This week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I asked my wife to write an article for Boardgame News. Though Kimberly enjoys the occasional game, she’s by no means a serious gamer. Thus she offers a unique perspective on what games your loved one might enjoy. So, consider this a guide to games you might play with your non-gaming-spouse-or-girlfriend this Valentine’s Day, and an insight into why those or other games might be enjoyable. You might even print it out and give to them, so that they can decide for themselves if any of the games sound fun.
As for us, maybe we’ll play some Carcassonne or Lost Cities after a nice dinner out tonight at our favorite Cajun restaurant.
There are any number of ways to review games and say which are best. I regularly write gameplay reviews at RPGnet. Here on Gone Gaming, I’ve written previews, yearly lists, and more.
However ultimately I think one of the best guides of “what’s good” (or, at least, “what’s good for me”) is what gets played. No matter how beautiful and elegant a game is, if it never gets played because it’s ten hours long, it’s hard to count it as a good game. Hence the yearly “nickel and dime” lists where people talk about what games they’ve played at least five or ten times.
In past years my nickel and dime lists have been somewhat uninteresting. They tended to focus on the 2-player games that I played with my wife. Alas, my wife has largely stopped playing games this year, but on the upside my 5&10 list is a more accurate reflection of my gaming tastes (with perhaps too much emphasis on fillers).
Another year has slipped through our fingers, and as 2006 comes to a close I’ve decided to write up another year in review, much as I did for 2005.
I wrote in 2005 that I thought the biggest change of that year was the growing bifurcation of the gaming industry, with older manufacturers starting to back off of the gamer’s market while newer manufacturers were going for the more complex side of things.
I’m happy to say that, if 2006 is any judge, that was a short-term trend. Hans im Gluck, Alea, Kosmos, and others all put out more serious games this year, suggesting that either 2005 was an anomoly or else a misstep; though mainstream German publishers will probably never again publish games like those seen at the height of 2000 or so, they’ve definitely returned to a level that will make many of us happy if Blue Moon City, Augsburg 1520, On the Underground, and others are any predictor of the future.
And for 2006, if I noted any general trend, it would be the growing importance of the American side of the gaming industry. Days of Wonder and Fantasy Flight Games together embody that strength and seem to both have done quite well, as I’ll discuss more later. However we also saw smaller publishers like Atlas Games put out some very German games, and even Mattel gave it a shot. Only the bankruptcy of Eagle Games suggested any downward trend in the American rise of designer games, and I suspect that was an anomoly itself, the result of Eagle’s investments in Poker, not board games.
This last year I’ve gotten a little bit discouraged on the topic because I’ve had a lot of trouble actually getting to play last Nurnberg’s games. (I’ve played about half of the ones I noted thus far, and a few of the remainder like Leonardo da Vinci, Gloria Mundi, and Augsburg 1520 either just appeared in the last few weeks or else still aren’t out.)
I considered just dropping this feature this year, but have instead decided to cut it back. So, I’m listing the five games that really caught my eye from this year’s Essen. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a big fan of sequels, and that’s primarily because I think those games have a much better chance of success, because the old game is well-known and loved. Thus, games of that sort have a notable presence in my listing. But I’ve also tried to figure out a few brand new games to watch for from this year’s Essen.