Random thoughts on board gaming with my family and friends. I'm a recent convert to the board gaming community, and I am trying to introduce my wife, daughters and friends to some great games to get them over to board gaming as well.
Let's try to get this going again with some kind of regularity.
So a monthly what I liked and what I didn't like post, shouldn't be too difficult, right? Well, it seems it is since I haven't done one of these since last summer. But as part of my write more, play more, buy less 2019 plans, this should fit right in.
First, in late January, I started writing for The Opinionated Gamers, since then I have posted several reviews. It has been fun to try to get in a rhythm writing these and being a part of a really knowledgeable group of people has certainly helped that. Even if you don't read my reviews, be sure to check out the website as there is just a ton of information available over there.
So, should we start with the bad? I think we should, let's get this out of the way.
First up is The Grimm Forest, the best thing you can say about this is that it's waaaay overproduced. I probably would have given it a second chance had this been a smaller production, but as it is, it is the literal embodiment of the "Lipstick on a Pig" saying. There is nothing exciting here, it's basic resource collection, build things and see who gets done first. All that with some ill advised Take That. It is what it is, but I for one don't think it was worth a fraction of the time or money to create it like it currently is presented.
Next up would be Betrayal Legacy. I knew going in that this was going to be Betrayal, it was going to be swingy and unbalanced and a mess. It doesn't disappoint there. But what I had hoped for was something different to tie all that together, to make it a more modern design and change things just a bit, but alas, it's still a mediocre game that everyone seems to prop up because it has a story. We are going to finish this, I think we are starting Chapter 5 next Monday, but I don't know what I am going to do with it afterwards if it continues like this, maybe a bonfire.
China made a come back this month, with four plays. We've been playing it at 3 player and it just hums along. Each of our plays have been getting progressively more aggressive towards our opponents and it has been quite fun watching our evolution of strategies. It's a simple area majority game, with slight hand management aspects, but what it packs into about 30 minutes, is a lot of fun. I'm on the fence about whether to back the upcoming Iwari, which is a fourth or fifth step in the progression of the Web of Power series of games. But I am horribly tempted.
San Marco just came out of nowhere and just gobsmacked me right over the head. Absolutely gutted that I had never played this one before now. It's another simple game. This one has a beautiful I split, you choose mechanism in there. Two sets of cards, The Limit cards have numbers 1-3 and the other set are the actions you can take, from placing cubes in areas, to building bridges to allow movement of cubes and even some attacking that is going on. A round ends when everyone's Limit cards are 10 or above. When you split up the cards you split up the limit cards how you see fit and place action cards with them, if you want, maybe you don't. Ultimately this is an area majority game where you are going to score points where you have cubes, if you are in first or second and you want to score the most points. Dead simple to play, with some crunchy evaluation to be done. If only there were hope of a reprint of this one.
Also good, Qwirkle. I really don't understand how a game this good can go unplayed by us for that long. Seriously, Qwirkle has to be in my Top 5 favorite SdJ winners. And Pueblo which is another wonderful, older abstract that should be in print today.
February saw me bring in three new games, well, one really as two of the purchases were older versions of Modern Art. Also I parted ways with 40 games as well. Which is another part of my 2019 plans. The game collection is going to go down to about 200-250 titles which is still kind of an obscene number of games.
It was a weird month, a month that started out pretty slow in the gaming department but kind of exploded about halfway through. Ultimately I ended up with 62 plays of 37 games, of which 14 were new to me.
Not even going to mention the Legacy/Campaign games as nothing has been touched this month either. There is hope for August, albeit slim. At some point you just have to wash your hands of them though and just figure it'll happen if it happens.
There were a couple of disappointing games this month. One being Nimble which after absolutely loving Memoarrr! may have been hindered by expectations being way out of whack. Also Lowlands kind of underwhelmed. It really felt to me like a Euro that really wanted to feel like an old school Euro, but had to wear kid gloves so as to not hurt anyone. It was fine, but completely innocuous and uninspiring.
