2013 was a very good year of board games, just like 2012 was before it.
My kids and I have continued to play lots of games. My son is now seven and half, and can play quite complicated games. My daughter, soon five, is also a bright little gamer, and much less prone to throwing fits over lost games.
I’ve continued my weekly Thursday evening game nights. The circus school games I enjoyed last year didn’t work out quite so well this Fall, though. I visited Ropecon, but didn’t play that many games, as I made the trip with my son this year, to introduce him to some proper geek culture, and I also made trips to Lautapelaamaan and JunaCon.
Photography is one thing that did suffer, I didn’t take much photos of games outside the few pictures I had to take for reviews of games that didn’t have good photos available.
Good new games (2012–2013)
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-building Game was a big hit. Not with my friends – we played once, and that’s it – but with my son. He’s a bit of a Lord of the Rings fan, and I guessed he’d like the game. I translated the cards so he could play, and off we went – and ended up playing over 20 games. Later in the year we switched to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck-building Game, but it wasn’t quite as big a hit.
Suburbia was a 2012 game in my mind, but looks like I first played it Jan 3rd this year. I clocked in more than ten games. It’s a great game, just the kind of building game I like. The expansion, Suburbia Inc., arrived late this year and I’ve only managed two games so far, but I liked it. The iOS version made it this year as well, and I’ve enjoyed that one as well, and I sure wish the real game played that fast…
Machi Koro was the odd Japanese gem of the year. It was a late arrival, I only heard of it after Essen. I got to play it in Lautapelaamaan con, and then I had to order the game from Japan and I also did a Finnish DIY version of it. Result? More than ten games in less than two months. My son likes this, and I like it a lot as well, either the base game or with the expansion.
Continental Divide was the one game in the Winsome Games Essen set I didn’t expect to be interested in, but it turned out to be the best of the set. We played it four times within less than two months. Well, it hasn’t seen the tables since August, but I’m sure we’ll return to it at some point. It’s a fascinating game.
Qwixx was an impulse purchase from the local game store; I was buying something else, card sleeves most likely, and saw the game for 10 euros. I had heard good things about it, so I decided to buy it – and now I’ve played it twenty times, and it’s one of my favourite fillers at the moment.
A Study in Emerald was a Kickstarter purchase, and the most successful one I’ve been involved with. Sure, there were some trouble with this, but I got the game and it’s good. It’s very fascinating. It’s a bit on the complicated side to explain, so it would benefit from having repeat plays, so we’ll see how much play it does get, but I do like it.
Indigo is quite unremarkable game, really, but I bought it on a whim, thinking it might be a good game to play with the kids, and I wasn’t wrong. It’s very pleasant to play and looks good. It’s similar to Metro, but I think it’s better.
Russian Railroads only got one play, but this one sure looks like a good worker placement game. We’ll see how much play this’ll actually get, but at least it’s a good game and doesn’t take too long; that was my main worry about this.
Coup is cool. Not universally loved, and looks like this is the 2013 game Tuomo hates and I like (The Great Zimbabwe held that honour in 2012). With five or six players, this is an excellent filler. We also played The Resistance: Avalon, which in my opinion is much superior to the original game.
Ab in die Tonne is the third game by that title. It’s quite luck-heavy, but it has nice wooden components and it works wonders as a family game.
Carcassonne: South Seas was something I wouldn’t have bought myself, but I’m glad I got it. It turned out quite an entertaining Carcassonne variant, one my son likes, and I like it as well. The new scoring mechanism is a refreshing change.
Augustus sounded pretty good based on the Lautapeliopas review, and I got it in a trade. That was a good move: this turned out to be a pretty good filler that works with a wide array of player counts. I’ve just had some extraordinary trouble playing with the correct rules, for such a light game…
Playing Texas & Pacific in JunaCon 2014.
Good older games I haven’t played before
London was a trade acquisition. My friend got it from the Treefrog subscription, but I never played it, for some reason or another. It was interesting enough to trade for, and it turned out to be quite good. Nothing I couldn’t live without, sure, but well worth exploring a bit.
EuroRails was my introduction to crayon rails. I’ve always dismissed the series as boring and overly long, but looks like I was wrong. Eric Brosius got me to try EuroRails, and it turned out the series is very much my cup of tea: I like building track and moving cargo around. It’s basically a solitaire race, with very little interaction, but when has that been a problem? The game isn’t too long, either, if you keep the player count down. Ok, I didn’t play this many times, and most of the times I played with my son, who is not quite old enough to actually play the game, but still – I was very glad to discover the world of crayon rails, and once my son gets few years older, I think this might become a staple game in our household.
