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BGTG 157 - Games Played in 2014 (with Martin Griffiths)

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Like a lot of you, I keep track of the games I play, mostly to look back on and contemplate. The end of the year is the perfect time to do that, and I've been doing it since 1996. I don't track wins or much else--mere reflecting on the games played last year (total plays & unique titles) is what I enjoy. Even though I'd like to focus on my favorites, there are just so many new, interesting games that make their way to the table. You know I'm not a Cult of the New guy, but that's not true of all of my friends.

However, this year I'm joined by someone who really DOES rack up a lot of plays of his favorites. Martin Griffiths, better known here on BGG by his username qwertymartin, plays a LOT of short card games and quite a few of his meatier favorites, too. In fact, he flat-out plays a TON of games. Unlike me, he's not including online plays, either--these are all face-to-face plays (like Davebo will respect!).

That's not the only reason I asked Martin to join me, though. He thinks deeply about games, and writes in-depth analyses of them. Besides the conversations he & his insightful buddies have on their GameChat League, Martin keeps a blog you should be reading, QWERTYUIOP, and has recently re-launched his contest for the best written game reviews, Voice of Experience. If that's not enough, check out the Cult of the Critical guild, where I believe he's a charter member.

It comes through in his writing, and Martin's own user profile has several key elements that resonate with me. Knizian elegance, Chicago Express over Le Havre, and shorter card games? Sign me up! When you get to his mini-editorial about his dissatisfaction with recent 'mainstream' euros, I feel I've found a kindred spirit! Too bad he lives halfway around the world from me.

I got into the hobby when a friend introduced me to Carcassonne and directed me to Playin' Games (a London FLGS) for more of the same. A whole new world opened up! I've always loved games but had no idea ones this good existed.

ThreeFourFiveSixSeven years on, my collection has grown to over 507090120130120, I'm (former) co-organiser of one of the biggest games clubs in the world (, and I seem to spend half my life on the 'geek. A familiar story I'm sure!

My gaming favourites fall mainly into three categories:

d10-1 Reiner Knizia! I've played over 304050 of Knizia's games now and there are very few I don't like. Tigris & Euphrates is my all-time favourite, with Ra, Taj Mahal, Stephenson's Rocket and Winner's Circle close behind. Also games by other designers that I consider to have the 'Knizian' sense of elegance: China, King of Siam, San Marco for three.

d10-2 Economic games that give players an interactive system to explore and exploit. I'm not talking about tedious optimisation/resource conversion games like Caylus or Le Havre, I'm talking about Brass, Container, Chicago Express. Martin Wallace is a key designer in this field, though his games are quite hit-and-miss for me.

d10-3 Cards cards cards. I love card games, and particularly those in which card combinations can do unexpected and wonderful things. Race for the Galaxy, Innovation, Tichu, several of the Adlung-Spiele games... Cosmic Encounter and Twilight Struggle fit here too, even if they come with more accoutrements.
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United Kingdom
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My top 10 lists my highest-rated games, while my hot 10 is the most recent games that I have rated 8 or higher. Oh, and my avatar is the cover of the album 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields, one of my favourites.

In October 2013, I made this geeklist: Qwertymartin's top 60 games. I'll probably update it in a year or two.

Swedish Meatballs
I've been a member of the GameChatLeague Swedish Meatballs Division since it was founded in May 2011, and consider it to be my home on the 'geek. Wonderful as the wider community is, there's something really cool about getting to know a small group of gamers around the world so well. I wrote this article about my gaming tastes for one of the early Meatball lists.

I've learnt a lot about my gaming tastes and where they differ from the BGG consensus by playing around 10 new-to-me games per month for the last three years. At first I took the BGG ranking as gospel (much like my teenage years when I was guided to new music by 'top 100 albums' guides in magazines), but now I know what I'm looking for, I can pick out favourites from way down the rankings on the basis of reading a review or the rules.

While I'm more a Eurogamer than anything else, I'm not a fan of a lot of recent 'mainstream' Euros. I find worker placement a lazy mechanic, I generally dislike games with individual player boards and no shared space, nor do I like games where you spend more time optimising your own sequence of moves than thinking about what the other players are doing. I no longer particularly see 'multiple paths to victory' as a virtue, when they feel more like Easter eggs put in by the designer than emergent properties of the design ("Oh, you discovered the starvation strategy, congratulations").

Knizia came to be my favourite designer because his best games are the opposite of this. As far as I know he's never used worker placement, and his games are almost always about interaction not optimisation. I'm also a big fan of elegant rules and risk management, two Knizia hallmarks. Having played most of the Knizias on my hit list, I'm always looking out for 'Knizian' games from other designers.

Lately I'm more and more appreciating direct conflict and rough edges. I'm wary of games described as 'streamlined' or having good catch-up mechanisms. I like unexpected, laughter-provoking screw-you moves. I also appreciate unusual, modern-day themes over yet more medieval yawnsomeness. For example, recent games that have caught my fancy are Lords of Vegas, Tammany Hall and Power Struggle.

