MJ's Games Played in 2000 | Back to MJ's Games Played in ...
MJ's Games Played in 2001   |   MJ's Games Played in 2000   |   MJ's Games Played in 1999   |   MJ's Games Played in 1998   |   MJ's Games Played in 1997   |   MJ's Games Played in 1996   |   MJ's Games Played prior to 1996

Note: I'm writing a paragraph or so for each game listed, but it's not yet complete.

For the second year in a row I've only kept a list of the titles I played, not how many times for each one. If I had to guess, they average 2-3 plays apiece, varying from just one to more than a dozen plays. After playing all of the new games I could get myself into for the past four years, I'm now starting to be drawn to play the same good games a few more times, a trend I expect to continue in 2001. We'll see.

As before, I'll try to give each game a one-liner to encapsulate my opinion about it. Please reply to discuss!

While I'm quite happy with the list of games I played last year, I'm even more pleased about the variety of game groups I managed to play with. I don't go to The Gathering of Friends, Essen, or even any of the local conventions in Southern California. Still, I've hooked up with many wonderful people throughout the year to play all sorts of games--really, that's what makes this hobby so fun for me. Here are all of the groups I've gamed with, in addition to family. Next year I'll be adding SoCal Games Day to the list, and hopefully my own local group in Santa Clarita.

My regular weekly group (Left Coast Gamers, session reports at boardgamegeek)
My regular lunch group (JPL Boardgamers, meets 1-2 times per week)
Some other local groups
Scott Woodard's San Fernando Valley Boardgamers
Fen Yan's cohort at Brookhurst Hobbies
Steve Carey's unnamed group
Jennifer & Bruce Schlickbernd's unnamed group
And some notable non-local groups, mostly piggybacking on business trips to Denver
Dave Rohrl's North Bay Gamers in Petaluma (while visiting my inlaws!)
Paul of Seriously Fun Games (R.I.P.), in Denver
Sheila & James Davis & friends, in Denver
Bob Rossney & friends, in Denver

You may recognize several of those names from r.g.b. I hooked up with just about everyone listed through email first, usually initiated through r.g.b. Despite the bickering and everything else, what would we do without
rec.games.board? I love it.

Boardgames first, followed by wargames, CCGs (gasp!), and even a few odd computer games.

BOARDGAMES, CARD GAMES, PARTY GAMES (Obviously, my main hobby)
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25 Words of Less -- Challenging, thoughtful team game -- 8
I like party games, but I don't love them. Some of the best ones, like Taboo, feel like game shows to me. 25 Words or Less is a little like that. It's thoughtful without being boringly brainy. In the games I've been in, the level of play has been quite high, with bids as low as 6 or 7 word-clues to solve the six challenges. Got that? A single clue for most or all words, and no going back. The combined pressure of lower bids and a race against the sand timer give this party game its teeth.

Acquire -- Element of chance saves this classic -- 7
Among experienced gamers, Acquire is a classic, and a yardstick by which to measure other games. I've played in other games where the person explaining the scoring rules says, "It's like Acquire," and we all nod our heads. But you know what? I think it's just okay, not great. Not today, anyway (I admit it's closer to great when you consider its age). The hidden information (tiles at least, and maybe stock holdings depending on how you agree to play) and luck-of-the-draw give the game an essential freedom from complete analysis. It does appear that someone may have to sit through a game with little chance for victory if they miss out on the first few, capital-raising mergers, however. Whether this is avoidable by experienced players is open to debate, let alone newbies.

Aladdin's Dragons -- Mishmash of a game, but fun -- 7
Game of the Year, eh? Isn't that what Games magazine said? Okay, though it's far from my favorite for the year, it's a worthy pick. I never played the original, Keydom, but understand that the subsequent game (also known as Morgenland) shows the positive effect of development. I find that encouraging--game development is an important step beyond original design in wargame publishing, and I'd expect the same here. (Though wargame development includes the playtesting that I believe original German game authors do themselves. Certainly Knizia and Kramer have indicated that in their interviews.) Some reviewer felt that the retheming was another positive development, though I hardly think this game evokes Arabian Nights or the story of Aladdin. Perhaps it was even thinner before.

