Saturday 25 June 2016

Pandemic: Legacy

Plays: 4P x 17.

I need to use a different format to write about Pandemic: Legacy, because there will be spoilers, and I don't want to spoil the game for those who have not yet played it, or have not yet completed it. I will split my post into two halves. The first half will describe the game to those who have not played it and include what I think about it. In the second half I will share my story with those who have also completed the game. If you have not finished the game, I recommend skipping the second half.

Part 1

The Game

Let's start with talking about the original Pandemic, a cooperative game first released in 2008. At the time there weren't many cooperative games, and it was well received. The idea is that four diseases are rampaging around the world, and the players need to work together to treat the sick, to prevent outbreaks, and ultimately to find cures to all four diseases. Pandemic: Legacy is based on the same premise, with the addition of the Legacy concept and story. The Legacy concept first appeared in Risk: Legacy (2011), the idea being that each time you play, the game board, the game components and the game rules may change, and these changes are permanent. You play an evolving game. Your decisions, or events that occur in the game, have permanent effects which apply to all future games you play. You discover the story bit by bit.

When you open up Pandemic: Legacy, one of the first things you'll see is a stack of large cardboards with many little windows. These are your top secret documents. You only open specific windows when explicitly instructed to do so. There is a thick deck of Legacy cards which drive the game. There are 8 sealed boxes which contain additional game components. Pandemic: Legacy is a long campaign to be played over 12 in-game months. You play at most two games per month. Whenever you win a game, you proceed to the next month the next time you play. If you lose both attempts at a particular month, next time you proceed to the next month. Each month there are new Legacy cards you have to read. They are the next installment of the story, and they introduce new rules and new components. If you win every single time, you'll be playing 12 times. If you really suck, you'll get to play 24 times. After you complete December, you won't be able to play again, since the story has ended, and the gameboard and game rules will have changed to a point that it won't be balanced to try to continue from there. You can still play the basic Pandemic game, ignoring whatever changes you've made throughout the campaign, but I think having gone through the Legacy experience, the basic game will feel bland.

You can play basic Pandemic using the Legacy version. I did this with my children before I played the Legacy rules.

The artwork and components have changed. My copy of Pandemic is the very old first edition. Compared to that version, the new components are much smaller and less obstructive. It's easier to read city names on the board. I'm not sure how they compare with the newer versions of Pandemic though.

Those boxes in the lower right are the objective boxes. Unlike basic Pandemic, you will have multiple objectives. You need to complete a certain number of objectives to win the game, depending on which month you are playing. Finding cures is just one of them. Sometimes you may have more objective cards than the number required to win. Then you can choose which ones to do. You can pick your characters and the government funding cards (event cards) to support your strategy.

Your HQ is still the CDC in Atlanta, but this may change as you play. You may choose to build new permanent research labs. In future games, the cities with such permanent research labs will get a lab at the start, you can you choose such a lab to be your starting location.

In this photo Hong Kong has a white house-shaped sticker next to it. This is your permanent research lab.

Those stickers with numbers (1's in white circles, 2's in yellow explosions) indicate cities which have had outbreaks. Upon each outbreak, the panic level increases, and you paste a sticker next to the city. This is permanent. In future months the city starts with this panic level. At Level 1, there is no impact. From Level 2 onwards, the people start rioting. Any research lab is destroyed and you can't build any new one. The airport is closed so you can't take a direct flight in or a chartered flight out. You have to get in or out by land, from or to a neighbouring city. At Levels 4 and 5, the situation gets so bad that to get in, you need to discard cards of the same colour as the city. Due to this escalating panic level where there is no turning back, you need to be extra careful with outbreaks. It is quite scary. Every game you play will be tougher than before because the panic level can only worsen. However, to balance things out, at the end of every game, regardless of win or lose, you get to pick two upgrades which will help you in all future games. Upgrades include additional abilities for characters, breakthroughs which make diseases easier to cure, new permanent buildings on the board and additional powers for player cards.

On the character card on the left, the white stickers are relationship stickers. You can establish such relationships between characters, e.g. they become colleagues, family members or even rivals. Such relationships give additional abilities to both characters involved. This is another area to make use of.

Outbreaks increase the panic level of a city. They also harm characters who are on site, leaving scars. Scars are disabilities which reduce the efficiency of the characters permanently. The character cards only have spaces for two scars. If you need to take a third scar, your character dies. You are supposed to tear up the character card, so that you will never be able to use that character again in future games. The friends who played with me tended to stick to the same characters, while I preferred to experiment with different characters. I usually check the objectives of the current game and the board situation, and agree on a general strategy with my teammates, before picking my character. My friends were much more attached to their characters than me. We had a big shock in one game when Ruby's character Kawasaki died due to getting a third scar. He died in Lagos, and we were truly pained to lose him. After he died, whenever we passed by Lagos we would say we were visiting his grave. Whenever we were lucky with our card draws, we said he was watching over us from above. Whenever we ran into a situation where his abilities would have been handy, we were reminded how much we missed our fallen comrade.

