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Favorite Games of 2016 - Week by Week
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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Favorite Games of 2016 - Week by Week

I'm using this GeekList to keep track of my favorite games of 2016, on a week-by-week basis. Each week, I'll choose one of the games as a favorite, give my reasons, and note the other games played. I will avoid repeating individual games if at all possible. If I find this format works well for me, I'll do a new one each year.

Note: I did not come up with the idea of doing a list like this until mid-June. Therefore, the entries for the first half of the year were added during June and early July by looking at my logged plays.
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1. Board Game: Witch of Salem [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1615]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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Week of January 3rd

Rating:
# of Plays: 2

Despite having owned Witch of Salem for several years, I had not played it until this week. I came very, very close to selling it, but decided to first give it at least one go - and I loved it. In fact, I played it that first night back-to-back and then played again the following week.

I like the way the monster deck works, viz. that the monster effects are triggered when the second one appears and then you don't have to worry about that particular monster until the deck is reshuffled. I like the fact there are decisions to be made when taking an item for a location and that there is an incentive to take all the items, even though you will incur negative consequences from taking some of them. I like the fact that each player has limited item slots. I like the fact that you can visit each location once until you scoop your cards. There is much to like.

Really, the only thing I don't like about the game is that the official rules don't allow players to share information about gate tokens they've peeked at; I believe most players house-rule that you can. An alternative to this might be to allow players to trade artifacts just like regular items. Ultimately, this game is right up there with Ghost Stories and Yggdrasil in terms of what I'm looking for in a cooperative game. In a word, fantastic.

Runner-up: None
Others: Warband: Against the Darkness
 
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2. Board Game: Maka Bana [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:2661]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of January 10th

Rating:
# of Plays: 2

Maka Bana is another game that was new to me. I bought it last fall while on a vacation in France and Switzerland. It had been recommended to me by a Swiss fellow as a very popular game in his country, or at least among his friends. I brought it home and found an English rules translation in the files section. Unfortunately, the translation was for an earlier edition and did not work well with the newer edition's components. I eventually figured it out after several readings of the French rules.

The game's main mechanics are hand management and area control, but what I really LOVE are the tactics needed to do well: bluffing, second guessing, and reverse psychology. There are usually lots of surprises at the table (both good and bad) and lots of laughter. The only negative thing I would say is the game can stall a little towards the end as fewer and fewer open spaces are available on the board. I might have rated it 1/2 star higher otherwise.

Runner-up: Witch of Salem (x2)
Others: Modern Art (x3), Cartagena
 
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3. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:53] [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of January 17th

Rating:
# of Plays: 6

Codenames has been my most-played game in 2016 and likely won't be surpassed by anything else. There are three reasons for this: a) it's fun, b) it's quick, and c) it appeals to gamers and non-gamers alike. And with the right group, it can be a total blast - no game has ever made me laugh as hard as this one. Vlaada Chvátil and Czech Games Edition have hit it out of the park as far as I am concerned, and I was not surprised it won the SdJ this year.

Runner-up: Hemloch: Midnight Edition
Others: Hordes of Grimoor (x2), Omega Centauri (x2)
 
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4. Board Game: Omega Centauri [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:3977]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of January 24th

Rating:
# of Plays: 2

I ordered Omega Centauri from Print and Play Games after hearing about it on Ricky Royall's Box of Delights YouTube channel. In the review, Ricky shows a playthrough of a solo variant that he was helping the designer to develop. I bought the game on the strength of that review, although I ended up not liking the solo variant (which I played 2x last week). This week, I played it with two other players and really enjoyed it. Omega Centauri is an excellent intro to the 4X style of games. I wouldn't call it epic, but there is enough going on and it doesn't require a whole day to be set aside to play.

Runner-up: None
Others: None
 
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5. Board Game: Above and Below [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:173] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of January 31st

Rating:
# of Plays: 1

This week was my first play of Above and Below from Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games. It's a fantasy-themed story-telling game with beautiful and serene art, with Euro-style mechanics added in to make it more of a strategic Euro-style game. It was my favorite this week, but only because I had already chosen Witch of Salem as a favorite earlier in the month.

