Thursday, July 01, 2010

Through the Years: More Gaming History

I already posted the first Through the Years post earlier this year... which simply listed my most played games by year of release. This time, I'm listing the games I've spent the most time playing (still by year of release):
  • 2009: Roll Through the Ages - Matt Leacock's inventive "Yahtzee meets Civilization" game has been successful with gamers & non-gamers... and it's very cool that he released an online print-n-play "gamer" expansion as a freebie bonus!
  • 2008: Pandemic - Interestingly, this is yet another Matt Leacock design - and one that works equally well with gamers & non-gamers (again!) This time, it's a cooperative game where the players attempt to save the world from a variety of killer viruses.
  • 2007: Race for the Galaxy - Tom Lehmann's magnum opus is this incredibly addictive card game about space colonization & war. With the addition of the third expansion, you have now have a complete epic game that still plays in 30 minutes or so (with experienced players).
  • 2006: Battlelore - While I don't love this to the same extent that I love Memoir '44, I think this fantasy/medieval entry in the Command & Colors system (created by Richard Borg) is a great way to blow a couple of hours. My oldest son really likes the newest expansions because they added more creatures for him to choose from...
  • 2005: Pizza Box Football - It's a pretty simple dice game with some slight simulation elements (there are team cards for each year, but they don't vary a great deal)... but that doesn't dampen the fun I have playing this game. I finally won a game earlier this year after going something like 0-18.
  • 2004: Heroscape - Little did I know when Frank Branham emailed me & told me "get thee hence to thy local Wal-Mart and pick up this game" that I would end up 6 years later with four shelves full of figures & 5 cartons of terrain. It doesn't hurt that Braeden loves the game - we're in the middle of an Orcs vs. Dragons battle right now - and that it's easy to teach to new players.
  • 2003: Return of the Heroes - Lutz Stepponat designed my favorite "D&D in a boardgame" game with this interesting hybrid of fantasy quest & Eurogame... I own all the expansions & have enjoyed in a variety of settings. The lack of direct combat between players speeds up the game & makes it very wife-friendly.
  • 2002: Puerto Rico - My first 4 plays were in 36 hours at the Gathering of Friends... it's wild to be introduced to such an important game in the company of so many really skillful gamers! This "build an economic/points engine" game is still (for me) the standard by which all other such games are measured.
  • 2001: Pig Pile - This is probably my favorite "better than Uno" game. (Yes, as a matter of fact I have created my own moniker for card games that are relatively mindless & great with non-gamers that don't make you want to have a frontal lobotomy 1/2 way through the game - see Phase 10 or Uno.)
  • 2000: Lord of the Rings - LOTR is not as non-gamer-friendly as Pandemic, but this Knizia cooperative masterpiece uses an abstract card-driven mechanic to ratchet up the tension in a way that reflects the writings of Tolkien brilliantly. We like to play with the Friends & Foes expansion or with the Sauron expansion (but not both at the same time).
  • 1999: Ra - I really disliked Ra the first time I played it - the scoring seemed convoluted & the game took FORever (almost 90 minutes). But thanks to a clearance sale, I picked up a copy to trade, broke it out again, and realized what a work of genius this auction game is... esp. when you play it in an appropriate 30-40 minutes!
  • 1998: Elfenland - This hasn't hit the table in way too long - probably because of the 2 hour playing time & the unforgiving nature of the game if you get behind. That doesn't change the fact that this re-imagining of Alan Moon's classic Elfenroads is a splendid game... and the addition of the Elfengold expansion turns into it a heavy gamer-friendly exercise.
  • 1997: Arriba / Lowenherz - It's a tie! Arriba is the first edition of what you can now buy in the store as "Jungle Speed"... it's the demented (and potentially physically dangerous) love child of Set and Spoons. OTOH, Lowenherz is 1/3 of the massive Klaus Teuber prototype that eventually gave birth to The Settlers of Catan & Entdecker... and it's one of the meanest Eurogames that I own. I would play it a LOT more if it didn't require exactly 4 players to work well.
  • 1996: Settlers of Catan Card Game - It's almost obsolete - Herr Teuber is publishing a new updated version of the game later this year - but that doesn't change the fact that this is card game implementation of The Settlers of Catan is a great game. It's too long & only plays with 2 players - but it's more than just a luck of the draw/dice card game. (Humorously enough, my first 10+ plays of this game were with a German set with a translation cheat sheet... that's how we did it back in the day - "kickin' it old skool." )
  • 1995: Settlers of Catan -If Helen of Troy was "the face that launched a thousand ships," then Catan is "the game that launched a thousand games." When this appeared back in 1995, it revolutionized the board game world. It certainly revolutionized my playing habits - my conservative guess is that I've played 250+ games of Catan along w/the plethora of expansion sets. If you haven't tried it, you're missing out on one of the classic gaming experiences