New York Central is an older Winsome title I got to play in JunaCon. Even though we had too many players – the game does not shine with five – I was able to see there’s a good game in it. I also knew getting to play it with the Winsome edition would be tricky. So, I ended up doing a DIY edition, which turned out great. Of course, when I design something myself, it’s guaranteed to match my taste, so of course I love it… But yeah, I’ve since managed to play it some more, with the three players it needs to shine. It’s a really good game and it’s a shame no publisher has picked it up. It’s one of those games where you really have to play it once to figure it out, and then you’re ready to roll.
Australian Railways was another old Winsome I got to the table. This one is in the Age of Steam family tree, and pretty good too – probably the best title in the Early Railways series. I like it, but like Age of Steam, this is a bit difficult to get on the table.
Smaug and Bilbo from the Hobbit board game.
Here’s a list of all children’s games that we played at least five times. It’s interesting to see how the games change year after year. Some classics remain, some turn out to be less popular, in the end. The situations and the ages matter. I’ve had fewer chances to play games with just my son, we’ve had to include my daughter as well, which has changed the games a bit.
Das kleine Gespenst took the first spot on the list with almost 40 plays. It used to be my daughter’s favourite game, but I think that honor belongs to Ghost Blitz now. My son doesn’t play this as much anymore, so I don’t think this game will be at the top of the list next year.
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings Deck-Building Game isn’t a children’s game, but it was my second most played game with the kids.
Fleeting Foxes got over 20 plays, mostly requested by my daughter. And why not? This is a cute Haba game. It’s simple roll-and-move, but with a good twist: one player at the time rolls dice for everybody, assigning the dice one at the time. There’s some luck and some evaluation of probabilities involved.
Memory, usually in the form of Tatu ja Patu muistipeli, got lots of plays. I still usually beat the kids in this one, but they’ve got better.
Ghost Blitz is my daughter’s new favourite. We have the 2.0 as well, but my daughter always requests “the Old Blitz”. It has been great to see how she has progressed with the game. She used to be pretty slow with the game – sometimes she’d grab the easiest cards, but not always. We practised the game a bit, and now she’s better than my son and can almost compete with me. She’s improved a lot, and that fills me with pride.
Colorpop is a fun, simple game the kids ask for every now and then. I’m still not perfectly sure if this is a game of skill or a game of luck…
Gulo Gulo keeps getting requested by my daughter, and I still like to play it.
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation was my son’s favourite game for a while, until it got a bit eclipsed by other games.
Richard Scarry’s Busytown won the Finnish Game of the Year award a while ago, and for a good reason, it seems, as it keeps on getting plays. As far as family co-ops go, it’s pretty high on my lists as well.
Animal upon Animal has progressed from being a toy to being a game, my daughter requests this every now and then.
Indigo was mentioned before; it belongs here on this list.
Trans Europe+ got a new life with my son. He likes the game, and actually does quite well in it. My opinion of the game certainly improved, I used to hate Trans America. Why, I’m not so sure anymore, as the game is actually very good family game: simple, easy and fun. I do prefer the Europe version, if only for the more familiar map.
Da ist der Wurm drin got almost as many plays as it did last year; it remains a favourite and at least tolerable for all family. As far as brainless roll-and-move games are considered, this is one of the best.
Klack! gets requests every now and then. I’m not a huge fan, because this is a speed game where I’ll either dominate or play bad on purpose.
Geistertreppe missed the list last year, but is back now, now that we have three able players. My daughter asks for the game occasionally.
Die kleinen Drachenritter tops the list of new childrens games I got as a review copy – so our family gaming is not particularly focused on new games. This is a fun stacking game, if a bit prone to accidents when somebody bumps the game. It’s also perhaps a bit on the easy side, and could use some added difficulty. The more I play, the less I seem to like this.
Schildkrötenrennen gets plays every now and then, now that my daughter likes to play it. We still play with open cards.
Ab in die Tonne is a fun family game. It doesn’t offer much for gamers, but as a family game with children and non-gamers, it’s a simple, fun game.
Marrakech works fairly well with both my son and my daughter, and I like it – that’s a winner in my books.
La Boca got most of its plays with the kids. It works pretty well, and the kids usually manage to get decent scores, maybe with little help. The semi co-op aspect of the game works well.
Looping Louie isn’t quite as good a children’s game as I expected, but it’s passable. Mostly my daughter likes to play with it.
Kraken-Alarm is a decent memory game with outstanding components. Not a great game, but the gimmick still works two years after I first got the game, so that’s something.
