Cole Wehrle interview

Cole Wehrle is one of the more interesting game designers at the moment. After his debut design Pax Pamir (Sierra Madre Games) in 2015, he has published just few designs – he has a total of three published titles at the moment – but those are all very interesting.

While all his other games are based on historical themes, his latest work is Root, a fantastical and purely fictional game that takes the asymmetrical guerrilla warfare of the COIN games and distills it all into a more accessible package. This game is currently on Kickstarter collecting funding.

This interview has also been published in Finnish at Lautapeliopas.

Long-winded design process

I was interested in hearing about Cole’s design process. It seems to be a long process. There’s some proof on BGG: Heaven’s Mandate has been listed on BGG for six years, but it’s still a work in progress, and may remain so indefinitely. Getting John Company, his 2017 game for Sierra Madre Games, right also took many years.

So how does it all work out, Cole?

– When I was a young student, I often used games as a way to trick myself into learning about a specific topic, Cole tells me. – If I needed to learn about the American Civil War, I would start by digging up some old Avalon Hill game on the subject and trying to teach myself through the game. This often was not a great way to learn history or literature or science, but it worked for me, Cole says.

– As I got older, I didn’t have time to learn a whole game for each and every subject in school, so I found myself jotting down little games in the margins of my notebooks. Game design was a way that I tried to make sense of the world, Cole explains.

– Of course, none of these games were good in the traditional sense. I rarely bothered to write down rules. Mostly they were just tables and charts and maps and diagrams. I suppose I was making little models, though it would have never occurred to me at the time to describe them that way, Cole says.

As Cole got older, lessons at school got more complicated and so did the games. Once he started playing more games, he realized some of those ideas might make for interesting games to actually play, and might offer something already published games don’t:

– Mostly, as a player, I was just trying to build the games that explored the ideas that I wasn’t seeing out there, Cole says. – Years ago, when my dissertation advisor asked me why I decided to spend my extra month of fellowship time working on Pax Pamir rather than taking a vacation or (preferably!) publishing an academic article, I replied that I had the feeling that if I didn’t make a game on 1820’s Afghanistan, no one would, Cole tells.

But even if the pre-process can take a long time, his actual design process is pretty regular in length and effort.

An Infamous Traffic

A rich variety of themes

Cole’s games have interesting themes: 1820’s Afghanistan, Chinese Opium trade, the ups and downs of the East Indian Company. Is it easy to find interesting themes?

– My goodness, there is no shortage of interesting subjects for games, Cole exclaims. – I have more topics than I know what to do with at the moment. A lot of these themes I borrow from my own reading. If a topic is intriguing enough to deserve a good book, there’s probably some ideas worth considering.

However, not all theme ideas lend themselves to interesting games.

– My own process seems to contain two separate conversations. One is a big wheel of ideas, topics, and dissatisfactions with the kinds of stories folks tell. The second wheel contains formal dissatisfactions in how games are designed. When those two wheels line up I know I’ve got a game worth exploring, Cole says.

Sometimes it takes playing another game to get the spark for creating something new.

– So, for instance, with Pax Pamir, I was thinking a lot about the theme and sorting through mountains of good material. But, it wasn’t until I was seriously playing Splotter’s The Great Zimbabwe and having a lot of arguments in person and online about engine builder games that I had the mechanical frame that I could use to think about Afghanistan at that time, Cole explains.

For a designer focused on historical themes, jumping into a fictional theme may be a big leap. Is it liberating, not having to worry about historical details, or difficult?

– It allows me to be more philosophical. Without the messiness of history, I can cut off a lot of the complexity of the moment and focus on what I see as the abstract core of a particular problem, Cole says. – At the same time, that cleanness can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes I wished I had a straight historical allegory so I could go back to it for guidance.

As for the games he plays, Cole prefers historical themes.

– Looking at my shelf now, I’d guess that about 70% of what I own is historical in some way or another. If a game is interesting and obtuse, I’m liable to want to explore it, regardless of theme. Both historical and fictional themes can suffer from the constraints of their theme: history games can become reenactments; fictional games get stuck in clichés, Cole explains.

Why Root?

Who should be interested in Root? What makes the game stand out from the flood of miniatures and mediocrities in Kickstarter?

