Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Looks Like They (Almost) Made It

First, sorry about the Barry Manilow reference in the title. It's just because I write the blogs that make the whole world sing...

And, now that I'm done with that tangent, here's the 25 games that just missed making it onto the 2012 list. (Note - I don't dislike these games - in fact, they're some of my favorites. Remember, I have over 1000 games in my game room.)

Tumblin' Dice
  • 2012: 101st
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
Fury of Dracula
  • 2012: 102nd
  • 2010: 58th
  • 2005: prior to publication (the FFG version)
Bargain Hunter
  • 2012: 103rd
  • 2010: 27th
  • 2005: 34th
Lost Cities
  • 2012: 104th
  • 2010: 71st
  • 2005: 53rd
Starship Catan
  • 2012: 105th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
Return of the Heroes
  • 2012: 106th
  • 2010: 55th
  • 2005: 19th
  • I still love this game - but it's starting to date a bit.
Loopin Louie
  • 2012: 107th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: 75th
  • I think it disappeared in 2010 due to burnout.
Timber Tom
  • 2012: 108th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • My boys & I are really enjoying this - esp. w/the Wollomi Pines expansion.
  • 2012: 109th
  • 2010: 86th
  • 2005: prior to publication
Turn the Tide
  • 2012: 110th
  • 2010: 69th
  • 2005: 29th
  • 2012: 111th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • I'm not blindly following the gamer crowd - this is the only Martin Wallace game in my top 125 games.
  • 2012: 112th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
  • Easy to teach, easy to play, works for 2-8 players as a great 10 minute filler... what's not to like?
Medieval Merchant
  • 2012: 113th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: 31st
  • I still say the guy on the cover looks like Jay Tummelson (the guy who owns Rio Grande Games).
Time's Up
  • 2012: 114th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: 25th
  • I'm suffering from Time's Up fatigue.
Balloon Cup
  • 2012: 115th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
  • 2012: 116th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
  • Verrater may have been the first to use role selection... but Meuterer was the first to do it RIGHT.
Zoff Im Buffalo
  • 2012: 117th
  • 2010: 88th
  • 2005: 92nd
  • I wonder sometimes if I love this game BECAUSE it's so hard to find - then I play it again & remember I'd like it even if it wasn't OOP.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • 2012: 118th
  • 2010: 67th
  • 2005: did not appear
  • the U.S. version, btw...
Battle Beyond Space
  • 2012: 119th
  • 2010: 28th
  • 2005: did not appear
  • This is the only unpublished game in the top 125... I've been playtesting it for nearly 8 years!


  • 2012: 120th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
  • Between this game & Return of the Heroes, no one in their right mind should be playing Talisman or Runebound. (Yes, that's probably an inflammatory statement.)
Colossal Arena
  • 2012: 121st
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: 32nd
El Grande
  • 2012: 122nd
  • 2010: 72nd
  • 2005: 4th
  • I still love the design - but I've played too many games now with people who can't properly "read" the board & so target the wrong people (meaning: me).
Wyatt Earp
  • 2012: 123rd
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel
  • 2012: 124th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
  • 2012: 125th
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: 100th

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Top 100 Games... Again

Yes, I just finished publishing my 2010 list (here's a link to my top ten)... but as promised, that was just to clear the way for my 2012 list of Top One Hundred Games.

Those games will be be posted - one per day - starting Thursday, March 1st and going on until June 8th. (I've purposefully designed the format to make it easy for me to keep up with - so we won't have a repeat of the 2010 publishing debacle.) You can follow along by subscribing to my blog with a blog reader (I use Google Reader)... or you can follow me on Pinterest where I'll be pinning each game as they go live.

Here's the parameters:
  • It doesn't include what I lovingly call "kid games". (If you're interested in kid games, my Kid Games 100 would be some great reading material.)
  • It's not the "best games ever made" - it's my list of the one hundred games I most enjoy playing right now.
  • With that said, there's a lot of flex in the list. Don't invest too much in any individual ranking - if I'd sorted the list on a different day, many of them could be in a different order.

You are welcome - no, encouraged! - to comment, kibitz and/or vehemently disagree... that's part of the fun!

Tomorrow, I'll post a list of some of the games that just missed making the 2012 Top One Hundred...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mark's 100 (2010): #10 - #1

My top ten games (as of September 2010)...

