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.

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 on to less childish games. She’s very eager, but she generally wants to play her favourites again and again and is less interested in new games – though she’ll try new games and is open to finding new favourites.

Last year I proclaimed I’ll miss both Ropecon and Lautapelaamaan in 2015; that fortunately turned out to be false, as I was able to attend both. Ropecon was once again a great day of gaming with my son and as one of the absolute highlights of the year, the Ropecon organisation awarded me the Golden Dragon achievement award for my work on promoting board gaming.

I also attended JyCon, a tiny little con in Jyväskylä. That was fun as well.

The Golden Dragon achievement award I got from the Ropecon 2015 committee. A proud moment on my board game career!

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Good new games (2014–2015)

Dale of Merchants was very much the game of the year for me, I’d say. The designer sent me a print-n-play copy of the game to try, and it turned out to be great – good enough that I listed it as number one on my top 5 deck-building games video. Better than Dominion? I don’t know, but certainly more interesting right now.

Fields of Arle is the pinnacle of Uwe Rosenberg resource management and farming games. It has a particularly lovely dose of theme and tons of interesting things to do. A proper sandbox, compared to the much tighter Agricola. A pleasant change of pace, and for now the one I prefer. Fields of Arle is strictly a two-player game, but as I prefer Agricola with fewer players, it’s not a problem.

Patchwork is another another great Uwe Rosenberg game. A simple two-player game, but it works so well. It’s easy to play, easy to teach, done quickly, yet fun and challenging. Doing well is far from simple. An elegant, pleasant game.

Istanbul is the Kennerspiel des Jahres winner from 2014, and a really fine game. I got my first taste in Ropecon, and that single game led to two purchased copies of the game. I clocked in seven games during the year, which is pretty good. I’ve played both two-player games with my son and multiplayer games with other people; my mother really likes the game, and so do I, as Istanbul is simple, elegant and exciting.

Codenames was one of the party game hits of the year. It’s my favourite in the genre, as it is still very much a game and not an activity. It plays fast, has simple rules and very engaging game play. All in all a success, and something I’d like to have in my collection. I’m waiting for the Finnish version, though.

Concept is a prime example of something that’s better described as an activity as a game: try to explain a phrase using cubes placed on symbols on the board. Creativity required! Even the rulebook says not to both with the scoring, and it does seem a bit pointless. I also hate the suggested two-player team play – I don’t want to play this in teams. But fortunately rules are there to break, and as an activity, this is quite clever and enjoyable.

Spyfall is the third great party game of the year – what a great year for the genre! Here I understand some folks really hate the game, but I found this absolutely lovely. Players are somewhere and know where they are – except the spy, who knows nothing and needs to figure it out. The game is played by asking and answering questions: “how often you come here?”, “what are you wearing on your feet?”, “what was for lunch today?” and so on. The spy needs to come up with convincing answers, which is made easier by the need for the other players to avoid giving the spy clues. Stressful, but in a very good way.

Kyoto Protocol is the other great Finnish game of the year. This is an energy-themed filler game (the designer Petri Savola is a Power Grid fan, which may or may not have influenced the theme). I like this: there’s plenty to think about here, for a filler, and the art and the graphic design are very much to my tastes. An excellent filler.

Imperial Settlers seemed promising and turned out great. It has problems, but most of them don’t really bother me. I’ve only played this as a two-player game, and don’t expect that to change. I shudder at the thought of playing this with four players. Three might work. This is tableau-building and resource management with lots of possibilities to do things, and lots of changes for nice combos. The player interaction is on the other hand limited, on the other hand quite nasty, which is odd, but the end result is quite charming.

Quartermaster General is a light wargame, focused on logistics. There are units that are in combat, but they don’t move at all. That’s kind of odd. I’ve only played this twice, but it seems to be a good six-player game. So far it seems very difficult for the Axis to win, but I’m intrigued by the game.

Couple of quick notes: Isle of Skye is promising enough that I bought it after one play, as is The Voyages of Marco PoloM.U.L.E. I’ve played twice, and found entertaining, if a bit swingy. Epic is, well, epic, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort. Cthulhu Realms is an interesting take on Star Realms and La Granja seems well worth exploring.

Good older games I haven’t played before

Notre Dame is one of those games I’ve heard lots of good things about for a long time, and I’ve wanted to try it for years, but it just hasn’t happened. Now it did: we were looking for a game to play in Ropecon and I saw this one on the board game library shelves. I ended up buying a copy for myself. Not a bad game at all, I can see why some people really love this.

1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties ended up in my collection this year. I backed it in the first failed Kickstarter but not in the second, successful one. Then I read it was maybe running out from retailers and I decided I need to get it. After all, I’ve been terribly impressed by 1860, so another Mike Hutton 18xx can’t be bad. It wasn’t; this is an excellent design.

