Casualgod's Best New To Me Games of 2013
David Debien
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Hello everyone and welcome to my second annual list of my favorite new to me games.

I played a lot (for me) of new games this year. This was mainly due to me getting out more and meeting some new friends who share this wonderful addiction.

I am happy to say I liked a lot more of the new games than I disliked. That isn't to say there weren't some stinkers. Alas, the Essen releases I played at BGG.CON were all a let down for me.

Never to fear, there were plenty of great new games to go around. My list from last year only included 14 games ranked 8 or above. This year's list is almost twice as long.
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1. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:186]
David Debien
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Rating 8

Plays 5

First played: March

I really like how the two main paths to victory in Nav work together to drive the resource market. The Rondel mechanism is ued to very good effect here and as in all Rondel games, down times are super short and the game never bottoms out or becomes dull. While not my favorite new game of 2013, I will never turn down a game of Navegador.

I owned Navagador for about a year and a half before finally getting it played. It was a moderate hit with my group and we managed to play it several times before I traded it away. I wasn't looking to trade Nav away, but the proposed trade was too good to pass up. I have played it once since at BGG.CON. I will try to pick this back up again when the opportunity presents itself.
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2. Board Game: Yedo [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:511]
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Rating 8

Plays 8

First Played October

Yedo is an odd duck for me. It's long and fairly chaotic, while I prefer 75-90 minute low luck fair. It does, however, feature auctions which I love. Also, the action selection through the placement of one's disciples (workers) is fairly tight which I like. It also changes the usual dynamic of WP games where everyone always wants to get more workers right away almost at the cost of everything else. In Yedo, more workers are nice, but not essential to victory. The mission mechanism is fun and collecting the items you need drives interest in the game, but can also be very frustrating if you never get what you need. Finally, the events can trash a carefully laid plan through little to no fault of the player.

Despite all that, we managed to play Yedo 8 times in 3 months. Considering this clocks in at about 2.5-3 hours per play (and sometimes more in our 4-5 player games) that is a lot of table time for a game that I am on the fence about.

So, why the 8 rating and it's presence on this list? To be frank, I do not understand it myself, but I couldn't leave this off the list given its dominance on my gaming table these past three months.
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3. Board Game: Targi [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:141]
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Rating 8

Plays 2

First Played September

This is a great little 2 player lunch game. I do not own it and cannot justify getting a copy as my main opponent is a lunch buddy and likely the only person I would play it with. Considering he owns it, I do not really need to own it.

That said, this is a fantastic little 2 player game that takes roughly 45-60 minutes to play. Nice mix of short vs long term planning with just the right amount of luck to keep things from just becoming an exercise in efficiency.
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4. Board Game: Kingsburg [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:296]
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Rating 8

Plays 2

First Played in August

I enjoy some dice placement games and I found that Kingsburg offers a nice mix of such along with a nifty little engine building component. I didn't expect much out of Kingsburg but I am happy to say it belongs on this list of my best new to me games of 2013.

Kingsburg is one of those games that threads the needle of being light enough for non-gamers while offering enough strategy to keep hardcore gamers like myself engaged. As such, I would love to add it to my collection but haven't yet due to the fact that the expansion is almost mandatory. A friend owns the game and I can't justify the $80 cost to add it to my collection when I can play his copy instead.

Still, if I get a chance to snag this with the expansion, or if the publisher ever releases a big box for a good price, I will leap at it.
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5. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:143]
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Rating 8

Plays 3

First Played October

I love Auction games, but I also understand that some people are not a fan. I think Ra is the auction game for people who don't like auction games, while still scratching that itch for those of us who do.

Ra is relatively short and limits what you can bid round for round with the Sun tiles. Also, the relative value of the items you are bidding on is fairly obvious with a decent tutorial on the scoring allowing new players to jump right in and bid with some confidence right out the gate.

The short play time vs decent strategic depth of Ra makes it both a filler and a game that can be added into the regular gaming rotation.

The tension added by the Ra tiles potentially ending the round before everyone gets to spend all of their Sun Tiles and a fairly tight scoring mechanism round out this one nicely.
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6. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:162]
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Rating 8 after one game. May go up.

Plays 1

First Played: December

I picked a up an inexpensive copy of the old edition recently having never tried it. I am a big fan of Puerto Rico and role selection as well as Chudick's "Innovation" so I figured this would be a no brainer for me.

