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BillCon VI in 2016
Since joining BGG I have hosted an all-day gaming event in May to celebrate another trip around the sun. I invite my friends to join me for a day of games, fellowship and fun. This year was the sixth such event known to the gang as BillCon.
I had a scheduling conflict this year so I actually held it a week early which ironically fell on April 30, International Tabletop Day. For the event, I select 5-6 games I want to play and do my best to schedule time with everyone who wants to get a game in with me for 1-2 of their top choices and encourage them to teach and play other games with other attendees.
This year we had between 25-30 adults participate throughout the day with a good number of them staying for most if not the entire day starting at 8:00 in the morning until 10:00 in the evening. This year I chose only five games instead of the typical six to allow for a little more time to teach, setup, finish, and transition between games which worked out really well. I think I will stick with that approach going forward.
Starting off the morning was my annual play of Eclipse. We played the alien races for only the second time after our first exposure to them last year. I was also excited to finally get to use my new accessories that I got for Christmas: cube trays from The Broken Token and tile trays from Game Trayz.
I did a quick refresher of the rules and waited for one last player to arrive. Then we got to exploring, researching, upgrading, building and influencing. Very early on it became clear to me that my exploration missions were not lending themselves to engaging in much combat, so I kept myself a bit isolated and explored deep into space in hopes to land monolith tech to build VP while others contested the much desired middle. I nearly pulled off the win without a single battle, finishing second in a 29-28-26-22 contest.
Next up was a 4p game of Concordia on the Germania map. It proved once again how elegant, challenging and engaging a game it is in our experience. All of us had played before and I believe it is actually edelen's favorite game. He was working the silk strategy the entire game and I thought he might win. However, I began to have my doubts when in the last two rounds my friend across from me bought up four cards. I think all of us were close to doing one or two more things that would have helped our position, but those late card purchases proved too much yielding a huge win, 145-99-81-80. Where in our first game I missed winning by 1, here I finished last by 1.
It has been tradition since the very first BillCon to play Railways of the World. It is also my favorite all-time game and loved by most of the guys in my game group. Sadly it too is close to being an annual occurrence to get it to the table any more.
My best friend has won this game every year at the previous five BillCon's, and I was determined to claim the title for at least one year. As usual we were neck and neck right out of the gate through the first few rounds. Both of us were playing different strategies it appeared than our normal tells. But as time went on it became clear, he was going for major routes while I truly was trying something new--build a longer network and upgrade my engine for longer deliveries to finish with an accelerated rate.
The short of it is that I finally took down the undefeated champion with a thrilling win. It was intense, it was close. But my big deliveries surpassed his 36 or so bonus points for 88-84-29-28 finish. Satisfied.
Continuing with the theme of playing my favorite games that don't see the table often enough for my liking, we played the Leave It All Behind scenario in a 5p game of Dead of Winter. The story that evolved during our play was epic. We all needed attached weapons and a significant amount of food. Personally I needed each character to be equipped with a weapon. We managed the first few crises well enough but were not making progress towards our main, shared objective so we shifted our focus to gambling the crises and focused on finding weapons and food.
We made a heroic push at the end nearly pulling off the impossible with the win in our grasp only to have an unfortunate die roll which cost us our final morale before we could complete the last round. The shared goal was finally completed and more than half had our private goals, we just needed to survive the last phase to watch it slip through our fingers.
We finished the day with a full, 5p game of Hansa Teutonica. I've played this three times prior and a couple of the guys played it last year, with the other two being new to the game. We picked it up fairly quickly and saw it play it out very differently than previous plays.
I was quietly and patiently building a long string of cities hoping to grab a key late and steal the win, but folks caught on to my plan late and made it impossibly for me to get a much needed key. My mistake was waiting too late to do so, which I will make a mental note of for future plays. With my efforts to get a key squashed and no real alternatives at that point to lengthen my narrow non-multipliable lead I pushed to end it quickly and attempt to minimize the damage. I finished in the middle in a 38-31-30-24-19 result. I continue to enjoy this one when I get the opportunity to play.
With that we wiped down the table, swept the floor, took out the trash and set the room back the way we found it before calling it an event about 30 minutes earlier than in years past. Folks came for some fun, fellowship, and games. And we accomplished that. Great, epic tales to hold us over until RayCon in July (and a few of us are planning on making a Saturday day trip to Origins in June).
In light of it being Thanksgiving in the US, I want go give a heart-felt shout out to my BGG GeekBuddies and their influence on my gaming choices. I consult their likes and dislikes when considering whether I'd like a game or not.
I currently have 53 Geekbuddies. To generate the list of Top 10 games to comment on this week I used BGG's GeekBuddies Ratings query and set the filter at 10 Minimum Number of Raters (~20%) and only Games I Do Not Own. I present to you the queried results in reverse order (for a more dramatic effect, right?).
In addition to my response to each game at the top of their collective ratings I thought I'd include one of their thoughts for each as well.
BK's Geekbuddies' Top 10 Highest Rated Games I Don't Own:
BGG Avg Rating: 7.84
Geekbuddies: 13 (25%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.04 (+0.20)
Great 2p game that is easy to teach but filled with tough decisions. I love the economic balance involved. It will be interesting to see what the replayability is though. Tactics will differ from game to game, but will the strategy?
I like the Ewe Rosenberg games I've played and this is the first of two on the list. Patchwork is also the game on the list that I know the least about. In reading the game description on BGG alone it seems to take an otherwise uninteresting theme and do some creative things to make it a game that has found wide appeal to many gamers ranked by my trusted advisors up there with multiple games I really enjoy.
9. Dominant Species
BGG Avg Rating: 7.89
Geekbuddies: 20 (38%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.08 (+0.19)
Boss Trojan wrote:
Brain-burner. Liked it, would like another shot at it. Length is a barrier and a pretty steep learning curve, but deep, strategic, binds together good familiar game mechanics/elements in a satisfying way.
This title caught my attention when it first came out but given it moves at a glacial pace I didn't feel it would see much play time in my group. It sounds like my kind of game, but it falls into a category of game that is well represented in my collection all of which share table time already.
