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2012: A Year In Games

Musings about games played in 2012

Archive for Jimmy Okolica

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2012 Light/ Filler Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I play these games when I have only a little bit of free time. All of these games play in under an hour. While these games are quick, they are not necessarily "light". Some of these games pack quite a punch given their short play time. Also, most of these games have a simple enough set of rules that they are easy to teach to new players, gamers or not. The two exceptions are Innovation, which can be a bit overwhelming during the first few plays, and Town Center, which while takes at least one play to wrap one's head around and then requires the ability to think in 3 dimensions.

1. Love Letter Although I feel like I'm going along with the crowd, I truly love this game. It has only 16 cards and a play time of 5 - 10 minutes and it's a whole lot of fun. It also has a bit of depth, more than you'd expect for such a short play time. While I haven't done it yet, the designer recommends using it to determine starting player in a normal game and I think it's an excellent idea. I expect many more plays of this in the years to come. (Plays: 13, BGG Weight: 1.2)

2. Town Center While the ruleset is a little difficult to wrap your head around, after one full game, the concepts are easy to grasp. The game is an interesting mix of auctions and 3-dimensional thinking and building. While I've played this mostly solo, I really enjoyed my multi-player games of it. (Plays: 10, BGG Weight: 2.44)

3. Innovation With this and my #2 rated game, I am perhaps placing medium-light games in the light category. Innovation is a second game that seems almost Fluxx-like on the surface but rewards skilled play with repeated plays. I have played 11 times total and I'm still wrapping my head around it. (Plays: 4, BGG Weight: 2.59)

4. Hanabi I have grown very turned off by coop games (unless played solo) due to the "one player to rule them all" issue. Hanabi gets around this problem by limiting conversation and by ensuring that no one player has full knowledge. It is an innovative system that I really enjoy. This is one of the few games that I always bring and despite the fact that it doesn't get played enough, I love it whenever it does. (Plays: 4, BGG Weight: 1.77)

5. Paris Connection Like Hanabi, this game punches much harder than its BGG Weight would suggest. Although a short 30 - 45 minute game, every move is critical. I stink at this game (and don't think I've ever finished in the first 2 positions) but I love it. Advancing your own agenda while convincing others to help you is critical. The only drawback to the game is its box size, since I generally prefer to bring small games as fillers. (Plays: 2, BGG Weight: 1.87)

6. Triumvirate While I am not generally a fan of trick taking games, I really enjoy Triumvirate. The "trick" of deciding what to play, what to hold, and what to seed into end game points makes this game non-obvious. Since it's only a 2-player game, I think it will ultimately become samey with the same 2 players; however, it is still a fun outguessing game. (Plays: 2, Weight: 1.91)

7. Kingdom Builder While there is certainly luck connected to what cards you draw, I believe that like Dominion, the game is played before a player's first move. Players must begin with a strategy of what favors(?) they want and what goals they are focusing on and then attempt to gain those favors with their first 2 or 3 turns. By the time turn 4 begins, players may feel hemmed in by their previous choices but by that point they should be well on their way to achieving their strategy. I hope to continue to play this many more times in years to come (including with my kids). (Plays: 6, BGG Weight: 2.1)

8. R Like Love Letter, the designer creates an interesting and engaging game with only 16 cards. I am a great fan of the designer and will be paying attention to his future games. R is a 2 palyer guessing game where the winner is the one who can out-think their opponent. (Plays: 1, BGG Weight: 1.29)

9. 2 de Mayo While I am generally not a fan of area control games, this 2 player game is quick enough that it is fun. The draw of cards can make one player stronger or weaker but as players learn their cards, skilled play can overcome a lot of the vagaries of card draws. In addition, since people complain that both the French and Spanish are overpowered, it is likely that the game is balanced (though that hasn't been my experience so far). (Plays: 3, BGG Weight: 2.24)

10. Flowerfall Yes, there is no deep strategy to this game and often players will feel the air has more to say with who wins then anything else. However, it supports up to 7 players and produces a whole lot of laughs in a short period of time. I consistently bring this game to my game days and hope to get many more plays in 2013. (Plays: 4, BGG Weight: 1.11)
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Tue Jan 1, 2013 5:18 pm
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2012 Medium Light Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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This is the most wide open category for me. Game weights range from 2.37 to 3.64. Although I suppose I could put the heaviest game, De Vulgari Eloquentia (weight: 3.64) in the medium weight category, it doesn't feel like a medium weight game (in the same way RftG doesn't feel like a medium-light game). Medium-Light games are games that I might play with people relatively new to the hobby. While in most cases, they are slightly heavier than a gateway game, they are only slightly heavier and they are games I might use as a gateway, depending on who I'm with.

