2014 board game wrap-up – games from pre-2014 I tried
In case you missed it, I wrote about my favourite 2014 releases here, and I wrote a bit more of an article on my top 5 2014 releases over at the Daily Worker Placement! And now..
My 2014 gaming wrap-up part 2, honourable mentions: Stuff that didn’t necessarily come out in 2014, but I tried out for the first time! (Many from last year’s wishlist.) It’s not all about the new to the market, but also new to me! Some of this is fairly recent, but there’s a few oldies in here.
* Concept: A party game of guessing – but instead of a charades-type scenario, you have a board of icons/symbols/shapes/colours etc to use to explain the ‘concept’ of what you’re trying to get the other players to guess. (Chosen from a card with some easy/medium/hard things listed.) I can’t get enough of this game! I don’t understand why it didn’t win the SdJ, it’s such a solid game. One of my favourite group/party games now!
* Star Realms: Honestly, I play this more through the app than actually sitting down to the card game. Great deck building with aspects of Ascension (buying from a single pool of replenishing cards) but also the fun of attacking your opponent, as it’s the last spaceship standing wins. (Nice to have something that’s not just points for a change!)
* Arkadia: This is a really lovely game, with beautiful components. That makes it quite a pleasure to play. I enjoyed the unique aspects of the gameplay, building up the structures and using cards/builders for progressing – but I didn’t feel drawn to it enough to really want to play it again some time, unfortunately.
* Kreta: Quite an interesting mix of hand management & area control – timing things right so you’ve got helpful resources and are in the regions that will score, and trying to make that scoring happen when it’ll benefit you most. I think I would like to try this one again as I really liked the gameplay, but was terribly void of strategic understanding.
* Goa: This is definitely one of those times I learnt a game when I was too tired to really understand it, and by the end I realized that was a bad idea, but want to try it again. I love the way the tiles are laid out, and accessed through auctioning, and you need to strategically gain things through those auctions to power up your own player board/tech tree thing. All the things about it are cool, and I want to make sure my impressions aren’t coloured by a bad first-time play for this one.
* Boss Monster: There’s some rad stuff about this game – the throwback pixel art, the concept that you’re a dungeon boss trying to lure unsuspecting adventurers into your dungeon so you can whack ’em, how easy it is to learn/teach.. But unfortunately this just didn’t click for me – it’s something that seems like it should, but it just sits there on the shelf overlooked now.
* Legends of Andor: I love Michael Menzel’s art! So it’s nice to see a game he made AND did art for! There’s not a lot of cooperative fantasy-themed games, and this one’s got a nice balance of genders for characters to play, so I was excited to try this out finally after it’d been on our shelf for too long in shrink. I do like the gameplay – the way you get around the map, the way combat etc plays out, all of that was good. But we played through a bunch of scenarios and I just haven’t been interested in getting it back out again. I guess I was expecting something more engaging, and was disappointed it wasn’t D&D in a board game.
* Cuatro: Yahtzee meets four-in-a-row on a flat board – but you can also stack on top of other player’s pieces to get your four-in-a-row! We played this at the Board Room and it’s an excellent quick filler, with buckets of dice rolling. Just the ticket if you’re in the mood.
* Mai-Star: I believe I’ve mentioned at some point that I really enjoy games that have cards with multiple uses, and Mai-Star really does that well! Become the most famed Geisha by attracting the best and most demanding guests – playing down character cards and attracting them with the values of other cards – performance, service and intelligence. Those guests will then give you benefits as the round goes on. I really liked this – I can’t see if it’s got a place in our collection because it doesn’t really fill any gaps as far as small quick card games, but I’d play it again at an event for sure!
* Auf Teufel Komm Raus: What an enormously fun betting/push your luck game! All the ‘coal’ in the middle are printed on the other side – either numeric values, or a devil symbol. At the start of each round, everyone reveals the value of coal they think they’ll be able to turn over without busting (ie. revealing a devil). Even if you hit your amount you can keep going! Or you can pass out to make sure you get a return. SO GOOD. I wish this was an English release, but we had fun playing with our friends in Halifax who own it.