BGG Avg Rating: 7.41
Geekbuddies: 12 (23%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.08 (+0.67)
I freely acknowledge that the strategy is probably a lot deeper and more subtle than first made itself apparent to me. I like the theme and it gave me and my children some good motivation to do some research on the famous men featured in the game. My kids enjoyed this significantly more than I did, and I’m sure I’ll be indulging them with another play soon.
This game being on the list surprised me in that it has never been on my radar. I don't know that the theme does much for me or anyone in my group. Like Patchwork I'm mostly unfamiliar with what the game has to offer. I'd put this in the category of a game I would probably play given the opportunity but it is not something I'd really seek out at this time.
7. Five Tribes
BGG Avg Rating: 7.85
Geekbuddies: 27 (51%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.09 (+0.24)
I really like the sort-of mancala style action selection. The different abilities are neat and can make for some cool combos. Overall, I really like the game. It does have a lot of potential for AP, though, and the end game scoring is a little complex.
I actually saw this game when it was released at Gen Con. It looked really busy and a turn off at the time we opted to purchase Abyss. Now having had the opportunity to play it last week I admit it is a great game. I'm guessing it would take a few plays to get more comfortable with the various strategies and identifying opportunities. Thankfully a friend of mine owns it and I will likely have the chance to play it more.
6. Glass Road
BGG Avg Rating: 7.53
Geekbuddies: 14 (26%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.11 (+0.58)
Papa Ninja wrote:
A big part of this is the combination of short play time and this is a game my wife has recently been requesting to play.
She does not usually like games with lots of moving parts, but after a couple of plays this game has clicked with her.
Glass Road is a game that will see consistent play for a long time.
This is the second Uwe Rosenberg game on the list and the one I've had my eye on from afar for sometime. I've never played it but I have a hunch it would be one that I might like. I have a friend in another city who owns it who I see 1-2 times a year so I might have the outside chance to play it at some point. The question I have is whether it would be something my wife would enjoy.
BGG Avg Rating: 7.44
Geekbuddies: 11 (21%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.12 (+0.68)
I'm upping my rating to an 8.5 for how well it plays as a solo AND a 2-player game. The solo game is very challenging, and the 2-player game is very tense. ...this game does card drafting WAY BETTER than 7 Wonders. It's currently one of her favorites. ...I highly recommend this for Euro gamers who like limited resources, difficult decisions, and good confrontation.
Of all the games on the list this is the most likely to make it to my collection. It is currently on my Wish List and one of the titles listed on my 2015 Christmas List. I'll credit all my friends in the WDYPTW community that have long sung its praises and captured my attention. It sounds like a game that my wife, game group, and I would enjoy playing.
BGG Avg Rating: 7.81
Geekbuddies: 18 (34%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.17 (+0.36)
Fun finger-flicking dexterity game. Despite the higher than average cost, this is one of the best value games of all time, in terms of the amount of hours played.
I don't get the craze and fandom. I tried it once in a booth at Origins. I'm really indifferent. Would I play it? Sure. Would I buy a board? Probably not. This is the kind of thing I would see getting lots of plays initially and then would likely just hang on the wall somewhere.
BGG Avg Rating: 7.83
Geekbuddies: 13 (25%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.21 (+0.38)
Its so easy to explain but has a lot of depth. Plus, everything about its design is gorgeous. The style and color of the board is great, the components are AWESOME custom pieces, and it just makes you want wine while you play it. Great game. It's really easy for everyone playing to be in it until the last move. I've never felt like there was no hope of winning half way through the game.
I'm a euro gamer and this one seems to be well liked. In fact, it has been on and off my Wish List multiple times. Viticulture Essential Edition is currently on my Wish List. I think I'd like to try it before making an acquisition to get a feel for how much it would actually get played. I really like what this designer and publisher are doing in their games, I just don't own one yet.
BGG Avg Rating: 8.03
Geekbuddies: 17 (32%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.32 (+0.29)
A masterpiece. One of those games that makes 2+ hours fly by. ...hand management is one thing in Brass I really like ...the map that comes with Brass is fine by me and I really don't need expansions.
I actually traded for this one a couple of summers ago on pfctsqr's recommendation. Unfortunately, it never got to the table and I ended up trading it a year or so later for Age of Industry which I had read is more streamlined and a bit shorter. Like Brass it has sat on my shelf unplayed as well. I had hoped I could play 2p, but unless I acquire an expansion map I need a third. I'm at the point where I am leaning towards putting it up for trade and get something more likely to see play time.
1. Terra Mystica
BGG Avg Rating: 8.28
Geekbuddies: 26 (49%)
Their Avg Rating: 8.62 (+0.34)
It's a great game, with lots to think about each turn - a tight economy, some timing issues, and multiple routes to victory. Also lots of variety between games because of the different races. Totally addictive.
I wanted this one really bad when it first came out. One look at it setup at Origins and my wife vetoed it as looking too overwhelming with all its pieces, etc. I set this right next to Eclipse in its appeal to me and given that only sees one play per year as it is, I couldn't afford another big ticket game collecting dust for a rare table appearance. The good news is that one of my best friends has it so in theory I'll get the opportunity to play it... although in the year he's owned it I have yet to play it again. My initial play was enjoyable and vetted the game for me as a winner.
Well that does it for this year's review of what my Geekbuddies really like that I don't own. I'm curious what readers have regarding these games. Which of these would you pick as the best of the bunch? If you have any thoughts feel free to share. Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy some games this weekend with friends and family.
Two-player games with my wife account for a significant majority of my plays. For a few years now I have maintained an ongoing record of our friendly 2p rivalry in My Wife's and My Most Competitive Games. In this week's blog post I take a quick look at how our competitive landscape has changed over the past year.
To do this I excluded any game that hasn't been played in the past year as it has not been a competitive factor. Then I note a little bit about our Top 10 most competitive games and how it has changed compared to last year's list.
I calculate a game's competitiveness by subtracting our head-to-head record and dividing it by the total number of plays. If we are even it is equal to 0.000 and is ranked by most to least played giving the nod to the game that more plays. If one of us has won all of our plays then it is equal to 1.000 and is sorted from least to most plays as a game yielding an undefeated record after more plays is clearly less competitive. Games making the Top 10 range from 0.000 to 0.146 (+.003 from last year's Top 10 list).
