[Hi there! It’s Jamie from the future (I get about a bit). With the COVID-19 pandemic, these opinions might change as I may get to play some of these games either online or with my partner. Take this as the first iteration, and maybe in a few months we shall see.]
2020. A year of clarity some might say.
At the beginning of the year, I set myself the closest thing to a resolution that I have made in years: Thin out my collection of board games.
I have had an odd few years of gaming. Most of 2018, I wasn’t doing much gaming mainly due to mental health
This is the first of several articles I plan to write throughout the year. I’m going to go through the games I currently have and judge:
– How long it has been since I played it
– Whether there is some sentiment attached to it
– if I am happy to keep it in my collection.
Just because a game might leave my collection doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, it is maybe just more that I have had fun with it and the time is right for it to move on, maybe to another abode where it can receive some more love and attention.
Sometimes I might throw all those considerations out the window. But we shall see.
Also, I backed some of these game on Kickstarter. There is always going to be a degree of… I don’t know? Confirmation bias? Whatever the right phrase might be, there is always going to be a feeling wanting a game you Kickstarted to be a good one, as it may justify your expenditure on it on promise alone. I’ll try to be a bit more objective about some of them (and will note which they are when they crop up) but no one can ever truly be 100% objective.
The games will be grouped into three categories:
KEEP- staying in the collection
MAYBE- they need one last shot before I give my final ruling
MOVE ON- We’ve had some fun together, but now it’s time to say goodbye (and I may cry a little)
1960: The Making of a President: A theme that I thought couldn’t make for an interesting game and was delighted to be proved wrong. Educational enough that the electoral college seems to make sense (in that it doesn’t), enough of a fun area control game and it cracks along at a good pace despite some fiddly mechanisms (Issues Track is essential but easy to forget, and the turn that is just the Debates is again fun but a minigame in itself that is thematic but pulls you off the main board.) Hail to the KEEP?
Age of War: Dice-rolling territory claiming set in Sengoku-era Japan. Quick, simple, engaging and I’ve got several friends buying their own copies since playing it. After all, how hard is it to roll six swords? KEEP.
Bargain Quest: KSed the base game, played it then bought the Black Market expansion. Haven’t played with that yet. It’s a fine game but maybe it’s not struck me the way I either expected or wanted it to. Although I do enjoy going full Ferengi. MAYBE for now and that’s my final offer, although I’m open to haggling.
Biblios: Monastic manuscript making, with auctions, set collection and rigging the points value of the sets. It’s a small, quick and frankly brutal game, and the mechanics of spending money cards to buy set cards and set cards to buy money cards is exquisitely tense. KEEP locked up like a grimoire in my gaming aedificium.
Blood Bowl (plus a bunch of teams): I have an interesting relationship with Blood Bowl, which I might share sometime, but I bought into the newest version when it first came out and played in a league in Edinburgh. Since moving back in 2017, I have played once. I would like to play more. I have four teams to play with and I’m sure some friends in Glasgow would be up for a game. But it’s a game of two halves, so it’s a MAYBE from the ref for now.
Bosk: Bought at UKGE 2019. I enjoyed the demo we had (even if I lost spectacularly) and the artwork from Kwanchai Moriya is sublime. Thing is, apart from punching the pieces out, I’ve had no drive to play it. Its main competition is from Photosynthesis, which is an unfair comparison as they are two very different games. MAYBE it’ll turn over a new leaf.
Brew Crafters: Oh boy, this is an odd one. Beer making has become a much more common theme in the past few years, but I was hooked by a review of this heavy worker-placement on the Dice Tower about seven years ago, and sought it for a long time. I finally found a copy in 2016 and bought it. I’ve played it twice, and that was in six months of buying it. I really want to play it more, but I worry that the nostalgia I had for it when playing was rose ale-tinted. KEEP for now, but I’ll let the game ferment and see if it’s still fizzing in my brain later.
Cash n’ Guns: Who doesn’t love pointing foam guns at each other? (ok, several people I know). It has been about five years since I played this copy and although I really love it as a party game, I’m not sure if I find it too simple, or I’ve just lost it too many times because my bluffing skills aren’t great. MAYBE I’m bluffing (or am I? No I’m not… but am I?)
Captain Sonar: Oh boy. I don’t regularly get the chance to hang around with seven other friends, and if I do it’s for Roleplaying or just to chill out. With that being said, I bloody love Captain Sonar. But I notice that I buy a lot of games that I would love to play but the lack of willing people hampers me somewhat. That and Captain Sonar needing a buttload of table space and seven other people in the right frame of mind for the madness. It’s a KEEP for now, but time and consideration will tell.
