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2016 Recap, The List, Looking Ahead

TheListImage-BoardsAndBarleyAt the start of 2016 I posted an article called “The List.” The article was a list of games that my gaming group owns but had not yet played. It was a pretty good sized list that grew throughout 2016. For the first half of the year I was regularly posting updates to The List and providing brief reviews of the games we crossed off. That tailed off a bit later in the year when I gamed less and lost a little interest in gaming due to life.

But here we are at the end of 2016 so I am providing one final recap to The List. Let’s take a look at how we did. Go back and visit the original article: The List.

The Final Tally

There are 57 games on The List, which does not include games like Great Western Trail, SeaFall, Grand Austria Hotel, and many more that were purchased along the way. I’ll leave those out for now since that’s too much to try and remember (I should have stuck with the regular updates).

Of those 57, 28 were played. 

So 28/57 means we played less than half of the games. Ouch.

Some games got traded before we played them. Others were just not interesting enough. Mistakes were made. Excuses rose to the surface. For one reason or another we didn’t do that great with The List.

This is kind of a downer and I don’t want downers to drown out the joy that I had through board gaming in 2016. So here are my top games from the year:

Top 5 Games of 2016

  1. pic2578828_mdOrleans: This was/is my favorite. I love how it all works together. I love how every decision seems like a good one and that everything you are doing moves you forward rather than backward. It works really well and flows smoothly. I think I might get the expansion for 2017.
  2. Pandemic: Legacy: I’m not a huge Pandemic fan. But this makes the list because of the great group of people I am playing it with. We’ve had a lot of fun trying to work through the ups and (mostly) downs that the game presents. We’ve come up with creative names, like Eko “Flavor-Crystal” Farts. Overall it has provided hours of great gaming time with great friends.
  3. Karuba: It’s so simple to teach and play. I’ve introduced it to a bunch of people and now my family collectively owns three copies between me and my brothers-in-law.
  4. Scythe: I only played once and I played poorly. However, it is obvious that this game has great depth and a truly immersive experience. It takes a special game to make you feel like you are in the game. This one succeeds at that.
  5. The Voyages of Marco Polo: True, classic, solid Euro. Really hit the mark for me. I LOVE the variable player powers. The dice placement works really well. Overall this is a game I can’t wait to play again.

Best Expansion of 2016

pic2623383_mdA little shameless self-promotion never hurt anyone, right? My favorite expansion from 2016 was Scoville: Labs!

What I love most about this expansion is that it adds a great layer of control to the game.

One of the things people griped about with the base game was that it was too tactical and they didn’t have enough control with what they were getting and when they would get it. That’s why i designed the personal pepper lab.

With the lab you can control exactly what you get and when you get it. This allows for a greater level of strategy rather than the more tactical base game.

Plus, as a bonus it comes with a bunch of extra peppers, which helps with the other common gripe from the base game that players would run out of peppers.

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Image via BoardGameGeek.com user mpalframan (link)

Check out Scoville: Labs from your favorite local game store or your favorite online game store.

Honorable Mention Games of 2016

There are a bunch of other games I really enjoyed from 2016. My list above was capped at 5 to really highlight those games, but these games also deserve some attention.

  1. Covert: The highlight of this spy-themed cold war Euro is how you can create fantastic combinations of cards, which allow you to pull of some really great moves. The gameplay works well and the artwork is amazing.
  2. Potion Explosion: This was a hit with some of our wives, which means it’s a winner. I didn’t have high expectations for this game, but once I played it I realized that I wanted to keep playing. The part that sells it to me was the special abilities of the potions.
  3. Quadropolis: So clever and tight and unique. Decisions are interesting and the placement of your tiles matters SO MUCH! I really like trying to figure out the best placement for tiles relative to how other players are playing. There’s actually quite a bit of interaction here as well.
  4. SeaFall: I’m not sure yet whether I enjoy this game. However, the experience is really what you are paying for when you buy this one. This presents a fantastically immersive experience for gamers. Now all I have to do is try to figure out how to get out of last place before we are done with the campaign.
  5. Terraforming Mars: Use the Draft Variant. This is a really enjoyable engine building game (using “engine building” lightly). Players use cards and can create combinations that will help them get ahead. Without the draft variant this game wouldn’t make the list.

