It’s that time again. As a new year comes, it it only natural to both look back at the year gone by and ahead to what the new one may hold. I’ll get to the looking ahead part later, but let me focus now on exploring what 2010 meant for my gaming life and the hobby in general.
Overall, I feel that I had a really great gaming year. Game night with the Hypermind Boardgamers is still going strong, with our 4th anniversary being just around the corner. Our numbers are generally up a little, but people come and go as their lives guide them in and out of our group. Gwen and I seem to have been a little more active than before in the games we play together, possibly being bolstered somewwhat by our time at home together after Corinne was born. The other aspect of my gaming life that has really just gotten started this year is playing games with Samantha, now that she’s just starting to have the attention span and understanding necessary to play the most elementary children’s games.
My free time outside of game night, however, seems to be dwindling to almost nothing. I was limited to only attending one day of MACE, and can only think of a handful of other Saturdays when I was able to play. I guess that’s just the reality of having two small children, though, so I’ll continue to be content with my one gaming opportunity a week and the promise of some increase in family game time as time passes.
Quarters & Dimes
|Go Away Monster!||11|
I managed to get in 435 plays of 147 different games and expansions this year. For me, this is quite a good number, up from both of the last two years.
Pandemic was, for the third year in a row, my most-played game. That’s not unusual (since it’s my favorite game, of course), but I was a little surprised to find that Matt Leacock’s newest coop game, Forbidden Island, was my second-most played game. At least a handful of plays for both games were done solo, however, so that may color the numbers just a little bit.
Tobago is probably Gwen’s favorite game, so it’s one of our top go-to games for couple time. It’s a little strange that Carcassonne is on this list, though, since (as most of my gaming group knows) I don’t really like it very much. But every one of these 12 plays was actually played over the internet via my iPod against Gwen as well. While we were both holding a little girl or laying in bed at the end of the day, the excellent Carcassonne app was just too easy and addictive enough for us to ignore. Thankfully, we’ve transitioned more to playing Samurai over the iPod now, so maybe I won’t have to stomach seeing Carc on this list again!
Go Away Monster! is, of course, the main game that I’ve played with Samantha so far. She and I have spent a lot more time playing with game pieces this year, but I only count actual games that we play by the rules, so only Break the Ice, Hi Ho! Cherry-O, and Candy Land Castle join Go Away Monster! on my official played list for the year.
Macao is the only Game of the Month! (other than Tobago) to make my dime list, but most others hovered around the nickel mark, including: Endeavor (4 plays), Carson City (3), Vegas Showdown (3), Notre Dame (7), Nexus Ops (3), Cyclades (5), and Hansa Teutonica (5).
In fact, my whole list of nickels looks like this: Samurai (9), Catacombs (8), Delve the Dice Game (8), Peloponnes (8), Roll Through the Ages (8), 7 Ate 9 (7), Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (7), Notre Dame (7), Tier auf Tier (6), Castle Ravenloft (6), Escalation! (6), Goa (6), No Thanks! (6), 10 Days in the Americas (5), Bang! (5), Cyclades (5), Dominion (5), Eat Poop You Cat (5), Hansa Teutonica (5), Parade (5), The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow (5), and Word on the Street (5).
And finally, I think it’s worth noting that I played 64 new (or at least “new to me”) games in 2010, which I think is pretty respectable.
So now let’s move on to some of the games that stood out most to me in 2010. For the following “superlatives”, I have considered any game that was new to me. But for my top 5 games of the year, I’m only going to consider games that have actually been released (in English) over the last 12-15 months or so.
Catacombs – The concept of a dexerity-based, dungeon-crawl game was enough to pique my interest, but then I actually played it and was just blown away. I don’t need to say a lot more here, because you can always check out my review for more of my thoughts. But the upcoming Cavern of Soloth expansion is already at the top of my wishlist, and I can’t wait to see what all it will add to the game.
Also considered: Cloud 9
Castle Ravenloft – On the other hand, I had some really huge expectations of Castle Ravenloft. Between the concept of a cooperative dungeon crawl that allows for solo play, my long history with D&D and love of the Ravenloft setting, and all of the positive buzz I heard about it coming out of GenCon, I was certain that I would love this game. And while I’d still say that I like it, I am mostly underwhelmed by how repetitive it is. Again, you can see my full review in issue #4 of thru-the-portal.
Also considered: Poo, Cyclades (mostly because of the Pegasus card), Railways of the World: The Card Game
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer – I’ve said it before, but Ascension is sort of what I always wanted Dominion to be. It’s quick, dynamic, and easy to set up and put away, but is still filled with a number of mostly interesting decisions to make on each turn. I’m very interested to see whether expansions will enhance what I like about it or if they’ll ruin it by making it too long and complex for the time I’m willing to invest in it.
