Matthew Gray's Game Blog

Blogging about board games, statistics, and possibly some RPG stuff.

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  

Recommend
36 
 Thumb up
5.00
 tip
 Hide

Why I backed 29 crowdfunding games in 2021

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
As mentioned before, Kickstarter and crowd funding in general "has my number". I buy more games on Kickstarter than I would otherwise, but I enjoy the experience it gives, the insider view, the anticipation of delivery. In 2021, I may have gone a little overboard, but maybe not. As mentioned in the blog post linked above, for the last decade, I've backed an average of 13 games a year and 2021 continues the upward trend with a total of 29 projects backed and 4 of those 29 delivered in the same year. I also backed half a dozen non-board game projects (RPGs mostly but not exclusively) which I won't cover here. There were several straight-up expansions or expansions/new-base-games but only a few of each.

The four that have delivered already are Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition, Valeria: Card Kingdoms – Darksworn, Marvel United: X-Men and Unsurmountable. Ares Expedition manages to just barely make a niche for itself between it's progenitors of Race and TM, but I'm happy with it. I already talked a bit about Valeria but am also happy with it and half-self-congratulating for exerting the self control of not going all in. Marvel United X-Men only delivered the base box and the giant overwhelming army of mutants doesn't come til next year, but the new characters are good, with the possible concern they are harder in a random way rather than in a more challenging way. Finally, Unsurmountable is entertaining so far, but the rulebook is disappointing for such a simple game. The basecamp is not part of the mountain.

In terms of expansions I backed 6. I backed Core Worlds: Nemesis because of a nostalgia for Core Worlds and hope that it works well solo. Darksworn I mentioned above, but also got the base game in the process. Canvas: Reflections is coming and I don't remember much about why I backed it, but I enjoy the base game which is interesting while being very approachable. X-Men United is also arguably an expansion, but also a new base game. I've definitely gone a little overboard with the Aeon's End games, backing Aeon's End: Legacy of Gravehold (again, expansion/base game) despite having only played a fraction of the existing pieces I have, but I like it enough I'm hopeful to find time to play a lot more of it. Finally in expansions, I backed Too Many Bones: Unbreakable, which may have been similarly overzealous, but I avoided going all-in and am looking forward to playing more, if I can convince the right people.

Several of the games I backed were sequels or associated follow-ons from publishers or designers I'd backed previously. While I'm not yet auto-backing ButtonShy games, as mentioned before, they had a couple of hits for me so I backed Unsurmountable. In contrast, I haven't loved any of the Tiny Epic games, but the games have been well produced and Tiny Epic Dungeons got me. I absolutely love It's A Wonderful World and really like most of Tim Fowers' games, so I backed and am optimistic about both It's a Wonderful Kingdom and Paperback Adventures. Finally, there's a couple games where the publisher's track record convinced me. While cooperative deduction might have gotten me to back anyway, I've been very happy with North Star Games in general, so I backed Paint the Roses with minimal research on the strength of publisher and those two game attributes. Similarly, Wise Wizard has had a bunch of games I like, and deck building robots sounded fun, so I backed Robot Quest Arena.

Another handful were not based on my own experience but positive reviews of associated or predecessor projects. I fell for the buzz on the latest The Isle of Cats expansion (+base game), but expect it will be well liked by some folks I game with regularly. I also backed the Phantom Chess board, and hope they deliver on what they promise. The track record of hardware Kickstarters has been more mixed than games. I backed a few of the Graphic Novel Adventures which I guess aren't really board games, but I love the idea and the reviews of their previous work was quite positive. Valor & Villainy: Lludwik's Labyrinth had good enough reviews for predecessors and provides a full-coop mode so I'm hopeful that delivers what I'm looking for. Finally, Drop Drive sounds like a good iteration on Dungeon Drop, but it's sci-fi, so it has to be better.

Then there's a big pile of things I backed just because they sounded cool. They're not expansions. They're not from series I know and like. They're not bumped up by strong predecessors, they just seemed appealing. A bunch are the "medium" games in terms of scope: Masters of Mutanite, Velocity: Vanguard, Keep the Heroes Out!, Mindbug and EOS: Island of Angels. Each had some "hook" that got me. The rampaging chaos of Masters of Mutanite, the physics based mechanics of Velocity Vanguard, the trope-inversion of Keep the Heroes Out, the clever mechanics of Mindbug and the exploration plus engine building of Eos. I hope they successfully realize the promise of those hooks.

The remaining 6 projects I backed are all varying degrees of "big"/"epic" cooperative games, since I am increasingly all about coops. And that's in addition to the 9 coops listed earlier in this post.

All of these games got backed based on interesting art, appealing sounding mechanics and some element of the ambition of the projects. Each had their own hooks and appeal too. Soul Raiders and Mythwind both got backed because it felt like they were trying to do something new and different. We'll see, but I'm excited and hope they succeed. Dungeons of Infinity's aspiration toward randomized dungeons is irrationally appealing. Arydia: The Paths We Dare Tread and Agemonia both are games I'm hoping are compelling to my wife or someone else I can find regular campaign time with, since that's a lot of their appeal. Finally, ISS Vanguard ticks approximately 100% of my checkboxes: Sci-Fi, Coop, Drafting, Exploration, ambitious scope and multi-modal gameplay. I really hope it lands all those things, but it's definitely among the ones I'm most excited about but also a little worried I'm setting my hopes too high.

Looking back, I definitely went a little overboard this year, but there's no individual game I question why I backed it and I really like the fact that crowdfunding has made a market for both small and ambitious designers to sell and create buzz. I've even enjoyed learning more about the supply chain disruptions and the like. All but two of these were Kickstarter (the other two being Gamefound) and I really hope they don't go down some irresponsible blockchain fevered path as a company. I wish the Gamefound experience was better but I expect I'll back some more there both in general and if Kickstarter goes south.

I'm also glad the community and publishers have been positive and open about some of the changing cost structures. The kind of visibility into the people, the businesses and the operation cost details that crowdfunding offers a really appealing insight into an industry that isn't so large that every decision I make about spending in it is ruthlessly economic.

In any case, I'm really excited for a large fraction of these to deliver this year, hopefully along with some/many of the (only) 15 yet-undelivered ones from 2020 and before.
Twitter Facebook
12 Comments
Mon Jan 3, 2022 6:15 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
32 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide

My 2021 Game of the Year and retrospective

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
This year was the first year in over a decade that I've played an average of more than one game per day. I played 435 games in 2021. This is slightly misleading because I count each hand of The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine as a game (I previously discussed my counting rules in another post), but even if I count estimated time played (roughly 4.8h/week in 2021 vs 3.7h/w over the preceding decade), it's likely to be the most gaming in a decade. The pandemic has meant more time at home but vaccination has meant more small game gatherings than in 2020.

There's several viable candidates for my personal "Game of the Year": The Crew, as mentioned, has been huge with 59 hands played between the original and Deep Sea. Marvel United has been next in terms of raw plays. We also started and completed both Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 this year and I enjoyed them far more than I expected. Gloomhaven also got a lot of continued play this year. You might also notice another pattern here. All of my top 10 games by plays this year are cooperative (or solo) games, a phenomenon I wrote about in a previous post.