Winner of the month would probably have to go to The Shipwreck Arcana. I am absolute rubbish at deduction games but make it a cooperative game and I've got a good chance. This does it wonderfully all in a small but beautiful package. The nutshell of it is, you draw two numbers from a bag and using the cards laid out in front of everyone you have to get everyone to deduce one of your numbers by placing the other on one of the cards that gives a rule to guide them. It's wonderfully simple, yet thinky enough that you have to work at it. Absolute gem.
June started out really slowly. I thought we might end up reverting back to the months of maybe 30 plays, but boy did business pick up towards the back half of the month. We ended up with 71 plays of 46 distinct games, with 22 of those being new to me. One of these months that new to me stat is going to go down, right? Maybe, who knows.
So the bad news that everyone can see up above, not a single game of Charterstone or Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. We had a planned night for Charterstone, but things never worked out so we just played a handful of shorter games that night instead. Just too much going on around us to make it work. But we had a good time anyway and enjoyed the games and the tacos.
Winners wise, there were a couple standouts for me and both were older titles. First up Bargain Hunter, an older Uwe Rosenberg trick taking game with a fun twist to it. Seriously, if you like card games, especially trick taking games, do yourselves a favor and find a copy, we had ours for a couple years before we got it played recently. I think we got it as a freebie from Geekway a couple years ago. The other stand out is from another Hall of Fame designer, Reiner Knizia, and this one is Ingenious. I picked up a copy of the old Blue Box version in an auction recently and it hasn't left the table. Such a wonderful abstract.
Losers of the month? Hmmmm, our game of Mini Park was not that well received, and I think I may have taught something just a bit wrong and we only played with the base tiles, no expansions or extra stuff. Maybe that's part of why it fell really flat with us. I am hoping that it can redeem itself the next try, if there is another one. Other than that, there really weren't any "losers", we had Sailing Toward Osiris was a bit underwhelming, but I think I may chalk that up to more of a first time experience than anything.
We blew the dust off a couple of long standing unplayed games this month. I'm working on purging some titles from our collection and part of doing that is getting Kerensa to sit down and play some games that we hadn't played in a long time and make a decision on whether or not to keep the game. Sanssouci was first up, which had been 1375 days in between plays and it survived. We had a fantastic time playing it and it will stay in the collection. After that was 7 Wonders Duel which had been 922 days in between plays and we are still a bit undecided on it. Hoping to play it another time or two in July and we'll make the decision on it. I'm leaning toward purge, but we'll just have to play it out and see what happens.
Hopefully we pick up a bit in July, I've got several games on the way that I am really looking forward to playing and reviewing so look out!
Oh! And we just dropped the newest Capital City Cardboard Critics episode last night, which was all about competitiveness in board gaming and whether or not winning matters to us when we sit down at the table to play a game. Give it a listen and let us know your thoughts!!
Friend and fellow writer, Chris Wray, co-authored a Kickstarter article about their skepticism towards Kickstarter games. It’s full of fun data and fun graphs to back up their idea that they just aren’t that excited to play that brand new Kickstarter title that you just received. It’s a really well written and wonderfully researched piece and you should read it.
So after I read that article again recently I was sitting at the computer, looking at my collection of board games and wondering, what is it about games that makes me get them played immediately, or never. I obviously buy games with every intention of playing them but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Currently in my collection, according to BGG — which is dependant upon me for keeping it up to date — I have 197 games unplayed. Now before we all have a heart attack, let’s get that number dropped a bit to a more realistic number due to a few factors.
The big factor is that I don’t log expansion plays unless they are standalone, and I am relatively good about playing expansions. I don’t buy many of them quite honestly, and they do get played, usually fairly quickly. So doing that drops that number of unplayed games down to 130 unplayed. That’s still a lot, let’s drop that number again because a lot of times I don’t log dexterity games or oddball games that I play with my kids, for some reason I just don’t do it. That moves us to the 114 unplayed games area, but there is one more category that shouldn’t be on there, games that were played as kids and I have in my collection still but were played long ago. This brings us to the number we are going to look at and examine, 103.
