Thursday, 12 December 2013

Games of the Year 2013!

It's that time of year again - the time when I don't have any pressing work and can peruse the gaming universe at leisure. And as it also happens to be December, I thought I'd launch us on "games of the year" -

The rules - choose your favourite games that you played for the first time in 2013.

So my perennial favorites of Lords of Waterdeep, Macao and Tinner's Trail are out. And Snowdonia - which I like - just misses the cut for me, as I played in in December 2012.

I must say the ten below as a collective are not quite the classic group of last year, but I guess as our gaming knowledge expands there are fewer and fewer things to discover.

Here's my top ten, in reverse order:

10 A Castle For All Seasons

If this were a top-ten of two-player games then ACFAS, as it's affectionately known, might be nearer the other end of the line. Andrew and I have spent many an hour on this mixture of worker-placement and card-play alá Citadels. It's got a lot going for it. What goes against it is it doesn't seem to translate well to multi-player and in both instances there's one building that's potentially too powerful.

9. Castle Dice

The game that shoots itself in the foot with apparently three different designers squabbling over how it would look. The cartoon dice? The differently cartoon cards? Or the Workers In Road style infographic Villagers? I have a lot of time for this game but, as I didn't anticipate, it doesn't seem to fit into the GNN bracket. Conversely my kids love it. Perversely so does my mum.

8. Samurai

A very Knizia-esque puzzle-type game where apparently optimum moves can be undone by other players. Simple rule-set, lots of depth... just a wee but dry and abstract.

7 Canal Mania

The game you don't want to drop any letters on in a google search. For those of us who find Brass too long, too confusing, or too bound up in imminent fated loss, perhaps Canal Mania is the way forward. We played it once, we all liked it, we never played it again. I would like to.

6 Kakerlakenpoker

I'm terrible at this, but it's great fun. Someone passes you a card and tells you it's a rat. Are they telling the truth or not? If you're Adam it doesn't matter, as his always-pass-a-card-on system has served him well. Or if you're Gonz, you simply use you X-ray vision to look into that person's brain.

5 Taluva

Another game with streak of losses for me, I'm not even sure it's seen the table at GNN? It's pretty simple rules, but aesthetically more pleasing than Samurai.

4 Kingdom Builder

Making a trio of games I suck at. But I do like Kingdom Builder - it's great actually. I just don't like coming fourth.

3 Sticheln

Excellent trick-taking game with some nuances that now escape me. There are some numbers you don't want? Or colors? What are the rules, Joe?

 2 Love Letter
Out-couping Coup in my eyes is this less-agonising, faster moving (but longer) game of elimination. There are less opportunities for bluffing so I guess it's quite a different Beast to Coup in some ways, but  quick to pick up and play.

1 Cube Quest
 If I was ordering these in the order I feel like playing now, Cube Quest would be lower. But no other game has had quite the impact on the (male side of) GNN, racking up a series of plays over a fortnight. Since then it's receded from sight a little, but I think it just about deserves top spot. 

 That's mine then. What are everyone elses?


  1. This year I think we did well to not play too many new games. Was it a consequence of last year’s Stabcon? Maybe. But I’m glad we focused on what we already had.

    10. Guildhall

    Possibly too confrontational for my taste, but it enjoyed it.

    9. Spyrium

    Only played it once. It has possibilities, I feel.

    8. A Castle For All Seasons

    I think three-players is the sweet spot. But apart from the over-powerful building, this is a nice game. Pretty deep for such a short amount of time.

    7. That celtic themed dice game by Knizia

    It’s the game you can play in pubs with the football on and not look like a total sissy! Can’t remember its name, though.

    6. Love Letter

    It is fun but there’s that rule of getting four tokens to win. That seems like a lot. I think if we ever played a full game of it, we may find its charms start to fade after too long.

    5. Palaces of Carrera

    Almost Biblios-esque in its enigmatic charms. How do you win? Only Martin knows. Still, there’s always that feeling that next time, you’ll do better. Much improved once we’d stopped playing with the screens to hide behind.

    4. Time Line

    Educational and fun. Plus, I’m good at history, so I’m good at this game. We should play it more often.

    3. Samurai

    I love this weird mind-melting puzzle/strategy game. I even invented a fairly challenging one-player version. I must get a copy.

    2. Cube Quest

    Just beautiful. And stupid.

    1. Eclipse

    It was the game on everyone’s lips two years ago and, fashionably late, GNN has joined the craze too! I enjoy the amount of space needed, the daunting piles of tiles, the counters, ships, hexagons. Very ambitious in scope, and I think it succeeds.

  2. Actually, replace Guildhall with Kingdom Builder.

  3. I forgot Timeline! That's definitely up there.

  4. Good to see Palaces of Carrara in your list Andrew! The 'first to 4 cubes' is only in the American version of Love Letter and I agree it's too long. I always play first to 2 or 3 with my lovely Japanese version :)

  5. As for my top 10, I wrote it up for BoardGameGeek the other day, so here you go!

    1. Scopa - learnt this traditional Italian game on holiday in Naples in July, and picked up a couple of lovely Italian decks. It's become a go-to for me and my wife, even taking the place of our beloved Cribbage. The four-player partnerships game is fun too.