#10: Zooloretto (did not appear in 2005)

#9: Dungeonquest (did not appear in 2005)

#8: Agricola (did not appear in 2005)

#7: Fast Food Franchise (9th in 2005)

#6: Puerto Rico (5th in 2005)

#5: Thebes (did not appear in 2005)

#4: Heroscape (23rd in 2005)

#3: Race for the Galaxy (did not appearin 2005)

#2: Memoir '44 (3rd in 2005)

#1: The Settlers of Catan (1st in 2005)

The 2012 version of this list will start appearing on my blog (right here!) beginning March 1st!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mark's 100 (2010): #20 - #11

We're so close to the finish, I can taste it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mark's 100 (2010): #30 - #21

If you're a Pinterest person, you can follow another version of this same list on one of my pinboards.
  • #30: Can't Stop (93rdin 2005)
  • brilliant push-your-luck dice game
  • #29: Entdecker (11th in 2005)
  • stripped-down family game of exploration (not the skeevy 2nd edition, please)
  • #28: Battle Beyond Space (did not appear in 2005)
  • hopefully, this will be the year you guys get to play this - finally!
  • #27: Pandemic (did not appear in 2005)
  • managed to take the cooperative game in new directions
  • #26:Lowenherz (10th in 2005)
  • would rank it higher if it worked w/more than just 4 players
  • #25: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit (45th in 2005)
  • best Star Wars board game; worst Star Wars movie
  • #24: StreetSoccer (did not appear in 2005)
  • backgammon-ish soccer game that captures the tactics of the real thing
  • #23: Big City (22nd in 2005)
  • too random w/4-5 players... but excellent w/2-3 players
  • #22: Im Reich der Wüstensöhne (did not appear in 2005)
  • creative mix of Entdecker & Carcassonne w/gamer-y touches
  • #21: Ausgebremst (39th in 2005)
  • my favorite car racing game - it's MEAN with a capital "M" - lots of hosage

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mark's 100 (2010): #40 - #31

It's all good - but it's getting better each post!
  • #40: Africa (41st in 2005)
  • this game is probably the biggest victim of misguided expectations in Euro history
  • #39: Viva Pamplona (56th in 2005)
  • a dice-rolling romp from Wolfgang Kramer
  • #38: Mamma Mia (72nd in 2005)
  • I love this game... and my boys are getting old enough to play it (finally!)
  • #37: Bargain Hunter (24th in 2005)
  • my favorite three-handed card game
  • #36: Dungeon Lords (did not appear in 2005)
  • would rank it higher if it worked w/more than just 4 players
  • #35: Vegas Showdown (did not appear in 2005)
  • uses the Amun-Re/Evo auction system to MUCH better effect
  • #34: Snow Tails (did not appear in 2005)
  • dog-sled racing game w/lovely movement system
  • #33: Medici (79th in 2005)
  • my first Knizia auction game - and probably still my favorite
  • #32: Entenrallye (20th in 2005)
  • random with a side of random sauce - and a large helping of fun
  • #31: Showmanager (6th in 2005)
  • my group burned me out a bit on this one... but it's still a wonderful game

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mark's 100 (2010): #50 - #41

Headed downhill now... picking up speed (and playability) as we head to #1!
  • #50: Royal Turf (80th in 2005)
  • joyous gambling fun with 4-6 players
  • #49: Jamaica (did not appear in 2005)
  • GORGEOUS game with actually very good gameplay
  • #48: Basari (48th in 2005)
  • hey - this is the first game that didn't move between 2005 & 2010!
  • #47: Industrial Waste (35th in 2005)
  • Very nice "build your engine" game - overshadowed by Puerto Rico early on...
  • #46: Smarty Party (15th in 2005)
  • Very glad there's a 2nd expansion box now - we went through the base game & expansion twice.
  • #45: Downfall of Pompeii (did not appear in 2005)
  • Macabre theme for a light family/gamer game - saving citizens from the volcano.
  • #44: Witches Brew (did not appear in 2005)
  • It's all about reading other player's needs... & dodging them.
  • #43: Cafe International (42nd in 2005)
  • sadly under-rated Spiel des Jahres winner
  • #42: Light Speed (did not appear in 2005)
  • it takes longer to score the game than it does to play it
  • #41: Sylla (did not appear in 2005)
  • Especially good with the expansion from the Ystari treasure box...