Root is the kind of game that I wish I would have had growing up, Cole says. – And it’s the kind of game I wish I could have taken to college with me. It’s my attempt to offer something compelling to folks stuck with time constraints or with a group that don’t often explore interactive games. Make no mistake, it’s a tricky game with some sharp edges, but it’s also by far the most accessible game I’ve built.

– In short, if you want to explore interactive, asymmetric strategy games, Root is a great place to start, Cole summarizes.

Pax Pamir

Different approaches for different publishers

For his short career, Cole has worked with several publishers. He has published two games with Sierra Madre Games, one with Hollandspiele and now he’s employed at Leder Games. What kind of thinking goes into choosing a suitable publisher?

– So far the decisions have been quite easy. Usually I have a publisher in mind the moment I start a design. I suppose that’s an academic habit, Cole explains.

– While you don’t want to wholly become subject to a particular conversation or a particular publication, there comes a time when you need to communicate what you’ve done, and part of that “communication” means thinking about the different forms it could take and the venues where it might live. So, for Pamir, I had the argument and a lot of the ideas of the game pretty well set. Then I played Pax Porfiriana and instantly knew exactly where I should publish it, Cole explains.

– The story is a little different with Hollandspiele but that was only because they weren’t yet a company when Tom and Mary asked me to design An Infamous Traffic. Right now I’m working on a design for them (slowly), that I’m sure will be a good fit, Cole says.

There are many sides to having a game fit a publisher.

– First, I’m talking about the ethos and audience of the company. Phil has a unique customer base that will like certain games and hate others. That’s true of any publisher, Cole says.

– Second, I’m talking about production constraints or expectations. Every publisher from little Sierra Madre Games to Fantasy Flight Games has different production capabilities. Those limits are critical factors for a game design and I take them seriously when I think about pitching a game, Cole says.

– My work at Leder is similar in this way. Vast: the Crystal Caverns is the foundational title for Leder Games. It’s why the company exists. They’ve built a lovely audience around that title. For this reason, with Root, I am attempting to do a design in that style that I think advances their particular style of asymmetric games. I’m grateful that I happened to have ideas that fit well within that form, Cole says.

I’m pretty sure Phil Eklund is high on your list of designers you admire. But who else?

– I love Phil for his willingness to use games as a platform for thinking through complicated subjects, Cole explains. –He makes games you can argue with (and I often do argue with them!).

– I adore Tom Russell for his ability to create incredibly expressive games with very few rules. I love how Reiner Knizia explores the friction between different player positions (Tigris & Euphrates, Modern Art, and Stephenson’s Rocket are favorites). Lastly, I should also mention Nate Hayden who I admire for his deeply personal, uncompromising design ethos.

John Company box cover

A great eye for graphic design

Cole is not just a talented game designer, but he also has great eye for graphic design. His work on John Company got me attracted to the game in the first place: the cover is splendid and the first page of the rulebook pretty much sealed the deal for me. How important is the graphic design for game design?

– I spend a lot of time on the graphic design for my own games. In fact, I more-or-less learned graphic design by doing redraws for games. So, I owe a lot of my skills directly to this hobby, Cole says.

– During the design process, I tend to think through my problems with geometry, so I make a lot of shapes. Now, that isn’t to say things are “pretty” at the start. All of that comes later. But, I work through my design problems visually which means that by the time I get to the final game, I am pretty certain of how a particular game should look. I think An Infamous Traffic was uniquely successful in this regard. I’m very happy with the rules of John Company as well, Cole agrees.

– I think graphic design is very important, but it should always serve gameplay. Some of my favorite visual designs for games are things like Food Chain Magnate, Winsome Games, and GMT’s The US Civil War.

– I wish more companies had aesthetics half as bold or as thought through as Splotter, Cole says. – I think my favorite visual design of theirs is probably The Great Zimbabwe, but Cannes is a close second. I just love how that game looks like a film zine from the 1980’s. It’s perfect.

Side interests in Victorian literature

According to your BGG profile, your PhD was about “how the experience of empire altered the way British writers imagined distances of time and space during the early and mid 19th century.” Care to elaborate a bit? What did you find out?

– By training I’m a scholar specializing in Victorian literature. I look at books and the context that shaped them. Over the past few years I’ve been thinking a lot about time and space and the Empire, Cole explains.

– The short answer to your question is that a lot of the “space-collapsing” anxiety you seen in narrative in the early nineteenth century that is often associated with technologies like the railroad and the telegraph has a lot more to do with the British Empire’s imperial growth. Empires need to make the argument that they can project power across their domains and to do that they need to tell little lies about how closely things are connected, Cole says.

