Five Games I’m Thankful For: ’05

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans. Since I have the misfortune to post on Thanksgiving Day proper, I figure there’s only a few dozen of you reading, max (and that only thanks to the International nature of the Internet), and so I’ve decided to go with a pretty light & fluffy topic this week: five games I’m thankful for.

They’re not necessarily the best games I’ve played, nor even the games that I’ve played the most — but in various ways they’ve made me happy over the years. When I’ve reviewed the game in question, I also included a link to my review over at RPGnet. Go check that out for some more thoughts on the game in question.
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The Problem with Luck

I am sick to death of people complaining about luck in their board games.

OK, fine, if you can’t stand luck at all, and you spend your life playing Chess in a hermetically sealed bubble, I won’t complain. That’s your call.

But this article is for the rest of you, who happily draw cards, pick tiles, and maybe even (heaven forbid) roll dice in your favorite games — who do all these things, but then complain about the newest BeowulfSettlers, or Louis XIV, because it’s trendy to do so, and all the cool kids are. I’m sick to death of people complaining about luck in their board games because, simply enough, most people don’t understand how randomness actually works and don’t understand how moderating luck is an important game skill.

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Memoir ’44, The Seafarers of Catan, and Other Scenarios

One of the most successful games that I’ve acquired in the last few years has been Memoir ’44. It’s not necessarily the most strategic game that I’ve played in that time period. (Despite my occasional grognardery, I’d probably admit that was Puerto Rico.) Nor is it the most clever game I’ve played in that time period. (For that I’d currently say Dungeon Twister, though ask me again when the new-game smell has worn off.)

However, Memoir ’44 is one of the games that has kept me coming back for more the most, and which I expect to keep doing so for years to come. It’s long been obvious that Days of Wonder’s business plan is to create true evergreen games that can not only continue to sell long past the initial drop ship, but can also be evergreen for their players too. And that’s a pretty cool thing.
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Redesigning Empire Builder, Part Two

Empire BuilderLast month I began a discussion of Mayfair’s Empire Builder game with the thesis that it’s a solid game with a lot of appeal, but that its 25-year old design is rough around the edges, and that there’s thus a lot of room for improvement. If you haven’t read it yet, go do so, I’ll wait.

Last time I concentrated entirely on the graphical design of the game, showing how gameplay could be considerably improved with just some work on the demand cards. This time I want to wander through a few of the other design elements. The point? As much as anything, to look at how much game design has improved in the last 25 years, and also to highlight some of the factors that a game designer should probably be watching out for.

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