Sunday, January 1
A Year of Gaming: 2005 in Review
It seems I’m an explorer; I tend to play a lot of new games. 2005 saw 68 new (to me) games out of the 92 different games played. In 2004 I played 98 different games, 74 of which were not played again in 2005. From this you can guess that my five and dime list is pretty brief. But some games do get repeated play. There were some from 2004 that saw an increase in play in ‘05; these include 6Nimmt (up 4), Clocktowers (up 4), Crokinole (up 3), High Society (up 1), San Juan (up 1), Take it Easy (up 1), and the Hello Kitty edition of Uno (up 1). Other games popular in 2004 saw less play, but still made it to the table at least once; these include Bohnhansa (down 2), Carcassonne (down 1), Drunter und Druber (down 1), Edel Stein and Reich (down 3), Fearsome Floors (down 6), Klondike (down 2), Lord of the Rings – The Confrontation (down 3), Settlers of Catan (down 1), Ticket to Ride (down 3), and TransAmerica (down 3). I thought I played more games this year than last, but my records indicate otherwise. I think the difference lies in that fact that I attended more group gaming events last year in spite of attending BGG.CON this year. (For the record 2004 saw 189 plays of 98 different games)
Of all the new (to me) games I tried this year there were a number of standouts that I am anxious to play again this year. These include the following:
09. Reef Encounter
05. Traders of Genoa
04. Power Grid
03. Carolus Magnus
02. Elasund: The First City of Catan
01. Age Of Steam
Of course there were also a number of games that I played in previous years that never got played this year. A number of these were certainly missed and I will make an effort to play them this year. They include:
09. Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper
08. Wyatt Earp
06. Fresh Fish
04. El Grande
02. Princes of Florence
Similar to my new favorites list, there are also some games that while not new to me this year are notable in that they are becoming 'old' favorites; these are games I played in 2004 and 2005 and expect to be playing this year as well:
09. Lost Cities
08. Edel Stein & Reich
07. Ticket To Ride
06. Puerto Rico
05. High Society
03. 6 Nimmt
02. San Juan
And Finally, the following list summarizes my game playing for 2005, organized by the number of times each game was played. I’ve also tried to provide some comments regarding the game or the playing.
Diamant - Rating: 8
This rocketed to the top of my list this year when it instantly become my favorite introductory game for mixed family groups (with kids and adults). The speed of its rise is all the more evident given that I only got Diamant on November 12 at a GameGathering prize draw. Granted it does play very fast, but I believe its star power is more due to the fact that it is quick to teach, introduces non-gamers to EuroGame mechanics, and is simply a game that cries out to be played multiple times in one session. I'm confident this will make my dime list next year as well.
10 Days in the USA - Rating 6
5 plays on the Fourth of July alone assured 10 Days in the USA a high placement on this list. While I don't mind playing this, it just doesn't grab me. It will undoubtedly get more repeated plays as it is so short and plays well as a 2 player game.
6 Nimmt! - Rating 8
This is one of my favorite end of the night fillers. I think its sweet spot is right around 5 players where the rows can fill up quickly. Sure it’s chaotic and there just doesn't seem to be a real winning strategy there, but it is great fun nonetheless. Besides I seem to have a pretty good win record, though I haven't tracked it so it may just be a case of selective memory...
Fairy Tale - Rating 6
I'm surprised this got seven plays in; they must have all come early in the year as it sure hasn't seen the table recently. I have yet to play this in partnership, where I understand the game really shines. So far it has just been ok for me, not great but not bad either. I enjoy the card drafting, but it just doesn't feel like there is a lot going on there.
Clocktowers - Rating 6
Clocktowers is light game of building towers inhabited by cats and mice. I think this is best with fewer players (two or three max). With few players the draw piles don’t change as much between your turns and thus you seem more of the cards.
Crokinole - Rating 8
I got one of Carl and Stan Hilinski's crokinole boards last year and it's a beauty. The finish is quite smooth and makes for a fast board. I'm surprised this didn't see the table more. I predict an up tick in plays for next year.