I felt the experience could have been better if the mechanics encouraged a little more story-telling. For example, I felt that the rewards for exploring were not always as good as they needed to be to encourage a lot of it. Also, many of the game's strategic options don't involve or encourage exploring, which seemed weird to me and left me wanting more.

Runner-up: Witch of Salem
 
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6. Board Game: Omen: A Reign of War [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:1013] [Average Rating:7.38 Unranked]
Doug Bass
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Week of February 7th

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Omen is a game by designer John Clowdus of Small Box Games. In the game, two players fight over multiple locations by playing different types of battle cards from their hands. Soldiers have a one-time immediate effect when played, less-powerful Oracles have ongoing effects, and the powerful Beast cards can be played two different ways. It is not unexpected in this type of game that many of the cards have take-that effects. Players must also strike a balance between cards and the coins needed to play them. There are a multitude of card effects, but the only drawback for me is that some effects allow players to search the discards, which can slow the game down a bit. Despite this, I really enjoy the game and feel like it's a good design, considered by many to be Clowdus' best. Unlike last week, I have no qualms about calling this my favorite.

Runner-up: Witch of Salem (x3)
Others: Chicken Caesar, Omega Centauri
 
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7. Board Game: Blood Rage [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:27]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of February 14th

Rating:
# of Plays: 1

To be honest, I am a little surprised I liked Blood Rage as much as I did and that it beat so many other games for my favorite this week. Having not read up on it, I was envisioning the game to be primarily luck-based with a long, disorganized rule book, and a lot of fiddliness and rules-checking during the game. Just shows how wrong you can be! Cards with effects replaced the dice that I expected to see. There were plenty of decisions to be made, the game didn't last for hours, and there was still plenty of theme. Very nice job by Eric M. Lang!

Runner-up: Codenames (x2)
Others: Guillotine, The Princes of Machu Picchu (x2), The Grizzled, Hemloch (x2)
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8. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:20]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of February 21st

Rating:
# of Plays: 2

This week it was really hard to decide between Concordia and Runebound (Third Edition) as my favorite. The games were essentially tied in my mind, but I ended up choosing Concordia based on the fact that I played it twice. I already knew I liked the game from past plays, but I enjoyed teaching it to a friend (and was very pleasantly surprised how good it was as a 2p) and then a bigger game later in the week.

Probably what I like best about the game is the player interaction. It's not interaction in the normal sense, but your decisions always have an impact on the strategies of the other players, and their decisions on yours. This game is definitely not multi-player solitaire, like some Eurogames tend to be - nothing you do is in a vacuum. There are many ways to score and hence many strategies to try. I will say that the final couple of rounds usually become a mad dash to grab cards and I don't like that, but not really enough to affect my enjoyment. Fantastic game.

Runner-up: Runebound (Third Edition)
Others: Hemloch, Lords of Waterdeep, Battle Line, Puerto Rico
 
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9. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:2719]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of February 28th

I don't have a favorite this week because I only played one game (Viticulture), and I didn't care for it.

Runner-up: None
Others: Viticulture
 
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10. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:215]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of March 6th

Rating:
# of Plays: 1

This week saw my first ever play of Acquire. I don't have much experience with stock holding and market manipulation games, but I really liked this. I finished last in the game, but there wasn't a huge point swing and I was left with the feeling I could become much better at it with repeated plays. I am glad I finally got the opportunity to play.

Runner-up: Bohnanza
Others: None
 
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11. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:336]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of March 13th

Rating:
# of Plays: 2

I didn't play much during the week, but got in a ton of gaming on Friday and Saturday. I think the biggest hit of all was PitchCar, a game I had never played before but had been looking at for a long time. I picked it up on sale, along with Extension 1 and The Cross. We played with all three, at least twice, and had a blast. I have come to really enjoy dexterity games over the past two or three years, and this is a good one. I would play pretty much anytime.