1. KeyFlower The Essen games were particularly strong this year, garnering top ranking in my Medium, Medium-Light, and Light categories. It is easy to teach, relatively quick to teach and beautifully blends worker placement and auctions. The use of workers as both workers and as "money" for bidding makes for lots of interesting decisions. In addition, only having a subset of tiles in each game makes for good replayability. While the hidden workers makes this something of a memory game, it does make it more fun for new gamers and levels the playing field. (Plays: 11, BGG Weight: 3.23)

2. De Vulgari Eloquentia Although I only played this once in 2012, it remains one of my favorites and I hope to play it more in 2013. I suspect the number of different choices is what gives this game it's relatively high weight. However, the game flows easily with only a couple of different paths to victory. This is another of my games with a significant amount of immersion, considering that it is mostly a euro. (Plays: 1, BGG Weight: 3.64)

3. Village This was my most played medium-light game of 2012. There appear to be several different paths to victory and players can either go deep with one or attempt to blend a few to win. Although by the end of the year, it has felt like there is not much more to discover, it remains a fun game to play with friends. A worthy winner of the 2012 KDJ. (Plays: 13, BGG Weight: 3.09)

4. A Few Acres of Snow Although the Halifax Hammer has caused many to dismiss this game, I still feel like it is a good game. Although as the late great Tim Seitz showed, played perfectly, the Hammer is unbeatable, among those who have not mastered it, the French have good chances. I continue to win as both the French and the British. (Plays: 6, BGG Weight: 2.98)

5. Walnut Grove This plays significantly above its weight of 2.37. Although certainly not a heavy game, this mix of Carc and 'Gric has enough going on to keep players engaged for its relatively short play time (about an hour). (Plays: 6, BGG Weight: 2.37)

6. Puerto Rico This remains a classic. I personally feel like it's best with 2 players but I will happily play this at any player count. While I don't think it's too hard to teach, I wouldn't teach it to noobs except as a 2 player game (or a game with all noobs) due to the left player issues. (Plays: 5, BGG Weight: 3.25)

7. Pax Porfiriana Up to this point, I haven't played this enough to justify a higher rank. However, I suspect that with more plays, this is one that may have significant upward mobility. Like Innovation, it feels like it is open enough to allow for a lot of player creativity. (Plays: 5, BGG Weight: 3.0)

8. Eminent Domain This is another game where players must play each other as much as they play the system. By balancing strategies against other opponents, players can influence the game length and create situations most likely to benefit them. Although I think the game needs an expansion to extend replayability, it is a solid game straight out of the box. (Plays: 11, BGG Weight: 2.46)

9. Cuba Although I only got to play this once, I really enjoyed my play and I hope to play it more. (Plays: 1, BGG Weight 3.3)

10. London Another Wallace game that I enjoy but do not play nearly often enough. I will likely be selling/trading this in favor of exploring new games. (Plays: 1, BGG Weight: 2.88)
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Tue Jan 1, 2013 4:10 am
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2012 Medium Weight Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Many of the games in this category would have fallen into the Medium-Heavy category last year. It is only since I have discovered Splotter and 18XX games (and thus moved the medium-heavy category to 4.0+ game weight) that the games in my Medium Weight category have increased in weight. Most of these games merit a full blog entry by themselves, so I will keep my comments brief.

1. Terra Mystica After three plays, I listed this as For Trade. I felt the 2-player game was unplayable without a variant and the 3-player game was too loose. However, for some reason, I continued to play it (and work on a 2-player variant). Now, 17 plays later, I feel the game is excellent as designed. Although listed as an area enclosure game, it isn't. It has aspects of it, but it is fundamentally a resource engine building game with variable play powers. The goal is too score as many VPs during the game by meeting short term objectives while positioning oneself for end game VPs. With 14 different races that must be played differently, this game will continue to see a lot of plays in the coming year. (Plays: 20, BGG Weight: 3.84)

2. Pret-a-Porter Last year, this was on my medium-heavy list. Although it hasn't received the plays it deserves this year, it remains one of my favorite games. It is one of only 2 (or 3) worker placement games on this list as I am beginning to tire of the WP mechanic. However, it works in PaP. There is space to follow different strategies and develop different sorts of infrastructure while pursuing the goal of maximizing wealth. (Plays: 3, BGG Weight: 3.57)

3. Key Market Although this has dropped to my second favorite Key game (below Keyflower), although it is way overpriced (at $175), and although it still has some worker placement aspects to it, I really enjoy this game. Like PaP, there is space to focus in different areas. Manipulating guilds to both gain end game points and gain advantages during the game, manipulating the economics of the different resources, and managing the placement of workers in a sort of worker placement/ area control mechanic produces a complex web that allows for significant exploration. I hope to play this much more in 2013 (although a $175 price tag makes it tough not to sell). (Plays: 6, BGG Weight: 3.55)