San Juan - Rating 8
This got fairly steady play throughout the year, far more than it's big brother, due primarily to game length. James really likes it too so about half of these plays are two player between the two of us. I especially like the way the cards serve multiple functions in the game.
King's Breakfast - Rating 6
This is another good filler game. I enjoy how scoring forces players to leave some of what they are collecting on the table for the king. Plus it works great with kids and teaches multiplication concepts through the scoring.
Ra - Rating 9
Ra is definitely one of my favorites of the year. We've introduced this to several friends and it has won overwhelming approval. This has become a staple game in our home.
Rumis - Rating 7
Featuring three dimensional Tetris like playing pieces, Rumis is similar to Pueblo but plays much faster, plus it plays on a variety of boards, creating different strategic situations. All said, I actually prefer Pueblo though, but will probably always get more plays of Rumis in simply because of playing time.
Ticket to Ride - Rating 8
For us TTR remains consistently enjoyable and continues to be a good introductory game for new gamers; a great combination at our house. It seems, the more I play the worse I do. I think that I think I know what I'm doing and set my goals too high. I never got around to purchasing and have yet to try TTR Europe, though I am interested in the next incarnation (Marklin Edition which introduces passengers).
Ingenious - Rating 7
Like Fairy Tale I have yet to play this in partnerships. All plays so far have been two player. I enjoy Kinizia's most of the least scoring mechanic and think it applies wonderfully in this abstract. Haven’t played with enough frequency to develop any strategies to the game, so far they have all been very tactical in trying to maintain a balanced scoring and watching out for colors that may close out early.
Memoir '44 - Rating 5
This just doesn't seem to float my boat as much as it does for others. I think it comes down to the fact that the combination of card draw randomness and die roll randomness is just too much for me. All my plays have been with my son James, who remains equally unimpressed. I thought for sure this would be a hit between the two of us, so that was a bit of a disappointment. I think we'll give it a few more tries though.
Boomtown - Rating 7
Here is the first Faidutti game on this list. Of his games Boomtown and Citadels are my favorites. I don't mind the chaos in his games like others seem to and I think Boomtown is great. I enjoy the bidding resolution, though if one player is regularly the high bidder the player opposite is often worse off, getting neither card choice or money.
Geschenkt - Rating 7
This was late to the party, showing up at Christmas. It seems to lie between High Society and 6 Nimmt! (though much closer to 6 Nimmt!) in that it is a great filler with a lot of turn angst given the simplicity of the decision being made. It's in good company.
High Society - Rating 8
Another great filler game, but one for earlier in the evening when the brain cells are still firing. I enjoy the angst the restricted bidding induces.
In the Shadow of the Emperor - Rating 7
I don't know, I just haven't yet really 'got' this game. Sure, it's an area control game about majorities, but in the midst of play I guess the theme clouds my vision...at least that's my excuse for my poor showing.
Turn The Tide - Rating 7
I picked this up at BGG.CON and in our few playings have become particularly fond of the lather-rinse-repeat process of replaying the game with the same set of card hands, only held by different players...It creates great moments of “Ooh, you’re right this IS a bad hand!”
Ubongo – Rating 7
All these plays were at BGG.CON. I think I actually had one additional unrecorded play at a GamesDay much earlier in the year. I enjoy the speed puzzle aspect of the game; I’m good at it, but the scoring does strike everyone I’ve played with as a bit odd, though it does work.
Battle Line – Rating 7
Only a couple plays early in the year followed by no further playings until early this year, and I’m not sure why. It meets all the criteria for a game that should see more play at our house: Quick, 2 player, interesting decisions. I guess we actually don’t get as much 2 player time in as I always hope to. If that changes the number of plays for Battle Line will certainly increase as I enjoy the more decisions/option available here over Lost Cities, which I also strongly like.
Carcassonne - The City – Rating 6
Two plays in November; one at BGG.CON followed by one more at our local GameGathering. Both were two player affairs (one with Maria, and the other with James), and while I enjoyed the games they didn’t jump out at me. Maria seemed to really enjoy our playing but James didn’t see anything special here. He has strong preferences for Hunters and Gatherers (while I prefer two player Carcassonne with the Inn expansion using the original farmer scoring…lots of qualifications there.
