2012: A Year In Games

Musings about games played in 2012
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2012 Medium Heavy Games

Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
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My tastes in games has been steadily moving towards the heavier games for years. In 2012, I was able to accomplish by finding and playing 2 types of heavy games, 18XX games and Splotter games. With 2 exceptions, all of my medium-heavy games fall into one of these two categories. The 2 exceptions are notable in their own right, as both of them are principally card games (although one has a significant board element as well). I could write a blog about each of the below games. Instead, I will try to keep it very short.

1. Antiquity Civ-building is one of my favorite themes and Antiquity captures it beautifully. Many people complain about the quality of components and the fiddliness of picking up all that cardboard. While the components are cardboard (no wood here) and it is fiddly, the game is outstanding. Attempting to balance expansion with achieving your victory condition plus having food and not being overrun by graves and pollution... there's a lot going on and it's a great brain burner. I've played this mostly 2-player with my girlfriend, Amanda, and we generally finish within a turn of each other (although I'm usually the one that is one behind). After 10 plays I feel comfortable with Saint Christoforio, but have no clue how to play the others. Amanda, of course, takes Santa Maria and wins almost every time Although it was a new play in 2012, I expect this to remain a favorite for years to come. (Plays: 10)

2. 1830 If I could have two number ones, this would be my second one. The only reason Antiquity edges it is because Amanda hates 18XX games. On the plus side, my one consistent weekly gaming session since August has been my weekly 18XX game, so I'm still able to get my 18XX fix. I've select 1830 as my top 18XX game in part because it is so well regarded in the community. It has a minimal amount of chrome for an 18XX while rewarding both running companies efficiently and effectively manipulating a predatory stock market. Although it is too early too tell (after only 40+ 18XX games), my gut is that 18XX may have the same level of depth as Chess due in part to the fact that it is multi-player. If so, this may be a game that I attempt to study. As long as my opportunity for weekly plays remain, I expect this to remain a favorite for years to come. (Plays: 8)

3. Through the Ages The only game that was also on this list last year (a second game was moved down to the Medium Weight list). TtA remains one of my favorite games. It is a card-based Civ-building game. After several hundred plays, I am still hooked on it and can't see that changing anytime soon. Most of my plays are online where neither the fiddliness nor the long play time is an issue. Completely expect this to be on my list next year. (Plays: 4 F2F, 106 Online)

4. 1849 Probably placed higher than it should be since I've only played it once, but it was a brutal game and I can't wait to play it again. Definitely not for 18XX noobs, this game is nasty and hard. There's never enough money and the cost of taking loans is being set back for turns when you finally need to pay them back. I got a Print-n-Play version of this and am so happy that I did. I can't wait to get more plays of this. (Plays: 1)

5. 1860 With 3 plays (two 2-player games and a 3-player game), this is one of my favorite 18XX games. Although I wouldn't introduce a new player to 1860 (for a 2-player noob game, I'd choose 1889), for experienced 18XX players, this is the the one 2-player 18XX that I really like. Adding in a third player was probably even better. Although the market is not predatory, the game is tight and rewards efficient management of companies. (Plays: 3)

6. Mage Knight: The Boardgame The second card game on this list. Yes, there is a strong board game element to it; however, what makes the game heavy is the hand management aspect. It is the most immersive game on this list and one of the most immersive games I own. It's long play time prevents me from playing it more or from playing it as other than a solo game. However, as a solo game, it is amazing. While I don't know how many plays it will get (as I'm not playing solo often these days), I expect to continue to really enjoy it when I pull it out. (Plays: 13)

7. Roads & Boats This is the one game that is almost too brain-burny for me. It takes engine building and resource conversion to an absurd level while adding in both player cooperation and competition. Amanda loves it and gets it; for me, it's almost more than I can wrap my head around. My hope is that I will play it much more in 2012 and get a better handle on the game. More than any other game on this list, I expect this to move up in my ratings in 2013. (Plays: 3)

8. 1829: Mainline MG: TBG would have gotten a lot more solo plays except for 1829: Mainline. While at this point I feel like I've burned out on the solo game, it was great fun for a while and I will probably pull this out once or twice in 2013. I'm also curious how this plays with other players and will try to get it to the table at least once in 2013. (Plays: 10)

9. 1856 Another excellent 18XX that, alas, I've only played once. Hopefully I will get to play it more in 2013. (Plays: 1)

10. Indonesia While I did not enjoy this as much as the other Big 3 Splotter games, I thought it was an excellent "pick-up and deliver" game with a nice tech tree. In the two plays I've had, the mergers were not as overwhelming as I've read and it seemed that efficient management of companies while staying alert to hostile takeovers and effective valuation of company worth was not overly difficult. I am still a noob at this game and my opinion may change radically as I play it more. Also, unlike others, I did enjoy my 2-player game of this. (Plays: 2)
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