Qwertymartin's decade in games
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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I got into this hobby in 2007 and in 2008 signed up to BGG, started logging my plays and joined London on Board. So the 2010s are my first full decade as a boardgame obsessive! Inspired by Decopoly - A decade of games, here are my top two games from each year of the decade. But this list won't just be about the games, it will also be about the people and the places I encountered along the way.
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1. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:331]
Board Game: Innovation
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2010 winner

I'm pretty sure I was introduced to this by Tony Boydell at a London on Board session. I was bewitched by the chaos of those early 4p games but when I got my own copy I saw how wonderful it could be as a 2p game with a regular opponent (my friend Matt who I wish still lived as close to me as he did then!) But these days I'm most likely to play it 4p again, in the brilliant 2v2 partnership format. Those games are always a highlight of my twice-yearly visit to LoBsterCon in Eastbourne.

I like to say that Innovation is not a combo-builder but a context-builder. Because many of the card powers have variables that are dynamically set by the current game state, it's possible for a card that you've never rated before suddenly become a lynchpin of your game. That's why the game continues to surprise me after 100s of plays (if I include online) and also why, after an initial foray into Echoes of the Past, I've never felt any need to bother with the expansions.
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2. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:397]
Board Game: Hanabi
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2010 runner-up

I'd read about the original Hanabi & Ikebana edition and it sounded very interesting, so I mocked up a copy with cards from a copy of Morff I'd recently been given as a present. The first time I tried it out was on the train back from LoBsterCon in spring 2012, having to be careful to avoid catching a glimpse of our cards reflected in the window. Everyone at the table was blown away and I knew it was going to be a huge hit when it got a wider release (I went on to buy both the card version and the deluxe tile set).

Hanabi was also the game that made me realise I could love co-ops, when they're not solo puzzles played by committee. I'm fascinated by games with communication restrictions - a theme that will reappear later in the list.
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3. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:555]
Board Game: Kingdom Builder
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2011 winner

I burnt out on Dominion quite quickly and had decided I wasn't going to bother with this one, until John Bandettini taught it to me at LoB just before Christmas 2011. I immediately sought out a copy to play with my family at Christmas and went on to write my longest and most-popular BGG review about it (Kingdom Builder after 30 plays) where I wrote:

Quote:
If, like me, you value elegance and emergent game play, spatial interaction and high variability, and are happy with reasonably high levels of randomness and abstraction, the game may well be worth considering. I think it would make an excellent selection for the 2012 Spiel des Jahres.
It was nice to see that come to pass and for Hanabi to follow up with an SdJ win the year after! In fact, three of the decade's SdJ choices are going to make this list, two more (Azul and Just One) are bubbling under, and I wouldn't be surprised if another is still to come in 2020. Together with the Fairplay A la Carte award, it's certainly the most relevant to my gaming preferences.
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4. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:470]
Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2011 runner-up

Being a big fan of Martin Wallace (at the time) and Terry Pratchett (for most of my life) this was a must-have and it was sad to see the Discworld licence expire after Pratchett's death. The city of Ankh-Morpork was always my favourite setting in the books and the game captures well its colourful chaos. I particularly remember a summer day well-spent with friends, including the one who introduced me to the hobby in the first place, playing it four times in a row.

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5. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:478]
Board Game: Pax Porfiriana
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2012 winner

2012 was the year of my first and so far only pilgrimage to Essen, with a great bunch of LoBsters in tow. I was Eklund-curious at the time (having tried High Frontier and Bios Megafauna) but I wasn't convinced this historical setting held much interest for me. My friend Jon had pre-ordered a copy though, so back at the hotel he, I and fellow Eklund-phile Paul pored over the photocopied and stapled rule-sheet in an attempt to figure out what the hell was going on. We ended up playing three times that day and a seed was planted.

The next day at the fair I picked up my own set and it ended up becoming my game in a way that nothing else has (in terms of getting in at the ground floor). I posted a lot of the early information about the game on BGG, organised game days devoted to it, participated in BGG forum plays using bizarre hieroglyphics, answered hundreds of rule queries, invented a now-official variant and wrote a strategy guide that was included in the deluxe edition rulebook (a huge improvement on that well-thumbed original!).

And perhaps most importantly, purchasing a custom baize play-mat from geekbuddy Joe turned out to be my passport into a new games group when I moved from London to Bristol in 2013 - the games group I've played with weekly ever since, making firm friends in the process.
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6. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:285]
Board Game: Love Letter
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2012 runner-up

I'd spotted a preview of the Japon Brand edition while researching my Essen trip and popped in a pre-order -- the Japon Brand stall was actually my first destination on entry to the halls. I'd thought it was going to be an obscure little thing, not anticipating that AEG would pick it up for a simultaneous (if less stylish) release, and certainly not the huge microgame sensation that followed. In those Essen evenings, we played this and Coup dozens of times each, showing just how much fun you can have with nothing more than a very small deck of cards. It kindled an ongoing interest in 'Japanese hipster games' too, even if none of those quite achieved the same success.
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7. Board Game: Polterfass [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:5305]
Board Game: Polterfass
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2013 winner