– Literature of the period provides a record of those lies. Long before the submarine cables stretched across the oceans, people were finding ways through storytelling to make the world seem smaller than it actually was, Cole says.

Your designer diaries suggest that you read a lot: all your games seem to be influenced by lots of literature. Any book suggestions?

– After I get home from work and after the kids go to bed, I get to reading. I don’t consider myself a particularly fast reader, but I do make time to read and am protective of that time, Cole says.

– For the past few years I always recommend two books: Philipp Meyer’s The Son and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora. The first is one of the best historical novels I’ve ever read. It’s a multi-generational yarn about the history of Texas that isn’t afraid to tackle some tough subjects. The second is an utterly compelling science fiction novel that reminded me how much I could love the genre after about a decade of not touching the stuff.

– Right now, I’m reading Ron Chernow’s Grant, a new biography of US Grant. It’s wonderful. I also just finished Dexter Palmer’s mind-bending Version Control, which is a very different kind of time travel narrative. On my shelf I’ve got Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend which I’ve been meaning to give a second read so that I can properly finish the sequence.

– I’m also about half way through a couple books on Minnesota state history (half the fun of moving to a new place is digging into local history!). And, each night I’ve been reading a few entries out of TH White’s England Have My Bones and then a poem or two from a collection of poems called the Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay. Okay, okay, I’ll stop there.

Kickstarting Root

Root is on Kickstarter now until 22.11.2017, and has already reached more than $170,000 of funding, surpassing the $24,000 goal many times. I’m a backer; I’ve found the game idea very intriguing.

Root – Woodland Might and Right

Gaming Year 2016

2016 was a good year. Lots of games.

I made a new record for the number of new games tried. My previous record was 93 new games in 2011, but this year I reached 133 new games. This is a record that’s unlikely to be broken any time soon. I don’t really want to.

I’ve decided to aim for some moderation. In games this means I’ll stop buying new games. Not completely, I don’t think that’s possible, but still reducing the influx of new games a lot. I’m aiming for one game every two months, or something like that. I also set myself a goal of selling 100 games or expansions, and I’ve already gotten rid of almost 90 titles. Hooray for me.

Once again, I created a top 100 list.

Good new games (2015–2016)

Pandemic Legacy Season 1 was a must-try game, even though I don’t really like the basic Pandemic all that much. I played this two-player with my son, because I though that would be the easiest to arrange. It’s been an interesting ride, but at times quite the slow one. We started in January and did good pace for a while, then new games arrived and… well, the pace has been slower then. I’m fairly sure we’ll finish the game, and quite sure that we won’t play the Season 2.

I do like the Legacy element. It’s been interesting how things develop, and losing the games (which has happened a lot, especially lately) is better when it has consequences. As for other Legacy games, SeaFall doesn’t seem all that interesting or suitable for me. I’m following Charterstone with interest. We also played two scenarios of T.I.M.E Stories which was nice.

The Colonists is an epic game of infrastructure building. And by epic, I do mean Epic: the box is seriously big and full of components, and playing the full game can take hours and hours – we’re talking about 8–10 hours here. That’s quite impossible, of course, so I’ve so far played a small fraction of that. The full game is four eras, and I’ve played two-player games of eras 1–2, which takes about two hours. Even that is a decent game, and with experience you can start from era 2 and play eras 2–3, which should take 2–3 hours with two players.

So yeah, it’s epic. I have a feeling that this might fire Roads & Boats for me – the games are different, as R&B is a lot more about logistics, but both share the epic proportions, and The Colonists is more to my tastes, I think.

Honshu is a small masterpiece from a Finnish designer Kalle Malmioja. It started from an idea I also had: there’s a smaller game in Patchistory that’s more fun to play. Honshu uses the patching from that game, and just adds a simple card auction for distributing the cards (I like that; draft would’ve been the other obvious choice, and I prefer this).

It’s a simple game, yet quite enjoyable to play. It’s fun to puzzle the best way to patch the cards in to your map in order to score most points.

Arboretum was a bit of a hit earlier in the year, a clever card game where what you don’t play is often also quite critical. While the game mechanics are nothing like Battle Line, there’s something similar in the games, as in both games you’re running on limited hand size while your hand often gets a bit stuck with cards you really wouldn’t want to actually play. If you like clever card games, check this out.

