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Cornjob's Five and Dime List with Commentary - 2012
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I enjoy this little retrospective of my year of gaming. Please feel free to add comments/suggestions.

Note: I count games played online in my total, provided the opponents are live players. This includes long PBEM games, many of which are difficult to arrange to play live. I know not everyone considers these in their totals, but I do.
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1. Board Game: Thunderstone [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:338] [Average Rating:7.08 Unranked]
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50 plays (5 in 2011)

Although I do own this game and a couple expansions, most of these plays were via Yucata.

Previously, I had viewed this as a better-themed but inferior-designed alternative to Dominion. This past year I've altered that opinion pretty dramatically. The primary reason for that was the discovery of head-to-head play. Strategy is much more intricate and rewarding when you're playing a head to head match.

I used to think that random card draws would produce sets of cards that just didn't work....leading to a dud game. That may be true to some degree, but I found that after playing enough to become familiar with the range of enemies in each grouping, my deck construction became much more strategic. Occasionally there would be sets of cards where I knew I was unlikely to be able to defeat some of the tougher enemies...but there are other ways to address that. You can intentionally attack and lose a battle. You can buy cards that cycle through the enemies deck more quickly. There are ways to address monsters beyond the obvious attack/kill strategy.

Finally, I gained a strong appreciation for the use of tempo in my strategic planning. Some decks require purchasing a few cards to get things to work in sync. But you can make choices which will push the game faster, and sometimes I could foil my opponent by not having a superior deck....but by having a FASTER deck. The game ended just when they were really getting everything geared towards cycling the badguys. (And I've also lost in this way, taking too long to get it together.)

Anyway, I doubt I'll get the physical game on the table much in the coming year, but I suspect I'll continue to enjoy a few plays on Yucata. I'd be pretty excited if they added more cards (from expansions) to the site to give additional options. Final thought: I prefer Thunderstone above Dominion by a large amount now. I'm ready to part with my Dominion collection entirely.
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2. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:154]
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25 plays (2 in 2011)

I know that St Petersburg was a fairly popular game when it came out. But somehow I just missed it completely. Due to some Geekbuddy ratings and comments, I did add a copy to my collection, but it never really got much/any play. I think those 2 plays last year were my first ever.

About half of this year's plays were online and half face to face. I played with all different player counts (including 2p, though I don't favor it as a 2p dueling game) and also with the expansions and without.

I feel like I've discovered all the basic strategies...and I'm finding that it feels they're converging a bit into a similar way to play every game. In other words, I don't find myself succeeding with a variety of approaches to the game. I play pretty much the same way every game now. And I have a pretty good rate of success with this.

So, it seems like I'm getting towards the end of this game's life for replay value. However, inexplicably, I'm still enjoying playing it. At least for now, I suspect there will be a few more (less) plays next year. But I also wouldn't be surprised if a future play I just decide I'm done with it. I WOULD be surprised to find that there is a new vista of strategy to breathe life into the title, but maybe that could happen too.
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3. Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:71]
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23 plays (0 in 2011)

I bought this game on a strong recommendation from Jay Little. I also have virtually no history with CCGs or other similar formats. (I've played a bit of Magic, Star Wars CCG, etc, enough to understand how the genre works, but never got snagged.) Due to some philosophical feelings, I reject the blind purchase model that most CCGs employ. So the notion of a LCG where I know exactly what I get in the box created an opening for this style, and a pretty fresh game experience for me.

Couple that with a love of the LOTR theme, and I thought Jay's recommendation was worth pursuing. At the time I started playing, I thought it was going to be a nice fit for me because of the possibility for solo play. The pleasant surprise was finding that the 2p cooperative approach provided me with a fantastic gaming option for 2p games to play with my wife. We kind of started there and have run with it.

I received several expansions (adventure packs, etc) as Christmas gifts (and I got a few for myself, too). We're still early into this, but looking forward to working our way through the sequence. I'm not quite yet into the more involved deck-construction level of strategy. That's the next phase for me.

Anyway, I look forward to this being a game that is probably going to see play exclusively with my wife and I as a team. Possibly I'll play it in a different setting, but my regular game-playing doesn't really make that seem like a strong contender. I kind of enjoy thinking about it that way. Its "our" game. At any rate, I expect more plays in the coming year (probably eclipsing this year's initial flurry).
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4. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:39]
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12 plays (31 in 2011)

Crokinole remains a "10" game for me. A couple years ago I splurged to purchase a Hilinki board. Its beautiful, and its a blast. I enjoy teaching the game to new players. Its fun to play with my kids, older generations, at regular game nights, etc.

