Thursday, February 9, 2012

2011 Games: Nickels & Dimes

It's a little late, but I still think it's an interesting exercise for us board game geeks. I'm a little depressed by the actual numbers this year. A real reduction in my numbers of fives and dimes, although I'm sure my number of "unique games played" number went up (I still haven't figured out how to get that).


Ten games made it into this category this year, compared to 12 last year. Not a huge decline, but definitely some different games.

Black Vienna is a long out of print deduction game. I was able to use files uploaded to ArtsCow (a print-on-demand site) to reproduce my own copy, and I really like the game and the stylized artwork. The game uses cards with different letters on them. Three cards are removed from the deck (much like in Clue), and the rest are dealt to the players. Using other cards that have groups of three letters on them, players try to deduce the cards in other players' hands and ultimately which three cards are missing. It sounds complicated, but the play is simple. However, it definitely melts your brain. What bumped this up to six plays this year is the awesome online implementation that allowed me to take a turn a few times a day instead of sweating out under the pressure of a live game.

A Few Acres of Snow is another game that owes its inclusion on this list to online play. It's a fascinating combination of the deck-building mechanic with a wargame. Unfortunately, some players who approached it more from the deck-building angle were able to "break" it so that an unbeatable strategy developed. Fortunately, those of us who aren't number crunchers were able to enjoy it just fine, but also the designer tweaked the rules to eliminate this problem.

When I was first taught the game, the number of choices and avenues to explore were just overwhelming. I really had trouble wrapping my head around it. Fortunately, my friend Mark in California invited me to a few online games that really put those nerves at ease. I still have a lot to explore with this one, but it's a fun journey.

Another game that I would describe as a "light" wargame is Command & Colors: Ancients, which made it onto the list with six plays. I just love this game, and I can't completely explain why. It's a very tactical wargame that recreates the battles of Caesar, Alexander, Hannibal, and other famous (or infamous) military leaders of the ancient age. But aside from the historical aspects, it's also exciting and fun. Sometimes you just don't have the cards necessary to do what you want to do; sometimes the dice just don't roll in your favor. With each battle lasting from 30 to 60 minutes, it's easy to play several in a row. Alea iacta est.

Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers sort of came and went towards the beginning of the year. I introduced it to my wife, Karen, and she loved it. We played it at least once a week for about a month. Then, suddenly, almost as quickly, she was done with it. I have no idea why this happened. The game is a nice variation on the original Carcassonne, with a more straight-forward scoring method. I'm sure we'll play it some more, but maybe there was just a bit of burnout.

Jaipur, on the other hand, came in strongly at the very end of the year. With nine plays, it just missed getting on the dime list; not bad for a game I received in December from my Secret Santa! It's a two-player card game about trading goods in India that plays quite quickly, which encourages match play. I look forward to many more plays of this in the future.

Other nickels:
Backgammon (8), Scrabble (8), Biblios (8), Dominion (6), Telestrations (5).


Only one: Werewolf (12) That's kind of sad, for many reasons.

Just last year I acquired a newer edition of the game, Ultimate Werewolf, which has much clearer art design and a great instruction book. The vast majority of these plays (8-10) have me as the moderator. Some people might not count that as an actual play of the game, but I certainly do. I actually love moderating face-to-face, so I have plenty of fun. Of course, at my annual board game convention I don't think I've ever moderated, which is just fine with me.

The other reason it's sad is just the major reduction in gaming volume. Last year I had five different dimes for a total of 61 games; this year, one for 12!? I'm not sure why the reduction occurred. I suppose the most obvious reason would just be less opportunity. However, I have already indoctrinated a couple of new people into this fun little hobby, so I'm hoping 2012 will see a big upswing in numbers.

For comparison, here's last year's list.

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