Nominal Award: Best Party Game
Mechanics: Hidden Identity, Voting
Players: 5 - 10
Large group, hidden identity games like Ultimate Werewolf, Bang and Mafia often involve player elimination. I really don't like this. Being the first to be eliminated ruins the experience for me. I much prefer any game that lets all players play the whole time. That's why Avalon is on this list.
Avalon isn't won by the last person standing, it's won after a team (whose identities are hidden) accomplishes their objective. In Avalon, it's King Arthur and his knights against Mordred and his minions. Players take turns choosing who will be on a team to go out on a quest. The whole group votes to approve or reject the team and, if the team is voted through, the members of the team secretly play a "success" or "fail" card. Of course, Arthur wants the majority of quests to be successful and Mordred wants them to fail. The result of the mission is the basis upon which players argue their cause: "I wasn't the person who failed the mission! It must have been so-and-so because she was on the last mission that failed..."
Like other hidden identity identify games, some players have special abilities. The signature special character is Merlin, a servant of Arthur who knows the forces of evil. Merlin's presence in the game motivates table talk, however, there is a caveat to Arthurs victory: even if the minions of Mordred are unable to fail the majority of missions, they can still win the game if they can correctly guess who is playing as Merlin.
I have only ever played incredible and dramatic games of Avalon, though people in my gaming circle have also had less exciting experiences. The degree to which players get into the table talk will make or break the game. If there are one or two players who will work to provoke other players and drive the discussion, the game is out of this world. That being said, I would not recommend the game to a whole group of first-timers. Not knowing what the experience can be like can actually cause the game to fall flat.