Turns out, I was right. I love so many things about this game. The way the cards can be used in so many ways, the hand management, resource management, engine building and the seemingly huge variety of combo's. I have only played it once, but I look forward to many many more plays.
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7. Board Game: Myrmes [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:455]
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Rating 8

Plays 3

First played November

When I acquired Myrmes, I was wanting an ant themed game that was fairly light and whimsical with some strategy. Myrmes is not that game. While it is something completely different from want I wanted, it turns out Myrmes scratches another itch: planning and resource management.

I cannot think of another game with a tighter resource management mechanism. Combining this with the fact that you have to completely plan each round in advance makes this an incredibly tight game where a minor mistake can throw you completely off the rails. I love the tension this creates. Throw in the fact that this is not multi player solitaire and your opponents can completely trash your carefully laid plans and you have a devilishly clever little brain burner.
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8. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:472]
David Debien
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Rating 8

Plays 3

First Played December

Another Knizia auction game! I like this one a little bit more than Ra. Chalk it up to personal taste. I think they are both great entry level auction games that play in about the same amount of time. The strategies are even similar, but there is less to think about in Medici and the scoring is a good deal cleaner in Medici vs Ra.
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9. Board Game: Graenaland [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:2641]
David Debien
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Rating 8

Plays 2

First Played March

I finally got a chance to play this hard to find Vlada game earlier this year and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It feels a little like Settler's of Catan to me. you get resource cards like in SoC via land control and you use the resources to build different things to advance your game. The game even has negotiation, but you arent trading cards with other players in hand, but rather you are negotiating the cards the lands offer in area with shared control. You can even co-operatively build items on the land tiles with other players.

With variable paths to victory and a nice take that quotient, I think this is a real gem from Vlada that often gets over looked by his flashier games, which I find mostly to be hit and miss.
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10. Board Game: Imperial [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:161]
David Debien
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Initial Rating 8

Plays 3

First Played September

I picked up Imperial in 2011. It took most of 2 years for me to get it to the table. This is unusual as I tend to get new acquisitions played within a few weeks to a month at most. I was convinced Imperial needed 5 for a best play and everytime we had a 5er planned, someone didnt make it and we changed the game plan (literally).

After much deliberation, after about the 5th failed attempt at 5 gamers, we gave it a go with 3 and...it went surprisinly well. We all realized that 3 wasn't ideal but we enjoyed it and could see that a great game lurked in there somewhere. So we setup another 5er, and ended up with...4. This time it was even better!

Then, at BGG.CON, we finally got a game of 5, with the original 3 players from the inaugural game and 2 conventions buddies. Turned out to be one of the 2 or 3 best experiences of the entire convention.

I love the mix of negotiation and stock speculation in this semi war-gamey euro. Throw on top of that Gertz's rondel mechanism which makes any new game that uses it half familiar already and you get a brilliant little game that delivers a 4 hour game experience in 2 hours.

Love it.

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11. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:241]
David Debien
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Rating 8

Plays 19

First Played November

A game of Love Letter takes 3-5 minutes tops. The 19 Plays I have recorded are 19 sessions of Love Letter with us assigning points to the winner of each round. I would figure each session of LL took about an hour, making Love Letter the queen of my gaming table this past month.

With only 16 cards in the deck and a rules set that can be taught in about 5 minutes, Love Letter can be played just about anywhere with just about anyone. Sure, it is very luck based but in a session involving a dozen or so rounds, the person who made the best overall decisions, was able to throw off the most suspicion and who guessed most shrewdly along the way will most likely come away as the winner.

Love Letter is fun, light, hilarious and sometimes throws quite the surprise at the players. It is a fun little bluffing and deduction game that plays very well with 3 or 4 players.
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12. Board Game: Coup [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:433]
David Debien
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Rating 8.5

Plays 11

First Played May

Coup is the game that really openned my eyes to the concept of the Micro game, if I am using the term correctly. Lately, I have been gravitating more and more towards these Euro's with a ton of moving parts (eg Bora Bora, Tzolk'in, Dungeon Lords) and to see what the designers of Coup have accomplished with 15 cards is mind blowing. As a budding game designer myself I am humbled and have gone back to my own designs to see what can be thrown out.

The 11 recorded "plays" are really 11 seperate sessions of many many rounds of Coup, sometimes lasting for 2-3 hours.

This game is a riot and if you haven't tried it yet, you really owe it to yourself to do so, soon.
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13. Board Game: Fresco [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:269] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
David Debien
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Rating 8.5

Plays 1

First Played September

I got to play this along with several of the mini expansions at a friends house in September. Fresco was one of those games I had a passing interest for but not a burning desire to try out. Still, my friend Juan thought I would like it based on my tastes and he hit the nail on the head. The mix of future planning and resource management really intrigued me. The fact that Fresco is a fantastic looking game also helps a lot.

