Gaming Year 2017

In 2016 I tried 133 new games. That, I felt, was too much, and in 2017, a move was made to correct that. 17% of my plays were spent trying new games, and it felt too much.

In 2017, I tried just 67 new games. The total number of plays was also slightly reduced, mostly as a function of playing less shorter children’s games. Overall I’m quite satisfied with the raw numbers.

I created another Top 100 list.

I also got together with a bunch of Finnish board game bloggers and created a new board game award called Pelaajien valinta, Players’ Choice. Our first winners were Flamme Rouge for the best family game of the year and Agricola for the best strategy game of the year. We also gave the award for the best board game good deed, which went to Taverna, the first Finnish board game cafe.

Our instant message group has also been a great thing and a constant source of good board game banter for the last half of the year, which has been great.

Moderation

I decided to go for moderation in my game acquisitions. That was a partial success. The first half of the year was very good; I bought just a few games. In September, things got a turn for worse, and I ended up spending over 1,000 euros in game purchases.

However, I also sold games for more than 1,000 euros, so the end result is not that bad. Also, the turnover is somewhat boosted by the three extra copies of Dawn of Peacemakers I had to back in order to make sure the campaign was a success. I was able to sell those games immediately, balancing it out.

All said and done, I ended up buying 35 titles and selling 71.

Kickstarter-wise, I backed a few projects. In 2016, I backed 19 projects, so there the reduction was successful. I participated in four campaigns: I got a bunch of Monikers expansions, the new edition of Brass (and I already have a buyer for my old copy), Root and Dawn of PeacemakersRoot is pretty much the only wild card: I knew what I was getting in Monikers and Brass, and got a preview copy of Dawn of Peacemakers to try out before making the decision.

I also avoided getting review copies of games and only asked for games I really wanted. Many reviews were made with the games available at the local board game cafe.

But moderation is difficult, when you’re faced with the barrage of interesting games. That is something I will continue practising in 2018.

As part of the process to focus on good old games, I started a fifty by fifty challenge, in which I attempt to play fifty games fifty times. Seven new titles made that list in 2017, compared to just one in 2016.

Good new games (2016–2017)

A Feast for Odin was a big one for me this year. It took some effort and some patience to get a copy, but I did get mine in May, and oh yes, it was worth the wait. It immediately shot to the top of my top 100 list. It is really very good, and I love the challenges of handling your workers, filling out your board with items and so on. I’ve only played it once multiplayer, and have mostly played two-player games with my son.

Yokohama I ended up backing due to Hisashi Hayashi‘s reputation and good buzz from people who had played earlier editions. I ponied up the money for the deluxified edition, which was a great idea: the game turned out to be very good and the deluxified edition looks splendid compared to the retail edition. I like this game a lot: it does lots of good things and is refreshing change from the usual worker placement fare.

Dawn of Peacemakers offered the thriller of the year. Not the game, though, but the Kickstarter campaign. 48 hours before the end it seemed unlikely to succeed, and in the end it was really close. For a moment I was in for seven copies, but managed to drop my pledge to just four copies before the campaign ended. I fortunately found buyers for the three extra copies pretty much immediately. Quite the thriller! And yeah, the game is good, too. My review sums up my feelings, and I’m really looking forward to August when we can play this for real.

Nusfjord is a new Uwe Rosenberg worker placement game with a cool Norwegian theme (outside the all male panel of the elders). This is a much simpler game than A Feast for Odin, somewhere on the same scale as Glass Road. That means the game is quite playable even with five players, which is great. The more I’ve played this game, the more I’ve enjoyed the challenge it provides.

Sidereal Confluence is a trading game in space, with highly asymmetrical player powers creating lots of opportunities to trade. The player count goes from four to nine, and since it’s all mostly simultaneous, it plays in two hours or less with all player counts. It’s a huge hog for table space with larger counts, though.  I’ve only played this once so far, but even based on that I’m ready to say it’s one of the best games of the year.

Escape rooms were a thing this year. I finally got around to try one, and was hooked on the first go (largely because we did so well, escaping in pretty much a record time). I also tried out couple of escape room board games: Unlock! is good and the free games are very much worth printing out. Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor is a bit easy but well done. EXIT: The Game is my favourite series, though, these I like the best.

