Ah, the year-end gaming report. I'm glad that no one else except me is comparing my reports from year-to-year, because after six years I still can't set upon a standard format I like. What really matters when you read these things, anyway? I'm not sure anymore. More than just stats, no doubt.
The year 2002 was notable for my boardgaming for a couple reasons, compared to previous years. First, I shifted away from one longtime game group, the Left Coast Gamers, to the more local new group, the Santa Clarita Boardgamers. I still hook up with LCG now and then, plus spielfriek Scott Woodard's SFVGers. Plus, I get a chance to "cross-pollinate" with all sorts of local game groups and gamers at our regular SoCal Games Days (just held our 10th event). My lunchtime gaming with coworkers at NASA JPL really took a nosedive this year, though. (They're still getting together, I was simply too busy much of the time).
I also decided to include online/email boardgaming versus human opponents after all. It turns out I'd done this in my earliest reports from 96-97 (when I played a number of email Settlers games), and ultimately the "table talk" available through text chats and message logs makes these computer implementation of boardgames social enough that I feel they belong.
In 2002 I played 177 different games (a total of 417 plays). Of these, 88 games were new to me. These statistics very closely match those for the previous year, which was a big uptick from the previous few years (which had about 100 games, 60-70 new, for 200 plays). This surprised me, because I thought I might actually be playing few games last year, and definitely thought I'd see fewer new games. That's because I was trying to focus on quality of quantity! Well, there's nothing wrong with what happened--I was having fun, after all--but I'm going to try to renew my focus in 2003, and get in even more plays of my favorites.
So what did I play? And how do I rate the games?
I've broken down my list into three groupings, one each for games that were played a bunch of times (10+), ones that were played several times (5+), and a bunch more that managed to played at least twice. (Another 100 titles were only played once last year).
Rather than numeric ratings, I'm following Stven's lead, mentally asking myself the question, "Am I looking forward to playing this game again sometime soon?" The answers are either, "Yes, I'm eager to play it again, "Sure, okay," and "No thanks, I'd prefer something else." Note that I generally would not dislike playing even those in the "No Thanks" column, I'd just prefer something else.
GAMES PLAYED IN 2002 Games played a bunch of times (10+)
|Africa||SW: Epic Duels|
|Magic: The Gathering (ccg)|
I'm still enjoying AFRICA very much, and in fact it's been a pretty good hit with everyone that's tried it. It might be a very good one to try with kids someday, too. For CARCASSONNE, the recent release of the Hunters & Gatherers game has rekindled an interest in the original game, especially with the expansion. I was playing quite a bit of MAGIC at the start of the year, but midway through I ran out of steam with it. That's pretty typical for me with this one, alternating periods of excitement and putting it back on the shelf. Still great, though. EPIC DUELS was great fun this summer, and I need to play it again with my son. He loves the Vader/Luke or Jango/Boba father-son grudge matches. :-)
Games played several times (5+) EAGER OKAY NO THANKS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ En Garde Die Malwurf Co. Hang In There Hick Hack in Gackelwack Princes of Florence TransAmerica La Città Ra Mechwarrior: Dark Age (wg) Tichu Mü Tally Ho! Vinci Web of Power
Several games I like to play with my kids are on this list. HICK HACK is a new favorite, one that was a hit over Thanksgiving with my family. My 6yo daughter likes MALWURF and my 9yo son loves the MECHWARRIOR miniatures game. He also enjoyed TALLY HO!, which is a favorite of mine and one I like to play on BSW (Halali). WEB OF POWER is a game I finally decided I really like (took me long enough), and then I had to get my own copy (Basari, too).
VINCI has been a Top Ten favorite from the moment it appeared on the scene, and playing online allows me to get my fix (with a niggling concern about the way defeated but surviving population tokens are automatically redistributed). LA CITTA is the one that could use an online version, since I have a little trouble bringing that one to the table as often as I'd like in face-to-face play. (It made it on this list primarily because it was a Game of the Month.)
And what can you say about EN GARDE? It's probably my favorite 2-player spielfriek game, and now that I can play online via Thoth, I'm looking forward to even more plays in 2003.
Games played a few times (2+) EAGER OKAY NO THANKS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Apples to Apples Canasta Caliente Hive Apples to Apples Jr. Canyon/Grand Canyon Kapitän Wackelpudding Auf Falscher Fahrte Chip-Chip Hurra Kommando Bohnanza David & Goliath La Guerre des Moutons Entdecker Doge Mampf For Sale Drahtseilakt Respond Galaxis High Society SW: Episode 1 Card Game Liftoff Kerplunk Medici Kleine Fische Meuterer Lamarckian Poker Pitstop Lost Cities Royal Turf Mit Liste und Tücke SW: Clash of the Lightsabers Money Taboo Pisa Tonga Bonga Savannah Café Ursuppe Schotten-Totten What Were You Thinking? Spades Wildlife Squint Würmeln Take It Easy Wyatt Earp Tohuwabohu Zapp Zerapp Traumfabrik Zum Kuckuck Werewolf Where's Bob's Hat? Wizard
Lots and lots of favorites here, ones that somehow didn't get played enough to make the "nickel" list (5+). Everyone knows how much I love ENTDECKER, while MEDICI, BOHNANZA, and FOR SALE are also Top Ten games for me. TONGA BONGA was a pleasant surprise this year, while A2A, TABOO, and WWYT? are my favorite party games. Rather like La Citta, I'm hoping to play more WILDLIFE this year, but it may take some doing to get it on the table multiple times.