I am waiting for the upcoming release of the Fresco big box before acquiring my own copy. Cannot wait!
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14. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:23]
David Debien
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Rating 8.5

Plays 1

First Played May

So, I rate it an 8.5. I played it over 7 months ago for the first time and havent played it since. What the hell is wrong with me?

To be honest, the right crowd didn't present itself soon enough after that first play and then when I did have a group who I thought would dig it a few months later, I brought the game out and realized it was going to take me a half hour to re-learn the game from the rules. soblue

Rather than subject the group to that, I packed it up, promising to re-read the rules (which I did) for next time. Next time simply hasn't happened yet.

All that said, I think Brass is a freaking brilliant game and with more play, stands to become an all time favorite. Not much more I can say about the actual game from my one play so long ago.

Must. Play. Brass. More.
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15. Board Game: Chinatown [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:377]
David Debien
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Rating 8.5

Plays 1

First Played September

Another game I loved at first play and havent been able to get back to the table. This time its not my fault. I have had a bear of a time finding anyone willing to play it with me. Also, it requires a larger audience. I will keep plugging at it.

Chinatown is a very simple negotiating game. Imagine Monopoly without the die rolling and a third of the properties handed out randomly to the players each round for three rounds, which are then freely traded between the players to create monoploies and you can imagine a glimplse of what Chinatown is like.

I love the simplicity and in the case of this game, the math in deciding what is and what is not a good trade. The math involved is, of course, the reason I have had few takers in a rematch.
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16. Board Game: Manhattan [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1029]
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8.5

Plays 2

First Played September

Another drop dead simple game with a couple of mechanisms which I adore. I really hope in the near future we see a resurgance of games like this with fewer components and moving parts, featuring a strong core mechanism which supports strong game play.

In the case of Manhattan we have hand management and area control.

A player has a small hand of cards and on his turn plays one card to play a game piece on the board. Wham! No multiple phases, no 20 different ways to play the card. Nope, play a card, put a piece where the card says to put the piece.

Three times during the game, the board is scored. Player with most points at the end wins. 30-45 minute playtime offering as many sound decisions as many of these bloated behmoths of modern times offer in 2 hours of gaming and 45 minutes of setup and tear down.

Brilliant.

I played once at a friends house and once more at BGG.CON where everyone I taught it to found it a breath of fresh air compared to all the new fangled Essen games we were choking down.

Also: If anyone wants to sell or trade me a copy for a decent price, I am all ears.
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17. Board Game: Container [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:616]
David Debien
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Rating 8.5

Plays 1

First Played November

My surprise hit of BGG.CON 2013. I had heard a lot about the game and people who know me suggested that I would like it. They were right. Similar to Coup, I am shocked at how a simple paired down game like this not only survives among the crowded world of games with a bazillion components and every mechanism in the book, but transcends those games by doing a few things exceedingly well with very little.

I love everything about Container and expect my rating to go up once I secure a copy and play it some more. Suffice it to say, I love the way the auctions and price setting work. The fact that engine building is not the path to victory but a necassary evil that each player must participate in. I love that the players have complete control.

Lately, I have had these sinking feelings when playing a game that the game is actually playing me. With Container, this is in no way the case. In fact, the players are free to take Container completely off the rails and wreck the game with poor choices. Some people find this to be a weakness of Container, I find it an exhilirating aspect of the game.
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18. Board Game: Mammoth Hunters [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:3466]
David Debien
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Rating 8.5

Plays 2

First Played September

I am noticing I played a lot of these games in September. That was a good month for me! Someone reading this list knows why that is. My many thanks to him!

Mammoth hunters was a surprise hit for all of us. El Grande light with Mammoth-eeples and the ability to smack your enemy with GLACIERS!

More please!
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19. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:242]
David Debien
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Rating 8.56

Plays 7

First Played August

As a Feld fan disapointed in Feld's recent dip into overly complicated mish mashes of Euro mechanisms with a strong dose of Victory Point Salad, I went back in time to find this beloved classic of yesteryea...ok. No, I can't lie. I bought this because I was trying to complete my Alea Big Box collection (which I have since done) and I try to get all my new games played ASAP.

Was not expecting much here, but what I found was a clever little game with few resemblances to other Feld games. Other than a slight hint of victory point salad, I have found ItyotD to be relatively stright forward Euro about risk minimization with strong dose of future planning, which I love.

The lay out of the various events (read catastrophes) which the players have to steer through are always mixed up randomly for each game but are revealed at game start, giving ItyotD quite a lot of replay value.

