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QWERTYmartin's Unabridged Insights On Play
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Revisiting my top 60 five years on

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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In October 2013, I posted Qwertymartin's top 60 games after 6 years in the hobby, 550 different games played and about 3000 plays. It was also timed just after I left my old gaming scene in London (and the wonderful but vast LoB) behind and just before I found the fantastic small group I've met with weekly in Bristol ever since.

In the nearly five years since those stats have increased to 5500 plays of 850 games and I thought it was time to revisit the list to see what's changed.

The first thing I checked was how much I've played the games I picked as my favourites in the five subsequent years. To my shame, I've played less than half (28) of them 5 or more times! I'm not sure I can really claim a game to still be a favourite if I'm playing it less than once a year. On the plus side, the 8 games I have played 25+ times since the list are all ones I rate 10 - enduring classics for sure.

Next I looked at what I've been playing instead - the games that have come along since 2013 that I've played a lot. Of my 30 most played games since that list, 20 were new to me during that period.

Looking through the two lists, I picked out the ones that I'd say are definitely in my top games now. I ended up with 24 from the old list and 16 from the new ones, which seems like a decent balance - in both periods a 'favourite' comes along roughly once every 20 games I learn.

I'm not going to attempt to rank them within the 40, but rather roughly categorise them by how they fit into the time I have for gaming.

Opener/closer/pub games
These are games that are incredibly simple to learn (not much more than a minute of teaching) and often support 6+ players. They get played at the beginning and end of games night (we split up in between) and with non-gamer friends and family.

Old:
6 nimmt! - just as much of a standby with my Bristol group as it was at LoB
Love Letter - harbinger of the microgame revolution and still the best
For Sale - played on my very first night at LoB, still played today
Kakerlakenpoker (Royal) - brilliantly fun bluffing and reading game in either version
Perudo - the ultimate pub game?
Spot it! - doesn't get simpler than this and rarely more joyful either

New:
Pairs - stick or twist? Just so addictive and I've only really played a couple of games the deck offers
Fuji Flush - reigning opener/closer for the past 18 months
Eggs of Ostrich - the essence of doublethink
The Mind - newest new entry and the most innovative game in years

Games night card games
Multiplayer card games with a little more heft than the above, often traditional-ish.

Old:
Tichu - love partnerships, love the twists and turns
Biblios - along with For Sale one of my most enduring fillers
Hanabi - like The Mind, it showed me a whole new dynamic
Mamma Mia! - Uwe's masterpiece
Stick 'Em - there are a whole bunch of tricktakers I could have included but this is the best and I could play most of the others with it anyway!

New:
Abluxxen - Kramer cracker

Lunchtime 2p games
I get quite a few opportunities for short 2p games, either at home with my wife or at lunchtimes with my friend Joe. These are the games that fit that weight/length slot perfectly.

Old:
Innovation - endlessly inventive and it's great in 2v2 partnership mode too
Race for the Galaxy - don't play it that much these days but it's earned its place
Cribbage - 'our game' for me and my wife

New:
Haggis - I'd played but didn't include it in 2013 but it's a brilliant modern traditional design
Jump Drive - made RFTG something my wife wanted to play
Khmer - delicious mind games
Hanamikoji - tough decisions worthy of Knizia

Games night 'tapas'
The bread and butter of games night - interactive and simple 30-60 min games.

Old:
Kingdom Builder - has the variety to replace any number of midweight Euros
Ra - the best of Knizia's brilliant auctions
Winner's Circle - and his raucous racing and betting gem
Ticket to Ride - the ultimate gateway and my wife's favourite game - the expansions mix it up nicely too

New:
Polterfass - I've got doublethink covered - Khmer for 2, Eggs for 3, Polterfass for 4, 6 nimmt for more!
Azul - fires all the many draft-from-the-middle-for-your-individual-board games with its ruthless interaction
Impulse - I love the frameworks Chudyk provides to allow the players to be creative
Codenames - creativity is the key here too - coming up with a good clue is just so satisfying

Eastbourne classics
Games that I love to play best with specific groups, usually at the twice-yearly LoBsterCon.

Old:
Tigris & Euphrates - will always be my favourite game
Cosmic Encounter - stellar with a group of mates

New:
Baseball Highlights: 2045 - brilliant 2p, even better in a tournament

Heavy history
If I'm going to learn a complex ruleset it needs to be justified by history and narrative, not just bells and whistles for the sake of it. I have few opportunities to play these games and they benefit massively from repeat play so I really don't need many.

Old:
Pax Porfiriana - could be included in Eastbourne classics too. The only Eklund I come back to.
Twilight Struggle - I don't have a window to play this at the moment but it's the tensest game I've ever played
Brass - the only game to get let off not being played in the last 5 years. I did have a spectacular run of online games during that time though.

New:
Wir sind das Volk! - fascinating simulation of a non-military conflict.
Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD - current darling, played once a month for the past year. Long may it continue.

And finally
Scrabble - will always have a place in my heart for its status in family occasions and many games with my much-missed grannies.

So what's changed since last time? There are even more ultra-light, ultra-short games than there were then. I really appreciate a design that knows exactly what it wants to do and eliminates everything else. My standard games night features 5-6 games averaging 30-45 mins. I also still have a few heavy games to devote repeat plays with specific groups to, but the middle has been pretty much hollowed out. There are almost no 60-120 min medium-heavy Euros any more.

It'll be interesting to come back to this in another 5 years and see what I got wrong and which new games have popped up to take their place.
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