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.


Gary said...

Hi Hiew,

I like most of your choices for board games. My wife and I especially like Patchwork.

Any updates for 2015 or 2016?

Fun Board Games

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Thanks Gary. I have not played all that many 2015 games, so I expect the earliest I'll make the 2015 list is early 2017, allowing myself at least one year to catch up on playing 2015 games.