    2. Mascarade - another hidden-roles micro-game after last year's smash hits (for me) Love Letter and Coup. This one adds a healthy dose of Faidutti chaos, giving it more of a party game feel, especially as the top end of the player range.

    3. The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet - my second favourite Bauza game after the miraculous Hanabi. The delightful artwork conceals a frankly mean drafting system.

    4. FlowerFall - Chudyk can do no wrong! This dexterity game is just pure fun and the scoring system is ingenious.

    5. Romans Go Home! - great little filler that takes the doublethink of Seiji Kanai's R and adds simultaneous programming.

    6. Equinox - another hit from Asmadi, special powers combine with spatial placement for a very clever little game. Hope it sees full release in 2014.

    7. Fauna - a few hilarious plays of Friese's animal trivia game convinced me to pick up a copy for family Christmas.

    8. Jackal & High - I preferred this dice game to the more celebrated Qwixx. It plays a bit like an advanced version of Vegas.

    9. Die Dolmengötter - short but brain-burning abstract with some interesting collaborative aspects.

    10. Briscola - the other game we played with the Italian cards is an interesting 2p trick-taker, and the 5p hidden partnerships version is fascinating too.

  6. Good work chaps. It's late and I'm falling asleep, so this may not be an entirely accurate account of my top 10 new games for 2013. And they're in no particular order...

    1812, Invasion of Canada - this has only been played once with the full five players, but I really enjoyed it. Such a neat, simple system - and a team game to boot.

    Targi - a wee bit longer than it should be, this is still an elegant, individual two-player game.

    Warriors of God - so pleased to have played this a couple of times in the summer with Henry. Brilliantly epic, lots of luck and derring do - Robin Hood leading the English against Joan of Arc - genius.

    Eclipse - yeah, a real 'event' game. 

    Palaces Of Cararra - this is definitely the game that I feel I've given a worthy amount of attention to - including two games this very evening! All our games should get this much love...

    Kakerlalen Poker - great; like a less serious Skull and Roses - I really want to make a Surrealist version of it - "this is not a pipe, this is your wife".

    Take it Easy - I've wanted this for ages, and finally found a charity shop copy for £1.99 last weekend. But I've played it over ten times already. Quantum bingo!

    Spyrium -  a humdrum resource-converter, perhaps; but I've enjoyed my two plays of it.

    Bora Bora - ooh it is awful, but I want to play it again.

    The Duke - silly chess, in a very lovely little package.

  7. I don't think I played 10 new games this year so my list would just be new games I played this year. Off the top of my head they would be, Castle Dice, Cube Quest, Discworld, La Strada, Industry, revolution...... um....yeah

  8. Android: Netrunner.

    Eclipse - ipad version - and I don't really know whats going on in it.

  9. Sorry I'm late - didn't spot this post in among the others! Anyway I've got a terrible memory so I did a quick trawl of the blog to find out what the new games I played this year were. Two hours later I've got a list of thirty five titles, most of which I have no memory of at all, and which probably isn't exhaustive as I started tiring of scanning through pages around about October:

    1812, Invasion of Canada
    A Castle For All Seasons
    Black Spy
    Blood Bowl
    Bora Bora
    Canal Mania
    Castle Dice
    Castles of Burgundy
    Command and colours - Ancients
    Cube Quest
    Kakerlaken Poker
    Kingdom Builder
    Love Letter
    New England
    Palaces of Carrera
    Panic On Wall Street
    Renaissance Man
    Smash Up
    Space Alert

    Of those the ten I most want to play again are:

    1. Kingdom Builder - my favourite game of the year, I try not to be too enthusiastic about it so that everyone else might still want to play...

    2. Castles of Burgundy - A dice game that I like!

    3. Eclipse - only one play, but very promising so far.

    4. 1812, Invasion of Canada - a co-op that didn't feel like a co-op, it also felt epic and complex in a pleasing way.

    5. Sticheln - quick and fun and vicious, what's not to like?

    6. Cube Quest - another dice game that I like. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

    7. Kackerlaken Poker - why do people keep on challenging each other in this game? I just don't get it...

    8. Canal Mainia - unfortunately as a poor man's Railways of the World, I'm not sure we'll see it again...

    9. Love Letter - a less/more annoying version of Coup?

    10. Space Alert - I'd like to play again, but not being captain was an exercise in excruciation (is that a word?) which is what I always find with co-op games.

  10. Gosh Adam that's attentive. Well done.

    I was less dedicated so missed out Timeline. But I also really like Take It Easy, which I played about an hour after posting the blog.

  11. Now I'm starting to feel sorry for Canal Mania.

  12. Late breaking entry, thanks to Joe. Aton goes in at no. 5, which is also the number of times Joe has beaten me out of 6 so far...