of the franchise?

    Yeah I think you nailed it Nate – I mean I go right back to the first one with boxed originals of Civ 1 thru 4 bought right on release day. And I own 5 but have not played it and 6 I did not even buy ( yet ). I mean window dressing and new cartoons only go so far – after that you want new ideas.


  5. Great Stuff as ever guys. This is why I visit this site. You know what you’re talking about – whereas other sites and “reviewers” who should be more knowledgeable said that Stellaris was a load of junk (just like they did with Thea), you can really judge a game.

    Like Thea, like Endless Legend, Stellaris took risks and innovated. It pushed the genre forward, laid a fantastic foundation and then constantly built upon it. Guys – you’re 3 for 3 over the past few years in my view.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Civilization 6 is piece of garbage in compare to the previous part. Stellaris needs some updates such as artifacts contacts with the other galaxy (Empires and species) and make the game more alive (diplomacy war and economics live portraits ant other) then the game will be unique example of the cooperation ideas of the other games.



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