Le Havre: Inland Port is much more to my liking than the big Le Havre. I’ve enjoyed my games – all with my son – a lot, this game of building and collecting resources is really my cup of tea. It may well be this would need an expansion in the long run to provide some variety, but that hasn’t been a problem so far.

Carcassonne: The Castle and Carcassonne: The City joined my collection this year, when I decided I want to explore these independent Carcassonne games. So, I got them, The City even in a nice wooden box (though to be honest, I’d prefer a standard Carcassonne box as it would fit my shelves better). These are fine games, I’m particularly fond of The Castle which is probably my favourite Carcassonne outside the basic game these days. I prefer Carcassonne with fewer players, and it is an excellent two-player game. The City is nice as well, but not as good as the Castle.

Jaipur is an excellent filler card game for two players, it’s up there with classics like Lost Cities and Battle Line. An excellent game, very much worth checking out if you’re into two-player card games.

Glass Road is part of the Uwe Rosenberg groove I’ve been enjoying this year. It’s certainly different from his other games, and quite enjoyable too. It’s remarkable that it features a strong “guess what other people are doing” mechanism, and I still enjoy it. That’s something. The rulebook is extra charming, with all the historical notes and comments from Uwe. A lovely game.

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 was our number one game. I clocked in 44 plays this year, and about ~40 of them with the kids. My daughter loves the game and wanted to play it again and again. I don’t complain, as I think this is one of the very best family games there is: simple, plays quick, yet clever and interesting. It’s lucky enough that the winner is essentially random, but the game does a good job hiding that.

Super Rhino did get some love, and the second most plays (mostly because it’s so short, and we played at least three games every time we played the game). It’s a fun dexterity filler and in that capacity has mostly overthrown Animal upon Animal.

Lost Legacy was the obvious next step from Love Letter. The kids were a bit puzzled by this in our first games, but figured it out soon enough and we ended up playing the two sets I have (Flying Garden and The Starship, both DIY versions with alternate themes) over ten times.

Phantom Rallye is pretty awful, but it was available at the circus school where I’ve spent many hours with my daughter, and she likes it, so… I’ve played it a lot. Not much game in it, though.

Coconuts continued to entertain us. Not quite as much as last year, but still quite a bit. And why not – it’s a very good game, and not just a gimmicky toy (Toc Toc Woodman, I’m looking at you).

Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers is the same game as the original, but with new animals. It’s equally good. This one has an Alpine theme. I bought this for the circus school; it was charity and an attempt to keep me sane by making sure there are also good games available and not just Phantom Rallye…

Schildkrötenrennen is still a staple game; it’s one of Knizia’s best titles.

Ghost Blitz is still a special game for me and my daughter, we’ve played this at the circus school. She usually beats me (but we still play without the penalties).

Das kleine Gespenst is still on decline, but still sees active play. It’s one of the better memory games.

Dino Race was a new game this year. Not bad, and my daughter really likes this even though she’s also frustrated and annoyed by it. That’s odd, but it’s not a bad game. It has some sharp corners that could use development, but it’s a decent game that works well in a parent-playing-with-kids scenario.

Candy Chaser is a nice little bluffing game. You know nothing, but have to figure it all out by the end of the short game. That’s not particularly easy. I think I played most of my games with the kids.

Takenoko made my list in 2012 when I played it with my son, but left the list then. Now it’s back, as I played it a lot with my daughter – again at the circus school. That has been a good opportunity for me to play games with my daughter alone. She likes Takenoko, just like her brother did before. I haven’t really played this with both of the kids at the same time; I wonder if I should try that.

Afrikan tähti is the ultimate Finnish classic game. Fortunately we don’t own it, but usually when we’re visiting the grandparents, this gets dragged out for a couple of games. It’s not that bad, really.

Little Prince: Build Me a Planet is a very good game. I think this is an excellent family game (though it can be a bit mean), and not bad with adults, either. All in all a good game with a nice theme and cute art.

Between Two Cities was a Kickstarter project I backed because I thought it might make a good family game. I have very little interest in carrying this around to our weekly game nights, but as a casual family game this is excellent.

Klask is a neat little dexterity game. The kids were quite enthusiastic about this, even though it tends to bring up frustrations. I should start introducing them to Crokinole, I think.

Fleeting Foxes is on the decline. My daughter still likes this and we’ve played it at the circus school, as it’s a small box to carry around, but we don’t really play it at home anymore.

Colt Express is very much a family game for me. I think I’ve only played it with the kids. It’s good for that and works well enough with three players, and it’s too light and flimsy to play with the weekly gamer group.

