My 2014 top 100: 20–1

by Mikko on October 17, 2014

in More about games

Here’s the final installment of my list. See the previous part. Now we’re getting to seriously good games.

20–19

String Railway — Build railways of strings. Simple, sometimes frustratingly imprecise, but all the same very charming. This is a delightful game, a lovely filler in a small box that works with a full range of players from two to five. Beautiful game. Just don’t take it too seriously, that’ll suck the fun out of it like a vacuum. The strings just aren’t that exact.

Carcassonne — The classic tile-laying game. I got into this when the game was new – the copy I still have is imported from Germany and has home-made River expansion. I never really got into expansions, and eventually got a bit bored (between 2003 and 2010 was a seven-year period when I played exactly two games of Carcassonne). The excellent iOS version of the game got me back playing Carcassonne, and now that my son is old enough, we’ve started to play Carcassonne a lot more. This is a keeper, but I still prefer the game without expansions, or using just one expansion at most.

18

1825 — I bundled all the different 1825 games in one package for the purposes of this list. I’ve mostly played 1825 Unit 3 as a two-player game, and I’ve only played Unit 1 and Unit 2 once. I haven’t tried any of the combinations yet. That’s on my to-do list. Anyway, 1825 is the best 18xx games on this list, and perhaps slightly overrated, as it’s almost four years from my previous play and I haven’t really felt the need to play this… but at the same time, I know this set has a permanent place in my collection, considering I own all of it.

17–16

Kingdom Builder — Many people complain about this game, but many also like it. I’m firmly in the camp that likes the game. It’s such a clever game. Simple rules, simple gameplay, yet so engaging. It’s not all luck, either: I’ve won more than just random distribution would suggest, and I rarely lose to the hard AI of the iOS version. I think there’s a rather real skill element to this game, even if the cards can sometimes work against you. As a family game or casual game, Kingdom Builder is very good.

Preußische Ostbahn — My favourite game from Winsome (well, almost). I think this is the best one of the Winsome historical cube games: all the different railroad companies with their special powers, the brilliant turn order mechanism where turn order is random and weighted depending on your success in the game, so that the losing players can get several turns per round and the leading player gets one turn, if she gets a move at all. That’s just so unfair and so much fun. It’s an interesting challenge to win by not taking turns at all!

15

Go — No Chess on my list. Go, however, earns a spot. It’s been years since I last played Go face to face, but considering I have online games going all the time, I’ve already played several hundred games of Go, more than any other game. I’m not particularly fanatic about it, though, and haven’t really studied the game, I’ve just read couple of books. I’m not that interested in devoting lots of effort to one game, no matter how good.

14

Mahjong — Another classic on my list. I like Rummy games, and Mahjong is the ultimate Rummy game. This one I never get to play – it’s just too hard to organize a game, and most people enjoy the wrong kinds of Mahjong. My favourite style is Zung Jung, designed by Alan Kwan (who is a fan of eurogames). The key word here is “designed”: Zung Jung is thoughtfully designed to follow reasonable principles. It just hasn’t evolved in a haphazard way, like Riichi. It also isn’t overly complicated, like the Chinese official. But most Mahjong players these days are Japan-influenced and prefer Riichi. Also, Mahjong requires four players, who all should be familiar with the game, otherwise it’s painfully slow. It’s not a complicated game and should move fast – if it doesn’t, it’s really boring.

13

Agricola — When this one came out in 2007, I played it in the Helcon convention and were suitably impressed. I was originally going to wait for the English edition, but then I just had to purchase the German edition. That’s still what I have, but of course after that I’ve got the animeeples and vegimeeples. I’m slightly odd in the sense that I don’t like the advanced game with the cards; I only play the family game. It’s much better that way. Agricola is also not particularly game group friendly, because I don’t like the way it takes closer to three hours, if there’s five players and newbies involved. These days I play Agricola with my son, and we crank a two-player game in 30–40 minutes or so. That’s a game I like.

12–11

Machi Koro — Is Machi Koro really better than Agricola? That’s a good question, but I’ve clocked over 25 plays in the year or so the game has been around. It’s a family game: I play it with my son, who really likes it. The important thing here is the expansion: it really is mandatory. I don’t think the game has lasting power in itself: having all cards available all the time allows one to use the same strategy every time. The random card draw and the increased variety the new buildings bring are essential for enjoying the game.