First reason to dive into as to why some games don’t get played is this, I buy a lot of games, and sometimes I buy games just because they are on sale. I did this a lot with video games as well. I was an active member of the Cheap Ass Gamer website and we always shared deals we found at various places and my collection grew and the plays just didn’t happen, but I bought them with every intention of playing then. The same goes for board games, although I like to think that I am more picky about what I am willing to buy even at a good price. Board games can be expensive, especially now as the market grows, more and more publishers are trying to catch the eyes of potential customers and they do that by making flashy games, games with lots of extra bit, miniatures, specialized pieces, things like that and that drives up the cost of games. So finding a good deal is a fairly important thing for the budget conscious among us. Games on this list for me are titles like, Asgard, Belfort, Guilds of London, La Granja and a few others. These are board games that I absolutely was interested in, but wanted to pick up at the right price and that right price came along. Dropping those leaves us with 86 other unplayed games to talk about and rationalize.
Next up are the Freebies and Trades. You attend conventions, you have friends who decide games aren’t what they want so you accumulate a collection of games that have been passed on to you and these are tough. There isn’t a whole lot of motivation at all to get them played as you have no monetary interest in them and half or more of them you probably never asked for. They just show up on your shelves from time to time. Trades are a bit different than freebies, but I put them in the same category just due to my trading history. A lot of times I go into a trade with best intentions of getting something that I actually want to play, but more often than not, the entire process feels more like getting rid of games that I don’t want to play and just getting something in return that I may be interested in. In this category we can scratch another 19 off the list to get this down to 67 unplayed games that need to be played, because quite honestly, some of these will never be played, I just include them as inventory.
I think we’ve narrowed it down close enough, 67 games out of a collection of over 540 is not a unacceptable percentage of unplayed games, that’s what — 12-13% of my collection that needs to be played? That’s not awful considering where we started. What is it about these 67 games that keep them in the unplayed stacks. Well, some of these are new. If you follow me on any kind of social media or on BGG, you know that I am constantly bringing in new things to play. Here recently, we have been a lot better about playing the new games that come in, but it wasn’t always that way. Our gaming group has expanded a bit and we think of more than just ourselves in gaming, so sometimes, our games just don’t get played. But a huge chunk of these, 30 of them to be exact, are Kickstarter games. Yes, nearly half of them are Kickstarter. I know what you are saying, you’re saying but Brandon, that means 37 more aren’t from Kickstarter and while this is true, I am still going to focus on why those Kickstarter games don’t get played right now — as I think it’s a pretty easy read for me. They don’t get played because of the hype. Now hear me out. I hate using the “hype” excuse, but what I mean by that is — these games are hyped sometimes over a year or two in some instances before you ever even see them. They build up the hype for them as “Coming to Kickstarter on Such and Such a date”, then when they do hit Kickstarter you have to watch the hype for 30 days — or however long the campaign is and then you have to share with your friends to fully invest yourself in the “experience”. Then you wait, and you wait and you wait, and then sometimes, you keep waiting. By the time you get the game, all of that residual excitement is just gone, vanished into thin air because you have picked up and played 100s of other games in the meantime while you wait. I don’t think this is just a me thing — and I definitely think that it hurts Kickstarter games as far as how they are rated and reviewed after they release.
Let’s look at my last 2 years of gaming — what are the 15 most played games in that time frame?
Santorini-43 Azul-34 Ganz schön clever-32 Werewords-32 Majesty: For the Realm-27 The Chameleon-23 NMBR 9-20 Kingdomino-18 Codenames Duet-12 Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure-11 Carcassonne-10 Century: Spice Road-10 Downforce-10 Fuji Flush-10 Topiary-10
As someone who has backed and received about 50 titles — there are more still undelivered — it’s curious to me to see that only 2 of these games in the Top 15 of my plays were Kickstarter games. Even better, only one of them was actually backed on Kickstarter (Santorini), I bought the other one retail (Werewords). Also worth noting is that of those plays, of both games, I would be willing to bet that all but a handful of plays happened within a couple weeks of receiving the games and they rarely have been played since. 30 other Kickstarter titles sit there, on my shelves, unplayed.
While Chris and his co-author seemingly make the case that the games just aren’t that good — or rather not on par — with retail releases and their seemingly more thorough process of being created, from thought process to manufacturing, I am trying to make the case for is — Kickstarter Apathy. By the time I get a game from Kickstarter, it’s very rare that I am still excited enough to actually sit down, learn it and then play it. It just doesn’t happen.