Another thing I tend to like is hand management and card interactions. I have always liked classic card games, and that's led me to modern versions like Haggis and Battle Line. I also like a lot of recent card-combo games like Race for the Galaxy, Glory to Rome and Innovation.
Martin plays SO many games (173 different titles for 600 total plays!), that by the time we added my totals (195 different titles for a total of 400 total plays), we had PLENTY to discuss just covering our "Five & Dime" titles. It was a great conversation and just scratched the surface of more talks I'd enjoy having with Martin.

...But those other conversations will have to wait until after my break from podcasting. I'm now calling it my "sabbatical," since it's intended to be a substantial length of time when I can recharge my mental batteries. It also reinforces the fact that it won't last forever--I fully intend to return to the podcast after this break.

Martin's BGG summary for 2014 (and Extended Stats for 2014)

Mark's BGG summary for 2014 (and Extended Stats for 2014)


Games Discussed (our collective Five & Dime lists)

Board Game: Port Royal
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy
Board Game: Aton
Board Game: Kingdom Builder
Board Game: Love Letter
Board Game: 6 nimmt!
Board Game: Elements
Board Game: Red7
Board Game: Hanabi
Board Game: Linko!
Board Game: Quantum
Board Game: Manoeuvre
Board Game: Pax Porfiriana
Board Game: Impulse
Board Game: Maori
Board Game: Brass: Lancashire
Board Game: Space Mission
Board Game: Thurn and Taxis
Board Game: Timeline: Music & Cinema

Board Game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Board Game: Innovation
Board Game: The Palaces of Carrara
Board Game: Take it Easy!
Board Game: Cribbage
Board Game: A Study in Emerald
Board Game: Fauna
Board Game: No Thanks!
Board Game: Wir sind das Volk!
Board Game: Potato Man
Board Game: What the Heck?
Board Game: Tichu
Board Game: Tsuro
Board Game: Hansa
Board Game: R-Eco
Board Game: The Speicherstadt
Board Game: Blueprints
Board Game: Industrial Waste
Board Game: Pairs
Board Game: Paris Connection
Board Game: Pergamon
Board Game: Cardline: Animals
Board Game: Firenze
Board Game: Jaipur
Board Game: One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Board Game: Patrician

P.S. Games Played--by all of Boardgamegeek--in 2014

Want to see what game plays were logged by all users of Boardgamegeek for 2014? It's here. What do you think? Dominated by the Cult of the New, only short games, evergreen classics, or something else? To me, anything older than three years doesn't feel like Cult of the New anymore. Though I'm not sure it's "classic" for a few more years. Also keep in mind that this is not what the entire hobby is playing. Just the subset of the hobby that is crazy enough to log their plays on a website...

1. Magic: The Gathering (20,114,694) - Insane number of plays, but it IS M:tG, after all! A classic.

2. Poker (1,003,035) - I'm guessing these include a lot of online plays. Classic.

3. Android: Netrunner (70,676) - First Cult of the New (CotN) title (ignoring the fact that the original was released in 1996!)

4. Dominion (48929) - Spiel des Jahres (SdJ) winner from 2009. Classic.

5. Love Letter (47643) - Still CotN, still hot. Also helps to be short.

6. Coup (43692) - CotN & short

7. Race for the Galaxy (38785) - From 2007, a modern classic.

8. Chess (38619) - From 1475 (acc. to BGG), a classic classic.

9. Splendor (37080) - Definitely CotN, and recent Golden Geek winner and SdJ nominee

10. King of Tokyo (35836) - Still feels new, but actually from 2011. Is that classic?

11. 7 Wonders (34744) - Kennerspiel des Jahres winner from 2011, just past the new/old boundary

12. One Night Ultimate Werewolf (30826) - CotN, though "parent" game Werewolf is a classic

13. Hanabi (30460) - CotN, and SdJ winner from 2013

14. Star Realms (28629) - CotN, and a Kickstarter success, right?

15. Carcassonne (27767) - A "golden age" euro, and SdJ winner from 2001. Classic.

16. Pandemic (24153) - SdJ nominee from 2009, more of a modern classic now?

17. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (23566) - A 2013 release, still CotN

18. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (21928) - A 2011 release, so now a perennial classic?

19. The Resistance (19183) - Dates from 2009, but was it widely known then?

20. The Resistance: Avalon (19125) - If this 2012 title were combined with above, would place just behind Chess

21. Ticket to Ride (19064) - SdJ winner from 2004, and definitely a modern classic

22. Lords of Waterdeep (17822) - From 2012, is this transitioning to modern classic?

23. Settlers of Catan (17724) - Landmark SdJ winner from 1995, the defining modern classic

24. Agricola (17100) - Released in 2007, and English in 2009(?). That makes it a modern classic.

25. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game (16729) - From 2012, still CotN, still hot

From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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