Our Top 10 Most Competitive 2p Games - 2015 Edition:
Record: 27-21-1 (0.146)
Dominion continues to slip from #4 in 2013, to #8 last year and
#10 this year after only 2 plays which we split the victories.
The game is great, but when it does come out it is usually with more people and less as a 2p game. We added the Prosperity expansion this past year, picked up in a math trade.
Record: 4-3 (0.143)
This classic game is one of the first games we bought when getting into the hobby and we didn't keep good record of our plays so it is based more on recent years. Making the Top 10 with one play earlier this year it makes its debut of sorts.
Record: 4-3 (0.143)
Seasons was my invoked alternate game on my 2015 10x10 list so it saw lots of plays this year. But only two were between us which we split. After a couple more plays are probably ready for the first expansion.
Record: 5-4 (0.111)
We only played this one once and my victory plummeted its ranking from #2 to #7. We love our Feld games and this is a middle of the Feld portfolio selection for us and the first to appear on this year's list.
Record: 15-12 (0.111)
Slipping a spot is the second Feld title on the list. It has the same competitive rating as Macao but after 3x the number of plays. This is a heavier euro and one of our favorites from our favorite designer which is hovering in this spot of the list at #6 after being at #8 in 2013 and #5 last year.
Record: 21-26 (0.106)
Switching places with Trajan to move up a spot on the list is Innovation after my wife defeated me in our only play in the past year. It also represents the first game in the countdown where my wife holds the record advantage.
Record: 14-17 (0.097)
One of the most played games on this year's list is last year's Top competitive game, Bruges Again fueled by the 10x10 Challenge this game saw more plays. It is one of my favorite Feld games, but one that my wife is less crazy about despite holding the advantage in this one. Next time we play will be with the expansion that we've yet to break out.
Record: 6-5 (0.091)
I small Kickstarter card game I bought from Green Couch games finds itself sitting at #3 on our list this year as we went back and forth on this one early in the year after receiving the game and compelled by the 10x10 Challenge. I'll say it again the more you manipulate the cards in this one the more fun the experience.
Record: 60-56 (0.035)
Improving its position by two places to finish in the runner-up spot on this years list is our most played game, Guildhall. Our plays have slowed down as we are trying to dust off other games needing some love, this one calls out to us for an occasional play of the Mega variant with all 12 character cards and is always a winner.
#1. Viva Java: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game
Record: 8-8 (0.000)
This year's squabble champion is a light, yet fun dice game that my wife won 3 of 4 times this year to improve her record and push this game to the top of the list at an even 8-8 record. We haven't played it consistently enough to progress to the random setup yet, but like Fidelitas the more we leverage our research and manipulate our dice the more interesting this game becomes.
Dropping out of the Top 10 list this past year due to inactivity or losing their competitive edge are Pentago, Smash Up, Scrabble, Ticket to Ride: Asia, and Tzolk'in. New games to the fuller list this year (with only one reaching the Top 10) include Fidelitas, AquaSphere, Morels, Arboretum, and Jaipur.
This is one of my favorite annual reviews because it is a reminder of the fun my wife and I have playing games. I've got a few more games on the shelf waiting to take their place amongst the other 2p games on this list and compete for a spot on the Top 10 list next year.
(In the meantime,) keep playing...
Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:23 am
The people that make up your gaming group are pretty special. If it wasn't for them who would you get to play games with? In my case they are also a great group of friends that I enjoy spending time with at and away from the table.
Our group has been getting together for a few years now. None of them are as immersed in gaming as I am but they still enjoy a good game and a number of them have even begun to acquire a few of their own. So it has become tradition this time of year to share my recommendations for them and the group.
My criteria for this list is simple:
I'd be excited to play the game, however
It doesn't fill a hole in our collection so is unlikely to be a purchase of ours anytime soon, but
I feel it would make a good acquisition for one or more of them as a family game, a 2p game, and/or a fun Game Night selection!
In looking at last year's list, one friend acquired two of my suggestions, La Isla and Terra Mystica, while another picked up Machi Koro. I on the other hand did not acquire any from the list for a change, however, I did move one of them to my Christmas Wish List (last's week's blog post) in Deus.
Top Games I Wish My Friends Would Buy - 2015 Edition (in alphabetic order):
7 Wonders: Duel
7 Wonders was a new game I picked up this past year and successfully introduced to most of our Game Group. Everyone seems to catch on and enjoy it. Duel is a 2-player version that is all the rage coming out of Essen this year that would be on my Wish List if I didn't already have a bunch of 2p games I haven't even played yet.
I would think this would make a great couples game, or one that parents could play with their kids, or with me sometime.
Between Two Cities
Speaking of 7 Wonders this fresh off the press tile laying game has some similarities in drafting and passing of tiles (instead of cards) which are placed to construct cities. Players sit between two cities and have to consider what their neighbors are thinking as you are sharing in the construction occurring on your left and your right. The end game scoring is the combination of the two cities you contributed to over the course of the game.
I watched a couple short videos on this one and it looks both interesting, relatively light, and quick which would make for a great family night or game night selection for a few or many as it plays 1-7.
This is a game from last year's list that is getting a second chance. Although I fear it is an ill fit for some in my group who are just too AP prone for this to be enjoyable with them, it could be the perfect choice for some others.
Rather than placing meeples on the board over the course of the game, you start with the board completely populated and players take meeples off as part of their turn to collect various colored meeples which factor into end game scoring. That is an interesting twist in my mind of a common game mechanism. After seeing the expansion for it that adds mountains I assume restrict movement adds a further challenge to when moving and dropping meeples in mancala style over the course of the game.
This game is a carry over from last year's list as well. I'm a sucker for euros with large maps and lots of pieces. Murano fits that niche. It is for 2-4 players and offers an interesting action selection mechanism from the designers of Village and released at Essen last year. You move boats around the outside of the map without passing another boat to carry out the action described on the space you land on. You construct on building sites on the various islands, etc. to amass points. Typical euro goodness.
Like many games after a year of relase, the waters have cooled a bit on the threads, but folks are at least still playing it and liking it which says something to this "cult of the proven" game collector.