The playtime also hits my sweetspot perfectly at 75 minutes for 3 players.

Great game I expect to be playing for years to come.
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20. Board Game: Luna [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:441]
David Debien
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Rating 9

Plays 1

First Played September

Fifth Best New to Me Game of 2013

Another Feld game. I am not sure if the allure of this hard to find game has added to its mystique, but I enjoyed the hell out of my one play, which ended up as a four way fight to the finish with all of us in it for a chance to win it.

The unique combination of the mechanisms was quite interesting, but to be honest my recollection of the game itself will not be able to do it justice nor will it be enough to justify my high rating. You will just have to take my word for it that this is one of Feld's best games.
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21. Board Game: Reef Encounter [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:556]
David Debien
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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Rating 9

Plays 4

First Played January

Fourth Best New to Me Game of 2013!

This one took me a while to puzzle out. Reef Encounter is not an easy game to learn from the rules, through no fault of the rulebook. Having gone back and re-read the rule book I find it quite clear and straightforward.

No, the issue is with the game itself. It breaks so many conventions of what we seasoned gamers expect in a game that we can't put 2 and 3 together to make 5.

Reef Encounter is the closest I have seen to multi player chess style Euro gameplay. the strategies still elude me completely, but I am head over heels in love with the game play, the bits, the scoring and the unique combination of mechanisms.

Plus, Shrimp-eeples! I mean, come on!
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22. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:168]
David Debien
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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Rating 9

Plays 7

First Played October

Third best New to Me Game of 2013!

I have to say that I am surprised that I like Bora Bora as much as I do. Lately, as I may have mentioned, I have been veering away from games with a ton of moving parts. Also, Feld's foray into Victory Point Salad has lost me lately. Bora Bora, I feel, continues in the vein of Trajan et al, but it tightens up the various pieces into a more coherent whole than in a game like Trajan where every part of the game board became its own mini game with little to no relation to anything going on elsehwere in the game.

Bora Bora, in comparison, is still very victory point salad oriented, but everything you are doing ties very well together with everything else, except for maybe the temple action, which hangs off the side a bit on its own. Otherwise, there is a clear connection to everything else you are doing which I like.

As in Trajan, what ties the game together is a clever action selection mechanism which in this case uses dice rather than the Mancala in Trajan (ultimately the only thing I still like about Trajan). What? Feld using dice in a clever way to select actions? Crazy talk!

Not much else to say about why I like Bora Bora other than to say I have fun while playing it, so I will leave well enough alone.
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23. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:551]
David Debien
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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Rating 9

First Played November

Plays 6

Second Best New to Me Game of 2013!

I had fairly high hopes for Spyrium. My first play was with 2 players. It was intriguing, but not earth shattering. Still, I could see that there was a strong game in there needing a player or two more to bring it fully to life.

I am happy to say, with 3 or more, Spyrium is a fantastic worker placement game by William Attia Mr Caylus himself.

I love the boiled down to brass tacks nature of the game. There is no fluff here. Spyrium is engine building in its rawest form. Get buildings to get spyrium, get buildings to flip Spyrium into victory points.

Add into the mix a unique (from what I have seen) WP mechanic that I can only somewhat liken to the timing mechanic in Tzolk'in and you have a whole new twist in the WP mechanism.

All this in a game with a 60-90 minute playtime and a medium sized box with a sub $30 dollar price tag.

Wow, just wow.
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24. Board Game: Vanuatu [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:735]
David Debien
United States
Round Rock
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Initial Rating 9.1

Plays 3

First Played December

Vanuatu is my Best New to Me Game of 2013.

This game is a real wolf in sheep's clothing or as I like to say, a pillow fight with bricks tucked into the pillows.

On the surface, Vanuatu looks like a pleasant little game about sailing around an archipelago, managing resources and scoring victory points. And it is that, except maybe for the pleasant part.

As I play more and more games, I grow tired of the same old tired mechanisms seemingly shaken up in a dice cup and strewn out into a game box with a new theme. I want something unique when I plunk down my hard earned dollars for a new game.

Vanuatu delivers that with its devilishly clever action selection mechanism which adds in gobs of screw your neighbor, future planning, push your luck and opportunity fire.

Laying underneath the aforementioned action selection mechanism is a very pleasant (there's that word again) game with elements of exploration, pick up and deliver, resource management, engine building and more player interaction than anyone has a right to expect from a "Eurogame".

Vanuatu leaves me frothing at the mouth for more more more!

Speaking of which, I am off to play Vanutatu now.

Cheers and I hope you enjoyed the list!
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