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Best Medium-Light Games of 2011

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I started recording my plays in March of this year. Since then I've recorded 404 plays. I've also played about 100 games of Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization at boardgaming-online.com and maybe a dozen games of Tigris & Euphrates here on BGG. I've broken my game plays into Medium-Heavy Weight, Medium Weight, Medium-Light Weight, Fillers, 2-players, Kid's Games, and flops. With very limited exceptions, the only games I've placed in the list are games that I've played at least 3 times in 2011.

This will be my shortest list of 2011. This is a difficult category for me. Most of my plays fall into either the Medium-Heavy, Medium, or Filler categories. It is rare for me to play a game that takes too long to be a filler but doesn't at least qualify as medium-weight. In fact, I went back and forth as to whether several of these games qualify as medium-weight but eventually decided they do not. In total, there are only 5 games on the list:

1. Egizia . I remember entering a contest to win this game and then, after the contest was over, promptly forgetting about it. It just so happened that a new FLGS had a demo copy available on the day my gf and I first entered the store. Two plays later (a rare occurence for a single night's play), I decided this was a game I needed to play more. I've since played it with 2, 3, and 4 players and while the 2-player game is much more open and forgiving, I like this game at all player counts. To me, this is what Stone Age should have been. Though the rules are a bit harder to explain then Stone Age, the game play is more fun and figuring out how to do well is more straightforward. A game I expect to play many more times.

2. A Castle for All Seasons. This game has an interesting up-and-down history with me. My gf got it as a door prize at Ohio Buckeye Gamefest 2010. It took us 6 months to crack it open but when we did, we played it almost 10 times. Then it languished on the shelf as newer games showed up and was never played again. It is a good game and I think there is more meat to it than people give it credit for. Balancing resources with money and mixing in the role selection mechanic makes for a fun game. Though there's nothing new per se here, the blending of mechanics is excellent.

3. Carcassonne. With the three expansions I have (Traders & Builders, Inns & Cathedrals, Abbeys & Mayors), the game takes too long to be called a filler. Though it isn't particularly meaty, there are enough decisions to be made, and strategic placements to consider, that this game holds my attention and will occasionally make it out on the table if the mood is right.

4. Artus. A second game that started out strong and then dropped by the wayside. Like the other games on the list, it is slightly too long to be considered a filler. It's a card game, with all of the luck that they have; however, there is a lot to be said for hand management and (particularly with 2 players), setting yourself up for your next turn. This is one game that I really want to try to get out more in 2012.

5. Phoenicia. The last game on the list and yet still a very good game. Although understanding the cards is critical to doing well in the game (making teaching it to new players difficult), this is a fun game to play with people who have played it before and it plays well with 2.
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Mon Jan 9, 2012 5:19 pm
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2011 Best Kid Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I started recording my plays in March of this year. Since then I've recorded 404 plays. I've also played about 100 games of Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization at boardgaming-online.com and maybe a dozen games of Tigris & Euphrates here on BGG. I've broken my game plays into Medium-Heavy Weight, Medium Weight, Medium-Light Weight, Fillers, 2-players, Kid's Games, and flops. With very limited exceptions, the only games I've placed in the list are games that I've played at least 3 times in 2011.

This is is my third list. I have three beautiful children, ages 6, 10, and 10. While it's the 6 year old who loves to play games the most, I try to play games with all of them. Since I have problems letting my kids win, I try to pick games that give them an even footing. In general, that means deterity games, but also include push your luck and memory games. While I hope at some point to graduate to strategy games with them, that hasn't happened yet (with one notable exception). Before anyone asks, the reason Gulo, Gulo isn't on this list is because we just got it for Christmas and have not played it yet. I am optimistic it will be on this list next year.

1. Techno Witches . I got this one because someone (I forget who) was having a very good sale on it. Since then, we've played it a handful of times and always enjoyed it. It's as difficult for me as the kids and we all have fun, trying to fly our brooms out to the center spot and back home again. An excellent game that works well for kids and adults and plays in about 20 - 30 minutes.

2. Sorry! Sliders. We've had this since last Christmas and it is played as much today as when we got it. The dexterity element of this means everyone has a fighting chance and it plays quickly enough that even if you lose, there's always time for one more game.

3. Rat-a-Tat Cat. I had played tis with my kids a bunch of times several years ago. Then it got put in the glovebox of my car and forgotten until we happened to be out having hot chocolate one day. Out it came and the kids loved it as much as they used to. Luck plays a significant role in this game meaning the kids win at least as much as the adults. A good game that keeps me interested enough to play with the kids for as long as they like.