I don't mind the occasional game of Dixit and have fond memories of Clue when I was a kid. Combine the two and you have Mysterium from what I can tell. Someone plays the ghost and attempts to give clues using Dixit-like cards to guide players towards figuring out which character killed them with what in which room... or something like that.
This sounds like that extra bit that elevates a Dixit-like game that I'd like to play. This would also make a great family, game group, have some friends over kind of game.
This may be the hottest, most sought after game on the planet right now. First, Pandemic is a great cooperative game. Add to it a unique, definitive playing experience where every decision and game has consequences and a lasting impact on how the game plays going forward. This is an ideal game for a couple, a family, or a game group to experience together.
This original offering comes in two colors, blue and red, containing the same game so you can have two copies and remember which group is playing which. With Season One list as the subtitle subsequent years are likely to follow... or so many of us hope.
Pandemic: The Cure
Pandemic "The Dice Game" is another carry over from last year's list that I think is still worthy of consideration for any family in our group. If they don't want the base game and they aren't looking at getting a copy of Legacy (which continues to blaze a path to the top echelon of BGG rankings), then this would be a great dice chucking version of the game. It would also be an easy game to bring to Game Night and get folks to play.
I've acquired a number of smaller, simpler games for larger groups over the past couple of years to have fun options with none of them other than Deep Sea Adventure catching on. I added Codenames to my Christmas Wish List in last week's blog. Spy Fall is another game that falls into this category that has potential for a family, Game Night, larger group worth investigating. It may not be for everyone, but for some it could be a box full of fun.
All players but one receive a card of a particular setting/situation. The odd player gets a blank or something indicating they are the "spy". Players take turns asking questions about where they are at and try to determine who among them is not like the other before the spy determines their location.
My game group has a few NASCAR fans, which makes this an ideal list for it. We don't have any racing games within our gaming circle which makes for another reason to dangle this pick like a carrot hoping to entice one of them to bite.
The base game comes with a couple different tracks, I believe. If not expansions are available with multiple tracks. Players manage multiple cars by choosing what to do with your actions across one or more of your cars as I understand the general idea and score points for what place your cars finish. Sounds interesting, fun, and a fit for my group... right, guys?
The Voyages of Marco Polo
I listed Alien Frontiers on last year's list which no one bought. Thanks to BGG user edelen I at least got the opportunity to play it at Game Night a couple months ago. It would still make for a nice addition to mine or a friend's collection. However, this past summer at Origins I had the opportunity to play an hour's worth of Marco Polo which is even better! Under different circumstances it would be high on my Christmas Wish List, but I have a number of euros in my collection needing more plays or that I haven't even played yet so I can't with a clear conscience buy it right now... but one of my friends could.
Next week I will share an update on Our Top 10 Most Competitive 2p Games - 2015 Edition.
Thu Nov 12, 2015 12:37 pm
Ah, that time of year again when the pumpkin spice buzz starts to wane, all the wonderful fall colors have fallen piled up in every nook and cranny. Work starts to wind down (albeit a bit slower than last year) and I get to start up another attempt to maintain a string a weekly blog posts.
To start things off I'll start with my 2015 Christmas List, the most interesting games from what I've read on the forums from all the great conventions this summer.
I have acquired all but two from last year's list made up of all expansions and only one which got used. That's kind of sad, actually. They will get played, they just haven't seen their day yet.
With no further delay, I present this year's wishes:
1. Flick 'em Up!
For the longest time I tagged Pitchcar as my guilty pleasure game. I don't have a fun toy-like dexterity game in my collection where you set it up and play, have fun with friends, yet not take it very serious, and you are more physically engaged. This year at Origins I saw Flick 'em Up! and gave is barely a glance which was a huge mistake. By the time Gen Con rolled around I was wanting this fun, flick discs as teams at cowboys playing through a series of scenarios. This game has group fun written all over it for me.
I'm a Feld fan, so when a beloved title that has been out of print gets a fresh printing I want to get one hot off the presses. It is said to be a different style of game compared to the other Feld fare on our shelf. A good number of gamers consider this their favorite Feld. I'd like to check it out myself this Christmas... after I learn to play my recently acquired Bora Bora.
I'm not a fan of party games, but I've been acquiring a growing collection of games for larger groups waiting for a few to catch fire like Deep Sea Adventure has done this year. Codenames seems to be that game that I think my group might welcome with open arms. I think at its price point and given all the praise it's a no-brainer.
4. Hansa Teutonica: Britannia
This was number 5 on my list last year when I hadn't even played the base game yet. Now I have and it is one of the best new to me games of the year. This map comes with new 2p rules and caters more to a small play group which might just see the table more often than the original.
5. Concordia: Britannia & Germania or Concordia: Salsa
The former expansion maps have been on my list for a long time, the latter is the latest release which also adds some different cards and a new good (salt) promising to mix things up a bit more. Either would be a nice addition to my collection (I love maps) to reinvigorate this great game and hopefully get my wife interested in trying it again. I'm also looking for a good 2p map.
Only Luna is older than this selection. Many BGGers whose taste in games agrees with mine have praised this game for sometime making it a promising candidate for this year's list in the euro category. I don't know much about it other than they like it which makes it a bit of a mystery pick of sorts.
This choice was on my list of games that I wished my friends would buy last year... which they didn't. My continued interest in it therefore moves it over to my Wish List this year and we'll wait and see. I hear a new expansion was introduced at Essen so there is also potential for continued support for this one which will be worth following.
8. A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition)
2p card games rarely see play in my house, but if there is one that came out this past year that interests me it would be this one. I'd also like some of the play mat accessories that FFG made to go with it. I have watched a few videos on the basic game play which just seems intriguing and worth the gamble. It has been loved system for a very long time, which saw a relaunch of a more streamlined system in the second edition. The base set offers a handful of factions to get started with I'm sure another long run of expansion packs should I want more.
9. Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 - UK & PA
I have the first two Map Collection volumes, the third and fourth did not interest me. I have heard very good things about the twists offered in this latest expansion. There is still more play in the first two volumes given we don't play this system very often, perhaps this would breath new life into it... or just make my collection look better on the shelf?
