Friday, October 29, 2021

The Meeple's Choice Awards - 2020 Edition

Yesterday, I wrote about my participation in the International Gamers Awards committee... today, I'll share with you the other board game award which I've voted in for years - the Meeple's Choice Awards. (Yes, it's a horrible pun. I've learned to live with it.)

The MCA began as a part of Spielfrieks, an online board game discussion group. Over time, the group went backwards to award MCA recognition as far back as 1995 (the beginning of the "German Invasion" of new board games designs). I've taken part - I think - in every one of the MCA votes.

More recently, the MCA has been "flying solo" as the Spielfrieks group is no longer active. It's still an interesting award that does a good job of recognizing middle- and heavy-weight game designs.

Winners

Beyond the Sun
designed by Daniel Chan
published by Rio Grande Games


Lost Ruins of Arnak
designed by Elwin & Mín Štach
published by Czech Games Edition

Dune: Imperium
designed by Paul Dennen
published by Dire Wolf

My Thoughts on the Winners

Beyond the Sun

I've only played once (on BGA)... but I can see why folks who like the tech tree style of game enjoy it as much as they do. It's got some clever bits and a nice balance between zigging when everyone else is zagging & letting others blaze a trail for you to follow at higher speed. Of the three games, it's probably the least thematically strong.

Lost Ruins of Arnak

Dripping with theme and gorgeous artwork… filled with Euro-y decisions… no direct conflict but plenty of chances to beat someone to a good location… plays quickly and cleanly… multiple ways to pursue victory… what’s not to love? (Oh, did I mention there’s a second more difficult board on the back of the main board… and a great solo mode?!) This was my #1 new (to me!) game of 2020. (And, yes, this is the identical blurb that I wrote for the IGA awards post yesterday.)

Dune: Imperium

Blending the worker placement elements of games like Champions of Midgard or Lords of Waterdeep with a robust deck-building game AND an end of round battle for goodies (not dissimilar to Arctic Scavengers) makes for a really enjoyable game design. When you add in a classy (if abstracted) use of the Dune theme/characters as well as an impressive solo mode, you've really got something. (I highly recommend the Dire Wolf app for solo & 2 player play... and I know that they've got new modes for the game on the app that I haven't even explored yet!) 

Overall

Similar to the IGA, I think we managed to pick three really solid games... all of which I'd be happy to play and two of which I already own. It's been a good year for gaming awards!

I will note that what will be my #1 game of the year (barring a dark horse appearing in the next two months) - Imperium Classics/Legends - didn't even make it to the final rounds of the MCA, which is a crime.

What I Voted For (Just in Case You're Curious)

Preliminary Round:
  • CloudAge
  • Dune: Imperium
  • Hallertau
  • Lost Ruins of Arnak
  • Minigolf Designer
  • Pan Am
  • Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade
  • Undaunted: North Africa
  • Unmatched: Cobble & Fog
  • Warp's Edge
Final Round:
  • CloudAge
  • Dune: Imperium
  • Lost Ruins of Arnak

I received a review copies of Lost Ruins of Arnak and Unmatched: Cobble & Fog. I was a playtester for Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade.

The meeples pictured at the top of the page are from the good folks at MeepleSource... who don't just do cool custom meeples but are also fun people to play games with!


Thursday, October 28, 2021

The International Gamers Awards - 2021 Edition

Earlier this year, I was invited to join the International Gamers Award committee... which I quickly and happily accepted. While I haven't always agreed with the final choices of the IGA, I appreciate the wide variety of gamers involved and the successful attempt to create an award that honored games with some strategic/tactical heft. And now I'm part of the team!

There were major changes this year as we added a new category (solo games) and allowed games that were published as multiplayer games to be nominated for both the 2-player and solo categories. As I'm a big fan of solo gaming (you can read it about here!), I think that was an excellent choice.

