What Makes 10 Great Games Great

I’ve been keeping track of my games played for almost fourteen full years. That means that I have a pretty robust listing of games that have worked well enough to get numerous replays from me over the years. They represent a set of great games, with features that any would-be great game could endeavor to repeat. So this week I’m going to go through my listing of those top games and offer my opinions on either of their best features — the ones that make them so worth playing and replaying. Continue reading

Dissecting Dominion, Part Two: What a Difference a Box Makes

Dominion BoxContinuing my look at the original Dominion deckbuilding game.

This past Christmas I got a very generous present from my long-time friend Christopher Allen: a beautiful wooden box for storing my Dominion cards, complete with labeled dividers showing which cards went where. It’s a thing of beauty — and also a solution for a few different problems that I’d had with Dominion over the years.

The Problem with Dominion Boxes

Previously, I had a mighty stack of square Dominion boxes atop one of my book cases, running from the original Dominion (2008) to Dark Ages (2012) — with a few of the smaller boxes located somewhat nearby. Unfortunately, I always found the individual boxing of Dominion supplements to be troublesome. It might seem a silly thing to complain about, but boxes can have real repercussions for how you collect and play games (as I’ve written about in the past), and I think that’s particularly true for Dominion.

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The Tao of Board Gaming III

The Tao of Board GamingKoans I-III can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming I (December, 2009). Koans IV-VI can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming II (April, 2010).

VII. The Tao Master Plays a Game

One day the Tao master joined his students in their game playing.

Though the students respected the master in all matters of Taoism, they thought themselves more proficient upon the playing field of games, and thus expected to better him here. And, if they were not entirely certain of their own gaming mastery, they were certain that their master’s kind and peaceful nature would keep him from truly seizing the advantage, as is required by a game winner.

So they played Dominion and were surprised when their master beset them with Curses and Ruins. They played Galaxy Trucker and were surprised when their master exactly equalled the blaster gun strength of pirates solely so that he could send them back at his students. They played Aeroplanes and were surprised when their master stomped their older airports to gain majorities in Europe, Africa, and the East alike. In all these games, their master was thoughtful but aggressive — and he won them all. Handily.

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New to Me: Summer, 2012

Here’s my newest quarterly listing of games I’ve played recently that I’d never played before. As usual, this list tends to focus on brand-new games, but on occasion the odd older game shows up that I just hadn’t tried out before. This time around there was a little glut of games in the 2007-2008 range.

I’m happy to have seen a couple of terrific releases (Village and Small World: Realms) which made the Summer a great time to be gaming. Sadly, there were also two total failures in D-Day Dice and (very belatedly) World War 5.

Everything is arranged in approximate ranking of personal like, from most to least.

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Dissecting Dominion, Part One: The Original Game

DominionBy now I’ve written a pretty extensive series of articles on deckbuilding games. In doing so I’ve always compared the games to Dominion — but I’ve never rally looked closely at the mechanics of Dominion on their own.

So this week — partially in honor of the 73rd Dominion supplement, Dark Ages — I’m going to consider Dominion as it was presented in the original release, talk about its mechanics, and also give my opinions on how central those mechanics are to the deckbuilding genre as a whole.

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My Fives and Dimes: 2011

Games that you played five or ten times in a year (five and dimes) have been used as a barometer of the board gaming world for years. Here’s what made my five and dime board gaming list in 2011:

Dominion — 19 plays

My winner for the year was Dominion, which made 19 plays, many of those after the releases of Cornucopia and Hinterlands. This also made Dominion my most-played board game ever, with its 94 tabletop plays edging out the 93 plays across all variants of Ticket to Ride.
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A Deckbuilding Look at Thunderstone

So Dominion has its 73rd expansion out today, the small-box Alchemy release. I don’t think there’s much doubt that the game has become a phenomenon. To commemorate that deckbuilding milestone, I wanted to take this week’s column to talk a bit about Thunderstone, the Dominion-like game that AEG released last year.

I must say that my first concern when I approached Thunderstone was whether it was just a pale imitation of Dominion. I mean, it’s pretty hard to draw the line between when something is purely derivative and when it’s been clearly influenced by another game, but is still imbued with its own creative energy.

Personally, I think that Thunderstone falls squarely on the right side of the equation. It doesn’t use the same mechanics as Dominion. Rather, it matches Dominion most in the style of play: building decks in order to gain victory points. Sure, that seemed original when Dominion came out (and it was and is), but that’s meta-rules, sort of like: collecting resources to exchange for victory points. If anything, it speaks to how much Dominion innovated the field.

With that said, I’m going to talk a little about what Thunderstone is and the ways that I think it improved the Dominion style of play … and the ways in which I think it didn’t.
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