10. Abyss: Kraken
We played Abyss as part of my 10x10 challenge this year. It has more plays in it at a higher player count. As a 2p game I think we are ready for some addition elements to hold our interest which this expansion seems to offer.
Feel free to comment on this year's list? Some of you who know my tastes may be surprised... or maybe not. Perhaps you feel I'm overlooking something too good to pass up? If so, convince me.
Next week I'll share my annual Top Games I Wish My Friends Would Buy - 2015 Edition.
In last week's post I talked about my demanding work schedule the first half of the year which limited the number of plays I've recorded and I listed those games that got to the table most often during that time. This week I'm going to talk a little bit about ten games I own but have yet to play and some of the challenges surrounding each getting to the table.
When I finally took the plunge and tried Dominion we immediately understood on some level why this game and mechanism (deck building) was so popular. When I first heard about Core Worlds I said it sounds like an interesting space themed Dominion clone... and I love the space theme. I tried at both my first Origins and Gen Cons to sit for a demo but could never get a spot at the table.
Now this is a list of unplayed games. I did get the opportunity at Ravenwood Castle to read through the rules and teach it to a non-gaming father and daughter and attempt to play a 3p game. We got so many rules wrong, at least one per round that I don't really count that as playing it.
I did acquire my own copy in last year's Gen Con Math Trade and really want to find how to get it to the table and experience it for real.
Mice & Mystics
When I first tried Summoner Wars it became an instant Top 5 game for me and I went out and bought a Master Set. I've listened to every episode of the Plaid Hat Podcast and really love what they have done as a company. I like the concept of all there games, but the sad reality is there isn't anyone else in my gaming circle with much interest in playing any of their titles.
I get an occasional game of SW to the table or tablet. I have to beg to get a game of Dead of Winter recorded. Other titles I just passed and admired from a far. Mice & Mystics just sounds cool with the whole storyline that goes with it. I never had much hope of owning it as my wife gets wigged out over mice and squirrely creatures in any medium include board games. BUT, much to my surprise she actually gifted me a copy this past Christmas... but we have not gotten it to the table. I was hoping my teenage girls would be interested in it if I could just get them to try it with the four of us. Still hoping.
Brass Age of Industry
I've heard a lot of good things about Brass and actually received some strong recommendations from other trusted geeks (i.e. those who share similar taste in games as I do) to get it. So I traded for it last year at Gen Con. But never got it out of the shrink. I had read on the forums that Age of Industry was the designers attempt to streamline Brass and may be the better choice and play in less time. So I traded Brass for AoI.
I actually got the rule book out this week and started reading it to pass some time and discovered that it plays with 3-5p. I rarely have 3p to play a game as it is let alone something a bit heavier weight for the mostly casual gamers in my group. So not sure when I'll get the opportunity to test this recommendation out, but I'm not giving up.
This may be the odd title on the list. It is not a game I sought after, rather it found me. My wife went through a phase of spending hours searching online auctions for deals including games. She found this one out of shrink but unplayed and the components still bagged for a decent price and surprised me with it.
I didn't know anything about the game or the designer. After a little research it sounds like the designers games including this one are a bit different and often are not appreciated or vaguely understood the first go round or two and truly require multiple plays to gain an appreciation and understanding for its game play. So I'm on the fence with this one. I like the challenge of it and it fits our preference to play a game many times to get the full experience. I just don't get a sense that my wife or anyone else would be a willing partner on this one. Still contemplating whether to open it or trade it.
Love Letter: Batman
I like the concept and for the most part the game play of Love Letter, but rarely get to play it. Given the small size of the game, its portability, and price point it is a great value. When the Batman themed version came out (with a minor rule tweak) I was sold on the hope that maybe a different (more masculine) wrapper would see more play time.
I got it for my birthday and not even a nibble. Pow! I got nothing.
I've heard much about the crayon rails games and see them often mentioned in the regular forums. I've been curious enough to take note from the outside looking in to want to try them. When I learned that Empire Express was designed as an introduction to the system I added it to my Wish List and received a copy as a gift for my birthday this year. Now I've got to find a partner to break it out and punch a ticket on this ride to see what it has to offer. I have high hopes for this one when it does get to the table.
Deep Sea Adventure
This has to be the smallest game (non-expansion) in my collection. Wow! I expected the box to be small, but Deep Sea Adventure comes in a very tiny but full box. I've read the rules a few times and watched a number of videos while I wait some poor saps to take a journey on this get rich quick, push your luck, fun looking game from Japan. Of all the games on the list I think this one will hit the table first.
Bruges: The City on the Zwin (expansion)
The last three games on the list are expansions to Top 10 games in my collection. I love Bruges and as I've said, it may just be my favorite Feld design. The City on the Zwin adds a fifth player, but more importantly more cards and a few more modules to mix into the game play. I don't need the expansion to love the game, but maybe it will be interesting enough to convince some in our group to try the game again after not having played it for a while.
Tzolk'in: Tribes & Prophecies (expansion)
With Tribes & Prohpecies you get some unique (tribe) abilities that injects some player differentiation right from the start of the game that seems like it would encourage some different strategies and decisions. While prophecies looks to offer some new choices and options in the game that folks really seem to like. I need to freshen up on the rules, but this game is over due to hit the table again and I intend to include the expansion when it does.
Power Grid: Australia & Indian Subcontinent
Power Grid has been a long personal and group favorite (among the guys, not the ladies in our group) since we all got into the hobby. Over the past few years I've accumulated a couple of expansion maps that we are slowly playing through. We finally got to play through China this past May. Australia or India will be next when we can get the game back to the table and I have anything to say about it.
Well that does it for this week's topic. It feels like I wrote quite a bit. I've just been typing away with out much thought to the time. I need to get some sleep, so here is to hoping that I get a few of these played in the near future. If you've followed any of my other posts you may have noticed there are no pictures in this blog. I like to use my own pictures, so until I get to play them I don't have anything to show. But when you hear about my first plays with these, keep on the lookout for some personal illustrations.
Keep playing (those games unplayed on your shelf)...
It has been over six months since my last blog post. The lag is mostly due to work having been exceptionally demanding since the new year. Consequently I have not had much creative space to think of interesting blog topics let alone seeing my normal monthly play levels these past six months.
