Friday, December 31, 2010

Excuses, A-Holes, and End-of-the-Year Lists

That's right, its about that time - my end of the year lists! I don't know - this year was a little weird. Started out ok, then got busy at work and gaming just wasn't catching my eye. I've hit the saturation point of games (both from a "played that" kind of feel and purely out of space. I did discover a few new gems this year and my son and I have been playing a lot of Pokemon too. And not only did my plays drop off, but my writing did as well. Just too much work. Blech.

At any rate, this wasn't a terrible year for gaming. There was the Geekway 2010, the online Olympics and I introduced another co-worker to gaming. So lets start with all the "Cult of the New" games:
  • Die Macher - finally got to play this and I wasn't disappointed, but it was exhausting.
  • Undercut - Really unique bidding game using Treehous pieces. I like it.
  • Hermagor - This is a favorite of the AZ Gamers I play with, but it just doesn't do it for me.
  • Thunderstone - I like this at least twice as much as Dominion. It isn't the best game ever, but it is fun to me. I wrote a randomizer and web page to generate the cards to use...
  • Union vs Central - Another SUPER long game. This one is a two player logistics game that was fun, but there is so much effort to do anything, and about 1/3 of the actions you can take are "take that!!!" on your opponent. Seriously like a 10 hour two player game of back and forth.
  • Through the Ages - This is another I finally got to play and love. It is Civ in boardgame form. So good.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation - This is how Stratego should be. Fast, lots of bluffing and fun.
  • Bus - Cool at first, I apparently just didn't grok it and ended up lukewarm. The online interface doesn't allow you to make a mis-click. That doesn't help.
  • Fits - This is the slow boring version of Tetris. I love Tetris - this is meh.
  • UR - I should have loved this, but in our online Olympics, I was too frustrated with the randomness. That and Justin not reading the rules and giving Nathan wins every game.
  • Infinite City - This is a tile laying "take that" game. it was ok, but felt pretty random.
  • Neue Heimat - The best auction game EVER. This is a nasty game and I loved it.
  • Campaign Manager 2008 - This should have been a cool little card drafting game but it fell flat for me. The theme was cool at first, until you realize both sides cards are the same, just different flavor text.
  • Samarkand: Road to Riches - Surprising me this year was this beauty. It is quick and feels a little like Chicago Express. There is a bit of randomness that can take away control, but it plays so quickly you won't care.
  • Castle Panic - I hated this game. I played with people I like, but this just sucked.
  • Ra: The Dice Game - Boring. What can you say about a generic dice game that has a tacked on theme from a game with a tacked on theme?
  • Kingsburg - I do like this game, but only with the expansion. Dice games aren't my favorite, but they can be fun. Besides, other than Twilight Struggle, it was the only game I could beat Nathan at during the Geekway.
  • Dread Pirate - dumb dumb dumb. I didn't hate this like Castle Panic, but there wasn't much point in playing it either.
  • Oregon - I liked this one. Its a clever little tile game with interesting tactical choices.
  • Bisikle - This is similar to Pitchcar, except that you "flick" a little yellow ball with ball bearings. It allows you some control (much like a cue ball in pool) to do some interesting things. The track is plastic and interlocking, which makes for a naturally smooth surface.
  • Diamond's Club - This one didn't excite me - its a gather A to make B to score points kind of thing.
  • Orient Express - Noah brought this old game out. It is a who dunit mystery which was spoiled by luck - if you get lucky, you get more clues, which of course means you can solve the mystery first.
  • Take It Higher! - I enjoyed this one a lot. It is a puzzle game where everyone is placing the same piece to score multiple ways. This particular version has a bunch of extra things to think about, so it might be "too much of a good thing".
  • Thebes - I was surprised to like this one as much as I did. Very random, but fun little planning game and of course, it works well as a family game.
  • Claustrophobia - Another surprise. I had never heard of it, but saw it at the Geekway and got it for my son. This is a cool game - not quite a dungeon crawl, but close. Mechanics are pretty easy and cool with the dice. Well done two-player game.
  • Reef Encounter - I should like this game, but this is one where it really feels like randomness spoils a good abstract game.
  • Telestrations - Might be as good or better party game than Say Anything!
  • Gonzaga - This one was a bit different. You place different sized plastic pieces on the board - sort of "claiming territory". It is a bit of set collection via the claimed areas. Interesting and not bad.
  • Finito! - I don't remember much except this is short and I thought it was easy.
  • IGOR! The Monster Making Game - Total random filler. Cute, but not much here.
  • Top Race - I really like race games. Especially when you can screw other players. This was fun.
  • Fresco - Another gather A to make B to score points game. Meh.
  • D&D: Castle Ravenloft Boardgame - I'm a sucker for dungeon crawls. This is D&D for dummies and that's ok with me. I'm not into the whole role playing thing, I just want to bash stuff. It is a co-op, which is cool too.
  • Axis & Allies: D-Day - speaking of "for dummies", this is the A&A version for dummies. Its a quick intro style game for Axis and Allies, but there isn't a ton of replayability here. At least I finally played one of my Axis and Allies games.
  • Lost Cities: The Boardgame - a lot like the card game, but for four players and with a few twists to keep it from being the same each round.
  • 7 Wonders - I hadn't heard of this before, but it is a quick civ game based on card drafting. It was good enough to play twice in a row (a rarity for our group).
So, I'm not picking just one favorite from that group this year. I really really liked Neue Hiemat, Through the Ages, and Samarkand. They are all good games. For the bottom three: Castle Panic, Ra: The Dice Game, and Campaign Manager 2008 - BARF.