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Mark's 100 (2010): #60 - #51

We've reached the halfway point!
  • #60: Keltis: Der Weg der Steine (did not appear in 2005)
  • takes the Lost Cities engine into new territory... lovely, portable & filled w/tough choices.
  • #59: Harry's Grand Slam Baseball (did not appear in 2005)
  • condenses 9 innings into 15 minutes & leaves the fun intact
  • #58: Fury of Dracula (did not appear in 2005)
  • lovely Fantasy Flight reprint of the classic GW game - dripping w/theme!
  • #57: Drôles de Zèbres (did not appear in 2005)
  • 2 player no-luck tile placement game - with a working theme!
  • #56: Return of the Heroes (19th in 2005)
  • A little slow with 4 players... but great fantasy world fun w/2 or 3.
  • #55: Mystery Rummy: Al Capone (54th in 2005)
  • Represents all Mystery Rummy games (Jack the Ripper was 16th in 2005 & Rue Morgue was 63rd).
  • #54: Catacombs (did not appear in 2005)
  • Carabande + Descent - 3 hours = Catacombs.
  • #53: Stimmt So! (26th in 2005)
  • Badly reimplemented as Alhambra... better w/out the walls!
  • #52: Daytona 500 (68th in 2005)
  • Actually represents all of Wolfgang Kramer card race games - it's the best.
  • #51: Roll Through the Ages (did not appear in 2005)
  • Great dice/civ game, great iOS app, great FREE "advanced" expansion...

Mark's 100 (2010): #70 - #61

This list continues... on our way to #1!
  • #70: Starfarers of Catan (did not appear in 2005)
  • Get the 5-6 player expansion for the extras - but never actually play w/that many people.
  • #69: Turn the Tide (29th in 2005)
  • angst-filled card game w/unique duplicate hand system
  • #68: Goldland (49th in 2005)
  • Part exploration game, part puzzle game... all good..
  • #67: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (US) (did not appear in 2005)
  • Captures the feel of the series perfectly...
  • #66: La Citta (47th in 2005)
  • Great game - but seldom reaches the table (due to length).
  • #65: Risk: Black Ops (did not appear in 2005)
  • The prototype for the revised Risk... and the core system of Risk: Legacy.
  • #64: Bohnanza (18th in 2005)
  • What I really want to play is the High Bohn expansion again... it rocks.
  • #63: Gnadenlos! (37th in 2005)
  • Oddball Wild-West themed Euro w/character & charm - wish I got to play it more.
  • #62: For Sale (94th in 2005)
  • I really dislike the newer version of the game.
  • #61: Rum & Pirates (did not appear in 2005)
  • The best Stefan Feld design yet. (I realize I am alone on this one.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Mark's 100 (2010): #79 - #71

And now we get to the games I didn't get a chance to blog about before rebooting my personal Top 100 Games... so I'll be adding a short line (or two) about each of these.
  • #79: Vom Kap bis Kairo (did not appear in 2005)
  • a quick 30 minute auction game that uses a small card deck in some interesting ways
  • #78: Union Pacific (13th in 2005)
  • No, I haven't played Airlines Europe yet... I sure want to, though.
  • #77: Carcassonne (38th in 2005)
  • Too many expansions make it too hard to bring in new players.
  • #76: Around the World In 80 Days (did not appear in 2005)
  • This game has held up over time very well.
  • #75: Sindbad (46th in 2005)
  • Quirky mash-up of exploration & stock market game...
  • #74: Anno 1503 (28th in 2005)
  • Avoid the expansion... otherwise, it's a great 15 min/player exploration game.
  • #73: Ticket to Ride (14th in 2005)
  • I'm really enjoying the map collections (Asia & India) that were just released.
  • #72: El Grande (4th in 2005)
  • Much of the fall of this can be attributed to being targeted over & over while playing.
  • #71: Lost Cities (53rd in 2005)
  • This is still the bar to jump for 2 player card game design.

Mark's 100 (2010): #90 - #80

Here's the remainder of my top 100 games (circa September 2010) that I managed to blog about before declaring a reboot yesterday.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Mark's 100 (2010): Reboot + #100 - #91

OK, so back in September of 2010 I announced that I had:
  • (a) made a list of my top 100 games AND
  • (b) planned to blog about them over the next 3 months

Well, it's February of 2012.. and I've only got as far as #80. With that glacial pace, I should be able to finish it up around, say, March of 2018.

That is NOT going to cut it.

So, over the next week, I'll give you my 2010 list (in short form)... and then give you yet another list for the spring of 2012.

Let's start with links to some of the entries I've already done:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Best of the Rest Games of 2011

Thanks to Tom Vasel, Eric Summerer & the rest of the Dice Tower crew, I have some new categories to "award" with my personal blog-a-riffic recognition. There are three pages of awards on their site:
  • page one (the top ten games, good surprises, biggest disapointments, best components),
  • page two (best art, worst game, best card game, best party game, best war game, best children's game, best family game)
  • page three (most innovative, strangest game, best expansion, game we wish we would have played, biggest brain burner)

You'll note that there are some games on these lists that didn't appear in my Best of 2011 list - that's because I didn't get to play them until the last few weeks!

