Monday, December 14, 2009

Cult of the New 2009

Here we go, the annual listing of the new games I played in 2009 and some brief thoughts. I played 60 new games this year. Most of them I owned to start, though not all. I currently own 45 of these - that's up from last year as I have made a late effort this year to play a lot of my unplayed games. Only 5 of these are expansions to existing games. I present these in no particular order. the games I currently own are marked with an asterisk.
  • Pokémon Trading Card Game* - This was a game I got for my son as a reward system. It started out with two full pre-made decks. Worked out pretty well as he loves the game and the cards and pretty much anything Pokemon. I was later able to pick up a steal of cards (900 or so) for $50 from craigslist. I built a ton of decks and my son now has 10-12 decks. We play this a lot and I'm still surprised at how good a game is here. This TCG gets good marks from me because of the good variety and the ease with which you can build a new and interesting deck. There is a good variety to the cards, but it has become pretty obvious that newer cards have ramped up the power, making a lot of the older cards duds. That isn't terribly surprising given the evolution of the game over time, but you can easily tell why CCGs are money sinks.
  • The aMAZEing Labyrinth*- Another "Labyrinth" game, this is a bit simpler than its Master Labyrinth cousin. Still a bit complicated for a 5-6 year old. Otherwise, if you like puzzle games, this one is fine.
  • Cluzzle*- this party game was entertaining enough. I suck ass at making things with playdoh though. As with all party games - you need the right crowd at the right time.
  • Mechanisburgo- This was a game I really wanted after I had read about it. It sounded super - lots of good euro mechanics and dripping with theme. Of course the real issue was in the icons. A bit much made for overload in trying to take it all in. After about an hour, it wasn't terrible, but our one and only play was also hampered by the fact that each rules question we had took forever to try and find the clarification. And a couple of times, there was a reference to something and we weren't sure what was being talked about. The real kicker for all of us though was the randomness. There was too much of it, especially at the end of the game with the super winning conditions that randomly show up. I liked this game, but it felt like it needed some serious house rules to be worth playing again. I traded my copy away.
  • Power Grid - Power Plant Deck 2*- finally got to try this and I wasn't that impressed. I guess if you always played with it, it'd be ok. Otherwise, the changes in fuel consumption make for a different game than you are used to. With a lot of fuel-hungry plants, the cheap fuel plants are a huge advantage.
  • Smarty Party!- a trivia game where the goal is to know just a bit more than everyone else. You don't have to know all the answers, just the ones the other players don't. The categories are all over the map: sports, movies, tv, McDonald's menu items etc. This one is pretty fun if everyone is equally skilled at trivia, otherwise one or two people can kind of be out of the fun (true of most trivia games I think).
  • Time's Up! Title Recall!- I got to play both the original and this variant for the first time this year. This is a a great game that is good at parties as well as when the group gets big enough with the regular gamers. I think I like the title recall version a little more than the other.
  • DVONN*- I really liked this game from the GIPF series. I kicked ass the first time I played it and was smoked the second. Fairly different feeling from the others. Good filler - it seemed to be quicker than the others in the series.
  • Gem Dealer- um this game sucked. It is the dumber version of Knizia's own Ivanhoe card game. Ivanhoe is ok. This game was not and mostly the winner was whomever got lucky in the draw of the cards.
  • Mexica*- Surprisingly, I hadn't yet tried this one from the Mask Trilogy. Played it two-player with Nathan and found a decent game here. I have NEVER seen this played at a game night, which surprised me a bit - this was a fun game.
  • Pokémon Master Trainer*- I found this at a thrift store and was surprised to get it home and find it 100% complete. It is actually not a bad game for a roll and move deal. Like most Pokemon games, you try and collect a bunch of Pokemon so you can battle it out. This one lets you upgrade Pokemon, so trading with others (or stealing them from others) is likely needed if you want to win. A bit longer than I'm willing to play normally, but it does a good job keeping with the theme - and there are worse games out there.
  • Senji*- We only got to try this once, and I mis-played a pretty important rule. We have not tried again for whatever reason. I should drag this out to a game night soon.