Carcassonne: The classic. My aunt gave me our copy. It’s a fine game, but that’s all it really is outside of playing with family. I’m thinking passing it onto my mum to hold onto for family gatherings. MOVE ON inside the family but off the shelf here.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig: My partner loves it and has threatened me with retribution if it leaves the shelves. I still have a plan to make a random RPG dungeon with the room tiles one of these days. The thing is though, I haven’t played it in over two years. But nevertheless, I love the game and will probably KEEP it.
Chrononauts: One of the first games in my collection, bought instead of Tsuro. It’s the only game I’ve played that can end with the destruction of the universe, which is… y’know… fun… but it has been somewhat subsumed by other card games that set up quicker, play snappier and have some meat about them. I’m KEEPing it for now, it’s not going anywhere, but I’m swithering slightly. Maybe it’s time to get it back out and get into my evil TARDIS. Also the game usually devolves into a punch-up of time travellers trying to kill or not kill Hitler. (as your secret mission dictates)
Cockroach Poker: Game of the Year for me last year. Unsurprisingly a KEEPER.
Codinca: Simple, good looking tile flipper but ultimately feels a tiny bit shallow. I played it a lot for about six months to a year but it’s sat quietly on the shelf. MAYBE it’s time to flip to another owner?
Colt Express: Yee-haw? The programming game I have had most fun with (Dragon and Flagon was a massive disappointment, and Roborally was… actually I need to play Roborally again to get a good idea of it) and the 3D train board is gorgeous. Slap on the stagecoach expansion and the game sings with fun, silliness and anger as “Why did you do that to me! GAH!” rings around the table. Not a lot of people I game with like programming games, so I find myself in the minority and it’s been sitting idling in the station for a while. MAYBE the train needs to be put out to pasture (I don’t know what you do with old trains. Turn them into restaurants?)
Cytosis: KSed. I’ve played it twice since receiving it about three years ago. I really like Genius Games’ USP and brought back good memories of Higher Biology classes. It’s definitely MAYBE and I’ll examine it more before I consider cell-ing it.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong: An excellent party-ish game. Like Captain Sonar it needs more people than I have been playing with over the past few years and needs a particular mindset to grapple with its thinking puzzles and bluffing. MAYBE this will be its last case before retirement.
Deep Sea Adventure: The set up is like something out of the RPG Paranoia. One submarine, two to six adventurers and only one tank of air between you. The cautious creep down and frantic scramble up are both tense as you all play an aquatic game of Chicken until someone breaks for the sub. It’s fast and funny, but when you play three games in a row and everyone loses each time, the fun begins to ebb slightly. I’ll KEEP my eye on the other divers and see how this goes. They won’t betray me again… would they?
Dinosaur Island: KSed. I sprung for the metal coins so this is a heavy box. The fluorescent art is a winner for me, but I have played the game maybe three times in two years and only one of them was a full game (the most recent version with Iain and Iain). I’m going to KEEP it for now and try and get some more games. The game will, uh, find a way.
Dobble: Quick, easy, portable, all ages and abilities can sit down and yell “This game is broken! I see nothing!” I love introducing this to people. Solid KEEP
Dune: I’ve only played one third of a game since getting it, but those three turns were nail biting, hilarious and stressful. Never trust anyone when playing it. But you can trust me. There are plans afoot to play soon [Jamie from the future here. Likely online now.] and hopefully this might solidify my thoughts on this mighty monster. Dune is one of my favourite books and the game has hooked me, so right now this is a definite STAY.
Ex Libris: The book-sorting puzzle is my favourite part of this by far. The book titles are a very, very close second. The text colour and size on location cards is a pain and I’ve had to print off some reference sheets so we can discern them properly. Despite this issue, I’m going to KEEP a space in the E’s for it.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue: My favourite co-op game. Some of the advanced rules are a bit murky, but the hilarity and panic make this game sing for me. I do have too many expansions for it, half of which I have never played with. KEEP the base game, KEEP Dangerous Waters because I love the Submarine map, KEEP Tragic Events (which I KSed) as it makes the fire spreading more fun, but the others are definite maybes. Alarm bells are beginning to ring slightly, but that might be because I left the bacon in the oven too long.