Runner-up: Ghost Stories
Others: Biblios (x3), Rhino Hero (x2), Stone Age, Xia: Legends of a Drift System, Empires of the Void, Omega Centauri, Fairy Tale, Vineta
 
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12. Board Game: Archaeology: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:1192]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of March 20th

Rating:
# of Plays: 3

For some reason, I feel weird about rating such a simple game so highly, but Archaeology is fantastic with two players (and not bad with three). It's by no means perfect and there is a lot of randomness, but I enjoy it every time. I particularly love the hand management aspect of the game, it's so vital to good play and there are several different techniques you learn over time and must keep in mind. Although chance will often determine the outcome if two players of roughly equal skills match up, it's a quick enough game and such an enjoyable experience that it doesn't matter. Just shuffle and play again. I really need to check out the newer edition, as I've heard there are improvements.

Runner-up: Friday (x6)
Others: Camel Up, Dragon Slayer (x3), Biblios (x2)
 
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13. Board Game: Friday [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:321]
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Week of March 27th

Rating:
# of Plays: 6

I played a lot of Friday over the past two weeks. It's a well-designed game and I enjoyed it well enough, but after trying many things and losing many times, I became discouraged and began questioning whether it was possible to win. I'm sure people have done it, but I could not figure it out, despite playing twelve times over the last two weeks. It's challenging and I like the idea behind the mechanics, but I feel it's just too hard. If it can be done, I'm sure I could figure it out eventually, but it has now run its course for me and I'd rather try something else during my solo gaming time. It was a fun challenge for a while, so I'm still listing it as my favorite this week and giving it 7 out of 10.

Runner-up: Archaeology: The Card Game (x3)
Others: One Deck Dungeon
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14. Board Game: Hemloch: Midnight Edition [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:6285]
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Week of April 3rd

Rating:
# of Plays: 1

Hemloch is the third game I've tried by John Clowdus of Small Box Games. Even though I was somewhat disappointed with Hordes of Grimoor, I thought Omen: A Reign of War was fantastic and wanted to try his others. I have to say I like Hemloch the best of the three. It uses a mixture of card play and area control with variable timing of the scoring (scoring "events" occur with increasing frequency as the game progresses). I think there are a couple of cards that are overpowered and some that are underpowered, but all-in-all this is a very fine game and I'm looking forward to trying others.

Runner-up: Imperial Settlers
Others: None
 
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15. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:2719]
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Winston-Salem
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Week of April 10th

No games this week

 
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16. Board Game: Valeria: Card Kingdoms [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:552]
Doug Bass
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Week of April 17th

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# of Plays: 1

I played several games this week (with three of them being completely new), but Valeria: Card Kingdoms was my favorite. A friend introduced it at our local game night by comparing it to Machi Koro, but assured the players that we would like it better. He was right insofar as it's more interesting to me, but I can still potentially see Machi Koro as being a more suitable introductory game for non-gamers.

The most obvious thing that sets Valeria apart is that each roll of the two dice results in three activations (instead of just once): for each die separately and then again for the sum of the two. Furthermore, all cards matching the results are activated, regardless of owner. Combined together, these two factors result in the cards being activated more frequently, which makes for a better experience for everyone.

There are other big differences besides these: the game has two basic resources (money and power) and one "wildcard" resource (magic), there are more ways to score points, the card effects are more varied, and there are multiple end-game conditions that all players have some measure of control over. These and other differences work together to make it a game I really enjoyed playing (so much so that I ordered myself a copy after playing).

Runner-up: Blood Rage (x2)
Others: Maka Bana (x2), Archaeology: The Card Game, Level Up, Council of Verona (second edition)
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17. Board Game: London Dread [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:2080]
Doug Bass
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Winston-Salem
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Week of April 24th

Rating:
# of Plays: 1

I got the opportunity to play London Dread this week with a friend who was play testing it for Grey Fox Games. The theme and art were both very cool and everyone enjoyed the planning phase a lot. During resolution, it was interesting to see how well everyone did or did not program their actions and movements properly. I did not care for the final showdown, mostly because it felt like an entirely different game from the two story chapters. The game should be available at Gen Con, so I will be interested to see how it looks and I will pick up a copy if I'm able to.