As the in-game months went by, more and more rules and new gameplay elements were added. Individually none of them were complex, but as these additions piled up, there were quite many details to remember. We often had to remind one another.

I played all my 17 games with the same bunch of friends. Throughout our games we established our quirks and in-jokes. One of these was how we renamed some of the cities (e.g. due to misreading when it's upside down). Montreal became Monorail. St Petersburg became Sri Petaling, a suburb near our office. Essen became Eason (the Hong Kong singer). Sometimes when a player took a wrong route, taking a longer way than necessary and thus wasting actions, the others would start teasing him about his malfunctioning Waze (navigation system). This happened the most with Xiao Zhu, and I was the one who nagged him the most for poor navigation.

The Thoughts

If I consider Pandemic: Legacy from a traditional, game mechanism angle, I don't find it particularly clever or awe-inspiring. It works well enough, but it doesn't give me that masterpiece wow factor feeling. However if I am to measure how good the design is by how much fun I had with it, then this is a top grade design. Pandemic: Legacy is a truly memorable game. It doesn't just tell you a story, it makes you live the story. You are part of that story, and you are doing your best to give it a happy ending. Playing this long campaign is like following a good TV series. You keep looking forward to what is in store for you next.

This is a play-once game. You do get to play multiple games, but once you complete the campaign, you are done with the game. This is much like TIME Stories and Tragedy Looper. You can't unknow what you already know. This is not a problem, just a statement. I got 17 plays out of the game, so I say it was well worth it.

This game should be played with the same group of friends from beginning to end, January to December. Rules are added from time to time, so if someone joins halfway, it can be a pain for him to catch up. More importantly, this game is all about a shared experience. It is much more meaningful if everyone goes through the whole story together. You share all the surprises, the pains, the glory, the elation, and all sorts of emotions. You build a strong comradeship. If you keep swapping players from one game to the next, much of the pleasure of a shared experience will be lost. I was lucky to have a group of loyal players. We were five (the game supports at most four). Benz usually played support, helping us with managing some of the game elements and participating in our discussions on strategy. When one of the others couldn't play, he stepped in. We spent two and a half months playing through the campaign. It felt like we had gone on a long trip together. We brought back many shared memories, shared jokes, anecdotes which only we would appreciate, and of course - group photos!

One childish pleasure I get from the game is stickering. There are many stickers in the game. When an outbreak occurs, you need to add a sticker to increase the panic level. All of the upgrades in the game are stickers. New rules come in the form of stickers to be pasted into the rulebook.

The surprises that come with the game are fun. We were always eager to start a new month and see what was going to happen. There were new legacy cards to read, new secret document windows to open, new game components and rules to be introduced.

One advice: take note that the legacy cards will only tell you to open windows on the secret document sheets, and not the sealed boxes. When I played, I accidentally opened a box too early, because it had the same number as a window. That confused us quite a bit until we realised our mistake.

I also made a mistake with the disease research upgrades. They must be upgraded in a particular order. You can't have a level 2 upgrade without the level 1 upgrade. I missed the numbering system and jumped straight to the stronger upgrades. That gave us an unfair advantage. This was offset somewhat later due to a situation which occurred in one particular game. Thankfully the mistakes we made did not unbalance the game too much. We still had great fun. That's what's important.

I heartily recommend Pandemic: Legacy.

Part 2

If you have not played the game, or have not completed the game, I recommend stopping here. Proceed at your own risk. Spoilers ahead!

The Play

I played Pandemic: Legacy with a fixed group - Benz, Ruby, Xiao Zhu and Edwin. I have taught them basic Pandemic before, and they liked it. Pandemic: Legacy supports up to four players. Usually Benz was the one who played support while the rest of us were the official players. Since this is a cooperative game, he could participate and enjoy despite not controlling any character. Sometimes when one of us could not play, he stepped in to play. We played at the office, on Fridays at the end of the day. It had become an unspoken arrangement. We all tried to get our work done quickly so that we could sit down to play. Sometimes other colleagues came to watch us play.

The mutating disease in our game was the black disease. When the first Faded appeared (patients with transparent skin and violent behaviour) and I announced it to my teammates, their first reaction to this name was "you mean they're fat?" We speak Mandarin, and "Faded" sounds like "the fat ones" in Mandarin (肥的). Since then all our encounters with and discussions about the Faded became discussions about the fat ones. Silly fat jokes abounded. "No way I'm not going there I don't want to get fat", "Who says I'm fat?", "You're already fat so you don't need to fear them anymore."

Xiao Zhu's favourite character was Shirley Jones the scientist. She played a very important role in our games because she was almost always the one finding cures. Her ability allowed us to find cures using one card less. We also made upgrades to two of the diseases so that they required one card less. That means for two of the diseases Xiao Zhu only needed three cards to find a cure. He kept calling her the doctor though (because of her white robe), and I kept telling him no she's a scientist dammit.

