Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome back. Its that time of year - when we look back and review the year and I put up my "Cult of the New List". These are all the games I tried for the first time in 2011. So without further ado, here we go.

51st State was a game I was introduced to by Matt Longieliere. It is (IIRC) something of an engine building game where the cards have multiple uses. I remember it being neither great nor bad. I would have played it again, but I never had the chance and it wasn't something I felt I needed to acquire.
Aargh!Tect was something we felt like we had to try out at the Geekway. Late on Friday or Saturday I played this with a group of folks from Union Pacific and it is pretty silly. Its meant to be. The caveman player tries to get the others to arrange a set of blocks in a certain way (as shown on his card) using a made-up caveman language. The caveman gets an inflatable club to hit the builders with to indicate NO! or Good Job! It was good for a late night laugh, but definitely not something that would ever see semi-regular play if I owned it.
Age of Industry was one I picked up based solely on people I knew liking Brass. I had never played Brass, but decided I really liked what Martin Wallace did with Steam vs Age of Steam, so decided to take a chance when I saw this on the shelf of the local game shop. I'm glad I did as it is really a great game. The fact that it has a double sided board and each side plays fairly differently was a plus. After playing each side once, I immediately bought the expansion maps (Japan was a blast). After a string of somewhat iffy games, I think Martin Wallace hit a groove in the last year or so. Definitely a great game here.
Alien Frontiers was my present from my Secret Santa this year (hey, it was sent unwrapped). I first saw this at the Geekway but wasn't too moved to seek it out. However, in the last half of this year I went into a dice-game kick and was pleased when I got to play this. Its akin to To Court the King - you roll dice and then adjust them to make a play (or plays). It allows for some cool plays, but the luck factor seems to be more prevalent than in some other dice games. It also drags a bit with four players. Despite all that, I still enjoyed it a lot.
Artus is the latest in the Alea Medium Box set. I received this one for Christmas from my kids and got a chance to play it right before the end of the year. Fairly original mechanic with the spinning board. Not to deep or heavy, a good shorter game for the end of the night, or a quick starter.
Ascending Empires was a game that came out of left field. It is a mix between a dexterity game, a space exploration and colonization game, and an engine game. Definitely nothing else like it on the market. Fun enough for a couple of plays, it started to feel very "samey" after the first couple of plays and I traded it away.
Battles of Westeros was a game I initially resisted. I own BattleLore and wasn't sure I needed another BattleLore (with the Westeros theme). When I finally played it, I realized that this was likely the crowning achievement in the Command and Colors series of games (which interestingly enough, isn't included as part of the series on BGG). The subtle changes to the order system alleviate some of the issues that have persisted in the various incarnations of the game and it feels slightly less complex than C&C:Ancients. They did a really great job with the theme on this one as well and I'd happily play this just about anytime. This one easily replaces BattleLore for me.
Battleship Galaxies was something I was interested in trying out and luckily for me, my friend Erik brought it over one night. It wasn't terrible, but has almost nothing in common with classic Battleship, except that the game has red and white pegs (which serve a purpose very different than the original). This one is a tactical slugfest from the guys that brought us Heroscape (which is not a bad thing). It was ok, but didn't strike a chord with me either.
I got to play Battling Tops as part of a late night tourney at the Geekway. This is totally random nonsense, but when you've been staying up late and are a bit punchy, its pretty good fun to shout and cheer your top to victory.
Before the Wind sounded a lot like a game I'd enjoy, but I didn't really care for it. Its basically one of those collect some stuff to make other stuff to get points kind of game. It wasn't great with three players, it felt like it'd have been better with four, but wasn't interesting enough to warrant a try.
Blue Moon City is one I've had for a while now, but hadn't tried. This Knizia game is only related to his Blue Moon card game in art. Otherwise, its somewhat standard (though on the better side) of his style games. Multiple ways to score points, but you can't focus on just one nor on all. You need to focus in on just a couple. Its easy to learn and plays fairly quickly and sits right up there with Through the Desert and Samurai as one of his better games (IMHO).
Carcassonne: The City has been around for a while, but I only just played this one (this month!). I've been playing a lot of Carc with the kids this year (they love it) and I have to say I'm surprised how little I've heard about this version - I think its really one of the better versions of the game. Fans of the series should really get this one - its superb.
