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Amparo Bertram

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02:52 pm: Board game Top 10 lists
Last year I did a list of my favorite games. I was about to write up my new list for 2014, when I ran into a few issues.

Issue #1: There are a lot of my favorite games that I never get to play. Usually this is because I never have the right player count (I'm looking at you, Morels), but it could also be because the game is too heavy to carry around to game meetups, takes up too much table space, or is the wrong "type" of game (e.g. too thinky). Does it really make sense to list up a bunch of games that I almost never play?

Issue #2: There are some games that I have been able to play quite a lot, usually because they are lighter games that are easy to carry around to meetups, quick to set up and teach, and fast to play. However, I may not necessarily consider them the "best" games in my collection just because I get to play them a lot. Would it make sense to list up my "most playable" games? Certainly playability is a factor to be considered, since one generally wants to get one's money's worth out of a purchase.

Issue #3: I have a big stack of games that were just acquired recently (November-December) that I haven't had a chance to play at all. Some of them could be excellent, and it seems a shame to leave them out completely just because they were late arrivals. (For instance, Viticulture was just left on my doorstep about 7pm last night.)

Due to all of these factors, I decided to make up several different Top Ten lists instead of just one. The one thing in common among all of these lists is that I had to own the game personally for it to be included.

Top Ten Unplayed Games

10. Saint Petersburg
This is a classic game that I acquired in a math trade at Gen Con. The original version is out of print and currently hard to find, though a revised Second Edition has just recently come out and should be available soon. I've watched the Rahdo video for it, and it looks interesting, but there just hasn't been any opportunity to play it. I don't particularly want to take it out to random game meetups, because it would be hard to replace any pieces if they were damaged or lost, which means I have to wait until someone wants to play it at my house.


9. Mura Korogashi
This is a two-player tile-laying game that I picked up at the Tokyo Game Market in November. I think it looks fun, but considering my track record getting Morels to the table, my chances of playing this one anytime soon are slim.


8. Pergamon
This is another out of print game, though it's a bit easier to find because there are a lot of imported copies floating around. (My copy is the German edition; it's still in print in Germany.) It's a light press-your-luck game about digging up archaeological artifacts and putting them on display in a museum. Again, it's something that I don't take to game meetups due to the difficulty I would have finding replacement pieces if someone were to spill a drink on the game.


7. Brew Crafters: The Travel Card Game
This was a Kickstarter game that just arrived two days before Christmas. The publisher has a great reputation, and the card quality looks fantastic. I heard that a solitaire variant was recently posted on BGG, so I may get to try that very soon.


6. New Dawn
This is a strategy game set in the same universe as Among the Stars. The Kickstarter was delayed for a very long time, so I've been waiting for this one for months. I just received my copy on December 22. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try it before another year passes.


5. Viticulture
As I mentioned above, this worker placement game about winemaking was just delivered yesterday. The expansion (which I also bought) contains a module with solitaire rules, so I may be able to try that version when I have some free time.


4. Francis Drake
The components for this Euro game are stunning. The box is too huge to carry, though, so it's another member of the stay-at-home club.


3. Myth
I've tried setting this cooperative miniatures game up to play solo, but I think it really needs more players to really bring out the epic fantasy adventure feel.


2. Assault on Doomrock
This is another cooperative fantasy game that just arrived on December 13. I've heard good things about it, but I have yet to try it myself.


1. The Ravens of Thri Sahashri
This is a Japanese cooperative card game for two players. I've wanted a copy for a year now, and I was finally able to pick one up at the Tokyo Game Market. Now I just need someone to play it with me. Like Hanabi, this is a game that restricts communication, so even though it is cooperative, it can't be played solo.


Top Ten Best New Games

10. Havok and Hijinks
The strong point of this game about baby dragons is the adorable art. Sadly, it relies far too much on stealing from other players for it to be universally appealing to my game groups, but it can be useful in the right circumstances.


9. Madame Ching
I have only played this one solo, and while it is certainly attractive to look at, it definitely isn't designed for solitaire play. It's a bit on the abstract side for my taste, and it has a few too many attack cards, but the pirate theme (even if just pasted on) goes a long way toward making that more acceptable. Hopefully I will get a chance to try a multiplayer game of it soon.


8. Sheep & Thief
This is a cute Japanese game with a unique theme that comes in a small box and is easy to learn. It isn't very deep, so it hovers in "filler" territory, but sometimes a filler is just what's required.


7. Temporum
I was really excited to get this game because I'm a huge fan of Dominion. I was hoping to pick it up at Gen Con...but it was delayed...and delayed again... I finally received it and managed to play it at a game meetup. While I do find it to be an interesting game, and I appreciate the quick setup and short play time, it will never be as addictive as Dominion. Still, it's good enough to earn a place on the list.