Ruby's favourite character was Kawasaki, the dispatcher. His ability was very handy too. We used it frequently to allow one player to meet up with another. Sometimes it was to allow them to pass cards. Sometimes it was to simply to help them move about more efficiently. When Kawasaki died in Lagos, my teammates were very tempted to just pretend he hadn't died, so that we could continue using him. However I was quite insistent on following rules and playing according to the spirit of the game. So Kawasaki stayed dead. It was painful, but that was what made the experience so memorable.

I didn't have a favourite character. I played whomever I thought would help the current game the most. I named this character Jon Sanders, because he was a colonel, and I thought it would be funny to have KFC in the game.

Edwin's favourite character was Ellie the generalist. She was the most used character. After Ruby's Kawasaki (the dispatcher) died, she was forced to pick other characters. Xiao Zhu used Shirley the scientist a lot, but he had picked other characters too. Ellie gained some scars quite early in our games, so we gave her an upgrade which prevented her from taking more scars. This meant she became invincible. Since she had entered god mode, the rest of us kept encouraging Edwin to pick her. He was more than happy to oblige. When the Faded crisis erupted, she was often the one expected to go deep into Faded territory, because she was not afraid of getting injured. She could live with the fat ones. Once, she came very close to being lost. When the traitor incident happened, if I hadn't picked the quarantine expert that game, we would have found her to be the traitor. Instead, we lost the quarantine expert. That was painful too, because her power was very handy. She was one of the characters I liked better.

We called these semi-transparent patients the fat ones. Thankfully we managed to seal off the Faded (black) region from the rest of the world using permanent road blocks. We didn't have any Faded outside of the originally black cities.

In this photo you can see that all the black cities have become green Faded cities. We were lucky to have kept Karachi stable. It never reached panic level 2, so our research lab cum airport remained safe. It was our gateway to Faded territory throughout the campaign.

This was the situation at the end of August (in-game August). The cure for the Faded had not yet been found, so we could only control it as best we could using quarantines. Riyadh in the Middle East had fallen - panic level 5. It was a pain to get into fallen cities, so we closed it off using permanent road blocks and completely gave up on it. At least if an outbreak occurred there, the road blocks would prevent the outbreak from spreading out.

When the cure for the Faded appeared, and drug factories and pills came into play, we all exclaimed "How cute!"

When we played, our preference was always to push the story forward as quickly as possible. Whenever a new search mission came up, we put our focus on it. Most of the time we completed the search in the same month it came up. We were keen to see what we would find.

Once the cure for the Faded was found, our games became very smooth. In fact, it felt easy. The pills were produced quickly. We were able to vaccinate the Faded cities quickly. From then on, black cards from the infection deck became a welcome sight. Most Faded cities were vaccinated so most black cards had no effect. Only two of the Faded cities which had fallen took us longer to vaccinate.

We built the drug factories in North America, near our new HQ Mexico City. We had rioting in Atlanta so our original research lab was destroyed and we had to move base. Sometimes when someone forgot and returned to Atlanta, we'd make fun of him and say "the office has moved, we're no longer in Puchong!" We are colleagues and our office in real life used to be in Puchong.

This was the situation in October. Chennai, Riyadh and Delhi had fallen (big red cross). However we were already vaccinating cities (orange stickers with a syringe).

This photo was taken before we started playing December. Eventually we had four fallen cities. The fourth one was Sao Paolo in South America. In this photo you can see only two Faded cities were left unvaccinated, Riyadh and Chennai. In December, all previous objective cards had to be destroyed, to be replaced with two new ones. (1) We had to vaccinate all remaining Faded cities, and (2) we had to hunt for a stash of new viruses hidden in Atlanta. December was very exciting. We decided up front that we would give up on finding cures, since it was not an objective anymore, and it would cost us cards which we needed for the other objectives. We should try to focus on at least getting one objective completed, even if we were going to lose the first game in December. That would help us win at the second attempt, assuming the worst case that we failed the first attempt. We had only two more cities to vaccinate, but it was quite difficult to do due to them being fallen and cordoned off by road blocks. We did manage to do it eventually, and then we were down to one last objective. Time was running out, because there weren't many cards left in the player deck. We forged onward. At one point, we counted the remaining cards in the player deck, and found that we still had one round plus one turn left. There were 9 cards left in the deck. Ruby would take the next turn, and by her following turn, we must complete the objective. Else she would draw the last card, and we would lose. We checked the cards we had in hand, and we did have enough, and in the hands of the right players, to complete the search for the new batch of viruses. However there was one big problem. We still had one Epidemic card in the player deck. Once we drew it, the search target would move to the cold trail position, and our search would fail immediately. That meant we could only win if the 5th Epidemic card happened to be the very last card in the deck. Our hopes sank as we came to this realisation. With heavy hearts we continued to play. Every time we had to draw a player card, it was like waiting for the death sentence. We were very nervous. When we drew a card, we did it quickly and cast it on the board. Every card draw was a nail-biting moment. Card after card was drawn, but the Epidemic card still didn't come. The feelings of both dread and hope intensified. When it was Edwin's turn to draw cards, there were only three left in the deck. Now throughout this game he had had very bad luck. Many of the previous Epidemic cards were drawn by him. We all said to him that he was going to be the one to lose the game for us (what horrible teammates we were!). To our surprise, both the cards he drew were not Epidemic cards! We screamed and we cheered. We laughed and we jumped. It was a 1 in 9 chance! We couldn't believe our luck. After we settled down, I noticed something on the map - we had four yellow cities connected to one another which were all on the verge of outbreaks. Edwin still had to draw infection cards. If any of these four cities got a new infection, it would trigger a chain reaction of outbreaks, and we would exceed the outbreak threshold and lose the game. In the end, Edwin lost us the game afterall. One of his infection card draws was one of those four cities. We had gone from hopelessness to exhilaration and then back to agony. What a rollercoaster ride! It was a spectacular loss.