  • Hive*- One of the great new abstracts I learned this year (and there were a lot of them). I really enjoy this one. I never feel like I'm playing very well, yet still feel like I do ok when the games are over. With or without the mosquito, this is just a good game.
  • Kinder Bunnies: Their First Adventure*- I think I actually like this better than Killer Bunnies. It is faster, more limited, and though random, it doesn't feel as random as Killer Bunnies.
  • Age of Steam Expansion - Secret Blueprints of Steam Plans 1&2*- I thought this expansion to AoS was alright. It takes away a bit of the direct conflict. The problem for me was that it was super inconvenient for everyone to hide their maps. I don't know - nothing special here I guess. I'd play it again if someone really wanted to try the maps, but I have other maps I'd rather try first.
  • 2 de Mayo- an interesting two player game with "pre-declared moves". You write down your moves and then execute them (or not). Something of a cat or mouse game. I was probably a bit too tired when I tried this to appreciate it.
  • Age Of Conan- Fantasy Flight had a really good year with Euro-Ameritrash games. This one was a good mix and a nice thematic romp. A bit longer than it needed to be, though not terribly so. I only had a chance to play it once, but I'd play it again if it was offered. Not quite good enough to shell out for, I'd trade for it if I had anything left to trade.
  • Bombay- this game sounded ok, looks great and is short. Except that by the time we got done playing nobody was all that impressed. Then someone pointed out that we had the exact same scores we would have had if we had done nothing but passed every round. Blech.
  • Confucius*- a really fun worker placement game that has a couple of unique mechanisms. This was a total surprise for me. I'm not sure what I expected, but I loved it immediately. The gift system is really cool and this needs to hit the table some more.
  • The End of the Triumvariate*- Finally tried this three player game out and I think I'd have to say it is my three-player game of choice. Most three-player games suffer from letting one person kick ass when the other two enter into any kind of conflict. This game steps around that well and is really well balanced. An odd number to try and get played much, but like San Marcos, the right game when you do have three players.
  • Ninja vs Ninja- Nathan and I tried this out while waiting to play Planet Steam. It is a goofy little two player game that was short and fun, though a bit luck driven.
  • Planet Steam- I got to play this monster at the Geekway 2009. It is a heck of a good game and it looks great. It also comes in a monster box and cost around $125. Though it was good and I'd happily play it, there are other games in monster boxes that cost $125+ I'd rather try first (yes, I'm talking to you Antiquity). Though I'm serious - I'd like to play this again Chester!
  • Qwirkle Cubes*- Ok, I admit it, the original Qwirkle has better gameplay. That being said, I liked the production of the cubes better than the original. The gameplay isn't that much different and the QC takes up less room so I have stuck with this version.
  • Roll Through the Ages: Bronze Age- I was not all that enthralled with this one. I don't know why. Maybe because the dice sucked (our copy was really hard to see the images). Maybe because the game just isn't that interesting. I'd rather play Airships or To Court a King any day.
  • Chung Toi*- This is sort of Tic Tac Toe, except that after you hit a stalemate, you can start moving your pieces to try and win. Nothing special, but it looks coolish...
  • Combat Commander: Europe*- This was one of the best games I was taught all year and after playing I immediately purchased a copy. And there it sits on my shelf. Of all the games I have, this one deserves to see more playtime. I have way too many two-player games. My son needs to get older sooner.
  • Hamsterolle*- This isn't a bad dexterity game. It isn't all that special either. I need to try Villa Piletti still, but I suspect that the whole concept of stacking/dexterity games is more fun to me than the actual games because I seem to rarely be entertained. Sac Noir might be the only one that I played that was really entertaining.
  • Ido*- This is a very pretty looking abstract game that has a fairly unique mechanic as well as a HUGE footprint. The game itself is ok, but not exceptional. It might get to see the table occassionally, except that I need a truck to take it anywhere. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but it definitely doesn't just fit in the bag.
  • Le Havre*- this should have been on last year's list, except that DHL somehow lost our shipment in German customs or something. By the time we got our order, we could have just waited and got it through Funagain or whomever. At any rate, the game is interesting. I'm not sure if it is more or less interesting than Agricola, but it is in the same vein for sure. At any rate - good not great and long enough that I usually would rather play something else.
