Last week, when playing Thurn & Taxis, we momentarily thought we had a tie. (Momentarily, I say, because I added up my 21 points of chips and got 19, but that’s neither here nor there.) This inevitably led us back to the rulebook for the perennial question, “What breaks ties?”
In Thurn & Taxis the first answer was, “the player who earned the ‘game end’ bonus tile'”, which makes a lot of sense, because that’s a distinct goal that players should usually be going for. However, the second tie-breaker didn’t make sense, because it was, “if [the person with the tile] was not among those tied, the player closest clockwise from this player who was tied with the most is the winner!”
To offer a reminder, Thurn & Taxis works like this: when a player goes out, play continues until all players have had an equal number of turns, and thus ends to the right of the start player. This means that unless the last player is the one who went out, the winner is a player who was advantaged because he had more of an opportunity to react to the game ending, which seemed to me to be the opposite of what the tie-breaker should have been. I suggested that going counter-clockwise from the ending player would have worked better, because that would have been a player more likely to be disadvantaged, which led me to a general pondering about how tie breakers should be written.
Last year I posted a list of ten games worth watching from Nurnberg ’06. I’d been hoping to post some followup on all ten games to talk about what was good and what wasn’t, but it took forever for the Nurnberg games to actually hit the U.S. shores, and to date there’s still a few that I haven’t gotten to play.
But, before the next Nurnberg rolls around I wanted to post my notes on the 8 games that I had gotten to try out. So: Nurnberg 2006. Some of these games are a bit old by now, but they nonetheless represent some of the more interesting games of last year, and if you haven’t tried them out yet, here’s some more info. Continue reading →
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.
There are, over the gaming year, five different major awards. The first two are the German awards, the SdJ and the DSP. Then there’s the RPG industry award (the Origins) and finally the American mass-market award (the Games 100). It’s pretty easy to pigeon-hole each of these:
The SdJ is a German award for a casual or family game.
The DSP is likewise a German award for more serious games, though the results have been getting more casual as they’ve started to let the masses vote.
The Origins board & card game awards are, first of all, more beauty contests than anything else — where people vote on companies as much as products. In addition they tend to award American take-that style play. If you’re looking for a new Munchkin, look here. (Since splitting into the Origins award & Choice awards, Origins proper has gotten somewhat better, while the Choice awards continue to be about what you’d expect.)
The Games 100 are a very eclectic mix, centering on ultra-casual strategy-light games that’ll appeal to the (American) mass market, but extending somewhat to more gamist games, thanks primarily to the fact that they get to name 100 picks.
… and then there’s the IGA, the International Gamer Awards.
The Eurogaming year is centered on two points. Toward the end of the year we get the huge consumer show at Essen, and then in February we get the Nurnburg Toy Fair. Nurnberg is a different sort of show than Essen. It’s not open to the public, and there are more prototypes shown off, which might not become actual games for many months. Nonetheless, there’s cool stuff to be seen.
Last year in October I wrote about the newest releases at Essen, and now I’m going to follow that up with Nurnberg ’06: a look at a new set of games that may be making their way to us between now and … next Essen. As before, I’ve picked my top ten, mostly focusing on gamer’s games, with my top contenders marked with a star(*).
I should note that, as I commented on in my year-end round-up, much of the gaming fare continues to get lighter. Many of the games I selected are on the light-to-medium side of things, and many designers who have done heavier work in the past are emphasizing lighter games now. Over at BoardGameNews, a translated Nurnberg report seems to make the same point. Continue reading →