Innovation — Goofy, luck-heavy, prone to amazing swings. That’s a Carl Chudyk game to you. Innovation is the best of them, thanks to the clever theme. I’ve been itching to translate the game in Finnish, because I think my son would like it… I’d also appreciate a regular opponent, because this is an entertaining game that gets played too rarely.

10

The City – This game may be in the featherweight group, but it’s always a pleasure. Sometimes the matches are terribly lopsided, when somebody gets an engine rolling, but the pain is quickly over – and then you can play again. This is a top-notch filler and once everybody is familiar with the game, it’s very easy and quick to play. As light games come, it’s one of the best. This game is always a pleasure to play. I really hope Tom Lehmann can get the English edition out at some point, because this game deserves wider distribution.

9

Oregon — This was a bit of a surprise… I’ve played lots of this at Yucata, and for some reason I really like Oregon, especially as a two-player game. The game flows well, there’s some urgency to it, a good mix of skill and luck. The better player will win most of the time, but sometimes you can get lucky or unlucky (I never enjoy drawing a coal mine). There are some delightful tactical situations: it’s always very satisfying to be able to play all cards from hand, using both special tiles while flipping them back up. Rushing the cowboys on the board to keep upper hand on tempo, while trying to build a decent infrastructure of buildings… It’s all very pleasing.

8

Brass — I passed this game for many, many years. Then I tried it, played some on Brass Online, and realized this is a great game. I’m not particularly good at this game, winning is quite difficult for me, but playing the game is fun. I see a small danger here, of getting stuck to a particular strategy – I should learn to use Cotton Mills better. But this is always a pleasure to play, and so far I have no need for the alternate maps Age of Industry provides. I’ve played Age of Industry once, and prefer Brass.

7

Tarock — A catch-all for a family of games, but mostly this includes two variations: the two-player game of Strohmann-Tarock and the Slovenian Tarock we play with three or four players. These are all very good trick-taking games in the Austro-Hungarian Tarock family. I found the games when I wrote a book on card games and had to figure out what these Tarot games were. I’ve tried many games, but the Slovenian game stuck with us: it’s an excellent and exciting game. Of course, playing with tarock cards is an extra bonus, as the cards are pretty and perhaps a bit special compared to regular playing cards.

6

Age of Steam — This is my favourite game I never play… after 2010, just two plays. For some reason Age of Steam is particularly difficult to play, even though it’s not a really long game, or very complicated game. I’ve sold bunch of expansions I collected, when they were just collecting dust. Age of Steam is an exciting, challenging game, that really should see more play, because it is an excellent system – but it is the apex of a long development, there are plenty of games that came before it (couple of them on this Top 100 list, too), so no wonder it is so good.

5

Suburbia — Very much my kind of game. Building cities is fun, there’s just the right amount of interaction (ie. not much) and lots of variety, thanks to the different buildings and their random appearance. The Suburbia, Inc. expansion is a must-have, it brings extra variety without making the game any more complicated. It just expands the possibilities. I’m glad that my son has shown interest for Suburbia, we’ve already played the game twice. He can’t read English, but fortunately there’s not much text in the tiles, and they’re all public. This will see lots of play in the years to come, I’m sure of that.

4

San Juan — Forget Puerto Rico, forget Race for the Galaxy, San Juan is much better than either of those games. Here the expansion is also highly recommended, but I notice the new 2014 edition includes the expansion buildings right away. That is very good, because a game like this benefits from variety. San Juan is one of those games that I always enjoy playing. I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit so far: it’s one of the few games where I’ve logged over hundred plays. I should probably do a Finnish translation so I could play this with my son.

3

Die Dolmengötter — This is one of the personal oddities in my top 10. I have couple of friends who really understand this game, but most people don’t see what’s so great about this game. But it is excellent: the way you have to co-operate with other players, and how you have to figure out a way to get your best dolmens on the best possible positions. Against skilled opponents, there’s no mercy available: in order to win, you have to maximise the scores from your most valuable dolmens. And all this in just 20 minutes or so. The game plays swift and is exciting until the very end. The only problem is that despite the wider player range printed on the box, this is actually a four-player game.