6. Shipwrights of the North Sea
So far I've only played this one with all the attack cards included, and I have to say they really make the game drag. However, the game itself is an interesting combination of drafting and resource management, with quirky yet appealing art and thematic wooden bits. I feel confident that removing some (or all) of the attack cards will improve the play and make the game progress at a much more reasonable pace.


5. Paperback
Despite the deceptively bland appearance, this game is highly entertaining. It also has a cooperative (or solo) mode, which makes it much more likely to get played in my circles. The components are great quality, and the box is well organized with dividers for the different types of cards to help save time during setup.


4. Age of Craft
This little Japanese game is relatively easy to teach and packs a lot into a portable box. Even though it utilizes a huge pile of dice, it actually relies far more on strategy than on luck, due to the way the dice are drafted and used as resources.


3. Dragon's Hoard
This was really a surprise hit. I bought it on a whim, almost entirely because of the art. The game has enough substance to it that it offers a nice challenge. Since it employs multi-use cards, it can be played just as well by people who get a thrill out of attacking their opponents as those who would rather peacefully accumulate treasure. It's also small and compact, great for carrying around to game meetups.


2. Mysterium
I bought the 2014 Portal Games (Polish) version (with slightly different components and rules from the original Ukrainian edition), so I'm counting it as a 2014 game. It should be published in English in 2015 (with card art by the same artist who did Dixit). The fact that it's cooperative means that I have a much greater chance of getting it to the table. The card art is fantastic, and though it's not exactly a strategy game, it's still an engaging challenge.


1. Imperial Settlers
This is far and away my favorite game of the year. I love practically everything about it. The components are awesome, the art is adorable, and the gameplay is smooth, with enough complexity to make every turn require thought, and it has a TON of replayability due to the differences among the four faction decks. To top it all off, it has solitaire rules, so I can even play it when I can't talk anyone else into playing it with me. Really the only place where this loses out is that the box isn't small enough to be easily portable.


Top Ten Most Played Games

9. Havok & Hijinks (tie)
This one is portable and fast, so it's easy to toss it in my bag as a filler. Since I have all the Kickstarter dragon cards, I can also play it with more than the supposed maximum of four players, which gives it more flexibility.


9. Finca (tie)
This resource management game has wonderfully colorful wooden pieces that are fun to handle and look impressive on the table. I also appreciate that it has virtually no conflict. The main drawback is that all the pretty pieces make it less portable, and I also hesitate to take it places because the game itself is out of print.


8. Arctic Scavengers
This game has a lot of the same deckbuilding mechanics as Dominion, but with a much better integration of theme. Plus, it has far fewer cards, so it's easier to carry around. It is hurting from the lack of a big expansion, but hopefully Rio Grande will see the light and agree to publish one in 2015.


6. Star Realms (tie)
The quick setup and relative portability of this game work in its favor (though it does start to get a bit clunky with two sets added together). The solo challenges account for several of my plays; there would probably be a lot more, except I also have a digital version on my Kindle, and that's even faster to play (plus it takes up less space).


6. Fairy Tale (tie)
I really love the art for this game, and the simplicity of the rules makes it relatively easy to teach. The flaw is that the complexity of the scoring has resulted in most new players being completely lost as to what kind of strategy to pursue. They know how to play, just not why they should choose any particular card above any other. That makes it hard to convince others to give it a try.


4. Citadels (tie)
This game has the strong advantage of being adaptable to a large range of player counts, while at the same time being extremely portable and quick to teach.


4. Imperial Settlers (tie)
Tying for fourth place with 8 plays (half of them solo), this was my favorite new game of the year. I just need to get more people addicted to it. Sadly, it seems to be too much of a brain burner to appeal to my usual crowd.


3. Dragon's Hoard
I managed to get in 10 plays of this tableau building game. It has attractive art that draws in players, it's portable enough to carry pretty much anywhere, it's relatively simple to teach, and it has enough meaningful decisions to keep it interesting. This was definitely one of the best new games of the year.


2. Dominion
This came in second with 12 plays (though if I added in all the expansion-only plays as well, it would probably have been first). It's the most-requested game among my family and friends.


1. Machi Koro
With a whopping 17 plays, most of them over a single weekend for KublaCon, this wins the title of my most played game for the year.


Top Ten Favorite Games
10. Finca
It's hard to beat the components for this game. The bright colors and fruit/nut shapes are really fun to look at. The game itself has incredibly simple rules, so it's easy to teach, and the low conflict means it works well even among people who are sensitive to being attacked. I would recommend it to anyone.


9. Glass Road
A resource management game by the designer of the more famous Agricola, this one eliminates the worker placement element. It plays very quickly (once the players are familiar with the cards), which means it works when free time is at a premium, and it can even be played solo. It is a bit on the heavy side, though, with a lot of mental calculations, so it's hard to introduce to new gamers.


8. San Juan
This tableau-building card game is highly streamlined with reasonably simple rules that make it a good gateway to the multi-use card genre. The fact that it's getting a reprint with updated art means that it should be easier to find.