Citadels – Rating 7
With Citadels, less in more. James and I love to play this with the two player variant that has been developed. When played that way, some interesting card combinations develop and the risk of the thief/assassin in somewhat mitigated by the second card, allowing a player to still take a turn every round even if one card is killed off. One of these players was with 7 players, which was just too many; the game dragged.
Entdecker – Rating 7
I got a couple playings in close succession in with Mark Johnson of BoardGamesToGo fame. We played once at BGG.CON and again at the GameGathering. Both times were with the original Game (not the NEW Entdecker), though we played with different rules sets each time. Our first playing was using Mark’s variant, which adds elements from the New Entdecker plus some of his own tinkering. The second playing also included James and used the original as-published rules. Both playings were quite enjoyable, though I prefer Mark’s variant which adds some decisions to spending gold and somewhat eliminates the quick and easy pick-up of points from finding a succession of small islands.
Kaivai - Rating 7
Both playings were at BGG.CON where the game really suffered because of the rules. Once overcoming that hurdle I found the game to be quite interesting by am left with an initial impression that the game runs longer than it should, though I think this will improve with further plays (lucky me, I got a copy for Christmas). I enjoy the mechanics here and remain hopeful that we can get our playing time down for this to really shine.
Lost Cities – Rating 8
Lost Cities remains another favorite 2 player game. It is light, quick, easy to explain, yet manages to retain enough turn angst to keep me happily engaged. I think all of these traits are in just the right mix to create the ‘just one more game’ comment coming such that it can be hard to stop.
Oltremare - Merchants of Venice – Rating 6
Both of these games were as two player games while relaxing poolside on the Mexican coast with umbrella drinks in our hand. Being that we only played 2 player, there wasn’t much trading happening so the games mainly focused on managing the sequencing of cards in your stock pile. I like the mini board as it makes for a very travel friendly game.
Polarity – Rating 6
Played once at a GamesDay and then picked up my own copy which I have since played once. Our second playing was fraught with rules questions about unusual happenings. I want to spend some time on a few solo plays to get a solid understanding of the intent of the rules to better handle the unusual developments. All that aside, balancing the magnets is great fun.
Puerto Rico - Rating 9
Back-to-back games on New Year’s Eve. With so much new stuff to play this just fell off the radar. Our two playings have certainly reminded us what we have been missing. I’m confident we will never overplay it to the point that play becomes automatic. In that sense I’m happy to remain a novice here
Raj – Rating 6
We played Rogan’s copy of ‘Beat the Buzzard’. This semi-blind bidding game is a great introductory game with a mental aspect of trying to out guess your opponents and is one that kids can play too. Rogan nailed this one and seemed to know exactly what everyone else was planning to play and ran away with the game – both times.
Reef Encounter – Rating 8
I got in a two player and four player game this year. I enjoy the coral growth and changing superiority of the coral types.
Taboo – Rating 7
A recent discovery. I am not one for party games and had thus kept this off my radar but a recent playing left me very impressed. It was great fun in spite of being all about something I typically don’t like doing.
Take it Easy - Rating 7
A good closer. I seem to well at this, but can’t explain why. It’s all about optimizing your big scores and knowing when to abandon a string of numbers.
There's a Moose in the House – Rating 4
The kids enjoy it, but I don’t know why. Hopefully they will outgrow it soon.
Traumfabrik – Rating 8
Another of Kinizia’s auction/set collection games. I picked up my copy at the BGG.CON flea market and am very glad I did. I still prefer Ra but Traumfabrik is right up there.
UNO - Hello Kitty edition – Rating 6
There are worse games to play. The kids love it and I grew up on it so I’m still willing to play whenever they offer.
Acquire – Rating 7
I’m amazed that this was first published in 1962... It holds up so well against current designs.