Anyone who's read my other posts though can probably predict, my 2021 game of the year is Marvel United. It's fast, weirdly compelling, and keeps getting played. It got over 30 plays this year and it's still something I'm itching to play and I don't feel like I've even explored the metagame as much as I'd like.

In 2021, I played with 73 different people, up from the isolation of 2020 with only 46 people (despite a February 2020 con). But, it's still way down from the 2019 or 2017 numbers of 123 and 103 but up from 2018 which dipped down to 65. End of March 2020 to end of March 2021, I only played games with 25 other people, and almost all of those were online games.

I played 152 different games, also up from last year, but down from pre-pandemic times, and a lot more solo games, though it continues to not really be what I'm going for but I'm less down on them than I used to be. Food Chain Island and Under Falling Skies have been standouts.

I played most of the games at home, but only 60%, with the balance happening at two actual gaming events during the summer/fall, and some small gaming with a group of vaccinated friends. This is roughly in line with pre-pandemic numbers but way down from the 70% that 2020 saw, and further down from the 80% for the March-March first year of the pandemic.

I played 60 new-to-me games, way up vs 2020's depressed count of 29, but on the low side compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

My collection grew by 27 games, 16 of them that I backed on Kickstarter, a striking difference from last year's 5 kickstarters out of 21 acquisitions, when crowd funding deliveries sort of stuttered. Much more similar to 2019's 14 Kickstarters out of 30 new acquisitions. and 2018's 16 Kickstarters out of 38 new acquisitions.

2021 continued the every-year streak for a number of games:

6 nimmt! got played for the 22nd year in a row, and then today so, actually 23 years in a row.

Race for the Galaxy got played for the 15th year in a row in 2021, and will certainly continue on the streak list. Dominion hit 14 years in a row, and Dixit with 12, just barely, with a play on New Year's Eve Eve. Splendor has an 8 year streak Codenames has a 7 year streak, both likely to continue in 2022.

Terraforming Mars hit 5 years and I hope it continues, but it's out of favor in my most frequent gaming circles, so we'll see. Kingdomino and Gloomhaven and Legends of Andor also hit 5 and are likely to persevere.

The Shipwreck Arcana hit 4 and and so did KeyForge: Call of the Archons. The former will almost certainly continue the streak, the latter, maybe.

In terms of predictions of which new-ish or new-to me games from this year will rise further in 2022, I'm hoping to get more time for Middara: Unintentional Malum – Act 1 which felt like it was just starting to get interesting. I'm looking forward to playing through The Initiative, which I'm confident will happen, and trying a bit more Too Many Bones but need to figure out with who. Similarly, I'm really looking forward to playing more Unsettled, but have to determine if it works with my regular gaming group or need to find another person or two to hopefully binge with, since I like it a lot.
Twitter Facebook
6 Comments
Sun Jan 2, 2022 12:37 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
16 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide

The 39 games I played between Thanksgiving and Christmas

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
Like last time, some short games juiced the numbers here: Pocket Paragons and The Crew. I played a bunch of stuff that I've written about before also so I don't have much to add, but continue to enjoy: 5 hands of The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, 3 games of Marvel United, 2 games of Zombie Kidz Evolution and a play of Ugly Gryphon Inn.

I played 6 games of Pocket Paragons, which I'd backed on Kickstarter and arrived. It's a cute relatively pure simultaneous action selection game, which I tend to like. The characters seem to have some interesting variety, but given how quick it is, it's really hard to evaluate after only 6 plays. At least a B- and probably no more than a B+, but still too be determined...

I have played and enjoyed Valeria: Card Kingdoms, but it had never made it above the purchase threshold. I have Machi Koro & Space Base, and like the similar core mechanics a lot but didn't feel the need for yet another, until the coop expansion to Valeria was announced, which I backed on Kickstarter, and arrived this month. We've only played the opening "book"/scenario and it's good, though we won it somewhat more abruptly than we expected. The new mechanics feel like compelling/interesting additions rather than just some trivial tack-on of the multi-player game. And, it retains the overall feel of the competitive game. Unlike my usual lack of self-control in this regard, I didn't back it with all the expansions included, and I probably won't get them, but it's amazing how much looking at the already diverse and variable base game box triggers the reaction 'ooh, but I could have even more variety, maybe I should have gone all in...' In any case, hard to evaluate after only one play but at least an B- and maybe as high as an A-.

I played 3 games of The Duke which I hadn't played in a while and it introduces enough variety to an otherwise (intentionally) chess-like experience that I find it really enjoyable. A solid A-.

Several old favorites got played including Igel Ärgern which I still think is grossly underrated, and is a solid A for me, and while it's never been super heavily played, I've played it every year since 2000 except 2020. Oops. Other classics played include Geschenkt and Blokus. Both are solid B+'s. I also played Rat-a-Tat Cat with my niece which seems cute for a kids game.

Less "old" but recent-but-not-new games of Kingdomino and Wingspan were fun and I realized I like Wingspan 2-player a lot more than I thought I would partially because it's somewhat faster.

I played a bunch of new-to-me games on BoardGameArena: Draftosaurus is cute and fun but sort of generic. B- or B. Can't Stop Express is a roll-and-write twist on Can't Stop, but with some cute twists, a solid B and could be higher if I weren't a little saturated on roll-and-writes.. Lucky Numbers is another perfectly passable tile laying/drafting game, but I think I'd rather play Die Pyramiden des Jaguar, but it's fast so B- or B. Finally, played 7 Wonders: Architects which was quite good though the other players thought it got tedious with random draws, but I think we were systematically undervaluing the blue tiles. They are more boring (just VP) but I think upon repeated play they'd "clog up" the decks less. Overall hard to be sure based on a just a couple of plays, but at least a B and maybe as high as A-.

At the final in-person gaming group of the year, we played Dual Gauge, Reapers and Brain Freeze. All were good, none amazing. I'm not a huge fan of traditional train games, but Dual Gauge felt less brutal than some past experiences and Reapers is a cute trick taking game, and the drafting is a great twist but maybe not enough. Brain Freeze is a weird sort of deduction game but I see the appeal.

The final pre-holiday game was Gloomhaven which hadn't made it to the table in a couple of months. Almost every time I stop playing for a while and come back to it, I have the thought "Is this really still good?" and every time the answer is yes. So much fun, and I retired my second character!
Twitter Facebook
3 Comments
Wed Dec 29, 2021 11:41 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
28 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide

Games I didn't play for 10 years (and then played again)

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
I've got a lot of games so sometimes games go a while without getting played. Some may never get played again, but some do. This is a list of games I played once or more, than not for 10 or more years, and then played again.

The longest stretch with plays on both sites goes to Kahuna and Babel. Back around 2000, I was more or less buying every new game in the Kosmos 2-player series, and enjoyed them. But, neither of these were favorites and they sat on the shelf for 20 years before I recently pulled them out with my son. Kahuna has exactly the same problems I remember from 20 years ago. Babel I less remember why I stopped playing it. Hera and Zeus only went 16 years between plays with the otherwise same pattern.