So what about those retail games that just don’t get played? Most of the time it seems they just don’t get played because I buy outside of my comfort zone. Games like Combat Commander Europe, Railways of the World, Battle of Five Armies & Madeira (Currently up for auction here on BGG) or Hansa Teutonica just aren’t our normal games that get played, but I either failed to do enough research, or bought outside of my comfort zone for some reason or another. Maybe retail therapy, or it could have just been impulse buying, I don’t know, but they were purchased and probably should not have been.
What is the point of this? Why spill my guts all over this page talking about and making excuses for why games don’t get played? One, I want to hear your reaction. I honestly want to know what you think. And two, I just wanted to point out that it really doesn’t matter. Buy what you want to buy, play what you want to play, and as long as what you are doing is not impeding anyone else’s way of life, anyone that has a problem with your Shelves of Opportunities can piss off.
This is what going to a 4 day convention and hosting 2 game days at your house thanks to two state holidays will do for your game plays. 99 plays this month, by far the most, which was last month at 71 plays. I played 46 different games over those 99 plays, with 23 of them being NEW! to me. I made it a definite point to play all of the Spiel des Jahres nominees for this year, and we played the Kennerspiel nominations that we had not played already as well. I do hope to play some Heaven & Ale in the next month as well though, just to get refreshed on it. But May was just an absolute whirlwind of a month gaming wise and I loved it.
On the podcast, we finished up our 5 part Spiel des Jahres history series.
Legacy game wise, we got in 2 back to back plays of Charterstone and while the gameplay has been remarkably unremarkable, the ending of the third game really irritated a couple folks, not Gabby, by no means was she irritated by the irrational point swing that happened. But the rest of us kind of wondered just why that was necessary. Guess we will find out as we proceed forward.
Gamewise, you can see there were some games that were absolute winners around here. That's Pretty Clever has proven itself over the month as a fantastic Roll n Write. With Kerensa and I playing it quite a bit, heck, I even tried it solo which never happens with games. The Quacks of Quedlinburg also made a good impression and got 3 quick plays, hoping for more over the next month with some of the new books and the other side of the player boards. It really is quite a clever push your luck game disguised as a bag builder and who doesn't want to practice Quackery?!
Since I started doing this, I have always awarded a "Loser" or "Worst" of the month and this month it was difficult, but one game kind of sat below the rest and that was Luxor. We were really excited to play it after it's Spiel des Jahres nomination, going so far as to rush it to us so we could play it at Geekway, and that one play underwhelmed in amazing ways. It just feels antiquated. The hand management mechanism which feels fresh, ultimately underwhelms as you move further into the game. Ultimately this is just another set collection game on a board. At least after one play, I've vowed to play it again to see if it remains the same, but we'll see.
It's going to be really difficult to keep up this pace. More time is going to be spent around the pool, or running kids to different things this summer than any summer past, let's hope we can make time though.
Look for something new on the horizon for the podcast, we've been enjoying our conversational style shows and we may keep experimenting a bit with new formats and new ways of presenting the format. But that's still in the future!
So, I have been working on two lists, one of them is my Top 25 Games of the Year 2016. I decided to forgo the blog postings on BGG for this and just posted directly to our website. I hope to finish the list today, but things have been crazy these past couple days and I haven't been able to get ahead like I wanted to. But I'm going to give it my best effort to get those final five games up and on the list today and then release the Geeklist here on BGG for all to mock and ridicule.
Secondly I did some work on a little project for PunchBoard Media. The project was to try to get a list of 50 games that creators in PBM thought were Modern Classics. I gave each participant 15 votes and I wanted them to order their lists from 1 to 15. Their number one vote garnered 15 points, their number 15 game got 1 point. The instructions for creating their lists was fairly vague, I asked that the game be subjectively good, meaning that they actually liked the game & that the game was objectively well received, meaning that others think that the game is good. I also wanted the games to be readily available to whomever wanted to play them. Oh, and the game had to be from the years 1995-2015. This led to a very interesting list, with a few games that I would never have put in my Top 50, but others wanted to have on the list. It also kind of made me realize just how "young" a group this is that I am a part of, not just in literal years, but in gaming years as well. We leaned heavily on 2010-2015, with 34 of the games coming from that time span.
