MJ's Games Played in 2003  |   Back to MJ's Games Played in ...

"So, what did the rest of you play last year and, which do you want to play again?"  -Nick Sauer, rec.games.board, 1994





I've been tracking the family strategy games I play each year since 1997. This is primarily for my own interest, though I've also been posting the results to r.g.b. and my own website in case anyone else wants to read them. Every year I like to point out that it was the "Year in Games" articles posted to rec.games.board in the early days (92-94) by Nick Sauer and others that sparked my interest in boardgaming. Do yourself a favor and read those old messages, still archived on r.g.b. Think how far our hobby has progressed since then with flashy mail-order websites, Boardgamegeek, spielfrieks, various Gulf Games and Games Day style events, and lots of favorable articles in major newspapers.



What was 2003 like for my boardgaming, compared to previous years? Not too different, at least by the numbers. For each of the past three years I've played about 170 different games a total of 400 times, of which not quite 100 were new to me. Some sort of transition happened in 2001, because the four years prior had numbers about half what they are now. (Note that I include online games played against human opponents, such as Brettspielwelt and the Geek's Play By Email/Web Euphrat & Tigris.)




 Different Games

New-to-me Games

Total Plays































I don't have game ratings in my spreadsheet (yet), so I can't tell what my Happiness Product is or whether I've really been concentrating on established favorites as planned. The lure of new games is still strong, at least to try once. If we stopped buying so many new games I'm sure we'd be just as happy playing lots of good, "older" titles that aren't getting enough attention. But, you know, the buying itself is fun, too. So is trading.


Most of my gaming comes from playing with the Santa Clarita Boardgamers and SoCal Games Day. I don't really have time to play with the lunch group at work anymore, unfortunately. The SCBers have been trying a Game of the Month for much of 2003. We'll also vote on our favorite games played together. That will go on a different year-end report for our group, posted later.





It was starting to feel like I'd become a curmudgeon, not really liking any of the new games other hobbyists were gushing about. There's still a grain of truth in that--I have a hard time getting excited about new games unless they take the place of an older favorite. That sets the bar pretty high, and not many games do that each year.


However, I've also discovered that I'm just a bit slower to try new games, especially multiple times, so I often don't start to appreciate a game until a year or two after it was first released. For example, the games from 2002 that I settled on as favorites just last year include Bang!, Emerald, Rome, Settlers of the Stone Age, and Streetsoccer. (I already knew I liked Carcassonne:Inns & Cathedrals, Star Wars:Epic Duels, and Wildlife.) But if I try hard I can form some opinions about the 2003 releases.


The Hits (ones I already know I like, and will probably in future years)


Alhambra -- The walls make it a busier game than Stimmt So (normally a change I don't appreciate), but the attractive production wins me over.


Bang! High Noon -- A great example of what a followup expansion should be, inexpensive, unobtrusive, unnecessary, but why not get it?! Super!


Coloretto -- Like one of this Knizia games that almost feels like more of a mechanic in search of the rest of a game, this one just zips right along wonderfully for us.


Light Speed -- I'm conflicted about realtime games. I feel like I don't care for them, yet this and Liftoff I find to be stressful fun. Even Brawl is kind of okay.


Scream Machine -- What fun to see your friend publish a game, and then to honestly think it's one of the better ones. The theme works.

The Misses


Atta's Ants -- Didn't see what the fuss was about at all.


Attika -- Like New England, it just lies there and doesn't engage me.


Domaine -- I want to like this so much, I'll still try.


Edel, Stein & Reich -- Nothing wrong, but I prefer Basari's board.


Eiszeit -- Like the light/dark mechanic, not the more routine majority scoring.


King's Breakfast -- Pretty fun, but made unnecessary by the even better Coloretto.


New England -- I'm harsh on the games that take a great theme and do nothing with it, like this one and El Grande.


Yellowstone Park -- One of my few at-Essen purchases, what a bummer.



Not Sure About (played a time or two--or more--but still not sure if these will last)


Battleball -- Looks great, fun dice, and my son likes it. But if he didn't...


Bonobo Beach -- Lots of good games against the computer makes me want to break this out more often against better opponents.


Die Fugger -- I think it's hard to "see" (graphic design), but a nice little speculation game. Then again, maybe there's not much future planning and it's really just about clever card plays.


Europa Tour -- My wife kind of likes it. That's rare praise!


Feurio! -- I again passed on the chance to buy, again unsure if that was right. Nice enough, but I think we may all be done with this in a few months.