Star Wars: Rebellion isn’t really anything at all I’d expect to enjoy, but I did. I bought the game because it’s a two-player game and my son is somewhat into Star Wars (we watched the original trilogy this year). This is a neat game, with cool components and fresh asymmetrical game play. There are things I don’t like, mostly the combat which is mostly annoying, but the main loop is entertaining for both sides in the conflict.

It’s quite possible this isn’t a permanent keeper and I think the overall 5th rank of all games in BGG is way over the top – this made the 44th rank on my own top 100 list – but if you’re looking for a large scale asymmetrical conflict game and happen to dig Star Wars, this is a catch.

Tokaido is notable, since my Collector’s Edition finally arrived, barely 18 months late. So is it any good? It is. Not universally loved, except for the components, as some feel the game is a bit bland, but I find it enjoyable. It’s a “helicopter game” (a new term for 2016!), ie. no matter what you do, you end up doing fine. But it is a beautiful, pleasant journey.

Oh My Goods! is a curious game. In theory I like it quite a bit, as it provides an interesting challenge of managing resources, but in practise it doesn’t always work perfectly. Sometimes the production chains just don’t run the way they should, and then the game doesn’t entertain quite as much. But I do find this game really intriguing.

Completto is a simple, humble little Rummy game. Draw a tile, place it in your row, toss the replaced tile away. The aim is to get a row of tiles in ascending order in front of you, and the catch is that the tiles start the play face down. This is simple, with pleasing components, and simple but addictive game play. I don’t expect this to be a major hit, but I quite like this.

Karuba is a solid family game, a variant of Take It Easy!, where all players get identical tiles and have to lay out routes and run explorers on the routes to score points. Very simple, fun and elegant, a top notch family game I think. Not quite as extraordinary as Love Letter, but still solid.

Monikers is hardly a new game, since it’s nothing but the public domain game of Celebrities in a nice box. But it is a very nice box, a large number of celebrities to guess, and while the celebrities are slightly too US-centric, the cards contain descriptions that make playing the game much easier even if you don’t know who the people are. This is one of my favourite party games.

Flamme Rouge is a solid game of cycling. I quite like this, the game jumped straight to the list of best racing games. It remains to be seen if that’s good enough to see play (my experience with Rallyman would suggest it isn’t). The card management is simple and fun, and the racing is exciting.

Great Western Trail was one of the hot heavier euro games in Essen 2016. I bought it and quite enjoyed it. It’s a big game, takes couple of hours and is initially a bit tough to teach, but once you figure it out, it sure works well. I’m looking forward to exploring the trail quite a bit in 2017.

Mechs vs Minions was something of an event in 2016. No wonder why: a huge 20-liter box full of goodies, for just 80 euros shipped to Finland. That’s a crazy price, thanks to the publisher Riot Games selling this only direct from their merch store. I’ve only managed one play so far, but the game seems quite solid under all the chrome. Very much worth buying, if you’re into co-ops, programming and chaos.

Hero Realms is the latest installment in the Realms series. A solid game, closer to Star Realms than Cthulhu Realms, with hints of Epic, though mostly in the art. This plays pretty much exactly like Star Realms, to be honest, so do I need both? Well I suppose I do, at least I can enjoy the variety since I’ve played maybe 500 games of Star Realms on iPad. My son likes this as well.

Trambahn is a delightful two-player card game, something of a Lost Cities killer for me. You build card sets of ascending values like in Lost Cities, but there’s more to the game. Add to this a nice art style and a cool old-fashioned railroad theme, and you’ve got a rather splendid little two-player game.

Colony isn’t completely new, as I playtested this in 2015 quite a bit. Now it’s here, in full printed glory, and I still like it. The dice manipulation, Dominion-like building of engine from a variable set of cards, it’s all great. Very enjoyable game.

Terraforming Mars left a very positive initial impression from my first play. Quadropolis is promising. Dokmus has potential. Solarius Mission is complicated, but fun.

Good older games I haven’t played before

Ora et Labora was one of the very best games this year. I completely missed it back in 2011, but now that I’ve been on an Uwe Rosenberg roll and there was the new edition and all, I decided to go for this, and I’m very glad I did: this is one of the best of Rosenberg’s games.

