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

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)

Fives

  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.

H-index

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.

1860 ps18xx PBEM finished

My first ps18xx game ended today. 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, against Ed Rustin. I won. The start was good: Ed paid £180 in the opening auction, while I paid only £90. I got IOW, Ed got C&N, two privates each.

In stock round 2, I had enough money to start IWNJ, and Ed helped me float it. Operating round 2 saw the start of phase 3. Stock round 4 had Ed start FYN, while I got NGStL. Both floated. On stock round 6, Ed got BHI&R and VYSC, while I got S&C. First 5+3 was bought in OR 6.1, as was the first 6+3, rusting the 3+2:s.

Stock round 7 was just stocking up on VYSC, FYN and NGStL shares. OR 7.1 was mostly withholding, the first 7+4 and 8+4 were bought on OR 7.2. IWNJ bought the first 9+5 on OR 7.3. I had to sell some shares and pay £490 from my own cash for it, but it was worth the trouble.  On stock round 8, we both sold the rest of IOW shares we had, making it insolvent and in receivership. Now S&C was the only owned company without a train. That changed in OR 8.1, when S&C bought a 9+5, starting the nationalization. Three rounds of that and the game was over.

I had a strong start and at some point was leading almost 4000-3000 or so. When the train rush hit, my companies took some hits and first we were even and then Ed had the lead for a while. However, when I did get the trains in place, things started rolling again. I had more certificates and I owned 100% of IWNJ and NGStL, both of which were running for £340. Ed’s companies had 6+3, 6+3 and 7+4 trains, which meant they were eliminated first in the nationalization process.

In the end, I won £11,301 vs £7,761.

The game was generally very pleasant, very little token wars or anything… Well, BHI&R was — again — screwed with tragic tile lays. That’s the way it is done, as far as I can tell… I’d be very reluctant to start BHI&R, especially if I didn’t control IOW.

1860: Ed vs Mikko final board
The final board situation. Click through for a larger view.

1860 PBEM game

I played a game of PBEM 1860 with Justin Rebelo. It was one of our quick games, played mostly in couple of sessions over just few days.

Justin did a great session report on Geek, check that out if you’re interested. It was an exciting match: Justin got some early lead, I took over and gained a big lead, then lost in the nationalization phase when Justin’s train shopping paid off. The final difference was about 300 pounds, when the scores were about 11 000 pounds. Not a huge difference, no.

1860 is a great game. It works well with two. It has lots of interesting rules, I like pretty much every aspect of the game.

Here’s the board after the game:

1860: Isle of Wight board at the end of a game

Here’s a more artsy photo of the token corridor in the center of the board:

The hot spot of Isle of Wight train network

1865: Sardinia

I read through the rules of a new 18xx game, 1865: Sardinia, by Alessandro Lala. It sounds very promising! It’s a smallish game, 2–4 players, with interesting details. Here are some highlights: The game looks great, it’s done by Cory of 18AL remake fame The stock market has outside investors, who buy and sell shares … Continue reading 1865: Sardinia

New game buzz

I bought some new games. Through the Ages was a must-buy after I played it with Tommy last year. I picked my copy of the second edition yesterday. A lot has been said about the production values of the new edition. I have little to add, except that it isn’t that bad and it sure … Continue reading New game buzz

Games day with Tommy

As the tradition goes (last year, the year before that, the weekend before that, the year before that…), I met Tommy for a day of games. So, this year it was just me and him, and just a single day. It was great fun nonetheless. We kicked off with 1860: Railways on the Isle of … Continue reading Games day with Tommy