Runner-up: Codenames (x4)
Others: Above and Below (x2), Valeria: Card Kingdoms, Maka Bana, Blood Rage
 
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18. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:359]
Doug Bass
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Week of May 1st

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# of Plays: 1

I haven't played Thurn and Taxis in a long time, not since January of last year. It's not a game that I think about or play very often, but I really enjoy it when I do. I enjoy the push-your-luck element of trying to build longer routes, and deciding where to place your post offices when you complete a route. It's a really good medium-weight game to pull out once in a while. I enjoyed this week's game a lot and felt like I played better than any of my previous five plays. Unfortunately, I sold my copy a while ago; I may need to think about tracking down another copy.

Runner-up: Avignon: A Clash of Popes (x2)
Others: Archaeology: The Card Game, Above and Below, Codenames (x2), Chronicle
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19. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:377]
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Week of May 8th

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# of Plays: 1

Chicago Express is another game I hadn't played in over three years for some reason. Upon request, I brought it to our weekly game night and we got a four-player game going that everyone enjoyed. This is such an interesting and tricky game, I would have been perfectly happy to play a second time. I really love the decisions the game presents: when to auction shares and when to buy them and at what price, when and how to lay down tracks and for what railroad, when to take a null action. Every decision by every player affects the trajectory of the game, so the game is best when all players have the same experience level with the game. My play has improved greatly over time, but I still have a lot of room for improvement. I'm not sure whether "deep" is the right word for the game, but it certainly has a lot of meat to gnaw on. It's up there among my all-time favorites, and one of my most-played games.

Runner-up: Avignon: A Clash of Popes (x3)
Others: Champions of Midgard
 
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20. Board Game: Flicking Finches [Average Rating:10.00 Unranked]
Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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Week of May 15th

Rating:
# of Plays: 1

I first heard about Flicking Finches when it was offered as a stretch goal for UniForge Games' Top This! Kickstarter campaign back in 2012. While I was interested in both games, I was really drawn to the charming artwork of Flicking Finches. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the Top This! campaign never raised enough money to make the stretch goal, but I have never forgotten about the game. Recently, Yves Tourigny was kind enough to share the rules with me. I played several times with friends and found it to be a fun, whimsical flicking game with lots of player interaction. After evaluating the game, I'm very pleased to report that Yves agreed to sign a contract with my company, Meridae Games, to publish it in 2017.

Runner-up: Garden Dice
Others: None
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21. Board Game: Dune Express [Average Rating:5.98 Overall Rank:7740]
Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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Week of May 22nd

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# of Plays: 2

I am lucky to have bought Dune Express shortly before the Herbert estate asked www.printplaygames.com to stop offering it for sale. I didn't play it immediately, but decided to try it out this week. I enjoyed both plays quite a bit, even though it's not high on the strategy spectrum (though there is some). It's a Yahtzee-style game with variable player powers, where each player placing troops on the board according to his die rolls. The game ends instantly when one player controls three of five areas on the board. I am not sure I can exactly pinpoint what it is about the game, I just find it fun and a good game to play right after finishing a monster. I would not recommend playing with more than four players, three is probably ideal. I have since played Dune: The Dice Game, which definitely has more strategy, but worse art. I prefer the latter now that I've played it, but both are good.

Runner-up: Bohnanza
Others: Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill
 
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22. Board Game: Mombasa [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:65]
Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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Week of May 29th

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# of Plays: 1

Mombasa was the hit this week for me. I really enjoyed both the theme and mechanics. There is a lot going on in this game. I liked the way in which the cards were played: each round, players must make difficult choices about which cards to play, which will be unavailable until a future round. Oddly, there are even decisions to be made about which discard pile to use, as cards are returned to a player's hand one discard pile at a time. I need to play this again.

