Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Golden Geek Awards 2009: Fluff Daddy Does Commentary

The Golden Geek Awards were just announced last weekend during BGG.con... these are "game of the year" awards voted on by the folks who frequent Board Game Geek. What follows is my commentary on the awards (and some of the nominees).

Game of the Year and Card Game:
  • A very interesting deck-building card game that frankly lost a lot of points with me for how long it takes to set up & put away (sorting & re-sorting cards) and for the constant shuffling that really requires you spend a small fortune to put plastic card sleeves on the game. That said, Dominion is a BLAST to play online where the computer does the set-up, shuffling & score-keeping for you.
  • For Card Game, I'd probably have chosen Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm or Witch's Brew. For Game of the Year, I'd have to go with Pandemic.

Gamer's Game: Le Havre

  • This probably violates some kind of Geek law... but I haven't played Le Havre yet. I'm not against the game, or the theme... and I'm a huge fan of the designer. I just look at it set up at various cons & game nights and think to myself, "I'm not sure I want to get into that."
  • Of the nominees, I'd much prefered to see Endeavor or Space Alert win. (And don't give me any grief about Space Alert not being a "gamer's game" - YOU try teaching it to a bunch of non-gamers.)

Family Game: Pandemic

  • In a category filled with great games, it's nice to see them pick the one that is original, fun & appealing to a wide variety of folks. Pandemic is great - and made even better by the addition of the expansion, Pandemic: On The Brink... which won Best Expansion, naturally.
  • If Pandemic was put on the injured reserve list & couldn't play, I'd go with Fast Flowing Forest Fellers or Snow Tails - both splendid racing games.

2-Player Game and Best Artwork & Presentation: Space Hulk (3rd Edition)

  • A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I owned Space Hulk (the 1st edition) and played it. A lot. I never painted the minis (discretion is the better part of valor and/or I flunked out of kindergarden art) but that didn't lessen the fun we had with it. Eventually, though, the amount of cash I could score by selling it & the one expansion I had (about $400) outweighed how little I was playing it, and it went bye-bye thanks to eBay. Can't ever see myself plunking down $100 to own it again... esp. since one of the guys in my group so kindly opened his wallet and purchased it (thanks, Will!).
  • My dark horse (in other words: NOT going to win) favorite for 2 player games was Shanghaien... and as pretty as Space Hulk is (or can be in the right hands), Dixit or Tales of the Arabian Nights are much more stunning straight out of the box. (For that matter, Timber Tom is breathtaking, but never got a wide enough release to be considered.)

Wargame: Combat Commander: Pacific

  • I used to be a pretty serious wargamer back in the day (Squad Leader, Wooden Ships & Iron Men, Third Reich, Air Assault on Crete, etc.) but those days are pretty far gone. That said, I think is probably a pretty good pick and I'm looking forward to one of the guys in my group who's a major GMT nut (hi, Mike!) teaching me the system.
  • The games I've played from the nominees aren't "wargames" in the strictest sense of the term. However, I voted for Small World here because I really do enjoy it.

Party Game: Time's Up! Deluxe

  • I know it's considered cool in some circles now to trash R&R Games and Peter Sarrett for releasing a commercial version of the public domain game, Celebrities. I will not join in - because Peter took a good game and made it great by not simply picking an interesting set of names but also by tweaking the deck so that similar names/occupations/backgrounds appear... thus making for sweet, sweet confusion & much fun. Time's Up is "da bomb."
  • The nomination list for this category was as if the collective minds of the Geek had been smoking dope: Two thirds of the list aren't even really party games! Of the ones that actually are "party" games, I was partial to Dixit. (Hint: a game isn't a party game just because it can seat 6-8 players.)

Children's Game: Sorry! Sliders

  • I really like Sorry! Sliders (played it this weekend, in fact) but I've become concerned that the scoring system coupled with the "death corners" means that the game can completely bog down if you're playing defensively.
  • Just because gamer kids from gamer families can play the game does NOT make it a children's game: Aquaretto, Dixit, FITS, and Pack & Stack all spring to mind. I think the hands-down winner should have been Fluch der Mumie (noting that I haven't yet been able to try Das Magische Labyrinth or Zoowaboo.)

