About the only thing I experience enough of throughout the year to do any kind of annual overview is boardgames, so once again here’s a rundown of the ones from 2010 that really stood out for me.
First, though, let’s have a look at staying power. Of last year’s notable games, all continue to be ones that I have no problem welcoming to the game table, though I don’t think I’ve played New World that much. I’ve barely played Ghost Stories, but it’s one of the few on the list I don’t actually own a copy of. I continue to really enjoy Small World, Steam, and Endeavor, and Dice Town is always a good time. 1960, the Game of the Year from three years ago is still appealing to me, even though it seems to have cooled for a lot of other people. 2008’s GotY, Pandemic, suffers from the fact that neither of my groups is too interested in cooperative games.
I haven’t played a lot of the super new hotness. Dominant Species is wowing the folks at BGG, but I haven’t played it yet. There are a few others that I am hoping to try in the new year which I’ve been told I’m “missing the boat” for not playing yet. Still, by my count I played 81 new (to me) games this year, so picking ten notable ones shouldn’t be a problem, right?
2 de Mayo – I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m just not much of a wargamer. I can’t really bring myself to care about supply routes, sieges, and other such stuff. Yet, every now and then, a wargame comes along which downplays a lot of the minutiae and “realism” in favor of, for me, a fun gaming experience with a war theme. 2 de Mayo packs a very satisfying and even detailed game into a pretty quick, easy-to-learn package.
Tobago – I only played this once at Unity and meant to get a copy of my own, but never did. That’s a shame because it’s a really clever and fun little game of treasure exploration. I think the reason I’ve sort of mentally held back from getting a copy is because I’m afraid it might be too light to get a lot of play, but I’d still like to try it again.
Sticheln – This is possibly the nastiest game on the list. There’s nothing to it — some numbered cards in a suit, pretty simple rules — but holy cow, is it devious and ugly. Between this and Bottle Imp, I may never need any more trick-taking games.
Innovation – The success of Dominion meant that any game that primarily used cards was compared to that one. This was one that got a lot of comparison even though, in play, it has little to nothing in common with the deckbuilding mechanic. Instead it’s an (yes) innovative game of building various technologies with a lot of interesting spins put on the action.
Catacombs – Speaking of innovative, there are tons of dungeon crawl games out there, but this is the first — and only — one in which combat against the monsters is resolved by flicking. The heroes and the monsters are disks, and you’re trying to flick them at each other to cause damage. It’s tough, and it’s goofy, but it’s a lot of fun.
Jaipur – I don’t get a lot of mileage out of two-player games these days, but everyone I’ve played this one with seems to have enjoyed it, and it’s getting some talk as the game which may finally overthrow Lost Cities as the ultimate two-player spouse-friendly game. It’s hampered a bit by some fiddliness in setup, but the game itself is fun and interesting, with the bonus of some attractive artwork.
Thunderstone – Of the three games here that got compared to Dominion this year, this is the one that actually deserved it. It’s a deckbuilding game, straight from the Dominion model, except with a dungeon-crawl theme, and that for me made a lot of difference. It’s a little clunkier than Dominion and it has a very weird endgame situation that I don’t like, but at least I’m doing something in it other than manipulating cards for the sake of manipulating cards.
Power Struggle – I never thought I’d like a game about corporate life — I don’t like experiencing it when I’m paid to do so — but Power Struggle is a hell of a game. Like the dysfunctional office environment it satirizes, it’s brutal, backstabbing, merciless, and unfair. It’s also a lot of fun, full of strategy, and highly interactive; there’s almost no downtime when something is happening that doesn’t concern you. Surprisingly, it’s also fairly intuitive and easy to pick up.
Navegador – This may be the weakest pick on the list; in many ways Navegador is soundly, brutally, just another Eurogame. The name, theme, artwork, board, and bits are all straight out of things you already have on your shelf. The mechanics — this is, what, the seventy-twelfth rondel game? — are similarly cobbled together. Yet there’s something about it that appeals to me, and at least part of it is that the game remembers what so many Eurogames have forgotten: you should have multiple paths to victory and they should all be valid. Most games either insist you merely be the best at doing what everyone else is doing or provide many different ways to win, with one being far and away better than the others (or worse, as in Agricola, actually punishing you for wanting to pursue a focused strategy.) Navegador, while not being any great shakes and as memorable as, say, Hamburgum in a few years, at least…you know what? Pretend I put Dungeon Lords here instead.
7 Wonders – I may regret this choice later — we’ll see how much staying power this game has — but for me, the game which I played the hell out of, and would have played more of given the chance, was this one. (For the record, it’s the third game I saw compared to Dominion and it is nothing like Dominion at all.) This game looks like a chaotic mess, but it’s super easy to teach and pick up, and it plays lightning fast. Out of the box there are lots of different ways to approach it and mix things up a bit, and it can be easily expanded. It scales easily from three to seven players, and since the action is more or less simultaneous, adding more players doesn’t increase downtime. Everyone I’ve played it with has enjoyed it and been up for another game of it immediately afterwards. The first printing has sold through and a lot of folks (myself included) eagerly await the second.
Through the Ages — I believe this year was the first time I played this by rules other than the ones for the baby game — though I think I still haven’t played by the full-on all-growed-up rules.
Alien Frontiers — Dice-driven space-themed game I would like to get in a couple more plays of.
Washington’s War — As with 2 de Mayo, this is another “lite” wargame that appeals to me, even though I got stomped the first (and only) time I played it. I’m looking forward to giving it another try.
Everyone seems to think Hansa Teutonica needs to be on this list, but I played it and didn’t see what the big deal was. Maybe I should give it another try, but I didn’t find it to be the wonder sundae that so many others did. And with The Speicherstadt, I’m sorry, but I need something more than a slightly new type of auction to recommend a game.