  • Steel Driver- due to the economy I chose not to pre-order/pre-pay for the Wallace Treefrog sets this year. After trying Steel Driver, I saw where this wasn't a bad stock game and ended up getting a copy. I ended up trading it away in a math trade later though. While slightly different, it scratches the exact same itch for me as Chicago Express - and I like CE better. That meant I wasn't going to ever bother bringing Steel Driver out, so I traded it off. So anyway - good game, but not better than CE.
  • Die Weinhändler- Bobby brought this out one night. It is a set collection game that is semi-interesting and a little luck driven. Short enough that you don't care either way.
  • Star Wars: Epic Duels*- I got this in a trade. This is a much sought after game that is out of print. I'll be honest here - I have no clue why after I played it. Yeah, its ok. Its Star Wars and you can play fights between different characters from the movies. Each person/group has different play styles and such, but its basically a quick (very quick) squad (three person squad) level "duel". Big whoop. My son likes it and its fast, so I've held onto it, but I really don't get what the fuss is all about.
  • Go West- Dion pulled this out and I have to admit, it isn't a bad little game. Quick and with a enough interesting choices (kind of press your luck). Not something I needed to add to my collection of games, but I'd play it again.
  • Runebound*- One of my son's favorite new games I've taught him this year. This really seems to be best with two players. It is just too long with three people. I'd want to kill myself with more. With two going at a good clip, this one is a fun little romp. It is a bit luck filled, but the cards have interesting flavor and there are tons of expansions to keep things new.
  • Cow Tipping- I finally got to try Matthew Frederick's new game. It was super close to getting published and then bam! It didn't. Too bad - I liked it. I imagine it will eventually see the light of day - there is a lot of crap that is terrible that gets published every year, this should eventually see the light of day (because it is not crap).
  • Caylus Magna Carta*- I still have not played Caylus, but Nathan and I tried this out two player and it was pretty fun. Not too long either. If this scratches the same itch as Caylus, I'm not sure I need to play the longer more complicated version.
  • Doom: The Boardame*- I've kept this because it has always sounded like a good two-player game with a similar system to Descent, but in a faster play time. Tried it out with my son and it went ok. He needs another year or two before he'll really enjoy it, but he did like it. So did I.
  • Flaschenteufel*- Ah the tricky tricky bottle imp. I didn't really get it, but unlike other trick taking games I didn't quite get (Control Nut), I want to play this again.
  • Power Grid - Korea/China*- I tried China, but not Korea. Does that mean this should be on the list again next year? China was a good alternative, but we played with six and I really just don't like PG with six.
  • Tales of the Arabian Nights*- this was a pure impulse buy and I have to admit I enjoyed the game a lot. There was the occasional gaff in the book, but not that big a deal I don't think. There was the occasional oddity - you can basically react any way you want, there is no penalty nor bonus for "staying in character" or anything and some of the status changes can really slow you down and or crop up pretty randomly. Despite that, it is what it is - a multiplayer choose your own adventure. Its more about the social stories then about gaming.
  • Timber Tom*- Here is a game that is really nicely done. The board and bits are great and the game looks really cool. Sadly, the game is just slightly lacking. I'm not sure what it needs, but its just missing something. I think the problem is that there is just enough randomness to determine the outcome of what is otherwise a decent little game.
  • Stratego Legends*- Here is a game that got killed by trying to re-imagine a classic game a bit too much. This version is better than the original, but I'm sure when it came out it got mauled for being a "collectible" (think CCG) style game. Truth is, they shouldn't have tried to even go that direction with this.
  • Airships*- hey everyone, its Yahtzee! with a theme and stuff. No, its more and different. How about - Its To Court the King with a theme about building blimps...
  • Medieval Merchant* - Here is a game I've had for a long time that is rated well, yet I've never seen played (until the night I brought it out). It isn't a bad game and I can't really compare it with much else. Yet at the same time, it doesn't have a totally unique feel that makes me want to bring it out a lot either.
  • Mr. Jack*- Dion taught me this quick little two-player deduction game. I think it is a really clever game, though I don't have any clue how you win this sucker as Jack.