I wasn't introduced to this until a couple of years later, when back in London visiting LoBster friends, and I didn't pick up my own copy and really get into it for another couple of years after that. But it's brilliant - one of the most undeservedly-unknown games I know. I love the way it combines push-your-luck and blind-bidding, two mechanisms that are both great for generating laughter, and I love the satisfying components and the appropriate theme. If you've never heard of it, please do check out my review (Polterfass - a perfect marriage of push-your-luck and blind bidding) and see if it might suit your group too.
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8. Board Game: Northern Pacific [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:2774]
Board Game: Northern Pacific
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2013 runner-up

I'd heard of, and been intrigued by, this one at the time when Claudio wrote an excellent review of it ([Voice of Experience 2.0] Northern Pacific: "Cube or Train, Cary? Cube or Train?") for the Voice of Experience reviews contest I was running. But Winsome games were near-impossible to get hold of and I put it out of my mind until Rio Grande announced a reprint last year.

It's superb! The delicious incentive-manipulation of much bigger train games boiled down into something you can teach in under a minute and play in 15. And playing well with 5 or even 6 makes it almost an economic party game. I particularly had a blast playing it on a weekend away with a group of ruthless LoBsters where the table-talk made me hope my 3-year-old daughter was sleeping soundly on the other side of a rather skinny wall!
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9. Board Game: Wir sind das Volk! [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:596]
Board Game: Wir sind das Volk!
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2014 winner

I love modern-day political/economic themes in games and I'd been highly impressed by Peer Sylvester's König von Siam so this was the game I asked to be brought back for me from Essen 2014. My only fear was that I didn't really have much opportunity for heavy 2p gaming, after moving away from London and the aforementioned Matt. Fortunately Joe was up for putting together a really good run with this in a short period of time, which let us get over the (significant) rules hurdle and start really enjoying it. And the excellent online implementation let me get in some great plays with friends in the US too. I've not played it for a long time sadly, but I'm still very fond of it.
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10. Board Game: Pairs [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:2637]
Board Game: Pairs
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2014 runner-up

Geekbuddy Mat put together an absolutely fantastic blogpost on pub games (Pub Games - A Common Thread) around about time this self-described 'new classic pub game' came out. I love this type of zero-explanation-all-laughs game, the kind you could teach to anyone and have fun with. The blog comments strayed into the difference between a party game and a pub game and I offered: "Party games are intended to make you talk. Pub games are intended to let you talk."

Pairs became the standard night-closer for my games group for a long time and I fondly remember a great late-night semi-drunk session actually in a pub with a bunch of old friends too.

It's also nice to see my first comment on Mat's post, in which I said "I'd love to share a beer and a game with you!" and posted a picture of Bar Billiards, my favourite traditional bar game. A couple of years later Mat and family were visiting London and we did just that - I even got to school him at Bar Billiards too!
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11. Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:477]
Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2015 winner

This was another love-at-first-play game when it was introduced to me by good friend Paul. I got into baseball (watching) and softball (playing) in the time I spent living in Chicago and I find this game really captures the drama of watching sports, while giving you the opportunity to influence the proceedings too.

My most memorable plays of it are from just after I got my own copy. A US geekbuddy, Tom, was visiting me in Bristol and we decided to go on a three-day hike through the Welsh countryside. We brought just the cards with us to save on space, and scratched out a couple of diamonds on the groundsheet of the tent to play by torchlight. We got told off by a lady in an adjacent caravan for making too much noise with our hollers of victory and howls of defeat.

In other news, when I got back from that trip, my wife told me that while I was away she'd found out she was pregnant!
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12. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:93] [Average Rating:7.62 Unranked]
Board Game: Codenames
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2015 runner-up

I credit this for launching a whole genre of 'thinky party games' (you might argue they're not party games at all, aside from playing with big groups). I've ended up enjoying some of the subsequent ones more (see below) but had some great times with this one. Introducing it to my family one Christmas was hilarious. I felt that 'crawl' was a great clue to tie together 'slug', 'bar' and something else I forget, but my dad was insistent that a 'pub crawl' is a thing but a 'bar crawl' isn't shake
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13. Board Game: Fuji Flush [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1908]
Board Game: Fuji Flush
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2016 winner

With the arrival of my daughter in early March, 2016 was not a big year for gaming and any I did snatch was very light. Fuji Flush underwhelmed on its first introduction to my games group but became an end-of-the-night all-back-together classic after we realised the correct spirit to play it in. In particular, we introduced the concept of the 'dick point' (which don't count toward scoring) for beating a set of cards by exactly one.
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14. Board Game: 聖杯サクセション (Throne and the Grail) [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:5299]
Board Game: 聖杯サクセション (Throne and the Grail)
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2016 runner-up

For pretty much the entire decade I've been a member of the Swedish Meatball division of the GameChat League (GCL). It's been a wonderful way to get to know a small group of gamers around the world and discuss not just games but all areas of life with them. I also hang out online (and occasionally in real life) with the Phoenix division too and this is a game I particularly associate with them - indeed 7 of the top 10 for number of logged plays are Phoenixes (and one of the others is me)!