4. Race for the Galaxy Despite only getting one play in 2012, this remains one of my favorite games (particularly as a 2-player game). Played with all of its expansions, I believe it is significantly heavier than its BGG weight; however, it still plays (2-player) in about 30 minutes. It does have a steep learning curve, but once learned, it provides almost endless replayability. (Plays: 1, BGG Weight: 3.37)

5. The Great Zimbabwe This is the reason I think I can auction Container. It provides a player controlled economy to work within as well as enough wrinkles in the form of Gods and Specialists to promote a lot of replayability. Plus, it is a game that my game group seems to like better than Container. I look forward to much more exploration and play in 2013 (Plays: 5, BGG Weight: 3.89)

6. Poseidon The first time I played this (prior to playing any other 18XX), I was disappointed. It promised 2-player 18XX but felt weak. I traded it after only 1 (or 2?) plays. A little over a year later I picked it up in a flea market on a whim. Wow! What a difference a year and an extensive exposure to 18XX made. It is not a true 18XX but there is enough similarity that when mixed in with Winsome mechanics, the game is outstanding. Despite a fixed (and relatively short) play time of approximately 2 hours, there are a lot of interesting decisions. Also, it is the only game that I have written 2 reviews of . (Plays: 5, BGG Weight: 3.63)

7. Brass Although I only played this once face to face, I played many games online. I still don't get the intricacies of it and I still think too much relies on the cards you get; however, I strongly suspect there is another level of depth that I have yet to discover. Hopefully, I will play this many more times in 2013. (Plays: 1, BGG Weight: 3.9)

8. Planet Steam Although I only played it once (and that was 2 player), I really liked the economy of it. While I may be selling this at auction (it just isn't likely to see plays with the other games in my collection), I really did enjoy it. (Plays: 1, BGG Weight: 3.76)

9. Container I have enjoyed this game but neither I nor my gaming group seem to grok it. In our last play, the player who passed the most ended up in second place. It seemed that lowballing everything was the way to go. While more plays might improve this for us, I don't expect that it will see the plays it needs to make this happen. (Plays: 3, BGG Weight: 3.22)

10. Vanuatu While most of the game is an innocuous role selection, resource acquisition game, the action selection mechanic makes this an interesting game worthy of remaining in my collection. (Plays: 5, BGG Weight: 3.5)
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Tue Jan 1, 2013 2:51 am
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2012 Medium Heavy Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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My tastes in games has been steadily moving towards the heavier games for years. In 2012, I was able to accomplish by finding and playing 2 types of heavy games, 18XX games and Splotter games. With 2 exceptions, all of my medium-heavy games fall into one of these two categories. The 2 exceptions are notable in their own right, as both of them are principally card games (although one has a significant board element as well). I could write a blog about each of the below games. Instead, I will try to keep it very short.

1. Antiquity Civ-building is one of my favorite themes and Antiquity captures it beautifully. Many people complain about the quality of components and the fiddliness of picking up all that cardboard. While the components are cardboard (no wood here) and it is fiddly, the game is outstanding. Attempting to balance expansion with achieving your victory condition plus having food and not being overrun by graves and pollution... there's a lot going on and it's a great brain burner. I've played this mostly 2-player with my girlfriend, Amanda, and we generally finish within a turn of each other (although I'm usually the one that is one behind). After 10 plays I feel comfortable with Saint Christoforio, but have no clue how to play the others. Amanda, of course, takes Santa Maria and wins almost every time Although it was a new play in 2012, I expect this to remain a favorite for years to come. (Plays: 10)

2. 1830 If I could have two number ones, this would be my second one. The only reason Antiquity edges it is because Amanda hates 18XX games. On the plus side, my one consistent weekly gaming session since August has been my weekly 18XX game, so I'm still able to get my 18XX fix. I've select 1830 as my top 18XX game in part because it is so well regarded in the community. It has a minimal amount of chrome for an 18XX while rewarding both running companies efficiently and effectively manipulating a predatory stock market. Although it is too early too tell (after only 40+ 18XX games), my gut is that 18XX may have the same level of depth as Chess due in part to the fact that it is multi-player. If so, this may be a game that I attempt to study. As long as my opportunity for weekly plays remain, I expect this to remain a favorite for years to come. (Plays: 8)

3. Through the Ages The only game that was also on this list last year (a second game was moved down to the Medium Weight list). TtA remains one of my favorite games. It is a card-based Civ-building game. After several hundred plays, I am still hooked on it and can't see that changing anytime soon. Most of my plays are online where neither the fiddliness nor the long play time is an issue. Completely expect this to be on my list next year. (Plays: 4 F2F, 106 Online)

