Gaming year 2009 wasn’t terrific, but 2010 was. By numbers alone, I played a lot more games than last year. However, the biggest reason 2010 will go down in history as a good board game year was Nooa. I played well over hundred games with Nooa — actually, I played with Nooa about as much as I played games in 2009, total.
My son’s a bit of a gamer, then. Unfortunately his going to part-time daycare in August (or actually moving from morning group to afternoon group) really cut into the time we could spend playing games (since we can’t play games as well when his sister isn’t sleeping), otherwise we probably would’ve played 200 games this year, easy.
Well, he’s just four now and we still spend lots of time playing with the games, but I’ve also seen good development during the year. When we started playing games, a loss or even an impending loss might make him cry. Not so, anymore, he takes losses much better now. He’s also pretty good in some games, like Gulo Gulo.
So, I’m definitely looking forward to 2011.
Most of this was written in 2010, so wherever I say “this year”, it means 2010.
Good new games (2009-2010)
Samarkand: Routes to Riches. Easily the best new game this year. I love it! Exactly the right mix of interesting decisions and easy-going game play in a swift 30-minute setting.
Then again, a big part of why I like this game is the weekend I was visiting Jyväskylä and played 11 games (see my Samarkand notes from that weekend). I think there are plenty of games that would shine a lot brighter with that kind of attention. It’s a shame I can’t give it in most cases, as the drive to try new games is that strong.
Of course, not every game deserves that kind of attention or gets any better with more plays. Samarkand does, and I’d still like to play more, but opportunities have been rare. Perhaps I’ll take it with me to Jyväskylä next time I’m going…
7 Wonders. Another game to get the Jyväskylä treatment (see Notes on 7 Wonders). Not quite as good as Samarkand, but still solid. A good filler, but perhaps not much more. Lots of hype, mostly deserved. Looks like few people hate this, which always helps — at Lautapeliopas, the game has received a bunch of five-star ratings, lots of four-star ratings and the weakest rating is one three-star rating. Well, it’s still a new game and I suppose there’ll be more of those three-star ratings, but still, it’s impressive — this is not a game many people hate.
Vasco da Gama. Now, here’s another of those Jyväskylä treatment games (relevant blog entry here; I should probably add “Jyväskylä treatment” as a tag for the blog). This one I sold to my mother, so it’s conveniently available whenever I visit Jyväskylä. We’ve played it few times since and they’ve played it more. It’s not a particular favourite of mine, but sure I’ll play it, especially when we can just whip it out, play a game without going through the rules and 30-40 minutes later we’re done. A solid game, and I can see how someone could really like it.
Innovation. I made it to five plays this year, despite the resistance — some folks flat out decline to play without even trying the game, some tried and don’t want to play again… Mostly two-player games, I think I’ve played only one three-player game. That was probably the best game, though the last duel against Hannu was an epic match which I eventually won by drawing to 11. So far I like Innovation a lot. It’s chaotic, but the novelty factor in each game is still strong. Will I be bored? With the current pace of play, not soon.
Nile. This was a bit of a surprise hit. It’s a fairly simple set-collecting game, but especially with just two or three players, it’s great fun as it plays really fast and while luck plays a big role, the game is so quick it doesn’t really matter. The art is pretty, but the card quality is abysmal. Sleeves fortunately fix that problem.
Homesteaders. Only two plays so far, but here’s definitely something I want to play more. Homesteaders does the resource management auction thing well, with lots of possibilities, but also delightfully tight finances. Very strategic game. Some copies are apparently badly water-damaged or poorly printed, I secured mine from an auction so I knew I’d get a good copy.
String Railway. Lovely filler, cutest box ever. Fun game, but there’s a danger of taking the game too seriously, leading to extensive analysis and slow play. When players get more serious, the game materials prove lacking, as the strings tend to squirm around a bit, making exact play difficult. Players should just relax a bit, but that’s a bit hard, as in the other hand the strings make clever plays very attractive. “Ah, managed to visit all seven stations without crossing over any of your strings, ha!” But it’s fun, train-themed and very portable, so thumbs up for String Railway.
