In Nov 2010 I ranked games published in 2009 that I have played based on how eager I am to play them. It was a fun exercise and I planned to make this an annual thing, around the end of the year, assessing games published in the previous year, i.e. giving myself about a year to experience as many games published in the year being assessed as possible. As I prepared to write about the 2010 games, I realised that it was interesting (at least for me) to look at what I wrote for 2009. There are some games which I feel a little differently about now. There are some games which I hadn't been able to play and assess last year, but I have now played six of them and can rank them. So here's revisiting the 2009 games. Major changes and additions are underlined and in italics.
- Automobile - Tight and thematic. There seems to be not many things you can do, but every decision is important in this game.
- Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 - Have only played half a game. Japan seems overpowered at the moment, even without attacking in Round 1. There is a variant where Japan is not allowed to attack (except China) in Round 1, to balance the game. Need to play again. I still have not managed to play this again. The designer has been working on improving the rules and game setup, and is up to version ALPHA 3 now. I have not yet played with any of these improved versions.
- Hansa Teutonica - Very interactive. Simple actions, but a wide-range of strategies. The many scoring options can be overwhelming.
- Endeavor - Quick, and you have the feeling you are just a few actions short of executing your perfect strategy. Some say a bit too polished and too streamlined, but I don't think it was overdone. I like it so much that I'm actually proud I could resist buying it. Umm... I have now bought the game
- Factory Manager - Previously undecided. Now I'm keen to play it again because I still feel I have not explored it enough.
- Shipyard - A pleasant surprise. I had expected something overly complicated, and the rondel mechanism itself isn't something I drool over. It turned out to be a nice build-things-and-feel-proud game, and the rondel mechanism just fades into the background. It's a seamless part of the game, but it is not the game.
Automobile, still my favourite among the 2009 batch. Axis & Allies Pacific 1940. I've always liked the Axis & Allies series but I never get enough plays of them.
Happy to play
- Cyclades - Clean, streamlined, multi-player conflict game. Feels like The Settlers of Catan in complexity.
- Maria - Previously not listed. A game designed for 3. Much historical flavour. Battles are few but crucial, with much positioning and planning before engaging.
- Power Struggle - The corporate politics theme did not annoy as I feared. In fact it helps to tie the many moving parts together.
- Chaos in the Old World - Previously not listed. I'm happy to play, but I insist on the full 4-player game.
- Roll Through the Ages - I really should play this more. I'll probably like it more if I play it more. There are many different techs and combinations of techs that I haven't explored. And this is a short game. This has gone up a little. Despite being short, there is some strategy, and you do need to pay attention to what your opponents are doing.
- Bonnie & Clyde - 5th in the Mystery Rummy series, which I've always enjoyed. I don't think any rummy game can ever replace Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper as my favourite rummy game, but Bonnie & Clyde is quite decent, and unique too.
- Campaign Manager 2008 - Thematic card game for 2 players. Normal game (i.e. with card drafting) is much better than the beginner's game.
- At the Gates of Loyang - Not bad as a 2P game. I've only played with two (against my wife), but I can imagine how it can drag with more. This has dropped from Keen category to Happy category. It feels too much like a solitaire puzzle.
- Dungeon Lords - Given such a complex game, the double-guessing part turned me off a little.
- Summoner Wars - Well-balanced battle game.
- Stronghold - Previously not listed. Quite thematic and tense. I don't have a good grasp of the game yet, despite having played it twice.
- Jaipur - Previously not listed. Quick and clever 2P card game with interesting decisions and tricky plays.
- Vasco Da Gama - I think I missed the big picture in my first play, and was too tactical. Pang won decisively by one big move which he had planned for for some time, and none of us saw it coming (or at least didn't really try to stop him).
- Waterloo - The combat resolution is a little convoluted and takes time to digest. I will have to relearn it when I play again because I've forgotten it all by now. Dropped from Happy to Lukewarm. Over the past year there have been more other war / battle games that I'd rather play.
- Carson City - Construct buildings, earn money, fight when necessary / profitable, then plan to convert what you build into victory points. Didn't feel very new or different, despite the gunfight mechanism.