Star Wars: Episode 1 – Clash of the Lightsabers was fine, maybe even good, especially for the typical co-branded game, but it just hasn't had any stickiness, and this led to an 18 year gap.

I prefer other word games, but I did play Scrabble in 2004 and again just shy of 16 years later in 2020.

The most recent to get a play after a 10+ year gap is Antike which I should have brought out earlier with my son who enjoys Risk.

Some other notable 10+ year gaps: Top Speed, Fist of Dragonstones, Favoriten, Primordial Soup, Vino, Verräter, and Betrayal at House on the Hill. None are exactly surprising, but all of these and most of the list feel like they don't deserve a 10 year break. Clearly I need to play more games.

There's a lot of other games that got big gaps, but that lead me to think less about the big gaps with at the most plays on either side. So, as I'm prone to do, I have a "gap score" which is G*sqrt(B*A) where B="plays before a gap", G="length of gap in days" and A="plays after a gap". By this metric, the highest score is Loopin' Louie which got a ton of play before we had kids and when the kids where little and then sort of got forgotten for almost a decade, or at least not played by me during that time. Then, it's had a resurgence and will likely continue to get played. Good & Bad Ghosts has been really bursty and had a big 8 year gap but had an earlier 5 year gap as well. Electronic Catchphrase has been a (slowly fading) long time favorite, my overall #2 by sheer number of plays, but took a bit of a break in 2011 and 2012 with a huge number of plays on both sides of that 2+ year gap.

Pente is a favorite my wife and I play (#16 for all time plays) and perhaps unsurprisingly took a 5 year break while our children were very small.

Of the heavily played games, Dominion took a break of over a year in 2016 and 2017 after 8 years of heavy play, and has since resumed at a more moderate level. Race for the Galaxy has it's highest scoring break at over 9 months, but has been very steadily played. 6 nimmt!, which is the only game I've played every calendar year since 2000 took a 1.5 year break between January 2012 and July of 2013.

Of the games on the "haven't played in 20 years" list, a bunch are ones I want to play again, but unsurprisingly some are ones where I have little or no recollection of. Do I want to play Gods, King of the Elves or Ivanhoe again?
Twitter Facebook
4 Comments
Fri Dec 24, 2021 5:31 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
39 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide

Rise of the Coop

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
Over a quarter of my recent (last 1000 games, about 3 years) game plays are cooperative games. In the last year plus, amplified by the pandemic, it's been over 40%. That feels like a remarkable shift.

It's been a long trend. The first year to break 10% of my plays being coops was 2013, then it went back down and in 2017 it passed 10% again and has increased every years since.

I first got into board gaming in the late 90s with games like RoboRally and Settlers. When Knizia's The Lord of the Rings came out in 2000 it was revolutionary. Cooperative games were essentially not a thing. Yes, there was Sherlock Holmes and a few others and a smattering of kids' games, but even what there was felt unlike the multiplayer games at the time. Lord of the Rings was amazingly compelling, it felt like a contemporary multi-player board game, and while it's aged somewhat, I think it is quite good and somewhat underrated.

For quite a few years, it remained nearly unique. In 2005, Shadows over Camelot came out, which was semi-coop or uncertain-coop and was good, but nowhere near as compelling for me as LOTR was, and wasn't really coop because often there was a traitor. Also along the way were a few other more rpg-like coop games, including Arkham Horror which I never played.

Then, in 2008 a wave of hit coops arrived. Most notably (but not my actual favorite) was Pandemic, which was less complex than LOTR and widely loved. Ghost Stories was also a hit, but had less longevity and I haven't played it in years, which I should remedy. Finally, there was my favorite of the 2008, Space Alert, particularly because it solved the core cooperative game problem in a novel way.

Cooperative games are great, but they have one big problem compared to competitive games which is the "quarterbacking problem". One player, often the most experienced or most dominant personality would end up driving all or most of the play. LOTR tried to solve this in a couple ways. First, by saying you couldn't say what cards were in your hand, which only sort of works. In the end it could turn into the quarterbacking-player saying "If you have this kind of card, you should play it". Second, it had (late-game) player elimination. And, while the eliminated player could still be part of the shared victory, no one wants to be eliminated, so created some interesting (and not always good) table dynamics where one person couldn't just direct the other players in a way they were necessarily happy with.

Pandemic didn't really solve this at all, and was definitely vulnerable to the quarterbacking problem a great deal. Space Alert solved it by making the game realtime and increasing the cognitive load of the game such that it was less practical for one player to completely run the game. Actually having a "captain" who was trying to coordinate was a huge benefit, but necessarily given the realtime nature of the game, they had to delegate which kept everyone "in the game" in a way that other games sometimes let players drift out of. Now, some people enjoy the experience of "being quarterbacked" and some groups are good about avoiding any player becoming too dominant, so with a compatible group, the problem is milder or absent entirely. But, as someone very prone to quarterbacking, and with many quarterbacking friends, I really loved Space Alert for solving the problem in a way that wasn't simply us restraining ourselves. Seeing other people more effectively "captain" Space Alert than I did was also a compelling experience.

Then, in 2010, Hanabi came out, and it solved the quarterbacking problem in yet another novel way. Instead of saying "you can't reveal your hand", it just went all in and said "you can't communicate about the game choices", which removes the problem altogether, during the game. There's the amusing side effect, that sometimes it just moves the quarterbacking to before the game with people wanting to establish strict conventions and play rules in advance. This doesn't eliminate all choice during actual game play, and it moves the dominant player problem out into the meta-game.

At this point, the floodgates on coop games were wide open and new and good ones were coming out every year, including one of my all time favorites, Sentinels of the Multiverse. Sentinels solved the quarterbacking problem with sheer volume of cognitive load. Keeping track of what cards you have (with them in front of you), the state of the villain and the tactics and strategy is complex, but quite manageable. Trying to keep track of the state of other multiple heroes simultaneously, even if their hands of cards were laid out in the open, wasn't impossible, but it was often too much to keep track of to be fun. This strategy of too-complex-to-micromanage worked well, and I think improved the way many people approached coop games.

In a competitive game, when one player suggests another player's actions, it's looked at for what it is: an opponent (perhaps earnestly) offering advice. Choosing to follow it or not follow that suggestion feels like exactly the nature of game play: a choice. In a cooperative game, a teammate suggesting a particular play lacks the competitive quality of "a players choices are their own", as it affects everyone's collective outcome. But with the information overload, it reintroduces the asymmetry: each player understands their own situation better than the other players are likely to, leaving the choice more obviously with them.

Diverse themes and mechanics had arrived in coops, and there were lots of really great ones: Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Legends of Andor, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and many others. The "GM-less" RPG-like game started arriving as a category too with Mice and Mystics, Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, and Mage Knight Board Game (with a coop mode).

I feel like the big patterns had somewhat emerged at this point. There were the RPG-like ones. There were the Sentinels-like where the players fight-villain-with-minions, including things like Aeon's End and Marvel Champions: The Card Game. There were the fight-the-deluge type in Space Alert, Pandemic, Flash Point and many others. Some others didn't fit as neatly, maybe they were solve-the-puzzle kind of games like Andor or even Hanabi, but it doesn't feel right to lump those together.