Marrakech. Here’s a real surprise. I wouldn’t have believed Marrakech would be such a good game. It’s a good family game, fun filler for adults, looks great, has some luck, some control over that luck and so on — all in all a very charming package.
SNCF. Only two games so far, but shows much promise to be a quick, yet thoughtful game. There’s clearly room for variation depending on how the group dynamics go. With the family game potential and all, this should get steady play in coming years.
Roll through the Ages. I’ve been interested in this one, yet haven’t gone and bought it. I eventually got it from a math trade, and it was a very good acquisition. It’s a great, simple filler that has a somewhat evocative theme (for a such a small dice game, at least) and the basic idea just works.
Eclipse. Trying Eclipse in Helcon was an interesting experience. Getting a great designer preview article for Lautapeliopas (in Finnish, sorry!) was also one of the highlights of the year. I’m glad to hear they’re likely to have the game published in 2011. If that happens, I’ll buy a copy.
Quick impressions: Charly — Surprisingly entertaining filler. Greed, Inc. — Blog post here; very favourable impression, but a long game, so hard to play. American Rails — Blog post here; good, but for some reason the Winsome — or Winsome-like — games haven’t hit the table a lot. Finca — Game of the Year in Finland, and for a good reason.
Good older games I haven’t played before
Lokomotive Werks. One of the many Winsome reprints and actually got played twice. I like it a lot, even though it’s very, very dry. The supply and demand mechanism with the dice is brilliant. Bunch of dice are rolled to show demand for different locomotives, players fulfill the orders and reduce the dice. When new models arrive, old ones are slowly (or quickly) obsoleted.
Die Aufsteiger. Very neat climbing game. The second game was much better than the first, maybe the third gets even better? Don’t know, but want to try. Neue Heimat got just one short game, but would deserve more.
Fladderadatsch. Amazing family game. Move around the track, trying to avoid the piles of shit. Can you remember where the shit fell? Watch out for that revealing click sound when the magnetic shit attaches to your feet… Fun!
Railroad Dice 2. Bought the whole Railroad Dice set (1, 2, Germany expansion for 1) from a friend. Have only played this once. Would love to play again, but unfortunately this wasn’t that warmly received. Blog entry here.
Here’s a new segment to the year review! I’m listing here the notable children’s games for the year. What we’ll play will of course change as time passes, so here’s an attempt to document what’s going on. These games are listed in the order of most played games first, and all games on the list got at least five plays.
Gulo Gulo. The best. No doubt about it, and a damn shame to hear this one’s out of print from Rio Grande. This is so much fun to play, even with just two players. Kids will figure this one out soon and only little adult guidance is necessary. This is my number one recommendation for someone who’s looking for a good game for kids from 4 years up.
Click Clack. Very simple, works for three-year olds. There isn’t a terribly much of a game in it, and I hear it’s expensive, so maybe not worth the effort, but it’s surprisingly entertaining for what it is, and the click clack magnet mechanism is a joy. The huge and unsteady box isn’t.
Mago Magino. Not bad for such a simple game. The fix is mandatory with two players, otherwise there’s very little to this game. As it is, Nooa has liked it, but it wouldn’t be this high on the list if I decided.
Settlers of Catan Junior. Nooa likes this, perhaps because of the pirate theme, but it’s way too difficult for him. Basically I play for both of us. Also, this isn’t the best two-player game. Still, ten plays. This works wonders with six-year olds and is a great gateway to Catan proper.
Viva Topo! Fun little game, it’s fun to see how the strategy evolves. So far there’s very little. This is a good one to have, as the game has use as a filler for adults as well.
Kids of Carcassonne. Carcassonne simplified. I’d like to play this more, but for some reason Nooa doesn’t really fancy this one. He actually likes the real Carcassonne more, not that he really gets it. I think we should focus on this one for now. This is a good game.
Kayanak. A charming classic, this ice-fishing game where players must punch holes through paper sheets and fish for magnetic fish. I’ve wanted this since I first saw the game in Essen 2005 (photographic evidence back from 2005, blog entry), now I have it and it’s great. Slightly too difficult for Nooa, though, but he does ask for it.
Das kleine Gespenst. Very cute memory game. The difficulty is pretty good, perhaps a bit on the easy side, but works well. The game looks gorgeous. Die kleine Hexe is another Preussler novel turned into a Haferkamp game, but that one should be avoided. It’s pain to setup and not fun to play. Avoid.
Villa Paletti. I stored the game in the children’s room (mostly to have more room for better games in my actual game cabinet) and Nooa wanted to play it and hey, we’ve played eight games of it. Often Nooa wants to invent new rules, but the basic tower-building works in two player game in any case. Solid game.
Das magische Labyrinth. Find your way through the invisible labyrinth. This is a clever game I like a lot. Some folks don’t like the die-rolling involved, but so far I don’t mind. I can see how that could be seen as a problem. It’s fairly easy to fix, I suppose (say, move three steps every turn). Charming little game, looks absolutely stunning.
Memory. Can’t get much more classic than this. We’ve got several copies (including Bob the Builder, Agricola and Tatu ja Patu for you Finnish folks). A good game, sure, but still a bit difficult for Nooa, whose concentration isn’t yet up to the game. He’s getting closer, though, and can now play fairly well if he wants to.
Schildkrötenrennen. Here’s a game I like more than Nooa. This is a fantastic game, particular for adults looking for a quick filler. I’m sure this’ll work as a kids game, but not yet.
Animal upon Animal. A classic, but still more of a toy than game for Nooa.
Mouse Carousel. A fun memory game. Nooa has been able to play this well for a while now, but his success varies a lot based on his concentration. But it’s a good, pleasantly tactile game that works well.
Games I’ve kept on enjoying
Dominion. There’s no denying it: Dominion is one of my favourites and got over 20 plays this year. I don’t really play it in the club, because lugging the huge box (two boxes these days) of cards is just too much of a pain. I’ve been thinking about doing a smaller set in the Alchemy box as a carry-on set, that might work. But, I’ve found Dominion Online, that’ll help too. Of the new sets this year, Alchemy was interesting, but perhaps sort of ho-hum, while Prosperity was nothing short of amazing. A must-have, if you ask me. (Of course I have all of them.)
San Juan. I’ve played exactly two games of Race for the Galaxy, while San Juan got 12 plays. I like San Juan better, especially with the expansion cards. Also, it helps that my brother prefers San Juan.
18xx. Of course! Two games of 1846 and one 1889, 1825 Unit 3 and 1830. Of these, 1830 didn’t impress me much, but it was a newbie game (at JunaCon). I could play again, but I’m not terribly thrilled. 1889 was better, when it comes to that kind of game. 1825 is still my favourite. 1846 was interesting, but the route calculation is a bit heavy and it’s generally a slightly heavy game for the local players. Next year I’d like to play more 1825 and try 1886 and 1853. 1889 will be my choice of game for newbie situations.
The not-so-good, the disappointing, the plain bad
Saba: Palast der Königin. Just pointless.
Atlantic Triangle. Didn’t work for us, probably a decent family game.
Fives and dimes
- Dominion (24 plays)
- Gulo Gulo (19)
- Click Clack (18)
- Samarkand: Routes to Riches (15)
- San Juan (12)
- Mago Magino (12)
- Flash Duel (11)
- Settlers of Catan Junior (10)
- Viva Topo! (10)
- Tzaar (9)
- 7 Wonders (9)
- Arvuutin (8)
- Kayanak (8)
- Kids of Carcassonne (8)
- Das kleine Gespenst (8)
- Villa Paletti (8)
- Memory (7)
- Das magische Labyrinth (7)
- Nile (7)
- Schildkrötenrennen (6)
- Charly (5)
- Animal upon Animal (5)
- Vasco da Gama (5)
- Innovation (5)
- Mouse Carousel (5)
- Battle Line (9/10)
- Age of Steam (8/8)
- Attika (8/8)
- San Juan (7/7)
- Einfach Genial (7/7)
- Ta Yü (7/8)
- Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (7/9)
- Gang of Four (6/8) *
- Race for the Galaxy (4/4)
- Tarock (4/4)
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 Age of Steam eight years ago and have played it every year since that. With Battle Line I’ve missed a year. I didn’t play games marked with an asterisk this year.
My H-index this year is 9. My total H-index is 24.