Fog of Love: A very situational game, but I love the role-playing element that emerges through the relationship, or when you add two friends to sit and react to the relationship unfolding. I bought the Paranormal Romance expansion and haven’t played it yet for some reason. It’s possible I’m still in a cooling-off period after playing a lot of it when I bought it. KEEP for now. I still love it.
Forbidden Desert: If someone has not played a co-op game before, I usually suggest Forbidden Desert first as I find the learning curve slightly gentler than Flash Point or Magic Maze. Tentative KEEP for now, but maybe a MAYBE.
Forbidden Stars: Never played, bought in a stupid panic when I heard about the ending of the FFG/GW license. I’d like to play it, but also I’m unsure when I’ll get people who are interested or have the time. MOVE ON through the Immaterium to another loyal servant of the Imperium (or Heretic or Xenos, I don’t judge).
The Forest Dragon: It’s a simple push-your-luck game that was designed and illustrated by a nine year old child. It’s simple fun, but too simple for me. My partner however has already invoked the Ancient And Inimitable Rite of Bagsie to take this for use at her work. So it’s a KEEP for the foreesable.
Game of Thrones Board Game: Second Edition: Bought by my partner six years ago and we have never played it together, although I have played with friends on their copies. Like Dune, trust no one. Except me. And maybe Dune will supplant this. If so, I think it’s time we bid adieu to this Box of Chance and Liars and MOVE ON.
Gentlemen Thieves: The art, the theme (Arsene Lupin heisting) and the semi-co-op mechanics initially appealed to me, but whilst the art still looks great, I find myself picking other games for that same thrill. I realise now that semi-co-op games aren’t really something I’m a big fan of (potential hypocrisy alert) and whilst maybe Gentlemen Thieves isn’t a bad game, it’s just alright at what it does. MOVE ON time, the fuzz is coming.
Jamaica: One of my favourite games, hands down. Quick to teach, looks gorgeous and the game itself is hilarious fun. Shame about the thematic yet impractical rulebook. I also have the Crew expansion, which I have played with once since getting three years ago. KEEP for both, but the expansion needs playing.
K2: Another of my favourites. I got my cousins and uncle playing it at Christmas a year ago, and not only did my uncle win, he told my cousin he really enjoyed the game. I love the tactical card play, the slow but tense race as you creep up the mountain as the weather fluctuates. I have the Lhotse expansion, which I have not played yet but have only had it for a few months (I know, I know). KEEP both.
Karuba: Slightly problematic theme aside (exploring a jungle to pillage colour co-ordinated loot from temples), Karuba hooks me with the same puzzle that faces everyone, and the myriad ways players choose to solve it, added into the race element that sees your explorers blundering down half-finished paths and getting waylaid at chokepoints you built for yourself. This is being KEPT, although not in a museum.
King of Tokyo: The game that got me into the modern board game hobby. Got it out recently to play with a friend from work, and remembered how much I love the simple yet brutal play. Also the only game I have entered a tournament for, and also came first. KEEP for this and the Power Up! Expansion.
Kill Team: Fifteen years ago I collected Warhammer 40k, and said I would never do it again… until some friends starting collecting again last year and I thought “I’ll only get a few models.” I now have about 25 models, and am aiming for only six more. I’m having fun actually painting my models for once. KEEPing for my mates, and for The Master of Mankind!
Kingdomino: One of the few games I have introduced to my work (children aged five to twelve) and it has gone down well. It’s enjoyable, and I generally wouldn’t turn down a game, but my interest has waned slightly over the years, and my partner has again initiated the Law of Bagsie for her work. MOVE ON to my partner’s KEEPing.
Las Vegas: The poster-game for never judging a book by its cover, or in this case a game by its box. I first played this at Dice Roll Cafe last year, and whilst initially put off by the Ravensburger box art, I fell in love with the dice placement mechanics. Gambling and Las Vegas itself had never really interested me as a theme, but I’ve really enjoyed this game and it’s now one of my go-to intro games. KEEP and may I roll enough of the same number to get that sweet sweet do-re-mi!
Letters from Whitechapel: I bought this for my partner, and we bloody love this game. The knife-edge tension every turn as Jack sneaks about and the police slowly close in. Games have ended in one move, and some have gone on for two hours. It can drag in those long games. I’m going to KEEP hot on the trail.
Love Letter: I now have two copies. Another quick, simple and fun game that is great to introduce people to. One copy (the older AEG copy) sits in my locker at work, the other (the newer Z-Man copy) sits on my shelf. So MOVE ON but also STAY. Does that make sense?