- Macao - it felt JASE (Just Another Soulless Euro) to me (sorry), despite the never-seen-before windrose mechanism. There are multiple paths to victory, but they feel like mechanisms looking for a theme, and the mechanisms aren't very interesting to me.
- Homesteaders - 10 rounds of auctions, but there is a lot of thought you need to put into every auction decision - which tile to bid for, how much to bid for, when to pass etc. It's a lot about getting good combinations of buildings.
- Dominion: Intrigue - Previously not listed. This is more or less my general keenness to play the Dominion family of games.
- BoardGameGeek Game - It's mostly about collecting sets. Although it's fun to see so many boardgames and elements of boardgames in one single game, the gameplay didn't really grab me.
- Middle Earth Quest - The game is fine, and I did enjoy my play. It's only the genre that deters me. I'm not very into the fantasy theme or Role Playing Games-like boardgames.
- Ra the dice game - Nothing wrong. Just unnecessary. Because Ra is better.
- Rabbit Hunt - It was a pleasant surprise when I first played it. It certainly is quite unique. You need to keep a poker face as you hide your rabbits, and you need to try to read your opponents. I'm not sure why my enthusiasm dropped very quickly. Maybe I just don't like games with bluffing, although mechanism-wise I think the game concept is interesting.
- Greed Incorporated - I'm biased by my very poor performance in the only game that I played. This game is brutal. Boohoo... I'm scarred for life... Now that I have played 18XX games, this game is not as scary as before. But I'm still uncomfortable with how brutal and unforgiving it can be. Every round only two awards are given, so even if you are only $1 behind 2nd place, you get nothing. I'm uncomfortable with the winner gets everything, losers get nothing approach, which I guess matches the theme well. You can easily fall into a downward spiral and have no hope of winning. At least in 18XX games I feel that I am continuously earning money and jostling for the win (unless I have made a very bad move or have been victim of a particularly ingenious attack).
Keen to play
Other more popular 2009 games that I still have not played. Additional comments underlined and in italics.
- Steam - I'm happy enough with Age of Steam (Keen To Play), so trying Steam is low priority.
- Small World - I've played Vinci, and it'd be a Happy To Play. No real urge to try Small World.
- Imperial 2030 - Have not tried the original Imperial either.
- Warhammer: Invasion
- Claustrophobia - likely not my cup of tea.
- Space Hulk (3rd edition) - I've played 1st edition with Han a few times. This would be a low Keen To Play or high Happy To Play game.
- Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! Kursk 1943
- Thunderstone - I'm contented with Dominion being the only deck-building game I play. Well, now I have tried Resident Evil, which I found just okay, and Nightfall, which I found quite different from Dominion.
- Tales of the Arabian Nights - I think of this as a much older release. I have played it. It's very different, and eagerness to play will depend very much on who I'm playing with. At the moment, I'm probably Lukewarm, but I hope when my children are older we can play this together.
- Railways of the World - I have played Railroad Tycoon. I think it's quite similar to Age of Steam. I'm happy enough with Age of Steam. I actually prefer the more spartan artwork of Age of Steam.
- Tobago - interested to try at least once.
- Mr. Jack in New York - Played the original Mr Jack and thought it was just okay.
- Rise of Empires
- Last Train to Wensleydale - I have now played First Train to Nuremberg, which contains this game. However I did play the Nuremberg side of the board, so this should count as a 2010 game. But I'll say this was a pleasant surprise. Quite tempted to buy. Quirky train game where you are making some quick money and then trying to sell off unprofitable parts of your rail network. Tight economics with four different currencies to manage.
- Richard III: The Wars of the Roses - No big urge to try this since I have Hammer of the Scots. I hear it's cleaner, more streamlined. I don't mind some of the rough edges in Hammer of the Scots, and enjoy the very asymmetrical sides.
- Maori - interested to try. Ordered, still waiting.
- Axis & Allies Spring 1942 - I wonder how much quicker this is compared to Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition (AA50). If it is significantly shorter, I may actually prefer to play it over AA50. It uses the new concepts introduced in AA50, which had improved the game.