Then, along came Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. Because I didn't love Pandemic, I was hesitant to "commit" to 12-24 games of this, so didn't try it until the actual Covid-19 pandemic hit. It was worth it. But, it also opened up the gates of other legacy and campaign coop games like Gloomhaven, Aeon's End: Legacy and Mechs vs. Minions. The continuity across games works nicely in concert with the cooperative nature, in that legacy errors and wins are borne by the group, not just one individual, and the campaign complexity progression works well with repeat plays. (I wrote up a another post about legacy/campaign vocabulary and won't digress further here).

In hindsight, I'm a little surprised it took so long for coop party games to become a thing, but I'm not aware of any great ones before Just One and The Mind (arguable) and Mysterium (arguable).

Now, over 20 years later, there's a lot of good games that intersect coop gameplay with other popular mechanics like Trick taking (The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine) and Dexterity (Menara and For Science!) that had previously been not done.

There's still some niches that don't have many coops, that feel like they could. For example, heavier euro strategy (excepting RPG-ish euro strategy) has very few, though Spirit Island is a shining star in that otherwise relatively empty space (also Robinson Crusoe, but it's fairly RPG-ish). Heavy Euros lend themselves seemingly especially well because the complexity can minimize quarterbacking. Other mechanics like auctions seem completely absent in coops for perhaps inherent structural reasons, though it seems like there's something that could be done there. (Note: this paragraph added after commenters correctly pointed out my glaring omission)

And, all this is tightly tied into the rise of solo games, which I'll admit I don't generally enjoy but the pandemic has increased their appeal and while I've enjoyed some older ones like Friday, I've found Under Falling Skies and Food Chain Island to be entertaining distractions.

Overall, I really love the trend toward cooperative games and am impressed at how much they still feel like the competitive strategy games I love and less strictly like a puzzle (which I enjoy ok, but have less general appetite for).

Have others, especially who started in competitive games seen the same shifts? Are there meaningful game genres that haven't yet gotten the coop treatment (like party games until recently)? What big influential coop games did I forget to mention?
Twitter Facebook
26 Comments
Fri Dec 17, 2021 4:22 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
30 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

My game of the year for the past 21 years, by month metric

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
As I wrote before, I like the month metric as a robust game appeal measure. Looking at it year by year, it works well, and has the additional nice quality of how big of a hit was the game both in that year and after. An M12 (months played out of 12) score of 5 is not a huge hit. M12 of 9 is huge. Of all the "games of the year" by this metric, none have an overall month metric of less than 13 except for a few from recent years which haven't yet had the chance to get sustained play.

Here M12 is months played in the year in question, M36 is months played out of the last 36 (current), and MM is all time months played.

2000: Lost Cities, M12(2000)=5, M36=2, MM=26. Not the biggest of bangs, but very durable.
2001: Perudo, M12(2001)=9, M36=3, MM=43. A big hit, and continues to see regular play.
2002: Electronic Catchphrase, M12(2002)=9, M36=1, MM=53. This was a regular game night ender and got a ton of play. It's faded a lot, and given it's appeal as a 6+ player game, hasn't gotten much play lately. TransAmerica and ForSale got M12=7 which is respectable. I played a lot of games in 2002.
2003: Electronic Catchphrase, M12(2003)=10, M36=1, MM=53. It was a very beepy couple of years.
2004: Electronic Catchphrase, M12(2004)=8, M36=1, MM=53. Make that 3 years. The M12 is down to 8 and San Juan gets an M12=6.
2005: Crokinole, M12(2005)=8, M36=4, MM=43. Another extremely durable hit with a lot of long term play.
2006: To Court the King, M12(2006)=5, M36=0, MM=15. I had very young children and played a lot fewer games, but this is the first game-of-the-year that didn't really become the sustained hit of prior years. Adding in Favor of the Pharaoh only improves a bit. I still like it a lot, but it's not on par with the other years, generally.
2007: Go Away Monster!, M12(2007)=6, M36=0, MM=13. Definitely worthy but only if your children are all under 4.
2008: Race for the Galaxy, M12(2008)=12, M36=8, MM=54. The greatest game ever. The only M12=12 on the list. Still heavily played.
2009: Dominion, M12(2009)=11, M36=7, MM=56. What a time for games. Race meanwhile also got an M12=10 that year, meaning it would have otherwise easily held the slot two years
2010: Dominion, M12(2010)=10, M36=7, MM=56. Nothing else close.
2011: Dominion, M12(2010)=10, M36=7, MM=56. A sustained reign, with no close runners up. The expansions kept delivering.
2012: Sentinels of the Multiverse, M12(2012)=10, M36=0, MM=27. No plays in the last 3 years is a tragedy. The first real coop on the list.
2013: Sentinels of the Multiverse, M12(2013)=7, M36=0, MM=27. Completely worthy of a multi-year run.
2014: Star Realms, M12(2014)=4, M36=4, MM=15. And then a bit of a crash. Star Realms is great, but it's not SotM, Dominion or Race by any stretch. And M12=4 demonstrates that.
2015: Roll for the Galaxy, M12(2015)=7, M36=1, MM=12. I wish more "sequels" were like this: retaining the core flavor and many key mechanics but feeling substantially different instead of like a set of minor tweaks.
2016: Codenames, M12(2016)=5, M36=10, MM=22. A surprisingly low start for another clear "huge hit".
2017: Mechs vs. Minions, M12(2017)=8, M36=4, MM=16. A second coop, a portent of trends to come.
2018: The Shipwreck Arcana, M12(2018)=4, M36=5, MM=9. Another coop, not the biggest hit, but seems durable so far.
2019: Aeon's End, M12(2019)=6, M36=MM=11. Coop, deckbuilding, boss-fighting. It's like a cross between Sentinels and Dominion, it shouldn't be surprising to land here. I'm worry it doesn't have the stamina with the folks I game with though.
2020: Gloomhaven, M12(2020)=6, M36=12, MM=16. This got a steady pace of play before 2020, but never enough to launch it to #1 by the metric, but the pandemic gave it the opportunity.

The trend towards co-ops is dramatic, and 2021 will not buck that trend. The top 5 games by month metric in 2021 are all co-ops, and my personal game of the year both by this measure and by more subjective selection too will be. (More on that in another post soon)

I have another metric of gameplay volume I like for "Game of the Year" type calculations as well, which involves raw number of plays and what fraction of those plays are "new". By that measure, many of the winners would be the same, with some substantial exceptions, but that approach rewards games that were very popular for a brief window in a year, while the month metric requires a more sustained interest, at least relative to other games. Maybe I'll try to post a list of all games that have ever been "the hottest" by that metric too.
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Sun Dec 5, 2021 5:49 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
42 
 Thumb up
0.27
 tip
 Hide

First con in 18 months, played 30 different games

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
I've played 41 games in the last 2 weeks, 30 different ones, having attended LobsterTrap, a medium-sized private con last weekend (vax required). Some of these were not played at the con, but most were.