Winners

Multiplayer award 2021
Lost Ruins of Arnak
designed by Elwin & Mín Štach
published by Czech Games Edition

Two-player award 2021
My City
designed by Reiner Knizia
published by Kosmos

Solo award 2021
Under Falling Skies
designed by Tomáš Uhlíř
published by Czech Games Edition

My Thoughts on the Winners

Lost Ruins of Arnak

Dripping with theme and gorgeous artwork… filled with Euro-y decisions… no direct conflict but plenty of chances to beat someone to a good location… plays quickly and cleanly… multiple ways to pursue victory… what’s not to love? (Oh, did I mention there’s a second more difficult board on the back of the main board… and a great solo mode?!) This was my #1 new (to me!) game of 2020.

My City

I didn't actually play this prior to the voting for the IGA... but my younger son & I are now six games into the legacy campaign and having a wonderful time with this Tetris-y city-builder where the rules keep changing with each play.

Under Falling Skies

A specifically designed solo game with enough in-game content to run two completely different campaigns... as well as introducing all kinds of thematic wrinkles to the solid gameplay of the original print'n'play design. For more details about the game, check out my review on the Opinionated Gamers site.

Overall

I think we managed to pick three really solid games... maybe not as heavy as some of the previous picks for the IGA (none of these, thankfully, are in the same category as Trajan or Age of Industry), but with well-built designs that offer interesting play choices and a variety of strategic and tactical options.

The Nominees

Multiplayer nominees:
  • Anno 1800
  • Beyond the Sun
  • Dune: Imperium
  • Hallertau
  • Lost Ruins of Arnak
  • Nidavellir
  • Paleo
  • Praga Caput Regni
Two-player nominees:
  • Botanik
  • Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
  • Imperium: Classics/Legends
  • Jekyll vs. Hyde
  • Let's Make a Bus Route: The Dice Game
  • MicroMacro
  • My City
  • Undaunted: North Africa
Solo nominees:
  • Calico
  • Cantaloop: Book 1 - Breaking into Prison
  • Clever Cubed 
  • Hallertau
  • Imperium
  • MicroMacro
  • Sleeping Gods
  • Under Falling Skies

What I Voted For (Just in Case You're Curious)

Multiplayer award 2021
  1. Lost Ruins of Arnak
  2. Dune: Imperium
  3. Paleo
  4. Hallertau
  5. Beyond the Sun
  6. Nidavellir
Two-player award 2021
  1. Imperium: Classics/Legends
  2. Undaunted: North Africa
  3. Jekyll vs. Hyde
I think My City would have been #3 if I had an opportunity to play it prior to voting, but I did not.

Solo award 2021
    1. Imperium: Classics/Legends
    2. Hallertau
    3. Under Falling Skies
    If you would like to know more about the voting procedure, the IGA website outlines how it works.

    I received review copies of Lost Ruins of Arnak and Under Falling Skies.


    Tuesday, October 26, 2021

    Understanding "Evangelical"

    For a number of years, I've struggled with using the word "evangelical" to describe myself...
    The biggest problem, of course, is that the word "evangelical" to describe a religious/political viewpoint is a bad use of a good word.
    I am still an evangelical - though I believe that many of my "tribe" need to carefully examine the Scriptures to see where they have conflated it with nationalist leanings that run counter to Galatians 3:28 (Phillips): "Gone is the distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free man, male and female—you are all one in Christ Jesus."
    Choosing Not To Die (2020)
    I am a conservative white evangelical - though, as many of you have read, not a supporter of the former President or the current lemming-like bent of the Republican Party. My prayer is that we who claim Christ would have "A Brand New Day" (sly reference to THE WIZ) where our primary loyalty is not to a political party, not to a media-driven narrative of fear; and not to a guy with a spray tan whose trail of failed marriages & businesses should have made clear (similar to the song he often quotes) what kind of snake we were electing. 
    Musical Theater, White Evangelicals & Politics (2021)
    So, when James Emery White recently published this series of deep-dive blog posts into the history & meaning of "evangelical", I immediately decided to share them with you, my faithful readers. Please follow the links and get more out of them than just the quote highlights that I'm sharing.

