Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cult of the New - 2008

Here we go, the annual listing of the new games I played in 2008 and maybe some brief thoughts. I played 54 new games this year. Most of them I owned to start, though not all. I currently own 34 of these and would pick up a few more (and trade off a couple too). I present these in no particular order.
  • Chicago Express - one of the more intriguing games I learned this year. Its pretty straight forward in exectution of the rules and such and plays in 60-90 minutes (if I don't have to butcher the rules for everyone). What this one has is a lot of subtlety. You can play this straight forward, but you'll lose to someone that understands how to manipulate the game.
  • In the Year of the Dragon - a fine game that is about building a points engine and trying to out maneuver the other players through turn after turn of events (most bad). I played this 7 times last year and enjoyed it, but while its a solid game, I probably won't ask for it to come out (though I'd certainly play it). I'm more likely to get in an occasional game of this online.
  • Micro Mutants: Evolution - this game was one I'd never heard of nor would I have even wanted to play it if I had known about it. Luckily for me, I was wrangled into a game of it. Basically, this is Tiddely Winks on steroids and its pretty fun. My son loves this game.
  • Qwirkle - I had read good things about this and grabbed a copy. Turned out to be one my wife enjoyed a good bit. I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the game (the wood blocks are not terribly even and the colors are hard to distinguish), but the game play is light fun. One guy I know calls it Scrabble for dummies. Pretty accurate description I think ;)
  • Agricola - poor Agricola. Never did make Game of the Month for me, which is too bad since this is a pretty good game. I still am only going to play this while drafting the cards, otherwise I can tell you after picking up my cards if its even worth playing. If this has an issue, its that its a bit fiddly to play. With 4 or 5, you need a lot of space and then there is just no good way to lay everything down so that everyone can get to things easily.
  • Blokus Trigon - Yep, this was new this year. Much like a couple of entries further down this list (Ubongo + Ubongo Extreme), I like the way this one taxes my brain differently than its Tetris like brother. Its not nearly as intuitive looking, but its really better than Blokus if for no other reason than it plays 3 well.
  • Ca$h 'n Gun$ - another one I wouldn't have thought I'd like. The game is pretty simple and really, if you play it as a game you miss the point. This is more of a party game that a gamer's game. If you don't think playing the final scene of Reservoir Dogs sounds fun, you are wrong.
  • Battleball - this is straight forward smash em ups and I pretty much only play with my son. Its great for him learning to count and he gets a kick out of the battles. He also is starting to understand some of the varying strengths and weaknesses of the different pieces (though he is still most likely to pick a guy based on looks ;) )
  • Indonesia - one of the best games I learned last year. For an economic game on a single board (no expansion maps or whatever), this one has great replayability. Its full of interesting decisions and plays out pretty differently (and actually faster) with more players. Its a little fiddly, but really a good game.
  • Notre Dame - I didn't expect to like this one as much In the Year of the Dragon, but I think I might prefer it for 3 people. Much Like ItYotD, you are building a points engine against a negative event cycle. The theme is different and the mechanics are a little different, but they scratch the same itch I think.
  • Dominon - how do you spell HYPE? This one had been getting the BUZZ in gaming circles for a while for its super packed game playing in a short time frame (15-25 min a game). When I finally got to play I had to admit - its pretty good for what it is. Unlike Race for the Galaxy, this one's game length doesn't go on longer than it should.
  • Pandemic - I've played a couple of co-op games before and they just aren't my thing. Pandemic feels different. It feels more tense and the game's theme is a good fit for the mechanics. My wife likes it since we aren't in competition. Its good enough I purchased a copy and plan to keep it.
  • PÜNCT - just another GIPF game. This one is probably my second favorite of the series so far (behind YINSH). Like most of the series, its two player filler really.
  • Blink - Its the old card game SPEED, but with shapes and colors. This is a kids game and the production supports it - the cards are really high quality. Nothing special, but a 5-year old can play it and its easy to handicap by simply taking more cards.
  • Ghost Party - This older Ravensberger title is light push your luck style fare. The kids like it and we pulled it out on Halloween to play. Not a bad thrift store find.
  • Escalation! - the first couple of times I played this, I enjoyed it, but another play or two and this one lost its luster. Its not a terrible game, just a light card game filler.
  • StarCraft: The Board Game - my first purchase of the year was this behemoth. Underneath the loads of cards, cardboard and plastic is a pretty fun game that scales fairly decently from 2-6 players. Still, at 45 min a person, it won't see the table as much as I think it should.
  • Heroscape - you'd think with as much of this as I own, that I'd have played it before this year. Nope. The few times I tried it were everything I thought it'd be - just simple fun. Sooooo many combinations!!
  • Himalaya - best described as what RoboRally should have been. Programmed movement, area control and influence, pick up and deliver. It sounds like a mess of mechanics, but it all works pretty decently together and plays up to 6.
  • Glory to Rome - this is what I had kinda hoped Race For the Galaxy was going to be - an interactive building game. This one is a little subtle and best played by those that are familiar with the game. Still, after playing Dominion, this one might be a little long for what it is.
  • Ice Flow - this is a race game / puzzle game where players try to optimize their movement across the ice. Not a bad game (great looking game), but it didn't grab me as special either.
  • Duel in the Dark - This two player game simulates English night time bombing runs against Germany during WWII. It does indeed do just that, but it just seemed to be a guessing game. Guess which way the bombers are going - North or South. Guess right and you win. Guess wrong and the other guy wins. I have a quarter in my pocket - we can play DitD in 10 seconds by flipping it and then go play something good...
  • Patrician - this one was a new game from the same guy that brought us Hansa and Zooloretto. I only played this online (against real people on MaBiWeb) and it wasn't bad (though much like Hansa, there is some randomness that can make the game impossible to win). I'd play it online again, but I don't need to own it.
  • Bobbin' Bumblebee - this is the Loopin' Louie clone. I don't know what the big deal is. Its a battery run dexterity game. Its ok and I can see where there is a little skill, but you need some skill and reflexes to play Lightning Reaction too...
  • Galaxy Trucker - this was one of my new favorites of the year. What is it? Its a timed puzzle game followed by a short bit of decision making while random things ruin your ship. Its the perfect glue to hold together the puzzle part of the game. Its not at all a serious game, but there is enough game to be interesting.