Next: Nickles and Dimes. These are the games played at least 5 or 10 times this year:
Balloon Cup

Pokémon Trading Card Game
Combat Commander: Europe
UNO (yeah, played this a bazzillion times this summer).

Reef Encounter
Through the Desert
Samarkand: Routes to Riches

I think that Ballon Cup ended up as my most played game - it was easy to teach and play with Robert throughout the year. We hate it now. Sadly, Samurai and a lot of other Knizia games left the PBEM world this year. It's too bad as Samurai remains one of my all time favorite games. A lot of the nickles were due to the PBEM Olympics, but as I also discovered, I wasn't a big fan of a lot of them. Ok, that's it for 2010 - hopefully I'll be around more next year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gaming With My Son

The last couple of weekends I was able to get a bit of gaming in with my son. First off we pulled out Runebound last weekend. This is one of his favorites and honestly one that we can get through pretty quickly for the two of us. I was ahead for a bit, then he got a potion that was worth essentially three levels of experience! I had to race to get ahead and managed to find and kill three red bad guys a turn before Ashton had a shot at his third red bad guy. A very close win. I still have a whole expansion we haven't even touched yet. He still seems to enjoy this one a lot so it'll probably come out some more too.
This last week finally settled down long enough for me to teach Ashton Star Wars - The Queen's Gambit. This old AH/Hasbro game is simple enough that Ashton quickly grasped the game, and yet interesting enough to actually want to play it once in a while. I played the good guys, while Ashton took on the role of the Trade Federation. I started out with Anakin ripping though the star fighters, but Ashton stymied him at the end with a stack of 10 cards which I never whittled down. On the Gungan battle field, I was able to more than hold my own. Unfortuantely, Ashton went ballistic with Darth Maul and it wasn't long before I had no Jedi and lost my real queen. The Captain and fake queen made a break for the throne room, but the droid army put a quick end to the uprising.

Merry Christmas

Secret Santa left me a few gifts. There were a number of "coal" items (Lord of the Rings Top Trumps card game anyone? - it is basically War) and of course a game. Before that, I'll point out that I also received a book - Wayne Cordeiro's The Divine Mentor - a book about growing one's faith. I nice gesture that brings a little more to the whole Secret Santa than just buying a game for another random person.

As far as the game goes, I received Sisimizi - this is one of those random games I stumbled across on the geek (I honestly don't remember what geeklist I found this one on). It is essentially an abstract and fairly rare (at least in the US). When I opened the box, it took a minute to recognize the game - it isn't one I would have expected.

So to my SS - thank you and I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas.

As to whom my SS is - I still have no clue :)