New to Me: Fall 2016 — A Key Quarter

Personally, Fall 2016 was the quarter when I started actively seeking out Richard Breese’s Key games, because of how much I liked Keyflower (2012). You’ll see a few of them on this list. More generally, it was a pretty OK quarter. Nothing stuck out as Great, though The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire (2016) was close, but there was also a lot of stuff that was Very Good. And, nothing was absolutely horrible.

As usual this is a list of games that are new to me, and and as usual this listing ranks them by how much I personally like them, as a medium-weight eurogamer.

The Very Good

The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire (2016). One of my playing group asked me if we’d hit peak worker placement and my knee-jerk response was, “yes”. But honestly I’m not sure. We’re a long way out from Caylus (2005), but worker placement has become an almost defining element of eurogaming. I’d swear there were more eurgames with worker placement than not; if so, we may not have hit the peak yet.

Anywho, Energy Empire is a worker-placement game of energy production and resource management. It’s got several elements that set it aside as a unique design. First, you can use a global action space that someone else is occupying, you just have to spend extra energy to do so. Second, after you use a global action space, you can also use personal action spaces (which is the biggest similarity to the original Manhattan Project), as long as their categories match. Third, everyone refreshes their workers at different times (another similarity to the original game); now, it creates even more interesting dynamics for the global spaces, since you’re constantly stacking up more energy than what’s there already.

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New to Me: Summer 2016

Summer was a nice quarter for gaming, with a number of releases really excelling. Here’s a look. Remember as always that these are “new to me”, which means that they might be brand-new releases or something a bit older that I hadn’t yet seen.


The Great

Agricola Revised Edition (2016). Yep, this is a pretty old game by now. The new edition has better rules and cleans up the cards a considerable amount, producing a more balanced game. I recommended Agricola before, and it’s only better now. Continue reading

New To Me: Spring 2016

It’s been a weak quarter for new gaming for me. Because of a business trip and a vacation, I missed out on about a month of my normal gaming. Still, I managed to get in plays of almost a dozen new games, expansions, and variants — just barely enough to people a new New to Me article. 

As usual, this listing is games new and old that I’d never played before, rated according to how much liked them. Continue reading

New to Me: Winter 2016 — So Much Very Good!

Winter of 2016 was a somewhat unusual season of gaming for me. I played some new games and some older games that were new to me. Though I didn’t play any games that I ranked as truly great, there seemed to be more than the usual share of games that were Very Good — so many, in fact that I broke the category in two. Overall, it was certainly a strong season for gaming!

The Very Good

AquaSphere ThumbnailAquaSphere (2014). What a peculiar name, and it’s a peculiar theme too, with its board of a big underwater base. I think those two elements and the garish art put me off AquaSphere for a while, despite my love for Stefan Feld’s games. But, it turns out the theme is appropriate, because you’re programming robots. I actually ended up being  pleasantly remindedof Nautilus (2003) — a game that I wanted to be much better than it actually was because of its fun underwater theme.

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New to Me: Fall 2015 — A Really Great Season

It was a really great season for board games. I played perhaps a few less games that were new-to-me than usual, but the recurring theme was that they were all good or better. OK, I played Exploding Kittens near the end-of-the-year because Christmas family gatherings … but not even that could bring down what was a season of fine games!


The Great

Pandemic Legacy ThumbnailPandemic Legacy — Season 1 (2015). Any discussion of the new Pandemic variant should begin with my belief that Pandemic itself is a great game. I count it as one of the three most influential and important co-op games. Arkham Horror (1987) mostly invented the genre and Lord of the Rings (2000) reinvented it for the modern day. However, it was Pandemic (2007) that made the genre accessible. It’s also a near pitch-perfect design with huge piles of difficulty and chaos, and its great replayability.

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New to Me: Summer 2015 — A Lot of Good

I played a lot of new games during the Summer — almost 20. And for the longest time, most of them were good but not better. Fortunately, toward the end of the season things improved and move games appeared in my Very Good to Great range. As always, this is a listing of games that I’d never played previously, and it’s my personal take on the games, as a medium-serious game player.

The Great

KeyflowerKeyflower (2012). This Richard Breese game is a couple of years old, but I played it for the first time a few weeks ago, so it makes the list. All of the Breese games I’ve played to date are dense combinations of classic Euromechanics, and this one’s no exception. In fact, it’s an auction/worker-placement/tile-placement game. (Seriously!)

I found the combination of auction and worker placement to be both innovative and interesting. Each turn you either place meeples as workers (to take advantage of a tile’s action) or else you place them as bids (to try and purchase a tile for future usage and/or victory points). The balance is a really tricky one because you might want to grab an action before anyone else, or you might try to make an all-important first bid; doing either also allows you to determine the color of meeple (currency) that must be used for all future bidding on working on that tile.

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New to Me: Spring 2015 — Resources & More

Last quarter I played a good number of new games and had good success with them. As usual, this is my ratings of these games, which means it’s personal opinion rather than an overall assessment of whether they’re good (or not).

The Great

Eldritch HorrorEldritch Horror (2013). Although it’s only advertised as being “inspired” by Arkham Horror (1987, 2005)Eldritch Horror is pretty much a revision of the cooperative classic. Just like in the original, you have gates opening up and spewing monsters onto the board while investigators stock up on spells and items — while working to stop the Doom Track from dropping to zero and freeing the Great Old One.

With that said, this is a really well-polished revision that looks at Arkham Horror systems like monsters, gates, and money and figures out how to simplify them through abstraction and redevelopment. Much as with Caverna, I think that digging through the systemic changes is a great lesson in game design (which is why I did just that in my last article). The best change is probably in Eldritch Horror’s victory conditions. Each Great Old One has different conditions that must be met to defeat it, as revealed on special Mystery Cards. This makes every game very different; even if you play against the same Great Old One, different mysteries can come up in different orders.

Much as with Arkham Horror, the biggest problem is length. Maybe it’s shorter than the famously long Arkham Horror … but it’s still quite long. Our game took just under four hours, including teach. I’d been hoping the revision would shorten things a bit more than that! Continue reading