Runner-up: Dune Express
Others: None
 
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23. Board Game: Attika [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:601]
Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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Week of June 5th

Rating:
# of Plays: 3

This was a big gaming week for me. I played games on four separate occasions, which is unusual for me. I also really enjoyed everything I played this week, which is not always the case. The two top contenders for the week's favorite were Attika and Ghost Stories; I decided go with the former since I hadn't played in a very long while (longer than Ghost Stories) and because it is such an amazing game with two players. I don't see a lot of discussion about it, which is a shame because it really is among the best two-player games out there.

Attika is an unusual network-building game. Each player has a similar board showing the city locations that can be built using the resource cards in their hand. Each of these locations has a corresponding hexagonal tile in one of the face down stacks next to their board, which must be randomly drawn before the location can be built. Whenever a tile is drawn, a player may build it immediately if its cost can be paid; otherwise, it is placed in reserve on the player board to be built later. Each set of locations forms a chain; if a player is patient, he can build the locations in the proper order and proper board space to ignore the cost to build. Players cannot afford to be too patient however, as one of the game end conditions is to connect two shrine tiles on the board (which itself is made up of larger modular tiles), and the other is to place all their tiles out.

I have played Attika around six times now and I feel there is a lot more for me to explore and much room for me to become a better player. I love the amount of thought and planning that need to go into every turn: choosing when to draw tiles (and from which stack), deciding the best time to take the last tile of a stack, choosing when and what to build, when to take cards and how many, when to cut off your opponents' routes, when to block key resource spaces on the board, when to spend extra resources to start a new settlement - there is just so much to savor.

Runner-up: Ghost Stories (2x)
Others: Zombie in my Pocket, Champions of Midgard, Dune: The Dice Game, Onitama
 
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24. Board Game: Zombie in my Pocket [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2552]
Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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Week of June 12th

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# of Plays: 2

Second big week of gaming in a row. About half of the week's games were new to me. Even though the week's favorite, Zombie in my Pocket, was not new, I had not played it in so long that it might as well have been. There's very little in the way of strategy in this solo game, but it is dumb fun, moreso than I remembered. It's small enough to put in your pocket. A microgame that came along before microgames were cool.

In the game, you are trying to find and bury a secret totem hidden somewhere in your parents' house while they're away, in order to fend off a zombies attack. You draw tiles randomly to create the house and then the yard, encountering each revealed tile by drawing a card and resolving its effect. If you can find the totem within three game rounds (each of which gets successfully more challenging), and get it buried in the backyard, all without getting killed by the zombies, you win. Hurrah!

I also had fun in a tangential way by creating a player aid to keep track of your health, the game clock, and the items in your possession. I wanted to use wooden cubes to mark everything, so it was a bit of a challenge getting it all onto a piece of paper the size of a playing card.

Runner-up: Deep Sea Adventure (x3)
Others: Tin Goose, Shadow Throne, Hamburgum, Jambo
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25. Board Game: Archon: Glory & Machination [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1773]
Doug Bass
United States
Winston-Salem
North Carolina
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Week of June 19th

Rating:
# of Plays: 1

Archon: Glory & Machination was my favorite this week. I believe I heard about it in a video review, possibly Rahdo's final thoughts. A common complaint of many reviewers is the board artwork. While beautiful, is just too darn busy for its own good (I likened it to a Where's Waldo? book). Other than that, I had only two other complaints: one or two tiles seem a tad overpowered and some of the wooden bits can be hard to distinguish in low light. In spite of these complaints, the game itself is a really, really solid worker placement game with 3 or 4 players, and a lot of fun. I liked being forced to split my hand of 10 cards into two groups of 5 before every other round, and the fact that your opponents cannot see how you've arranged them. I like the way your workers can be upgraded in different ways (you never get more, they just get better) and their abilities once upgraded. I like the building tiles that can be purchased to gain permanent benefits, as well as the game's different scoring opportunities. I like games where players are encouraged to work as a team in certain ways or suffer the consequences together; this game has that as well. I hope that I will have the chance to play again soon.

Runner-up: Deep Sea Adventure
Others: Star Realms, Lost Cities (x3)
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