Sao Paolo was what caused us to lose. It was right in the centre of the four cities on the verge of outbreak. If only it had one disease cube less...

For our second game in December, we only had one objective to complete - finding the stash of new viruses in Atlanta. Again, we ignored finding cures so that we could conserve cards for the search. We managed to find the stash, which brought the campaign to a perfect happy ending.

Feeling very blessed to have a group of friends to share this journey with me - me, Edwin, Benz, Ruby and Xiao Zhu.

Friday 10 June 2016

2014 games eagerness ranking

This is my personal ranking of 2014 games that I have played. It is purely based on how keen I am to play each game now. It is not based on how "good" or "bad" the games are. "Good" and "bad" are subjective. Making such lists is tedious, but it's something I enjoy doing because such forced ranking makes me examine my current game playing preferences, and reminds me of games I should play.

    Keen to Play

  1. Star Realms - I only realise now that this is a 2014 game. I had thought this game was released much longer ago. I play Star Realms everyday now, on the phone, vs Han. It's more like a habit than a hobby. It's like breakfast, or brushing teeth. I don't plan to play it, I just do it. When I have a few spare minutes, I pick up my phone and play a turn. Since I do play it everyday and I'm still not sick of it, I have no excuse not to put it in this category.
  2. Quartermaster General - Few components, few procedures. It looks simple on the surface, but once you get to know it, it is more sophisticated and flavourful than it seems at first glance. All major historical elements and even some hypothetical ones are included in the cards. This is a game where you have very limited actions and resources, and you are forced to make painful compromises. The game is at its best once you get familiar with the decks of all six nations in play.

    Quartermaster General

    Happy to Play

  3. Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game - This was quite hot for a while. On the surface this looks like a cooperative game with a traitor element. In truth this is very much an every-man-for-himself game. The "good" people do need to cooperate to complete the team mission, because that's the prerequisite for any of them winning. However the key is using your fellow survivors to complete the team mission while you make sure you can achieve your personal mission. You need to achieve your personal mission to emerge a winner when the end comes. This is no hold-hands-sing-kumbaya game.

    Dead of Winter

  4. Patchwork - A short 2-player game with a Tetris-like spatial element. It's a good spouse game. There is some strategy, but it can be played in a lighthearted manner.


  5. Panamax - I like it but I didn't buy it. I like it but I didn't play a second time. I didn't buy precisely because I was worried I might not get to play a second time. I admire the ship-push-ship mechanism. You use that to force others to help you, and also to do more with few actions. There are opportunities for cooperation. You do want to collaborate because it's win-win.


  6. Madame Ching - I like the tempo in this game. Everyone is trying to make strong card sets, collecting numbered cards in ascending order. Depending on which stage of a voyage you are in, you will need different cards. Sometimes you want to intentionally phase shift so that others won't be competing with you for the cards you want. The core mechanisms are simple, so this is a game suitable for casual gamers.
  7. Alchemists - This is quite an unusual game. You are alchemists trying to deduce the alchemical properties of ingredients in the game. You do this by collecting ingredients and performing experiments. You need a smartphone app to play this game. The rules are moderately complex. I have only played once. I am still unsure whether winning is more about how well you plan your experiments, or how lucky you are in picking which ingredients to study. Or perhaps winning mostly depends on observing your opponents' actions and experiment results, and drawing conclusions from them. Certainly all three factors come into play. I am not sure how big a factor each of them is. But then if you enjoy the game well enough, perhaps this is not all that important.
  8. Samurai Spirit - Cooperative game. I fell in love with it when I first played, because it is hard to win. I played many solo games, trying to understand it and to work out how to beat it. It looks simplistic, but there is some hidden depth and also many little tricks. I now know better how to play it well, and it is still not easy to win. In fact I haven't even tried the harder difficulty levels. I am past the infatuation period now, but if someone suggests this I would gladly draw my katana and scream Banzai.
  9. Linko! (Abluxxen) - An unconventional card game that defies classification. It's not a climbing game although it feels a little like one. The game ends when a player plays all his cards. Usually (but not always) this player will win, since scoring is based on cards played minus cards still in hand. There are moments when you can really screw someone over. There are moments when your hands sweat because you don't know whether it is the right time to play your large set of cards. There are moments when you pray your large set played will not get beaten by another even stronger set.


