In past years, I've posted about what the "hot games" (even if my
opinion didn't line up) were at the Gathering. Here's my list of what
I perceived as having a lot of people talking about it and playing it.
Notre Dame. Almost universally, when I asked people "What have
you played and loved?", this was the first response. There were
several copies at the event which meant it was easy to get a chance to
play, and there were often multiple copies in play. That said, there
were people who weren't totally impressed, and the buzz around this
one wasn't of the magnitude of Power Grid a few years ago, and
certainly not of Puerto Rico, back in 2002.
Descent. This was a bit of a surprise, since it's so different
from most of the other games played at the Gathering. But, this got
played a great deal, often with 2 or 3 games going simultaneously. I
heard some went as long as 8 (!) hours. I played twice, neither over
3 hours, and both were a lot of fun.
Race for the Galaxy. This didn't get as much play, because
there were only two prototypes, but most who played it liked it a lot,
and everyone I spoke to thought the art was stunning.
Wikinger. This got a lot of play, with reasonably positive
reactions. I heard from several people that the advanced version is
better, which I did not try.
Caylus Magna Carta. There was only one copy (maybe 2?), but it
was almost universally positively received with most of the comments
similar to mine.
Pillars of the Earth. This got a lot of play and was generally
quite well received, but it was almost never at the very top of
people's lists of top games they played.
Through the Ages. I didn't get to play this, but it saw a fair
amount of play, and the reactions from those who did seemed to be
extremely positive in general. At least a couple people declared it
their favorite game ever.
Zooloretto. This got a lot of play at the beginning, and some
continued play later, and was well liked, but not by everyone.
Thurn und Taxis Expansion. This also got a lot of play
throughout the week and was often on people's "top lists".
Colosseum. There was one copy of this and it got played a lot,
and was well liked in general, but it also seemed to rairely make it
near the top of people's lists. A lot of the comments around this
seemed to express roughly, "it deserves a few more tries before I have
a final opinion".
Arkadia. This didn't get played much at all until late in the
Gathering, when both the copies there were often continuously in play.
Most people liked it and several said it was among the best.
Objet Trouves. Another "showed up late" hit, this party game
got a lot of play in the last few days and was mostly well liked by
those who played.
A few other games that had reasonably positive buzz, but of lower overall magnitude: Huang Di, Phonecia, Quirkle, Animalia. I'm sure there were others that I didn't play that got some positive buzz, but I don't recall them now.