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

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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Return to Pathfinder Adventure Card Game — The Campaign

Pathfinder Adventure Card GameI’ve enjoyed watching the deckbuilding genre emerge over the last several years. However, only a few of the deckbuilders have caught my attention enough to become regular members of my gaming catalog. Dominion (2008) and Ascension (2010) were both early members of that club, racking up 100 and 21 plays to date respectively. However more recently another one has really caught my eye: the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (2013). Though I’ve only been playing it since last April, I’ve already recorded 23 plays of the game, which has put my group almost halfway through the Rise of the Runelords campaign.

When I first played Pathfinder ACG, I wrote extensively about its interesting elements. With many more plays under my belt, I’ve decided to return to the topic — to talk about what else makes the game fascinating (and very replayable).


A Revised Opinion

The Cards Quickly Become Manageable. When I wrote my original article, I said that you could easily get lost in your hand. Because the cards are all quite unique, it’s hard for a first-time player to track everything that they can do. However, I found that this problem resolved itself within several plays. Now I can sit down with my familiar deck of cards and instantly know what everything does. Continue reading

New to Me: Spring 2014

It’s been a light quarter for my gaming, with me missing something like 6-9 of my regular gaming sessions. Still, I’ve got eight “new” games to talk about, running the gamut from awesome to (too much) meh.


The Great

PathfinderPathfinder Adventure Card Game (2013). The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is an astonishingly innovative deckbuilding game, primarily for the complex ecosystem of cards that it creates — one that carries on from one game to the next. The idea of a cooperative game that continues from session to session is also pretty rare, and it’s done quite well here: the whittled down deck of cards that you carry from game to game is very meaningful.

The rest of the gameplay is a bit more pedestrian, with random card draws and random dice rolls allowing you to accomplish tasks via a simple task resolution system. Still, it’s nicely put together and it’s just dripping with evocative theme. I was jazzed to continue playing it after my first adventure, primarily to see my character grow over numerous sessions of play. I racked up a total of six games over the quarter. Continue reading

A Deckbuilding Look at Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

In the last year I’ve been impressed both by the number of deckbuilder games that have made it to market and by how many different niches they fill — from pure deckbuilding to an increasing number of games with hybridized deckbuilder mechanics. Mike Selinker’s Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is one of the most interesting because it takes deckbuilding in some extremely innovative directions.


The Game

Pathfinder Adventure Card GamePathfinder Adventure Card Game (2013), by Mike Selinker, is a card-based cooperative campaign game. Players each get decks that represent both the abilities and equipment of their character and their character’s life points — so unlike most deckbuilders players have to be careful about their card plays, lest their character die!

The actual gameplay of Pathfinder centers on players exploring locations, which are also represented by deck of cards. When they encounter cards they’ll usually have to engage in a skill challenge by rolling dice — with card play by any of the players potentially improving the odds. The ultimate object is to close down enough locations that it’s possible to kill a scenario’s villain without him escaping. These are all pretty standard elements for cooperative play, but not something seen in many prior deckbuilding games.

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Shannon’s Christmas ’13 Gift-Giving Guide

Last year, I published my first gaming gift guide. It was a look at new-ish board and card games that might make nice gifts for a variety of gamers. Last year’s listing may be a year old, but it’s still very relevant, and I still recommend the games on it. However, if you’re looking for things that are even newer, here are my top suggestions of games from the last year or two.


For the Family Gamer

These games might work well for the casual family that occasionally enjoys a game. I thought this category was particularly strong this year, with all the games in it being quick, light, original, and fun.

AugustusAugustus (Hurican, 2013, $40)
Super Short Play (< 30 minutes)
Designed by Paolo Mori

When I first saw this game, I was told that it was “eurogame Bingo”. That disconcerted me because it sounded really simplistic. However, it turns out to be a great description of the game and it’s a lot of fun.

In this game, a player gets a few different “BINGO” cards, each of which requires several icons to finish. Icon chits are then pulled from the bag one at a time. The game gains depth from the fact that: (1) you have to decide which card to place each icon on; (2) cards have special powers when completed that you can use to help yourself in the future; and (3) you’re also competing for achieving certain goals first. You add all thistogether and you have a colorful and evocative game.

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