Another year gone. Good years keep on rolling – I rather enjoyed 2011, and have no complaints about 2012.
My kids continued to be good playing company. My son is now six and half, and is ready for some proper family games. I started introducing him to card games, as well, and that worked well. He can also read now, so we’re soon going to be able to play games requiring reading. My daughter, soon four, is now playing games full time and not just playing with them. She can be quite mad when she loses, but we’ll work on that.
Other than that, I’ve been having my weekly game nights on Thursdays, and also a Monday night game session at the circus school with a friend of mine whose son is in the same circus school as my son. I’ve been able to visit the usual cons and had overnight visits to both Ropecon and Lautapelaamaan.
Good new games (2011-2012)
Kingdom Builder was the biggest new game of the year. It seems to have received an overall warm welcome, with some detractors claiming there’s not much game in it. I think there is – most of the time (but certainly not always) you can manage the luck and play well. It’s not at all scripted, but if you make mistakes or have really bad luck, then yes, it can get a bit sour. Nomads was a nice addition, nothing terribly essential (except for the red pieces), though. This one works well as a family game, my son likes to play it. I’ve mostly played this as a two-player game, with my son or at the circus school.
Trains was a must-buy once I heard of it. Dominion, with a train theme? Sold! I bought my copy immediately from Japan, paying a rather hefty sum for it (it is the most expensive game I’ve bought so far). Fortunately the game was just as good as the synopsis promised. Excellent game, and easier to carry around than Dominion. I also designed a Tampere map for the game. That was fun.
The Great Zimbabwe is the new Splotter game, and thus a must-buy. Turned out this was the best new Splotter title for me since I don’t know when. The shorter playing time suits me perfectly, and I’ve already managed six games in two months or so. A friend of mine did list the Zimbabwe as one of the worst games he played last year, but I hope I can keep on playing this one, as it is a very interesting game.
Village got my attention by winning both SdJ and DSP. Not bad! Turns out the game was quite decent, and I got in five plays pretty quickly. After that, though, my interest has been waning. The time mechanism is great, and the game certainly offers lots of things to do. It’s a solid euro game, and for a worker placement game, it’s rather well done (a lot more interesting than, say, Fresco). Not a keeper though, I expect I’ll sell this one this year.
The City. I have played this before, but I finally got my own copy and played 13 games in just couple of months. This one’s going to reach 100 plays sooner or later, probably sooner. It is simply an excellent filler.
Santa Cruz is an interesting entry to the 45-minute euro game category. Not bad. I quite enjoyed the seven games I played. However, I already sold my copy, so certainly not a keeper for me. Worth trying, though, if you enjoy the likes of Thurn and Taxis, Finca and other 45-minute euros.
Love Letter was a real surprise. I got the game from the Lautapelaamaan raffle and it turned out to be quite the hit. It’s very compact, just 16 cards, but it does offer quite a bit of game. The default winning conditions are probably one point too much, making the game a tad long, but still – the card interactions offer lots of laughs and exciting situations. There’s a hefty dose of luck, but the whole unfairness of it is one of the things that make Love Letter work.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue is an interesting co-op game of, well, fire rescue. This one requires close team work if the players wish to succeed. A rather enjoyable game, which I liked. It got me a bit excited, actually, but I’m fairly sure that if I went and got the game, I’d end up never playing it (case in point: Rattus, which turned out to be a total flash in the pan, despite early excitement).
Elder Sign left me cold the first time we played it. I then got the iPhone app, played couple of games and requested the board game again and hey, it sure was much more enjoyable. The key here? Elder Sign is very much a fixed fun game. We had six players in our first game, three in the second and thus (at least) double the fun.
Timeline is a fun little trivia game, based on arranging events on a timeline. Not the first game to do this kind of thing, but it’s pretty well done here. Other games do this in a more complicated way, including bluffing and doubt, but Timeline is very simple and straightforward, and that works well.
Colorpop is a simple game of matching colors, but there’s some subtlety in it that’s not immediately obvious. Then again, when I played with my kids, they won most of the time, so it’s clearly all luck. Anyway, it’s a fun little game that looks interesting.
Soccero. I played this Finnish soccer game exactly once and this is one of those games that I thought was interesting, but which would probably fail if I bought it – it’s a two-player game, and for starters I don’t play lots of two-player games. Fortunately that’s not an option, considering the hefty price tag the game is sporting. Anyway, if die-roll based soccer is your thing, Soccero is a good choice, I though the game was rather fun to play.
Good older games I haven’t played before
Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper was one of the hits of the year. The game has been on my radar for years (it’s an old game, it’s from the 20th century!) and I finally acquired a copy. That was one of the better purchases of the year. I played 15 games, mostly two-player at the circus school, and inspired at least two friends to buy their own copies of the game (which is now easily available, unlike back when I was first interested in it). Very good.
Brass is one of those “why didn’t I play this before” games. After giving Age of Industry a go I went ant bought myself a copy of Brass. Turned out to be a rather good idea. I only played four games with the real game, but over 40 games at the Order of the Hammer. I stopped playing at some point, but should probably get back to it, as it was fun.
Schnäppchen Jagd is another long-time radar game I finally acquired. Another good purchase. Even though some folks find this game doesn’t offer enough control, I found it good enough and enjoyed my seven games of it. I played this one strictly as a three-player game. That’s probably how it shines. I certainly wouldn’t mind playing more.
Tobago is a clever little game. It’s clearly a family game, and not a very heavy strategy game, but it plays fast and provides lots of entertainment. I mostly played it in Jyväskylä, and will probably continue to play it there. The components are delightful and the game is just fun to play.
Volldampf is an old Martin Wallace train game, a precursor to Age of Steam, and I’ve been eyeing this one for a long time. Now I finally got it, and we quickly played twice. The game was clearly better with three than with five, so I’ll be aiming at the lower player counts with this one in the future. The game has its flaws (the action cards?), but works out rather well, and is a nice, softer train game.
Clippers fell unfortunately flat. I had high hopes for this Winsome-like train game masqueraded as sailing game, but we’ve only played this once so far. The guy I was most hoping to enjoy this didn’t, so I haven’t been able to get a second play with the proper five players. Too bad, because this seems like a very good 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.
Kids of Carcassonne didn’t get the 50+ plays it got last year, but it still was our most-played children’s game this year. And why not? Easy enough for both of the kids, yet still interesting to play.
Da ist der Wurm drin is a roll-and-move with almost no decisions to make, yet it’s been one of the hits this year. Kids love it, it’s that simple, and I don’t mind playing it. It is quite exciting, and the randomness of it all is actually a bonus, as it’ll force the kids to face the realities of winning and losing on a pleasantly random basis.
Mord in Arosa is mentioned here, because most of the time I played this one with my son. It’s not a bad two-player game, and easy enough for children that it’ll make a decent family game, if you don’t mind the bloody murder. Fortunately the illustrations are subtle enough.
Volldampf voraus! is a small Haba set collection game with a train theme I bought last year. It didn’t make the list last year, but now it did. It’s one of the games my daughter enjoys quite a bit. It’s very easy and plays pretty fast, yet offers some excitement and fun.
Das kleine Gespenst is one of our favourites, my daughter often requests this. We’ve got good house rules for this one, we remove the still-too-difficult dexterity aspect and make this a pure memory game. My son has been dominating the games so far, but my daughter is soon going to give him tough times. Me, I’m just a bystander in these games. I won exactly once the whole year.
Villa Paletti is a real classic that keeps on providing entertainment year in, year out.
Marrakech might include a game or two with adults, but mostly it’s two-player games with my son. I should probably try this with my daughter as well.
Kids from Catan is my daughter’s favourite. It’s a pure lottery with zero decisions, but at least it has nice components (some of which, actually, don’t even work well). I expect she’ll eventually grow out of this and then it’s good riddance, but meanwhile I don’t mind playing this – if it’s her favourite, then it is.
Takenoko is another great family game. The game has an age recommendation of 13+, which is way off (but as I understand, only because of US consumer protection laws which make things much easier for products marketed for 13+ audience re lead tests and all that). My son plays the game quite well, too, with some help from me. We can play a fairly competitive game, actually. Lovely family game.
Schildkrötenrennen is a bit tricky with the cards, so we’ve played using open cards. This one will shine a bit later on, I think.
Carcassonne. My son is already old enough for the regular Carcassonne, and we’ve played some. Without farmers, of course.
Go. I reintroduced my son to Atari-Go (play until first capture). It went down better than before. He’ll learn.
Games I’ve kept on enjoying
Oregon. I played twice last year, then 102 games this year. I did count quite a few online plays at Yucata.de in this, but only those that were finished within one day (ie. sort of in one sitting). So, I actually played more of this. I did play quite a few live games as well, mostly two-player games at the circus school, as we could play three games in the hour we had. Excellent, excellent game.
Pantheon. I was hoping to explore this one further last year, and that indeed happened. I tried this one on Thursday games and it didn’t quite succeed, but my mother loves this one, so I’ll be playing this one at Jyväskylä, then. I probably should just leave the game there, actually (they keep a side branch of my game collection; there’s already Qwirkle and Stone Age).
Eclipse got three plays, which is good. One of those plays was an epic nine-player game. That was fun to try, but probably something I won’t miss much. The other two games were non-expanded games with my friends, and it’s nice to see something this heavy played on our weekly game nights. Eclipse is not perfectly my kind of game, so I’m pretty happy with the few games in a year pace. I still haven’t got the expansion, and I’m not sure if I’m going to get it. I should write something about it, though…
Dominion got a bit eclipsed by Trains. I still managed 12 games, which is all good and well, considering I didn’t really play it on our weekly game sessions. It’s such an unwieldy game. I still haven’t got the latest expansion, and I’m kind of wondering if I should get it or not. It won’t see much play, but then again… I’d like to have it. I should also try to get Dominion played a bit more.