  10. Red7 - A cute game from Carl Chudyk.You can play it as a microgame. If you add the scoring rules, it becomes a short game. It's a clever game that works your brain.
  11. Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game - Good storytelling. The aliens are coming at you relentlessly. You need to beef up your deck and keep the aliens at bay at the same time. You need to make sure you can survive and complete all three missions.

    Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game

  12. Roll for the Galaxy - I am a big fan of Race for the Galaxy and I played it till my cards frayed at the edges. In recent years I don't play much anymore, so this dice version doesn't get played much either. The dice game feels like the older brother, but mechanism-wise there are differences.
  13. Sheriff of Nottingham - Bribery, double-guessing, psychology, bluffing. Plenty of player interaction. One review I read described this game very well - this is a game where you game the players and not the system.

    Sheriff of Nottingham

  14. Pandemic: The Cure - The dice game version of Pandemic. You get the excitement of rolling dice. You lose the board gameplay aspect. Overall it's simpler and more abstract.
  15. Abyss - You compete to recruit allies, who in turn are used to recruit lords, who then are used to conquer locations. All these are done in small steps, and you compete in these small steps. You must not lose sight of the strategic landscape. You need to watch which allies, lords and locations your opponents are aiming for.
  16. Hyperborea - The bag-building mechanism is a variation of the deck-building mechanism. Instead of cards you add to your personal deck, you acquire coloured cubes to add to your personal cloth bag. On your turn you draw cubes out of the bag, and they determine what kind of actions you can take. Hyperborea looks like a low complexity wargame, with players fighting for territory. However the board play is just a means to an end, and that end is scoring points. This game is less of you being a warlord charging into battle, and more of you being a bookish strategist laying out meticulous plans for the empire's expansion. The factions in the game are quite different, and this gives good replayability.


  17. Historia - A civilisation game with a very different approach. Or maybe you can call it a Eurogame with a civilisation theme. Many aspects of civilisation games are abstracted, which makes the game playable within the timeframe of a typical Eurogame - about 60 to 90 minutes. I can't say I particularly liked it, but it is certainly refreshing.
  18. Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age -There are a few expansions and variations of this dice game, and I am starting to lose track of which is which. The original dice game is quite a clever design, and doesn't really need any enhancement. The expansions are nice-to-have variations if you've played a lot of the original and want some variety. Iron Age feels a little long to me though.
  19. Thunder Alley - Quite a strategic team race game. Positioning your cars is very important. You want to entice or even force your opponents to help you. There are plenty of opportunities for clever card play. I am not particularly interested in race games, so no urge to play this now.
  20. Camel Up - This looks like a race game, but it is actually a gambling game, a betting game. You compete to bet on the camels which you think will win a leg of the race or will win the overall race. The earlier you bet (and bet right), the higher the rewards, but also the higher the risk of betting wrong.

    Rather Not Play

  21. El Gaucho - Medium weight Eurogame. You compete to collect cattle and try to make big (profitable) sets. Various special abilities help you in your procurement. There is a certain tempo in buying cattle. You need to watch out for when who wants what. It's a decent game.

    El Gaucho

  22. VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game - I like the original boardgame version. The dice game doesn't have opportunities for players to collaborate. It is a race to reach 21pts. There is a sense of urgency because every round the players holding the titles earn bonus points and progress towards the end goal.
  23. Heroes of Normandie - Squad level battle game. Currently I'm not keen on games at this granularity, thus the lack of interest.
  24. Cubist - Roll dice, then use them to build structures.
  25. Lost Legacy: The Starship - A successor of Love Letter, with many similarities. Your objective is to find the starship (one of the cards). During the game, some players can be eliminated. When the draw deck is exhausted, if more than one player remains, they may attempt to find the starship. Whoever finds it first wins. If it is not found, nobody wins. All cards have abilities, and many of them either work well together or are a counter card for another card. Maybe I'm just content with Love Letter, or I'm resistant to change. I tell myself I prefer the simplicity of Love Letter.
  26. La Granja - This complex Eurogame is quite popular. In recent years I have become jaded with heavy Eurogames because many of them feel similar. The phrase "multiple ways to score points" now has a negative connotation, because it feels like these multiple ways exist for the sake of existing. La Granja is by no means a poor game. It has some unique elements. Cards the players decide to use create differences in their respective farms. This leads to different strategies and priorities. This is a game of efficiency and optimisation. You need to be meticulous to make the most of the fixed number of rounds in the game.