Print & Play: Dune Express

  • Commenting on this one is pretty well pointless, as I seldom play Print'n'Play games. I have not played Dune Express.
  • The one I wanted to win was Roll Through The Ages: The Late Bronze Age, which is an excellent PnP expansion for a great dice game.

Innovative: Space Alert

  • A real-time cooperative game with enough soundtracks to keep it replayable that morphs the whole Robo-Rally programmed movement mechanic into a Keystone Kops-like ballet of death on a slow-moving recon spaceship... yep, Space Alert deserves this award.
  • Other notable games that could have won if Space Alert was sucked into a black hole include Pandemic, Powerboats, Roll Through The Ages & Timber Tom. (Tales of the Arabian Nights was innovative 24 years ago, thanks.)


Jeremiah said...

It's not so tough to print and assemble Dune Express, and I'd highly suggest it, as it's a great game.

Thanks for writing out your comments about the awards, it was a good read.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jeremiah.

My hope is that one of the other more crafty guys in our group will build us a copy - I'm currently working on a handmade copy of Merchants of Venus that will take all of my craft time and probably more craft skills than I've got.

huzonfirst said...

Interesting comments, Mark, and I agree with much of what you say. Here's my own personal take on the awards:

GotY - Dominion is a game I tend to avoid, because I just don't view deck-building as a fun exercise. It's also very hard for me to estimate what the effect of my purchases will be during the game. I blame my lack of CCG experience, but even there, my favorite CCG is Netrunner, where deckbuilding isn't necessary and it's the GAME that's fun. Not a bad or unexpected choice by the voters, just not one I'd make. My votes, not surprisingly, were the same as my Gamer's Game selections: Automobile, Le Havre, and Steam.

Gamer's Game - My top three picks from the beginning were the same as the voters', so I'm obviously pleased with how this category came out. Automobile is a terrific game and a fairly clear choice for my personal GotY, but Le Havre is also excellent and, given its greater coverage, a fine selection. I actually prefer it to Agricola. In retrospect, I might now replace Steam with either Endeavor or Steel Driver.

Family Game - This was Snow Tails all the way, since I think it's such a wonderful game. My runner-ups were Roll Through the Ages and FITS, which I actually think is the most appropriate game for families. Co-ops just don't do much for me, so Pandemic was well down the list.

2-Player Game - Another very obvious choice for me: Shanghaien, which is really very good and the best thing Schacht has produced in quite a while, IMO. Best of all, it's a two-player ONLY game, which is what I think this category should be devoted to. No other game that I have experience with really qualifies. I have no interest in even trying Space Hulk.

Best Artwork - The games that really grab me visually are the ones with great gameboards and I couldn't think of too many that came out this year. So I went with Stone Age, with Wasabi and Dixit close behind. But I bet there are some nice ones that I'm forgetting.

Party Game - Since I hardly ever play true party games, I tend to view this as the Light Game category (just like I assign heavy and middleweight games to the Gamer's and Family Games categories). Still, even with that, this remains a much abused area by the voters. I voted for the two Time's Up games, simply because I love the game so much. So I'm glad about the win, even if it feels more like a nod to Peter's original (and much older) design. Perhaps the most bizarre nomination from the voters (and there are many to choose from) was selecting Battlestar Galactica as a Party Game. What the heck (or words to that effect)???

Children's Game - I rarely play these designs, so my vote wasn't an informed one. But I agree with your contention that most of the nominees were NOT children's games.

Print & Play - Another category I usually don't play much, although that's starting to change. My favorite P&P game was the D6 Shooters, but since that wasn't nominated, I went with the only other one I'd played, which was Bindle Rails (which I actually bought from the designer, rather than construct it myself). My #1 pick for the voting was the excellent Roll Through the Ages Late Bronze Age, but that seemed to be kind of cheating, since this is really a kind of "professional" variant by Matt. As good as that game is, I was kind of happy to see a more "amateur" production win.

Innovative - A very hard category to judge, but like you, I went with Space Alert. My runner-ups were Roll Through the Ages and Dominion.

Overall, I thought the voters did a pretty good job. Interestingly, the top three finishers for GotY (Dominion, Le Havre, and Pandemic) were the same three the Spielfrieks user group chose for the Meeples Choice Awards. So we've got some rare agreement on what the leading games were last year.