4. Blokus. This is the one "thinking" game I play with the kids. While I always win, the games are close enough the the kids enjoy playing. The pieces are colorful and the rules are simple. When I play with the kids, I play quietly until the board is mostly filled and then try to puzzle my way into placing most of my pieces. I keep hoping for the day when the kids start beating me at this. Maybe this year.

5. Castle Panic. This begins to fall into the category of games I play because the kids enjoy them. While this game mostly plays itself, there is enough of a challenge here that my (just turned) 6 year old is matching colors and numbers and trying to plan what cards to keep and what to play. While I'm helping her through most of the decisions, each time she gets it a little bit more. This is a game that I expect we'll play for at least another year or two. Probably my biggest issue with it is that it takes about 25% too long to hold my daughter's attention and so I'm left playing the end myself and just calling her over for when it's her turn.

6. Froggy Boogie. The second game that I play because the kids (specifically my daughter) enjoys it. There is certainly a challenge her in remembering which eye is opened and which eye is closed and if I enjoyed memory games more, I would probably like it more. The components are wonderful and the game has kept my daughters interest for either the last two or three years (I forget if we got it for Christmas when she was 3 or 4).

7. Incan Gold. The last of the games I play for my kids. My son really enjoys the push-your-luck mechanic in this game. It is the one he is most likely to ask for when he thinks of it. While there's very little to this game beyond pushing your luck, it's short enough that a game (or two) is good for passing the time.
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Mon Jan 9, 2012 5:03 pm
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2011 Best Filler Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I started recording my plays in March of this year. Since then I've recorded 404 plays. I've also played about 100 games of Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization at boardgaming-online.com and maybe a dozen games of Tigris & Euphrates here on BGG. I've broken my game plays into Medium-Heavy Weight, Medium Weight, Medium-Light Weight, Fillers, 2-players, Kid's Games, and flops. With very limited exceptions, the only games I've placed in the list are games that I've played at least 3 times in 2011.

This is is my third list. While I generally like to play games with a little bit of meat to them, there's always that time at the beginning or end of the night when there isn't time for anything with meat. That's when the fillers come in. Although some of these games provide a bit more explaining, these are games that I'd play with anyone. They all play in under an hour and many play in about 30 minutes.

1. The Resistance . Although this might not be the first game I'd choose to play, it is my #4 most played games this year. It is the only game with a traitor mechanic done right. It's quick to teach, plays from 5 to 10 players and takes about 30 minutes. It's a game that is all about the meta-gaming. It's in my game bag every week and I don't see that changing any time soon. I expect at least as many plays in 2012 as 2011.

2. Metropolys . Although I've played this less than Resistance, I like it more. Unfortunately, it only plays from 2 to 4 players and it takes up more space in the game bag. That said, it's a much more interesting game. It is the one of only a few auction games that plays as well with 2 as it does with 3 and 4. It plays with next to no down time and it is my second favorite Ystari game. It's a game that I hope to play more in 2012.

3. Cartagena . Cartagena is my currently favorite filler game. This is Candyland for Adults. Play a card, move one of your six pieces to the next unoccupied space with that symbol on it. To get more cards, you move back to the last space with one or two pieces on it and get one or two cards respectively. Since the next 12 cards on the draw deck are face up and so are the cards in a player's "hand". A great, quick game that plays from 2 to 5 players and plays as well for all player counts. I expect to see many more plays in 2012.

4. Innovation. I still haven't figured out how much I like this game. After seven plays, I still think of it as Gamer's Fluxx. However, it's fun to play and fairly simple to teach. I hope to play it many more times in 2012.

5. Lords of Scotland . It's strange; for some reason I have only played this a few times in 2011 but I really, really like it. It's a very compact trick-taking card game that's got an interesting theme and easy to teach. This is probably the game I most want to play more in 2012.

6. No Thanks! . This is probably the quickest filler I've ever played. It's over in about 5 minutes but it's still fun to play with some push-your-luck mechanic and some meaningful decisions. Although it's got a luck in it, it's quick play time and the fact that it goes up to 5 players means it'll be staying in my game bag for a long time to come.

7. Cities . This is a fun puzzle game that plys well with 1 to 4 players. It has three levels of difficulty with the simplest being fine for young kids and the most complex giving gamers a bit of a brain burn. It takes about 20 minutes to play nad it's pretty quick to teach making it a great filler. Like many of these fillers, it's one I hope to play a bit more in 2012, at least as a solo game.

8. Dominion. Although this game can take a bit longer than many of the other games on this list, I'd still consider it a filler. For me, the best Dominion game is one that's over in about 30 minutes and any game that takes much longer than that starts getting on my nerves. As a 30 minute filler, it's a good game with enough interesting decisions to keep the game fresh for a lot of plays. While I'm not necessarily looking forward to playing it more in 2012, I probably will.