  • Metropolys - I didn't know what to expect when I saw this hit the table. Turns out that this is a decent bidding, area control game with a board that looks really ugly. The board also grew on me as the game went on. This is one that I think would be really great filler for 3-4 people (30 minutes?) once people had played a couple times.
  • Hamburgum - this is a Rondel game ala Antike or Imperial (still haven't played Imperial). This one is about building churches rather than conflict and war. It was ok, but I like Antike better. The both feel a lot alike with lots of ways to score, but you can't be a jack of all trades and master of none to win.
  • Filthy Rich - The Fonz introduced me to this one. I had never heard of it or seen it, and I've never seen any other game with a unique mechanic like it since. The game board is a 3-ring binder with pages that hold cards. The cards represent billboards which you are trying to get displayed. The sheet you place the billboard on is important, as your display could get covered up. I liked it enough to finally get a copy in trade (should be here any day now).
  • Chinatown - I finally got to play this (before it was reprinted) and it was pretty much exactly what I figured it would be since its basically a pure negotiation game (which I don't typically care for). I sure wouldn't shell out the kind of money Z-Man wants for their new version unless you only like negotiation games.
  • Primordial Soup - after acquiring this at 50% off (it always sounded really fun) I was able to get it ot the table almost immediately. Was it as fun as it sounded? No, but it wasn't terrible either. It might be more entertaining with the expansion. Or not. It suffers from wicked bash leader syndrome. Honestly, for a variable power / power combination game, I think I'd be more inclined to just play Vinci.
  • Subbuteo - I had never heard of this one, but Justin wanted to play at the Geekway and I'm glad he instisted. We probably looked like a couple of spastic tards jumping around the table flicking guys (and then chasing after them), but I have to admit I had a good time (minus the bump in the pitch). I thought about trying to track this down, but I don't have a place for it yet.
  • Manoeuvre - when I heard about this game, I really wanted to try it out. It sounded like a quick and dirty C&C:Ancients type clone with a number of different armies. That's pretty close as far as descriptions go. Being that is neither a good point, nor a bad one. This is a good one if you like quick little battles, but its a bit much for a filler.
  • Ticket to Ride: The Card Game - yet another one from the hype machine. After playing it, I think it might best be described as a non-confrontational Mama Mia!. Again, neither good nor bad, nor exciting.
  • Apples to Apples - hard to believe I had never played this before. I knew I'd enjoy this with the right group, but still had never played. Then I was able to get this in a super random trade with a local fellow. Not just Apples to Apples, but the Party Box version and the expansion (basically just about all the cards :) ). And yes, it was a good time with much hilarity. Definitely depends on the group.
  • TransAmerica - couple of the local gamers (Bobby and Mike) hate this game. I don't know, I didn't think it was all that bad. I've played worse. Much worse.
  • Incan Gold - nope, hadn't played Diamant either. Mike Garrett (yep, same guy as above) taught us this one. Pretty nice little press your luck game that plays lots of people and easy for non-gamers to pick up.
  • Master Labyrinth - can't remember when or where I got this from, but it took forever to force it to the table. Once there, I discovered a tricky little puzzle game which I enjoyed quite a bit. Really rewarding if you can make the clever play.
  • New World: A Carcassonne Game - I didn't actually think I'd ever try this after seeing how much Bobby didn't care for it (he's the Carc King). However, Rob brought this out and it turns out that it wasn't that bad (except for the stupid winding scoring track). There were some pretty wild score swings, but since I'm not the Carc King, I didn't mind this game.
  • Balloon Cup - Justin pulled this out to kill 10 minutes at the Geekway. As we played, someone pointed out that they had seen us playing the same game with a different theme (Battle Line) earlier in the con. After a half second of reflection, I think he was right. Knowing that now, If I get a copy of Battle Line, I won't need this one.
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill - Halloween seemed like the right night to get this to the table. Once a year seems about right for this too. Its a story telling game and like any kind of campy serial, not all the episodes are that great.
  • Manila - I only have two words for this: Butt Pirates
  • Jambo - I finally played this and just kept waiting for it to be cool. Once we were done, I wondered if I played it wrong, because it hadn't been even half as interesting as the hype surrounding it seemed to be.
  • ZÈRTZ - another of the GIPF series and the one I've found the least interesting so far. The fact that it appears to have been (easily) "solved" doesn't make it any better.
  • Terra Nova - here is a little game that is truly an abstract with a tacked on theme. It is not a terrible game, but its not very interesting either. Good for two when you can't think of anything else to play.
  • Heimlich & Co. - a deduction game. Here you get to move / score anyone you want and only you know who you are. At the end of the game you get bonus points for guessing who everyone is. Do you move someone else to throw off suspicion? The only reason not to announce who you are at the start is that there are a couple bad things that can happen to you. Definitely a kiddie game, but not a bad one.
  • Bamboleo - this is a dexterity game with kind of a cool presentation. A wood disk balances on a cork ball. It won't slide off, due to friction (and in fact, it will tilt an amazing amount to one side or another). After that though, its not terribly exciting - pull off a piece and hope not to make a huge mess. I'd rather just play Bausack.
  • Wits and Wagers - its a party / trivia game. Clever enough concept, but only with a trivia kind of crowd. I'd rather play something funny.
  • Jungle Speed - this would have been fun when I was 10 (or possibly in college as a drinking game). Flip a card and if its a match to someone else's, grab the stick. If you grab it on accident, hit yourself with it for playing this game.
  • Babel - this is a two player "take that" kind of game. Which would be ok, but it seems to be completely luck based.
  • Quoridor - get your piece across the board while forcing your opponent through a maze. Nothing great here, except for maybe a nice abstract that scales well with children (you can handicap the number of fences a player has, giving more to the child).
  • Wasabi! - a pretty straight forward set collection game that is gorgeous looking. If you like Sushi, you'll appreciate the theme, if not you'll probably pass on this lighter fare.
  • Ubongo - its a puzzle game. Each player gets 3 (or 4 on the harder puzzles) tetris like shapes and has to fit them to match the outline on their puzzle board. If you like puzzles and racing to finish before the other players (I do), you'll enjoy this game.
  • Ubongo Extreme - much harder of the two Ubongo games since this one uses hex-based shapes. Some of the easy puzzles are just impossible. A good step up from Ubongo
  • Arkadia - I have yet to figure out how to describe this game. It was fun. It was a combination of things - stock like scoring, building area control, etc. Play it with me sometime and you describe it.