New (2020+2021): The Initiative, Unsettled, TEN, Cascadia, Abandon All Artichokes, Red Rising, Star Scrappers: Orbital, Cóatl, Dune: Imperium, Subastral, Mystic Paths, New York Zoo, Master Word, Marvel United
New-ish(2016+): SCOUT, Pax Renaissance, Illusion, Cubitos,Fantasy Realms, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0, Ecos: First Continent, Too Many Bones, New Frontiers, Tiny Towns
Not new (2011+): Too Many Cinderellas, La Boca
Old (pre 2011): Space Beans, Perudo, For Sale, Knightmare Chess

Of the new-to-me stuff, none fell into the absolutely must-buy category, but several are under serious consideration ranging from "probably" to "probably not, in roughly this order:

Maybe get, from most likely to least likely
Subastral
Master Word
Mystic Paths
Fantasy Realms
Scout
Cubitos
Abandon All Artichokes
Ten
Too Many Cinderellas

Won't get, but best to worst
Illusion
Dune: Imperium
Cascadia
NY Zoo
Coatl
Starscrappers Orbitals
Red Rising
Pax Reinnaisance

On to specific comments, going vaguely from the most-liked to the least:

I played Unsettled twice more and really like it. Tom described it as a cooperative "Exploration Catastrophe Puzzle", which is perfect. It captures it perfectly and what I really like about it. You explore around, collecting special powers (often with consequences) and use those and your baseline abilities to solve a puzzle (of a sort) that wouldn't be solveable at all without those special abilities, but they combine in interesting ways to make it potentially solvable. We lost both times (once Wenora A and once Wenora B), the first time by not prioritizing the puzzle enough, and the second time, I think, by not prioritizing collecting special abilities enough. Both were somewhat close and very fun. Wenora-A is free of gameplay-affecting spoilers. I wouldn't play the sceanio substantially different having played it before. Wenora-B definitely has gameplay spoilers and there's specific decisions that would be made differently. I'm not sure that's a huge problem, especially given 6 planets and 3 scenarios each, but distinct. Overall, I think this is an A-, maybe going up to A as I explore more planets, maybe going down to B+ if the chaos gets too repetitive..

I still love Marvel United, and with four players it's a bit harder, but still compelling fun. Love it. A+ for reasons I still can't fully explain.

Not at the con, I pulled out some old great fillers with family and friends: Bluff, For Sale and Space Beans, still an A+, A+ and A- among them. Space Beans has to be played fast though. Playing slow breaks the game, as it's possible to keep track of information which makes the game much more boring, in my opinion.

We finally finished Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 and really enjoyed it. I think I liked it better than Season 1, but they're both really good. A solid A-.

At LT, I played several older but solid games: La Boca which remains excellent (A-), Tiny Towns which I like a lot but ends up being a little more prone to analysis paralysis than I wish it were, but is still very good (B+), New Frontiers which is quite good but not enough different from Race (and no better) to really feel like it does much than add a little variety (B+).

I played two games of Subsatral and was surprised and delighted. It's got a clever cardplay and hand management mechanism and a clever scoring mechanism. Lots of clever in a small sort-of-generic-looking card game. We played with one wrong rule, but it was great despite that, or maybe just tenser (we didn't do extra card draws). And, the art is beautiful. At least a B+, maybe A-, depends on how much longevity the cleverness has.

The two big-hit word-cluing games of the event were Mystic Paths and Master Word. Each are their own cute twists on the word-cluing genre that's been around forever, but recently exploded due to Codenames. They are both cooperative. Mystic Paths heavily constrains the clues and the answers but makes it interesting by doing "path" clues where a sequence of clues leads to a sequence of words. This ones yields a lot of laugh moments which is nice in a party game. Master Word is a novel twist that crosses Mastermind with word-cluing very effectively. Thinky, but fun. Both B+, with the feeling they might be A-, but not sure.

We played The Initiative again, but I'm hoping it gets a little more challenging soon. So far it's outstaying it's welcome on the simple side, but looks like it should change next game. B+, but still tbd.

Felix predicted I would like Fantasy Realms, and heard Red Rising was a more complex and more interesting version of it. We played both. Red Rising is certainly more complex, but I'm unconvinced it's more interesting. Maybe if I knew the story. As predicted, I like Fantasy Realms, but it feels like it might be a bit too random, even for a 10 minute game, where I usually tolerate random. Maybe with more players it's even better? I don't know. Fantasy Realms is a B+ or more and I want it to be even better, but Red Rising is not that improvement, at only a B.

I played Scout again, and enjoy it and I'm still really bad at it. A cute twist on the cards-stay-in-order-in-your-hand mechanic. B+ or higher given it's novelty, but given I show no sign of improvement, it may not be for me in the longer run.

Out of order for how much I like them, but too striking of a comparison: Too Many Bones and Pax Rennaisance. Both are too many rules and I like a lot of games that are too many rules. Both fall into the trap of having to check the rulebook every 45 seconds. Both are frustrating in that way. I own TMB and I don't own PaxRen, so that introduces a further bias. But, I liked[/b] the TMB experience, with a lot of frustration but hope with understanding the rules better (even though it's doomed to constant rule checking) it might go smoother. I did [i]not like the PaxRen experience, and expect to never repeat it. But, it's probably worth another post to deconstruct why such a different reaction to otherwise somewhat similar experiences. Certainly I like the monster/adventure theme of TMB better, but I don't mind the PaxRen theme. Some part of it is I'm far more tolerant of constant rules reference in a cooperative game vs a competitive game. An incomplete understanding of the rules doesn't feel "unfair" in a coop, just suboptimal. In a competitive game, it's annoying. Getting a rules wrong feels the same differential. But, what I think really does it is the predictability of the massive amounts of rules minutiae. Rarely in TMB was I surprised by a rule; I didn't know what the rule was, and had to look it up, but it sort of fit with the theme and the other mechanics. I almost never thought "wow, if I'd known that I would have done other things differently", while the latter reaction was the constant and unpleasant experience with PaxRen. The coop vs competitive nature amplifies this. I actually want to like both games, but I'm not going to try PaxRen again, and I will try TMB again, partially because I feel like they likely max out differently. Pax Ren I give a C, but maybe could go as high as B+ if the rules were clearer. TMB I give a B-, expecting it maybe to drift down to C+ or as high as A- on more plays, and I think solo it's already at least a B+.

I also got to play Ecos again, which I really like. It's very much a combo-building game and I like the quality of creating a landscape/environment which is advantageous to you. I wish the cards had names to evoke the theme even more. But, I also get the sense most people I play with don't enjoy this as much as I do, which detracts from my own feeling about the game. I do like the bingo-draw mechanic and some of the indirect push-your-luck on top of the clever combos. Overall a B+, but dragged down a bit by the sense it's more tepid for most people.

I finally got a chance to play Cubitos which seemed like it might be up my alley. It is, but I agree with Felix that it has some of the same vibe as Knizia's El Dorado, which is better. That said, Cubitos is cute and fun, but I completely ran away with the game (not by getting disproportionately many white dice, which we were warned about) which made it a little less fun, but I am pretty sure I'll want to try this again before I decide whether to buy it, and it's a probably no. Overall, a B or B+.