  • Thurn and Taxis*- I got this years ago from Tanga (with an expansion). Despite the Spiel de Jahres and such, I hadn't seen this played before but finally got Bobby to teach me. And back on the shelf it went. It is actually not a bad little game, but it wasn't compelling enough to keep coming out while I still have so many other unplayed games.
  • A Castle For All Seasons- I missed the hype on this game and was surprised to see a newer game that I had never heard of. After playing it, I found it an interesting game with an odd currency system that is the heart of the game. I'd play this again, but it feels like enough other games that I don't care if I own it (yet).
  • Chaos in the Old World*- one of my favorite new games this year. It is fast, and interesting. A really good combination of euro and ameritrash. My only real complaint is the fragile cultist pieces just don't quite match the normal FF quality.
  • Chicago Express: Narrow Gauge & Erie Railroad Company*- this expansion would be a total rip off if I didn't love this game. You know what? It still is a total rip off. You could play this game 20 times and not need any kind of expansion or variant. $30 for a couple of wooden bits? Seriously? Don't get me wrong, the expansions are nice little variants, but - come on!
  • Dampfross*- I knew what I was getting when I bought this and I knew what I was getting into when I first started playing this. What I wasn't expecting was the length of the game (long). Nor was I expecting to enjoy the game as much as I did. Although the game was a bit long, it really wasn't bad. BTW, this game would never even get considered as a Spiel choice these days.
  • GIPF*- This might be the best of the whole GIPF series. Nuff said.
  • Munchkin Quest*- A tongue in cheek dungeon crawl. It really isn't a bad little game. It has some take that kind of stuff, so I can certainly see where a 4 player game could be a bit long. But, as a two player game, it was kinda fun. It might be grand as a three. Who knows, it could be good for 4. Or it could be too long.
  • Why Did the Chicken?*- Ok, this is one of those games that is conceptually great, but you really have to have a funny group of people to play with.
  • Atlantic Star*- Everyone says that Showmanager is the better version. I admit, the theme of Atlantic Star was lost on me. Since there was essentially no theme, this turned into a marginally interesting set collection game.
  • Oasis*- I was surprised that this Tanga game was actually not bad. I'm told it really should only be played with five players. That's fine, it was light, but with a few interesting choices.
  • Steam*- as an AoS fan, I really didn't expect to care for the changes offered here. Surprise! A couple of them are ok. It definitely takes the edge off a difficult and tense game and turns it into a slightly complex, but more mass-appeal euro. The new production mechanism is a huge leg up on the crappy original. The other changes make for a less tense, but faster playing game. My preference will be for AoS, but this is a good alternative.
  • Magna Grecia*- I wasn't sure what to expect. This is a connection game that I didn't quite grok. The rules are pretty straight forward, but for whatever reason I seemed to not grasp this one out the gate. It isn't a bad game, but I can see why it has been lost in the shuffle of games since it came out.
  • Khronos*- this is a clever game. I can't think of anything else like it. The rules seem a bit odd at first, but if you step back from it for a minute, they make perfect sense when you think of it in terms of time travel (which is probably why some people won't like it). I liked it and want to play it some more. There is a bit of randomness in the draw of the cards, but that could be toned down pretty easily with a change to the drawing rules.
  • Sunken City*- another Tanga game I finally played this year. This is a race game. It isn't anything spectacular nor does it suck. It just is. Too bad, since it looks really cool while you are playing it.
  • Steam Barons*- I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I guess I was expecting a variant of Steel Driver based on Steam system (since both are Wallace). Instead, this was a COMPLEX stock game. Steve Bauer said it felt like 18xx-lite. I liked it a lot, but this is not for people that can't tolerate AP. To do well, you have to be able to get a handle on what all the companies can do - what two goods are each company going to move and how far EACH TURN. Now, we are pretty sure that we didn't do anywhere near as well as we could have since we took a fairly "AoS" approach to our playing. I look forward to more playings next year.

1 comment:

Matthew Frederick said...

Mexica: we played it a _lot_ back when, so you just missed the flood.

Roll Through the Ages: so superior to Airships it's not even funny. The decisions are much more interesting, imo.