AFF (er...we call it "the Fahrte game") is the funky trick-taking game that's currently capturing my attention. It's difficult for me to figure out which ones of these are quirky novelties, versus which ones I may still be playing in ten years. GALAXIS is a little filler that got some good word-of-mouth at Essen of several years ago, then fell under the radar screen. I was pleasantly surprised with it, but it needs more exploration.
PITSTOP was a struggle the first time and a disaster the second, then I traded it away. So why is it in my "eager" column? Well, I'd screwed up the second game with a botched rule, and later I found more rules clarifications on the Italian publisher's website. That brought on a case of "trader's remorse," and I want to give the game a fairer shake. Trouble is, I'm still swimming upstream against a current of preference for Formula De, a game that never impresses me.
WURMELN is the silly little worm racing game, but now I've got a group with the right frame of mind, and I think a longer game over some sort of twisting, turning course (not a simple straightaway like I've always done) could be a lot of fun.
I prefer MEUTERER's predecessor, Verrater, but playing the nicer game with the pirate ship variant is high on my list to try. Either of these stand a decent chance of being a Game of the Month with the Santa Clarita Boardgamers.
GAMES LEFT BEHIND Every year there are a number of good games that you played last year, or maybe several prior years, that somehow didn't manage to make it back to the table this time. Looking over my data, these are the titles that stand out to me...
FLUSTER is an older Parker Brothers word game, one that's probably best with just two. That's great for me, because when I play word games it's against my wife. Though Scrabble is still a well-deserved favorite, Fluster is a smaller, quicker alternative. Quiet and portable, it's an easy game to slip into a jacket pocket in case you get a spare moment to play. (I don't recall this one from my youth, but after first hearing of it on r.g.b., it was quickly found on ebay, reasonably priced.)
DRAGON'S GOLD originally looked like another good, quick negotiation game. I still like it okay, and it would probably go over pretty well with the Santa Clarita Boardgamers (need to try), but it's a fence-sitter for me.
FLOWERPOWER is one I never got to play enough when it first came out, and now it missed entirely in 2002. No good! I still have a little trouble getting 2-player games (that aren't wargames) to compete for table time. Maybe someday we'll have a 2-player game night, swapping opponents throughout the evening. I think that would be pretty fun, come to think of it. Even a Kosmos 2-player night. In the meantime, this would be a good Thoth/lunchhour game against my long distance buddy Mike Mayer.
PALMYRA is one of Knizia lesser known, perhaps even lesser appreciated designs. Yet I think it's really great, with the good doctor's trademark mix of smooth gameplay, simple rules, and mathematical scoring. (I'm generally not fond of that last quality, however.) While it may be too much to say that Palmyra is strongly themed, at least it has a clear connection to its subject: the economic goal of buy-low/sell-high. So it's more of a light economic simulation/model that's actually fun. I don't know why more people don't like this one.
LOOPIN' LOUIE. What?! In 2002 I manage to hook up with a new group that met at my own house half the year and we never played Loopin' Louie?!? Well, that's just crazy, and was a lack of hospitality on my part. I'll have it onhand for the next session at my place. GAMES YET TO TRY Similar to the previous section, there are some games in my collection that I have yet to play. They're a high priority for 2003...
Apparently one of the better dexterity games around, my thrift store copy of BANDU was played without me some time ago, and was well-received. Now I want to try!
Rick Heli's writeup for VOLTREFFER in his Spotlight On Games website makes a favorable comparison of it to Pisa. That's encouraging. Partway through the year two of us in the local group independently picked up Pisa, which itself had been compared to Mu. It''s definitely got some interesting ideas, and we had a good trying several times, but in the end we struggled a bit with Pisa and I'm not sure how much it'll be played in the future. Here's hoping that Voltreffer works a little better with our group.
Toward the latter half of the year, I decided to concentrate on getting some favorites for my own collection, even if they were a little harder to track down. That led to picking up SVEA RIKE, KOHLE KIE$ & KNETE, AVE CAESAR, DAMPFROSS, DURCH DIE WUSTE, TIGRIS & EUPHRATES, WAY OUT WEST, DAYTONA 500, BASARI, and WEB OF POWER. For most of these I've played other folks' copies of the games before, but never my own. A couple of these (Dampfross & Daytona 500) are completely untried.