I look forward to continuing the annual crokinole tourney I organize at Geekway.

I'd like to think that my level of play is improving....but in truth it probably isn't. I remain an enthusiastically mediocre player. I expect double digit plays to continue ad infinitum until I run out of years.
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5. Board Game: Slappy Hands [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
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12 plays (5 in 2011)

Gary Heidenreich gifted me a copy of this game at Geekway. What a generous and thoughtful gesture! (He's one of the principle designers). Anyway, we've put it to good use. The kids LOVE IT!

Yes, this is pretty much a drinking game, or a bar game, or a fluffy piece of nothing dexterity game. But its also widely appealing and fun to play.

I think we'll continue to play it occasionally (mostly with the kids) although if my sticky hands (the playing pieces) deteriorate and break, its unlikely I'd replace them to keep the game in playing shape. They do, eventually, wear out. (Faster with the way we play it.) But so far things are holding up pretty well...and I've only lost a couple from the surplus supply Gary included. As of today, I have the 3rd most plays logged on BGG for this game. I'm strangely proud of that fact.
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6. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:4]
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11 plays (18 in 2011)

All of these plays were via PBEM. In fact, I sold my copy of this game. Although I very much enjoy playing and admire the design, there was just almost no chance of getting it on the table. The rules overhead and the duration of game play with new players make it prohibitive.

That said, its ideal for the PBEM format. The expansion cards also enliven the design after a few dozen plays.

I bet I'll get another spell of plays in and see this on my list next year, but maybe not double digits.
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7. Board Game: A la carte [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1103]
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10 plays (1 in 2011)

Initially, I enjoyed this as a light and quick game played at our regular game night. Then, I introduced it to my developmentally disabled daughter....and she whooped me a few times.

There was nothing she had to read. The theme is self-evident, and most of the play choices are intuitive based on the well-integrated theme. The duration of the game doesn't overstay its welcome. But best of all, here is a fun 4p dexterity game that she can win at with no modifications needed. I can try my best, and she'll win more than I will. I take special notice when I find good fun games to play in a multi-generational setting, where the kids have as good (or better) chances of winning without the adults having to take the foot off the gas.

In fact, I gave her her own copy of the game for Christmas. I look forward to several more plays in the coming year...though maybe not quite to the double digits like this year.
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8. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:91]
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10 plays (0 in 2011)

I picked this up (the black box reprint) from a prize table. I'd heard multiple times and from multiple respected sources that it was a good game. But the original art is just painfully garish. This is one of the few games that I couldn't bring myself to even try based on the appearance. So the classy reprint gave me a chance to discover this game fresh (to me) this year. I'm very glad that I did!

More surprising was how much my wife also enjoys it. We've played it lots of times, but not ever as a 2p battle. (I'm not so big on 2p gaming in general, and when I do its most frequently to play wargames.) Maybe I need to come back and try this in that format....but for now its been a periodic game night game with multiple players.

I remember my first playing, seeing new buildings being built (and learning the possibilities for the first time) and thinking, "That's game-breaking!" about the functions of a building. Then the next building was built by someone else and I thought, "THAT'S game-breaking too!" I love that there are so many paths to victory, and that there are opportunities for some really clever combinations. This game continues to feel fresh. I hope I get lots of play in the coming year, but I suspect it will fall off a bit.
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9. Board Game: Friday [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:241]
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8 plays (0 in 2011)

This is an interesting little solitaire game from Friese. I tend to enjoy his designs, although I don't follow his output as closely as I used to.

Often, solitaire games feel like puzzle solving. Here, he's created a type of deck-building feature into the game. It feels less like a puzzle-solving exercise. There is a bit of luck, but your approach to a given set of pirate cards makes a big difference. The game also provides several skill levels to try, to give it some longevity.

I will probably play a few more times, but I suspect I've discovered about all there is to this one. It was a fun journey though, and well worth the cost of the game.
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10. Board Game: Brass [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:15]
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7 plays (12 in 2011)

A long-time favorite. I've been a bit dismayed to find that I think my skill in playing this game is deteriorated. I can't quite figure out what I'm doing wrong, but I find myself frequently having a hard time executing a strategy in the 2nd half of the game. The good thing is that this just inspires me to enjoy more plays. I'm glad there's a good online implementation, too.