4. 1849 Probably placed higher than it should be since I've only played it once, but it was a brutal game and I can't wait to play it again. Definitely not for 18XX noobs, this game is nasty and hard. There's never enough money and the cost of taking loans is being set back for turns when you finally need to pay them back. I got a Print-n-Play version of this and am so happy that I did. I can't wait to get more plays of this. (Plays: 1)

5. 1860 With 3 plays (two 2-player games and a 3-player game), this is one of my favorite 18XX games. Although I wouldn't introduce a new player to 1860 (for a 2-player noob game, I'd choose 1889), for experienced 18XX players, this is the the one 2-player 18XX that I really like. Adding in a third player was probably even better. Although the market is not predatory, the game is tight and rewards efficient management of companies. (Plays: 3)

6. Mage Knight: The Boardgame The second card game on this list. Yes, there is a strong board game element to it; however, what makes the game heavy is the hand management aspect. It is the most immersive game on this list and one of the most immersive games I own. It's long play time prevents me from playing it more or from playing it as other than a solo game. However, as a solo game, it is amazing. While I don't know how many plays it will get (as I'm not playing solo often these days), I expect to continue to really enjoy it when I pull it out. (Plays: 13)

7. Roads & Boats This is the one game that is almost too brain-burny for me. It takes engine building and resource conversion to an absurd level while adding in both player cooperation and competition. Amanda loves it and gets it; for me, it's almost more than I can wrap my head around. My hope is that I will play it much more in 2012 and get a better handle on the game. More than any other game on this list, I expect this to move up in my ratings in 2013. (Plays: 3)

8. 1829: Mainline MG: TBG would have gotten a lot more solo plays except for 1829: Mainline. While at this point I feel like I've burned out on the solo game, it was great fun for a while and I will probably pull this out once or twice in 2013. I'm also curious how this plays with other players and will try to get it to the table at least once in 2013. (Plays: 10)

9. 1856 Another excellent 18XX that, alas, I've only played once. Hopefully I will get to play it more in 2013. (Plays: 1)

10. Indonesia While I did not enjoy this as much as the other Big 3 Splotter games, I thought it was an excellent "pick-up and deliver" game with a nice tech tree. In the two plays I've had, the mergers were not as overwhelming as I've read and it seemed that efficient management of companies while staying alert to hostile takeovers and effective valuation of company worth was not overly difficult. I am still a noob at this game and my opinion may change radically as I play it more. Also, unlike others, I did enjoy my 2-player game of this. (Plays: 2)
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Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:49 pm
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2012 Summary of Plays and Highlights

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Total Plays: 432 (excludes online games)
Different games played: 150
Games "Dimed": 10
Games "Nickeled": 20 (excludes dimed games)
Game played most in 2012: Terra Mystica (20 times)
Online plays (TtA: 105, Brass: 39, Agricola: ?, T&E: ?, Hawaii, ?)

Greatest Accomplishments:
I had never played a Splotter before 2012. In 2012, I logged 22 plays total of 6 different Splotter games (Antiquity, The Great Zimbabwe, Roads & Boats, Indonesia, Duck Dealer, and UR: 1830)
The only 18XX, I had played befoe 2012 was one play of Poseidon. In 2012, I logged 42 plays of 12 different 18XX games (1829 Mainline (all solo), 1830, Poseidon, Steam Over Holland, 1860, 1889, 1825 (Units 2 & 3), 1835, 1856, 1853, 1849, Ur: 1830)
I played 20 games of Terra Mystica in slightly over 2 months (2 months and 4 days)
I played 12 games (10 solo) of Mage Knight in 3.5 months.

Top 2 Medium-Heavy Games (4.0+ weight) of 2012: Antiquity and 1830
Top Medium Weight Game (3.22 - 3.99 weight) of 2012: Terra Mystica
Top Medium-Light Game (2.4 - 3.64 weight) of 2012: KeyFlower
Top Filler Game (1.11 - 2.59) of 2012: Love Letter
--more details on my top games in future blog entries--

There were no huge disappointments in 2012. Several games that I had higher hopes for (in no particular order) were: Ragami, Milestones, Rolling Freight, Express 01, Yomi, Dungeon Petz, Galaxy Trucker, Zombie in My Pocket, Eclipse, Samarkand: Routes to Riches, Ur: 1830, The Manhattan Project.

Pleasant surprises (in no paticular order) were: Piece o' Cake, Lords of Waterdeep, Pax Porfiriana, KeyFlower, Terra Mystica, Walnut Grove, Poseidon.
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Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:30 pm
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