Also considered: Coloretto, Parade
Favorite Party Game
Eat Poop You Cat – This is a parlor game that’s been around for a long time, and I’ve had a great time every time I’ve played it with any group. Basically, it’s similar to the old “Telephone” game, where you start with a written message (a sentence or so) that is then drawn by the next player, interpreted by the following person, and then drawn again, etc. By the time it gets back around to where it started, the message has almost always gone all pear shaped and bec
ome absolutely hilarious! The production version of the game (Telestrations) is really good, but I still think that it shines more when people can choose any starting point and there’s no pretense of scoring imposed on it.
Also considered: Telestrations (the production version of EPYC), Word on the Street
Favorite Children’s Game
Go Away Monster! – Chances are, this spot will be filled each year by the game that Samantha (and soon Corinne) and I play most each year. There’s not a whole lot of “game” going on in Go Away Monster!, but Samantha (at 2 years old) can play it by the rules, and I have a lot of fun with it as well.
Also considered: Candy Land Castle
Favorite Gateway Game
Forbidden Island – I can’t really argue with my second-most played game this year. I personally don’t think that it’s quite as good as Pandemic, but it’s definitely more appropriate to be a gateway family game. And it’s just different enough that I still am glad to own both games.
Also considered: Alhambra
Most Thematic Game
Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead – I’ve only been able to get this to the table once, but it did and felt exactly like I wanted it to in that one play. It really is “World War Z, the Board Game” in that you have to figure out the best way to keep your country/region alive, possibly even at the expense of your neighbors. I definitely want to explore this game a lot more, and hope that it will see a lot more play in 2011.
Also considered: Space Hulk: Death Angel, Horus Heresy
Best “New-to-Me” Game of the Year
Goa – This is just such a great game, even if expert players have sort of solved/broken it. There’s so much room for trying out different strategies and balancing things in different ways, and it even plays very well with 2 players. So both with Gwen and at game night (as long as Sceadeau’s not playing), I hope this continues to get played a lot. I’m also very interested in tweaks that Rüdiger Dorn may make in the supposed eventual reprint.
Also considered: Traders of Carthage
Goa’s auction in action!
Favorite Games of the Year
5) Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer – Not much to say other than what I mentioned above.
4) Peloponnes – You’ve got to make the best of your 8 decisions in the game to push your civilization past the others, and it can get brutal. Both for the solo play and for the interesting auction mechanic, I think that Peloponnes will be around my gaming table for a long time to come. You can also check out my review for more information.
3) Catacombs – Yep, I like it enough to make it #3 on this list. If you like either dungeon crawly games or flicking/dexterity games, you really need to try it out!
2) Hansa Teutonica – I didn’t even play this until late November, but through its time as Game of the Month!, Hansa Teutonica has already risen to be one of my favorite games of the year. In fact, it may well have taken the top spot if I was introduced to it earlier in the year. As I said after my first play, this is a soulless european cube-pushing game, but for whatever reason, that doesn’t detract from it much at all in my estimation. There is so much depth and variety and subtlety in the multitude of options for strategy, and it’s still usually done in 45-60 minutes! It really is as good as people say, as long as its themelessness doesn’t get in the way for you.
Leaving only my Favorite Game of 2010, which is…
Macao – I was instantly smitten with this game as soon as I played it back in February. It is a meaty game full of pressure and player interaction, but its real brilliance is in how it incorporates random elements that are often the downfall of euro-style games. The resource production using dice rolls each turn is truly inspired, because it always forces players to make tough choices about what colors they need, when they need them, how many they want to get, and how they can put them together to fill spots and activate cards. And speaking of the cards, success in the game almost always depends finding and developing synergy between the cards you collect. And the thing that I probably like most about Macao is how dynamic it is. You can’t necessarily walk into it with a hard-set plan, because you may or may not see the cards that you’d need to fulfill it. Instead, it is a game of emergent strategy, where you take what is available and what the other players are doing and then try your best to cobble together a plan from those pieces. The only reason this doesn’t see more play is its 2-hour play time, but I can’t think of many other ways that I’d rather spend 2 hours of gaming!
Getting ready for the Macao “Championship Game”
So, that’s my opinion, but what do y’all think? Was 2010 a good year for boardgaming? What would be on your top 5 list?
You can also check out the tags below for more about each game mentioned here, and you can take a look at my previous Year in Review articles as well: 2009, 2008, 2007