Felix: Cat in the Sack was a rather popular filler. It is a rather delightful game, if you don’t play it with three. I’ve proudly got six wins out of ten games, where my expected share is just 2.4 wins.
Acquire. I acquired an old copy of this classic and gave it a new go this year. We ended up playing it three times. Not bad, as that doubled my Acquire games. Nice and classic for a reason, always a pleasure (though the game can drag a bit, if there’s one or two slow players in it).
Innovation is difficult to get on the table, but I still managed five games. The expansion is one of the most useless so far, I think I’ve used it exactly once since I got it. We just don’t play Innovation at a rate that would make the expansion interesting.
String Railway: Transport is a pity – a game I’d like to play a lot more, as I think it’s a rather interesting game, but nobody else likes it. What a shame. Regular String Railway fell out of rotation as well, I only played it twice, even though I’ve carried with me every now and then.
Nile DeLuxor kept shining as an easy-to-approach card game. I rarely take it to the game nights, but it got played at home and at the circus school. It’s a keeper.
The not-so-good, the disappointing and the plain bad
Kimble aka Trouble aka Sorry. This is still an awful game. The kids wanted to play it and we played it three times, but I think the game ended up with someone crying every time. It has so many elements that only add frustration. So, no matter the rather cool Angry Birds Space Race set I have, this game sucks.
Dominant Species: The Card Game. Not my cup of tea, I knew it. We did have six players, which probably only made it worse. This might work with three or four, but even then… no.
Red Hot Silly Dragon. A clever idea, but the game wasn’t actually any fun at all.
Jolly Octopus is mostly about a battery-operated octopus, which whirls around, flails its tentacles and laughs a horrible electronic laughter if you touch it. I fail to see a game here. The kids kind of liked it, but I made sure it went out of the house quickly.
Mystery Rummy: Jekyll & Hide. I expected more, based on how great Jack the Ripper was, but… well, this one wasn’t all bad, but it kept me thinking: why am I playing this, when I could be playing Jack the Ripper? And that’s no good at all.
Cars 2 World GP and Cars 2: Race Champions. I’ve yet to see a decent Cars-themed game. One of these is even a Knizia, and they both are rather horrible. Fortunately my son is no longer that interested in Cars, and hasn’t asked to play these anymore.
Coyote is a game of Indian Poker meets Liar’s Dice. I can see how some people have a blast with these. Count me out.
Snowdonia fell awfully flat. Maybe it was part the situation and part the game, but still – I have zero interest in trying this one out in a better situation.
Dungeon Lords was so not my cup of tea. It’s way too complicated, takes too long, and the interaction with the other players is rather unpleasant.
Ascending Empires. I ended up selling this one. It has lots of promise, but when every second game is decent and every second game is slow and long-winded misery, it just doesn’t work out. Also, my friends didn’t really like this.
Kickstarter. Kings of Air and Steam was supposed to arrive in July, then August, then later, then who knows when… I still don’t have it. And this from a company that swore that it had learnt from its earlier mistakes with Eminent Domain. FrankenDie was also late, but that one I did get, and now I have four copies and nobody wants them. Glory to Rome Black Box – what an epic display of lateness. That does it – I’m off Kickstarter games for now.
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.
- Oregon (102)
- Kingdom Builder (31)
- Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper (15)
- The City (13)
- Kids of Carcassonne (13)
- Da ist der Wurm drin (12)
- Trains (12)
- Dominion (12)
- Mord im Arosa (10)
- Battle Line (Schotten-Totten) (9)
- Felix: Cat in the Sack (8)
- Volldampf voraus! (8)
- Das kleine Gespenst (8)
- Villa Paletti (8)
- Santa Cruz (7)
- Takenoko (7)
- Schnäppchen Jagd (7)
- Marrakech (7)
- Kids from Catan (7)
- Can’t Stop (6)
- Set (6)
- Colorpop (6)
- Great Zimbabwe (6)
- Love Letter (6)
- Puzzle Strike (6)
- Schildkrötenrennen (6)
- Nile (6)
- Nile DeLuxor (6)
- Pantheon (6)
- Carcassonne (5)
- Village (5)
- Innovation (5)
- Atari-go (5)
- Tobago (5)
- San Juan (5)
- Battle Line (11/12)
- Age of Steam (10/10)
- San Juan (9/9)
- Attika (9/10) *
- Ta Yü (9/10)
- Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (8/11) *
- Villa Paletti (8/11)
- Ingenious (7/9) *
- 18XX (6/7) *
- Settlers of Catan Junior (5/5)
- Animal Upon Animal (5/5)
- Dominion (5/5)
- Preußische Ostbahn (5/5)
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 ten 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 for this year is 9 (last year 11). My total H-index is 27, one up from last year.