    I am deeply concerned that the true history of evangelicalism is being lost, and the way it is being currently perceived – particularly by those outside of the Christian faith – is both confusing and unhelpful to what historic evangelicalism has attempted to achieve missionally as a movement. And, as someone who has self-identified as an evangelical in the past (more on that later in the series), I am invested in its meaning.  
    The growing uneasiness of many Fundamentalists with the denominational separatism, social and cultural irresponsibility, and anti-intellectual stance that pervaded the years of controversy with the Modernists that would lead to the branching off and eventual formation of the movement known as contemporary American Evangelicalism.
    Understanding “Evangelical” Part Three: The Birth of Contemporary American Evangelicalism
    Rooted and shaped in the Reformation of the 16th century, the 18th century Evangelical Revivals and, most recently, in the controversy between Fundamentalists and Modernists, contemporary American Evangelicalism has a rich and varied history that has made definition problematic. It can be concluded from earlier installments in this series that contemporary American Evangelicalism has gained its theology from the Reformation, its spirituality and commitment to evangelism from 18th century revivalism, and its concern for orthodoxy and intellectual engagement from the clash between Fundamentalists and Modernists in the early part of the twentieth century.
    Evangelicalism is much more than a network. David Bebbington captured the heart of its moorings: conversionism, activism, biblicism and crucicentrism. Big words, but simple ideas. Conversionism is the belief that individual lives must be transformed. Activism is the conviction that we must not be passive when it comes to the Gospel, but active in our expression, proclamation and application. Biblicism captures our high regard of the Bible—we go to the Bible and then we go with the Bible. And crucicentrism is the emphasis on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. “Together,” Bebbington concluded, we have “a quadrilateral of priorities [that form] the basis of Evangelicalism.” And, many would add, the basis of the Gospel.

    Yet as firmly as Evangelicalism stood on these core ideas (or tried to) it still felt as sociocultural as it did theological. As Marsden has noted, more like a patchwork quilt of like-minded institutions and movements, ministries and personalities, conferences and camps. In reality, both are true. It has the ideas Bebbington delineates and the relational dynamic Marsden points out.
    So I end this series wanting to say two things. First, I have been proud to consider myself a classic, historic Evangelical. And in that sense of the word, I continue to be. I only wish that the term, as understood and used in our world, was less political and more tied to those original moorings.

    Which leads to the second thing I want to say. If the term “Evangelical” increasingly means in the minds of our world a certain set of politics instead of a certain set of theological and spiritual convictions that transcend politics, then I will have to find a new identifying label.

    As in “biblical Christian who stands in the stream of historic Christian orthodoxy.”

    And who really liked Billy Graham.
    Like I said above, read it all.

    Monday, October 11, 2021

    If I Was Going to Essen...

    Technically, it's Spiele '21 - but I've called it Essen (after the city that hosts the huge gaming convention in Germany) since I was aware of its existence. 

    If you want really splendid coverage of the fair, Kulkmann's G@mebox has been doing bang-up reporting on Essen since 1997.

    But that's not what I'm posting - I'm simply giving you a list of the things I'd be looking for IF I was in Germany this week.

    • Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders
      • I need a copy for myself and one for my oldest son, who just bought his own copy of Arnak
    • Boonlake 
    • Great Western Trail (2nd edition)
      • Because I've become a bit of a Alexander Pfister nut over the last couple of years
    • Ark Nova
      • The theme intrigues me... I'm a big "build a zoo" game kind of guy, even though I'm not really an animal kind of guy.
    • Paleo: A New Beginning
      • Again, for the oldest son, who loves this game
    • CATAN: Zusatzmaterial für Das Duell – Bonus Box
      • I'm really wondering if this will ever show up in English - 'cuz I'm a big fan of The Rivals for Catan.
    • It's a Wonderful Kingdom
      • But just to look at it... my Kickstarter edition is slowly making its way toward me
    • The Siege of Runedar
      • The pictures and the pedigree (Knizia) are making me curious
    • Excavation Earth
    • Excavation Earth: Second Wave
      • I've been very impressed with David Turczi's work on Imperium: Classics/Legends... so I'm curious about this game he was a part of
    • Port Royal: Big Box
      • More Pfister... and it looks like the only way I'm going to ever get the last expansion to match my set
    • Explorers
      • I'm enjoying the solo app on my iPad a lot - couldn't hurt to have a physical copy
    Chances are good I'd find some other stuff to pack in my bags to bring home... ah, but I'm waiting for retirement before I make the pilgrimage.