* Tokaido: I seriously fell in love with this game this year, I wish I’d tried it earlier! One of the great pleasures of this game is in the relaxing play and that it’s a different enough little journey every time that it’s still nice to come back to over and over, similar to something like Carcassonne. The premise is that you’re a traveler on the East Sea road in Japan, moving along the action spots and stopping for meals at particular junctures. Actions range from painting landscapes, to visiting hot springs, encountering other travellers, visiting temples and collecting souvenirs. You can choose to poke along slowly, or jump ahead to take the action you really want – remembering that it’s always the person in the last spot who’ll take the current turn. It’s truly wonderful – depending on the ‘traveler’ you have each game (they all have special abilities/benefits) and how many people you play with, it’s always a new, yet familiar experience. I will always be up for a game of Tokaido!
* MarraCash – All these little coloured wooden customers line up around the outside of the board waiting to come in and shop – you need to try and bid to purchase the right coloured stores in order to attract them as they enter the neighbourhood. The premise seems simple, but it was actually a terrifically hard game to make the most of (or at least I found it that way!). Interesting, but not enough to play again.
* Campanile – This was a pretty interesting little card game! You are aiming to build up towers of different types, but the amount you build (1, 2 or 3 cards) determines the amount you can bid on what towers you think will win, and affects the new building type cards you’ll take. It really gives you some tough decisions to make on what is otherwise a very simple little game.
* Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice – Rolling dice! Flipping out! PINNING!! I played a tag-team 4 player game of this and it was ridiculously fun. You roll dice to see if you hit your opponent, and there’s a variety of special moves you can pull off if you roll with luck. Light and a fun filler, especially when you just want to let loose and roll dice.
* New Haven: Players share a resource board, which they build up during the game by placing tiles strategically to collect an optimum amount of resources on each of their turns (bordering your tile with similar resources bumps up the amount). The number of resources are indicated on a track, and spent immediately to place numbered tiles on your own player mat in order to try and fill up rows and columns for completion points. A nice light game with a balance of strategy, luck & player interaction. Lovely!
* Concordia: I really enjoyed the interesting mix of hand-building and working that together with the map & gaining resources/currency. There was a fine balance there that I tried to get, yet failed. I think had I been paying more attention to the end game card bonus scoring then I might have fared better. I’m not sure I’ll get this to the table again to see how it plays multiple times – there’s many more heavier games I want to try first.
* Ab in die Tonne – Look, if someone had sat me down and said I’d have a great time playing a game about stacking garbage in a can I’d have thought they were having me on. But it’s seriously great! Each player has a hand of three cards (from a deck ranging from 1 – 10), and each round reveals one simultaneously with the other players. Then from lowest to highest, each player picks one type of trash (milk cartons, apple cores, cans, bottles) and places a number of pieces equal to the number revealed into the garbage can. If you make everything collapse, you take a penalty token. If you happen to place the last piece of trash in/on the can without it collapsing, you get a bonus! SO MUCH FUN. German kid’s dexterity games are so, so good.
* Robinson Crusoe – I really like this, but don’t own it – so it’s hard to get back to the table, especially when gaming with new releases to try and different people with different tastes. I think this is a really finely balanced, challenging game. If you like how tough Pandemic could be, this might be something you’d like to try – everyone struggling along together to eke it out to make it through to the end of the scenario. I’ve only tried the one scenario so I’m not sure I can 100% thumbs up the game, but I like the gameplay and the art/theme really ties it all together!
* Pathfinder Card Game – An adventure/rpg-ish card game based on the actual RPG Pathfinder system. I’m not sure how it compares to the RPG itself, but it’s a pretty neat structure for an adventure card game. I especially like the fact you can level up your character and develop your deck if you want to play a sort of ‘campaign’! I’ve got to try and get this to the table again, perhaps just for me and Adam to play through our own mini-campaign, because it’s not likely we’ll play past the first scenario with anyone else. I want to make sure that it can really give the feeling of playing through an adventure too, because I haven’t felt that so much with the little experience I’ve had (but that was a confusing new game where I didn’t really get to immerse myself).