    La Granja

  27. Arkwright - High complexity economic game. You build and operate factories producing different goods. This is an open information game, which coupled with its complexity means high analysis paralysis potential. I have only played the beginner game. It felt staid. I think it is partly because of the more conservative setup, the intention of which is to maintain game balance. The full game adds some elements and also allows more freedom (including freedom to fail spectacularly).
  28. Imperial Settlers - The prettier, cleaner and better tuned 51st State, which I like less than 51st State. Maybe the fixed number of rounds rubs me the wrong way. 51st State is less polished and a little clumsy, but these make it more adorable to me. In Imperial Settlers, like all tableau games, the key is build a good combo of cards. There is some player interaction, but not much.
  29. Kingsport Festival - The new Kingsburg has a completely different setting and some rule changes, but the heart is the same. You roll dice, and decide how to mix and match and use them to collect resources. There is a map on which you expand your influence and gain new abilities.
  30. ZhanGuo - Yet another typical VP scoring Eurogame. The mission sets give context and unite the multiple ways of scoring in the game, which is a good thing. However it is also a bad thing because the mission sets drive player actions along narrow paths. You can choose to ignore mission sets, but that's suboptimal and doesn't make strategic sense.


  31. Burgoo - Microgame. I played it wrong, despite it being a microgame. *hangs head in shame* Now I know the correct rules, but I have not played it again. So I still have not given it a fair evaluation.
  32. Istanbul - An award winner, but I didn't like it. It's a resource gathering and conversion game. It's all about converting stuff to points as efficiently as possible.
  33. The Staufer Dynasty - Medium weight Eurogame, with an area majority mechanism. Some of the game mechanisms are clever, but overall it's another game of scoring points efficiently.
Have Not Played

Some games that I have heard of but have not played.

  1. Star Wars: Imperial Assault - It's Star Wars, but I'm not keen on squad level battle games.
  2. Five Tribes - From Days of Wonder.
  3. Orléans
  4. Castles of Mad King Ludwig
  5. Fields of Arle - High complexity 2-player game from Uwe Rosenberg. I have read the rules, and it feels similar to his other recent games.
  6. Arcadia Quest
  7. Splendor - This was quite hot for a while, but I missed the opportunity to try it.
  8. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
  9. Power Grid deluxe: Europe/North America - I own many expansions of Power Grid, but no longer play them much, so I have stopped buying expansions or variants.
  10. Xia: Legends of a Drift System
  11. Kanban: Automotive Revolution
  12. Spyfall
  13. Deus
  14. Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
  15. Colt Express
  16. King of New York - I have not tried King of Tokyo yet.
  17. AquaSphere - By Stefan Feld.
  18. Evolution - I have played the original version from Right Games of Russia. The idea is novel, but the execution is so-so. It seems there is only one best strategy - develop a super specie. The new version should be better, but I have not had a chance to try it.
  19. Fire in the Lake
  20. San Juan (second edition) - I have played the original version.
  21. The Battle of Five Armies
  22. Ca$h 'n Guns (second edition) - I have played the original version.
  23. Shadows of Brimstone: Swamps of Death
  24. Legendary: Villains – A Marvel Deck Building Game
  25. Smash Up: Science Fiction Double Feature
  26. Lords of Xidit
  27. Saint Petersburg (second edition) - I have played the original version.
  28. Warhammer 40,000: Conquest
  29. Smash Up: Monster Smash
  30. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
  31. Scoville
  32. Port Royal
  33. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles – Base Set
  34. Shadowrun: Crossfire
  35. Wir sind das Volk! - I'm interested in this 2-player game about the history of East and West Germany after World War II.
  36. Viceroy
  37. Doomtown: Reloaded
  38. Valley of the Kings
  39. Black Fleet
  40. Diamonds
  41. Space Hulk (fourth edition) - I have played the 1st edition.
  42. La Isla
  43. Witness
  44. Onirim
  45. Trains: Rising Sun
  46. Medieval Academy
  47. Akrotiri
  48. Nations: The Dice Game
  49. Galaxy Defenders
  50. The Golden Ages
  51. Dogs of War
  52. Murano
  53. Medina (second edition) - I have played the first edition.
  54. Tiny Epic Kingdoms
  55. The Ancient World
  56. Coup: Rebellion G54
  57. Onitama
  58. Zombie 15'
  59. Good Cop Bad Cop
  60. Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game
  61. 1944: Race to the Rhine
  62. Mythotopia - A game designed based on the system in A Few Acres of Snow, which I like a lot. I think it was a stroke of genius to present the French and Indian War using the deck-building mechanism. It was appropriate and flavourful. Mythotopia uses a generic fantasy / medieval setting, and my interest level plummeted.
  63. Antike II
  64. Mangrovia
  65. Heroes Wanted
  66. Greed
  67. Greenland - I have not yet tried any game by Phil Eklund. I know his games are unbelievably complex. The topics he chooses are uncommon and interesting. I don't know of fellow gamers who play his games, but I'm quite sure I can find takers if I start something. The problem is I may not be able to stomach his games now. So I shall continue to procrastinate.
  68. Onward to Venus - By Martin Wallace.
  69. Pandemic: Contagion - I almost forgot about this expansion of Pandemic.
  70. Pagoda - By Reiner Knizia. I read a review and I am a little interested. I used to be a big Knizia fanboy. I still think he's a genius. He was one of only a handful of masters when I first got into Eurogames. There are many more great designers nowadays, and many more different styles of games.
  71. Three Kingdoms Redux - A game from neighbouring Singapore. Interested.
  72. Province - Allen has it. It's at my home. Unplayed.
  73. Abraca...what?
  74. Escape: Zombie City - I have the original Escape plus a few expansions.
  75. Fresh Fish - By Friedemann Friese. I've played the original version which was released many years ago.
  76. Clinic - From Alban Viard (Town Centre, Small City). This was played at but I didn't join that table then.
  77. This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us - Allen gave me a copy.
  78. Rolling Japan
  79. King's Pouch
  80. Lap Dance - Controversial topic.

