Thursday, March 09, 2017

If These Are So Great, Why Not Play Them More?

Periodically I check and then update my BGG top 10 list. Over the years, I've updated it less and less frequently as I have found that it more or less has stayed the same. I have the same sort of arguments with my self about "would I rather play game X than game Y" in order to see if I can fight a game into the top ten and it has been getting to where only that 10th place ever seems to change.

Sometimes a game rides a fair wave of enthusiasm from me past the 10th place and then I tend to have the argument about where to place it and also about whether the new #11 should be ahead of #10 and so on, but overall my list has been fairly similar for a while now. And yet... If these are my 10 favorite games, why don't I play them more? All I can say is - it is complicated.

In years past there was a BGG March Madness tourney that put games head-to-head in a bracket and you picked your favorite between the two with the game with the most votes continuing on into the next round of the tourney. This is the same kind of system I use internally to rank these. So here is my list and my reasons for why I enjoy them and perhaps the excuses I have for not playing them more.

#1: Combat Commander: Europe
#2: Tichu
#3: Kingdom Builder
#4: Power Grid
#5: Samurai
#6: Viticulture: Complete Collector's Edition
#7: Ticket to Ride
#8: Steam
#9: Eldritch Horror
#10: Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

#10 - Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game When Dominion hit the scene, everyone fell in love with deck builders. I thought the mechanic was neat, but Dominion itself was very meh. I much preferred Thunderstone (still do) over it. It wasn't too long before Legendary came along and for me, this might be the pinnacle of standard card-based deckbuilders.
First of all, I'm a huge fan of Marvel comics, so that was a big selling point. They did a great job of integrating the comic themes into the game. Next, the game itself is fun to play and I enjoy finding combos while feeling like I'm playing out a comic story. Is this game perfect? Nope, but I love it all the same. The only thing I really don't like is that it takes forever to setup and tear down. This game also hit a saturation point for me after Guardians of the Galaxy. No big deal - I have soomuch material that I think I'll be ok.

#9 - Eldritch Horror I am not a crazy Lovecraft fan. I read The Arkham Horror and found it interesting and the whole mythos is cool, but I'm not a crazy. I've tried a couple different Cthulu kind of games over the years, but none hit the mark until this came along. It is easily the best of the genre that I've played (sooo much better than Arkham Horror). This is really a great story game and great co-op.
I've about run the course of storage space on this one, but I haven't called it quits on getting expansions (though I'm nearly sure I wont ever know all the cards and stories of what I have now...). This doesn't hit the table as often as I'd like due to its length and the fact that others don't love it as much as I do, but if suggested, I'd pretty much say yes. 

#8 - Steam I started out on Age of Steam and was full on committed. I had all the original maps and a lot of other expansions (fan made and official releases). When I first tried Steam, I was expecting something watered down. But after a couple playings, I realized it scratched all the same itches for me while being faster and more streamlined - so I gave up on AoS. I'd still play it, but prefer to play Steam. Either one is a nice meaty euro that rewards clever play and planning. That being said, other than a couple solo plays on my iPad, I haven't played this in FOREVER. Why? It plays best with 3-5 and my normal group isn't in love with it as I am. In fact, one of the guys I normally sit down to play games with - used to love it, but when we played together, we ALWAYS were in conention and being dicks to each other. Which meant the games were not quite as fun as we took each other out and let the others win. This is one I'd like to get played more, but I suspect it won't get nearly the playings I'd ever like.

#7 - Ticket to Ride So how does a game that is almost universally recommended as a gateway game beat out Steam? By being incredibly good and fun. I have the first 5 map packs, Europe and the Anniversary edition, so I have plenty of variety. It plays well with any number from 2-6. I've played a ton electronically and I'm still happy to play a game on my iPad or at the table. I can play with friends, my kids, and just about anyone. It is easy to understand how Alan Moon has been so successful with this game.

#6 - Viticulture: Complete Collector's Edition When I first read about this game, I backed it on Kickstarter (the original Viticulture). When I first learned to play it, it was from Jamey himself. What I found was a wonderfully thematic game. I'm so-so on worker placement games, but I loved this. The original game had flaws, but the expansions helped with some of that. So when the Complete Collector's Edition was announced, I sold my original purchase and bought in on the new set. Boy was that the right move. Not only is it a wonderful production, but it is fun as hell. The expansions offer a nice diversity to the game which lets you craft your strategy depending on what you have available to you. Things not working out? No problem, because there are plenty of ways to score points. Lots of clever ways to play and win. I especially like that this is good for two players.

#5 - Samurai I love this game. When I first learned to play, I was so-so on it, but the more I played, the better it became. I found the beauty in it with 2-3-4 players and am pretty good if I say so myself. It does have a flaw - players of unequal play level/experience really throw the balance off (severe player to the left of the new guy wins kind of deal). Otherwise it has a nice balance of tactical and strategic play. I'd be playing the hell out of this electronically, except that the developer let the account lapse and I can't find anyone to play this against.

#4 - Power Grid Power Grid and Age of Steam were staples for me back when I first started in this hobby. The group I played with was REALLY good at auction games and used to really stick it to you (me). Well, I eventually got better at auctions and then I saw what a spectacular game PG really was. In most of the March Madness tourneys, I could not find a game I liked better during voting (my top three usually didn't make it that far in the brackets). The number of times that PG has topped the tourney is a testament to how great a game this is. A lot of players feel this is just an exercise in math - I suspect that they don't play with auction masters. This is an auction and positioning game. If you don't see that, you are playing it wrong.

#3 - Kingdom Builder Kingdom Builder is another that I liked the first time I played, but it was only after playing a bunch that it clicked and I saw how great it was. People complain about the randomness of the card draws, but that is the point of the game - setting yourself up to score and making sure you gave yourself opportunities as the game went on. What I really like about all the expansions to the game - they don't make it more complicated. Nope, all they do is add different setups and abilities (ie more variety). I really wish Queen hadn't tied the electronic game to BSW, because this screams for async play, not real time in a flaky setup.

#2 - Tichu I grew up playing cards (it must be a midwest thing) - hearts, euchre, spades, pinochle, etc. The first time I played Tichu, it felt like home. When I started playing with people that were good and got over my fear of calling Tichu, I gained an even greater love of the game. This doesn't get as much play as I'd like because - it requires two teams of two. Chimera was released in the last couple of years and it is a three player game with very similar feel to Tichu, which helped scratch the itch, but doesn't replace the king of ladder games.

#1 - Combat Commander: Europe My number one game is Combat Commander: Europe (and Med, but not Pacific). No other game has ever pulled me into its story and given me as many memorable moments as this (next closest contender in that category might be A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame). Everytime I've played, I could feel the story. Crazy stuff happened. The chaos of war. It might have just remained fun chaos, but then I started playing against guys that were good at the game. I saw that you could try and manage the chaos to some extent. Wow did that open up the game. And still, the stories piled up. I ran a tourney at the Geekway a few years back, and every match had a crazy and awesome story. Unfortunatly, the game has a learning curve and a theme that isn't broadly appealing. I used to play my friend Robert on a regular basis, but then he moved away like a jerk. I hope to play this again on a regular basis someday, but for now, I still just remember all the crazy fun I used to have playing this.

And that's it. I could probably get by only playing games from my top ten. I like a lot of games and feel like there are games in my collection that are there for a reason, but if I had my way and got to only play 10 games, that would probably be the list. Again, #10 is a little fluid. I could probably list a lot more that could get swapped out for Legendary (Mystery Rummy Jack the Ripper, A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame, Crokinole, Medici, etc), but for now, it holds the coveted last spot.

No comments: