The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Year In Review — Initial Thoughts

Now that the holidays have kicked down work’s door and scattered the teeming masses, time to start looking bat at the year. I played 133 titles (actually around 125, depending on how you count expansions) and just north of 600 games (that will hopefully go up a bit in the last week).

About 1/3rd of those games were Race (with or without the expansion), which should shock nobody. I also started playing Bridge again regularly. I got in over 40 sessions this year, which will probably drop a bit. I got in 30 odd games of Stratomatic for our league, and Glory to Rome almost got 20 games.

As to new games — not so many of them. I obsessed over Agricola, Battlestar Galactica, Le Havre (just starting that) and played a ton of online Dominion. (Incidentally, I just played a few FTF games, and the setup/cleanup/shuffling really annoys me. It wouldn’t be so bad if we played 5 games in a row, but I have no urge to do that during a gaming session).

I like Wabash Cannonball, and I think it will have staying power, but it won’t occupy much thought when I’m not playing it. Ditto Tribune.

New games that were OK — Airships, Dry Gulch Junction, Hanging Gardens, Jamaica, Lost Valley, Middle Kingdom, Pandemic, Palastgefluster, Stone Age.

Best forgotten — Brass & Hamburgum, along with a few games that everyone has already forgotten.

All in all a pretty weak year, I think. Actually, that depends on how you count. A few games that invade my thoughts for a few weeks/months isn’t bad. Arguably I’d have bought all of those “OK” games if they came out a decade ago. I don’t know if I’d call it a “Historically Bad Year” like Joe did, but it wasn’t a good year.

I really shouldn’t call a game of the year just yet. My gut feeling is to make it Battlestar Galactica, but it’s too early by about 6 months to make the call. On the other hand, it’s the game I’ve had the most fun playing…

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Written by taogaming

December 24, 2008 at 11:05 am

Posted in Ramblings

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21 Responses

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  1. Joe and I rarely agree about anything concerning gaming, but we’re of one mind about 2008. So far, it’s been absolutely dreadful for me. There’s one big caveat–there are a number of promising games I’ve yet to play. With any luck, that will improve things to the point that the year will only be really bad. Even if most of the untried games pan out, there’s a very good chance this will be the worst year for games for me since I started playing German games back in 1999.

    The most notable thing, in fact, is how many of last year’s hits didn’t work for me. The list includes Dominion, Pandemic, Conflict of Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Space Alert, Ghost Stories, and will probably include Android should that game rise to star status. Some of these are just okay for me and some of them I will actively avoid. Of last year’s popular titles, only Le Havre and Stone Age really worked for me. That’s very unusual for me; I usually track quite well with the top ranked games on the Geek.

    Larry Levy

    December 24, 2008 at 12:54 pm

  2. I dont think this year can be counted as weak, especdially if you include the Race expansion.

    Agricola + Dominion alone is a pretty good year.

    Alexfrog

    December 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm

  3. Agricola is so 2007, Alex! (It really did come out last year.)

    And all I’m saying is that the year was weak for me. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of popular titles that just didn’t make it for me.

    Larry Levy

    December 24, 2008 at 9:49 pm

  4. I totally agree with you about Dominion. Most of the initial interest and high ratings were produced from BSW. I can’t believe the initial hype will translate into game that people talk about for years afterwards.

    Iain

    December 25, 2008 at 4:44 am

  5. Well, I do consider Agricola an ’08 game, since that was its wide release (and first time pretty much any of us who didn’t go/order from Essen got a look. And I’m not willing to translate 300+ paragraphs of a new game. (I’m just getting around to translating Up Front to English, after all).

    The Race Expansion is good, and one of my favorites this year, but I’m arbitrarily ignoring it. When two of my favorite 4 things are less than a month old, there’s always the chance that they’ll disappear in a few months…

    Brian

    December 25, 2008 at 10:05 am

  6. Well, I do consider Agricola an ’08 game, since that was its wide release (and first time pretty much any of us who didn’t go/order from Essen got a look. And I’m not willing to translate 300+ paragraphs of a new game. (I’m just getting around to translating Up Front to English, after all).

    The Race Expansion is good, and one of my favorites this year, but I’m arbitrarily ignoring it. When two of my favorite 4 things are less than a month old, there’s always the chance that they’ll disappear in a few months…

    Brian

    December 25, 2008 at 10:05 am

  7. Well, I do consider Agricola an ’08 game, since that was its wide release (and first time pretty much any of us who didn’t go/order from Essen got a look. And I’m not willing to translate 300+ paragraphs of a new game. (I’m just getting around to translating Up Front to English, after all).

    The Race Expansion is good, and one of my favorites this year, but I’m arbitrarily ignoring it. When two of my favorite 4 things are less than a month old, there’s always the chance that they’ll disappear in a few months…

    Brian

    December 25, 2008 at 10:05 am

  8. The expansions for Race for the Galaxy and Saint Petersburg alone make this a pretty decent year for me. My one play of Pandemic was a lot of fun, although I worry about staying power. I got Royal Palace for Christmas, which probably suits me better than most euro cynics (I love Louix XIVth, and I’m more tolerant of similar but not identical games, as long as they’re all well-designed).

    The jury’s still out on Agricola, but tending to “okay but not the greatest game ever.” Le Havre looks more my thing, but is still well into try before I buy territory. My tastes being what they are, there may be a sleeper hit or two yet, as well.

    All in all, that’s not a bad year in my books.

    Linnaeus

    December 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

  9. Oh, I forgot to mention TZAAR, as well, which I recently bought but have yet to play. I have pretty high expectations, though.

    Linnaeus

    December 25, 2008 at 11:06 am

  10. I agree that it’s been a weak year so far, but personally I can trace that to two effects. One, 2007 had a long anticipated game that has cast a long shadow on what I play and how much I play. Two, I’ve played few games from Essen so I expect there to be a couple surprise games to show up in the next few months.

    frunk

    December 25, 2008 at 7:37 pm

  11. I agree that it’s been a weak year so far, but personally I can trace that to two effects. One, 2007 had a long anticipated game that has cast a long shadow on what I play and how much I play. Two, I’ve played few games from Essen so I expect there to be a couple surprise games to show up in the next few months.

    frunk

    December 25, 2008 at 7:37 pm

  12. You strange, strange people. This has been one of the better years for me – granted, many of the games I liked were older titles, but still, the trio of Dominion, Wabash Cannonball and Preußische Ostbahn is hard to beat. I, by the way, much prefer FTF Dominion to the BSW version.

    I also made excellent discoveries amongs older titles, including the 10-rated Die Dolmengötter, traditional card games Le Truc and Russian Preference, Glory to Rome…

    Mikko

    December 26, 2008 at 12:23 am

  13. Well, I just tend to count the new Essen games I don’t get to play as next year’s games. Just like I count Agricola as this year. Saves a lot of mental effort.

    I do want tot try Preubisch Ostbahn, since I liked Wabash.

    Brian

    December 26, 2008 at 10:25 am

  14. Well, I just tend to count the new Essen games I don’t get to play as next year’s games. Just like I count Agricola as this year. Saves a lot of mental effort.

    I do want tot try Preubisch Ostbahn, since I liked Wabash.

    Brian

    December 26, 2008 at 10:25 am

  15. Hey, what can I say? We’re all confirmed Cult of the New followers in my group and one or two of us usually makes Essen, so I usually get to play 2008 titles in 2008. A number of games have come out in December this year and there’s more of a backlog of Essen titles than is typical, so this year is a bit of an aberration, but the untried stuff should all get played in one or two months, so it isn’t hard to lump them in with the rest of the ’08 group. For me, it’s easier to look on the Geek and check out the year of publication when making these judgments; I probably don’t keep as careful records as many of you.

    Larry Levy

    December 26, 2008 at 12:08 pm

  16. Agricola: Its a 2008 game, imo. Its top 10 worthy but not the best, imo. There is too much variance in card strength (including a ton of worthless ones, and some broken ones), the mechnism by which turn order changes is not that balanced, and its too long, to be the Best. Still great though.

