Tuesday, October 07, 2014

10 Games I Want to Play More

Two of my good buddies on Twitter, Josh Edwards (@BGjosh) and Grant Rodiek (@HyperboleGrant), both recently wrote blog posts on the ten games they want to play more.

In a fit of stunning originality, I am
  • doing the same thing
  • and giving it the same title
Look at me, going boldly where no gamer has gone before. (Ha.)

If I had written this post a month ago, Heroscape would have been Numero Uno on the list... but my wonderful wife recently allowed the purchase of extra shelving & storage to bring the metric ton of pre-painted minis & terrain out of storage and into the light of day. (Note: when I say "metric ton", I am only slightly exaggerating; when I say "light of day", I mean "light of the game room".) 

Before we dig into the list, though, I need to let you know who I game with on a regular basis... since that has a big impact on which games I get to play.
  • My regular gaming buddies are my 13 year old son (Braeden) who is a gamer in his own right... and my 9 year old son (Collin) who enjoys games but enjoys creating them even more.
  • Every two weeks or so, I get together with some long-time friends that I turned into gamers years ago
So, here are the 10 games on the top of my "wish I could get them to the table more and/or more often". (It's no surprise, of course, that all of them are on my top 100 board games list.)

#10: Prophecy - This is basically Talisman done right. Vlaada "I Am A Game Design Genius" Chvatl worked his magic on the roll'n'move + interact with a card fantasy adventure genre and came up with this very recently republished gem.

And while Braeden & I love the game, it's long enough that it doesn't hit the table. (That's especially true when you add in the Dragon Realm expansion - and I'm guessing the recently reprinted Water Realm expansion will only make it worse.)

#9: Innovation - Both of my boys have now tired of this wonderful card/tableau manipulation game... Braeden flat out refuses to play and Collin likes it but keeps begging off. Which is too bad, as I find it intriguing and always enjoyable. I don't particularly like it with 4 players (unless played partnership) and five, in the words of Monty Python, is "right out" - so it doesn't end up getting pulled out at game nights.

It has another problem (you call it a bug, I call it a feature): there's a certain level of randomness inherent in the game system that can be particularly irritating to some. I love it - the wild card combinations and opportunities for clever play make the swings of fortune bearable. 

I really like the first expansion set, though it does add some wrinkles that are tough for new players. The second expansion set has some interesting ideas but I haven't had enough chances to play it (note: why it's on this list, for cryin' out loud!) to firm up my opinion.

#8: Big City - You would think that my Minecraft & Lego-obsessed sons would find the idea of a game where you build something with cool plastic pieces to be irresistible... but they don't.

Big City is best with 2-3 players (and pretty random with 4-5 players), so it's only likely to come out with the boys or when I have one person over to play games.

Web of Power - "Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three"... and my younger son is JUST old enough to grok the tricks & twists of this incredible game. (Yes, I do have the 2 player "variant" pieces created by the designer - but you need to know/understand the game in order to play with the variant.)

A Brief History of the World - While it is briefer than the Hasbro/Avalon Hill version of History of the World (and much briefer than the AH version of the same game), it's still not a filler game - a 6 player game usually takes us about 3-3.5 hours. 

I still think this is the best version of the game to play - higher level of control coupled with streamlined gameplay - now if I can just get some more chances to play it!

Bohnanza - There is nothing quite like this classic Euro card game of trading & bean planting/harvesting... and that means it can be a hard sell to get to the table with newbies ("bean planting?!?").

It also really needs 4+ players (best with 5 or 6)... and when that happens, other games tend to end up getting played - Ca$h'n'Gun$, Dice Town, Family Business, 7 Wonders - all good games but the beans get no love.

#4: Ausgebremst - This re-imagining of the classic Ave Caesar as a Formula 1 road-racing game is a personal favorite - but it really needs 4+ drivers to make it work. (The boys actually like this one - but I do not plan on having more kids to bump up my game group to the appropriate numbers.)

#3: Um Reifenbreite - The other classic race game that I own - an SdJ-winning team cycling game with goofy French art and impeccable game play. For some reason, it is like pulling teeth to get people to play this game - but they love it once they play.

Braeden likes it but Collin has (so far) refused - he doesn't particularly like racing games. I need to bring it to a game night and recruit some gamers to join me on this one.

#2: Clash of Cultures - The newest entry to my collection on this list is here primarily because the playing time can be on the long-ish side: Braeden & I have managed to get our 2 player games down to about two & a half hours... and my one 3 player game (which was an epic nail-biter) clocked in at just under 4 hours.

Braeden has declared that he's waiting for the expansion (due to come out this fall around Essen) so he can field elephants. (Safety tip for those playing my eldest son: he WILL focus on increasing his military and you must be prepared for him to load up ships and circle your empire like a school of sharks.) 

For me, this is the civ-building game I've been looking for... a dynamic tech-tree system that doesn't force you down a single pathway, a simple set of rules (with some exceptions) that nevertheless create a complex (but not complicated) set of decisions, and an evocative set of board pieces & miniatures.

#1: The Settlers of Catan - Yes, that's right. It's not a typo. The game that has become "cool" to hate on (in gamer circles) is the game I most miss getting to play. I love the base game as well as Cities & Knights, Settlers of the Stone Age, and even Struggle for Rome. But, because so many people have played this one into the ground, I don't get to play it much any more. 

And that's sad.

My younger son loves the game - but since Braeden hates it with the passion of a thousand suns and Shari has vowed never to play it again, it's much tougher to play. (Collin & I play a lot of The Rivals for Catan... but it's not the same thing.) And my good friends are split on it - two of them love it and two of them have grown incredibly weary of losing to the two who love it.

Honorable Mentions:
  • Space Cadets
  • Zooloretto/Aquaretto
  • Glory to Rome

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