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I’ve seen a wide range of opinions on the internet about the year 2005, with most people calling it a “good” year. For me, that’s simply not a the adjective I would use. When it comes to games, 2005 was one of the best years ever! It was an incredible year of gaming and fun, and while I’m not sorry to see it come to a close - I am pleased with all the good times I had, and all the good games I played.
There were some sad parts to 2005 - with three of the best gaming buddies I’ve ever had: Jesse Proctor, Bob Aarhus, and Shin Yoo - all leaving Korea for America/Great Britain. While I’m sorry to see them go, I am glad that there are some gaming groups on the other side of the world that recieved these tremendous gamers. For the first half of 2005, the Korean Gamer group was strong - and we played games quite often. I still play games quite a bit these days, but never with the intensity and the die-hard gamers that were in that group.
The Musings On… series was a bit of a roller coaster. I get criticized about my reviews, no matter what I do - either they’re too positive or I pick on a game someone likes. But every time I put out a Musings On…, I got positive feedback. The problem was just that putting out one of those articles entailed more work than anything else I’ve done. This isn’t a bad thing - but getting everyone together to put one out was also a bit problematic. Halfway though the year, I switched the format from it being just me and Jeremy Avery to a group format - and I still get praised/criticized for the move. For those of you looking for another Musings On…, don’t worry, the series hasn’t died!
2005 was the debut of my “Interviews by an Optimist” series. As the series has progressed, it’s obvious to me that I’m not very good at thinking of good questions. However, despite my lack of skills, several of those I’ve interviewed have really given some good insights. I’m very pleased with the results, and hope to continue the series into 2006 - at least until I get to # 100.
The biggest item that I started in 2005 was the Dice Tower. I had been listening to BoardGameSpeak fairly regularly, but it never occurred to me to try the same thing, until I heard Mark Johnson’s call for more, new podcasters. I mentioned the idea to Joe Steadman, and he responded with such enthusisasm, that we started it off, doing the first show off the top of our heads, and no name. After a few shows, we finally settled on a name and format, and have had a pretty good run this year. Our first shows are horrible (I can’t stand to listen to them - but then again, I don’t listen to any of the shows usually), but I’d like to think that we’ve gotten a bit better (except for my horrible pronunciation). We’ve gotten excellent support from board game companies, and have handed out several prizes - which has been good for the show. I estimate that we currently have about 1,000 listeners, which while small by most scales, is quite impressive to me. Look for the show to evolve over 2006 - with a big change happening in July, but more slowly over the rest of the year. I do listen to criticism quite a bit, and have made many changes in the show because of it.
And my reviews - well, I put out more in 2005 than the previous two years, so I guess I’m not slowing down too much. I still have piles of games that need to be reviewed, so nothing will slow down on that end. It’s still my favorite of all my articles to actually do. I guess the most important review-oriented item in 2005 was that I finally got all of my articles compiled into one place, at my own website - www.tomvasel.com. Since I’m doing most of the HTML coding myself, the site’s a little clunky, but someone with real experience is currently looking at it - so expect a major overhaul in 2006.
My top internet items from 2005:
1.) The exodus from www.gamefest.com and subsequent formation of www.boardgamenews.com: Well, there’s no denying that I have some vested interest in BGN, they do host The Dice Tower, after all. But while GameFest was a lot of fun, we have a huge amount of freedom at BGN - and Rick is a superb editor. BGN was only around for the last two months of 2005 - and I’m sure that things will only improve in 2006!
2.) The closure of The Games Journal. This was terrible news for me, indeed - as some of the best articles to ever grace the internet were found at Greg’s site. We will miss TGJ considerably, and already I’m starting to talk about the “good old days” when TGJ was on the internet. Hopefully BGN will pick up some of the slack of TGJ.
3.) Gone Gaming: Some of the best bloggers on the internet got together and formed a cooperative blog (similar to what was at GameFest and is now at BGN). And, oh my, what a blog. Despite the fact that I still don’t understand what Grognads is posting about, www.boredgamegeeks.blogspot.com is one of the first blog I read each day. From humor, to personal stories, to games - Gone Gaming was a tremendous effort. With other excellent cooperative blogs starting, such as the Gathering of Engineers, I hope that this trend will continue.
4.) Blogs: For me, 2005 was the year of the blog. Before, I had read blogs on occasion, but in 2005 - I checked my blogs daily. I learned which people mixed their personal lives in their blogs, and which talked solely about gaming. Some blogs I found a bit too negative for my tastes - but most were positive, interesting things. I currently check about thirty of them each day - and while I do have my favorites, I find interesting things in all of them.
5.) Secret Santa: www.boardgamegeek.com, over the course of 2005, became the king of the board game internet community. It may have already had this position in 2004 - but it certainly cemented it in 2005. There was a bit of a small exodus of bloggers, who felt (possibly justifiably so) that they weren’t being heard in the avalanche of noise that BGG became - but it certainly didn’t slow the site down at all. From prizes, to “Geek of the Week”, to changes in the article rating system, BGG has consistently gotten better. And they certainly have one of the best communities on the internet - I ran a Secret Santa event that was only open for four days, and over two hundred folk responded and sent board games to strangers.