Age of Steam – Rating 8
When this was first published, I was scared off by the length of play and talk of its ultra-tough economic engine that could knock a player out of contention early and then just drag them along for a long bumpy ride to the end unless they were ejected early through bankruptcy. But, curiosity kept bringing me back. Finally got my first game in in the third quarter this year. I held my own in my first outing, finishing in the middle of the pack, but I felt like I had certainly learned the ropes and was eager to give it another shot. I didn’t get another chance to play until just after New Year’s when Maria and I broke open another Christmas present and tried a 2 player variant using half the board (Money was far from tight in this playing so it hardly felt like my first outing.) I’d love for the two player variant to work as Maria enjoyed the game – she won.
Aladdin's Dragons – Provisional Rating 6
One play of the basic game. I am eager to try this again and make use of the magic cards, though I’m not sure how balanced they are as a set.
Alhambra – Rating 7
Maybe it’s the architect in me but I really like the ‘building the Alhambra’ aspect added to this reproduction of Stimmt So! (which I have not played). With more players I do agree with the consensus that there is little planning possible in coordinating money selections with tile availability. It is however possible to manage money selection to optimize one’s hand and the potential to take future tiles – it’s then just a matter of whether the right tiles appear in the right place at the right time.
Amun-Re – no rating
This is a game I received for Christmas last year and just got around to playing this December. Due to starting late we only played through the first epoch, but we got a pretty solid taste of the game’s mechanics and are now ready to play a REAL game of Amun-Re real soon. Having only played half a game, I can hardly comment on it further than to say that we certainly enjoyed the portion we completed and plan to get it to the table again the first time Rogan and Sue are over again.
Ark of the Covenant – Rating 6
I still prefer vanilla Carcassonne with the Inns and Cathedrals expansion added. The scoring in our one two player game was VERY lopsided. Not sure if that was an aberration or not, but it did dampen my enthusiasm for the game, even if I was on the right side of the scoring disparity.
Arkham Horror – Rating 2
Felt more like being on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland than being a game. I just sat there and watched the game system play me. there were no decisions only the consequences of random actions.
Around the World in 80 Days – Rating 6
I played once at a SoCalGamesDay event and found the game to be ok. I’d like to play it again but probably won’t pick it up myself.
Atlantic Star – Rating 6
We played once at David and Victoria's. It was a 6 player game and worked quite well at that number. I'd gladly pull that out when we have a full house.
Attika – Rating 7
I played this several times last year but none this year as I didn’t have a copy myself . That has all changed now as I just recently got this at the BGG.CON flea market for cheap. My one play in 2005 was with James and was an introductory game for him. He caught on quickly, though may have been a bit too caught up in trying to build everything for free that he didn’t get tiles into play fast enough. He learns quick so next time will be different. I enjoy this most as a 2 player game but bet it will play great at home between Maria, James and myself. Look forward to trying that this year.
Bohnhanza – Rating 6
We played once at David and Victoria's, 6 players. Lots of fun trading and negotiation going on. Several people built a third fiels but the game was won by someone who didn't.
Carcassonne with Inns and Cathedrals Expansion – Rating 7
Played at a SoCalGames Day event. I enjoy how the game can be played peacefully or competitively equally well depending on the aggressiveness of the participants. I prefer aggressive 2 player games myself as that is where the game really shines. It’s been a long time since I played that way, and the best games of that nature I played online at Brettspielwelt.de over a year ago. I generally don’t care for online play as the personal experience is lost in the ether.
Carcassonne - Hunters and Gatherers – Rating 7
James’s favorite Carcassonne incarnation; he just loves the fishing huts. I like the game but prefer the original as it is more competitive. H&G seems to promote cooperative play with the bonus tile given for the person completing mushroom infested forests.