Magic Maze: The box art is generic and kinda bland, the theme (fantasy heroes stealing gubbins from a shopping mall) is paper-thin but the tension of silently glaring your pal or banging a big red pawn in front of them is worth it. I’ve not had it out of the box in several years (normal excuses here) but it didn’t stop me getting the much vaunted expansion which now sits gathering dust in the same box. Time to find a willing group methinks, hold the muzak. MAYBE we’ll find out if it’s kept its magic.
Machi Koro: Bright Lights Big City: Bought by my partner, so I can’t really do much with it without their say so. It’s the most fun version of Machi Koro that I’ve played, and it’s not bad at all, but for that’s the problem: It’s not bad. Also the box is too big. I’ve moved all bar the rulebook into a mobile phone box. I need to talk to my partner, as it is technically (read: definitely) hers. I’m awaiting building permission, so this is a MAYBE.
Merchants and Marauders: This is the kind of game I wish the Firefly board game had been, with the chance to attack players from the off. Is it fair? At times no. The combat is messy as heck, and can be brutal. Is it long? Yes. Is it fun? Yes. Is it a game I get to the table regularly? Oh heck no. It’s a tentative KEEP, but time will tell if I get on the high Caribbean seas again soon.
Microbrew: KSed. Making beer is a theme I don’t think appreciated how much I like until recently. I quite enjoyed the puzzle-y fun of Microbrew, and the size is awesome, but also it’s a tiny bit fiddly and hard to pack away properly. Fun, enjoyable and lovingly tiny, but maybe it’s time to MOVE ON.
Museum Rush: I was charmed by Museum Rush at my first UKGE in 2018. It’s a light and quick heist game akin to Burgle Bros but competitive over co-operative. The dice-rolling safe-cracking is a nice element, but the price of failure is slight and if one lucky thief gets ahead, there’s little chance of catching up. Let’s MOVE ON to the next heist, bagsie the diamonds.
Noir: Bought on a whim, and I’ve only played the first mode- Killer vs Inspector. It feels a bit like Letters from Whitechapel-lite with the Killer slipping away, and lasts just long enough. Again this is a game I have only scratched the surface of, but I’m unsure if I want to look deeper, as I would need up to eight other players. MAYBE this clue will lead me somewhere?
Photosynthesis: The phrase ‘knife fight in a phone booth’ is a well-worn cliche, but I believe Photosynthesis can be a good contender for it. Not only does it look gorgeous and has a great table presence, things can get heated as seeds are hurled to fertilise the juiciest spots, only to have your mighty tree be literally shadowed by your opponents that take all the yummy light. It’s also a game without any luck involved which can put people off when they find out they’re playing Leaf-Chess. Despite this, Ultimate Arboreal Combat is an evergreen part of my collection and will KEEP around for a while.
Quoridor: I love this abstract strategy for its simplicity. I may be rubbish at it, but that simplicity belies a nice tactical depth but can again lean heavily towards the skill-only end of games. KEEP for simple fun.
Raiders of the North Sea: Yet another worker placement, but plays with the formula nicely with the ‘place one, pick up one’ mechanic. The artwork is lovely, the box is small and the game keeps me coming back for more. I have the Hall of Heroes expansion, but as usual I haven’t played it yet. We’ll KEEP raiding, Skål!
Raptor: You get to play as a big mother Raptor, killing meddling humans. Or you’re the meddling hunt…err scientists, capturing the Raptor babies. Tactical fun, excellent Vincent DuTrait art, it’s a shame I haven’t played it more recently. KEEP an eye open, we’re being hunted.
Rhino Hero: aka “The best game from under £10” (although Cockroach Poker fights for the crown). A simple reverse Jenga-alike with charming art, addictive play and an increasing wobbly table presence. KEEP
Rhino Hero Super Battle: More Rhino Hero. More tactical play, more strategic wall and floor placement, more hilarity. A solid KEEP
Root: KSed most recent expansion. It took some time to warm up for me, but I got hooked on the gorgeous art and vicious woodland skirmishes. It is one of the games that has fueled my affection for asymmetric gameplay. It will KEEP a space on the shelf for a while to come.
Scrabble: I like word games (my proficiency less so) and Scrabble is still a good game. I don’t know who I can play it with, as my partner dislikes word games. MAYBE is worth 12 points.
Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan: My second GMT game, and another game I’ve never had a full game of due to time. The blocks as units are wonderfully tactile and worrying as your opponent moves a large stack towards you but might be full of units they cannot actually field. Cards instead of dice to deploy units are nice and tense, as well as Loyalty Challenge cards at the right moment to make opposing units defect. It’s just such a long game with lots of little bits that are historically important and relevant but seem slightly bitty from a gaming perspective. That’s not enough to make me dislike the game though. KEEP until get a full game at least.