Another "finally got a chance to play" game was Abandon All Artichokes which I really wanted to play. I like deck builders a lot, and I love artichokes, so was eager to play despite this game's artichoke negativity. It's good, and maybe a good filler, but maybe not great. I want to like it more; I feel like there's a place for light filler multi-player deck builders. I should give this another try and maybe will pick it up at some point. B, but maybe would go up to B+ on repeat play.

I hadn't heard anything about TEN, but it's a nice push-your-luck economic filler. Definitely fun, not sure it's anything super special. But, it does strike me that this is the kind of game that in the absence of a ton of other games I have might earn greater esteem. I don't know. Certainly some decent variety and has it's own cleverness, but just a B.

The BGG ratings of Too Many Cinderellas are lower than it feels like it deserves, but it meant I came in with low expectations. In the end, it's not amazing, but a cute little surprise in the not-actually-deduction category (like Tobago, Old Town or Cryptid) and plays really fast. Not bad for a Love Letter sized filler. B or maybe B+ but hard to tell how much of that was lowered expectations.

We played a couple games of Illusion and the other players loved it while I only liked it. It's basically Timeline, but with colors of abstract art, rather than dates of events/inventions. The abstract art is completely unappealing, but fine. The core game is a cute clever filler. With the right group, this is awesome. I wonder if actual art would make me like it more or less. B-, but easily B+ or more with the right group.

I'm probably being too harsh on Dune: Imperium by putting it too far down in this list, but if I mentally separate it from the theme, it's easier to admit I found it good, but definitely not great. I'm not a huge Dune fan, but the theme is definitely a positive. The area-majority-ish aspect of the fights is definitely not my thing, and the worker placement aspect I've previously established is sort of "meh" for me. The cards with the dual purpose of worker-placement and non-worker-placement effects is a very nice clever bit, but not enough to carry the game. B, but easily higher if "worker placement" or "area influence" are more positive features for you or if you're a big Dune fan.

I'm sort of also being too harsh on Cascadia, especially since I like ecology games, but this feels just like too much of "more of the same". Put some tiles with adjacency/configuration scoring with animal tokens on them. I'd rather play Ecos. But, in its category, it's quite good, but I don't know whether I prefer this or Ecosystem. The latter is simpler which is both positive and negative. Overall, Cascadia gets a B, but maybe I'm being too harsh.

New York Zoo is adorable and fun but again, sort of just more of the same. I have enough zoo games I like more and not enough really novel going on here. Heck, I have other zoo polyomino games I like a lot more (eg, Barenpark). Overall a B or maybe a B- because I'm giving it some credit for being cute.

I played Coatl with 4 and it got too thinky/analysis-paralysis at the end, but is cute components and I like the mechanics. I heard with 2 it's a lot faster. So, with 4 it's a B or B-, but maybe better with fewer.

Mark pulled out Starscrappers: Orbitals, and as we started going through it, I had the immediate reaction "Why didn't I back this?" It's Fryxelius, it's sci-fi, it's interesting special powers. Sounds amazing! I had fun, but as we played it, I was reminded why I didn't back it. It's worker-placement (meh), area influence (negative) and take-that (very negative). I'm glad to have played it once, and I made the right call not to back it. Despite all those attributes it was decent, so if those don't trigger negativity in you, worth looking at. Overall B-, but glad to have played.

Not at the con, I played Knightmare Chess for the first time in forever, against my son who is substantially better than me at regular Chess. He's better at Knightmare Chess too, but at least I got to have a hybrid Rook-Knight piece. Overall B.

What was really A+ though was getting to play games at a con and seeing many old friends who I hadn't seen in two years and a slight feeling of normalcy.
Twitter Facebook
11 Comments
Sun Nov 21, 2021 6:18 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
19 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide

30 games since last post which is less (not fewer) than it sounds

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
Since my last post, I've played 30 games, but 21 of them were The Crew: Mission Deep Sea, so it's less total time gaming than 30 games might usually be. Normally, I wouldn't post a second of these game-logs so quickly after the prior one, but I've got a big batch of gameplay coming and had enough to post about so here it is. This next weekend I'm going to Lobster Trap, the first gaming "con" I've been to since before the pandemic. It's vaccine-required and limited attendance, and also glad I have my booster, but I'm really looking forward to it. So, back to the 30 games I've played in the past couple weeks. Well, counting 21 plays of The Crew....

New stuff: Unsettled (newest and shiniest), The Initiative, The Crew: Mission Deep Sea, Too Many Bones (new to me)
New-ish: Under Falling Skies, Mysterium Park
Not new: The Quest for El Dorado, Century: Spice Road
Old: nothing!

So, given all those Crew games, indulge a diversion on counting games: I log all my games. But what counts as a game? Over the years, I've accreted a set of rules that determine how I count games, some of which are very logical, and some of which are pretty arbitrary. First of all, I only count "board games" not sessions of RPGs, but there are some key edge cases that are sort of arbitrary, Battlestations being the most extreme example. It's probably an RPG, but I count it as a board game. Second, I count in person games or online games with other human beings where I'm video chatting with them. This means online games against internet strangers don't count, but in-person games with convention strangers do. I play very few of the former, so it's sort of a non-issue. Solo games only count if played physically. Online solo doesn't count. It's pretty arbitrary, but it feels right. For games that get played in batches like The Crew, I count the smallest "complete" unit, so one hand of The Crew is a game. But, that's not entirely true. I count an entire "tournament rules" game of Loopin' Louie as a single game, even though I could count a single tournament game as between 3 and 9 games. I used to count 3 "rounds" of Flinke Pinke as a 1 play, but now I count 1 round as a play. It's arbitrary. I count games as played on the day they are completed on the very rare occasion I play a game that starts on one day and finishes on another. I count the rare game that is aborted early if it felt like we actually played it, rather than just started it. It's a judgement call. But, playing a game for 2 hours and calling it "21 plays" bugs some people when you play another game for 2 hours with 21 rounds and call it "1 play". I also count "Sessions" (unique days on which I play a game) and there's only a handful of heavily played games where the Play count is over double the Sessions count: Catchphrase, Codenames, The Crew, SpinBall, Geister, Pente, Light Speed, Quirky Circuits, and Werewolf. The Crew is an anomaly even among those, it's the only game in my top 10 by plays but not in my top 30 by sessions, but I'm still counting it one game per hand. Games like The 7th Continent I just define as "1 session"="1 play" since I don't know how I'd count it otherwise. Using the somewhat more fine grained definition also makes it easy to compute things like "sessions" or my favorite metrics like the mont metric.

So, on to what I actually played.

I'm not a huge fan of solo games, but the pandemic has profoundly shifted my willingness to play games solo. I've played 97 games solo in 22 years, and 73 of those plays have been since the start of the pandemic. One such pandemic buy was Under Falling Skies which I like more than most. As someone who doesn't love worker placement in general, apparently I like dice-worker-placement in my solo games (Deep Space D-6 being the other favorite, also-space-game in this category). Falling Skies is interesting and tense, and I've been playing the campaign, but this time just pulled it out for a quick opportunity to save Roswell. A- after 10 plays.