Carolus Magnus – Rating 8
WOW! I had always admired this game’s photos on the Geek. The photos aren’t great, but something about the game just sparked my imagination - the game’s tiles I was fascinated with their shapes and the way they nested together forming larger and larger areas of control. reviews were mixed, but I remained curious and was many times tempted to buy it on faith alone. Then, while at BGG.CON, Jon Grimm recommended it highly. By then, Jon, Maria and I had played several of games together and I could tell that we shared similar tastes, so Maria and I sought out a copy and played it at the CON. It surpassed my expectations. Sure, it is a bit abstract, it’s a Colvini after all, but that didn’t bother me in the least. I especially liked the escalating arms race for control of various colored factions (paladins) to gain control of regions. Everything fits together beautifully. Maria loved it, so I her a copy for Christmas.
Caylus – Rating 8
Caylus may be getting all the hype right now, but of the new releases of 2005 I actually prefer Elasund. The game feels complex from the rules but plays out quite smoothly, though is a bit long.
Clue – Rating 4
I enjoy the deduction game in Clue but find the die roll movement annoying. The kids love it anyway. I long ago picked up the Clue Card Game at the Game Keeper/Wizards of the Coast closing sale for absurdly cheap (95% off) but have yet to play it. Will the lack of dice make it any better? I don’t know yet.
Der Untergang von Pompeji – Rating 6
Played at a SoCalGamesDay. It was interesting but the experience was spoiled by the metagaming of one player constantly whining about being the brunt of bad tile draws and opponent aggressions. The game is better than that experience permitted. Hopefully I’ll see it again and have a chance to play it again.
Dia de los Muertos – Rating 7
Rogan, Sue, Maria, and I don’t often play trick taking games, or card games for that matter, but I got this long ago and have been dying to try it out. We got one play in this fall as the theme became appropriate and after some initial uncertainty, the rules all clicked and our enthusiasm improved greatly. Games like this certainly require more than very irregular play as one then needs to relearn the game each time. Hopefully we can play it a couple times in succession to more fully appreciate what’s offered here.
Drunter und Drüber – Rating 7
Drunter und Drüber is a great hidden player identity game but I never seem to do well here as I have difficulty reading the other players, which is key. Nonetheless, I enjoy the game and do moderately well, but have yet to win.
Edel, Stein & Reich – Rating 8
I enjoy the bartering system between players who select the same action, but am often enjoyably frustrated by the double think of some players in trying to resolve how to play during the partially blind action selection.
El Caballero – Provisional Rating 7
One play, two player which allowed us to wade in deep enough to feel like we understood the rules but not deep enough to see the game shine. I’d like to play again, but with more players.
Elasund: The First City of Catan – Rating 9
Elasund is my favorite game of 2005. Maria and I discovered it at BGG.CON and were very impressed after one play. I’ve already preordered it an am anxious for it to arrive to play again. It’s that good.
Emerald – Rating 6
A great kids game that makes me think of Aladdin’s Dragons. The kids have played it a couple times more than I have. They certainly enjoy it.
En Garde – Rating 6
One play with James, left me somewhat unimpressed. I think the math of organizing one’s plays didn’t fully engage with him until late in the game. This seems like a good game for developing a child’s critical thinking.
Euphrat and Tigris – Provisional Rating 8
E&T is another Kiniza game featuring the ‘most of the least’ type of scoring where players are collecting several different types of victory points and the winning score is determined looking at the lowest score of each player; the winner being the highest low score. I really enjoy this mechanic and the management it induces in determining which action to take based on where you seem weakest. Einfach Genial (Ingenious) is more straightforward and abstract, but I enjoy the theming and additional mechanics of E&T. Just need to play more, which is a comment that applies to almost every game, especially at this end of the list.
Euphrat and Tigris - The Cardgame – no rating
Maria and I played a partial game of this at BGG.CON and I was surprised at how similar it played to the boardgame of the same name; just goes to show how deft Kinizia is with his mechanics, or how shortsighted I am. The card game does add a hand management aspect to the game as players are collecting sets of cards to play onto the table and for simultaneous use as points. I was also surprised at how much space the card game took up; I think it takes more table space than the board game if the columns develop as far as the rules indicate to allow. Given that I already own the boardgame I think I’ll pass on the card version, though it may interest others who don’t have the original incarnation.