9. Gipsy King . Like Metropolys, the large box is the reason that this game doesn't seem more plays. It's a fun, quick abstract that plays well from 2 to 5 players. While it probably won't see more 2012 plays than 2011 plays, it's a game that I'm happy to play whenever it's suggested.

10. 7 Wonders. While I'm happy to play 7 Wonders, I don't get the attraction. It is a very light filler with a fairly tough set of rules to teach non-gamers. The only thing it has going for it is that it does play up to 7 players without lengthening the game time. Personally, my favorite player count is 2-player which does have at least a little bit of strategy to it.
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Tue Jan 3, 2012 3:30 am
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2011 Best Medium Weight Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I started recording my plays in March of this year. Since then I've recorded 404 plays. I've also played about 100 games of Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization at boardgaming-online.com and maybe a dozen games of Tigris & Euphrates here on BGG. I've broken my game plays into Medium-Heavy Weight, Medium Weight, Medium-Light Weight, Fillers, 2-players, Kid's Games, and flops. With very limited exceptions, the only games I've placed in the list are games that I've played at least 3 times in 2011.

This is is my second list. I generally like to think when I'm playing a game. The medium weight games in this list still provide some mental challenge but not the same level of head scratching that I find in the medium-heavy games. Some of these games are playable in under an hour but most play for at least an hour (2 or 3 player) or two (4+ players). Also, these are games that I wouldn't play with a new gamer. These are not gateway games but I am comfortable introducing them to moderately experienced gamers.

1. Race for the Galaxy . With all of the expansion, this one borders on a medium-heavy game; however, given it's short play time (30 minutes for 2 and about an hour for 4), I've listed it as a medium weight game. in addition, since the interaction in this game is very subtle (trying to figure out what role your opponent(s) will be selecting), it requires a little less brain burn as well. While the simultaneous resolution of actions means the game scales very well, my favorite player count is 2 where the double role selection makes the game play much quicker and gives players more control over their own fate without having to figure out the other player's role selections. With 75 plays, this is one of my 3 all-time favorite games (the other two being Agricola and Through the Ages). While it's seen less plays recently, this is one I hope to play a lot in the coming year.

2. De Vulgari Eloquentia . The only reason this is #2 instead of #1 is because of the significant fewer plays. I don't know if it will have the long term replayability that RftG has. Other than that, I love this game. It is the most thematic medium weight game I have played. Players take on the role of merchants trying to discover the modern italian language. As merchants, they gain money each time they enter a new province. However, they can also take on the role of friars gaining special powers and while they no longer collect money from provinces, they do collect money from merchants. This game has different paths than player can take to victory. This is a fun game with a moderate amount of brain burn. I really enjoy it every time I play it and I hope to play it many more times in 2012.

3. A Few Acres of Snow Dominion introduced me to deck building in no collectible card games. However, A Few Acres of Snow was the first game I saw that took that non-CCG deck building and turned into only one mechanic in a board game. AFAoS uses deck building to simulate the delay generated by long, slow supply lines in the French-Indian War. AFAoS is an assymetric Waro (War-Euro) game for 2 players. While it's initial release had a potentially broken strategy, the designer, Martin Wallace, has just released a "fix" that should stop this strategy from being broken. I played this game 4 times the first weekend I got it and have played it 9 more times since, making it my 7th most played game of 2011. With a play time of under an hour, this is a game with a lot of tough decisions in a short period of time. I hope to have many more plays of it in 2012.

4. London This is a game that I was on the fence with for most of 2011. I finally had a chance to play it at Buckeye Gamefest in October. My gf and I played it three times in one day (the most times I've ever played a new game in a day). It's another Martin Wallance card game but this one is about building and running a city. Cards provide money for placing certain cards in their tableau and for buying boroughs in the city. However, the more stacks in a player's tableau (and the more cards in his hand), the more poverty he gets when running his city. Minimizing poverty while buying boroughs and getting VP cards into his tableau is the key to the game. With minor tweaks, London plays excellently from 2 to 4 players and it is one of my favorite 2-player medium weight games.

5. Assyria One of my favorite Ystari games, Assyria is a game that defies categorization. It has some area control elements and some resource optimization. It requires a bit of trategic planning mixed with a lot of tactical responses. It scales well from 2 to 4 players and has a lot of meat to it. As I look back over my 2011 plays, I see that this fell into the "want to play but maybe another time" a long time ago. Hopefully, I'll get this back into the play rotation in 2012.