I enjoy sandboxes, that’s about it – Ora et Labora isn’t particularly stressful, there’s no need to feed anybody, just collect resources, process them into something else, build new ways to process resources, and if somebody takes the building you want, you can just go and visit them. Very pleasant.

Rails of New England got skipped back in 2010 when it first came out. I remember being interested in the game, but avoiding it for various reasons, like the long playing time (I was more allergic of that at the time). I got this in a math trade later, and had it in my collection for a while before playing.

Turns out this is a decent game. Sure, there are some dubious component decisions and the rulebook would require a lot of editing, and the board while pretty (it’s by Ryan Laukat, I just noticed) is quite inconvenient. But the game is fun! It’s good fun to develop your companies and businesses. There’s plenty to love in this game.

Deus clicked for me. I watched a video review for the game, thought it might be good and jumped at it when I saw a copy at a con. I wasn’t disappointed: this turned out to be a game to my liking.

Deus fits into a very comfortable timeframe, has interesting decisions, some very pleasant competition between players and looks nice. What else can you ask for in a game? I’m somewhat interested in the new Deus: Egypt expansion, but not overwhelmingly so.

Keyflower seemed like a game I might enjoy, so I plunged into it. It sure succeeds. It’s a bit fiddly and perhaps unnecessarily complicated at times, but it is quite charming and what’s best, scales brilliantly from two to six players. I’ve only played the extremes so far, and both ends seem to work quite well.

I also got Key to the City: London, because I generally think streamlining games is a good idea and the London theme is very good, but… I’m not sure. I’ve only managed to play this once, and there were things in it that I liked and things that I didn’t enjoy as much. Handling the sticks that build the connections, for example, was mostly painful. It may be this doesn’t quite reach the level of Keyflower.

Snake Oil charmed me at first play. I knew I had to make a copy, and I did. “Make” instead of “buy”, because I wanted a Finnish copy. I came up with a list of words, wrote some code that takes a list of words and prints out a bunch of card images with the words, and fed those to an online printing service. Expensive, but the result is fine and what’s best, the kids liked the game.

Caverna is something I’ve wanted to try. I found a copy in the local library, kept it for maybe nine months and managed couple of games in that time. I wouldn’t mind owning a copy, as this is good variety for Agricola. There’s lots of things to do, and it all feels quite different from Agricola.

Antike II is a good upgrade from the first version. I loved the first game, but it had some flaws and didn’t get much play time (one major reason was the unconvenient box size). I decided to give this new edition a go, since I got it cheap from an auction, and it fixes all the problems in the first edition (even the box size!). Hooray! It still could use some work (some of the art is lacking in resolution and quite ugly), but it is a clear improvement from the first edition.

Children’s games

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.

Love Letter remained the most popular game on this list. This year Love Letter crossed the 100 play threshold, we played over 30 times this year.

Blue Moon is something I used to play and collect couple of years ago. I thought getting back into it with my son might a good idea. I managed to score a copy of the Blue Moon Legends box which has all the sets in it, and we’ve played it a lot. My son likes the game, and I think it’s fine.

Fashion Show got lots of plays, mostly because it’s so lightning fast, just couple of minutes per round. My daughter loves this, but hopefully isn’t too keen on it in the future (or plays with her friends) – I wouldn’t miss this much.

Burgle Bros. is one of my son’s favourites. We’ve clocked in over ten plays of this co-op game. I don’t really care for it all that much, but I’ll play with him. We’ve managed to complete the heist couple of times, but most of the time, we lose.

Memory keeps getting plays.

Lost Legacy hasn’t overthrown Love Letter. I came to the conclusion that The Flying Garden isn’t all that thrilling, but The Starship is a pretty neat challenge.

Best Treehouse Ever got some serious praise and why not – it’s a decent drafting game for families. I’m not so sure of the scoring, but the game works decently with just two players, looks great and is a small box, so I’m not complaining.

Afrikan tähti still gets played almost every time we visit the grandparents.

Europa Tour used to be a thing with me and my son, but we haven’t played it in a while. My daughter has picked it up, though, and requests it occasionally. She still isn’t very good in it, though; this seems like such a random game, but I still win a lot.

Loony Quest has a clever idea, but is mostly annoying, really. Were it up to me, this would be gone. I just don’t find the drawing all that interesting, and the kids get frustrated, because it’s difficult for them. Not a winner.

Trans Europa was a hit with my son in 2013, now it’s a hit with my daughter. I’m beginning to formulate a theory here – looks like this game works well with seven-year-olds.