Good older games I haven’t played before

A Few Acres of Snow may be a flawed game, but it’s still good entertainment and a fresh take on deck-building. The rules updates should fix the broken parts anyway. I’ve played this couple of times, mostly against my son who isn’t really into the warfare part of the game yet, and I’ve love to give this one a go against an adult opponent.

Mombasa was something I had to check out after Great Western Trail, and once I’d played it, I had to buy it (so much for moderation). But it is a splendid, solid game, highly recommended for the fans of the heavy euro game.

Pax Pamir was part of my interest in the works of Cole Wehrle (my Cole Wehrle interview was by far the most-read article on this blog this year), sparked by John Company which hasn’t arrived yet. So far Pax Pamir is the best one: lots of really clever stuff in this game, with an interesting setting and lots of good ideas.

Children’s games

Here’s a list of games that we played at least five times. It’s interesting to see how the games change year after year.

Hero Realms was my son’s favourite game for the most of the year. We ended up playing more than 60 rounds. That’s pretty solid return on investment.

Santorini was also pretty solid: we played it a lot for couple of months, until it hit about 50 plays, and my interest in it waned.

Love Letter is still the most popular family game in our family. It just doesn’t get stale at all.

Coconuts was skipped in 2016, now I made some effort to play it again, and guess what? It’s still very addictive and very entertaining.

Fashion Show still got lots of plays. Those plays are super fast, so it’s something I can play with my daughter to keep her happy.

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

Innovation got on the rotation when I made the effort of translating it to Finnish. This got the attention from my son, and we played the game about ten times. Fun fact: he can win the game if he gets to spam Agriculture. Otherwise, it’s likely I’ll win.

Ty Beanie Boo’s Friends Game is a game for toddlers my daughter found at a library, loaned and then we played it ten times. Fortunately it was then returned to the library, never to be seen again.

Joylings is a terrible game, a combination of Top Trumps and roll-and-move, with cutesy horses. This is definitely something I only do for my daughter.

Klack! is a reaction test game, and mercifully short one.

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.

The Mysteries of Peking is another game we play at the grandparents. It’s a harmless roll and move mystery, and I can clearly see why it captivates the kids so much. It’s pretty well done for what it is.

Da ist der Wurm drin is not really a game, just a roll-and-move raffle. But it’s pretty fun for something like that.

Super Rhino keeps entertaining, it’s such a fun little dexterity game. People have been hyping up the new Super Battle version, but I’m not sure if I’m interested in that.

The Magic Labyrinth still works, it’s one of the better memory games.

Tumbling Tower is a Jenga variant, and the kids played a ton of it while at a summer cabin that was somewhat low on entertainment.

Dungeon Rush is a speed game, and I’m a bit lukewarm on it. It’s pretty good in the genre, but the genre just isn’t doing much for me these days. This is somewhat problematic as a family game because of the skill differences.

Guess Who? was a Christmas gift for my daughter. I’m sure this will see lots of play. It’s not very painful, and the new edition is somewhat developed from the one I played as a kid: the characters are on a sheet which can be replaced. The sheets are double-sided, with animals on the other side, and you can print out new sheets to increase replay value.

Little Prince: Make 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.

Games I’ve kept on enjoying

Tigris & Euphrates made a nice comeback. I got a copy from a math trade, as I wanted my son to be able to experience this classic. It was really fun to get back to this game after so many years. This is one of Reiner’s finest, no doubt about that.

Mechs vs Minions eventually got almost 20 plays. I’ve now played all the campaign scenarios and haven’t really returned to the game since. My son has played this a little, and I still have the game. It was well worth buying.

Terraforming Mars has turned out to be a fine game. I managed to buy a copy in March after long wait, and played it almost ten times. That’s pretty good, as the game hasn’t really sparked in my game group: there are some folks who just don’t like it. It’s a bit on the long side, I agree, which is why I rather like it as a two-player game and without the Corporate Era stuff. But the length is part of the charm: this is a tableau builder that doesn’t end too early.

South African Railroads was on a break for couple of years, but I played it couple of times this year. It’s a good one, one of the better Winsome games. Unfortunately it’s not available anymore. I did a new map for it, trying to learn a bit of graphic design.

The Great Zimbabwe made a comeback after many years of not playing the game. My son turned out to be a fan. It’s a curious two-player game, plays really really fast. I also played my second play of Duck Dealer: the first was one 2010 when the game was released. It’s still a good game.

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

Near and Far was a pretty game, but we played it couple of times and decided to pass it along. It just isn’t very interesting, and I’ve learnt now that outside few exceptions, campaign games are not my thing.

