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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Friday, December 30, 2005

Brooks' Best of 2005

It sure is hard to go next-to-last in this process, having read everyone else’s posts.  KC has it even harder!

I’m not sure how to assess the quality of the year overall – I’m sure someone will find an analytic process using ratings from the geek to compare this year with prior years. My gut feeling is that it was a mediocre year – I couldn’t arrive at a top 10 and I think only 3–4 of my top 5 have true staying power.  I’m not including Havoc: the Hundred Years War in any of this analysis because, well, I’m a bit biased.  I am thrilled that Paul Tevis named it his game of the year – KC should be very proud of his baby.

Without further delay, here are some favorites of the year.  First, my top 5 games for 2005.

Top 5 Games of the Year

5. Caylus – A very good game, this would score higher if it didn’t feel a bit longish.  It is also a bit too abstract to be of much interest with the boys, so it has been difficult to get out at home.  I’m still hoping to try a two-player game with Julie at some point.  Four plays this year.

4. Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean – It didn’t make my number one slot as I predicted, but this is an excellent game of you like empire building with light trading and minimal direct conflict between players.  Three plays this year.

3. Indonesia – This splotter release has some of the typical component problems found in their games – a highly stylized board that gets in the way of easy interpretation of the map, but other than that I think this is an excellent game and hope to see it come out this weekend.  I played it twice so far this year and playing time got down to about 3 hours, but I felt the time was worth it.

2. Antike – In contrast to Indonesia, Antike has one of the best designed boards (human factors-wise) I’ve seen in a while.  Very limited downtime and easy to teach/understand rules leads to a great playing experience for a conquest game. Two plays this year.

1. Railroad Tycoon – Finally a heavier train game that is themed well enough for my kids to get interested!  The components I give a B-, with my biggest complaint being the blue/purple issues on the map board.  There’s also a decent amount of chaos introduced by the cards, but that makes it more interesting to the kids so I’ll let that slide too.  Great game and one I think will come out for years to come. Three plays this year.

Since I spent a decent amount of time playing family/party games this year, here’s a list of my favorite releases in 2005.

Top 5 Family / Party Games

5. Walk the Dogs – Great components and a nice intro game for kids and adults alike.  Not enough there to hold my interest in the long term, this is still a nice diversion.

4. Pickomino – My favorite quicky filler of the year, this is a press-your-luck dice and domino game with which I’ve had success introducing to kids.

3. Manila – Hmmm, family game or strategy game?  It’s both!  I like this betting game and think it is light enough to fall into this category.

2. Eye to Eye – Similar to some other party games I’ve played in the past (Scattergories), there’s enough in this game that’s unique to make it worth picking up.  Add to that a Jr. version that is more age appropriate for kids and you’ve got a great game system.

1. Wits and Wagers – This wins the prize for creativity and fun factor.  The game includes a very innovative scoring system for a trivia game making it easy for the trivia challenged to have fun.

Now for some more miscellaneous awards / thoughts.

Game I Bought That I Wish I Had Played

Manifest Destiny – Seeing this on Doug’s list makes me even more frustrated that I didn’t get to play this year.  I missed an opportunity at Game Storm last year to try it, but won’t let that chance slide this year.  Close second is Byzantium, but I still have a chance to squeeze that in before the new year starts.

Jacob’s (age 11) Favorite Game

Railroad Tycoon – This was an easy choice for him, and he’s won the only full game he’s played so far this year.

Matthew’s (age 9) Favorite Game

Shadows Over Camelot – Dripping with theme, this cooperative game easily takes the prize for Matthew.

Julie’s Favorite Game

Ticket to Ride: Europe – This barely missed my top five list.

What I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2006

Hmmm, let’s have a look-see at Gone Cardboard.  Ahhh, some nice goodies coming next year.  Here’s my list in no particular order:

  • Tempus
  • Ticket to Ride: Marklin
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates!
  • Age of Empires III
  • Shogun
  • Stonehenge
  • The to-be-announced game from Sunriver Games.  OK, I couldn’t resist.

Have a happy new year y’all!

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