Cargo Noir was a new game from Days of Wonder and on the Play-To-Win table at the Geekway, so we tried it.It was a fun little game - good family fare, but not too light. There is a little bidding and set collection and we all agreed it was ok, but not something we had to get in more plays of by any means.
Code Omega was something I hadn't heard of before, but it turns out it is basically a puzzle game ala Ubongo. Everyone has a set of sticks with patterns on them and you have to line them up to fit on the outline of the image in such a way that the lines on the sticks also match up. Seriously - its a variant on Ubongo. If you LOVE Ubongo, you'll love this and if you hate Ubongo, don't look here.
I first hear Cyclades being compared to Chaos in the Old World. This made it appealing. I found it to be ok, but quite a bit longer than I wanted and not as exciting by a long ways. Close finishing games are ok, but not when it doesn't feel like you can do anything exciting to pull away. It felt an awful lot like it was designed to be a photo finish, and that mean that random luck decided the outcome to the game.
Dominant Species. One of the best games I played last year. Really a clean design and engaging game. Six different species fighting for survival - each with a different game specific advantage. This one is long and brutal (there is sooo much bashing, but its in good fun), but it is really interesting the whole time you are playing.
Elder Sign aka Arkham Horror lite aka Arkham Horror the Dice Game. For those that wanted Arkham Horror to be shorter and less thematic, here you go. If you want the full-on-in-your-face-Lovecraft-experience, play Arkham. If you like the theme, but can do without being bashed over the head with it for hours at a time, here you go.
Empire Builder is a crayon rails game. I'm not sure what I expected, but it was a little too long for what I got out of it. It was interesting for a while, then the game turned from logistics to luck of the draw. Too bad.
Giants wasn't something I'd ever heard of. Matthew brought this one over and after he explained it, I could see where the appeal was. Its about building Moaïs on Easter Island and racing to get them to the most valuable spots. Its fairly standard Euro-fare, better than some, worse than others.
Glen More was one I kept hearing about, but never seeing. I finally bought a copy site unseen and haven't been a bit disappointed. This is one where the person in last chooses what they want. If they get greedy, the other players will get a lot of turns before they go again. You are trying to build up your Glen to gather more clan chieftens, scotch and special places than the other tribes. Such good Euro-fun!
I tried Ilium for the first time at the Geekway and was under impressed. This felt like another Knizia-churn. It did very little to stand out from all his other games and wasn't as good as the others eithers.
Another Play-To-Win game at the Geekway, Innovation is a card based Civ game. Its also a rich-get-richer game, which I hate. Guess how I felt about this game?
Keythedral is an older game that has been out of print for a while - I picked it up in trade at some point, but finally got to try it out this year. Nathan Winchester and I played it two players and it wasn't bad. It might have been new and special when it first came out, but it is pretty much standard euro-fare now.
Kreta is another older Euro. This one was never picked up for printing in the US. Also something of standard euro-fare, it isn't anything special, but it does have an online implementation on MaBiWeb, so I wanted to try it out face-to-face to understand the game first. I'll happily play it online now, but will likely trade or sell this off.
Lancaster was not a game on my radar, but Matthew and Amelia brought it over one night and we played a four-player game of it. It is a euro with something of a bid/outbid mechanism (similar, but not quite the same as Amun-Re). It was surprisingly good and I'd happily play this again.
Lexio is a game that is really hard to get. The publisher was Korean and after getting a couple printings out, never get any more done. The tiles for the game are nice balkalite tiles (mine is the less desirable WHITE version :( ) essentially replace cards for the game Big Two. I finally was able to obtain a copy and after having played this online solo, got it played face-to-face. It is really a pretty quick game and more something of a filler than anything. Still, a good little family game that will appeal to non-gamers.
Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel - I had a copy of this and wanted to see what it was all about with a full compliment of gamers. I got my chance at the Geekway as Chester Ogborn wanted to run a full set of scenarios. Unfortunately, the game (and the group of folks) just weren't that exciting. A couple of the guys playing were about as enthusiastic as a 5-year old would be at a knitting show. that aside, the game itself was only so-so and I traded this away right after I got back from the Geekway. It definitely showed its age.
Nightfall was on the play-to-win table at the Geekway, so a big group of us sat down to learn this. This was easily the worst game I played at the Geekway. It sounded like it would be ok, but that promise never materialized for any of us.