June ended with the completion of a major deliverable. So now my work hours should subside and I am taking steps to return to a healthier work-life balance.
To get things started I want to review what has made it to the table most often in the first half of the year, followed next week by a review of titles on my shelf that have yet to see any plays that I hope to remedy in the second half of the year. Finally, if all goes well, I hope to then be able to post and share thoughts surrounding the completion of my second one thousand plays and an accompanying geeklist.
On to the titles that have most frequenting reached our table top in the first half of the year.
Arboretum - 4x
This beautiful small box card game may be my surprise game of the year thus far. A number of trusted BGGers with similar tastes to my own raved about the game so I made it a point at Origins to play it. Arboretum is deceptively simple on the outside but crafty and more complex on the inside, especially when it comes time for end game scoring.
The majority of my plays thus far have been with my primary gaming partner and wife who has won 2 out of 3, yet she is still raw from an embarrassing loss in that first play that she is not interested in playing it right now. I really hope her feelings change as I don't easily take a liking to card games and this is one I want to explore further.
Lost Cities - 5x
I recently created a new H-Index Geeklist after much procrastination. Lost Cities is the next likely candidate approaching addition to that list. Another small box card game that my wife and youngest daughter have really taken a liking to that has seen consistent plays since finding it last summer nearly unplayed at a garage sale.
Interestingly, myself and others have felt similar qualities to this and Arboretum where this is more a linear set collection game experience and the previously mentioned game is a more dynamic multi-directional one. Given how likable this game is around our house, it won't take much longer to get the few more plays needed to update my list.
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - 5x
I picked this popular card game (apparently I like them more than I thought I did, this is three in a row) at Gen Con to be my goto solo game until I can complete painting my GoW minis. I really want this game to grab me, but it has required more learning and focus than I've had available to invest in it to achieve that state. It can be tedious especially for me as I'm constantly having to return to the rulebook to verify steps, rules, terms, etc.
I haven't given up on it yet. For one I put it on my 10x10 challenge list this year to ensure I didn't quit on it. I also bought the first expansion pack should I get past playing each of the base preset decks and enjoy it enough to continue on after experimenting a bit with deck building. I am a fan of the genre and franchise, so hope that it grabs me with a little more time and focus.
Aquasphere - 7x
It seems like nearly every list-oriented blog post I write on BGG includes at least one Feld title (and I'm proud of that). Aquasphere is the newest Feld in our collection which has nearly reached its 10 plays for my 10x10 challenge.
It feels different and more puzzly than previous Feld designs. One in which I have a knack for finishing 2nd place regardless of the player count more often than not. It offers your typical euro I-can-almost-everything-I-want-yet-come-up-a-move-or-two-short-by-game's-end fare. I sense many Feld fans are frustrated by the difficulty and hurdles to action selection when compared to his other titles. Yet I approach it as a challenge and it has forced me to think and seek out new and curious choices.
The potential drawback with this one can be analysis paralysis for some players who tend to over think or try to plot the perfect course to the perfect game.
Bruges - 10x
Bruges carried over momentum from last year and reached its 10x10 challenge plays at the start of March. At the end of 2014 I said this had become my favorite Feld title. Unfortunately it hasn't seen any plays in four months despite receiving the much anticipated expansion back in May. It certainly isn't from a lack of interest, but an honest casualty of my busy schedule which has limited my gaming time.
As for game play itself, the challenge is remaining flexible and tactical throughout the game if the cards you are wanting for your initial or early strategy don't pan out. This is a tactical game far more than a strategic one. I look forward to getting the expansion out to see how it changes up the game. It will also allow me to measure how strongly it holds the top Feld spot after a much time away from the table.
Fidelitas - 13x
During its Kickstarter campaign this small box card game (here's another one!) caught my attention. It was mostly the artwork. The reasonable price point made it worth the risk of supporting this new publisher.
The game turned out to be lighter than either of us expected or hoped it would be which is a bit of a damper. Not that there is anything wrong with lighter games, but we tend to enjoy more medium weight games. When this package arrived in the mail it saw all its plays in a short period of time. It plays relatively quick, around 20 minutes for a 2p game. We were delighted to find in the last few plays more depth as we manipulated the card placements more in order to throw off the other player's plans as we tried to subtly setup our missions. It is then that we found the enjoyment factor of this game. You have to mix things up or you will be bored and underwhelmed.
Castles of Burgundy - 13x
To complete my list is yet another Feld game, our first and most played. In fact we are approaching 100 plays making it our most played board game (um, behind two card games). For a game that had cast doubt in my wife's mind (upon seeing the box cover after an hour long search at Gen Con to find it), this has proven to be a real winner for us.
My sister-in-law picked up a back issue, English edition copy of Spielbox magazine with the first expansion boards for me in Germany before visiting for Christmas which breathed new life into an already favorite, making it the first game in our 10x10 challenge this year to complete its required plays. Since we haven't played with the expansion rules yet, I have a feeling when my wife is ready we'll see a good number of more plays before the year is out.
That completes this blog post. Time permitting I'll post my thoughts next week on some games sitting on my shelf that have yet to see the table and why I'm excited to try them and when I think that might happen.
It is Thursday, the day I try and post my weekly blog post (when I remember), but today is also a holiday so I am spending time with family all day. But I managed to sneak away for just a few minutes to log in and say, "Merry Christmas, gaming friends!"
We have much to celebrate. I wish you and yours the best and looking forward to finishing the year strong playing games old and new alike. I have my 10x10in2014 Challenge list to finish and some new stuff I want to get to the table.
My wife gifted me Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar – Tribes & Prophecies and this biggest surprise Mice and Mystics. The latter was a game I wrote off as my wife has this thing about squirrely things like mice and rats, etc. but she did this for me.
We're off to see The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies with family today, then opening more gifts before dinner. I'll post an update if any games are included.
Enjoy your family. Cherish your relationships. Play some games. Comment below what you got this Christmas.
I was out of town last week without access to the internet so I skipped a week of blogging. Looking at my list of topics I outlined a couple months ago it's ironic that my Top 10 Gaming Experiences of 2014 is the focus given the Dice Tower Video where Tom, Sam, and Zee shared their Top 10 Gaming Experiences. Totally coincidental. Unexpectedly in-sync.