Savage Planet: The Fate of the Fantos was on Kickstarter and was interesting enough that I made a print-n-play copy. After all, the game leaned heavily on Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, one of my favourite CCGs and had pretty cool art. Too bad it was awful, and none of my friends wanted to ever see it again.

Arkham Horror was a great math trade catch: I got a fine copy for two euros. We played it once, figured out the game is absolute garbage, and I sold it for 40 euros. So can’t say I’m disappointed, really, the game was pretty much as awful as I expected it to be.

Cat Tower looked like a fun thing, but wasn’t actually at all fun to play.

BONK also looks like it’s fun, but it was a bit too fast and furious.

Mountains of Madness has a really cool idea, but doesn’t really work as a game, I think. Too heavy for a party game, too bizarre for a strategy game. I’m glad I gave it a go, but no, there’s no need to revisit those mountains.

Where are they now

Pandemic Legacy Season 1. We’ve yet to finish the first season, and I’m pretty sure we never will. It just wasn’t all that interesting; I don’t like Pandemic and while I think the Legacy stuff is a nice added layer of interesting stuff on top of it, it still is Pandemic under all that.

The Colonists has failed to hit the table at all. It’s just too big, and I have so few opportunities for big, heavy two-player games.

Blue Moon fell out of fashion. Time will tell if that was a disturbance caused by Hero Realms, or a permanent change. Same happened to Burgle Bros., which I don’t really miss.

Fives and dimes

Dimes

  1. Hero Realms (66)
  2. Santorini (53)
  3. Love Letter (21)
  4. Coconuts (18)
  5. Mechs vs Minions (17)
  6. Fashion Show (15)
  7. Afrikan tähti (11)
  8. Joylings (10)
  9. Innovation (10)
  10. Ty Friends (10)

Fives

  1. Halli Klack (9)
  2. Kingdom Builder (8)
  3. Splendor (8)
  4. Terraforming Mars (8)
  5. Tzaar (8)
  6. Europa Tour (8)
  7. The Mysteries of Peking (8)
  8. Unlock! (7)
  9. Da ist der Wurm drin (7)
  10. Tumbling Tower (6)
  11. Super Rhino (6)
  12. Century: Spice Road (6)
  13. Dungeon Rush (6)
  14. Fugitive (6)
  15. Nusfjord (6)
  16. Dawn of Peacemakers (6)
  17. Majesty (6)
  18. Guess Who (6)
  19. The Magic Labyrinth (6)
  20. A Feast for Odin (5)
  21. Concordia (5)
  22. Little Prince: Build Me a Planet (5)
  23. Tokaido (5)
  24. Gnomi (5)
  25. Imagine (5)

Year metric

  1. Battle Line (Schotten-Totten) (16/17)
  2. San Juan (14/14)
  3. Attika (13/15)
  4. Dominion (10/10)
  5. Carcassonne (13/17)
  6. Ta Yü (12/15)
  7. Memory (9/9)
  8. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (12/16)
  9. Animal upon Animal (9/10)
  10. Samarkand: Routes to Riches (8/8)
  11. Innovation (8/8)
  12. Schildkrötenrennen (8/8)

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 fourteen 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 (10 last year). My total H-index is 40, up three points from last year.

Year metric

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Gray’s month metric. Now I happened unto his Every year 2007 update, focusing on the year metric. I haven’t been bothering with that, believing I wouldn’t have many high-scoring games. Well, I thought, why not — it’s a simple thing to add to my game stats package.

I was surprised to see I actually have few every year games, going for several years now. I’m positively dumbfounded.

Six years out of six

Go — Face to face it only gets four out of six, but I’ve been playing it constantly online (play-by-web, which doesn’t get captured in my stats).

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation — First four years basic, last two Deluxe. I’m a bit surprised here (and probably should get this one on the table this year, at least once!).

Six years out of seven

Battle Line — One game in 2005, 2004, twice in 2006.

Lost Cities — Once in 2006, twice in 2005 and 2004.

Five years out of five

Age of Steam — Last game of standard Age of Steam was in 2003, expansions since. Steady pace of few games per year. Likely to continue: even though I really suck at getting Age of Steam played (particularly considering the pace of new expansions), it’ll be strange if I don’t play it even once.

Attika — Few games a year, for five years now. Surprising.