Best Game of the Year
  • While Eric & Tom both picked Star Trek: Fleet Captains (which is kind of an amazing thing in itself), I'll go with Tom's #7 pick - Risk: Legacy. I continue to be amazed at how much fun I'm having each time I play (win or lose) and how much I'm looking forward to the next time it comes to the table. Also kind of proud of naming the Oceania continent "Thunderdome". (BTW, I put Fleet Captains at #10 on my list.)

Best Good Surprise Game of the Year

  • There's kind of a tie... between two games by the same designer, no less! I'm not always a fan of Friedemann Friese's work... but both the solitaire deck-building game Friday & the streamlining of the Power Grid system as a prehistoric civ-building game with First Sparks hit me right in my sweet spot. Well done, Green-Haired Man!

Biggest Disappointment

  • While I wanted Small World: Underground to be, well, more something... it was still a good game. (I wish Days of Wonder would make Relics & Places for the surface-dwelling original game, btw.) And Dungeon Run fell flat in my first playing - though I've since found out that we missed a crucial rule that would have made the end game work much better. So, the jury is still out on this much-anticipated game. Sadly, I can't say the same for Reiner Knizia's Star Trek: Expeditions - which is rife with too much math and too little tension. For the guy who essentially set the bar on cooperative games with his still very enjoyable Lord of the Rings, this was a whiff. (Evidently, I'm in a minority - the expansion for Expeditions just released today.)

Best Components

  • For sheer ooh-aah can't-believe-they-packed-all-those-miniatures-in-the-box, I've got to hand this award to D&D Adventures: The Legend of Drizzt. It's a great one hour cooperative dungeon crawl that focuses on the coolest part of every adventure - facing the big boss in a fight to the death. (Gamer note: I have played Castle Ravenloft - which I didn't like as much as Drizzt - and have not played Wrath of Ashardalon.)

Best Art

  • There was a lot of great art direction/graphics to enjoy this year... but I'm going to have to honor Summoner Wars: Master Set for using evocative yet not overpowering card art that makes it easier to differentiate the cards upside-down (a real need in this game). I also want to give Colby & his gang of henchmen props for creating a graphic design for the cards that works cleanly & brilliantly.

Worst Game

  • For me, the worst game of 2011 was the party game Ticked Off! It's an attempt at gamer-friendly Scattegories with a nice twist (having two categories in play at one time) that is ruined by a "smart people need to play dumb & game the system" rule. An honorable mention goes to Urban Sprawl - which would be a perfectly fine game if it lasted an hour but three hours of think-y tactical decisions ruined by a bad card draw is way too long.

Best Card Game

  • I didn't actually discover the best card game of 2011 until the end of January 2012... and that is Tom Lehmann's splendid filler game The City. Hopefully there will be an English edition soon - but the German on the cards hasn't slowed down my sons from playing it (and enjoying it immensely). It's a simpler, quicker take on the Race for the Galaxy "pay for your play with cards from your hand" that has a variety of victory paths and a very short playing time (15-20 minutes). I played my first game on Saturday... and have played 7 more times in the following three days.

Best Party Game

  • This wasn't a big year for party games... but my family really enjoyed Say Anything: Family Edition. It ditches the questionable questions (those designed to invoke off-color answers), adds some more kid-friendly questions & streamlines the game a bit.

Best War Game

  • I'm an old-school wargamer - I cut my teeth on Wooden Ships & Iron Men, the first edition of AH's Third Reich, and the original Squad Leader - but I haven't really been a hex-and-chit wargamer for a very long time. Of course, I realize my pick for Best War Game is not going to go over well with that crowd... as I'm smitten with the Memoir '44 Campaign Book: Volume II. This wonderful book is icing on the oh-so-yummy cake of my favorite game in the Command & Colors system.

Best Children's Game

  • Though I think that the expansion for The Magic Labyrinth (sadly only published in Germany, so far) is delightful, the best kid game of the year is the dexterity/speed game, Monster-Falle. Whimsical art, nifty game play... and it even has easy ways to vary the difficulty & handicap the game. Chasing monsters out of the house is fun for kids - and for adults!

Best Family Game

  • I sometimes wonder exactly what kind of families gamers have in mind when they choose their "best family games". They certainly don't have my two gamer sons (ages 6 & 10) and my decidedly non-gamer wife. Anyway, my choice focuses on being the best game for MY family... and that is certainly Castle Panic with the Wizard's Tower expansion. We can play the cooperative version with my wife... and then the boys & I can enjoy the Overlord "1 vs the rest" version.

