Gaming year 2007

Another year of games is soon over. Gaming year 2006 was good, but I think this one was even better! At least in quality, not necessarily in quantity…

Good new games (2006-2007 games)

Agricola — This year brought two very good games, worthy of top-10 or even top-5 spot on my personal ratings. Agricola is one of them. It’s just that good. After my first games, I thought I’d buy the game when the English edition comes out, but then I figured out I want instant gratification, I’m not waiting for who knows how long (at that point the English edition wasn’t announced yet). I just had to get the game so I could play it, and I haven’t regretted that decision.

So far I’ve played the game with two, four and five players; I like them all. With five, the game gets a tad long, so I’d probably prefer the game with up to four players. Two is easier and softer; an excellent choice to play with my wife.

I’ve tried the advanced game once, so far, and I’m actually rather happy with the family game. It’s a real game, with nothing missing — the cards just add extra on the top. There’s plenty of hype around Agricola, but it’s just about worth it. I think W. Eric Martin had a good point about Agricola when he said it’s a really neat mixture of an experience game (strong, if somewhat nonsensical theme) and an engine game (clean, sleek game mechanics). I think most people who like euro games will at least like Agricola; it’s certainly worth a try.

Caylus Magna Carta — Original Caylus was a good game. I liked it, but eventually realized I don’t want to play it that much, for some reason. Part of that was the length of the game: Caylus tends to drag a bit with four or five players. Enter Magna Carta: a shorter version with random elements included. Exactly what I wanted! It turns out Magna Carta isn’t the hottest thing either, as I’ve only played it five times so far.

Magna Carta isn’t quite as short as one might think, that’s one thing for sure. It’s no fifteen-minute filler. I don’t know; in any case, I believe replacing Caylus with Magna Carta was the correct decision.

Combat Commander: Europe — I was rather thrilled about this one earlier in the year. It was certainly one of my bigger crushes on board games so far. I was devouring information about the game before I got it. Then I got it and pffft, it fell flat. Well, not quite: I did play the game solo and took some time to get in some real games as well. It’s good, but not great. The problem with CC:E is a lower density of meaningful decisions, compared to some of the better euro games. That, and the fact that playing a three-hour two-player game is just darn tricky. I’d like to play this more, as I think getting some practise would make the game a tad faster and more enjoyable, but that would require too much time right now and a regular opponent, as well.

So, I’d say this one still has some expectations to fulfill, I’m certainly not going to buy any expansions, but I’m not selling this either. I know I have that heavy war gaming thing at some level, and this is what I’m going to use to satisfy that need. I’m fairly confident that I’d end up regretting selling this one at some point.

1960: The Making of the President — This one came so late I only played it once. I want more. It’s a good game, just a tad too long perhaps. Well, long enough to make playing it somewhat tricky (see Combat Commander). Still, it’s another good card-driven game and I like the theme and the whole graphic design thing they have going on here: 1960 looks sweet and works well.

Phoenicia — The other Tom Lehmann game. This game sounded pretty great, I mean, Zavandor had some serious issues and Phoenicia just seemed to fix them. That was my feeling based on the previews on Boardgame News and it turned out I was right. Well, Phoenicia has some issues as well, but nothing major. The biggest problems the game has are related to the graphic design, not game design, I think. I like the game and I’m happy I got to play ten games (few at JKLM Interactive, rest face-to-face).

Race for the Galaxy — This is both the other Lehmann game and the other my-god-this-is-great game. This one was no surprise at all, after the previews and Brian Bankler’s comments. I was rather confident that I’d like this and indeed I did. This is just so close to perfection: plenty of variety, clever mechanics, fast gameplay, science fiction theme… It’s just everything I want, in one very tidy package. The only problem is the other players: this isn’t the most newbie-friendly game and people do take their time playing this, resulting in 45-minute games. Were it up to me, this would be a 15-minute game (I’ve had some of that, and

we’re talking about serious game-induced nirvana there). Just like San Juan, only so much better…

Through the Ages — I only had one opportunity to play the game this year and that was a fairly quick two-player game, but it left me wanting more. A lot more. I think I’ll have to buy this, unless they really screw up the new edition.

Ubongo Extrem — Makes Ubongo even more interesting. I thought Ubongo had a good scoring method, but then I played Extrem and saw the light. The new scoring method strikes a remarkably good balance between skill and luck and keeps it simple at the same time. And while we’re talking about Ubongo, Mini is a pretty nifty five-minute filler.

Yspahan — After missing Yspahan last year, I finally tried the computer game and ended up playing, what, fifty games. Since after all those games I still enjoyed it, I thought I’d better grab the board game. I think I played the board game twice, but hey, it isn’t going anywhere (unlike the PC game — this year I went all Mac and can’t play the computer version anymore).