Erzähl doch mal… is a good game, but I find it a bit heavy to play. I think it’s a very educational game: it teaches story-telling and requires constant attention to what other players are saying. I, however, usually want to play lighter games with the kids.
Bunte Runde is a small favourite of mine, this I always enjoy playing.
La Cucaracha features an electronic cockroach robot which runs on the board. Sold! The bug (a Hexbug Nano toy) is sufficiently random to make the game work. Just skip the die, and the game flows much better. For chaotic fun, this is good.
Meka Dragon and Kraken from King of Tokyo, which was published in Finnish in 2013.
Games I’ve kept on enjoying
Love Letter was a surprise hit in 2012 and got ten plays in 2013. It still is a favourite filler of mine. I’m waiting for my kids to grow up a bit so I can play this with them. My daughter should like the princess theme. At the moment, keeping cards secret is still too much of a challenge.
The City is still far from the 100 plays I expected, but 15 plays is not bad.
Timeline was one of my most-played games, though mostly for 16 games played on one sitting at the circus school. My son likes it, and I’ve done two custom card sets for him (Finnish history and small set for history of games). That’s fun, and I think I’ll do some more sets for him.
Las Vegas was familiar to me from Lautapelaamaan 2012, where I tried it and then forgot about it. However, I did ask for a review copy when the game was published in Finnish in 2013, and it turned out a wise choice: it’s actually exactly the kind of game I like. Quick, easy, yet clever. I can play this with the children, or with seasoned gamers.
King of Tokyo was never really my cup of tea, but thanks to the new Finnish edition (which I translated), I ended up playing it five times in 2013, and I expect it to see even more play, as it turned out to be a decent game to play with the kids.
A borough in Suburbia. Suburbia was without a doubt one of the highlights of 2013.
The not-so-good, the disappointing and the plain bad
Super Farmer, Rapelli and the Finnish Game of the Year awards were a big disappointment. Only the adult category winner, Qin, is any good. Rapelli is barely a game, even though it looks nice. Super Farmer would’ve been a decent children’s game winner, but I’m expecting more from family games. This was a horrible game, die-rolling with awful, frustrating elements added.
Nations was a bit of disappointment. I was expecting a game that would fix the things that were wrong in Through the Ages, but instead I got the same problems in a different box.
The awful, awful Super Farmer at least has nice bits.
Fives and dimes
Last year I had a slightly longer list, thanks to a wider variety of children’s games, I think. I’m not at all unhappy with this list, though.
- Das kleine Gespenst (37)
- Timeline (34)
- Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game (27)
- Memory (22)
- Fleeting Foxes (22)
- Ghost Blitz (19)
- Qwixx (19)
- The City (15)
- Gulo Gulo (14)
- Colorpop (14)
- Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (13)
- Coup (13)
- Oregon (13)
- Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye Found It! (12)
- Suburbia (11)
- Machi Koro (11)
- Animal Upon Animal (11)
- Indigo (11)
- Trans Europa+ (10)
- Da ist der Wurm drin (10)
- Love Letter (10)
- Geistertreppe (9)
- Die kleinen Drachenritter (9)
- Klack! (9)
- Schildkroetenrennen (9)
- Ab in die Tonne (8)
- Las Vegas (7)
- Marrakech (7)
- Dominion (7)
- King of Tokyo (7)
- Carcassonne: South Seas (6)
- Bunte Runde (6)
- Erzählt doch mal… (6)
- Qin (6)
- La Boca (6)
- Dragonheart (6)
- Kraken-Alarm (6)
- Looping Louie (6)
- Battle Line (5)
- New York Central (5)
- London (5)
- Augustus (5)
- La Cucaracha (5)
- The Resistance: Avalon (5)
The dice from Pharaoh Code (that was a fun game, but something I knew I just wouldn’t be able to play with anybody).
- Battle Line (12/13)
- San Juan (10/10)
- Age of Steam (10/11) *
- Attika (9/11) *
- Ta Yü (9/11) *
- Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (9/12)
- Villa Paletti (9/12)
- Settlers of Catan Junior (6/6)
- Animal Upon Animal (6/6)
- Dominion (6/6)
- Preußische Ostbahn (6/6)
First number is the years I’ve played the game, second is the number of years since the first time I played. So, I first played San Juan ten years ago and have played it every year since that. With Battle Line and Age of Steam I’ve missed a year. I didn’t play games marked with an asterisk this year.
Monkeys from Bananas, a somewhat ho-hum abstract memory game.
My H-index for this year is 13 (9 last year). My total H-index is 29, two up from last year. 30 is pretty much guaranteed to happen, reaching 31 next year is going to be more tricky.