Battle Sheep is a good filler. It has meaningful decisions and it’s quick to setup and over in minutes. I very much don’t need to own it, but if it’s available and there’s ten minutes to kill, it’s a good choice.

Little Prince: Build Me a Planet is one of my daughter’s favourite games. We play two-player games only, so the meanness in the game doesn’t really come up. It might be a problem.

Flick ‘Em Up got six plays as we went through the scenario book with my son, but fortunately we haven’t returned to it. I like the flicking, sure, but I don’t like the DIY rules. The rules have tons of holes, there’s no FAQ, just endless rule question threads on BGG for you to parse your own rules. No thanks.

Super Rhino keeps entertaining, even though it doesn’t see as much play as it used to.

Schildkrötenrennen is still a classic.

Dixit made a comeback, when I reacquired the game (I had played it once when it was originally published). I thought it might make a decent family game and it does – it’s something we can play with the whole family, including my wife, so that’s great.

Muumi Viidakkoseikkailu is much better than your average Moomin game – they tend to suck. This is a neat little pattern recognition game. Probably won’t see much play in the future, but it got to five plays quickly.

Ghost Blitz still works well. It’s always a tough duel between me and my daughter. If my son participates, he’ll grab few cards during the game. He doesn’t have a chance in this game…

Games I’ve kept on enjoying

This department feels too empty to me. All the new-fangled games have taken over and the old favourites don’t see enough play. That is something I would like to rectify in 2017.

Dale of Merchants still sees play, with some boost from the new animalfolk of Dale of Merchants 2. It’s high on my list of favourite deck-builder games, along with the more traditional Realms games.

Stich-Meister is still in steady rotation as the default trick-taking game.

La Granja made it on the table couple of times, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. It’s a splendid game.

Quartermaster General continued getting occasional play, and I also got the two new games in the series. Victory or Death is interesting, but maybe not a keeper. I’m not sure. 1914 remains unplayed so far.

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

Twilight Struggle was one of the more significant games I hadn’t played, so when given a chance to play it, I jumped to the occasion. I can’t really say this was a disappointment: I got pretty much what I expected here, a well-made game that just isn’t my cup of tea.

I can see why people dig Twilight Struggle, as it is a well-made game of an interesting topic, but I don’t understand how this could’ve been the BGG #1 ranked game, it’s such a niche game. I have no need to play this tug-of-war again, but I’m glad I did.

Beasty Bar seems quite popular, but I found this queue manipulation game mostly too chaotic and frustrating. The art is nice, but I felt there was no control to anything that happened. Boring.

Kivi won the best party game of the year award in Finland. That’s pretty good for a game of silent contemplation for 2–4 players. This isn’t a terrible Yahtzee variant, but not a good one either. The biggest disappointment here is the best party game award, considering that Codenames was also nominated.

FTF: First to Find is a geocaching card game, which sounds pretty cool, but unfortunately it’s not fun to play, and doesn’t really feel like geocaching at all.

Exploding Kittens was something I had to give a go, when I saw it at the local board game cafe. It doesn’t surprise me at all that it’s a total dud. There just isn’t enough game to it, and the Oatmeal illustrations aren’t particularly funny or interesting. So, nothing to see here, move along.

Unusual Suspects doesn’t seem to contain a game in it. I admit I only saw it quickly, but it did seem quite silly.

Where are they now

Coconuts got just two plays in 2016; the initial buzz has worn down. Well, it still has over 60 plays, which I think is rather splendid value for a game like that, and I wouldn’t turn down a game of this.

The City got just couple of plays. Might be appropriate to try and get some more plays for this game. As it happens, this is finally getting an English release, though not a straight reprint but a modified version, as Jump Drive under the Race for the Galaxy umbrella. I’m not particularly thrilled about that myself, but I’m glad that the game is getting a reprint.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig saw steady play in 2015, but didn’t get a single play in 2016. Suburbia got one, hence I think it’s the better game (my top 100 list would agree, placing Castles at #31, while Suburbia is #5 – of course a game that high in the rankings should really see more play).

Lewis & Clark has been forgotten for some reason. I already got rid of my copy of Discoveries, which is a good game, but just doesn’t see play. We used to play this with my son, but new games have taken over. I should investigate whether my son still likes this or not. We’ve played ten games so far, most of them two years ago, and while this is a decent game, I wouldn’t mind too much if we moved on.

