Monday, December 19, 2016

Top 10 games of 2016

It's the end of the year, which means it's time for all the inevitable top ten lists. I thought I'd jump on that bandwagon with a quick look at the games we spent the most time playing in 2016.

10. Tokaido


10 plays, 10 hours (average play time 1 hour per game)

We picked up Tokaido on a whim, without having played it before. Our decision to buy it was based entirely on its spectacular artwork and graphic design, plus at the time we were looking to add more asian-themed games to our collection. It turned out to be a good move, as Tokiado is a terrific game. We find that it is a particularly good game to play with non-gamers, thanks to the relatively simple game play and aforementioned beautiful artwork.

Read the full review.

9. DC Comics Deck Building Game 


6 plays, 10.25 hours (average play time 1.7 hours per game)

I'm a big fan of DC Comics and deck building games, but the first time we played this one (at a convention demo) we were a little underwhelmed. But, we played it again a few years later with a group of friends and enjoyed it a lot more, which illustrates the point that any game is only as good as the people you're playing it with. We find that we pull this game out fairly often when we're looking for a lighter game that still has a bit of depth to it.

Read the full review.

8. Leaving Earth 


5 plays, 16 hours (average play time 3.2 hours per game)

Leaving Earth is a game that involves a lot of math. Players control space agencies that have to buy and test rockets and other space ship components, and then carefully calculate the weight of the components they're launching into space, and the thrust provided by their rockets, to ensure that they can make it to the moon, Mars, or even just into Earth orbit. It sounds complicated and dry, but it is actually very compelling (we've spent entire days playing it).

Read the full review.


7. Lord of the Rings: the Card Game 


13 plays, 19 hours (average play time 1.46 hours per game)

We've always enjoyed customizable card games, and this one is particularly fun for us because it's cooperative, with players playing against an assortment of quest decks that have wildly different requirements for winning. Normally, constructing decks for games like this is a solitary process, since you don't want to let your opponent in on what you're planning, but in this case, building decks together is almost as fun as playing the game.

Read the full review.


6. Mansions of Madness Second Edition


6 plays, 19 hours (average play time 3.16 hours per game)

The first edition of Mansions of Madness was a lot of fun, but required one player to act as the Keeper, a game master controlling the monsters, cultists and strange events to be investigated. The Keeper's job involved keeping track of a lot more information than the other players, and the game's extremely complicated setup process had almost no margin for error, with one mistake often upsetting the whole game.

For the second edition, the Keeper has been replaced by a free tablet app, eliminating all the complicated setup without really sacrificing any of what makes the game fun. It's a compelling mix of video, board, and role-playing game.

Full review to come. For now, check out the official website and the BoardGameGeek page.


5. Conan


15 plays, 22 hours (average play time 1.46 hours per game)

It's a little surprising that this game made the list, since we've only had it for about six weeks. It's a pseudo-roleplaying game like Mansions of Madness, but in this case the game master's job is much simpler, to the point where it's just as much fun  to run the villains as it is to play as Conan and his companions. The game has had a bit of a troubled road to publication, with a year-late Kickstarter delivery and numerous issues with unclear rules, but despite all that, it's an incredibly fun adventure game. I'll be surprised if it's not number one on this list next year.

Full review to come. For now, check out the official website and the BoardGameGeek page.


4. Legendary: A MARVEL Deck Building Game


19 plays, 23 hours (average play time 1.21 hours per game)

Although this position on the list is just for the Marvel version, Legendary is proving to be an incredibly diverse game system, with Aliens, Predator, Firefly, and even Big Trouble in Little China versions that all fit flawlessly into the game's structure. Even looking at the Marvel version on its own, it has an incredible amount of replay value, with all the different combinations of heroes, villains, and dastardly schemes that are possible.

Read the full review.


3. Age of Conan


6 plays, 24 hours (average play time 4 hours per game)

The long play time may be inflating Age of Conan's position on this list, but we do dearly love this game and we've gotten a lot of mileage out of it over the years. It does have to be said, though, that the reason we've been playing it so much this year is due to the excellent Adventures in Hyboria expansion, which gives players more strategic options and greatly expands Conan's role in the game.

Read the full review.


2. Firefly: the Game


9 plays, 31.5 hours (average play time 3.5 hours per game)

Firefly remains the gold standard for games based on licensed properties. I can't think of very many others that so perfectly capture the spirit of the material they're based on. This game's combination of open world and scenario based play makes every game a little different, and I'm sure it will occupy a similar position in our top ten next year.

Read the full review.


1. Star Wars: X-Wing



21 plays, 39 hours (average play time 1.85 hours per game)

I'm tempted to disqualify X-Wing since most of its replay value comes in adding more and more ships to your collection, which adds up to a pretty massive cost. But it's such a well-designed game that I think the cost is at least somewhat justified, and collecting the beautifully sculpted and painted ship models is definitely part of the fun.

Read the full review.


Honorable mention


Jarl: the Vikings Tile-Laying Game


5 plays, 7.5 hours (average play time 1.5 hours per game)

An interesting chess-like abstract strategy game based on The Duke. The Vikings theme is largely tacked on, but at the same time it does call to mind the battle scenes from the television show.

Read the full review.


Tiny Epic Western


6 plays, 7 hours (average play time 1.16 hours per game)

A great western themed worker placement game that gets extra points for using an embedded poker variant and bullet-shaped dice to resolve player conflicts.

Full review to come. For now, check out the official website and the BoardGameGeek page.




Splendor


7 plays, 5.5 hours (average play time 0.78 hours per game)

Not the sort of game I normally enjoy, but there's a reason this abstract resource management game won so many awards. And this total doesn't even include the amount of time I've spent playing the tablet version...

Read the full review.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Scrounging in the snow

I get information about new (and new to me) games from lots of different sources. I spend a lot of time lurking on BoardGameGeek, I subscribe to the Facebook feeds of most of my favorite game publishers, I watch Wil Wheaton's Table Top, and I'm a recent convert to Beasts of War's Weekender show, just to name a few.

I also spend a lot of time browsing the shelves at my local game store (Guardian Games, a huge and well-stocked shop). Occasionally, a game I've never heard of will jump off the shelf at me, and this is how I discovered Arctic Scavengers.

Recent films Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Snowpiercer, and especially Mad Max: Fury Road had rekindled my interest in the post-apocalypse genre, and the artwork on the box for Arctic Scavengers intrigued me. Combine that with my deep love of deck-building games and you have an easy buy.

In the game, players represent groups of survivors scavenging the frozen ruins of a near future earth for food, equipment, medicine, and useful people to add to their pool of resources. As with most deck-building games, each player starts with a deck of cards representing basic resources, and slowly builds them up throughout the game.

There are a lot of interesting strategic choices to be made on an average turn, chief among them being what to have your survivors spend their time doing. You can mind your own business and dig through the junkyard for cards representing run-of-the-mill resources (and sometimes useless junk), but you may want to hold some of your people in reserve to fight over the much better cards in the contested resources pile. You also need to play some of your cards to generate food and medicine, which is used to buy face up cards from the center of the table representing more effective personnel such as thugs, saboteurs and snipers.

The pacing and tone of the game are a little on the somber side, which definitely enhances the theme of post-apocalyptic survivors wandering a frozen wasteland, but player turns go quickly, and the limited number of contested resource cards act as a game timer, so games don't take too long to play.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) It's not the most high-octane deck-building game out there, but it's simple and self-contained, which makes for a nice change of pace from more complicated games like Legendary.