* A Study in Emerald – I am ashamed to admit that I got this as a belated giftmas present last year from Adam and it’s sat on our shelf in shrink since then (we’d played it through on a friends copy and been interested by it). Part of the problem, I think, is the complexity of it, and how long ago we played – it means that we’re going in as newbies again and really need to familiarize ourselves. This is a goal for 2015 (sooner rather than later, I hope) because I really do enjoy the game and theme!
* Forbidden Desert – It’s hard to believe that I tried this out as a prototype a few years ago now! I love the final published copy (it didn’t vary too much from the prototype if I recall correctly) – a nice fresh take on this style of light co-op game, while still keeping it fun and challenging. I love the new gameplay with the sand, and the ominous feeling of trying to keep up with that! So great. Highly recommend this.
* Amun Re – Quite a blast from the past (well, 2003) – I’d never tried this before, and played it a few times this year. A balancing act of trying to bid on juicy territories, and also make sure to get points from where you’re at on the board and how your pyramids are coming along.. and how you do in making sacrifices to Amun Re! This one’s a keeper.
* Blood Bowl Team Manager – Here is a little known fact: I love the Bloodbowl board game. I used to play it endlessly when me and my BFF lived with our friend Jamie, who owned a very rare copy (and I never did get my own because it was so filthy expensive to Ebay one and have it shipped to Australia). So when I heard about this, I got pretty excited! While it’s not moving minis around a board, passing an actual wee ball, it’s the closest a card game could get. It’s a great port of the original game, with all of the theme and ideas baked in – it’s terrific! Criminal we haven’t played this one more, but I sometimes just don’t feel in the mood for it. I must change that in 2015.
* Trains: I don’t have any problems with deck building (unlike some who are fatigued on that game type), so I’m always willing to give a new one a try. I really liked the role the board played in this game – it felt like it really gave some purpose to how you build your deck and gave a little more structure to the game. I wasn’t quite sure of the strategy, so I think going back for multiple plays would be far more rewarding – but I haven’t had a chance to play it again.
* 8 Minute Empire – I want to rave about this game because I really do like its simplicity, and that it’s a nice little puzzly light strategy game to play. But I don’t LOVE love it. It’s good, but for some reason just not good enough that it hasn’t hit our table more than a couple of times. Maybe I should rectify this in the new year to see if my feelings change about it. Not ready to get rid of it just yet. We’ll see!
* Space Cadets Dice Duel – I have never played the full game of Space Cadets, because it seemed like such an investment of time. Dice Duel has the same flavour, and adds in a frantic Galaxy Trucker/Space Alert feeling with the hasty rolling of dice to beat your opponents to the punch. We played with 6, and I can’t help feeling it might have been better with 8. I was the captain on my side, and felt a little disassociated from actually doing anything, rather than just enabling my team mates to get stuff done. But it was a fun/funny experience!
* Two Rooms and a Boom: I played a round of this social deduction game and was kinda flummoxed by it. I was a basic member of the red team, so there was really not a lot for me to do. Plus, the president and bomber both started in the other room – so there wasn’t much we could do! I think had I tried it again I’d have found some fun & depth to it after trying different roles, etc. Alas, I will have to wait for another chance to play it again and see what it can do.
* Going Going Gone: It’s criminal it took me so long to try this game. Madly tossing cubes in cups to bid in auctions is the best! Set collection is good, secondary fun. A great, easy to understand game with a lot of excellent action going on. I must try this again to see if it’s worth getting.
* Blueprints – So simple in design, but with enough going on to make it interesting and fun to play. You get a ‘blueprint’ for a structure to build with dice. Each round you take a die from a publicly available pool and play it to your structure behind your screen. Each type of die has different scoring benefits that will come into effect once everyone has 6 dice on their blueprint. Really solid, but unfortunately not great with 2 players.
So, I gamed a WHOLE BUNCH this year, obviously. I’m hoping to really do the same in 2015 – getting to the Gathering of Friends and hopefully BGGcon, making sure to put an emphasis on playing what is in our collection, and also writing more about games as a contributor to my friend’s site the Daily Worker Placement should help! Thanks for reading, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this year in gaming.