Sunday 3 January 2016

my 2015

In 2015 I had 638 plays of 118 distinct games. There was a big drop in total plays, but it was a distorted number because I played 483 games of Ascension in 2014, while I "only" played a combined total of 380 games of Ascension and Star Realms in 2015. The number of distinct games I played had dropped a little, and that was not distorted by anything I can think of.

I still mostly played at Thank you Jeff for steadfastly organising game nights. My old boardgame buddy Allen went on a long hiatus of more than 6 months, so I had been playing fewer games with him in 2015. But he's coming back. And he has a long backlog to work on.

I had hoped to repeat what I did in 2014. In 2014, I put in conscious effort to schedule to play a long game or a rarely played game about once a month. Unfortunately this didn't work out quite so well in 2015. I didn't play The Great Zimbabwe, Clash of Cultures, A Few Acres of Snow and quite a few other games as I had hoped. I was more passive in 2015 than in previous years. I usually just showed up on game night, and played whatever others wanted to play. I thank Ivan for being our main rules reader and game teacher. In 2015 I researched games less. I read fewer rulebooks. I made fewer concise reference sheets. I taught games less. Thankfully I didn't enjoy boardgames less.

I started a new job in August. Work was busy, and I found that I had less time to blog about my hobby. Sometimes my backlog of blog posts got (and still gets) embarrassingly long. My new job was game related, but it was mobile games and not boardgames. That was enough excuse for me to bring some games to the office to teach my colleagues. For research purposes of course. Everyone fell in love with Love Letter.

I acquired significantly fewer games than previous years - only eleven! Ten games purchased and one home-made. That was the lowest record since I started keeping track. This was just continuing the trend from 2014. I actually bought very few games in 2014 too. Many of the new games were gifts from Allen.

In 2015 I started letting go of meticulously recording every game I played. I still recorded every game played, but I started leaving out details like who won and what the scores were. What triggered this was the many games of Ascension and Star Realms I had been playing. I just got sick of keeping screenshots of the final scores to be transferred to a spreadsheet later on. I did still try to remember and record who I played the games with, but if I couldn't recall who won, I didn't mind so much anymore.

Let's talk about the games.

This list is my fives and dimes of 2015:

  1. Star Realms (207 plays in 2015) - Played on the smartphone, and mostly against Han. This and Ascension were my fragmented-time games. I took a quick turn whenever I had some spare time to check my phone. It was usually just once or twice a day. A game took around 4 or 5 days to complete.
  2. Ascension (173) - Played on the smartphone, and mostly against Han. I got tired of it at one point, and stopped completely, but that didn't last long. I returned after about 3 months. Now it's a staple again.
  3. Machi Koro (22) - Allen lent me his copy to try out with my children, and they loved it. I liked it a lot too. The children had been denying me a win with the Harbour expansion. They always worked together to stop me from winning, and they were always successful, at least when playing with only this expansion. It was only after we added the Millionaire's Row expansion that I started winning again.
  4. Samurai Spirit (15) - This cooperative game swept me off my feet when I first played it. I then bought it, and played it solo many times to figure it out. I was very intrigued. Beneath the seemingly simplistic rules, there were quite a few clever nuances.
  5. Love Letter (14) - A big hit with almost everyone I introduced it to, especially non-gamers.
  6. R / BraveRats (12) - A microgame by Seiji Kanai of Love Letter fame. I self-made a Star Wars themed version. It was clever. Not as good as Love Letter, but still not bad.
  7. Roll for the Galaxy (8) - Because I was a big fan of Race for the Galaxy. It was different yet familiar.
  8. Templar Intrigue (8) - A fun social game. I already had a copy, but I self-made another one with an Infernal Affairs theme. It was the the perfect theme for this game.
  9. Red7 (7) - Clever little game that can be played as a microgame (single round) or as a short game (multiple rounds with scoring).
  10. Russian Railroads (6) - My birthday gift. I was curious and a little skeptical at first. It turned out to be a fine game. Not groundbreaking, but well-crafted and offering plenty to explore and experiment.
  11. The Message: Emissary Crisis (6) - I have always been a big proponent. I taught my colleagues this game.
  12. Ticket To Ride (5) - I probably played this on the iPad. I don't remember taking the game box off the shelf this many times.
  13. MR4: Al Capone & The Chicago Underworld (5) - I discovered that the partnership game (4 players) was excellent.
  14. Ticket To Ride: Switzerland (5) - Probably iPad too.

If we look at time spent playing instead of counts, a slightly different list is produced, favouring long games.