Evo – Rating 7
James certainly loves Evo; he’s won both of his playings of this title, once in 2004 and again in 2005. He plays an aggressive game, which given his record seems to be a winning strategy. The theme is a bit thin for some, but James and I enjoy it anyway and can stay with the prehistoric theme.
Fearsome Floors – Rating 6
This is a great Halloween season game, provided that players don’t overanalyze their moves and play quickly. We have continued to stick with the basic components in a setup that generally approximates the provided initial setup, but we aren’t precise about the placement; just put the blood and scatter the columns approximately as indicated on the sheet and go. We find it best with mid-sized groups where there are enough victims for the monster to chase and to create blocking situations with the fleeing victims.
Goa – no rating
I missed something in the rules explanation and felt myself flounder through the whole game. The use of the tile grid to determine the auction offerings is quite interesting. Once the reprint is out, I’ll have to give this another go or else join in a game at one of the local events – though it seems that many of Goa’s early admirers have long ago burned out on it now.
Hansa – Rating 7
Maria and I played this at BGG.CON with Mark Johnson and Maria really liked it. I had played before, but that didn’t help e as I still came in last. It’s short, tactical, and plays two players – a definite add to our collection (and given to Maria for Christmas). I bet she’d like WoP/China too…
HeroScape – Rating 4
This just doesn’t grab me and I’m not sure it does James either, as he never asks to play it, plus it takes so darn long to set up and pack back into that box. This is one that James and I should get to the table again here very shortly and decide to keep or trade away before the market deflates. I don’t see this as having the staying power that others see.
Igel Ärgern – Rating 6
Just one play at BGG.CON and even that one didn’t go to full completion, though we all felt the winner was established at the point where we stopped (due to players needing to join in a pre-committed game of werewolf.). I enjoyed the ebb and flow of the game and am intrigued by the fact that the game is actually more a framework for a whole series of variants of games that can be played with the components. And, given the basic math and sequencing logic of the game it feels like a perfect introductory thinking game for kids. That said, while I have heard others note how their children love the game, I don’t see mine (Reanna in particular) really gravitating to this as beyond the superficial theme the game remains quite abstract.
Indonesia – Provisional Rating 8
Indonesia is another game with a partial playing from our time at BGG.CON. As I noted in my CON write-up, Maria was particularly taken by the economics of the game. This was her first exposure to the genre of economic delivery games and her interest bodes well. Hopefully we can find a way to play this again and also expand further into the genre. The game is not without its issues; there are graphical difficulties to overcome and the math of bidding is a bit burdensome.
Industrial Waste – Rating 7
It’s all about being the most efficient at getting to the game winning conditions. I think this is a great ‘optimization’ game that lets players have some long term planning for how they intend to win. I also enjoy the decision process in determining which set of cards to take or to prevent your opponent from getting.
Keythedral – Provisional Rating 8
Played once at a SoCalGamesDay. I enjoyed the cutthroat nature of the resource collection. I liked this so much I immediately ordered it after playing (got the expansion too). Have yet to get it to the table again though…just too many new games.
Klondike – Rating 5
We must be doing something wrong as our recent games of this almost always end on the very first gold panning session. If the sum of the bids match the number of gold the first panning player has, then that player pays away all his gold to settle the bets and the game ends as that player has no more gold. Using the additional advanced game cards would help in some cases but often our games end with the panning player having exactly the right amount of gold to pay out to his/her opponents.
Kreta - Rating 8
Stefan Dora’s Essen release of 05 really hit it off with me at BGG.CON. I was optimistic in spite reading mediocre reviews about it being simply a retread recombination of tired mechanics. For me the sum of the parts mesh into a very interesting area control game. This game inspired my recent Magnus-Spiele order and I’m glad to now own it. Further play in 06 has reinforced my initial impressions.
Lord of the Rings - The Confrontation – Rating 6
Feels like a blending of CCG card actions with Stratego like presentation/play. James likes both (plus the theme) so this is a hit with him. His win record is slightly better than mine. Played more last year and not much 2005. (I think we actually played it more than once, but that is all I recorded.) Win spite of the asymmetrical powers, the game is very balanced. An impressive job by Kinizia.