    Dominion: It is exceptionally innovative. No one has made a game before that uses this deckbuilder while you play, buy stuff and shuffle them into your deck mechanic. That puts it in the top 10 for me. It is much better online, where the automated shuffling and creation of random cardsets helps a great deal. Its not as good in person where there is a lot of things you have to do yourself.
    Among players who choose the same general ‘plan’ for whatever cardset you have, its pretty random. If players choose different plans then the better one will usually win, but you can do pretty well by copying an experienced opponent. Its still very good, and I played it 400 times to get to my current state of being tired of it. Thats a lot! Worthy of top 10 imo.

    I think Le Havre is pretty good, but I think that after 10 plays I’d be pretty sure about the optimal strategy paths, and its quite long, so those are two things against it.

    From a ‘Great Theme’ standpoint, I think BSG is awesome.

    Overall, 2008 is above average imo.

    Alexfrog

    December 26, 2008 at 2:33 pm

  17. As Brian aludes to, I found 2008 historically bad for me. There are a couple of things I would note:

    1) I count Agricola firmly in 2007, since that’s when I played the game most (8 of 12 plays), and when I discovered it’s not really the game for me. Even so, it would make my top 10 for 2008, if it were a 2008 release.

    2) Expansions are evil. Even less-evil expansions such as the Race expansion still should be ignored.

    3) I don’t care for Dominion.

    4) Wabash Cannonball is a 2007 release, and even more importantly I don’t care for it; the dilution of share value is the reason I don’t care for a game I created, and isn’t any better with Herr Wu’s creation, IMHO.

    I had a great year for gaming in 2008, and played a number of neat games for the first time. It’s just the 2008 releases that I found weaker than for any year 1990-2007…

    Joe Huber

    December 27, 2008 at 7:53 pm

  18. I would call Dominion a game with a couple great ideas (deckbuilding through play, VP cards diluting your deck) that I can’t wait to see in a good game.

    (caveat: I’ve only played on BSW)

    The take that cards drain too much of the game’s pace, and there isn’t enough variety in the rest to maintain my interest. Also, there just isn’t much of an arc to the game. Aside from the first couple of rounds, when you go from having no infrastructure in your deck to having a little, the game feels pretty similar throughout.

    *shrug* I wouldn’t even call it a top 100 game, to be honest. It’s weirdly addictive for a while, but not very satisfying.

    Linnaeus

    December 28, 2008 at 1:53 am

  19. I guess I am a bit biased because of the fact that this is really my first year where I am really into board games, but I was reasonably impressed with the 2008 crop. While other commenters on this blog are less than impressed with Agricola, it hits all my sweet spots. I find myself quite enjoying both Le Havre and the Race For the Galaxy expansion. Chicago Express is also pretty solid in my mind and has been getting tons of play, and Stone Age is not bad for what it is. Granted, this isn’t a large list of 2008 games, but I don’t have an extensive list of older games I found to be particularly captivating either. There are one or two here or there, but nothing that makes them stand out more than 2008 does.

    doubtofbuddha

    December 28, 2008 at 7:03 pm

  20. I agree that Dominion doesnt have enough to it, and also the main decisions happen with your early bus and then later on youre just seeing what happens. The actual card play is pretty hard to mess up, your decisions are all in the purchases.

    However, I think that the mechanic is SO innovative that it deserves a high spot. I think that more games will come out that are similar to it, and build upon it greatly.

    Alexfrog

    December 29, 2008 at 11:21 am

  21. I agree that expansions shouldn’t count, but the Power Grid China/Korea board is AMAZING. It’s not a minor adjustment of a classic game, it really adds some new twists and spins. This is exactly what an expansion should be – it breaths new life into a game you love…

    Agricola has ruled my attention and obsession, and I still don’t think I’ve got a wrap on everything it has to offer.

    Dominion might not have “staying power”, but how many games have people played of it already? Not many games can handle 100+ plays, or even 50+ plays without feeling a little worn… It doesn’t beat out RftG in my book, but is still heads and shoulders above “average” games.

    There’s still a few games I’d like to give a try before the year is out – Le Havre and Powerboats are two I’m interested in. So all in all I’d say it’s a half-decent year… but I haven’t been in the hobby long enough to know what a stellar year is.

    SeanP

    December 29, 2008 at 1:29 pm


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