Good older games I haven’t played before

Fairy Tale — I had played this once before but I really caught this this Fall. It became something of a staple in our Thursday games, as most folks who’ve attended few times know it for some reason. Especially earlier we played this just about every Thursday. And why not? It’s an excellent game that plays in 15 minutes. It’s reliable, almost like clockwork. Brilliant game, though explaining the rules is remarkably less fun than playing the game…

Kuhhandel — I found this classic auction game now, perhaps just a bit late to the party. Iain Cheyne has been a supporter, so I wanted to give this one a shot and it was well worth it. Not everybody was as enthusiastic about this one, but I thought the game was quite neat. Played with a speed-up variant of auctioning two animals at the same time it’s almost a filler, yet quite meaty.

Tarot — We’ve played quite a few different card games because of my book project, but none hit like Tarot. For some reason it’s the Slovenian Tarok that has made the strongest impression. Then again, why not? It’s a good game with an interesting bidding mechanism, some good challenges in play and lots of fun. Like Hannu, one of the biggest Tarot fans in our group, said: Slovenian is one of those games where you just have so much fun, no matter if you win or lose — and often losing badly is most fun.

Other good Tarot games include the Hungarian Tarokk and the Bolognese Ottocento — I haven’t tried French Tarot, the just about only living and growing Tarot game yet, and frankly, I don’t know if I will since the Slovenian game is somewhat similar yet more interesting.

Xiangqi — I took up Chinese and Japanese Chess late this year. After playing some of both, I think I prefer Xiangqi, the Chinese game. It’s more dynamic and exciting. I do like the drops in Shogi, but other than that, Xiangqi is more interesting and — perhaps — less Chess-like. Shogi’s a tad dry. I’m playing both at BrainKing. And let me join the chorus: learning the Japanese or Chinese symbols on the pieces isn’t really that hard.

Games I’ve kept on enjoying

Age of Steam — A ton of expansions, again, but just four plays this year. Because of all the new games, Age of Steam just doesn’t get on the table. I’m also a bit wary, expect it to take more than two hours and that always makes games hard to play. I should be able to play Age of Steam on Thursday nights. I need to make more effort to get AoS on table!

Blue Moon City — Got five plays this year, which was nice. Most of them were pleasantly tight and exciting like Blue Moon City usually is.

Most of my playing was new games — so many good new games this year, it seems. There were plenty of really good older games I didn’t touch once. The number of games I played was reduced a lot from before, and here it shows. Older games suffered under the new games, especially as there were plenty of games I wanted to play a lot (Tarot, Race for the Galaxy, Agricola particularly).

The not-so-good, the disappointing, the plain bad

This section surprised me: I’ve been able to completely avoid really bad games. Hooray!

Chinese Poker — After playing, what, dozen hands of this, I finally realized there’s really very little game in this little time-waster. I’m really surprised many Poker pros like this game so much.

Space Dealer — By far the biggest disappointment of the year. The concept was so darn cool, so like it was made for me. Science fiction theme, time pressure, real-time play… Bah. Like I wrote in March, I had time to send my wife text messages while we were playing. It was that intense. The game felt stale, the rules were muddy, the whole thing was such a disappointment. Fortunately I got the game I wanted in Race for the Galaxy, but I had really high hopes for Space Dealer, the concept sounded just that great.

Totals

86 different games. A lot less than last year (it was 123 last year), but then again, last year I felt I had actually played too many different games. I’ve tried to cut down getting uninteresting review copies, that helps a bit.

Total number of games played fell from 379 to 193 — that’s a major drop and perhaps Nooa starts to show up there a bit. There’s also some bad luck: I missed almost all board game club sessions this Fall. Fortunately I was able to have the Thursday sessions, but that’s often only three or four games each week.

Fives and dimes

These are the games I played ten times or more (even shorter than last year and less intense, but I didn’t have time for BSW games this year):

  • Fairy Tale (19)
  • Phoenicia (10)

These games I played 5-9 times:

  • Agricola (8)
  • Race for the Galaxy (8)
  • Slovenian Tarok (8)
  • Combat Commander: Europe (6)
  • Blue Moon City (5)
  • Caylus Magna Carta (5)

The lists are shorter, much shorter than last year…

Month Metric

Tarot, Fairy Tale and Age of Steam got played during several months.

Huber Happiness Product

Biggest sources of Huber happiness in 2007 were Tarot, Agricola and Combat Commander: Europe. This is remarkably unsurprising metric.

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