Over the next few days I hope that folks will comment on the geeklist, or leave comments here about the 50 Modern Classics list, I'm going to try to get some thoughts of mine together about the list and write a bit about it as I think it turned out interesting, both good and bad.
Another fantastic month of gaming. First up, the numbers. April was a huge month for us here, 71 plays of 40 different games. January of this year was our previous "most plays" month with 61 and we kind of smashed that by 10. But, there are a couple of things pushing this. We went to a new convention in Springfield, MO called Moon City Convention and The biggest game we played all month, was a 3 player game of Concordia. Every thing else that hit the table is in that 15-45 minute time frame. I don't foresee that happening all the time, but for this month at least, we absolutely soaked up the quicker games.
If you follow the blog and remember last month, you know that we were trying to play every Spiel des Jahres winning game that we had not played and we came up one short, Dampfross. Well, as you can see up above, we got that played and the first of the 4 Spiel des Jahres podcast episodes will be releasing on 5/2/18. Every Wednesday of the month of May, we're going to touch on a decade of SDJ winners. I hope everyone enjoys it and learns something. I know I did.
Once again on the "Legacy" games front, you will notice that we didn't touch Charterstone. We were scheduled to play last Saturday evening, but illnesses conspired against us, but we are trying to schedule again for next Saturday. Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is once again in a holding pattern with our host going through an adoption process and also working overtime, so hopefully things can calm down a bit in May and we can get that rolling again. The world needs us!
Review wise in April over on WDYPTW we hit Fairy Tile and Wonderland in written form and we even got another Eric Booth video review, this time for Rajas of the Ganges. That's one that I am hoping makes a reappearance this coming month, it needs to be played more.
Gamewise, it's kind of hard to find a winner or loser in this month's games. We played some old favorites and some new varieties of those. Arboretum made a re-appearance leading up to the Renegade announcement that they had acquired the publishing rights and would be bringing it back in print with art from the wonderfully talented Beth Sobel. I should say though, Manhattan just keeps delivering fun, interactive and stressful play each time it gets to the table, so maybe that's the winner?
Stinker wise, Mayday!Mayday! just was not fun, but then again we had a couple rules wrong so that could have hindered it, but even after looking at the rules and figuring out what we did incorrectly, I don't know that I'll bother to go back to it. And while Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama as an experience playing with everyone at the table was fun, I just don't get it, but then again, I didn't get Avenue either. Maybe I'm just not cut out for Draw and Draw games, but we'll keep trying, just like we do with Social Deduction games.
This month we'll also be at Geekway to the West from May 17-20 so if you are attending, I'd love to sit down and play a game with you! I'll try to wear something that separates me from the masses, can you believe over 3000 people want to attend this event? Just mind boggling to me how much it has grown over the past 5 years.
March was a bit of a bounce back month after the game playing fell off a bit in February. Didn't quite hit the levels that we had in January (off by 3 plays) but we had a project start up that saw a TON of games get played that were new to me.
So the thing you will notice is the just unbelievable amount of games that are new to me this month. A local friend, Chris Wray, suggested that we try all of the SDJ winners over the years that I haven't played and then we are going to discuss them all on our podcast. Well, they have all been played except for Dampfross and we're going to try to knock that out this week, at least that's the hope. We've recorded our thoughts on '90 - '00 so far and we'll be airing 4 episodes on the The What Did You Play This Week Podcast Thing where we discuss the winners in each decade. I absolutely loved doing this, and I hope this becomes a regular thing for us, playing the SDJ winners.
I normally don't rate games that I only play once, but if you notice, all of my SDJ plays this month have been rated, and that has kind of been done to help me remember them and how I felt after playing them. Winners of the new to me SDJ's were Zooloretto, Auf Achse & Café International (although I will never buy a copy of this until it is updated and not as awful art wise). Only a couple really missed the mark with me, Barbarossa & Liar's Dice being the two that stand out to me. But, be sure to listen to the shows when released so you can hear my full thoughts on those.