Formula De Mini -- I don't care for FD, so had hopes for the lighter version (esp. since no one around here likes Pitstop but me). Need more plays.


King Me! -- Seems like nice, light fun. Have only played online so far.


Queen's Necklace -- Maybe this could win over family & other nongamers?


Thingamajig -- Kind of unique, I guess. But we don't play enough party games as it is. Don't really need another, but why not?



Still want to try


Amun-Re -- Believe it or not. Always had something else I'd rather play. I think I might like this, I'm just in no hurry.


Anno 1503 -- I might like this, too, but am waiting for Mayfair's English version.


Ark of the Covenant -- We don't play Carc as much anymore, but I still like the system.


Die Sieben Siegel -- I generally like new trick-taking games.


Mare Nostrum -- Everyone's past this one, so I may have missed my chance. Which is okay, though I'd still like to try.


Pingvinas -- I like Nanuuk, and this might be similar.





For compilation in Mark Jackson's database, here are the games I played at least 5 and 10 times last year.

Fives: Africa, Apples to Apples Jr., Bang!, Big City, Bonobo Beach, Coloretto, Entdecker, Euphrat & Tigris, Hellas, Medici, Sauerbaum, Star Wars: Epic Duels, Vinci, and Wildlife

Dimes: Crokinole, Fluster, Mause-Rallye, and Streetsoccer 

Interesting...like Jackson keeps saying, the list isn't dominated by little filler games. E&T, Vinci, and Streetsoccer benefitted from having online versions to play against human opponents, but Entdecker and Wildlife did not. I'm pleased to see that all of these are games I enjoy, some of them being my favorites. (The only exception would be Hellas, which I played that much mostly to write a game review about it.)





Some games manage to get played almost every year. They're just that good, fit a niche, or something. Here are those titles that make it to my table that often. They'd make a great mini-collection or desert island game list, too.


Africa, Apples to Apples, Ausgebremst, Bohnanza, Carcassonne, Crokinole, En Garde, Euphrat & Tigris, Entdecker, For Sale, Frank's Zoo, Get The Goods, Mu, Medici, Settlers of Catan, Vinci, and Web of Power.





One of the best uses of multi-year data like this is to see which games I've played in past years didn't get touched in 2003. Then either I can make a stronger effort to bring forgotten favorites to the table in 2004, or else consider trading some away. Here are the strong games that somehow got missed.


Magic:the Gathering, Mississippi Queen, Streetcar, David & Goliath, Drunter & Druber, Zum Kuckuck, Canyon, and Zapp Zerapp


I still love M:tG, but am selling 90% of my cards. The rest I'll try to play more in 2004. They're all favorites that I own.





Santa Clarita Boardgamers

This year I finished something I'd started in 2002--shifting my weekly boardgaming from the Left Coast Gamers to the Santa Clarita Boardgamers. I definitely miss my LCG buddies, especially after playing with them regularly for four years, but the late-night long drives were wearing on me. Also, I really like the idea of having a local game group. I've already got a sizeable commute to work everyday, so it's nice to spend some regular time in my own town. Even just a little conversation about the local newspaper or new businesses in town (always growing) give me more sense of community than I get elsewhere.


Games Days

We had some more SoCal Games Days, including a move to a bigger, better (but more expensive) location. These are always fun, and a great opportunity for me to play some games with the LCGers and other folks I don't see as often as I'd like. (That's the whole idea for Games Day, from my perspective.)



I hadn't been to a real game convention in years and years, but somehow this year I made it to two. First was Kublacon in Northern California, where I got to meet Reiner Knizia in addition to playing games with other folks. Near the end of the year I went to Gencon SoCal as an Uberplay volunteer.



I guess this is a convention, too, but in a class by itself. Fun to see the new games, amazing to witness the scope of the whole thing, and fantastic to meet some friends in person I'd only known through email before.



We had some long distance visitors in SoCal last year, ones I look forward to seeing again in 2004. Joe Huber was in town, Mark Jackson moved near Fresno, and I met Greg Parker from Redding. I myself was a visitor at Angela Gaalema's home while on a business trip.


It's always hard for wargames to compete for my time against all of these great family strategy games, but every once in a while I really get the bug to play again. Luckily, several of my boardgaming friends feel the same, so we managed a few wargame nights that actually had a turnout to rival our boardgame sessions. Need to do some more of those! Discovering and acquiring the light wargames by Attactix was a highlite. Now I need to try some more of them.