The other solo plays these past few weeks were a couple plays of Too Many Bones, which somehow had slipped under my radar, probably because it's on the longer side. But, cooperate games with a steep power ramp and lots of dice with interesting tactical combat and a fun chaotic narrative sounds right up my alley. I debated backing the new crowd-funding having never played it, but decided to order the game and try it out before the crowdfunding ended to make a decision. I got it and played it twice solo. As mentioned, I still don't love games solo, and am excited to try it multi-player, but I enjoyed it enough I backed the new expansion, but we'll see how deep I go into the very deep expansion hole this game has. I played a rule wrong in my first play, which made it too easy, but it was still quite fun. A second play with the rule right was good too. This definitely has a lot of delightful custom dice (the eponymous "too many bones") and I see why people say it's also "too many rules", but you know, I feel like those concerns were overblown. Yes, it's a ton of rules and lots of little rules, different for each monster and Gearloc and scenario and item, but that's the appeal of this kind of game. I love the steep power ramp. You start out ok and rapidly become awesome, facing harder and harder bad guys. It's fun. I hope to find folks who want to play it a bunch, because it may not be quite up my family's alley. 2 solo plays, B+ or maybe A-, or maybe higher or lower once I play non-solo.

We played The Quest for El Dorado and my wife crushed me. I should probably look at the expansion for this, because I like it a lot, but always find myself wishing for just a bit more and maybe the expansion delivers that? In any case, after 7 plays, B or B+.

My wife and I played the third mission of The Initiative and it continues to be good, but a little simple, though I think it's about to get more complex, but avoiding spoilers to say more. 3 plays, B+, hopefully going up as it progresses?

With other family, played Century: Spice Road which is my favorite of the three and a really clean implementation of a simple but great idea. I wish the theme were something more fun (I'm not sure if I think the Golem edition actually meets that wish). A nice medium/lightweight "new classic". After 6 plays, A-, maybe A, definitely if it were somehow sci-fi themed.

At game night, as alluded to above, we played 21 games (ie, hands) of The Crew: Mission Deep Sea, completing through mission 13 (with some losses along the way) and losing mission 14. I like it a lot, but I somehow expected it to be more different than the standard Crew game, and it's not. The missions are structured slightly differently and the new ones are new, but the core trick-taking gameplay is identical. I'm tempted to call it an expansion/alternate "base game" count all plays of the The Crew as The Crew in the same way I do Dominion. So, 90 games into both combined A+ as its own game, but only B as added value over the original The Crew.

To close out game night, we played Mysterium Park, and I completely failed to get the message across. Communicating in dreams is hard, but so fun. Overall, I like the streamlining in Park, but when playing with fewer than the full complement, I think I'll just assign all of the colors to someone. I also think I like the original Mysterium art better, the fact that this embraces the circus theme means many of the illustrations have too many shared elements, which is bad for this kind of game. Overall, I love Mysterium, but the shine is off that and this, but I'm glad to have a more portable version essentially, so after 2 plays of Park and 11 of Mysterium the whole thing is probably on an A-, but maybe the Park art bumps it down to a B+.

Finally, after an annoying glitch with FedEx, Unsettled arrived. I sort of lost track of this game and whether it was late or not during the pandemic, so it was a delight to get, and then disturbing to see how peeved some buyers were with their not-that-surprising tardiness given both the pandemic and major personal issues the publisher had, so I don't fault them. The game is beautiful, with great components, and an imperfect but still very good rulebook. It's definitely a little more narrative-y than I expected, but still strategic, engaging and fun. We played Wenora-A 2-player and won, barely. But we misinterpreted a rule near the end that might have otherwise cost us the game, but probably not, but hard to be sure. It is what it promises: Thematic sci-fi exploration with a puzzle-y action point mechanic. At least after one play, it feels like it captures "exploration" quite well. Thinking more about this game will likely inspire a follow-up to my previous post about replayability. Each of the 6 planets has 3 different scenarios that can be played on it ("tasks") and each planet/task pairing is individually quite replayable, but with some diminishing challenge and novelty. I'm excited to play more, and while my wife will be willing to play some more, she's not as excited by it as I am. Another interest aspect of the game is a fair amount of "philosophy" throughout the rules: suggestions of how to approach the game, rules misunderstandings and the like. I think I like the explicit discussion of these assumptions, but it's definitely a little unusual. After 1 play, too early to rate, but somewhere between an A and a B, inclusive.
Twitter Facebook
9 Comments
Sat Nov 6, 2021 7:27 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

The last 22 games I've played (October 2021)

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
Since mid-September I've played 22 games, 12 different titles.

New stuff: Deep Space D-6 Armada, The Initiative, Marvel United X-Men and Terraforming Mars Ares Expedition.
New-ish: Search for Planet X & Food Chain Island.
Not new: Gloomhaven, One Deck Dungeon, Pandemic Legacy Season 0.
Old: Can't Stop, Flinke Pinke, Around the World in 80 Days

We made it through October in Pandemic Legacy: Season 0, earning an Adequate rating and then succeeded strongly in November. A brief spoiler-y description.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
We allied with Sabik, and my Soviet alias is basically now built out as a master infiltrator, so zipped through the Pearl compound quickly and efficiently. We almost lost because we almost ran out of Soviet agents, because we broadly ignored them while focusing on the other goals, but we kept them in check and the few incidents we did have were not severe. I feel like the differentiation of the aliases and the specialization of the two agents with their aliases really starts to shine in the late game.


We've been playing 2 player, and have been enjoying it a lot. We're not blitzing through it as quickly as we did Season 1, but the real-life pandemic has us less in lockdown than it did while we were playing that. I'm enjoying it and enjoy the continued reveals. It's an A- at least, will reserve full judgement til we finish.

In anticipation of the Marvel United: X-Men arriving soon, I played regular Marvel United, with Adam Warlock and War Machine beating Kingpin. I cannot explain entirely why I like this game so much, but have tried a bit before. It's so simple, and yet so interesting somehow. The mathematical efficiency of it, the interesting variety in a core system, the whole piggybacking mechanic. It's just great. Then, a few days alter, the X-Men base box arrived, and I played four times more, with Wolverine and Storm beating Sabertooth (thank goodness for Wolverine's healing factor) and Mystique and Beast losing to Magneto (curse his helmet and my inattention to his villainous plot!), Magneto and Cyclops beating Juggernaut, barely and Professor X and Jean Grey beating Mystique. In the interest of trying the new heroes agains old villains, I played one game two-handed with Professor X and Cyclops against Baron Zemo on the increased difficulty. So fun. I definitely feel weird about the fact that over 100 new miniatures/characters, including lots of X-Men I've never heard of are coming in the spring, but am looking forward to it. A somewhat surprising A+.

As mentioned before, I thought about backing the new One Deck Galaxy Kickstarter, but hadn't enjoyed One Deck Dungeon as much as I'd hoped, but I pulled it out to give it another try to decided whether or not to back ODG. The rules are somehow clunky, there's a lot to keep track of but somehow the game makes it easy to make errors, and it's too hard. I so want to like ODD more but it falls flat for me. C.