Looking Ahead to 2017

I’m not doing another “The List” type thing. That was too much effort to track and bother over.

Another mistake from 2016 was that my gaming group switched to once-a-month rather than twice a month. We will be going back to twice a month.

As for design efforts I have one solo design that I believe has great potential and one co-design that I believe has even greater potential. Development on these two games will be at the forefront of my efforts. It would be great if I could get another game signed, but that’s something that is outside of my control and, as such, is not a reasonable goal.

My 2017 convention schedule is sparse at this point. I’ll probably go to Protospiel-Milwaukee in the spring and Protospiel-Madison in the fall. I’ll definitely be going to Gen Con in August. I’d love to go back to Grand Con in September or BGG.Con in November. Those are both enjoyable gaming-focused cons. Maybe 2017 will be the year I finally get to Origins.

As for this website, I’d like to hear from you. Let me know what sorts of articles you are interested in reading. What would you like to see on this site? Do you want more random design efforts like the Design Me articles? Would you like more tutorials like the “How To Teach Games” type stuff? Or maybe more game design related content like blank card templates or usable vector icons? Please feel free to comment here or on Twitter and let me know what sort of content you would be the most interested in.

Thanks for reading! I wish you a great 2017.

The List Update

Continuing to cross games off The List, this time we were able to cross off a whole bunch. My last update to The List was in March so I’m trying to get caught up and I’m finally getting around to writing about them. Let’s start with Orleans. But first I’d like to give a big shout out to all the Russian followers I’ve received lately. Thanks so much for following my blog.

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Orléans

pic2578828Orléans is my current favorite game despite never having won. In Orléans players use a unique mechanic of action selection. Each player has a set of four starting workers. By sending groups of workers to locations on your player board you can gain new workers. These new workers can allow you to visit new locations on your player board that provide new actions.

I love the dynamic of trying to get certain workers while constantly wanting all the other workers. It is one of those games where you can feel good about what you are doing in the game and then you realize the other players are doing awesome things too and then you get jealous and wish you were doing the things they were doing but then you would realize that you just can’t do it all. I love it. This is a game that I can’t wait to play again!

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Flash Point: Fire Rescue

pic1129370This one shouldn’t technically be off the list because it hasn’t met the requirement of being played together by at least 2 of the 4 Listers. However, I’m crossing it off because the other Listers were present when the game was played.

In Flash Point players work cooperatively to extinguish fires, rescue victims, and make sure the building doesn’t get completely annihilated by a strong and growing fire.

On your turn you get a certain number of actions, usually 4. You can use those actions to extinguish fires, heal people, move around in the building, and more. If you can save enough victims then you win the game. I think we barely won.

I thought the game was fine. I don’t really care that much for games like this where players cooperate. It was fun to barely win but this just wasn’t all that fun.

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Rococo

pic1795272Who wants to make some dresses? That’s what you get to do in Rococo. Well, among other things like decorating the hallways.

Players utilize employees to take actions and earn bonuses throughout the game. You can also hire more employees which might provide better bonuses as the game goes along. The main idea of the game is that you are working toward creating dresses that can be rented out for the evening. These dresses can then be placed throughout the building as you work to earn big points at the end of the game.

Overall I thought the theme was interesting and different. But the game itself felt fiddly and had too many “exception” rules where there are one-time things that you have to remember during the game. It was fun but I’m not dying to play it again.

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Pandemic: Legacy

pic2452831Ladies and Gentlemen, Pandemic: Legacy is a legitimate experience to be enjoyed by gamers of all types! A group of four of us have played through the first three months. There are no spoilers here so feel free to keep on reading.

Players work cooperatively to cure and eradicate diseases throughout the world. It is a co-op game that works the same way as Flash Point. Overall I don’t think Pandemic: Legacy is my favorite due to that nature. However, inside this box is not just a game. There is an experience inside this box that you can thoroughly enjoy if you’ve got a good group that can play through the game together. For that reason, the experience, this game was really enjoyable and will continue to be as we play through the remaining months.

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Rampage (Terror in Meeple City)

pic2482302My friend has the “Rampage” version of the game, but it is now called Terror in Meeple City, which I think is a pretty bad name which loses all the nostalgia and mental connection to the old video game that was enjoyed by so many of us.