Gang of Four — Lots of this in 2003 and 2004, less since, yet still every year. Likely to continue, as this gets probably played at least once a year when I’m visiting Jyväskylä.

Five years out of six or seven

Modern Art — This inspired me to add the code so I could check sessions by game, because I just can’t believe it. But it’s true: once in 2002, once in 2003, then twice in 2005, once in 2006 and twice in 2007 with my own copy.

Puerto Rico — No surprises here, I missed last year. As the game’s no longer available at BSW and I kind of prefer San Juan face to face, misses like that are likely to happen again.

Samurai — Few games every now and then, starting from 2001.

Tichu — Very irregularly over a long period.

Tigris & Euphrates — Most of this was in 2001, but I’ve played it occasionally ever since. Missed last year and 2005.

Trivial Pursuit — Not a single game last year and missing 2003 as well, but fairly regular play since 2001 with Johanna secures the spot on the list.

Web of Power — Tons of this in 2002, then slow dwindling and missed last year.

This is a good list and like Matthew Gray says, a good measure of quality and longevity, especially when you get plenty of data (Matthew Gray has eleven years, I only have seven).

Pre-Helcon games

Helcon is history and it’s time to write another lengthy epic on the games played. The event was a wild success, with over 50 visitors during the two days. The place we had was practically full during the Saturday afternoon. There’s definitely new event next year, but we might be forced to look for a new location as the current one can only hold 75 people (well, more would fit, but fire restrictions limit first).

As usual, I headed south Friday, to spend the evening with Tommy, Laura and Stefu before the event began. Tommy had brought a nice pile of new and old games from Essen and his overflowing game collection was even larger than before. I first thought I’d take only few games with me, but I ended up hauling a large bunch of games — mostly for sale, because this was a wonderful opportunity to sell some useless games.

But, games! Our first game was Michael Rieneck’s Spiel des Jahres -candidate Around the World in 80 Days. Many who played it in Helcon dismissed it as light and stupid, but Tommy is a big fan. I liked the game, too. Sure, it is light, but it also has interesting twists. I wouldn’t buy it myself, right now, but would recommend it to someone looking for a nice family game with a bit more to it than in the usual mainstream games.

The goal of the game is to go round the world, spending as few days while at it as possible. The winner is not the first player to reach London, but the one who spends least days. The mechanics are simple, but there are some neat ideas. The best one is probably the actions. Each turn, players choose a card to draw from the table. Each card is connected to an useful action, so players must make a decision: do I need a good card or a good action? Luck has a role here — if you have a good card with good action, the decision is straightforward.

It’s a light game and clearly in the family game genre, but I think it’s a good game for such. I had a good start in our game, but at some point things just didn’t go my way. I really screwed it up crossing the Pacific Ocean. Laura was first to make ít to London in 75 days, but Tommy beat her with 73 days. I was, unfortunately, last one in London and thus an automatic loser. I wouldn’t have won anyway… Our game took an hour, and would’ve been faster if we had known the rules better.

Tommy had a copy of Eiszeit (aka Mammoth Hunters) he wanted to try, so why not! I’m always in for an ALEA game, even one of the not-so-well-liked ones. Eiszeit turned out to be a decent game, actually. It’s an area control game, where players run around with their men, trying to place them in areas with mammoths. Once the phase is over, some of the pieces starve (there’s a random element involved, majorities rule here) and then the survivors are scored. Each piece is worth one point plus one point for each mammoth in the area. Glaciers cover an area of the board making things more intimate and the game continues.

The idea is pretty fun and there’s a very clever mechanic in play. Players actions are driven by two kinds of cards. Light cards are positive things, stuff you want to do: place more pieces, remove opponents’ pieces, move mammoths, things like that. You pay the light cards with stones. To get stones, players must play dark cards, which give actions to other players. Each dark card played also moves the game along, as there’s only a limited supply of stones. That’s tremendously clever and works really well. That was a really good, fun part of the game.

However, where the game fails is the chaos of it all. Eiszeit is a chaotic game, where beat-the-leader is very much the flavour of the month. Two players can ally against third, using both light and dark actions against the leader. Nasty. That makes the game both close and exciting, but also a bit pointless. It was no wonder our game ended with a very close score: 43-42-41. I had the lead through the whole game and won, even though I got some heavy flak on me most of the time.

