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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

BGTG 100 SR & Feedback (Tobago, Numeri, Polar Derby)

Yea! When I started this podcast nearly five years ago, I had no idea I'd still be doing it now. The pace certainly slowed down from the early days, but I'm so pleased to have stumbled across the finish line to episode 100! Except that this isn't really a finish line--I'm going to keep podcasting, and I hope you'll keep listening.

I thought about some big celebration or other special show for my 100th episode, but after talking with friends (some of whom you've heard on my podcast before), I decided instead to keep it simple. After all, that's what Boardgames To Go has always been: a simple, no-frills podcast that reflects my own interests in analyzing what it is about these games that makes them fun (or not), along with some good feedback. It's the feedback that has always kept me going, so it's a real pleasure to include it on episode 100. In future shows there will still be more opportunities to discuss special topics, have guest co-hosts, and maybe even some more All About episodes.

In this episode I start with some discussion about my favorite new Essen game, Tobago. True, it's the only real Essen game I've got my hands on yet, but I like it so much I'm confident it will remain a favorite even after I've had a chance to try the others, perhaps finding more keepers. It was a title that jumped out at me during my annual pre-Essen anticipation, and it was easy enough to order domestically right away. Another new Essen title is Numeri, which I've at least played in its online incarnation on brettspielwelt. This is a modern reprint in Schmidt's fun Easy Play line that had a much earlier life as a boardgame. In between there was an edition with some particular theming that I'd like to know more about--does anyone have it? Finally, I discuss Polar Derby, a kids' game from Gamewright that feels like a Knizia game . . . because it IS a Knizia game. Hear about how the clever folks at Gamewright put a German game design through the American-izer.


Saturday, January 02, 2010

MJ's Games played in 2009

I'll do a show recapping this information later, but while I can't record a podcast right now with family visiting, I can squeeze in a blog post. Throughout the year I keep my games-played statistics on Boardgamegeek (the "cloud" of our hobby), which makes it so easy to pull that data out now.
 Here are the raw stats, and below I'll offer a little commentary.

Dominion 47
Brass 44

Dominion: Intrigue 23
Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm 19
Race for the Galaxy 17
Animalia 15
Hansa 10
History of the World 10

Schotten-Totten 9
Dominion: Seaside 8
Numeri 8
Pandemic 8
Harry's Grand Slam Baseball Game 7
San Juan 7
Stone Age 7
The Downfall of Pompeii 6
Finito! 6
Industrial Waste 5
On the Underground 5
Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age 5

The rest (single plays unless noted)
Arkadia 4,  Bohnanza 4, Chicago Express 4, China 4, Powerboats 4, Tally Ho! 4, Aton 3, Balloon Cup 3, Cold War: CIA vs. KGB 3, Finca 3, In the Year of the Dragon 3, Kakerlaken-Poker 3, Keltis 3, Kreta 3, Maori 3, Marrakech 3, Monty Python Fluxx 3, Mr. Jack 3, Piece o' Cake 3, Reef Encounter 3, Rosenkönig 3, The Settlers of Catan 3, Walk the Dogs 3, Yspahan 3, Acquire 2, Africa 2, Amun-Re 2, Arbos 2, Bang! The Bullet! 2, Battle Cry 2, Big Points 2, Carolus Magnus 2, Cities 2, Container 2, Crokinole 2, Excape 2, Figaro 2, FITS 2,  Fuzzy Tiger 2, Ghost Stories 2, High Society 2, I'm the Boss 2, In the Shadow of the Emperor 2, Ingenious 2, King of Siam 2, Long Shot 2, Medici 2, Metropolys 2, Money! 2, Musketeers 2
Polar Derby 2, Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age 2, Saint Petersburg 2, Santiago 2,  Spekulation 2, Steel Driver 2,  Strozzi 2, Thebes 2, Tobago 2, Tulipmania 1637 2, Vinci 2, Agricola, Automobile, Basari, Big City, Byzanz, Canyon, El Capitán, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, Chang Cheng, Cheeky Monkey,
Dancing Dice, Dice Town, Drachen Wurf, Dragonland, Entdecker, Fauna, Fearsome Floors, Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga, Flowerpower, Fluch der Mumie, Formula D, Get the Goods, Go, The Hanging Gardens, Haste Worte, Le Havre, Hey! That's My Fish!, High Score, Ice Flow, Im Reich der Wüstensöhne, Jet Set, Krieg und Frieden, Lightning: D-Day, Modern Art: The Card Game, Monastery, Mykerinos, Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815, Puerto Rico, Ra: The Dice Game, Rabbit Hunt, Richelieu, Risk, Risk Express, San Marco, Schnäppchen Jagd, Schrille Stille, Sleeping Queens, Small World, Squad Seven, Svea Rike, Take it to the Limit, Take Your Best Shot, Through the Desert, Thurn and Taxis, Ticket to Ride: Switzerland.
Tigris & Euphrates, Tikal, Tohuwabohu, Tonga Bonga, TransEuropa, Turn The Tide, Uruk: Wiege der Zivilisation, Vikings, Wallamoppi, Wallenstein, Wyatt Earp, Zeus on the Loose

I see that I played 148 different titles for a total of 485 plays. Seems to me that my numbers in prior years were closer to 100 titles & 300 plays, so this was an up year for me. I think most of that increase came from more online plays, though, as I don't recall more game sessions, games days, or other face-to-face gaming. In fact, I think my games days were down last year, but maybe not.