Saturday 4 June 2016

revisiting the 2013 games eagerness ranking

I did this personal ranking of 2013 games back in Feb 2015. I always enjoy revisiting such lists, checking whether I now feel differently from before, and whether there are some games from a particular year that I have now played. Underlined text in this blog post is new. Non underlined text is the original blog post. After relooking at this list, I realised I hadn't played many more games from 2013. There are still quite a few popular one I have not tried.

This is one of those things I do roughly once a year. I list down games published within a particular calendar year which I have played, and rank them according to how much I feel like playing them at that moment. Usually I do this just short of one year after the particular year has passed, but for year 2013, I'm doing it more than one year later. I am no longer at the forefront of playing all the hot new games. There are still a number of widely acclaimed 2013 games I have not tried. So my list is in no way authoritative. It's just one gamer's fun exercise of stringing together 2013 games. When I play a game I don't take note of the year of publication. When I put together this list, it was interesting to discover which games were from the same batch, like meeting co-workers who went to the same primary school (elementary school).

    Keen To Play

    None. No particular game that I am itching to play.

    Happy To Play

  1. Axis & Allies: WWI 1914 - Played once, and I quite enjoyed it. It's not the type of game that I feel like playing all the time. It's an event game, something you need to plan for and arrange early. This is the first game in the Axis & Allies series that uses World War I as the backdrop. There are some changes to fit the system to better reflect warfare of that age, but the overall structure is still familiar.

    Axis & Allies: WWI 1914

  2. Impulse - This is a Carl Chudyk design (Innovation, Glory to Rome). It is interstellar exploration, colonisation and warfare via a clever card mechanism. It has Carl Chudyk's signature all over it. I wonder why it is rarely discussed and seems to be not very popular. In contrast Red7 is getting tons of attention.


  3. Russian Railroads - Won many awards. I'm interested to try this. I have bought a copy. It's mostly a typical Eurogame. I had thought I wouldn't enjoy this type of game very much. I find that it has a rich strategic space with many nooks and crannies. It's still about multiple ways of scoring points, but I had fun experimenting and exploring the various possibilities.
    Russian Railroads
  4. Kobayakawa - Microgame. Interested. I decided to buy it right after playing it for the first time. So simple, so clever. If you want to think, there is a lot you can think about. If you don't want to think, you are not necessarily disadvantaged. There's a poker feel to it - there's psychology and bluffing.


  5. Nations - A card-based civ game with no map element, but it has many differences from Through the Ages.


  6. Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy - A game in which you build your family tree. I really enjoy building the tree, and making combos of all the sons- and daughters-in-law which I'm marrying to my children and grandchildren. Other aspects of the game are rather pedestrian though. I wonder whether its star will drop significantly after the lustre of the family tree mechanism wears off, if it does wear off.
  7. Cuba Libre - A complex game with lots of story and history. I think this is best played with exactly four. Two players each controlling two factions is tough to play.

    Cuba Libre

  8. Glass Road - The two key ideas are identifying strong building power combos, and correctly guessing your opponents' intended actions.
  9. Ascension: Rise of Vigil, Ascension: Darkness Unleashed - Other than categorising these Ascension expansions under the Happy To Play category, I struggle to actually rank them. I am playing Ascension every day and I don't think about whether I want to play it. It's like breathing.
  10. Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts - I didn't like the Alien Orb module, and by itself it would be Rather Not Play. However I do play this expansion with just the new cards, and I feel right at home with it.
  11. Level 7 [Omega Protocol] - I probably won't play as the dungeon master, because I'm too lazy to read the rules and manage the scenarios. Playing as a soldier? Count me in! I'm happy to shoot some monsters.
  12. UGO - An unusual trick-taking game with a little board element.


  13. The Builders: Middle Ages - A light card game in which you recruit and manage a team of builders and race to construct buildings worth a certain number of victory points.


  14. Viticulture - Allen has this too. I have tried Viticulture now, with the expansion. It's a worker placement game about running a winery. Nothing particularly striking in game mechanisms. One aspect I enjoy is the variety in the cards, which gives different motivations to players and drives them to build different types of wineries.
  15. Wildcatters - I truly like 90% of it, but can't stand the area majority scoring mechanism.