Kyoto Protocol dropped out of the filler rotation, as did Abluxxen. Might be about time to reintroduce them.

Nations: The Dice Game got just one play. This has fallen out of fashion, like so many games do. Time to drop the rating, a 7 is too much for a game I obviously don’t want to play.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small didn’t get any plays whatsoever, despite steady play in 2015. I’m not sure why, but for some reason this doesn’t see any action. Le Havre: Inland Port has much lower rankings on BGG, but that one I actually want to play, and it does see play. It is a better game. This one… Well, I wouldn’t mind playing it, but clearly don’t actively want to, and since my son never wants to play this, it’s probably headed to the sale pile.

Fields of Arle and Agricola saw very little play. This is caused by two things: fewer opportunities to play games like that, and more competition for those opportunities. We enjoyed games of The ColonistsOra et LaboraStar Wars: Rebellion and many other new games instead.

The Voyages of Marco Polo was a disappointment. I liked it after my first play, bought it, played it once, then played some more on Yucata, and after every game enjoyed it less and less. I ended up selling the game.

I played very little 18xx this year: just one game of 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight.

Fives and dimes


  1. Love Letter (39)
  2. Fashion Show (17)
  3. Blue Moon (17)
  4. Burgle Bros (13)
  5. Dale of Merchants (12)
  6. Memory (11)
  7. Best Treehouse Ever (10)
  8. Lost Legacy: Starship (10)
  9. Pandemic Legacy (season 1) (10)
  10. Arboretum (10)


  1. Little Prince: Build me a planet (9)
  2. Afrikan tähti (9)
  3. Trans Europa+ (9)
  4. Completto (9)
  5. Loony Quest (8)
  6. Europa Tour (8)
  7. T.I.M.E. Stories (8)
  8. Battle Sheep (8)
  9. Isle of Skye (7)
  10. Snake Oil (7)
  11. Stich-Meister (7)
  12. Flip City (7)
  13. Ghost Blitz (7)
  14. Träxx (6)
  15. Deus (6)
  16. A Fake Artist Goes to New York (6)
  17. Too Many Cinderellas (6)
  18. Flick ‘Em Up (6)
  19. Take It Easy XXL (6)
  20. The Networks (6)
  21. Oregon (6)
  22. 7 Wonders: Duel (5)
  23. Dale of Merchants 2 (5)
  24. Schildkrötenrennen (5)
  25. Honshu (5)
  26. Ice Cool (5)
  27. Muumi viidakkoseikkailu (5)
  28. Above and Below (5)
  29. Dixit (5)
  30. Qwinto (5)
  31. Cthulhu Realms (5)
  32. Star Realms (5)
  33. Super Rhino (5)
  34. Trambahn (5)
  35. Tokaido (5)

Year metric

  1. Battle Line (Schotten-Totten) (15/16)
  2. San Juan (13/13)
  3. Attika (12/14)
  4. Dominion (9/9)
  5. Carcassonne (12/16)
  6. Ta Yü (11/14)
  7. Age of Steam* (11/14)
  8. Memory (8/8)
  9. Villa Paletti* (11/15)
  10. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation* (11/15)

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 eleven 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 10 (11 last year). My total H-index is 37, up one from last year.

38 is fairly easy to reach: it’ll take just one play of Europe Tour and Innovation and two games of Agricola.

Gaming Year 2015

2015 was a solid year. Numbers-wise, no complaints, and quality has been excellent. I played lots of good games with my son, who has continued to be an active member of the cult of the new. A new game for us to try? He’s game. My daughter is also growing up and we’ve been moving … Continue reading Gaming Year 2015

Gaming Year 2014

Another good year, can’t complaing. 2013 was good, and 2014 improved upon that. We bought a house this year and moved in, and that meant I got a bookshelf in my office I could use for games. With most of my games visible there, my son’s interest was piqued, and we ended up trying lots of different games. … Continue reading Gaming Year 2014

Gaming Year 2013

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 … Continue reading Gaming Year 2013

Gaming Year 2012

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. … Continue reading Gaming Year 2012

Metrics and games

Interesting new thing to calculate: the number of games played at least five times. This is interesting, of course, because I’m on top of the list when you look at the Finnish Board Game Society folks. I’ve long ago dropped from the top of the rating race, but on this list I shine. Lovely metric, … Continue reading Metrics and games