Something that isn't so easy to pull out of BGG stats is which games were online versus face-to-face. By the time I record a podcast on this topic I'll make my own estimate of pulling those numbers out to make the comparison. Some online games don't feel like face-to-face boardgaming, but a lot of them really do for me--especially when I get to play against long-distance friends I see rarely, or mid-workweek games with my local friends. Another wrinkle I'd like to look into later are the new titles I played this year. Both to make sure I'm spending enough gaming time on my older favorites, and to take note of which new titles I played more than once (perhaps they're new favorites?).

Tons of Dominion, especially when you add in the Intrigue and Seaside plays. I still absolutely love this game, and would be happy to play it face-to-face as much as I play it online. I can't see myself keeping up with (or buying) all of the expansions, but I don't really need to. There's so much variability and replayability in the original game, and just buying a single expansion adds to much to that. The other night we almost played a game with more than 4 players, something I still haven't tried. Some of the card effects are even more fun with more players, so that's something to look forward to.

Look at all of those plays of Brass! A few of those were face-to-face, but so many more were online. This game is outstanding for online play, having a limited number of really thoughtful turns and mostly indirect player interaction. I thoroughly enjoy this game and look forward to nearly as many plays in the next year.

Similar to Dominion, my plays of Race for the Galaxy are inflated by online plays once the Genie site became available halfway through the year. I already liked RftG, but my appreciation for it shot up once I had the opportunity to play so much. It has to be said that the game has a learning curve unlike most of my collection, and it's been a minor obstacle to getting it played face-to-face. Still, we've played it some, and the availability of Keldon's incredible RftG AI downloadable program has helped us tackle that learning curve.

(By the way, I don't count plays of games against the computer, only human opponents. However, I really appreciate these programs for the opportunity to play on an airplane, on business trips, or when disconnected from the net.)

In contrast my other high-play games, Animalia is played face-to-face. (I think I had a single online play this year.) This is my go-to when my daughter & I play a game, and some of my gamer friends enjoy it, too. I own two copies (one of each version), which is another strong sign that this is a permanent favorite for me.

I also own two copies of Hansa (one for work, one for home), but that hasn't meant I got to play lots of ftf games. These were mostly online last year. Which is ok, but unlike Brass, Hansa is a game that's really better face-to-face.

History of the World was one I only played online (at Years ago I played HotW in its first (non-plastic) licensed publication by Avalon Hill, and the experience was horrible. It soured me on ever playing the game again. Then I found this online clone, and it has sparked my interest again, right when the original designers/publishers Ragnor Bros. come out with a new, possibly streamlined edition. I hope to try that sometime, though I'm lured by the deluxe plastic pieces edition by H/AH. (Luckily, some of my local gamer friends already own that, since it's too pricey to buy on the secondary market.)

My "nickels" list has a better spread of games played ftf as much or more than online. It shows my preference for the shorter games. (I know most "Five & Dime" lists favor shorter games since they're easier to play multiple times, but I honestly prefer the shorter stuff all the time.) Pandemic and Roll through the Ages were new acquisitions, and I finally picked up my own copy of Downfall of Pompeii, which I think is often overlooked. On the Underground is the game my wife enjoys to play with me (reminds us of our London vacation! unfortunately Notre Dame doesn't invoke the same nostalgia about our Paris trip). And, of course, Harry's Grand Slam Baseball is a favorite I'll play for the rest of my life.

Among the rest, some quick comments...
  Bohnanza - A good indicator that I'm playing my favorites, not "falling for" the cult of the new. :-) 
  Chicago Express - A Game of the Month for our group, and new favorite
  Aton - Need to get my own copy, since it's a great filler. (And another great Queen production.)
  Finca - Ehh... I've now tried a few times, and I don't care for it. Fits & Fauna were better, but Dominion & Pandemic easily the two best games for SdJ.
  Maori - A late December acquisition, may prove to be a good family game
  Monty Python Fluxx - I tweeted about this. A gift for my son, and the source of great laughs for us.
  Piece o' Cake - A gift from a podcast listener! Will hit a nickel next year, for sure.
  Reef Encounter - Three plays isn't enough! Love this one.
  Settlers of Catan - The Wired article sparked some interest at work, where we played over lunch.
  Walk the Dogs - Finally got my hands on a copy of this oddly distributed game. Fun.
  Svea Rike - I've had this grail (for me) game for years, and finally played it.
  Medici, Thebes, Vinci, Crokinole, Tigris & Euphrates - All longtime faves that I'm pleased to have gotten in last year, but hope to play as much or more next year.


P.S. One of these days I need to upload my nearly decade-long stats of games played into BGG so that I can have fun poring over the data and extended reports available at friendless' site. Snoozefest even sent me information on how to use a spreadsheet to do this in a more automated way, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.