Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sedjtroll's Gaming Year In Review - 2011

It's that time of year, and I see a lot of "year in review" and "best of 2011" posts floating around. I've never done that, but I thought I'd take a look at what I've played this year and do some sort of "year in review" post myself...

Games Played
According to stats, I have recorded 436 games played - about 36 games per month on the average, and more than 1 per day! This is actually somewhat low for me in comparison to recent years. Let's take a look at some of the more notable games I was into this year:

Unpublished Prototype: 88 plays
This entry is a combination of all the prototypes I played, 34 different games including Tasty Minstrel submissions (some of which are now published, such as Martian Dice, and some are in the process, such as Kings of Air and Steam), my own designs (such as Alter Ego, Exhibit, and Eminent Domain expansions), and other people's games I played at Spielbany, Protospiel, and BGG.con among other places.

Eminent Domain: 56 plays
This includes some recent plays of the expansion stuff I've been working on, since then I started recording it in the normal EmDo entry. I'm starting to be more comfortable with the Warmonger expansion stuff. Like the base game though, I suspect it may take players several plays to sort of "get it" - and if they don't persevere they might find the expansion wildly broken.

As a side note, I've played over 150 games of Eminent Domain over the last 2 years or so, and I'm not sick of it. That makes me happy!

Hanabi: 29 plays
Hanabi is by far the most cooperative feeling cooperative game I have ever played. I think it's the crowning acheivement of the genre, at least so far, and I look forward to playing some more. The only down side to Hanabi is "The Great Convention Debate." The people who taught me the game are bridge players, and they had 3 pages of conventions such as "If I tell you you have "Zero 4's" that means your 1st and 3rd cards are playable." If you ask me, that kind of convention is specifically prohibited by the rules! There are more tame conventions though, such as "I keep my oldest cards to the left of my hand, and always place the newest card on the right" - which is a logical convention that sort of evolves naturally... however it leads to other conventions which become borderline cheating - like "When I discard, I always discard the card furthest to the left." Which then begets " "I know if they discard it'll be a safe card, so I won't give that player a clue, I'll look at the next player's hand..." which translates to "They just passed over giving me a clue, therefore my leftmost card is a safe discard..." Just how much of that info transfer is 'legal'? Certainly all of it is more legal than using the bids as code for other pre-agreed upon language.

Sobek: 21 plays
I got Sobek as a throw-in on a trade, and I ended up liking i better than the game I had traded for! I especially like Sobek as a 2-player game, and the only thing I wish were different is the "oasis" tiles - I wish you could hold onto them and use them later, so that they are always a reward rather than occasionally a penalty (you play a set to avoid drafting a card, but if all that's left is Oasis tiles, you'll still have to draft a card).

Kings of Air and Steam: 17 plays
I have been working on Kings of Air and Steam for Tasty Minstrel Games since February, and I really enjoy it. In the last weeks I've gotten a number of plays (mostly 2 player) in to fine tune the character abilities. After the successful Kickstarter campaign, this game's production is in full swing, Josh is hard at work on the visuals, and I look forward to an awesome looking game next summer.

Glen More: 15 plays
Glen More is a fantastic little game that I'm very glad I was able to trade for. The guy I got it from even pimped it out with fancy aftermarket bits! Though I would be just as happy to play with the standard bits. The market mechanism in Glen More is inspired, and the game offers several viable paths to victory. I am always a little disappointed that the special tiles overlap so much, but that doesn't keep the game from being really cool :)

7 Wonders: 11 plays
7 Wonders won all kinds of awards including the big one (Kennerspiel des Jahres), and it's a very popular and well liked game. I am not as enamored with the game as all that. It's a solid little card drafting game, but I think people are more excited that it plays 7 players and has a short play time than they are excited whether or not it's any good. It IS good, but I don't know if it's as good as it's cracked up to be.

Kingdom Builder: 6 plays
Kingdom Builder is the new hotness from the creator of Dominion. I can see a lot of Donald X's style in the variable scoring conditions and power tiles, and the game is an OK diversion, but I don't see it as being really skill based enough to really satisfy me. I'd much rather play Glory to Rome or EmDo, each of which is about the same scope/timeframe (though to be fair, they're both heavier and more complicated, so they only count as the same scope if you have experienced players).

Navegador: 5 plays
I first played this game at BGG.con last year, and played it 5 times in 2011. It's definitely my favorite Mac Gerdts game to date! I hope to play this one a few more times before I forget about it.

Pantheon: 4 plays
I played Pantheon at BGG.con this year, and really enjoyed it.

Grave Business: 3 plays
Grave Business is by a friend of mine, and if it weren't for that I might never have played it - a Zombie theme and blind bidding are both things that generally turn me off in games. but Andy's games are always well thought out, so I thought I'd see how his first published title played. I was surprised at how much I liked it! It's a solid, well thought out game, and one I've played a couple of times this year - more than I can say about any other game with a Zombie theme!

Quarriors!: 3 plays
Quarrior's is a standout game in that it was very popular, riding on the recent popularity of the deck building genre as well as the recent popularity of dice games - and almost nothing else. All 3 of these recorded plays were a result of me waling up when people were already explaining the rules and it was either play or watch (in some cases it seems like those are the same thing). I will note that the designer/publisher recently posted official variant rules which apparently they playtested for a year and made for what *I* would consider a better game - though maybe not "better" for their target market... I haven't tried the game with those variant rules, but I highly suspect they're an improvement.

Shipyard: 3 plays
I first played Shipyard at BGG.con 2009, and soon after that I bought a copy (buying games is actually quite rare for me). I have not played it nearly as much as I'd have liked, but finally I've picked it back up and gotten it back to the table a couple of times, and that reminds me why I like it so much! It has a lot of fiddly bits, but all of it goes together prefectly - nothing is extraneous. There are various approaches to get things done, and I like the various Rondels which govern most of the actions in the game.

Shipyard is really a standout game and I look forward to playing it again. Rumors that the end-game bonus cards are not properly balanced have been greatly exaggerated - those people just like to compare apples to oranges.

The Castles of Burgundy: 1 plays
I played The Castles of burgundy at KublaCon last May, and I really enjoyed it. I have not had the opportunity to play it again, but I thought it deserved mention as a standout game of 2011. Stefan Feld had an outstanding year, and while it was his other games that got all of the attention, I think this one might be one of his actual best.

The Manhattan Project: 1 plays
I saw some posts about The Manhattan Project before it was picked up to be published, and it sounded very interesting. I was kind of hoping to get my hands on it for possible Tasty Minstrel release, but James grabbed it up at Protospiel. And I'm glad he did, I got a chance to play it at BGG.con and it's every bit as cool as I thought it would be! This might be a game I purchase, which (again) is rare for me - though it's sort of contingent on my play group wanting to play it... I hope they do!

Trajan: 1 plays
I got a chance to play Trajan at BGG.con, and it's every bit as interesting as I thought it would be, though perhaps not as good as I hoped it would be. Managing the colors on the Rondel sort of obfuscates the playing of the game, which is a little annoying - if I didn't think the Trajan tiles were such a big deal I could more easily ignore it. I'd like to play again, but if that part doesn't get more pleasant with experience then I'm afraid I won't want to play it too much. Shame, because I really like how the rest of the game fits together - many different approaches, and they overlap so you may be in contest with someone for an action even though you're both pursuing different strategies!

Walnut Grove: 1 plays
I hadn't heard anything about this one until Snowden brought it to game night, and he described it as a light sort of Agricola. After playing the game I rather enjoyed it and would like to play again, albeit with one small variant rule.

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