Notable Games of 2008

This year I settled down a little bit, games-wise. I didn’t lose interest, but I was also a little less gee-whiz about them, buying fewer games, getting rid of ones I didn’t play, and concentrating on playing ones I liked more.

But I still got in a lot of plays of new (to me) stuff, and here are the ones that made the biggest impression on me.

Galaxy Trucker – Mike brought this back from Essen 2007 and after one play I had to have it. It is an absolute blast (sometimes literally!) I’ve never had so much fun watching my best-laid plans go horribly awry. Pricey but well worth it. More here.

Kingsburg – A Eurogame that uses dice — and uses them well? It happened! Kingsburg got a lot of plays this year and each time I thought I might be getting tired of it, but I found I just liked it more. There’s a lot to appreciate in this design, and I’m looking forward to the expansion.

In the Year of the Dragon – This got a lot of play earlier in the year but then tapered off a bit, which is a shame, because it’s an intense game. It’s possible that it gets a bit samey after a while, though, which may account for the tapering off of plays, but I still would like to play some more. More here.

Scripts and Scribes – A card game fom a small independent publisher that turned out to pack a lot of fun and strategy into a small footprint. This one deserves a lot more attention. More here.

Qwirkle – This game has one of my favorite qualities in that it looks like a whole lot of nothing on the surface, but once you play it you find it to be full of scheming and tortured choices. Occupies the same niche as Ingenious, but with more depth to it. Your non-gamer relatives will take to it pretty easily, but the gamers will pick up on the strategies sooner. Also, nice chunky wooden tiles!

Steel Driver – Martin Wallace gave us a bunch of games this year, and I enjoyed every one of them that I played (except I wasn’t that crazy about After the Flood). My favorite, though, is this one, which looks like every other train game on the market and honestly, isn’t that much different from a lot of them. What’s notable, then? I like how it distills the essence of them all into a single game that teaches fairly easily, plays quickly, and is a lot of fun. My only concern is, with no random elements in play or setup, how many plays are in this game?

Dominion – This narrowly missed being my Game of the Year, and perhaps it should have been the choice. It’s a completely innovative game that plays like the card game equivalent of crack. Fun, fast, highly addictive. I didn’t think this would interest me that much but I’m hooked, and dying to get my own copy. When Dan brought it over to play Becky asked me, “Why don’t you have this?” and that’s about as good as it gets in my book. More here.

Stone Age – Here’s where I zag. There have been a lot of worker placement games recently, and this one is my favorite. I like the theme, the look of it, and the mechanics behind it. There’s nothing overly innovative here (the dice are nice, though), but it’s the game that I think takes the genre and does the best job with it. When my turn to deploy workers comes around, I don’t feel like there’s only a single obvious choice to take (as in Pillars of the Earth) or a million choices that God only knows how they’ll turn out (Caylus). I feel like I can pursue a strategy with this and yet swerve if I need to. In a crowded field, this is the one that stands out to me.

Sorry! Sliders – Crokinole is the grand dame of dexterity games, but a good Crokinole board will run you over $150. Enter Sorry! Sliders, a fun and inexpensive game that will give you the fun of Crokinole without the price tag. Flick your little pawns towards each other to either knock your opponent out or aim for high scoring targets. It’s a very well done game and you can find it on the shelf at your local mainstream store.

GAME OF THE YEAR

Pandemic – Ultimately this had to be the Game of the Year for me, as it did so much. First, it’s a cooperative game, and I previously disliked playing those. I love playing this one. I bought it without playing just from reading the reviews and having a good gut feeling about it, and was not disappointed; within a few days of buying it I had played it ten times. Nearly everyone I’ve played it with has enjoyed it and wanted to play “just one more game” afterwards. It’s a tense and fun gaming experience, it actually has the players cooperating instead of one guy just railroading the others, and it’s very easy to teach. It’s also a very clever design in a lot of ways. Pandemic was a huge hit and is a great addition to my game library.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

These are games I really enjoyed but don’t think I played enough yet to really formulate a strong opinion on.

Brass – Another excellent game from Martin Wallace, with more standard Wallace crunch than Steel Driver.

Roads and Boats – Only played this once, with two other newbies. We played correctly, but I don’t think we played right, and I want to give it another play or two before I feel I can say much on it.

Winner’s Circle – Great racing game that allows for a lot of strategy and sneakiness.

Red November – Another cooperative game I enjoyed. This one’s by me-favorite Bruno Faidutti and I wrote more about it here.

Metropolys – Interesting take on both auctions and hidden goals. Deserves more plays.

HEY YOU FORGOT

Race for the Galaxy – No, I didn’t. I just didn’t like it. I’m sorry, but homeopathic doses of player interaction just don’t cut it for me. More here.

Agricola – A whole lot of rigamarole for a pretty standard worker placement game. I don’t dislike it, but really, all that work just so I can end up with a tiny house and a pig? Stone Age is a lot less hassle for a lot more fun. More here.

What am I looking forward to in 2009? More good times playing games with my friends!

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5 Responses to Notable Games of 2008

  1. Great list, Dave. While you know I like Race & Agricola a wee bit more than you, you have some spot-on commentary on the others. Dominion and Pandemic are a *very* close 1 & 2 for this year. I really want to see a Dominion expansion very soon.

    Pandemic is so neat, IMO, as I too have a general distaste for co-op games for the same general reasons you do, yet Pandemic works well in just about every area. It is a wonderful challenge, and it’s one of the first games I really don’t get frustrated at when we lose a few in a row. Just that right amount of challenge and making a co-op work, not to mention being somewhat realistic (via the Epidemic mechanic where you add the previously infected locales to the top of the draw stack), makes it a great acco,mplishment as a game.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’m a bit ashamed that I haven’t played about half of these, but Pandemic is really great. I was a big fan of Android, too, but that’s practically an RPG more than it is a board game.

  3. Dave says:

    I’m getting the same vibe from Android (which I haven’t played or seen). It really sounds like you should just play an RPG, which I don’t want to. I feel the same way about Descent.

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