Ninjato was a game I grabbed on a whim at my FLGS. This is a thematic euro with a little bit of a push your luck element to it. It was clever enough, but I think I need to try it again to decide if I want to keep it or not.
Powerboats is a racing game (in boats). The courses are randomly setup for each race and there is a fairly good amount of screwage (which of course puts it up there with Ave Caesar and other good race games). I need to get this one to the table more in the next year.
Princes of the Renaissance is an older Wallace game that is out of print. I got to join Chester Ogborn for his yearly Geekway game of this. They always play this late in the con (late at night) when everyone is a little bit punchy. There are plenty of laughs and random silliness. Of course, none of that has anything to do with the actual game itself, but it definitely flavored my impression of the game. The game itself is classic old-school Wallace in that it wasn't until the game was over that I really got the flow of the game. I really prefer his more recent designs, but will happily play this again.
Roads and Boats is a Splotter game I've had for a while that I finally got around to playing this year. This is an engine game with lots of stuff going on. Its also classic Splotter - lots and lots of chits and fiddliness. There is a fun game here, but even with everyone basically playing at the same time, it is a bit longer.
Runebound: The Island of Dread is an expansion set that I picked up since my son really like Runebound. Unfortunately, this isn't a great expansion. It has a new map which is MUCH harder than the original. This expansion is really only for the expert/hardcore Runebound fans.
Shogun is one I've had in my collection for a long time and hadn't played. I was ready to trade it, but really wanted to try it first. I finally got to play it and have to admit - I shouldn't have waited so long. The game is a pretty good conflict/wargame and the tower is kind of a cool mechanism. Good stuff!
Stone Age is one of the first games I played at this year's Geekway. I have mostly avoided this one so far because I came to the conclusion that worker placement games are just not really my cup of tea. They all just kind of feel the same to me. This wasn't bad, but nothing special.
The Resistance is something of a social deduction game ala Werewolf. Part of the group is made up of spies who try to foil the rest of the player's attempt to overthrow the government. The excitement comes in trying to root out the bad guys and all the lying and backstabbing. It is better with a larger group and everyone needs a thick skin, but is a load of fun.
Tikal II is the followup to the classic original - Tikal. As a fan of the original, I thought I should give this a go (and it was part of the play-to-win table at the Geekway). Sadly, this is nowhere near as good as the original. Skip this one and go play the original.
Troyes was another spur of the moment choice from the FLGS. This is also one of the most original and clever use of dice in a game I've seen in a while. Each player gets dice based on the placement of their workers on the board and then can use their dice and the other player's (at a cost) to take actions or get more dice for the next round. A good surprise.
Yomi was one I hadn't heard of until the Geekway. It was pretty simple to learn and yet has some interesting and quick gameplay (especially since it is basically Rock-Paper-Scissors). The full set has 10 decks of cards for dueling and the decks are all pretty balanced. I traded for this right after the Geekway and my son loves this game. A great find!
Zombie Dice is pretty much a stupid push your luck dice game. That didn't stop Nathan and I from playing this between almost all our games at the Geekway. Most of our head-to-head games took about 2 minutes to resolve (mostly in my favor). not the best game ever, but I have fond memories of this one :).

And now that the list is complete, we can talk about best and the worst of the list. Let's start with the crap:
  • Innovation - once you fall behind, you can stop playing. How is this fun?
  • Runebound: The Island of Dread - not for the faint of heart. Why bother playing Runebound if all players lose halfway through the game?
  • Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel - this might have been good back in the day, but there are better choices in this genre now days.
  • Nightfall - the description promises a good deck-building game. It doesn't deliver.
  • Tikal II - this would have been just another euro if it didn't have the name Tikal.
The best of the year:
  • Dominant Species - a bit long, but worth it the whole time. A lot of fun.
  • Age of Industry - one of the best Wallace games I've played.
  • Yomi - quite a bit of fun for Rock-Paper-Scissors
  • Battles of Westeros - best of the C&C family of games with a great theme and great gameplay
  • Glen More - great combo of mechanics makes for a fun little game.

1 comment:

Yatz said...

Didn't you and Steve not play exactly by the rules for Innovation, leaving out the anti-snowballing drawing of cards if you don't get the benefit of something? (I forget what it was.)