It's not easy to get hold of but highly recommended to fans of quick 2p duels like Battle Line and Hanamikoji. Hopefully it will get picked up for a wider release in the future.

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15. Board Game: Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:884]
Board Game: Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2017 winner

As you've probably gathered by now, I don't play a lot of long games. My Tuesday games night are mostly 'tapas' - a selection of 5 or 6 half-hour-ish games - and I'm totally happy with that.

But when I do get into a heavy game, I like to play it a lot, because otherwise what's the point spending the time learning all those rules? Time of Crisis is the one from the past few years that has really stuck, and four of us have been getting together roughly once a month for a night devoted to it ever since summer 2017. A Sunday morning Time of Crisis slot is also now a fixture at LoBsterCon and I played a bunch of games on Vassal too.

All that means it's a game I've come to know really well, and I like to think got rather good at. It's also one for which I felt we'd truly earned the expansion, which freshened things up just as we needed it to.
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16. Board Game: Voodoo Prince [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:2869]
Board Game: Voodoo Prince
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2017 runner-up

I discovered that Reiner Knizia was my favourite designer within my first couple of years in the hobby and in the early 2010s mind my way through his extensive back catalogue, discovering many favourites along the way. But in the mid-decade, he was mainly releasing kids and electronic games which didn't hold much appeal for me. It's been a delight that in the past 2 or 3 years Knizia has returned to designing more games for which I'm in the target audience - the so-called 'Reinerssance'. This is the only one that's made it to the list, but The Quest for El Dorado, Blue Lagoon, Yellow & Yangtze and Babylonia have a lot to recommend them too.

Voodoo Prince is not only a Knizia but also a trick-taker, one of my favourite genres. I love to see the new spins modern designers keep putting on this ancient tradition. Voodoo Prince is mechanically very simple but adds a hilarious push-your-luck feel where you want to win enough tricks before the round ends, but preferably wait to win them as long as you can.
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17. Board Game: The Mind [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:635]
Board Game: The Mind
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2018 winner

In the Hanabi entry, I foreshadowed by love of Co-ops that are IMPOSSIBLE to play solo and this is one of the very best of them. The debate about whether it's a 'game' or an 'activity' will rage on no doubt but the important thing is whether it is fun, and The Mind has given me some of my very best gaming moments. The best thing about it is the way that it encourages empathy in a group. You find yourself staring into each other's eyes, trying to collectively hone your sense of timing and, unlike Hanabi, it's difficult to assign any 'blame' when something goes wrong. The Mind Extreme has recently given our now rather well synchronised group a new challenge too - I love that it incorporates the 'play your cards face down' element that was only in the original game once you'd completed all the 'standard' levels.

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18. Board Game: Decrypto [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:102]
Board Game: Decrypto
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2018 runner-up

This isn't a co-op but it still has that restricted communication element I love, this time between teams, like Codenames. Unlike Codenames, it gives everyone the chance to give as well as receive clues, and we find that it puts a bit less pressure on the clue-giver to come up with something clever. I've only really played it with my regular games group but for us it's become a standby. It also has a really good recent expansion which simply gives you a 'theme' for each round, offering a reward for matching your clues to it. I really like the effect that has of prompting the clue-giver to be a bit more off-the-wall and it's really satisfying when it comes off.
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19. Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:38]
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2019 winner

Having got this far in the list, you can probably understand my excitement when I heard about a co-op restricted-communication trick-taker! I've still only played through the first half of the missions and am excited to see what else awaits us. It's not a 'once-and-done' legacy game either - the same mission can feel dramatically different with a fresh deal of the cards and goals, so I feel sure I will be playing this for years to come. And I'd be surprised if it isn't at least nominated for the 2020 SdJ.
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20. Board Game: Pax Pamir: Second Edition [Average Rating:8.42 Overall Rank:68]
Board Game: Pax Pamir: Second Edition
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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2019 runner-up

I had the privilege of hosting Cole at my house on a trip to the UK, at which time he was just about to publish his first design - the original edition of Pax Pamir. I really enjoyed learning it from him and got a copy but sadly found it very difficult to get anyone to play it with me. Fast-forward a few years and Cole has become one of the hottest designers in the industry and revisited Pamir with fresh eyes. I think he did an absolutely brilliant job of making it more accessible while retaining its feel of temporary alliance and sneaky backstabs, and it didn't hurt that he gave it a stunning physical production too. I hope I'll be playing face-to-face some more this year and I know I'll be continuing a great run of online games on Vassal.
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21. Board Game: Babylonia [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:1377]
Board Game: Babylonia
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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OK, I've *got* to add this for 2019 after playing it a ton and finding it to be my 3rd favourite Knizia (after Tigris and Ra). It definitely bumps Pax Pamir for runner-up and it might beat The Crew for #1 too.
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