The inspiration for choosing this as a topic was one of the memorable experiences mentioned in this week's list. I recall reflecting on the special moment and realizing I have had a number of noteworthy gaming experiences this year.
So, let's get to it...
10. Game Play: Dead of Winter
I pre-ordered this game from Plaid Hat Games knowing it was going to be a special design. It had to be as I am not a zombie guy. My hope was that it would be the game I've been searching for with a hidden traitor that my family and gaming group would finally embrace.
I've only managed a few plays thus far, but I am hopeful that it will fair better than BSG or The Resistance: Avalon. My wife's comment after the first play is the reason that it makes the list. She noted for the first time that she saw the emergent story in a game and that she now has a new appreciation for a game's design.
9. Game Play: Tzolk'in game with two newbies
Tzolk'in has quickly risen to the top of my list for action selection games and climbed its way onto my Top 10 Favorite games list this year. Each turn of the gears facilitates an ever changing variety of interesting, meaningful, and challenging decisions to playfully agonize over.
I had one particular play this past summer after a long day of gaming when I was teaching it to two new players whose enthusiasm and excitement about the game play was witnessed and felt by everyone in the room. I remember realizing at that moment that this is what gamign with friends is all about. Tzolk'in is now my friend's favorite game!
8. BGG: 10x10in2014 Challenge
My 10x10 in 2014 Challenge List makes the list as it achieved its objective in encouraging and reminded us to play a set of games that we often say we want to play more but often do not making for a simple yet fun experiment.
I've mentioned multiple times this year on the forums that I felt I've reached a saturation point in my collection. I have more games than I can effectively play and enjoy. This can be a frustrating and discouraging situation. This challenge reminded me why I subscribe to the "cult of the proven" and play my games 25 or more times. It allows us a fuller experience of our games and investments as we explore the depths of their designs.
We enjoyed this experience so much that I'm already looking forward to doing it again in 2015 with another exciting list of games!
7. BGG: Geek of the Week
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year was being chosen as Geek of the Week #471 - Bill - (bkunes). What an encouraging honor. I gained a new appreciation for this popular thread on BGG and have started going back and learning more about my fellow gamers and trying to keep up with the nominations going forward. (I confess I fell off the wagon for good reasons the past couple of weeks... more catch up).
It makes this list because I experienced a connection with other people who play games in a new, encouraging, and unexpected way. What a fun week of answer intriguing questions and interacting with a variety of BGG users, both familiar and new.
6. Game Play: Hanabi with parents
I had taken my oldest daughter up north for a weekend teen event that presented me the opportunity to visit mom and dad with just me. We had a wonderful time chatting and eating out at some local favorites, watching a movie and much to my surprise playing a few games of Hanabi.
I usually bring a few games when ever I visit should the opportunity present itself. We played three games and although we were getting tired and our clues and memory were quickly fading we laughed and had a wonderful time over a game. It was this experience that inspired this list. We are accumulating memorable moments around the table all the time being in this hobby. It's nice to pause from time to time and cherish these times and the people involved. Thanks, mom and dad. I still enjoy spending time with you and having fun together.
5. Game Play: Diplomacy
This game has a reputation as both a classic strategy game that relies on negotiation and backstabbing and its potential as a relationship wrecker. My buddies and I had been interested in trying it for some time. At the beginning of the year I defined a list of gaming goals and made sure that this particular game was on that agenda.
We played online (dipbounced.com) and had mixed experiences in our six month game played with roughly a season ever week and a half. Many of the negatives were due to early mistakes and hard lessons learned early in the game that left some feeling already defeated and behind. It was also frustrating for most that there was so much time (initial setting) between turns that dragged the game out, eroded enthusiasm after long waits, diminished communications, and led to multiple delays due to forgetfulness.
I however focused on the beauty of this game and accepted the mishaps as lessons learned for any future plays. I should mention that I did win so perhaps my opinion is a bit bias. At the end of the day, it was a great gaming experience for me and I would gladly play again.
4. Event: RayCon III
Any time you get the opportunity to play games all day it's going to be a great experience. RayCon is a shared birthday celebration for one of my best friends and his wife who have birthdays one week a part and were inspired by my all-day birthday gaming event to host their own the weekend between their big days.
We get there early, and for the third year in a row the four of us started the day with a game of Agricola as the sun breaks through the window. Usually by the time we are nearing completion others start arriving for more fun. In total I got to play a bunch of games Agricola, Vikings, Village, Railways of the World, Power Grid, and it was at RayCon III that I had the Tzolk'in experience listed at #9 on this list.
3. Event: BillCon IV
Speaking of all-day gaming events, BillCon is one of my favorites. It was the first event that I ever organized after getting into the hobby. We had so much fun that it ultimately led to establishing our monthly game night.
Each year I get to schedule my favorite games and get to play something with my friends. Attendance has grows each year with multiple games going on at any time. In its fourth year we had anywhere from 3-6 tables going at any time and nearly a dozen folks came for the whole day (8:00am-10:00pm). I got to play Eclipse, Railways of the World, Tzolk'in, Bruges, and Terra Mystica at this years event which is about as good a line-up as you can have in one day if you ask me.
2. Game Play: Pathfinder Session 1
I purchased a copy of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Beginner Box at Origins in 2013 and made it a goal of mine this year to give role playing gaming a chance. I knew going in I was going to have to be the Game Master (GM) and leave the playing of characters to whoever I could convince to join me. This fall my wife, brother-in-law, and a couple from our gaming group caved and gave it a whirl.
All of us were nervous as only one guy had any experience and it was minimal at that. We had no idea what to expect or what we were committing to play other than it was similar to D&D, whatever that entails. Our first session exceeded all of our expectations.
For me it went smoother than I had expected a new GM. Even more exciting was my wife enthusiastically announcing she was excited about continuing our adventure as this experience confirmed for her that she really likes the emerging story and role playing element of RPGs.