  • 1994: RoboRally - Before the umpteenth game of this with soul-deadening AP (analysis paralysis) burned out my love for it, this was a very popular game amongst myself & my friends. The reprint of the game by Avalon Hill solved a couple of major game problems (virtual status & the lack of help for setting up workable race layouts) but it came too late for me. Don't let my ennui stop you, though - there's a really neat programmed movement system here that's a lot of chaotic fun.
  • 1993: Ausgebremst - In the gaming world, most folks know the game this was based on (Ave Caesar) better than they know of this auto-racing themed follow up... and they mostly know of Ave Caesar because it was difficult to find & expensive to acquire for a long, long time. I like the "gear" system & variable tracks of Ausgebremst - but you've got to be prepared to get hosed early & often in this game of choke point racing.
  • 1992: Fast Food Franchise - Long before Tom Lehman created the masterpiece of Race for the Galaxy, he produced some other very interesting games - Time Agent, for example, is not quite like anything else around. In that same time period, he created an homage/re-visioning of Monopoly that adds some tactical decisions, a nice helping of theme & loads of "drive each into bankruptcy" fun. This is way, way OOP... but I keep hoping that someone will pick it up & reprint this - it's probably the most "non-gamer" friendly of the games on this list, due to the similarities with Monopoly.
  • 1991: History of the World - My first playing of the Avalon Hill "chit" version of HotW was miserable... enough to turn me off the game for life. But when H/AH re-issued the game with streamlined rules and tons of plastic minis, I took a copy off the prize table at Gulf Games & found a new gaming love. The epic sweep of this game is an absolute hoot. (Last year, the designers released their newest take on the game system, A Brief History of the World... and while I miss the plastic minis, the game is tighter, better & less chaotic.)
  • 1990: Sindbad - This is a French game of the early 90s, with all that implies: interesting artwork on the cards (you don't want to have to explain some of the pictures to the younger members of your family), odd dice/card combat system, a stock market-like mechanic of investing in commodities... all in the same theme-drenched game. There are substantial amounts of chaos but also great fun to be had...
  • 1989: Space Hulk - Back when Games Workshop was actually attempting to produce games & not just gaming systems, they created this shoot-'em-up space opera of outnumbered marines vs. hordes of Genestealer aliens... and the relatively clean rule systems plus the gorgeous minis & boards made for a great experience. They've recently republished this at an EXTREMELY high price point.
  • 1988: Blood Bowl - Another Games Workshop game (that soon spawned a miniatures gaming system - of course) that we had lots of fun with back in the day. You fielded fantasy squads to play a game that was more violent than rugby and had the same high-scoring tendencies as soccer. I think the system is out-dated now, but we played a lot of this early on.
  • 1987: Dungeonquest - This is very possibly the game I've played the most over the longest span of time... as I've described it elsewhere, it's like playing D&D with a DM (in this case, the game system) who hates your guts. Capricious death (trapped in a rotating room, eaten by a giant centipede, falling into a bottomless pit, etc.) are part & parcel of each game - but since it's only an hour long at worst, that's perfectly OK.
  • 1986: Fortress America - Not the last of the MB big box wargames series, but the one I've probably played the most - it's the U.S. vs. the rest of the world as they attack America. Cool plastic minis, partisan cards that read like someone O.D.'d on the movie "Red Dawn" & clean rule systems made this a great, great game to play. I'd love to see it re-developed & re-released.
  • 1985: Mosby's Raiders - A solitaire wargame about the Civil War guerrilla cavalry unit... I liked the way it played enough to spend a lot of time with this one during college & seminary.
  • 1984: Axis & Allies - Not the first of the MB big box wargames... but the best known and the one that's spun off the most games. I've never actually won a game of this, btw, but that hasn't stopped me from playing it over & over.
  • 1983: Talisman - This is the game by which all over fantasy boardgames are judged - and it's well-loved enough to have 5 different editions (I think it's five?)... I owned most of 2nd edition & all of 3rd edition. It's too long for what it is, but we had great times with it 20 years ago.
  • 1982: Family Business - Another game that is still in print... I didn't start playing it until the early 90s, but it became a "we need a game where we can beat up on each other" staple at our game nights.
  • 1981: The Broadway Game - I bought a copy of this in a clearance bin at a Toys'R'Us... and it became the game that defined the early years of our marriage as Shari & I taught it to every couple we spent major time with. Yes, it's overly long; yes, it has some game mechanics that can go completely haywire; yes, the voting at the end is a screwy way to finish the game... and yet, we love it all the same. (Man, we need to play that again! It's been too long.)
  • 1980: Can't Stop - Sid Sackson's dice masterpiece... there have been various editions over the years (and a really nice Flash computer implementation called Roll or Don't) - no matter which one you use, it's one of the best push-your-luck games ever designed.
I'll list the rest of these without comments... you'll note that all but two of them are Avalon Hill games. The exceptions are Tally Ho & Junta.

