Surprise hits you played in 2013
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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There is only one choice and the brave make it. Fly from the path.
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I've recently been reading What game did you try in 2013 that didn't measure up to its hype? and it's been interesting. But, it got me to wondering about the other more interesting side of the coin: What are some games that didn't get any hype that you absolutely loved? Do you think they should get more hype? Would they have been as good if they were built up for you?
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1. Board Game: Steam Park [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:677]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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This is the first one that came to mind. I'd seen a few pictures that looked great, and really hoped it wasn't all just cool components and no game (FFG syndrome).

I was really happy to have been able to play at BGG-con last year, because it was a blast and my fears were unfounded! I think it's really unique, accessible and fun. Real-time dice rolling, turn-based actions, 3-D ride standees illustrated by Marie Cardouat of Dixit fame, and plays in 30-60 minutes. I think this should get more press.
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2. Board Game: The Capitals [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1548]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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In the geeklist I linked above, I named Suburbia as one of my over-hyped games. I didn't like having to keep track of a bunch of icons not only on my board, but on adjacent tiles, and in other players boroughs.

I had never heard of this game until I was offered it in trade for Ladies and Gentlemen (which also disappointed me). I near-blindly accepted the trade after skimming some reviews, and I have to say, after 5 2-player plays, it's one the best impulse decisions I've made yet.

Despite some minor printing errors on the player aids, I loved it. It's heavier and more euro than Suburbia, but it's deeply satisfying. There are definitely more rules, but they're very intuitive to me.

You can only build buildings in construction zones, and adjacent to the same color of building (of which there are 5--6 with the including mini-expansion) or you incur a penalty, which adds an interesting spatial planning aspect to the game.

Buying earlier initiative in the round ensures you get the buildings you need, but also means future initiative buys are more expensive, which I think it's an excellent and novel mechanic. Each space on the initiative track has a dollar amount and a multiplier. Choosing to go first means that the next time you buy initiative, you pay 6x the dollar amount of wherever you go next. Depending on what strategy you go with, money can be very tight, which makes for some very interesting decisions.

In addition to money, you'll be managing your city's culture, public works, industrial progress, energy, employment and population. Not being able to excel in all areas at once makes this game exciting and satisfying. Not to mention thematic. "Do I want to build a tech-heavy city that's overpopulated? Or do I want a cute well-groomed suburb with excellent public works and a high population?" Best of all, I've made both strategies work.
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3. Board Game: Divinare [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1471]
Steven Tan
United States
South San Francisco
CA - California
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This one also didn't receive a lot of hype. It's a really interesting game with a very unique theme. You are competing for the title of world's greatest psychic. There's a 36-card deck with 4 suits in varying amounts.

24 cards get dealt, and 12 thrown back into the box. Your job is to guess how many of each card got dealt out at the beginning of the round. You move your guess marker by playing a card to 1 of the 4 boards on the table, each of which matches one of the suits. This also gives your opponents information. Eventually, all cards that were dealt out will be played.

The rub is that you MUST move your guess marker on a board if you play a card of the matching suit, even if you know you've nailed the number down. At varying points in the game, you pass cards to simultaneously gather more information, mislead your opponents, and finally screw them over by giving them cards they might not want to play.

The art is gorgeous and evocative, and game play is quick and deep. Do you play the safe odds or trust your gut? For such a mathematical game, it is really thematic.
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4. Board Game: Guildhall [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:694] [Average Rating:7.01 Unranked]
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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This and Guildhall: Job Faire were the surprise hits of the year for my group. The gameplay is smooth, VERY interactive, and lots of fun. My brother and nephew like it too!

Monopoly Deal Card Game was another surprise. My eldest son taught it to me, and I really skeptical about it beforehand. However, it was surprisingly fun and while it's not a game I suggest or bring out, I wouldn't mind playing it if someone suggests it to me.
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5. Board Game: Libertalia [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:297]
Yoosuk Choi
United States
Bloomington
Indiana
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I'm was very pleasantly shocked by how much I loved this game. This was one that I saw a run down of the rules and thought, "pass". The play seemed too simple to encourage deep thought and the caveat of everyone having the same cards, I thought, would make each game too "samey". Wrong. So wrong.

After my first play and not coincidentally my first of many losses, I immediately thought I had figured out how to out strategize the game. Sadly I was to discover, you are not playing against the game but always against your opponent. Libertalia is just that perfect level of streamlined so that you can always feel like you have options and yet feel the outcome is always based on who was a step ahead of their opponent.

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6. Board Game: Kemet [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:77]
Shane Larsen
United States
Salt Lake City
UT
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I knew I would like Kemet before I even tried it. Then I tried it and had a great experience. Great enough that I purchased it at my next possible moment. Then I played it a couple more times, and... well I was blown away with each play.

It quickly became my #2 rated game. I didn't see that coming at all.
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7. Board Game: Snowdonia [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:343]
Shane Larsen
United States
Salt Lake City
UT
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I didn't even have Snowdonia on my radar until just days before I bought it. And I only picked it up because (1) it came highly recommended by a gamer whose opinion I trust greatly (thanks Jon) and (2) I wanted a true Euro that played well solo.

I found a gem. It's among my favorite WP games ever. If you haven't tried it, I think you should; especially if you like worker placers.
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8. Board Game: Riff Raff [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:1217]
John Sizemore
United States
Richmond
Virginia
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This is NOT a Chihuahua. It is a Sphynx cat. A bald, grouchy Sphynx cat who will bite you if you mistake him for a Chihuahua.
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I really expected to hate this game, as I generally hate dexterity games. The wild (but realistic) movements of the ship made it a lot more interesting and fun than I would have thought. I'm not sure it would hit the table often at my place, but this was a blast to try.
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