6. Grand Cru This was one of two wine games in 2010. I read more about Vinhos which looked more complex (it is) and more interesting so once I picked up Vinhos, Grand Cru dropped off of my wish list. However, I saw it in auction late in 2010 and bid on it. Though I didn't get it, someone who was selling it in the marketplace saw my bid an emailed me. We eventually reached an agreement on price and I picked it up. While certainly less complex than Vinhos, it is no less interesting. The rules are much easier to explain but, like Vinhos, there are multiple paths to success. This is a game where you have to play the other players as much as the game, making it a stimulating game with more players (though quite playable with 2). It's probably my favorite auction game at the moment and one I hope to continue to play in 2012.

7. Belfort This is a game I like but don't love which makes it strange that it's gotten so many plays (8) in so short a period of time (about 3 months). It's a solid area control game with an interesting theme. Probably my favorite part of the game is the attention to detail in the artwork. I think 2-player is the optimal player count for Belfort, but I'll play it at any play count. We'll see if it continues to get plays in 2012 or if it is replaced with more recent games.

8. Québec Area control is not my favorite mechanic, so it's strange that I purchased 2 of them. Of the two, Belfort certainly wins on theme but Quebec probably has more interesting decisions. Players have to balance getting cubes into the regions of power with getting a long link of buildings on the main board. While I'm not sure about its long term replayability, I am enjoying exploring the game. It has much more player interaction than Belfort and I expect it to get at least 10 plays. Beyond that I'm not sure.

9. Automobile My third Wallace game in this list (with one more Wallace game in my medium-heavy list). I can't say why this doesn't grab as much. It's a solid Euro and with a few tweaks, works well from 2 to 5. Maybe with more plays, it will move up on my list in 2012.

10. Luna This is a game that I was initially very excited about; however, after being disappointed with several other Feld games, Luna dropped off my wish list. However, when I saw it offered for a reasonable price at auction, I decided to take a chance. While it is the best Feld game I've played and it plays adequately with 2, choices seem fairly straightforward and after a few plays, it started to feel "samey". I may try it again in 2012 as a solo game, but I'm not sure.
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Sun Jan 1, 2012 8:24 pm
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2011: Best Medium-Heavy Weight Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I started recording my plays in March of this year. Since then I've recorded 404 plays. I've also played about 100 games of Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization at boardgaming-online.com and maybe a dozen games of Tigris & Euphrates here on BGG. I've broken my game plays into Medium-Heavy Weight, Medium Weight, Medium-Light Weight, Fillers, 2-players, Kid's Games, and flops. With very limited exceptions, the only games I've placed in the list are games that I've played at least 3 times in 2011.

My first list is Medium-Heavy Weight games. These are games that I reach for when I want a signficant brain-burn and am willing to play for at least an hour (2 or 3 player) or two (4+ players). Also, these are games that I wouldn't play with a new gamer. These are definitely not gateway games and I'd rarely introduce these to any but experiecned gamers. This is the category of games that I like the most but the one that I find hardest to fill. Therefore, some people may argue with the weight of the games in this list. They are all certainly at least medium-weight, but some may not qualify as medium-heavy. I'll be curious to see with more plays if I end up moving some of these to medium-weight.

1. Agricola . I've included over 100 plays of Agricola (including the family version, base game with cards, base + cards + gamer's deck, base + cards + gamer's deck + Farmers of the Moor, base + cards + gamer's deck + Farmers of the Moor + Through the Seasons). This year alone, I've played it over 30 times (the third most plays of any game). While I'd always consider it at least a medium weight game, with all of the expansions it becomes one of the two heaviest games in my collection. Interestingly, it's one of the few medium-heavy games that I would introduce to less experienced gamers. It has almost unlimited replayability (there are still cards that I feel like I'm seeing for the first time). I've palyed a large number of solo plays, 2-player, as well as 3 - 5. My favorite player count is probably 4, but I think this is an excellent game across all play counts. To me, this is the best worker placement game and one I expect to continue playing for years to come.

2. Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization . The only reason this isn't my #1 game of 2011 is becaues I've played Agricola for several more years. TtA is my most played game of 2011 with over 100 plays (mostly online). It is, without a doubt, the heaviest game in my collection. This is not a game I'd play with any but the most experienced gamers. It is by far the heaviest Civ game I've ever played and I'd probably classify it more as an resource optimization Euro than a Civ game. Most of my plays are 2 player but it plays excellent with 3 and 4 as well. This is definitely destined to be a classic and one I expect to be playing for years to come.