  1. Ascension (173 plays, 86.5 hrs)
  2. Star Realms (207 plays, 69 hrs)
  3. Samurai Spirit (15 plays, 15 hrs)
  4. Machi Koro (22 plays, 11 hrs)
  5. Russian Railroads (6 plays, 9 hrs)
  6. Food Chain Magnate (2 plays, 8 hrs) - The new game from Splotter Spellen. I was very intrigued by their previous game The Great Zimbabwe, and eventually bought a copy, but since then I had never played my own copy, which was a shame. When I heard they were releasing a new game at Essen 2015, I decided let's wait and see. I expected to like it, but I also expected I would not have much chance to play it many times. So I should save the money and not buy it even if I liked it. Then I played it. I liked it. I played it again. I still liked it. I told myself I didn't need to buy it. Then I bought it, at a higher price than if I had just simply decided to buy it during the Essen game fair period. Now I am waiting for it to be shipped to me. And I'm not sure when I will get to play it after I receive it. Why am I doing this to my wallet?
  7. Virgin Queen (1 play, 8 hrs) - Sequel to Here I Stand. What a memorable day it was, playing this grand strategy game of European politics, warfare and religious struggles during the Elizabethan era.
  8. Ticket To Ride (5 plays, 5 hrs)
  9. Roll for the Galaxy (8 plays, 4 hrs)
  10. Roads & Boats (1 play, 4 hrs) - I'm always happy to be able to find time and determination to do a long game like this. A Splotter game no less!
  11. Ticket To Ride: Switzerland (5 plays, 3.75 hrs)
  12. Love Letter (14 plays, 3.5 hrs)
  13. The Message: Emissary Crisis (6 plays, 3 hrs)
  14. Pandemic: The Cure (4 plays, 3 hrs)
  15. Ticket To Ride: Europe (3 plays, 3 hrs)
  16. Agricola (2 plays, 3 hrs)
  17. Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game (2 plays, 3 hrs)
  18. Antiquity (1 play, 3 hrs) - Hands up if you're a Splotter fan.
  19. Mansions of Madness (1 play, 3 hrs)
  20. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization (1 play, 3 hrs) - I liked the minor tweaks done to this classic. I still haven't decided whether I should buy it. The old version works well enough for me.

Now this is a list of games which entered my collection in 2015.

  1. Roll for the Galaxy
  2. Samurai Spirit
  3. Kobayakawa - A clever microgame which I could easily self-make, but I wanted to buy a copy because I really admired the design. I was surprised how much thinking could go into a game you play despite the very short rules.
  4. Russian Railroads
  5. Pandemic: The Cure
  6. R / BraveRats - This was the self-made game. I made it so I could play it.
  7. Hanafuda - I bought a 100 yen copy at Daiso when on holiday in Japan. I hadn't known about the existence of this traditional game. I still need to find a rule translation so that I can play.
  8. Red7
  9. Epic - I rarely participate in Kickstarter projects. I supported this one because of Star Realms and Rob Dougherty. That reminds me. The iPad version of Twilight Struggle which I supported in 2014 still hasn't materialised, despite being a Playdek project. I hope they will eventually get it done, before the end of 2016. It's Playdek dammit!
  10. Machi Koro Deluxe - I had played so many games using Allen's copy that it felt wrong not to buy the deluxe version when it became available.
  11. Ships - This was my guilty pleasure purchase of Essen 2015. I bought it because it was a Martin Wallace design, and it was part of his transportation series (which started with Automobile, a game I love). Thankfully the game was good.

I did order Food Chain Magnate but it hadn't arrived, so it didn't count towards 2015.

The next list are the New-to-Me games, and when I first played them in 2015.