I expect I'll continue to have repeated playings. I also own Age of Industry, but Brass gets more play. I wish there had been a few expansion maps for Brass (I know there is the France map online) to give it a bit more variety. I've had a harder time getting Age of Industry on the table. I think the games are different enough that I am glad to own both, but Brass still wins the head to head comparison.
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11. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:482]
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7 plays (1 in 2011)

Initially, I thought of Can't Stop as a light little push-your-luck dice filler. And it is that. BUT, as I've played more and more I start to realize there are some subtleties that reward thoughtful play. The probabilities are a lot more complicated than at first blush, and there are actually multiple strategic paths. I don't mean to overstate that, but if you find that you are a bit behind, you can CHOOSE to take on greater risk (and I don't mean just deciding to roll extra times) with greater potential reward.

I bet I'll end up with even more plays over the coming year. I find that there are some elements to this game I want to explore more (and see whether I'm rewarded with a better win percentage).
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12. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:111]
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6 plays (2 in 2011)

The more I play this one (and I AM getting a little better) the more I appreciate the genius of the design. I enjoy the 18xx genre, and there is quite a bit of variety. But I think most 18xx players will tell you there is something special about 1830. It holds up to replay better than almost any other title. There are multiple strategic branches to explore. There are ways to orchestrate situations that allow catch-up if you lag (up to a point....incompetent play will be impossible to recover from).

Its just such a work of design genius that I find myself wondering how much of it was deliberate on Francis Tresham's part, and how much was happy accident. I don't think he gets enough credit as a game designer (he also did the formidable Civilization).

I bet I'll continue to get some regular plays. I should mention, I find the recent reprint to be pretty disappointing. The variants published in it (I've tried most of them) are clearly not well play-tested and seem fairly random. They seem to be careless of the ramifications the new rules have on the basic game. The production was intended to be a deluxe version, but they managed to create components that are much less playable than the old Avalon Hill printing. Finally, and most damning, the game ignores a vernacular and tile numbering system that has been established in the 18xx community as a standard, instead employing a novel and clumsy numbering system. What better way to tell your primary target audience that you don't care what they think, or at best that you are ignorant of the game you're reprinting. If I knew all that, I'd have just kept my Avalon Hill copy and not bothered with the Mayfair one. But I'm not motivated about the issue enough to bother changing it now.

Many of my plays occur via PBEM and Rails, and I suspect that will allow me to continue to have a handful of new playings in the coming year.
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13. Board Game: American Rails [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:889]
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6 plays (0 in 2011)

This is one of my favorite new games (new to me) of 2012. Its the basic engine of Wabash Cannonball (Chicago Express) but refined and with a genius turn order mechanism and almost a worker placement method of choosing actions. Best of all, the starting cities are not defined....so the game lends itself to incredible variability and replay value.

I hope to continue getting regular table time with this title. It will be a stretch for me to manage 6 playings, I'm guessing. Since Queen is reprinting several economic train games (many Winsome titles) I think this would be an ideal game for them to pick up for wider (and deluxe) release.
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14. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:135] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
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6 plays (5 in 2011)

My resurgence with Arkham Horror (not exactly a rediscovery, since I pretty much dismissed it after my first exposure years ago) continued into 2012. This year, we played with several different groups. I introduced most (but not all yet) of the expansions. I taught quite a few new players, and I think I've gotten better at introducing it. As a cooperative narrative-driven game, Arkham Horror has one excellent feature where a whole group can enjoy playing but not everyone has to experts on the details of all the rules.

I am not sure we'll get up to the same play count again. A couple games in a similar genre are probably going to compete for table time: Zombicide and Mansions of Madness.
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15. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:10]
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6 plays (0 in 2011)

Another game new to me this year. This is a significant game design. The idea of a flexible multiplayer "4x" game has been a bit of a holy grail in gaming. ("4x" meaning: explore, expand, exploit, exterminate). I think 4x also implies a technology research tree. Anyway, there have been many attempts, and Twilight Imperium is probably the previously most notable boardgame effort (though I'd argue that Babylon 5: CGS and Space Empires 4X were both better games). In video games, I remember enjoying Master of Orion 2.

Anyway, I could say a lot about Eclipse....but I'll just say this: its a game that shows a lot of thoughtful finesse went into the design. I know there are detractors, but the more I play and the better I get to know the game, the more I see the ramifications of certain design choices. And it just "works". The thing I like the most is that it rewards a diversity of strategic paths. Subtle differences among the races reward different approaches, but it doesn't dictate a strategy to you (in contrast, say, to a game like Chaos in the Old World).