In Terror in Meeple City players control monsters who try to destroy buildings and eat people. Points are scored when buildings fall, when you hurt another monster, when you eat people, and more. Each player has a secret goal of their own for endgame scoring. But basically you want to eat as many people and destroy as many buildings as you can. One action even allows you to blow on the game to try and destroy stuff.

This game was quite a bit of fun among the chaos that became the board. I’d play it again and see if I could do some better destroying.

The List – Colonia, Discoveries, Francis Drake

More games have been crossed off The List and I have been delinquent in reporting our progress. Today’s update covers three games: Colonia, Discoveries, and Francis Drake.

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Colonia

pic560068_tWe did not complete a full game of Colonia because it was taking too long with 6 new players. However, I think I mostly enjoyed the game. It is essentially a big chain reaction. Once turn order is set for the round players will:

  1. Get resources
  2. Spend resources to get goods tiles
  3. Spend goods tiles to get location specific money
  4. Spend location specific money on location specific cards
  5. Location specific cards are worth points at the end.

So there is a huge A-B-C-D-E type chain reaction in the game that forces players to manage their available worker pool. You don’t want to run out of available workers or you won’t be able to do the things you need.

I thought the most clever mechanic is the time-delay with workers spent in Round 1 not being available again until the appropriate time in Round 2.

Overall I think I’d like to play again with fewer players. The game has potential but I don’t think it’s a great game.

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Discoveries

pic2571301_tMy friend J and I had been working on a Lewis and Clark game design some years back before the game Lewis & Clark came out. When it was released we were both pretty excited to see what the designer came up with. One of the things that was absent from his game that we had planned on including in ours were all the Discoveries made along the trip. So I was pretty excited when I learned about this game, which is all about the discoveries.

In Discoveries players will manage a fleet of dice that will be used to take actions. Actions allow you to obtain Indians (which gives you special abilities or other action spaces), go exploring and complete exploration routes, change your dice, and more. The goal of the game is to gain as much knowledge as possible.

I thought the game was pretty good. It was a little fiddly with having to change dice as often as I did. I think it would work better with three or more players rather than just two. I’ll play it again so long as it would be with more than two players.

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Francis Drake

pic1616979_tI wanted to own Francis Drake since we demoed it at Gen Con 2013. I thought it was a really excellent game then but I couldn’t drop $80 for it. I found it last Gen Con at a nicely discounted price so I snagged a copy. We finally got it to the table during a game night and I still think it is excellent.

The game is divided into three Voyages. For each voyage there are two parts. The first part is a great worker placement goods procurement phase where players place their workers along the street as they approach the harbor. Only one player can claim any given spot. And you can never go “backwards” along the street, meaning once you have placed a worker somewhere you can only place subsequent workers closer to the harbor. I think this is a really fun way to obtain resources for the voyage.

The second part of a voyage is setting sail and completing missions in the four regions on the map portion of the board. These missions include attacking forts and towns, obtaining trade goods, and attacking Spanish Galleons. The tricky part about it is that players missions discs are numbered and they happen in numerical order. So someone may get to do an action before you because they have a smaller number on their disc.

Overall I really think Francis Drake is a fun game. There is a lot to think about in terms of the decisions you make throughout. And there are plenty of ways to score. I’m looking forward to playing again.

The List – Cube Quest, Progress, 7 Wonders Duel

Continuing the crossing-off of games from The List today’s article provides blurbs from A-Game with approval from J for Cube Quest, Progress: Evolution of Technology, and 7 Wonders Duel.

Cube Quest

pic1548855_tCube Quest was quick, silly, and pretty fun. The way it uses dice as the elements in a dexterity game is really cool, with the face determining what happens to your die when it lands in an opponent’s territory. There are different dice that do different things, but on the whole, I didn’t find those abilities all that useful. It felt like a strategic element in a game that just didn’t have time for a lot of strategy. It was over much quicker than I anticipated, which meant that setup took about as long as playing the game. So while it could be a good 2 player filler, it ends up feeling like a lot of setup with only a little gameplay. Component quality was below average, with hollow-stickered dice and a 3-piece mat that didn’t quite lay flat. 6/10