7. Mysterium
This is a cooperative game that combines the elements of Dixit and Clue, as one player tries to use cards with abstract art as hints to help the other player(s) find a murderer. It should be playable by all ages, and it promotes discussion and analysis without being at all dry or mathematical (the way most Euro games are).


6. Race for the Galaxy
I really wish it were easier to introduce this game to new players, because I never get to indulge as much as I would like. Fortunately, it can be played solo with the incorporation of an expansion, so at least I can get it to the table that way.


5. Fairy Tale
Art, theme, portability, speed of play...nearly every element of this game makes it a perfect match for my taste. If only the scoring were less complicated...


4. Arctic Scavengers
This is a great example of a thematic deckbuilder that I try to promote whenever I get the chance. I hear that it has recently gone out of print, which makes me think its popularity is rising (since people are buying all the copies). I'm crossing my fingers that a new expansion will hit game shop shelves before too long.


3. Imperial Settlers
Without question, this is an outstanding game. I've already picked up the first expansion, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else is in store for it.


2. Dominion
It's hard to top this one. Dominion is simple enough to teach new gamers yet deep enough to hold attention through multiple plays. Every game is a new challenge built on the same basic principles.


1. Morels
This one still tops my list by virtue of having beautiful art, quick setup, easy to learn rules, low conflict, opportunity for meaningful decisions, and portability. It's such a shame that the two-player-only format means I never get to play it.


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Comments

[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:December 31st, 2014 05:30 am (UTC)
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I am genuinely surprised (and very happy) that Tajemnicze Domostwo/Mysterium made it on so many of your lists. Also, glad we had a chance to play it yesterday. Have you had an opportunity to play it with 3+ players? Because one thing that occurred to me on the way home was how frustrating it would be for the player with the "bad" clues (i.e., your Sherlock, my Madame Zenza) if all the other players were moving on (like Handsome Black Hat). Since it's cooperative, do the players discuss the dreams they've received with each other? If so, I hope the unibrain gets a chance to play together.

Am I reading correctly? Are there THREE coops on the unplayed list? You know I'm always up for a cooperative game! I was born to play fantasy-themed coops.

Does Mura Korogashi have text on the tiles, or is it a pictures-only game?
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:December 31st, 2014 12:41 pm (UTC)
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Since it's cooperative, do the players discuss the dreams they've received with each other?

Yes, there is unlimited communication among the investigators.

Are there THREE coops on the unplayed list?

There certainly are. The problem is that two of them (Doomrock and Myth) take 2-3 hours to play, so it needs a really long session for those. The Japanese one is very similar in playstyle to Mysterium, except that it's for two players only, and neither one is allowed to talk.

Does Mura Korogashi have text on the tiles, or is it a pictures-only game?

The tiles themselves are pictures (with one representative kanji each), but the reference sheet that explains what they all do is in Japanese. I did post a rules summary on BGG with descriptions of all the tiles, though, if you want to look through it.
[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:January 3rd, 2015 03:32 am (UTC)
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Nice lists! Thanks for sharing these.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:January 3rd, 2015 06:31 am (UTC)
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Anytime! I hope you get a chance to try some of the good ones eventually.
[User Picture]
From:megory
Date:January 3rd, 2015 01:16 pm (UTC)
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Me,too! I'll be on the lookout for them.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:January 5th, 2015 02:22 pm (UTC)
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Despite the deceptively bland appearance, this game is highly entertaining.

Bland? What about the awesome novel covers??

Mysterium looks really interesting. I'd love to try it sometime. (Hesitant on buying it since Jim isn't into coops.)

Just curious, how do you rank the unplayed games? Is it based on others' reviews, or how much you want to play? (Or both? Or something else?)
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:January 5th, 2015 03:18 pm (UTC)
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What about the awesome novel covers??

I actually find what art there is kind of tacky. It's not really my style. I'm more of a Michael Whelan or Darrell K. Sweet kind of novel cover fan.

Just curious, how do you rank the unplayed games? Is it based on others' reviews, or how much you want to play?

Mostly based on how much I want to play. When making the list, I imagine that someone offered me two games and asked me to pick which one to play. Then repeat that process multiple times until everything is sorted by preference.

I take reviews into account when making the decision whether to buy the game.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:January 5th, 2015 03:22 pm (UTC)
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I actually find what art there is kind of tacky.

Given the ridiculousness of the titles and cover copy, I think that's the point.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:January 5th, 2015 04:01 pm (UTC)
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Given the ridiculousness of the titles and cover copy, I think that's the point.

Yes, I agree that it is the point. That still doesn't make the art more appealing aesthetically, though. I can't show the game to someone and say, "Look at the pretty pictures!" the way I can with Dragon's Hoard or Fairy Tale.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:January 5th, 2015 04:09 pm (UTC)
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You can't call them pretty, no, but whether they're a draw or not depends on your tastes, I guess.
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