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 I liked them.Continue reading →
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 (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.
A few weeks ago I kicked off an investigation of a small genre of games that I call “role civilization” games. These are “role selection” card games that were inspired by San Juan. My initial article defined the genre through four mechanics that all debuted in San Juan: phase (role) selection; card building; multipurpose cards; and card economies.
This week I’m going to continue my look at the genre by seeing how it’s evolved since the advent of San Juan and by investigating two Imperial successors to the game.
A History of Role Civilization: 2004-Present
Andreas Seyfarth’s San Juan (2004) could have dramatically changed the board gaming field. Not only did it make the very popular mechanics of Puerto Rico (2002) more accessible, but it also introduced a new style of dense filler that played quickly in a short period of time while still allowing for real strategic decisions. Unfortunately, San Juan was held back by the fact that Alea games tend to be somewhat underproduced and until very recently didn’t get supplements. The best San Juan ever managed was a few mini-supplements in Treasure Chest (2009), one of which reappeared in the second edition San Juan (2014).
In my deckbuilding article on Eminent Domain, Jessey mentioned Martin Wallace’s A Few Acres of Snow as another game that integrated deckbuilding as part of a larger game. Now that I’ve played it, I agree — it goes even further than Eminent Domain in using deckbuilding as a mechanic rather than as a genre of game.
A Few Acres of Snow is on the one hand a wargame. Like Martin Wallace’s densest wargame, Waterloo, the most obvious victory requires the capture of specific villages. However from there it opens up into a more common Wallacian euro-warfare design, where the combat actually happens through the play of cards. There’s also a fair amount of additional resource management, as players build up their holdings of villages and towns. In some ways, it reminds me the most of Wallace’s Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, as both games center on the play of cards which are full of symbols that enable actions.
Eminent Domain was one of the many deckbuilding games that was released in 2011. However, it really stood out in the field, as it was one of just two games that totally innovated how deckbuilding worked (the other being dicebuilder, Quarriors).
All of the deckbuilder games to date have treated deckbuilding as a genre of games — that is, they all use deckbuilding as the sole focus of a game. Beyond that, they tend to use many of the core ideas from the first deckbuilder, Dominion, including buys, draws, actions, and money. Eminent Domain is the first game that I’ve seen that steps widely away from those concepts, by instead treating deckbuilding as a mechanic. Sure, you find deckbuilding concepts in Eminent Domain, but they’re not the core of the game, which has just as strong of a focus on role selection, and which even wanders into 4X territory (well, maybe 3X: eXplore, eXpand, and eXploit). Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →