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.
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.
One of the Holy Grails of modern game design seems to be “Civ Light”, a game that inexplicably is like Francis Tresham’s 1980 masterpiece Civilization, yet at the same time is not. Every year lately one or two games come out that are proclaimed — by designers, fans, or both — to be this Grail, and every year each and every one fails to live up to the standard — potentially because it sets an impossible bar.
In this article I want to look at first Civilization itself, then the many contenders for the “Civ Light” throne. In the process I’ll give each game a “Civ Score”, which is a 4-point score based on how well the game mimics the four core Civilization gameplay elements of civilization advance, resource management, trade, and warfare and measure the “Weight” of the game, based on BGG stats. Though both stats are clearly somewhat arbitrary, I think they offer relatively analytical measures of how each game approaches the Civ Light ideal.
Last Thursday I played my first game ever of Mall World. It’s a game that I was really enthused to pick up when it was released by Rio Grande Games. The tile-laying was probably what appealed to me first; I like building games. However when I saw the first pictures of it, with its geomorphic tile designs, I was totally won over. It looked neat.
It arrived at my door as part of a large box of games. I quickly ripped through all of them, ogling pieces and reading rules. But afterward Mall World began to gather dust as it sat atop my to-play pile, for days, weeks, and eventually months. I took it out a couple of times to play, but it was rejected each time. At least once this was because I didn’t want to play an auction game with the minimum number of players, but more often there was another reason that I couldn’t bring myself to play the game: the rules. Continue reading →