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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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