Most Innovative

  • Oh, man... 2011 was a big year for innovation. The Ares Project found new ways to portray futuristic combat in RTS style... and Ascending Empires managed to do the same thing in a completely different (and new!) way. Quarriors is the first dice-building game. But my pick of this excellent bunch is the wonder that is Risk: Legacy - come on, people! A game that insists that you deface the board, tear up cards, and reveals rules only after multiple plays... there's been nothing like this before. Nothing.

Strangest Game

  • Well, in Monster-Falle, you're pushing monsters into a hole in the floor. Gubs has you doing some very strange things to save your tiny slug-people. Friday is about keeping Robinson Crusoe alive long enough to defeat the pirates & get him the heck off your island. But none of those touch the weirdness that is LEGO Ninjago - which could just as easily have been called "LEGO Whirling Dervish-ago" or "LEGO License To Print Money Off the Backs Of My Children's Allowance".

Best Expansion

  • This was a great year for expansions: 7 Wonders: Leaders (which did added some neat twists w/out bogging down the game), Saboteur 2 (which fixed the mess that was the original Saboteur), Claustrophobia: De Profundis (which gave us more of what we wanted - a lot more!), Innovation: Echoes of the Past (some sweet new mechanics to add to the variety), Dice Town: Extension (which increased the options for clever play & chaos), and the myriad of Summoner Wars, Fresco & Tannhauser expansions. I've already mentioned Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower - which turns a very good family cooperative into a great gamer/family cooperative - so I'll go with the one-two punch of Catacombs: Caverns of Soloth & Catacombs: Dark Passageways. The first added a dungeon full of new monsters & heroes... making the game more interesting & more varied. The second was simply a deck of cards that spiced up the system & made it less predicable - a fault if you're playing a Euro game, but a bonus for a dungeon crawl.

Biggest Brain Burner

  • I don't play brain-burning games much any more... but two new games managed to bamfoozle me in 2011. My problems with Eminent Domain have primarily to do when & how I learned it - mid-gaming weekend w/little sleep & inadequate nutrition - rather than the game itself. (I'd like to try it again.) But my brain is still trying to get a handle of Rails of New England - it's not the rules, per se, but what the heck I would/could do to be more successful. I know it's not a REAL brain-burner (like, say, Dia de los Muertos) but it certainly made my head spin.

Game I Wish I Would Have Played

  • There's a long list of games from 2011 on my "must try" list: Eclipse, Ora et Labora, Blood Bowl: Team Manager, Core Worlds, Olympos, Airlines Europe, Conquest of Planet Earth, Walnut Grove, Nefarious, Helvetia, Hawaii, Coney Island... but the one I most regret not playing is Dungeon Petz. I love the predecessor to this game (Dungeon Lords) and I think Vlaada Chvátil is a wonderfully creative designer - so I'm going to try to fix this omission as soon as possible.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Fritos (part one)

I like Fritos... a lot. There's something about their fried corn-y goodness that makes my mouth water. It doesn't hurt, of course, that they put some kind of secret ingredient that causes me to eat an entire bag of them - they're not one of those "oh, I'll just have a couple, thanks" foods.

The problem is that, well, Fritos don't like me. More specifically, they are involved in a secret plot along with my stomach to betray my body & manufacture huge amounts of stomach acid. It's not pretty.

So, I have a hunger or desire for something that is wrong for me - bad wrong. Incapacitate me temporarily & potentially do long-term damage to my esophagus kind of wrong.

I'm betting you won't be surprised by the lesson I draw from this - but that's not going to stop me from writing about it anyway: Just because you hunger/long for something or someone doesn't make it right.

And as long as we apply it to other people, it's easy to see. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that just because someone wants to cheat on their spouse - just because they feel a strong emotional attachment & a burning physical desire - does not mean that adultery is a good idea. Or even a marginally bad idea. It's sin.

But when we look at our own longings, all we can see is the gaping hole of need in our lives. All we can hear is the sound of our hearts grumbling with hunger for something that feels good right now.

And our hunger - like my hunger for Fritos - fools us into destructive choices. We make sinful decisions that, in the short term, take us away from God & those we love... and potentially destroy marriages, careers, families & our chance to tell other people about Jesus.

The Pantry (part two)

We need instead to cultivate a hunger - a desire - for the right things. And the only way that happens to stock the metaphorical pantry of our lives with "the good stuff":
  • Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness. (Psalm 119:39-40, NLT)
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6, NIV)
  • Jesus replied, I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never be hungry, and he who believes in and cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me will never thirst any more (at any time). (John 6:35, AMP)
  • On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (John 7:37-38, NLT)
A version of this post originally appeared in the Grapevine newsletter of NewLife Community Church.