5 comments:

Rob Cannon said...

A great history of some great games. It good to take a stroll down memory lane every now and then.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Thanks, Rob... it was a lot of fun to write up.

Joe Huber said...

OK, Mark, that was fun...

I ran the same exercise - but continued it back to the first year for which I had no games played (1957), just because the glory of 3M wanted to be represented. For just five games (marked with asterisks) did I spend the most time on the same game as you. But there's an odd pattern - for the last 15 years or so, it's because I've spent more time on meatier games, in general. But before that, it's because I've spent more time on fluffier games, in most cases.

So, anyway, my list (without comments, as I hit the comment length limit):

2010: Fresco.

2009: Macao.

2008: Le Havre.

2007: Race for the Galaxy*.

2006: 1861.

2005: 1846.

2004: Jambo.

2003: Scream Machine.

2002: Puerto Rico*.

2001: Africa.

2000: La Citta.

1999: Mamma Mia.

1998: Schnaeppchen Jagd.

1997: Bohnanza.

1996: Showmanager.

1995: 2038.

1994: Was Sticht?.

1993: Timbuktu.

1992: Fast Food Franchise*.

1991: Outpost.

1990: Wer hat Mehr?

1989: Entenrallye.

1988: Merchant of Venus.

1987: tie: Black Vienna/Auf Achse.

1986: 1830.

1985: Wildlife Adventure.

1984: Axis & Allies*.

1983: Bull Run.

1982: Um Reifenbreite.

1981: Civilization.

1980: Can't Stop*.

1979: Alaska.

1978: Bonkers.

1977: Cosmic Encounter.

1976: Victory.

1975: Minister.

1974: McMulti.

1973: Hase und Igel.

1972: Hamstern.

1971: Bist Du Sicher?.

1970: Smess.

1969: Lines of Action.

1968: Venture.

1967: Bazaar.

1966: Thinking Man's Golf.

1965: Mr. President.

1964: Sextet.

1963: Mouse Trap.

1962: Acquire.

1961: Air Empire.

1960: The Game of Life.

1959: Stratego.

1958: 5ive Straight.

Derek Wong said...

Hi Mark

Same here . Christian and loves board games. How come u not into Dominion ?

BTW any recommendation for kids ? around age 4-5 years

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Joe: wow. You are my favorite stat guru ever.

Derek: I think DOMINION is a decent game, but I get tired of the deck shuffling very quickly. It's more fun to play online @ BSW.

Have you read my Kid Games 100?