 

2

Dominion — This is the one boring game in my top 10, but I can’t help it: over 120 plays, and I still enjoy the game a lot. Of course, just the basic set would’ve run out of steam by now, but the stream of expansions have kept the game fresh. Well, all of them are not equally necessary and probably just four or so expansions would’ve been enough, but well, I don’t complain. Dominion has also seen regular play in the last few years, because my son likes it a lot. Fortunately the game has been published in Finnish. Dominion is a modern classic and still the best deck-building game there is. I would recommend this to just about anybody looking for a challenging, interesting and exciting game.

1

Samarkand: Routes to Riches — Removing the auctions from a Winsome auction-based share-and-train games worked out quite well! I’ve yet to play Age of Scheme, the more complicated original version of Samarkand, but I know it can’t be this good. This is such a perfect game: it plays fast, is full of interesting maneuvers and end-game timing decisions. The game is over sooner than you expect. You really have to be alert and aware of the consequences of your moves. There are many ways to score, and a skilled player will find many ways to win. This is delightful in many ways. I just recently acquired the Family Connection expansion to this game, but I’m not sure if that will get any use.

My 2014 top 100: 40–21

by Mikko on October 15, 2014

in More about games

Here’s the previous part.

40–39

Australian Railways — The third Early Railways Game on the list. The three games are almost identical, but this one’s different, and the best: it features organic link growth. So, instead of railroad links appearing in the middle of nowhere, they form a contiguous network. That’s pretty clever, huh. This is a good game of railroads, auctions and debt.

Indonesia — A Splotter classic, I bought mine directly from the Splotter guys at Essen in 2005. This gets played rarely, but it’s a fascinating game. I’m not sure how I’d feel about it if I played it more often, but at least rarely played it is a pleasure.

38–37

Eurorails — The GCL Amoeba discussion group and Eric Brosius in particular encouraged me to try crayon rail games, and for me Eurorails was the obvious choice. It turned out to be a very pleasant game; sure it’s not as exciting as the 18xx games, for example, but it plays reasonably fast (at least if you keep the player count low) and is fun to play.

Stich-Meister — Too bad there hasn’t been an English edition of this one. This is a rather entertaining trick-taking game, with all the special rules. Sometimes you get a bit pedestrian rounds, as the default scoring rules are boring, but with a good set of rules the game can get really interesting. I think this is a must for trick-takers.

36

1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight — One of the best 18xx games in my opinion. A bit like the good old 1825, but with interesting twists. There’s an added bonus that this works really well with just two players.

35

Catan — Talk about true classics. This was the game that introduced me to the euro board game revolution, so even though I went through the mandatory period of hating Catan, I still think fondly of it. These days I actually enjoy playing it, as well.

34–32

Ta Yü — I generally hate connection games, but not this one. I’m happy to own the original Kosmos edition – I purchased it when I went to the second recording of my Who Wants to Be a Millionare stint and knew I’ll end up with some serious money. It was a bit expensive for my student finances otherwise. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed this game for years, and I think has some serious staying power, it’s such an elegant and fun game.

Linko! — A very solid filler card game. It’s a bit odd and unlike other games, but once it clicks, it’s good fun. This one’s a staple game that I’m almost always carrying with me.

Battle Line — I played this for the first time in 2000. The tactics cards were involved and the explanation left me a bit hazy, so I didn’t like the game, but fortunately I gave it another chance. I’ve played over 80 games since. But never with tactics cards!

31–30

Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper — I’ve so far tried two of the Mystery Rummy games. Jekyll & Hyde is pretty awful, but Jack the Ripper is excellent, particularly with two players.

Schnäppchen Jagd — An old Uwe Rosenberg game from 1998, I got this really late – but it did turn out to be one of the better trick-taking games for three players (not that there’s a lack of good three-player trick-takers).

29–28

Gulf, Mobile & Ohio — 2008 was a good year for Winsome: Gulf, Mobile & Ohio and Preußische Ostbahn. What a duo of games! Both are excellent, among the best Winsome has ever made.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game — This has been popular in our household; I’ve only played this once with my gamer friends. It’s a bit luck-heavy and swingy for a deck-builder and the theme is somewhat silly, but the game is fun.

27–26

Sticheln — Really clever and mean trick-taking game, particularly with three players. There’s game for larger player counts, but I’ve specialized in three-player games.

Preference — The Russian variant. This is a fun trick-taking game for three players. It has a traditionally convoluted scoring, but the basic idea is simple: bid for leading rights, then try to reach your goal. Works well.