Battle Sheep is one of the better games I bought for the circus school; I don’t like it much myself, but it has very tiny rules and is easy to play, so I thought it was a good choice there, and so I’ve ended up playing it couple of times myself.

Europa Tour has been a bit on the decline, but now my daughter has picked it up and we’ve played it couple of times with three players. That’s fun, though it’s still a bit difficult for my daughter.

Rock Paper Scissors Game is a horrible waste of good raw materials.

Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye Found It Game is still in the rotation – we just played it as the first game of 2016 – but it’s clearly on the decline.

Memory is on the decline. We used to play it more last year, but now it’s going out of fashion.

Magic Tower is non-offensive fun, my daughter likes, but fortunately requests it less and less.

Camel Cup has been a family game for me. Even my wife enjoyed it. I did play it at my birthday party with seven players, just to see how it works, and it did work quite well. My initial lukewarm response has improved a lot: this is a fine game for many occasions.

Pickomino gets requested every now and then, but I should really start saying no whenever that happens, as this tends to end up in tears just about every time – it’s such a frustrating game when you lose your worms.

Mucca Pazza won the Finnish Children’s Game of the Year, but it’s not a family game, it’s a kindergarten game – ie. it needs a group of players of similar skill. Not a good game for families, as it’s super easy for the adults.

Games I’ve kept on enjoying

Agricola keeps on rolling. My son and I play it every now and then, mostly with Farmers of the Moor, but without the cards. We’ve tried the cards once, but at the moment I believe they’re a bit overwhelming for my son.

Abluxxen keeps working as a filler. It didn’t get many plays, but it is in standard rotation. I still enjoy it quite a bit, it’s one of the best quick card games and pleasantly unlike most games.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig continues to be a favourite. I got the Secrets expansion, but it’s not a thriller – not quite as good as Suburbia, Inc. for example. But I like the moats, and the game is still very interesting without the expansion.

Lewis & Clark continues to entertain. It was interesting enough to get me interested in Discoveries, which I ended up buying. My son thinks Lewis & Clark is the better game of the two; I think I agree, but I’d really like to explore Discoveries more. Both are fine games.

Stich-Meister has become a staple game, it gets played every now and then. As trick-taking games come, it’s easy to play, has plenty of variety between plays and doesn’t take too much time.

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

JAB: Realtime Boxing sounded like a good idea: a realtime boxing game. I like realtime games, so this should be an obvious winner, right? Well, no. It was confusing and not really fun at all. With more experience, there might a good game in it, but frankly, I’m not interested in finding out. One game (not even completed), and off to the trade pile goes JAB.

Origo shows that even the masters fail occasionally. This Wolfgang Kramer title just isn’t very good. The components are substandard and while the basic game play rolls along nicely, there are some parts to the game that just don’t fit, and the rules are unnecessarily clunky.

Age of War is a lemon from Reiner Knizia. Try to roll the right symbols to conquer cards. Too bad it’s just not fun at all. The game is frustrating exercise in failure.

La Isla Bohnita is supposed to work with two players, but no, it doesn’t. It’s awful.

Southern Rails is a Winsome game by Harry Wu, which is a very good starting point. Where it ends up is, however, not quite up to the standards set by Wabash Cannonball or Samarkand: Routes to RichesSouthern Rails is a game with too many sharp corners.

Where are they now

Subdivision got one measly play in January, afterwards it was promptly forgotten. I’m not sure why we haven’t played this anymore. I suppose Suburbia and Castles of Mad King Ludwig are simply so much better.

North Wind fizzed out. The ships are gorgeous, but the game itself is a tad too repetitive. We have only played this once this year, and I’m not particularly thrilled to play again.

Machi Koro has been on a decline. 16 plays last year, just four this year. Well, four is not terrible, but it’s definitely going out of fashion, and gets suggested only occasionally.

Fives and dimes

Dimes

  1. Love Letter (48)
  2. Super Rhino (21)
  3. Dale of Merchants (18)
  4. The City (15)
  5. Phantom Rally (14)
  6. Abluxxen (14)
  7. Kyoto Protocol (12)
  8. Schildkrötenrennen (12)
  9. Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers (12)
  10. Castles of Mad King Ludwig (12)
  11. Coco Loco (12)
  12. Ghost Blitz (11)
  13. Die kleinen Gespenst (11)
  14. Dino Race (10)
  15. Splendor (10)

