As year two of The Great Pandemic wends to its weary conclusion (are we halfway through yet?), I thought I'd round up the year from my point of view.
For me, though, Covid-19 takes second place to my own medical journey. That is, diagnosed with bowel cancer at the start of March, operated on to remove tumour (and install ileostomy) by the end of March, three months to recover from op, 12 weeks of chemotherapy, three months to recover from that and second op early in December to reverse ileostomy. With a following wind, it looks like I'll be pretty much recovered by the time I reach the anniversary of my initial diagnosis. I am stunned: diagnosis to recovery in 12 months. Against the backdrop of the pandemic. I feel very fortunate.
But what does that mean for my games playing in 2021? Well, rather like 2020, it's almost all been solitaire or online. I did get one period, in September, when nephew Tom and I were able to explore Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles - as reported in Samurai battles - even more of them and linked posts.
With several regular sparring partners, the Commands & Colors family dominates the games I've logged on BGG through the year. Memoir '44 is at the top of the pile with 55 plays - that's over one a week! Most of these have been on the Days of Wonder app (also available via Steam), which means you can blast through a scenario in 30-40 minutes and thus play both sides of it in a short evening.
However, the app only supports "standard" scenarios - I much prefer the larger Breakthrough board - and has not implemented the more recent expansions, such as New Flight Plan. Hence, several of my M44 plays have been on Vassal where these are supported, though games take longer.
Vassal is also the venue for the other C&C games I've played: 37 Napoleonics battles, a couple of The Great War and just one Ancients. I thought I'd played more Ancients games, but clearly not. Something to do a bit more of in 2022. A highlight of the Napoleonics was re-fighting Austerlitz in La Grande Battles format with a full team of four players a side (ably organised by Mark Benson). It may be slow, but I really enjoy the team play. Here's the end of the game: there's still fighting around the vineyards of Stare Vinohrady in the centre, but Bernadotte has broken right through the Allies' positions. Vive l'Empereur!
With C&C out of the way, the next game I've played most is Scythe: 9 times in the latter half of the year. This time the platform is Steam - three-player games (plus the odd bot) with a couple of regular opponents. I do enjoy Scythe, but if you want to win you really have to focus on optimising your plays rather than just enjoying the game.
I have played Viticulture five times since BoardGameArena implemented the Essential edition - I just wish they'd add Tuscany. This does leave out the turn-based games - I only log real-time plays (whether face-to-face or online) on BGG. A quick check on BGA and the total plays jumps up to eight in 2021. Viticulture is another game I really enjoy playing - and it's one I can win (three from the eight) while enjoying it.
The other game I've played five times, according to my BGG log, is the first new (to me) entry in the list: Lucky Numbers. This is a simple but strangely addictive little game (available on BGA again) that has made an excellent filler for Swiggers' Wednesday evening sessions and gets a solid 7/10 from me.
Sticking to the new games now, I've also played Carnegie five times (on BGA). Kudos to Quined Games for making this meaty new title available online - it's certainly whetted my appetite to try the physical game when I get the chance. In the meantime, I'm struggling to find a winning strategy but enjoying myself thoroughly - it's a provisional 8/10 on my highly subjective scale. There's a fuller account in Business and philanthropy.
Returning to physical games and thus solitaire play, I fitted in several games of Rocketmen - see I'm not the man they think I am at all - and Coffee Roaster (reported in Man versus Bean). Rocketmen is another game I'm waiting to play against real opponents, but somehow I have no urge to play the solitaire-only Coffee Roaster again.
Another physical game I've had on the table is Hallertau - above is the final position of my third solitaire game with plenty of sheep. I have to say I'm just finding it tedious now. As a solitaire game, anyway. As far as I can see, there's only one way to play this game: amass the goods you need to upgrade your five 'Craft Buildings' so that your 'Community Centre' can move across your board (as shown above) to give you more actions and, later, more points. (The 'Boulder' obstacles that make moving more than once more costly magically move further away at the end of every round.) Since you always need the same stuff, you're always doing the same things. Yawn. Perhaps playing against real people would show me something I'm missing, but I'm not holding my breath. Sorry, Herr Rosenberg, but that's a provisional 5/10 from me.
I'm struggling, too, with Ted Alspach's Maglev Metro. Again, it's a physical copy, so it's solitaire play only. The first time I set it up, I was immediately stymied as I couldn't see how I was going to progress at all. It was on my second try that I realised there are certain things you can do without paying - they're not on the "things you need to pay for" table (I may not have the correct terminology here). Having resolved this, I still found the game impenetrable, though I did at least make some progress. Further research required, I think.
Thanks to Yucata, I've been able to try Vladimír Suchý's Praga Caput Regni. Another hefty, complicated game - right up my street! After three plays, I think I've got my head around the mechanics of the game. Now I just need to double (!) my score to be competitive. That's a provisional 8/10 on my highly subjective scale.
I'll finish with a couple of older but new to me games, played online. I was introduced to Grand Austria Hotel back in January and have now been thrashed seven times on Yucata - twice during Swiggers sessions. I'm really sorry to have missed this one when it was published as I'm very taken with its tight gameplay (seven rounds, two actions in each and an awful lot of things to do!). This is another game I'd like to try face-to face, but it's a solid 7/10 from me in the meantime.
The second game is Villagers, which I'd been intrigued to try since I saw how popular it was at the UK Games Expo in 2019. Its implementation on Yucata gave me the chance to play it. However, half a dozen plays in quick succession was enough for me. It's a pleasant enough game, but I just don't find it challenging (yes, I was winning too often and without effort). It's a 6/10 on my highly subjective scale.
It's been a minimalist year in games for me and I'm disappointed not to have made more inroads on the unplayed (and largely unopened) games piled up in my home office. Something to look forward to in 2022, eh?
This was the title of my board games column in Flagship magazine, so I thought I'd resurrect it, 8 years after Flagship's demise. The idea is to get down my musings in a more contemporaneous way - expect things to appear later in To Win Just Once (www.pevans.co.uk/TWJO) in a more considered form. Now, can I manage a less formal style?
- [+] Dice rolls