The game is also a bit too long. There should be four phases, but we only played three (shorter game, as suggested by rules). That took an hour and was certainly enough. The game is so repetitive that playing over an hour would be too much. Despite it’s shortcomings, I think Eiszeit is a fun game and I could recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of chaos and beat-the-leader mentality.

Next on the list was Geschenkt, one of the games I had expected most. Oh my, it was fun! I even won the first game I played (that would be my last Geschenkt victory for the whole weekend). The idea of the game is very simple: either pick up the card on the table or add a chip. The player who takes the card gets the chips. Cards have numbers ranging 3-35 and count as negative, while chips are each one point on the good side. And here’s the twist: if a player has a series of cards with consecutive numbers, only the lowest card is counted. Brutally simple, but very addictive. Of course, to add to the excitement, nine random cards are removed from the deck.

Geschenkt is a must-buy for the fans of quick little card games. It’s a very enjoyable game and the game I’m most looking forward to adding to my collection. If I can’t get it before the next board game club meeting, I’ll have to improvise — I want to play this game so badly.

After that it was a step up in the complexity scale. Einfach Genial is Knizia’s latest offering. It didn’t get the Spiel des Jahres (with a theme, perhaps it would have), but the Austrians gave their award to it. Sure, it’s an abstract game, but very accessible one. The rules are very simple and the twist is already familiar from Tigris & Euphrates: players score in several colours and the lowest score counts. Other than that, it’s just tile-placing over and over again. It’s simple, but exciting. Tommy likes the game a lot and is contemplating a 10 rating. While I’m not that excited, I do agree it’s a fine game. Simply genius! Ours was a close game, which Laura took home with just 11 points.

One more game before hitting sauna: Da Vinci Code. I already asked Tommy to bring me a copy from Essen after reading the Games Journal review. However, then I got the news there’s going to be a Finnish edition, so I canceled my order. Now I got to try before I buy, which is always nice.

I’m buying. Da Vinci Code (which has, of course, nothing to do with the book) is a clever little deduction game. Each player has a four-number code. Players try to guess their opponents’ codes. Correct guess opens their code, wrong guess opens yours. Last man standing wins. It’s a luck-heavy game and nowhere as challenging as for example Black Vienna, but sometimes lightness is a good thing.

Da Vinci Code makes for a good filler and while it’s light, it’s far from stupid. I think it’s a very pleasant little brain exercise. What’s best, I won our game! Laura was first one out and Tommy followed soon.

Last game of the evening was Flowerpower. Tommy beat me, once again — I don’t think I’ve ever won him in this game. It’s a fun little game nonetheless.

Continue to Helcon III — Saturday.

Lahti games weekend, Friday

Another Lahti gaming weekend is over now. Organised by Peter Munter of Puolenkuun Pelit, the event is rather merry occasion. The participants were all-male invite-only group of friends and friends of friends. The average age of the players is probably a tad higher than what I’m used to and there’s a certain bloke mentality involved. … Continue reading Lahti games weekend, Friday

Independence Day games

Even though next board game club meeting is tomorrow, I invited Robert and Olli to my place for some games. It was a very good way to spend the Independence Day in my opinion, especially as Johanna was out of town. First we played some new games I hadn’t yet tried. I’ll write more detailed … Continue reading Independence Day games

HelCon II — Saturday

Saturday was the first day of HelCon II. We got up early, packed the car and headed towards the location. Which was quite nice, really! For once the space was open and had windows and even the bathrooms were quite clean. Of course, there was the limitation that all gaming must end before the alarm … Continue reading HelCon II — Saturday

The Games Journal

A new issue of The Games Journal is out. In includes a rather interesting article about categorizing games based on player experience by Richard Vickery. There’s also an article by yours truly about tournaments, a story about the Sid Sackson auction and a propaganda for diversification of the board game industry. On top of that, … Continue reading The Games Journal

What’s new

I’ve been doing lots of stuff lately, just haven’t had time to document it here. I’ve played T&E at BGG, bought games, written about games and so on… I lost my first game of Tigris & Euphrates at the BoardGameGeek. I had no chance, as I had short supply of red tiles and did some … Continue reading What’s new

T&E Play-by-email at BGG

I’ve started to play Tigris & Euphrates at the Boardgamegeek. The interface is pretty ok — if you have decent Internet connection. It is quite heavy, so modem users might want to skip this one. However, if you’re not afraid of slow loading, feel free to challenge me to games. My Geek id is msaari. … Continue reading T&E Play-by-email at BGG