Carcassonne emerged from the shadows and came back into play this month a couple times. Brought on by the acquisition of the new Big Box from the Funagain Going Out of Business Sale. You can see all the acquisitions, and departures from the collection HERE (2018 Acquisitions and Purchases Geeklist).
Our Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 group met up and we actually got 3 wins, Jan/Feb/March and then I realized we were playing incorrectly and not paying attention to the word "Mandatory". Oh well, we had a fantastic time and fully expect to die horribly in April. Charterstone once again had issues, as in, no games were played. I'm going to try to push for it this month and see what happens, I really want to see if the game changes at all or if it just becomes more of the same.
Look for reviews coming in the next week or so for Wonderland (which is okay) and for Fairy Tile (surprisingly fun and beautiful) and hopefully some Monster Match and Funky Chicken. Along with those four reviews I should have a preview for the upcoming Green Couch Games Kickstarter, Filler, which just showed up today, cutting it close for the Kickstarter which launches I believe on the 9th of April.
So when I said at the beginning that our numbers were down in February, just realize it's all relative. I realize that we play entirely too many board games at times and I appreciate each and every minute that I get to sit around a table with my family and friends and enjoy our time together, that's what it's all about.
Games fell off a bit towards the end of the month, actually had an 8 day gap with no games! The HORROR!!! But that being said we hit 44 plays of 23 different games, with 12 of them being new to me.
Highlights of course first, Azul, Parade & Majesty: For the Realm just continue to be fantastic games that are going to continue to see the table throughout the year. But new game wise, Dice Throne: Season One was a breath of dice rolling freshness for me. Normally not my cup of tea, but this one has proven itself over the past month and most importantly brought my kids back to the table with me. Heaven & Ale may just end up being the best game I've seen since Ginkgopolis. Combines so many things that I absolutely love in games and puts them together in this wonderful brain meltingly beautiful package of a Mid-Weight Euro. Between it and Azul, Michael Kiesling is clicking on all cylinders. To top off those two games, this month also saw my first play of the Kramer & Kiesling classic Mexica(which was an albatross game for me) & El Grande(Spanish for The Grande) hit the table again.
Lords of Waterdeep was resurrected during a game day from it's 3 year slumber, and I now remember why I let it go dormant for so long, there just is no payoff for what you put into it. It's a dead simple worker placement game where you are assigning workers to do your bidding and help you gather resources(aka wizards, clerics, warriors & rogues) and while that's a nice enough premise, it just doesn't hold up over the game, especially with 5 players and using both expansion modules, it's just a boring mess. Leaders of Euphoria: Choose a Better Oppressor was also a disappointment, but I kind of expected that. It's simply a Kickstarter with a lot of lipstick on a pig, I'd honestly rather play Good Cop Bad Cop. But I know a lot of folks will dig it. Doesn't help that Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia was one of my bigger disappointments of the past 5 years. And Sakura showed up and looked beautiful and had Dr. Knizia's name on it, and it just fell flat at 2 players, but we'll try it with more and see if the Push Your Luck comes through any better.
Our Legacy groups failed this month, only once did we meet up for a full game of Charterstone & we missed out this month on Pandemic Legacy: Season 2. It's just apparently too difficult to rely on Mother Nature(ice storms) and Adults working together to make things work.
Last thing, The Mind better show up here in the North American market. I am going to push and push for this one. It doesn't even seem like it's a game, but once you get going, lots of staring and lots of hilarity ensues, can't wait to play this one more!
That's what January looked like, 61 plays of 30 different games and I took a couple albatrosses off my neck with War of the Ring and New York 1901. I enjoyed both plays, but I think that NY 1901 is the one destined to stay in the collection for a longer time as I just don't think that I have the time or the patience to learn and become good at playing War of the Ring, but we'll see. We may give it another play or two before deciding it's fate.
New game of the month was probably Palace of Mad King Ludwig, it's just too darn good. Disappointment of the month is probably not because of the game itself, but because of how the response was to it from Kerensa and Gabby and that was Dragonsgate College. I enjoyed the game, I thought it was an interesting take on dice allocation, but they just weren't as taken with it as I was.