3. Prêt-à-Porter .I've only had this game for about a month and have only gotten to play it 4 times so far, but I really like what I've seen. It's a worker placement, economic put-on-a-show game with a different theme. There's a lot going on, with players needing to optimize the use of three different types of helper cards (contracts with no expense but expire after 1 or 2 turns, employees with maintenance expenses that require space to put them, and buildings with purchase and maintenance expenses that also provide the space for employees). The guts of the game is getting design cards and then buying cubes to complete the design cards for money and prestige. However, much like 2010's Vinhos, there's a lot more to it than that with players needing to also get Trend, Quality, and Prestige to win the shows in as many of these categories as possible. It's all a balancing act optimizing the use of the 6 actions palyers get between shows. What I find most interesting is that given the different transformation of stars to VPs, the game plays very differently across player counts. With Pret-a-Porter, I feel like I've almost gotten 2 games in one (as 2- and 4- player counts play very differently but both excellently). This is one game I'm looking forward to playing many more times as I get to learn it's intricacies.

4. Chicago Express . While I've only played this twice this year, it remains one of my favorite games. It is a true economic game in the sense that it is all about figuring out how much a share is worth. Money is both money and VPs so every dollar you spend is one less VP you have. This is a very simple game to teach and one that is easy to teach a new gamer. However, figuring out relative values makes this a game that experienced gamers will love. Unfortunately, since it does suffer from a "gang-up-on-the-leader" weakness, this is a game that needs players of similar abilities (making any gang-up-on-the leader decision very risky). My biggest negative about this game is that it needs at least 4 players (and preferably more) meaning that it gets much less plays than I'd like. It's the one game that gets next ot no plays that I refuse to trade because I love it so much. I hope to get to play it more in 2012.

5. Vinhos . Other than Agricola and Through the Ages, this is the only medium-heavy game to make it onto my dime list (with exactly 10 plays). This is a serious gamer's game and I've had more trouble teaching this than any other game. It is 2010's "Putting-on-a-Show" tight economic game. Unlike games like Agricola or Through the Ages, this is a game where you can specialize in one area and be successful. While you can't win with only 1 vinyeard (and you'd probably want a third by the end of the game), you can either foucs on a lot of cheap wines and extra actions or a few expensive wines for lots of VPs but fewer actions. This is a game i really want to explore more. it plays great from 2 to 4 plays and I hope to get more plays of it in 2012.

6. Vanuatu . This is the one game in the list that I'm personally unsure of from a weight perspective. The general conasensus is that this is a medium-heavy game but I'm not sure. Other than the action selection mechanic, Vanuatu is similar to most other worker placement Euros. It is the action selection that makes Vanuatu stand out as an excellent 2011 game. It makes the game the most vicious worker placement game I've played. Anticipating not only what other players want to do but how much they'll value it and when they will want to perform those actions are all criticaly to optimally placing your action pawns. Although the game was originally rated as a 3 - 5 player game, the designer added a 2-player variant that is excellent. While I've only played 2 and 5 player games, I suspect the 2 player game is better than the 3-player (although I think the 5-player game is best). I expect that Vanuatu will get a lot of plays in 2012 and may be the game that gets the most plays in my gaming group in 2012.

7. 2019: The ARCTIC . The bottom 3 games are all excellent medium-heavy games but for whatever reason have not appealed to my gaming group. That brings me to the last medium-heavy game released in 2011, 2019: The Arctic. I've only played it once and it defintely feels like a game that will need a bunch of plays to get a handle on. However, it shows great promise. It is both a worker placement Euro and a Ameritrash kill your neighbor's stuff game (much like Imperial). Player control lobbyists (workers) who convince governments (6 countries) to take actions in their favor. It is different than Imperial in that players can get any country to take actions for them by placing their lobbyist in that country. My one play was a 2-player game and it played very well. I'm hoping to get this out a few more times to be able to give it a more informed rating.

8. Brass . I've only played this 3 times in 2011, but I think it's an excellent game. However, for whatever reason, it just not one that I'm quick to grab when I gran a medium-heavy game. Hopefully, I'll get it out more in 2012.

9. Dominant Species . An excellent medium-heavy game and probably the best game of 2010. I've got two issues with it. The first is the gang-up-on-the-leader mechanic. While this shouldn't be an issue with players of similar strength, I ran into it in the last couple of times I played it and soured me to the game. Also, since my gf didn't like it at all, I chose to sell it. I may regreat that decision and do look forward to playing it a couple of times in 2012.

10. Reef Encounter. An excellent economic area-control game. This is one that should get more plays than it does. I've tried getting other people to try it without much success. Hoepfully I'll have more luck in 2012.
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Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:09 pm
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