Scrawl: Iain M’s game of the year last year, and usually guaranteed to incite giggles and gales of laughter at the questionable art skills that are deployed. My one quibble is the eventual repetitiveness of the cards. There are only so many variations of a drawing of “raised by squirrels” for example. But it’s a solidly silly game and always fun. KEEP.
Shakespeare: One of the few theatre-based board games, and probably the best in my humble opinion. A worker placement (surprise!) that has players writing the script (all three acts), costuming the actors and building the set whilst making sure you pay your actors (remember that folks) and keeping the company happy. Did I mention you only have a week? It’s frantic, gorgeous to look at and a game I enjoy with my acting and gaming mates. To keep or not to keep? That is the question. No it’s not, KEEP.
Skull: Classic bluffing. I prefer my bluffing with a bit more substance however. My partner has bagsied this game as well for her work. MOVE ON to KEEP in my partner’s ‘edutainment stash’.
Space Swarm: A ‘my-first-space-skirmish’ game. Simple rules, very cheap (seriously. Two fleets of twelve ships each, dice, scenery, range/movement ruler and rules all for under £10), and it’s good fun. I need to get other people to play it with. I also have the expansion, which is also cheap and brings two extra factions into play. MAYBE time to warp out of here.
Survive! Escape From Atlantis: I was persuaded to buy this game over Evolution many years ago, and I’m glad I was easily swayed. A desperate scramble for boats and safety as the island crumbles, the monsters circle and the other players laugh maniacally and they choose where the island sinks and how the monsters feed. Plays normally with four, and with an expansion it plays up to six, which gets very busy (maybe too busy) and leads to lots of arguments. Two expansions are alongside- the 5-6 player, and the Giant Squids, the latter of which I haven’t played with… noticing a theme?) It’s a solid laugh and I have fond memories of bringing it to university to keep us busy. KEEP.
Sushi Go!: I never understood what drafting was until I played Sushi Go! And I love it. Cute art, nice simple drafting strategies and it’s very portable. KEEP for the next course.
Ticket to Ride Europe: The classic game of trains. A game I have almost accidentally table-flipped twice. I bought Europe for my partner, along with the UK/Pennsylvania and Asia expansions. We have not played Asia in the two years since I got it for her. It’s Ticket to Ride, a modern classic. KEEP because I have no idea, it’s not mine.
Tortuga 1667: KSed. Piratey bluffing and sneaky teams that has box masquerading as a book. That’s cool, and the game doesn’t outstay its welcome and leads to the classic shouting of accusations, mistrust and unfair. It’s kept coming out in several gaming circles and is always good for a chuckle, or a suspicious glare. KEEP, and did you know that musical experts have worked out that all pirate songs are written in the same key? It’s true. Every single song about pirates and sailors was written initially in High C.
Whitechapel Mystery: More Letters-esque asymmetric sleuthing. Quicker, slicker and smaller than Letters, I enjoy it as a bite-size warm up to the main course of Letters, but I’m torn on which I prefer. KEEP for now, and maybe I’ll do a comparison at some point?
So what have I learned from my first fillet?
– I have quite a few expansions for games I enjoy, but haven’t played with them- nine in fact (ten counting the Jamaica expansion, but I have played with it once). I’m going to have to cut down on that. They might make the game more fun, but I have no idea and it smacks of useless expenditure, which is rather stupid considering I’ve had fluctuating financial situations recently. I need to cut that nonsense out.
– I have a number of games I have bought because I really want to play them, but when I have them I find it hard to get a willing group to play them. I had a group like that when I lived in Edinburgh, but situations, lives and schedules are all different and those games end up gathering dust. I am going to have to start considering who, if anyone, will be likely to play this game with me, and does that justify the expense? This is one I’m going to have to mull over a lot.
– I have rather a lot of games with heavy bluffing elements, despite my lack of skill at bluffing. Does that say a lot about me? Yes. Or does it?
In the MAYBE pile
Cash N’ Guns
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Machi Koro: Bright Lights Big City
In the MOVE ON pile:
Carcassonne (to my mums but it still counts)
Le Fantom De L’Opera
This is seems like a good start, but I’m going to try and get the ‘maybe’ pile played as best I can, and I’m going to have to be stricter with myself for next time. Let us hope I haven’t bought any new…