Mesopotamia Rating – Rating 6
I found Mesopotamia to be a nice production/building game with a pretty tight race to the finish. The decision making isn’t too burdensome (as it can be in Tikal and its kin) so turns are pretty fast. I tended to find the right decisions to be reasonably clear for me each turn. In our playing the card draw action was only ever taken as a last resort, with players focusing on immediate gains on the board instead. We played a three player game with Maria, James and myself. I’d like to get this to the table with 4 players soon.
Mexica – Rating 7
After one play at BGG.CON I find that I prefer Tikal over Mexica but now have an even greater interest in trying JAVA. Kramer just hits a sweet spot with me.
Mystery of the Abbey – Rating 5
In a quest for a better deduction game than Clue, I picked up Mystery of the Abbey from a fellow Spielfriek. Unfortunately I find that MotA has replace die roll frustration with the frustration of too much chaos as character cards shift about. But hey, it WAS more fun and I’m willing to give it another shot. I also picked up the mini expansion Days of Wonder released this fall, so I have to see them in action anyway.
Niagara – Rating 7
Beautiful production and innovative mechanic novelty that ties into the game play seamlessly (except for the occasional disk jam at the fork in the river). I enjoyed the race to be the first to fulfill the set collection requirements and the strategic decision making over which river movement tile to play and anticipating your opponents decisions. I’d play this more if I owned it (well, actually maybe not, as I already own far more than we can play.)
RoboRally – Rating 7
I found this to be surprisingly fun in my one play with the WAGS in Toronto. Hopefully I'll get another chance to play on another trip. The chaos of actions and randomness of card draws are certainly evident, but taken as a given component of the game they are acceptable. I approached it as a fun diversion and not as a mind bender and that is what it turns out to be, so my expectations were met. Sure a player can strategize and the better tactical decisions will contribute to determining the winner, but I think the chaos and randomness are an equal contributing factor.
Saturn – Rating 6
A very interesting balancing game in which the rings of Saturn all pivot about different axes and your goal is to place variously weighted balls on the rings without causing the rings to touch the table. This was a surprise find at BGG.CON but at the prices I've seen it selling for on EBay or the Geek, I don't think I'll be picking this one up.
Seafarers of Catan – Provisional Rating 6
After my first playing I surprisingly find myself in the camp that finds that the Seafarers expansion doesn’t add anything significant to the game-play other than time. I’ll try it again with 4 players to see if I change my mind, but if not, will likely only play with the base game. We haven’t overplayed the base game to the point we need all the variant setups provided with Seafarers, but if we ever get there I’ll be glad to have more avenues to explore.
Settlers of Catan – Rating 8
All together we had three playings this year in different formats. The base game remains my favorite as it feels the most efficient – an optimization of playing time, players, and game interest. Sure there are wild swings of the die results in any given game, where one number seems favored over all others, but the favorite number seems to change from game to game. It would be interesting to track an note how those trends shift, but would also be a bit too much work and a rather pointless proof of the bell curve results or (less likely) substantiate that the dice are indeed manufacturing defects impartially loaded to favor certain results.
Settlers of Catan, with the 5-6 Player Expansion - Rating 7
After reading how the 5-6 player expansion just too much length to the game and that later players can have a tough time making viable initial starting settlement location selections I wasn’t optimistic. Surprisingly, my one playing with 6 went fast and was very tight from the start. I would gladly play again with the expansion, but do prefer the optimization of the 4 player game more.
Shadows over Camelot – Rating 5
I just didn’t care for this one. I never felt immersed in the theme. Rather it felt more like a set collection exercise by committee.
Snake Pit – Rating 6
James and I played this free print and play game I found on the Geek. It’s fast, yet moderately interesting…just enough so that I’m glad I printed it and took the time to make a set, yet not one that will ever see a lot of play.
St. Petersburg – Rating 7
After receiving the IGA game of the year award I decided ignore the concerns being voiced on Spielfrieks and the Geek and to go ahead pick this one up. In our one game (four players) we stacked the deck to ensure the strong aristocrats didn’t come out too early. Gameplay was tight and quite interesting. I like what’s going on here. We should play more.
