Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010 In Review

I played about 1000 games in 2010. Overall, it was good year for playing games, but a bad year for new games...

Most Played

Ignoring lighter games and fillers--yes, I think Race for the Galaxy is a filler--my most played games were Go (74x), Loyang (32x), Through the Ages (18x), Shogi (11x), Magic Realm (9x), Tigris & Euphrates (9x), Arkham Horror (8x), Tinners' Trail (7x), War of the Ring CE (7x), Lord of the Rings (6x), Notre Dame (6x), Space Alert (6x), and Age of Industry (5x).

Of these, only War of the Ring and Age of Industry were 2010, although it's kind of a stretch in both cases since they are basically "remakes".

Most Fun

Go: An addictive gem. Despite its obvious abstract physical and mechanical design, Go is a rich game, and probably the deepest game I can imagine.

Shogi: Certainly this gets a bump because I am on the leading edge of the learning curve. If you have ignored Shogi because you think it's just a variant on Chess, take another look.

Through the Ages: Although it's lost most of its learning-curve luster, I play often and enjoy it every time.

Tigris & Euphrates: This game went from an early 10, down to an 8, and is now back up to a 9. For an abstract, it looks nice, it has a lot of tricky plays, and a good dose of bluffing.

ASL Starter Kit: I'm still in the intro stages of full ASL, even after all this time. It's more an issue of getting players together than it is a lack of my own interest. I've tried other tactical wargames (CoH, CC:E, ToI), but they just don't feel right.

Liberté: What can I say that I haven't said before? Not much. If you don't own it already, one of your only options is to pick up the embarrassing new Valley Games version.

Napoleon's Triumph: An unintuitive, yet brilliant design in grand tactics (no line-of-sight or defensive fire, but also no supply). The old adage that it's a cross between chess and poker is right on the money.

Here I Stand: My only play--a 13 hour marathon--was fascinating. It's not a "game night" game, but I'd play again any time.

Paths of Glory: It's been highly rated on BGG since its release, but I've never even looked at it until recently. My first and only play took about 6 hours to get through only 4 turns out of 20. A very clever CDG system that feels so much more open than Twilight Struggle, for example.

Again, nothing from 2010.

2010 Releases

7 Wonders: Everyone around me already owns it and has played it, yet I haven't even seen a copy yet. Everyone is way too excited about it. I've read the rules. I can't see rating this game other than a 7.

London: A very convoluted system for gaining income and losing poverty. The board feels like an afterthought. It feels like a game would feel half way through development, before the chaff was discarded.

Merkator: No theme, high chaos. The little cube boxes are a gimmick. They do not serve their purpose. They are a failed reaction to the physical disaster that is Le Havre.

Haggis: A very good replacement for Tichu when you only have 3.

There are a few that I want to try that I haven't, but there are no "must tries". I think the problem is that the "professional designers" are selling out to the mass market and making video versions of the simpler games, and that there are a lot more small (self-)publishers pumping out crap.

Look at Small World. Vinci is a very good game that's been around for 11 years. It has a rank of 168 on BGG. Repackage it with horrendous graphics, give it a fantasy makeover, and it jumps up 128 points. This is where the industry is going. It's great to get more exposure of games for the general public, but pandering to the least common denominator is destructive to the core.

2010 Flops

Dominant Species: This is a great design, but a terrible game. If I wanted 5 hours of complete chaos with absolutely no control or planning, I would play 2 games of Agricola instead. It also doesn't help that a game with an evolution theme is really about "intelligent design".

Founding Fathers: A really good idea for a game, but approached from the wrong direction. As a player, you never care if you are on the "right side" of an issue (which would make the game interesting and historical). You only care if you are on the winning side. And if you lose, you get points for losing so you don't fall too far behind. All the worst sort of euro mechanisms.

Thunderstone/Ascension: Broken and boring.