Matthew Frederick said...

Ca$h 'n Gun$: Still want to try it.

Race for the Galaxy: Maybe it's just a matter of having played it a few times, but this game is very fast for us. Doesn't go on long at all, especially not "for what it is."

Himalaya: Loved my couple of plays a few years back, and would like to play again. Very clever, and yeah, what Robo-Rally should have been.

Glory to Rome: Definitely, definitely need to give this one a try.

Imperial: Really a fantastic game, would happily play it again.

Subbuteo: I just picked up a copy of this from a thrift store, to sell on ebay.

TransAmerica: I still don't get why Bobby and Mike dislike this one so much. Bobby says it's not a game. Me, I like it just fine, and it's better with the expansion I picked up.

Incan Gold: The Diamant production is so much nicer that I can't stand playing this version.

Wits & Wagers: I like this for groups that don't like trivia games, as you really don't need to know the answers to win, just have to be clever. Of course, I'd always play Time's Up as a party game first. Always.

Arkadia: Yeah, not easily described, but quite good.

Thanks for the review!

sourwyrm said...

even with 4 players RftG usually finishes under 30 minutes with people that have played it a few times

Bobby said...

Chicago Express is one I would like to try, but I am in the group of people not willing to drop $60 MSRP on it but who would have paid $40 for it.

The color choices for Qwirkle aren’t great, but the issue you describe with the blocks seems to vary by production lot. What I believe to be the second big print run had a lot of images off center and even tilted. The colors seem brighter and the quality is better in the later copies I’ve seen.

Pandemic is my surprise of the year. I didn’t expect to like it, but played it when Kevin bought it and really liked it. As of today, I’ve played it 61 times and don’t see it getting shelved anytime soon.

I'm also in the camp that thinks Race for the Galaxy plays quickly.

Bobby said...

TransAmerica: I still don't get why Bobby and Mike dislike this one so much. Bobby says it's not a game. Me, I like it just fine, and it's better with the expansion I picked up.
Draw cards. See who has the best draw. They win. The expansion might fix it, but does it make it worth it? I doubt it.

Matthew Frederick said...

Draw cards. See who has the best draw. They win. The expansion might fix it, but does it make it worth it? I doubt it.

Except that how completely not true that it. It's how people actually play out their links that makes all the difference. Yes, every once in a while you can get a draw that is fairly doomed, but as there are 3-4 builds per game, that tends to even out nicely.

The drafting tweak (which only adds 60 seconds to the game) mostly eliminates that, as well.

The expansion adds more strategy, and yes, lessens that effect even more, but I find it to be a perfectly fine game without the expansion.