I’ve already talked about my top ten games of the year, on the Dice Tower (episode 30) which are (in order):
1.) Twilight Imperium
2.) Ticket to Ride: Europe
3.) Railroad Tycoon
4.) Dungeon Twister
5.) Conquest of the Empire
6.) Shadows over Camelot
As you can tell, with the exception of # 10 - theme was and is still very important to me. I love a good game with solid mechanics just as much as the next person, but a game with good theme always trumps it for me.
My next five - which I also think were tremendously good games, were:
11.) Pizza Box Football
12.) Havoc: the Hundred Years War
And then the following games (in no particular order)
17.) Arkham Horror
18.) Children of Fire
19.) Battlegrounds: Fantasy Warfare
20.) Trump! Tricks! Game!
21.) DaVinci’s Challenge
23.) Ice Cream
24.) Mall of Horror
26.) Shear Panic
27.) Walk the Dogs
29.) Wits and Wagers
33.) Monkey Memory
What’s amazing about 2005 is that I think all of the above games are GREAT. Not merely good, but excellent games. I don’t plan to get rid of any of them anytime soon, and find only the smallest of flaws in them. There are about thirty or forty other games from 2005 that I find good, with a few minor problems - and when you combine those forty with the thirty-four above, that is an absolutely AWESOME number of games from 2005 that I’ve enjoyed - making it a terrific year in games for me.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the Tom Vasel awards!
Most innovative game of the year:
Deflexion: I mean, come on - it’s lasers!!
Runners up: Terakh, Battlegrounds: Fantasy Warfare, Pizza Box Football
Nicest artwork of the year:
Amazonas: An absolutely beautiful game - stunning in look and appeal.
Runners up: Arkham Horror, Beowulf, Conquest of the Empire
Best remake of the year:
China: I think Ticket to Ride: Europe is a whole new game, rather than a remake.
Best blogger of the year:
This was a difficult one - but I think I’ll have to tip my hat to Alfred Wallace, with his “Best of the Blogosphere” posts.
Runners up: Chris Brooks, Coldfoot, Mark Jackson
Most intriguing game mechanic:
The turn markers in Tom Jolly’s Camelot
Runners up: Traitor in Shadows over Camelot, Role selection in Twilight Imperium 3
Biggest surprise of the year:
Pizza Box Football - who knew just how much fun I would have with this game!
Runners up: Shear Panic, Havoc: the Hundred Years War
Game from 2005 that I’m most looking forward to playing/rating:
Caylus - each day I check my post office box to see if it’s arrived. The hype is huge for this game, and I’m quite anxious to see if it’s warranted.
Runner up: World of Warcraft (played it once - need to try it again)
Designer of the year:
Martin Wallace! With two tremendous Eagle games that are inspired by/designed by him, Conquest of the Empire and Age of Steam - he continues to amaze me with his thematic, fun filled games. And Runebound just cemented the vote.
Runners up: Christian Petersen, Alan Moon
Most played game:
I don’t keep track of my plays, so I’m digging into my memory here, but I’m pretty sure that this one is a three way tie between Shadows over Camelot, Railroad Tycoon, and Manilla. I guess the prize should go to Railroad Tycoon, since it’s the longest of the three games. (And, my friends keep asking to play it again.)
Company of the Year
Fantasy Flight Games: Everything they put forth is just so stinkin’ cool, and I’m always eager to play it. The games aren’t always great, but for me, they’re almost always fun!
Runners Up: Eagle Games, Days of Wonder
Company of the Year (children’s games)
Playroom Entertainment has done a tremendous job putting out piles of small, light card games that work excellently for children. Monkey Memory is my personal favorite, but there are many more - and most of them are fun for adults, also.
Least favorite games of the year: (in no particular order)
3.) Lightning: War on Terror
4.) Louis XIV
6.) Shark Park
9.) Holey Cow!
I have high hopes for 2006, and if it can produce 75% of the good games that were done in 2005, I’ll be happy. 2005 was a year of great innovation from new games, but more importantly - a refining of older games into new, improved classics.
Happy new year, everyone!!
“Real men play board games”
Tyne and Wear
Whilst I appreciate that everything is a matter of taste, I just had to comment on Louis XIV appearing in your list of Least Favourite games of 2005. I certainly agree with some of the other selections, but this one sticks out like a sore thumb. OK I know that there are issues that certain people have with the game:
Catch the leader problem;
Power of certain bonus cards;
Random chance of shield majorities;
but given the short length of the game, I've never really found these to be real issues. On the positive side, the game has some fairly unique mechanisms, is quite fun an interesting to play. It's certainly a breath of fresh air from some area majority games.
(The Artist formerly known as) Arnest R
Keep calm and carry on...
I regularly have opinions that are different (to say the least) than yours, but I really like your reviews - you have no idea how much money you´ve cost me (all well spent, mind you )
Thanks - Keep on (please) !