Progress: Evolution of Technology

pic2042966_tProgress: Evolution of Technology was a great distillation of tech-tree mechanics from a lot of civ games. Technologies fall into 3 categories: Engineering, Science, and Culture. As you build technologies, you get resources and abilities that make future technologies easier to develop. Later Technologies build on earlier ones, with 7-wonders style combos allowing you to play a card for free if you built its predecessor already. The game uses an interesting time mechanic that allows you to develop a technology for no cost, but you need to wait several turns for it to come into play. On the negative side, I thought that the upkeep felt a little fiddly at times. There was a lot to remember each turn, with development timers to maintain, action points to track, rewards from newly played cards to adjust, etc. It was easy to forget something. I didn’t pay too much attention to my opponent, so it was essentially multi-player solitaire. And in the end, the winner was determined by the fact that I ended the game on my turn, robbing J of another turn, even though I had gone first in the game. Having one extra turn at the end of the game is a big deal. I think it could have benefited from being slightly shorter, and I don’t think I would want to play with more than 3 players. 6.5/10

7 Wonders Duel

pic2576399_t7 Wonders Duel was fantastic. It’s exactly what I want a 2 player version of 7 wonders to be. The game preserves the feel of the original, but tweaks it in a way that makes it work tremendously well with 2 players. I think I like it even better than 7 Wonders in some ways. Where 7 Wonders suffers from a lot of turns where there’s only one obvious choice, I never really felt that way with Duel. Each turn had multiple possible plays that would help me, hinder my opponent, or both. I thought A LOT more about blocking and counteracting my opponent than I ever have in 7 Wonders. So in that way, it feels more interactive than the original game, but with the same interesting choices and combinations. I would change nothing. 10/10

The List – Dice City, Samarkand, La Granja

Today is another update on The List. Three more games get checked off, one game got sold, and one game was added via Kickstarter. Let’s start with Dice City.

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Dice City

pic2561229_tI have played this a half dozen times now but it’s finally off the list due to meeting the criteria of having been played by two “List” members.

In Dice City players manipulate dice rolls to create excellent combinations of interesting decisions and capabilities on each turn. A player has five dice which will be placed in five rows on their player board. Those dice have the option to activate the building on which they sit. Or you can “spend” any die to move other dice. The objective of the game is to score points, which can be done in several ways. Many of the buildings you purchase in the game are worth points. Military battles against bandits or other players can earn you points. Fulfilling the orders of trade ships can earn you points. And building a cultured city can earn you points.

I really enjoy the “multiple paths to victory” aspect of the game. You can tailor your gameplay in many different ways to try and beat your opponents. This game could be played pretty diplomatically or you could get in your opponents face and keep attacking their buildings.

Overall I would say I am very pleased with Dice City and I am looking forward to the expansion, Dice City: All That Glitters.

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Samarkand

pic742553_tSamarkand: Routes to Riches is an interesting mix of mechanics that combine into a Euro game.

The objective is to marry into wealthy families and expand trading routes. During the game you can marry into a family, obtain “goods” cards that allow you to earn points, and expand trade routes.

This game has the hallmark of Euro games in that the mechanics are simple to learn and understand. The gameplay is limited in player options, meaning a player can either do A, B, or C. And the depth comes in by making those simple decisions have interesting effects.

I enjoyed Samarkand and I would play it again.

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La Granja

pic2031777_tI received this as a Christmas present and I’m glad I did. La Granja is a solid heavy game full of interesting choices and decision paths.

Players in La Granja are operating a farm. Points can be scored in many different ways and this has a feel of death by a thousand cuts. You never will earn a huge amount of points on any one turn in the game so you have to find many ways to earn them.

This is a resource management game that utilizes a smorgasbord of mechanics to force players to make difficult decisions. Part of that difficulty is that the game really revolves around multi-use cards. And in this case “Multi” refers to being able to use cards in four different ways. Players may use cards as a field to procure harvest goods, as a market barrow that can be fulfilled for the market, as a helper to allow a special ability, or as a farm extension to earn income or hold an extra pig or other things. So some of the difficulty in making decisions stems from trying to decide how best to use each card.

Please let your first game of La Granja be a learning game. I don’t think the rules are particularly well written so take the time to either play it solo and figure things out or at least understand that the first time you play it will be somewhat difficult to grasp.

Despite the learning curve I cannot wait to play it again!

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