The moment that all of us will remember from that day forward was near the end of the session. After a slow, overly cautious start, a taste of combat with a pair of goblins, and a smashing confrontation with a locked treasure chest that left the room in shambles and the disappointment of learning the magic potion vial within had been destroyed, my wife asked to inspect the beds in the corner only to find a rusty iron key that would have opened the chest had anyone thought to look before declaring war on the locked chest. This discovery was followed by a moment of silence before we all burst out laughing. The fun and excitement of RPGs had just been revealed and we had just taken the bait.
1. Event: Gen Con Math Trade
Gen Con itself is a worthy candidate for this list this year as it was the first convention we attended for more than one day. It provided us quality time doing something we enjoy together and was full of intersting experiences (like meeting people you see in videos or hear on podcasts). But I wanted to narrow it down a bit further to the highlight of the show for us which was the Gen Con Math Trade.
We are still talking about the idea of us taking a half dozen games we no longer play and exchanging them in a handful of pre-arrange trades for new-to-us games with no further investment ($$$). What an awesome gaming experience! So much so that it tops my list for 2014.
We are playing through the acquired games and still have a couple (i.e. Brass and Core Worlds) yet unplayed. I expect future math trades in our future.
When I look back over this list, 2014 has presented a number of enjoyable experiences. Gaming is not my life but it has become an integrated part of my social life that offers respite from the busy-ness of the full and fast pace schedule. I appreciate having a forum to share special, fun memories with family and friends. I will ride the momentum of these experiences into the new year and look forward to the gaming experiences of 2015.
(Until next time) keep playing...
Thu Dec 18, 2014 12:32 pm
Next week I celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary with my amazing wife. In honor of our friendly rivalry I review how our competitive landscape has changed over the past year.
To do this I compared last year's top 10 most competitive games with the current top 10 with one caveat, I excluded any game that hasn't been played in the past year and therefore has not really been a competitive factor over the past 12 months (e.g. Pentago, Carcassonne, and Scrabble).
I define competitive by subtracting our head-to-head record and dividing it by the total number of 2p plays to get a competitiveness value. If we are even it is equal to 0.000 and is ranked by most to least played giving the nod to the game that more plays. If one of us has won all of our plays then it is equal to 1.000 and is sorted from least to most plays as a game yielding an undefeated record after more plays is less competitive. Games making the Top 10 range from 0.000 to 0.143.
Our Top 10 Most Competitive 2p Games - 2014 Edition:
Record: 3-4 (0.143)
Abyss is the first newcomer to the list. This beautiful and elegant game was my wife's single purchase at Gen Con after we got to play a few rounds in a demo. It has been well received as we begin to introduce to more people in our game group. A 2p game plays in a reasonable amount of time and on occasion has been played twice in the morning over coffee before work starts.
There are only a few decision points presented each turn (explore and choose, buy, or select). Selections are a bit of a gamble early in the game until you secure some lords and a location after which you can begin to taylor your decisions towards known end game scoring opportunities.
#9. Lost Cities
Record: 8-6 (0.143)
The second newcomer is Lost Cities which is easily the biggest surprise. My wife found it at a garage sale in new condition and despite my lack of enthusiasm we've found it to be a good game. It plays quickly and remains competitive. We usually try to play best of three games with three rounds each.
Record: 26-20-1 (0.128)
Dominion became our first game to see 100+ plays and is still our most played game. It ranked #4 on last year's list and saw 12 more 2p plays this year fueled by the 2014 10x10 Challenge. It is still an engaging game for us as the Seaside and Intrigue boxes are still largely under-explored. We seem to play this one in spurts which involves a handful of games at a time.
Record: 5-4 (0.111)
I longed to acquire this gem of a worker placement game last year. After painting my gears it has enjoyed regular appearances at our table both as a 2p and more. We have largely ignored the purported golden strategies and are just enjoying this as we play it. Every game is challenging and interesting. I won the earliest plays but my wife has continued to close the gap with a single win separating us. There are a number of things still to learn before adding the expansion to the mix.
Record: 21-25 (0.087)
Our plays of this civ-builder card game have slowed considerably since last year. It has only seen four plays all of which my wife has gone convincingly. Her gangbuster winning streak has dethroned it from its #1 position last year and left me in her wake. If I don't figure out how to play the Echoes expansion better, she may continue to grind me in to the ground with no remorse.
Record: 13-12 (0.067)
This is the first Feld title on the list, same as last year. It improves its #8 position by three spots as my competitive advantage has been diminished to within one win after 25 plays. I gained an early advantage after exploring each of the mini-games equipping me with some flexibility. But now my wife is learning from my insights and has leveled the playing field.
Record: 59-54 (0.044)
It is no surprise that we play a lot of Guildhall. We cleared the 100+ play milestone earlier this year, 37 of those were additional 2p which helped to move this from #7 last year to #4 this year.
Continuing with the theme of this year's list, my wife is closing the gap on most games including her favorite, Guildhall. I'm still trying to convince her of that trend but she's not seeing it. Only five wins now separate us... and she has won the majority of the last dozen plays.
#2-tie. Smash Up
Record: 4-4 (0.000)
This new to us game of 2014 was acquired as part of the 2014 Gen Con Math Trade and has been a slow starter for me. My wife quickly ran away with the first few wins and I've managed to close the gap. It will be interesting to see how many plays it gets in 2015 and which way the advantage will tilt a year from now.
Record: 4-4 (0.000)
We play a lot of Guildhall and we play a lot of Feld. Macao improves from #6 to #2 this year. We learned after 10 plays that we were playing a few things wrong. Now that we've righted the ship the game is even better and more interesting and at this point it is anyone's win depending on the day as we are even 4-4. Macao is not one of our favorite Feld's but it is one of our more competitive.
Record: 10-10 (0.000)
With Bruges being #2 last year it only required one step to claim the top perch on this year's list. The 10x10 Challenge helped lift it to new heights but it has proven to be a game that we both enjoy. I fully expect that we will either acquire the expansion for Christmas or I will buy it shortly after the holidays. I plan to include it again for 2015's 10x10 Challenge. Therefore, I expect a continued battle for the Bruges championship in our relationship but the real question is whether it can maintain its crown as the most competitive 2p game?
For the full list see: My Wife's and My Most Competitive Games. Check it out and subscribe as I maintain the full list throughout the year and add new games as new ones enter the arena that is our table top.
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