Fives

  1. Takenoko (9)
  2. Afrikan tähti (9)
  3. Candy Chaser (9)
  4. Zèrtz (9)
  5. Lost Legacy: Starship (8)
  6. The Little Prince: Build me a planet (8)
  7. Codenames (8)
  8. Between Two Cities (8)
  9. Star Realms (8)
  10. Fleeting Foxes (7)
  11. For Sale (7)
  12. Innovation (7)
  13. Patchwork (7)
  14. Imperial Settlers (7)
  15. Klask (7)
  16. Istanbul (7)
  17. A prototype (6)
  18. Port Royal (6)
  19. Jaipur (6)
  20. Yardmaster (6)
  21. Rock Paper Scissors Game (6)
  22. Nations: The Dice Game (6)
  23. Le Havre: Inland Port (6)
  24. Colt Express (6)
  25. Dominion (6)
  26. Europa Tour (6)
  27. Battle Sheep (6)
  28. Das magische Labyrinth (6)
  29. Agricola (5)
  30. Lost Legacy: The Flying Garden (5)
  31. Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck (5)
  32. Yinsh (5)
  33. Bohnanza (5)
  34. Cacao (5)
  35. Mucca Pazza (5)
  36. Blueprints (5)
  37. Camel Cup (5)
  38. Carcassonne: The Castle (5)
  39. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (5)
  40. Magic Tower (5)
  41. Stich-Meister (5)
  42. Suburbia (5)
  43. Battle Line (Schotten-Totten) (5)
  44. 18XX (mostly 1846) (5)
  45. Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It (5)
  46. Memory (5)

Year metric

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

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 11 (14 last year). My total H-index is 36, up three from last year.

Reaching 37 next year is certain, 38 will be a bit of a challenge. I wonder if I’m going to come to a point where increasing the H-index every year becomes difficult.

New game notes

Red is a new mini game from Carl Chudyk and Chris Cieslik. Play a card and/or change the goal. Only requirement? You need to be winning after your move, otherwise it’s game over for you. Fun little filler. Suggest.

Pick-a-Pig was familiar: I’ve played Formissimo, which is the original version. This one’s cuter. My kind of game, I quite liked it and managed to win, despite failing two rounds. Suggest.

Tutanchamon, a Knizia game from 1993 got the honour of being the 1000th rating. Not bad, but I’m annoyed for losing to a king-maker move. Bunte Runde is the better version of the same idea. Indifferent.

Irish Gauge is from the latest Winsome set. Seemed a bit daft at first, but there’s a game in there, and it’s somewhat interesting. A B level Winsome. Suggest.

Ark of the Covenant was a surprise. Wife of one of the guys was browsing a thrift store and sent photos of games to him. I saw the Ark for 5 euros and took it, and she delivered it right away. My friend got Himalaya for couple of euros. What’s even better, inside the Ark box, I found a cheap Indian Ludo/Snakes pocket game, Knatsch and a mass-market Narnia game. Sweet.

Ark is quite good, too, a solid Carcassonne variant with good ideas and special rules. Suggest.

Morels is a two-player card game about mushroom collecting. Pretty nice, a mellow set-building game. Suggest.

My brother visited, and brought with him Cthulhu Gloom, as he knew I wanted to try that. I’ve never played even the basic Gloom, but find the idea of partially transparent cards interesting.

It was. The basic gameplay here offers pretty much nothing – play cards, either to improve your own position or to hinder your opponent – but the theme is funny and well executed. I’d assume the game can become rather unbearable with a larger number of players, but with two, the “take that” element wasn’t bad.

A nice, light game, with a funny theme, then. Indifferent.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – The Liberation of Narnia is a fairly awful memory game with a terrifying name. Roll a die, try to find a matching card from a face-down array of cards. The goal is to create a route across an 6×4 array of cards. In the end, there are two cards: one is Aslan, the other is the Witch. If you find Aslan, you win, if you find Witch, all that you’ve done is reset and you start again. Awful, but the cards are shield-shaped, which is kind of neat. Avoid.

I  got my preorder copy of Subdivision yesterday, and I already played three games against my son (and already wrote a review). The game says 13+ in the box, but I believe that’s just to avoid testing – my 8-year-old son played this just fine. He won the first game, then I learnt how to play and won the next two games pretty easily.

I have some concerns over replayability, but so far it’s good. People who like interaction are going to hate this, as this is a very dry interaction-wise, but those who like simultaneous solitaire puzzles in the style of Take It Easy will find Subdivision delightful. Suggest

Troll Trail (aka Koboldbande) is a simple co-op. Draw tiles, trying to build a path across the forest to a treasure chest. Dragon wants to get there first, and players must find three keys on their way. Very simple, and seems quite easy, but I can see this working just fine for 4-year-olds. Indifferent.

Battle Sheep is an abstract game with cute plastic sheep discs. Build a board of hex tiles, then start conquering. Each player starts with a stack of 16 sheep. When you move, the stack moves in a straight line as far as it can, dropping at least one disc in the starting hex. The winner is the player with the most sheep on board when nobody can move anymore. Pretty nice, and the simple rules, nice bits and engaging gameplay make this an award hog, I believe. Indifferent