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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Dougies

I really hate the week after Christmas. It seems like such an anti-climax to the month leading up to it. Not only that, but we are deluged with "End of Year" lists of the best and worst. Since Dave Barry stopped doing columns, none are very interesting or funny. It's not like this is a logical time to end the year, after all. The end of the year (and the start of the new one) should be at the winter solstice, just like the day is based around when the sun is as far from noon as possible.

That said, I suppose that if I struggle a bit to think of what has come out this year (nearly an insurmountable task for someone with my rapidly dissolving brain cells), I'm sure I can come up with something. These awards are in no particular order, I'm just typing as they come to me. Also, these are games that came to my attention in 2005, so there are a few that were actually first published in 2004. Sue me.

Best Multi-player Strategy Game: Manifest Destiny. I've been waiting for a playable version of Age of Renaissance that didn't require a calculator to get through, and this is it. My group has played this at least three times, which is a pretty good number for a game that takes around three or four hours.

Game I Most Want To Play And Haven't: 7 Ages. This came out very early in the year, or very close to it. I've gotten one shot at playing at Gamestorm in March, not a good way to see how the game works (we had a couple of characters of Seinfeldian proportions). I've come up with a fairly elegant way to teach the game, but I just need three or four other players and around 8 hours to do it. That, and some really good cheat sheets for the various Wonders/Monuments/Religions/Leaders.

A close second in this category is Warcraft with the expansion. I haven't even gotten a chance to play this in the original form.

Best New Wargame: A few contenders for this award, including Empire of the Sun, Wellington, and Crusader Rex. I haven't gotten a chance to try out Men of Iron, but I suspect it would be a contender as well. Rommel in the Desert is another possibility, but since it's a reprint I really don't feel good about including it. However, the game that really caught my imagination was a very different design by Ted Raicer, Grand Illusion. The game covers the Schlieffen Plan, the Germans' attempt to surprise the French that was foiled by armies that were a bit too mobile for the communications of the day. The game is perhaps closest to RitD in terms of general feel. My only concern is a lot of chrome to force Plan 17 (the French counterattack) and other historical parameters. I don't so much have trouble with the ideas, just in that there are a lot of extra rules to force players to play under a 1914 mindset. Still...

Biggest SurpriseSt. Petersburg. This got poor buzz from the people I rely most upon for game recommendations within the group. I ordered it on the strength of Eric's rating, and played it a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. A bit on the dry side, but considering that I'd been told in no uncertain terms to pass on it by one other member of the group, it's quite a good game. I look forward to trying it out with two players.

Biggest Disappointment in Gaming Opportunities: Not playing enough of the GIPF series. I really need to find more opportunities for two-player gaming, both in wargames and in euros. I really like these games, even Zertz with it's "figure out this trick and beat the newbies" problem. I'm chomping at the bit to try out Puenct, the only one I haven't played against a real opponent.

Biggest Game Disappointment: The First World War. Oddly, by the same guy who did Grand Illusion. Or maybe not. Ted does a good job of wargame design, but I get the sense that this game had to be released by Phalanx. A close second was Candamir, which seemed to take a very long time for what it was. Dave seemed to really like the latter, so I'll give it another shot, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get FWW on the table again unless it's 2-player.

Company That Has P*ssed Me Off The Most: Has to be Fantasy Flight with their constant "2nd Edition" releases of games that they really should have gotten right the first time. Exacerbated by an inability to produce Update kits, which certainly would have been easy to do with Runebound (new cards and a folio with the rules changes...how hard could that have been?) I'm very tempted to get World of Warcraft, but because it's FF, I'll wait until I play it (and even then...)

Biggest Luckfest That Turned Out To Be Pretty Cool: Pizza Box Football. Outside of clock management in the waning minutes of the most complex version of the game, you have exactly one of three choices to make every play not counting kicks and punts (when there are two choices for each). Think Rock, Paper, Scissors with a lot of dice and a board that can be a little hard to read at times. And yet, it's a hoot. The company supports the game quite a bit on their website, even putting out "AI" for solitaire play. The expansion set, which adds a few plays and allows you play with NFL teams that are better/worse at various things than the generic results, is on my "get soon" list.

Heaviest Game: A close race between Arkham Horror and Railway Tycoon, the award goes to AH for compactness combined with back-breaking weight. Interesting that both games seem to have board warpage issues... Of course, AH is a reprint, and RT is a "reduction" of AoS, so technically neither qualifies, but there you go.

Best Teeny Game: Geschenkt. I'm hoping to get this title in time to take to (oddly enough) Europe in May. I might be able to find it there, but the thought of dragging my wife into a French game store and forcing her to translate for me is, perhaps, one Christmas wish too many.

Assuming I've covered my responsibilities for year's end, I shall now go read up on my Ancient World rules in the hope that I may actually get a chance to try this title out next year...


  • At 5:31 PM, Blogger dave said…

    "The end of the year (and the start of the new one) should be at the winter solstice"

    Dude, you're about as pagan as Robocop 2. Besides, you wouldn't want to see the Australians posting their "best of year" lists in June, wouldya?

    Extend the next Sunriver by a day or two, and I'll agree to play the full game of 7 Ages. :) We can even show up a day early and have a GIPFathon.

    "Candamir, which seemed to take a very long time for what it was."

    Yeah, I don't mind long, meandering games (like Settlers Card Game, Anno 1503 w/ exp... note the trend?). Read up on BGG about the exploration tiles. Apparently Mayfair republished Candamir with less "things" on the tiles, slowing down the game; I believe you can get an updated set of tiles directly from them. This should speed up the game, perhaps to your liking.

    "Pizza Box Football" - Looks like a blast, but I imagine sports-based games like this are doomed to failure in the age of Madden '0x.


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