  1. Patchwork (2 Jan) - A pleasant and unusual two-player-only offering from Uwe Rosenberg (Agricola).
  2. Arkwright (2 Jan)
  3. Samurai Spirit (9 Jan)
  4. Pandemic: The Cure (9 Jan)
  5. Dead of Winter (9 Jan) - This was a big hit in 2014, and it was not bad indeed. I would enjoy playing this again.
  6. R (13 Jan)
  7. Guillotine (18 Jan)
  8. Zhanguo (30 Jan)
  9. Virgin Queen (1 Feb)
  10. Machi Koro (2 Feb)
  11. Lost Legacy: The Starship (6 Feb) - These two are sibling games to Love Letter, but somehow not as much fun.
  12. Lost Legacy: Flying Garden (6 Feb)
  13. Hyperborea (6 Feb)
  14. Star Realms (10 Feb)
  15. Roll for the Galaxy (15 Feb)
  16. Pick-a-Pig (8 Mar)
  17. BANG! (8 Mar) - I'm not 100% sure about this. I might have played this many years ago, before I started keeping records.
  18. Thunder Alley (20 Mar)
  19. New Amsterdam (27 Mar)
  20. Kingsport Festival (27 Mar) - updated Kingsburg.
  21. Hansa Teutonica: Brittania (17 Apr) - This gave me an urge to collect every Hansa Teutonica expansion, but then I don't even play the base game much now. So after a while, I forgot about it.
  22. Alchemists (30 Apr) - A non Vlaada Chvatil game that feels a lot like his work. It's from the same publisher, so the style being similar is not surprising. It's innovative and quirky. It's built on an interesting premise. It's a refreshing experience. I'm still unsure about the game balance, and I'll need more plays to understand it better.
  23. Madame Ching (22 May)
  24. Targi (28 May)
  25. Morels (28 May) - I liked this one. A good spouse game.
  26. Toc Toc Woodman (9 Jun)
  27. Ice Cream Combo (9 Jun)
  28. Sheriff of Nottingham (19 Jun) - An updated version of that smuggling-goods-and-bribing-the-customs-officer game. It was very interactive. It was more about gaming the players than gaming the system.
  29. Kobayakawa (19 Jun)
  30. Lords of Scotland (3 Jul) - A card game based on numbers and colours, but it offers a rich experience due to the very strong powers of each colour.
  31. Timbuktu (10 Jul)
  32. Abluxxen (17 Jul) - An innovative card game which I don't know how to categorise, which is a good thing.
  33. La Granja (17 Jul)
  34. Pictomania (31 Jul) - An enjoyable real-time party game.
  35. Viticulture (31 Jul) - Decent.
  36. The Princes of Machu Picchu (7 Aug) - Mac Gerdts designs are good but somehow most don't really grab me. This one does.
  37. Cubist (21 Aug)
  38. 1812: The Invasion of Canada (22 Aug) - Simple and minimalistic mechanisms, yet it provides very good immersion.
  39. Infiltration (4 Sep)
  40. Mottainai (4 Sep) - A refined and streamlined Glory to Rome.
  41. Abyss (11 Sep)
  42. Imperial (18 Sep) - Mac Gerdts' magnus opus. It reminds me that I suck at stock-holding games.
  43. Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game (23 Sep)
  44. Russian Railroads (24 Sep)
  45. Red7 (26 Sep)
  46. Mansions of Madness (30 Oct)
  47. Epic (1 Nov) - Crazy card powers vs crazy card powers.
  48. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization (10 Nov)
  49. Food Chain Magnate (10 Nov) - Classic Splotter. It's unforgiving. Bad moves will kill you. You need to know what you're doing in order to stay in contention. This is not a game where everything you do will help you progress somewhat, and winning is a matter of being more efficient than others. In Food Chain Magnate you live and die by devising a strategy and executing it well. You really feel alive because you know your decisions matter a lot. They can make or break your game. If you feel lost, you are dead.
  50. Ships (13 Nov) - You take small steps. You see cycles come and go. Ultimately it is the end game you need to prepare for. Everything you do is positioning yourself for the final showdown. Will you be ready? Are you timing your tempo right?
  51. Codenames (13 Nov) - Now I understand why this was such a hit. It plays on the different personal backgrounds, past experiences, knowledge, perceptions and biases of players on the same team. It is the epic failures that makes this game funny, much more so than how cleverly crafted clues can be satisfying. This game forces you to be creative.
  52. Celestia (20 Nov) - An updated Cloud 9, but I prefer the original because I'm stubborn that's why and get off my lawn!
  53. Qwinto (20 Nov) - A thinky filler is an oxymoron, but this is indeed a thinky filler.
  54. Broom Service (20 Nov) - An updated and built up Witch's Brew.
  55. Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age (27 Nov) - A variant which may tend to run a little long.

Now for my family. My wife Michelle had 78 plays of 39 distinct games in 2015. That was a big increase compared to 2014, and this surprised me. I hadn't realised she had been playing more. Her most played games were Roll for the Galaxy, Russian Railroads and Mystery Rummy 4: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld. My elder daughter Shee Yun (10) had 98 plays of 41 distinct games. That was slightly less than the year before. Her most played games were Machi Koro, R (BraveRats) and Red7. Younger daughter Chen Rui (9) had 94 plays of 38 distinct games, which was slightly less than the year before too. Most played games were Machi Koro, Love Letter, R and Mystery Rummy 4: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld.

The first thing I need to do in 2016? I need to catch up with the backlog at my blog!

Happy New Year and Happy Gaming!


Anonymous said...

nice post; thanks. happy new year. (trying to 'lurk' a bit less... and i've been enjoying your content for a while now!)

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Thanks! Always happy to hear feedback! :-)

Aik Yong said...

I saw our Virgin Queen game in there. It's not about the number of plays but the experience, right?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Oh yes! That's why I also do a list based on time spent, and that's how Virgin Queen appeared. A list based on number of plays will tend to favour short games.

I don't have a scientific measure yet for "pleasurable experience" though. So "time spent" will have to do for now. :-)

Justin Oei said...

If you take requests, could you please do impressions of Roll For The Galaxy? Your coverage of RFTG & TTA are the main reasons I own those two great games :)

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

I normally don't do requests, but I'll make an exception in your case, because I've already written about Roll for the Galaxy. :-)

Matt Goodwin said...

New reader. Great blog. I had to delete my Ascension app because I couldn't stop playing it on the train. Very addicting. Looking forward to reading more.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Welcome, Matt! Looks like you have a worse case of Ascension addiction than mine. :-)