  16. Kashgar - It has an interesting deck-building mechanism, but the rest of the game is nothing special.
  17. Concordia - The rules are very different from Navegador, but they feel similar, because in both games you score in an AxB way, where you try to specialise and focus on your specific A's and B's.


  18. Rialto - Area majority competition, where the values of the areas you are fighting for only get determined bit by bit during the course of the game.
  19. Bremerhaven - The blind bidding is brutal because losers get nothing (other than frustration and a sense of impending doom). This can be good or bad. Some like the ruthlessness and find it exciting. Some can't handle the truth (Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men). Other elements of the game like receiving ships and sending goods off are OK but not particularly memorable.
  20. Lost Legacy - A descendant of Love Letter. I'm interested. Tried it. Felt flat. Maybe it's because I can't avoid comparing it to Love Letter. There are similarities. In terms of strategic depth, it has more. However it doesn't give me the kind of simple fun and surprise which Lover Letter gives me.

    Rather Not Play

  21. Cappuccino - An abstract game for 2 to 4. It reminds me of DVONN, but it is simpler. Among the games that I had already played in the original blog post, this is the only which I downgraded. I have not played it between then and now, it's just that I have lost appetite for abstract games.
  22. Duel of Ages II - A squad-level battle game. I generally don't like this genre. This game has a sci-fi setting, which gives the designer an excuse to pit characters from the past, the present and the future against one another.

    Duel of Ages II

  23. Eight-Minute Empire: Legends - A highly-simplified and streamlined dudes-on-a-map game on the surface, an area majority game under the hood. I don't think dudes-on-a-map games need to be streamlined. They are more fun when they are epic.
  24. Coin Age - I still don't get this microgame. It has a clever mechanism, which is equivalent to flipping multiple coins at the same time to determine what action you get to do. I feel there is still some strategy or some tactics which I have not fully grasped, but at the moment I've lost interest to continue to probe.
  25. Stone & Relic - I only remember it's a card game and I didn't enjoy it.

Have Not Played

Here are some which I have heard of but have not played.

  1. Caverna - I do like Agricola a lot, but I'm not particularly keen to see what Agricola 2 is like. What's wrong with Agricola?
  2. Eldritch Horror - I've read good things.
  3. Legendary: Dark City
  4. Lewis & Clark - Another one I'm interested to try. I have read the rules and made a rule summary. Unfortunately I regular kaki's at are not too keen about this so I still have not managed to play it. They have tried it before. Dith experimented with an unthematic strategy (fall behind to gather resources, then sprint all the way to the finish line), which ended up beating all other strategies, so the game felt broken to them.
  5. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords
  6. Bora Bora
  7. Bruges
  8. BattleCON
  9. Battlelore (2nd edition)
  10. Forbidden Desert - I should try this, since I liked Forbidden Island and found it different enough from Pandemic.
  11. Pandemic: In the Lab
  12. Bruxelles 1893 - I like the artwork.
  13. 1775: Rebellion - Interested to try.
  14. Amerigo
  15. Euphoria - Allen has this.
  16. Rococo
  17. Francis Drake
  18. Spyrium
  19. Quantum
  20. Madeira
  21. Sushi Go!
  22. A Study in Emerald - Martin Wallace design.
  23. Terror in Meeple City / Rampage
  24. Tash-kalar - Vlaada Chvatil design, but it seems rather abstract, so my interest level is low.
  25. Coal Baron
  26. Star Trek: Attack Wing
  27. Mysterium - Interesting idea, something like a more advanced version of Dixit. One player is a ghost trying to give clues to the others to help them solve a mystery.
  28. Augustus
  29. Concept
  30. Patchistory
  31. Space Cadet: Dice Duel
  32. Nothing Personal
  33. Mascarade
  34. Ticket To Ride: Netherlands - I have collected quite many Ticket To Ride maps, but I don't have this one yet.
  35. A Distant Plain
  36. Robinson Crusoe: Voyage of the Beagle - I have not tried all the scenarios in the base game yet. I should bring out this game again. I quite like it.
  37. Compounded - Allen's copy is on my shelf, but I still have not read the rules. ... and I still have not read the rules...
  38. Relic Runners
  39. Innovation: Figures in the Sand - Innovation is one of my favourite games, but I don't own any of the expansions. Maybe I should consider this.
  40. Cinque Terre
  41. Power Grid: Australia and Indian Subcontinent - I own many Power Grid expansion maps too, but not this one yet.
  42. Kohle & Kolonie
  43. Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia
  44. Canterbury - I think Allen has this one too.
  45. Origin - Very good-looking game. Impressive components.
  46. Dark Darker Darkest - I have read the rules and made a rule summary, but I still haven't played it.
  47. Field of Glory: The Card Game - Martin Wallace design.
  48. Corto
  49. The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey
  50. Gear & Piston
  51. Mars Needs Mechanics
  52. Cafe Melange - Great artwork.