25

Crokinole — The classic dexterity game. I got my board in 2003, and played a lot – but then came the kids and the board ended up in storage. Now I dug it out, and will get back to it. I learnt it’s a bit too difficult for the kids, though. I should probably come up with easier rules for the kids.

24

The Great Zimbabwe — This is one of the finer Splotter titles: clever, not too complicated, challenging enough. Too bad this fell pretty flat on my group, because I’d like to explore this further. The rules have a really nice Leonard Cohen reference.

23–21

Antiquity — Another Splotter title right away. This has always been my favourite Splotter title (and it is the highest on this list: Roads & Boats didn’t qualify, not to mention other Splotter games). I used to rate this as 10, but I’ve since dropped the rating. This is a gorgeous game that tends to leave me thinking about it for couple of days – but it’s also very hard to get on the table, and apparently if you’re used to the game, it gets quite straightforward. I’m glad I own the first edition with the blue box, that box graphic idea is just too neat.

Splendor — New and hot: this has gathered already 25 plays this year. There’s more to come, as this is one of our regular games with my son. And why not – we can crank a match in about 10 minutes, which is pleasantly effective. The game is easy to teach, fun to play and looks great. A winner!

Trains — This was the hot stuff from Essen 2013, and I paid through the nose to import the game from Japan. Was it worth it? Probably. At least it was very hot for a while, but has been mostly forgotten since. That’s a bit of a shame, because it’s a fun game: I like what the game does with Dominion, and in most cases would probably prefer this to Dominion. It’s just that I mostly play Dominion with my son, who can’t read English. Hence, we’re not playing Trains.

Next part.

My 2014 top 100: 50–41

October 14, 2014

Third part of my Top 100 list. Here’s the previous part. 50–48 Qwixx — Delightful filler game with dice. I’ve made an online score sheet for the game. Pantheon — This is the highest-ranking Bernd Brunnhofer title on my list, beating St. Petersburg and Stone Age. Is it a better game than the two, especially Stone Age? […]

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My 2014 top 100: 74–48

October 13, 2014

This is the second part of my Top 100 list. Here’s the first part with more explanations. Looks like here I’m starting to move to games rated 8+, the previous list was mostly games rated 7. 74–72 Timeline — Very simple idea; other games do the same thing, with more complications. This simple version works quite well, […]

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My 2014 top 100: 75–104

October 12, 2014

Since everybody else is doing these top 100 lists, I’m joining the fun. This is the first installation, stay tuned for the next parts in the next days (I’m not following Mark’s suit and dribbling the list one by one, especially as the lower positions are essentially tied). How did I make the list? I […]

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Realm of Wonder

August 25, 2014

Realm of Wonder is a new, upcoming title from Mindwarrior Games (and Tactic). They asked me if I could write a review of the game in exchange for pre-production copy of the game now and couple of copies of the game once it’s done. Since I’m always interested in new Finnish titles, I agreed. That […]

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Koboldbande / Troll Trail

August 21, 2014

The game: Koboldbande or Troll Trail by Gina Manola, published by Amigo and others in 2014. I have the Nordic Troll Trail edition from Lautapelit.fi. I did the Finnish translation. Elevator pitch: Simple co-op game for young kids and their parents. Find the a way through the forest and get the treasure before the dragon gets to it! What’s in the […]

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New game notes

August 21, 2014

Red is a new mini game from Carl Chudyk and Chris Cieslik. Play a card and/or change the goal. Only requirement? You need to be winning after your move, otherwise it’s game over for you. Fun little filler. Suggest. Pick-a-Pig was familiar: I’ve played Formissimo, which is the original version. This one’s cuter. My kind […]

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Subdivision

August 17, 2014

Back when Bézier Games hinted at new games in the Suburbia family, I was intrigued. When the two games were announced, I immediately preordered both. Now I got Subdivision, and have some plays under my belt. Time for a quick review! The game: Subdivision by Lucas Hedgren, published by Bézier Games in 2014. Elevator pitch: Suburbia meets Take It Easy. Multiplayer solitaire […]

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1000 ratings!

August 15, 2014

Board games, after a long break! The goal for the day was clear: reach 1000 BGG ratings.  Red is a new mini game from Carl Chudyk and Chris Cieslik. Play a card and/or change the goal. Only requirement? You need to be winning after your move, otherwise it’s game over for you. Fun little filler. Suggest. Pick-a-Pig was familiar: I’ve […]

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