There is a lot of local enthusiasm, so I'll be surprised if I don't get a chance to keep this on the 5 and dime list next year.
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16. Board Game: Infiltration [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:854]
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6 plays (0 in 2011)

I picked this one up based on the theme and the designer, without knowing much more about it. Its a push-your-luck style game where you are part of a group progressively breaking deeper into a cooperate building to steal data. There are threats, and there are competitors trying to get to the loot before you.

We played it several times, and its fun....but I think we're probably done with it. Its not that the game doesn't have decent replay value. Its just that the experience itself is not novel enough to support repeated playings (at least for my regular group).

I'll probably trade this one off and doubt I'll play it more than once or twice more.
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17. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:19]
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5 plays (2 in 2011)

My wife really likes this game, so its a bit more likely to see table time. However, a couple regulars in our game group are pretty lukewarm to it, so it hasn't been as popular as it might be. I picked up the Leaders expansion, and we've played with it once. I think it adds to the game in an interesting way.

There aren't many games that scale well to 7 players without adding a lot more playing time or downtime. 7 Wonders is pretty remarkable in that way.

The biggest beefs are that:

1) You have limited interaction with players who aren't your neighbors. Sure, if you are playing alert you can bury cards that other players across the table are hoping to get. But its a pretty indirect interaction, and not particularly satisfying.

2) Your ability to pursue a given strategy is only partly a deliberate choice. You just may not see the cards that would really allow your strategy to work. So the game becomes very tactical, and luck takes on a bigger contribution.

For me, I don't mind that so much since its quick-playing. The thing I find the most frustrating is that we have to take time to tally up all the scores at game end.

I suspect we'll continue to play this one steadily, but it may be hard to get back to the 5 and dime list again.
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18. Board Game: Battle Beyond Space [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:2911]
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5 plays (0 in 2011)

This was a long-anticipated game, and it more than lived up to the hype. This is a fantastic, quick-playing little space battle. Frank Branham did a marvelous job of distilling this game down to the essential elements, but leaving it with a flavorful theme.

There's a bit of luck, but it rarely feels like bad luck was the decider of the game. There is more of trying to bluff or out-think your opponents.

I expect that we'll continue to get lots of plays locally, and probably eclipse my playings from this past year. I certainly hope so.
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19. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:255]
Chester
United States
Temple
Texas
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5 plays (0 in 2011)

I'd played this when it first came out. Then I rediscovered it as a PBEM game. I doodled around with it for a few games. It was fun, but I confirm my original opinion which is that there really isn't anything remarkable about the game to inspire repeat playings. There are already enough little route games that do similar things to satisfy me. I don't need this one, and I won't miss it.

Maybe I'll play more in the coming year if I get an opponent that is interested, but I doubt it.
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20. Board Game: Pop N' Drop Penguins [Average Rating:4.17 Unranked]
Chester
United States
Temple
Texas
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Games that Dropped off the List from 2011:

Ticket to Ride (2 plays vs 40)
Mord im Arosa (0 plays vs 10)
Combat Commander: Europe (3 plays - a travesty - vs 9)
The Resistance (1 play vs 8)
Stuff Yer Face (0 plays vs 7)
Battling Tops (3 plays vs 6)
Isla Dorada (3 plays vs 6)
Mutant Chronicles (0 plays vs 6)
Discworld Ankh-Morpork (0 plays vs 5)
Dungeonquest 3rd Edition (0 plays vs 5)
Liars Dice (3 plays vs 5) I'm surprised at this one not getting more play.
Pitchcar (1 play vs 5)
Tigris and Euphrates (0 plays vs 5) Another shocker!
Werewolf (0 plays vs 5) Mostly replaced by The Resistance these days.
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21. Board Game: The Cigar Game [Average Rating:4.17 Unranked]
Chester
United States
Temple
Texas
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Close But No Cigar (games that got 4 plays)

Navegador
Starship Merchant
The Omega Virus
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22. Family: 18xx
Chester
United States
Temple
Texas
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My favorite genre deserves special mention, with 20 games played over the course of the year:

1830 - 6 plays
1812 - 3 plays
1856 - 2 plays
18TN - 2 plays
1835 - 1 play
1844 - 1 play
1846 - 1 play
1865 Sardinia - 1 play
1880: China - 1 play
1889 - 1 play
2038 - 1 play

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