As vaccinations have become ubiquitous and risk levels have gone down, I introduced a few friends to Gloomhaven who joined my "party" and we played another scenario, and lost. We play on "easy" because I like my coops on the easier side, but I like that sometimes it's still just too hard. We got unlucky, we made some mistakes, and we're just at the edge of the lowest levels for which this setting is "easy", so it wasn't that surprising, but we left licking our wounds and feeling like we wouldn't immediately be revisiting that scenario, despite it being square in the main quest line. But, my character (second of my lineage) is just a bit away from retirement, so that's exciting. Still an A+, even when we lose.

I played a few games of Food Chain Island, which is a solo game I've really enjoyed. It's fast, puzzly, and cute. It feels like a clever and interesting solitaire puzzle every time with the right level of difficulty. And, it takes barely 5 minutes to play. It gets an A-.

I also managed to play The Search for Planet X again, this time 2-player. Still not as thrilled with the app (but nice that they have GM-able sheets) and wish instead they'd come up with something with a sheath and colored film a la Password or Decrypto to peek at information. Despite that continued whining, it's fun. I made an single bad note-taking error, but somehow it only messed up that side of the sky and I still guessed Planet X correctly. Not sure if I'd consider that a feature or bug. Still B+.

Deep Space D-6: Armada arrived, and it looks amazing. I read the rules and it sounds awesome. I played it solo and it's sort of broken in a bunch of little ways. There's so much good stuff in here and the basic architecture of the game seems so appealing, but the balance is just not there. I am hopeful it can be salvaged with some (non-trivial) rules adjustments, but I'm nervous. There's a thread I started in the game forums discussing some of the issues and possible remedies. I played again with a bunch of rules tweaks, described in that thread. It's better, but still a bit obviously unbalanced. Oof. Fingers crossed, and feeling like some of the problems I'm seeing may be a bit more about the solo-play, especially if the crew-limits are applied. The designer has released a major set of errata and I want to try it with those new rules because I so want the game to be good. But, I've been avoiding it because I found those initial plays so disappointing. We'll see.

With the end of Pandemic Legacy Season 0 in sight, we were in the mood for something quick, so I opened up The Initiative. The first scenario was very simple and more of a rules/mechanics introduction than any sort of compelling game, but the core mechanic seems promising and I expect, as is the pattern with this kind of game that there's a lot more game coming later. A week later we played the second scenario which was pretty basic too, but getting more interesting and the ending was close, but we won.

We played a quick family game of Can't Stop with the center columns getting capped quickly and a sudden burst of 6s rolled in the end for a close victory. One more play after this month, and it will achieve the elite status of having a MonthMetric of 50.

I got to play Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition yet again and am crystallizing my thinking of where it fits relative to its two obvious parents: TM & RFTG. It's distinct enough from both to stand in it's own right, but barely. In particular, it's not enough shorter to really fill its own niche. I mostly feel like if I'm at home where my now gigantic Terraforming Mars Big Box is, I'd just play that. If I want something fast, I'll play Race. But, Ares Expedition is nice and portable and is somewhat shorter, so it basically becomes "portable" TM. If TM didn't exist, or if it where a solid 45 minute game, this might rise to an A-, but as is, B+.

For a quick filler, we played Flinke Pinke (actually the "Loco!" edition) and reminisced about people who swore by Quandary (same game, much nicer components, much bigger box) and especially given my shelf space, I'm very happy with my Flinke Pinke edition. An almost ideal filler, though a little bit of kingmaker effect, but that's ok in an under 10 minute game. A

Finally, played Around the World in 80 Days again, which I hadn't played in 8 years. It's still a really good game, and simpler than I remembered it, and quite clean despite a grab-bag of a two-pronged race, special cards, action selection, set collection and hand-management. I suppose if they were to redo it in 2021, it'd have special player powers, scenarios and a worker placement expansion. The dual race game here is really what makes it shine though. Still an A or maybe A-.
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Oct 22, 2021 5:03 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

12 Kickstarters right now I don't know whether to back

Matthew Gray
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
admin
Avatar
Microbadge: BloggerMicrobadge: Statistics fanMicrobadge: Race for the Galaxy fanMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia freakMicrobadge: Parent of a Girl and a Boy
I back a lot of Kickstarters, but I also pass on a lot of them, but I'm often pretty decisive. There's one or two I'll waffle about at any given moment (see previous posts) but most are either a clear back or a clear pass. But, right now, there's 12 I'm undecided about.

In order of how soon I have to decide.

I'll probably pass on Write the Future because I probably have enough roll-and-write games, but this gives a sci-fi Cartographers vibe, and I don't think I own any games with stampers. I can resist, I think.

ThreeTale would be more tempting if it were not 3-player/solo only. So, probably pass, but it's coop, the reviews make it seem appealing.

Voidfall and Fractal: Beyond the Void both sound appealing because they're sci-fi 4X games, but as is typical with 4X, they're both long and I haven't done enough research to see if they they're my thing or how to meaningfully differentiate them. I'm unlikely to back both, but still undecided.

Keep the Heroes Out! is coop, bag deck building, and shorter so this seems like a likely back, but I need to research a bit more so I'm not simply charmed by a few good attribute matches. I have some background worry it leans too much on "cute", but that's not a huge flaw and maybe I'm overreading.

I am not sure I even remember why I put Dungeons Of Draggmar on my watch list, so is probably a pass but it's got some good buzz and while "action" games aren't typically my thing, I remember seeing some YouTube video that said something positive so I put it on my list to look at.

I'm likely to back Drop Drive since it's fast, novel and sci-fi. The dropping-as-randomization seems implemented reasonably. It looks good. It gets a bit steeper in price with the "Space Arena", which seems sort of necessary, but maybe not.

Another one I don't remember why I put it on the list, Reap but I like fast constrained bidding games, so worth a little bit of a deeper look. Probably a pass, but who knows.

Hidden movement and deduction in Beast seems very interesting, and possibly enough to override my increased aversion to one-vs-many games, but seems very appealing. A toss-up whether to back or not.

It seems Tales from the Red Dragon Inn is a likely pass, but close because even though it's got a lot of attributes I like it ends up sounding sort of generic and usually I like to feel like there's at least a hook for why I'm inclined to back something. I'll take a lot of different hooks, so I'll have to see if this one has a compelling hook, because it hits many default buttons (coop, fantasy, variable goals).

I had somehow missed the original of Roll Camera!: The B-Movie Expansion, and coop dice placement seems novel and the theme often works well (Showmanager, Traumfabrik) but it sounds a little longer than might feel ideal in this sort of game. More reading on the base game required, otherwise really uncertain.

Finally I will likely back Mythwind because the in addition to coop, character development, city building being a nice combo (but it is worker placement...) the whole no-end/win/lose legacy thing is quite a hook. Maybe it doesn't work, but it feels like it might, and it's novel. (Ok, I'm backing this one so as to get the early bird thing if I decide to stay in, but may revisit...)

So, which of these should I back?
Twitter Facebook
24 Comments
Wed Oct 6, 2021 3:19 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  

Subscribe

Contributors