Apples to Apples -- Too bad the expansion doesn't fit in box -- 9
Some didn't "get" this the first time, and others have said it's growing old, but I still find the game is very sharp, imminenly approachable, and portable. For holiday gatherings with family (i.e. nongamers), this is the game to bring. When some of the nostalgia wears off, get the expansion set, or play with game with special rules called out by that turn's judge. For example, look for the opposite of a good match, or have the judge think in terms of being a famous figure (Clinton, Ann Landers, the Pope...). Or find the best match for a pair of green apple cards (though award only one for a point to the winner).

Arbos -- Lovely dexterity game -- 8
This year I managed to try several dexterity games for the first time, and I've come to the conclusion that they all need some rules to make them a real game, and not just a challenging physical puzzle. When Arbos first game around, it was just the puzzle, but now that there are cards to provide some constraint on the play, I think it's better for it. A very attractive game.

Attila -- As a theme gamer, I'm annoyed -- 6
Here's my problem--you tell me the game is about something, I want it to feel that way. I want the rules and the theme to work together. Attila doesn't do that. Not even close. You draw cards, you play cards, you place wooden tokens in regions for majority scoring. The map looks like Europe, but it doesn't function as such. The colored tokens (annoyingly doubling-up on the players' own colors) are even given labels for various barbarians that variously threatened Rome's former glory, but that's even more meaningless. Sure, there are clever subtleties in gameplay and scoring, and the game even looks quite nice (if you can get past the color duplication), but what does this game offer that it's both longer and shorter cousins (e.g. El Grande or Web of Power) don't? Nothing that I could see.

Ausgebremst -- Quick yet satisfying race game -- 9
Like Ave Caesar, but half the cost and twice the strategy. Oh yeah, and only one quarter as pretty. Some gamers that have both use them fir different audiences, the gamers always opting for Ausgebremst. Me, I want both, but still need to acquire the chariot game. In the meantime, this one offers a lot of fun. The modular track allows several different tracks, keeping the game fresh (someone should design more tracks to share on the web, too), and offering different levels of difficulty. The game isn't cooperative at all, but there is a chance for some or all players to be beat by the game itself, bested by player-less cars
Bamboleo -- Fun, but could be better -- 7

Basari -- One of the best lunch games -- 9

Bialogue -- Cluegiving is fun, boardgame is not -- 5

Big City -- Doesn't impress my friends -- 7

Bohnanza -- Not played so much anymore -- 8

Brainwaves -- Abstract, juiced up by bluff & chance -- 7

Buried Treasure -- Attractive, but too chaotic? -- 6

Caesar & Cleopatra -- A descendent of CCGs? -- 7

Cape Horn -- Good game can't match great theme -- 6

Carabande -- It's like everyone says -- 10

Carcassonne -- Will be played, unlike El Cab -- 7

Carolus Magnus -- More innovative than good -- B

Chinatown -- Pleasant system, well presented -- B

Clash of the Lightsabers -- Best mainstream game of the year -- A

David & Goliath -- Better for lunch than Mu -- A

Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix -- Superseded by Ausgebremst -- C

Devil Bunny Needs A Ham -- More game than joke (finally!) -- C

Die Erben von Hoax -- Too chaotic even for me -- C

Die Fursten von Florenz -- Very mechanical, yet a favorite -- A

Die Schlangen von Delhi -- Light, and a colorful delight -- A

Dragon Delta -- Not a fan of the "programming" -- C

Drunter & Druber -- Earned its SdJ -- A

En Garde -- Oddly, perhaps Knizia's best fit for theme -- A

Entdecker -- My all-time favorite -- A+

Euphrat & Tigris -- A modern classic -- A

For Sale -- Still the best filler of all -- A

Formula De -- Tracks are beautiful, game is dull -- C

Frank's Zoo -- Quirky, nonliner, worth exploring -- A

Freight Train -- More is less (I prefer GtG) -- C

Frog Juice -- If the game were half as nice as the cards... -- C

Get The Goods -- Great with nongamers -- A

Guesstures -- Nice charades variant -- B

Guillotine -- Too chaotic, but lots of fun (like Groo) -- B

Ice Towers -- Realtime ain't my thing -- C

Ivanhoe -- Not bad except when it goes long -- C

Jenga -- I *finally* played this American classic -- B

Kohl, Kies, & Knete -- Sackson's dealmaker is his best -- A

Kontor -- The  wooden-block-in-regions game for me -- B

Kuhhandel -- I'm *so* bad at this chestnut -- B

La Citta -- Theme & presentation trump the slight fiddliness -- A

Loopin' Louie -- Crazy, near-mindless fun, a joy -- A

Lord of the Rings -- More interesting than good, still fun -- B

Lost Cities -- Still don't see what the fuss is about -- B

Lost Treasure -- Fun once a year -- B

Lowenherz -- Too often overlooked -- B

Manitou -- Remains a most original/interesting card game -- B

Medici -- Smooth as silk, dye, porcelain, metal, and spices -- A+

Merchants of Amsterdam -- Absolutely love the real history -- A

Metro -- Nice facelift of a good game -- 7

Mit List und Tucke -- Good, but I prefer D&G -- 7

Mu -- I find it very challenging -- 9

NFL Football Strategy -- Good playbooks, notable mechanical "computer" -- 7

Ohne Furcht und Adel -- Our group overanalyzes -- 7

Pit -- This realtimer I like -- 8

Pokemon Master Trainer -- My son's fave, not bad -- 7

Quandary -- A diversion, but a good one -- 7

Qvo Vadis? -- Open-status negotiation games are iffy -- 6

Rage -- I prefer the American game Wizards -- 6

Reef, The -- Very good wife-game -- 7

Sansibar -- Pretty, and pretty disappointing -- 4

Sauerbaum -- Cooperative; big hit with my friends -- 8

Schotten-Totten -- Clever, but utterly flavorless -- 6

Schwarzmarkt -- Perhaps unstable, but interesting; good theme -- 7

Scrabble -- Slow even with two, but a classic for good reason -- 8

Settlers of Catan -- Not played as often anymore, still good -- 9

Shipwrecked -- Like A2A, smooth & well-presented -- 7

Siesta -- If it stuck to theme, I'd like it more -- 6

Skyrunner -- Breathes new life in an established mechanic -- 8

Tal der Konig -- I must've missed something -- 6

Taj Mahal -- Clever, as always, but too repetitive -- 6

Tichu -- Partnership Dalmuti, with spice -- 8

Torres -- Love the 3D, hate the sluggishness -- 6

Turfmaster -- Card management+dice=beauty of a race -- 8

Um Reifenbreite -- Similar to previous, +hills-dice -- 8

Venture -- Innovative in its day, now passed -- 5

Verrater -- Has clear flaws, yet is so good -- 9

Vinci -- One of the year's highlites -- 10

Way Out West -- A few more rules, a lot more flavor -- 9

Web of Power -- Short enough to be liked -- 7

Wettstreit der Baumeister -- Pretty. Should've been cards -- 6

Witchhunt -- Shows promise, needs development -- 6

Wizard -- Blind bidding is the best -- 7

Zopp -- Mucho bucks, mucho fun -- 7

WARGAMES (Always want more. Battle Cry helped, but PBEM dropped in 2000)
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Battle Cry -- Absolutely wonderful -- 10

Breakout Normandy -- I'm not as taken with this system -- 6

Disk Wars -- Exceedingly clever -- 8

Gettysburg -- With The General's tweaks -- 10

Mustangs -- Good, but could be more -- 6

Solomons Sea -- Lots of game, but lots of fiddle, too -- 7

Waterloo -- Are those hussars or panzers? -- 6


COLLECTIBLE CARD GAMES (After a long hibernation, I'm experimenting again...)
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Magic:The Gathering -- In a limited environment only, please -- 9

Netrunner -- Deckbuilding just okay; the play's the thing -- 9

Pokemon Trading Card Game -- Better than you think -- 7

COMPUTER GAMES (I play very few)
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Age of Rifles -- Virtual toy soldiers, great but more than I need -- 8

Cribbage -- A staple on my Palm -- 7

Em@il Football (Soccer) -- Means hockey & basketball would work -- 8

Em@il NASCAR -- Excels with multiplayer, feels most like a boardgame -- 7

Em@il NFL Football -- Unrealistic, so unsatisfying -- 5

Em@il X-Com -- The best computer game I've EVER played -- 10

Spadelover Spades -- Best game on my Palm -- 10

Tyranny -- Good action game for Palm -- 7

You Don't Know Jack -- Never get to play this enough -- 10