Sunda to Sahul – Raing 5
Our games always tend to break down into just being a puzzle exercise just for the fun of it rather than the game they start out as. I guess we just find it more enjoyable to build the island maps than to deal with the little token pieces, no matter what our intentions are at the start.
Traders of Genoa - Rating 8
One play with the WAGS group which dispelled the myths swirling around this title over on the Geek (well for me at least it did) We played a 5 player game in a couple hours tops and even had time for Pirates Cove too. The negotiations were not open ended affairs, turns passed quickly, and the game was very tight. I was so impressed that I immediately ordered a copy for myself (mind you it is still sitting in shrink as I type… I resolve to amend that this year.)
TransAmerica Rting - 6
I’m surprised I only played this once in 2005. I think this just slipped off the radar as a good introductory opener for when non-gamers want to play a game. Having written this up, I imagine I will remember to pull this title out for just such occasions more often. Game play is very simple and luck of the draw plays a significant role in the outcome, yet over a series of plays the superior planner/opportunist tends to come out on top.
Tsuro – Rating 6
James and I played this once at a GameGathering this fall. It was an interesting game of trying to outlast your opponent that plays fast enough it could provide some schoolnight entertainment just before bedtime, if I ever pick up a copy. I like to try it with more players to see how it scales (I fear quite a bit of control will be lost). I loved the playing pieces which have a beautiful molded contour to them that is very appropriate for the theming of the game. the board and tiles are beautiful too, though I prefer the linen finish of Euro printed games to the gloss finish of the tiles here.
Tutankhamen – Rating 6
This is an Egyptian themed set collection taking place along a path, which sounds like the offspring of a pairing of Ra and Cartagena. There is actually a bit of thinking required in this one as movement on the path is one way only and players must decide whether to race ahead to get a desired tile and subsequently pass on all the intervening tiles. Play’s fast too, but for some reason didn’t grab me.
Union Pacific - Rating 7
We played a 6 player game early this year. This was more of an introductory game with some of our friends who were just getting their feet wet on some of the more ‘meaty’ Euros (as compared to TransAmerica or Ticket To Ride). My previous plays have been using Dave Arnott’s two player variant. This year’s game featured some very closely spaced scoring rounds which made for a wild swing in the final scores. I think we will play future games using some of the suggested variants regarding the positioning of the scoring cards in the deck.
Wallenstein – Preliminary Rating 8
For me the highpoint of the game is its action allocation system, simply brilliant. Anyone know if this is used anywhere else? I’m less taken with the tower, but it does work beautifully for battle resolution. I am very interested in picking up the new reprinting/retheming Shogun when it is released and look forward to getting in some future plays.
Werewolf – Ratng 6
Maria really enjoyed playing this at BGG.CON. I only participated in one game, but she was in for one or two more. We have since picked up the Asmodee deck in hopes of playing on some of our group camping trips. Should prove to be good fun by firelight if we can convince enough of the others to join in.
What a huge task to summarize a year's worth of playing games! You did a great job and I quite enjoyed reading it.
I find it interesting how closely our tastes seem to match... (not that WAGS opinions are terribly far off, but on points of dissagreement yours and mine are closer)
Arkham Horror. They love it, I don't.
Shadows over Camelot: They love it. I like it.
Ra is my favorite game, you currently list it as yous as well.
I think it boild down to a "theme vs mechanics" mentality. Where they tend to side on theme, I need to find satisfaction in the game system as well.
There is one notable exception... Duel of Ages.
That's a game with a mediocre system from which I somehow derive much enjoyment. I don't have any any other games which offer so much variety and freedom of actions... very interesting/ memorable situations can and do happen. It's quite possible that another game will come along and do it better (in which case DoA would instantly get knocked off my top 10 and into oblivion! It's there because it occupies a niche, not strictly due to the quality of the game)
Anyway, it's been a pleasure having you at WAGS and we look forward to seeing you more often in 2006.