Q Rants About....

We'll see how long this holds my interest. I've long-debated putting together a couple of blogs for reviews and what not, just never bothered to find the time (much like my circle's desire to start a playthrough video group). Anyhow, what this is: A blog by which I will go off about...anything I like related to games and gaming. Who: As those who know me can attest, I'm a very blunt, brutally honest bloke who's not afraid to be assertive, without actually being an "alpha" type. I call BS when I see it, and I don't filter my opinions based upon whether it might offend someone with thin skin. I also, however, try to avoid talking out of my ass and always endeavour to make sure I back up a viewpoint with a cogent and reasoned logic, no matter how cold that logic is. I'll likely endeavour to link things here into reviews for games (which I must start doing..) Why this is: Because one of my frustrations is how passive a lot of people in this hobby I love so much are. Passive aggressive, passively passive, you name it. I frequently lament that there's no spot where there's an "anything goes" safe zone where there's no having to tiptoe around delicate sensibilities - where we can go 12 rounds, then tip back a pint, say good show, and be the better for it. The where and how are both obvious; the when too variable dependent to state with exactitude. A Q&A with...myself! But ranting...isn't that negative? -Without dark, there can be no light. Beyond that, it is my hope that when going talking about one thing that I'm not really down with, it will provide opportunity to go on about things that I feel are quite positive. I like dialogue. Balance in all things, young padawan. I'm offended! Your cold logic chills me to my core, robot! -There's an "X" in the upper right hand corner you can click at any time. I promise you I won't be offended - you can be offended for both of us. How many things can you *really* rant about? -Ninja, please - Lewis Black has been doing it for a couple decades now. Spoiler alert: He's definitely funnier than I am. Which is why he'll charge you 80 bucks and this is free. Do you take requests? -As long as the request isn't Stairway. No Stairway.
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Q Rants about.. (Rant 2: The Golden Geeks, 2014 - part 2 of 3)

Quintious .
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Note: This particular rant covers a topic with so much material, it had to be broken into 3 parts. Part 1 (with relevant foundation for my case) is located here: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/39264/q-rants-about-rant-...

So, I did all that bitching. What did I find so odoriferous? Group by Group:

Board Game of the Year

The nominees:

 



How many of these nominees I played: 18/20 (Pandemic, Legendary)
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 9

Who won:
Winner - Splendor
Runner Up - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
3rd place - Five Tribes


Why "Splendor" is utterly wrong:

1) Because THIS cannot be the game of the year:

That's a deck of cards and some poker chips.

2) Because, whilst it's enjoyable to play, it is a game with no theme, very few mechanics, no real depth (it's simply a math puzzle), no immersion, and is little more than filler.

3) Because when the first thing 95% of people say when talking up how great this game is are how nice the poker chips are. Think about that.

4) It's well-established that the best strategy is to ignore the 3rd tier cards entirely. When you have a game this hollow, ignoring 1/3 of the deck you're given because it's a sucker's bet is a huge problem.

5) Because it's the gaming equivalent of giving the Grammy to DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince over Public Enemy because Will Smith was the rapper that least frightened white people. Just because a game is utterly vanilla and non-threatening to all people does not the best game make.

Look, it's a nice little game. I own it. It proudly sits on the top of my shelf with all the other gateway/light filler games, in between The Last Banquet and some sort of Chez "whatever" game. This is a go-to game for when you're kicking off a night of gaming and somebody is running late, or at the end of the night when you don't want to go home yet, but there's not enough time to put a real game down. It's thoroughly unoffensive with a low barrier of entry, so it brings in non-gamers like parents and significant others to the table. It. Has. A. Place. I don't dispute that. But to tell me something this simple, something this hollow, is the best game to come out of a pretty decent 2014? I call bullshit. A gateway game, by definition, is a game on training wheels. It doesn't compete in the same circle as a high performance machine. That's not its point.

As to Dead of Winter: Had it won, I'd have nodded and said "wouldn't have been my first choice, but I get it". I have no complaints. It was a thematic, immmersive, engaging, challenging and rewarding experience. It told a great story and had intrigue and depth. Aside from the zombie theme, it was a fantastic title. Five Tribes? Mediocre in every sense. The Djinns were just tacked on at the last moment, the game lends itself to crazy AP, there are breaks to the gameplay that aren't dealbreakers, but eliminates it from discussion for GOTY.

Who should have won:
Kanban: Driver's Edition
Panamax
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

Why: Because 2014 was a pretty damn good year for heavier titles. Because Stronghold had a banner year, releasing not one but TWO awesome meatier titles in one year - and deserved to be rewarded for it. Because Kanban is a breath of fresh air, a game that incorporates numerous mechanics into a flawless experience. Because whilst the game is daunting to learn, so many gears interlock so perfectly to create a thoroughly rewarding experience that simply works. Because once you know the game, it's actually not that intimidating at all. Panamax runs a VERY close second, and would have been my runaway favourite had Kanban not come around. Such a crunchy, thinky, punishing game with multiples paths to victory and almost infinite replayability. Aside from the horrendous rulebook and slightly tacked on feel of the stock market, the game is damn near perfect.

2-Player Game

The nominees:




How many of these nominees I played: 6/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 4 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Star Realms
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers
3rd Place - Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men

Why it was wrong: I think Star Realms was a pretty good game - for what is very blatantly an Ascension rip-off. I also liked Imperial Settlers - for what it was. I never played Dice Masters. The one thing I notice here is, like the GOTY, these are all very casual games. I didn't play most of them, so my data points are slimmer than I'd like.

Who I felt should have won:
Fields of Arle
The Battle of Five Armies
Greenland

Why: Because Fields of Arle is yet another masterpiece from Uwe Rosenberg, one of the absolute best designers out there. Because it's almost flawless in design and theme; because it's rich and rewarding. Because Star Realms doesn't really feel that much different than any other deck builder out there. Because it likely would have won had it received widespread release earlier than the very tail end of the year.

All in all...this matter of personal taste. The winners were too light, IMO, but this isn't a glaring thing like GOTY to where it just defies logic. And I didn't even play 9 of the 15 nominees, so I'm willing to keep an open mind. I will say this, however: That Greenland wasn't even nominated is pretty insulting to the title.

Abstract Game

The nominees:



How many of these nominees I played: 1/10
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 0 (that I played)

Who Won:

Winner - Patchwork
Runner Up - Medina (second edition)
Runner Up - Lagoon: Land of Druids

Why it was wrong: Maybe it wasn't. I don't play abstracts, so I really have no opinion on this set, nor did I even vote for an abstract. I do know that not a single person I know that has played Lagoon likes it, because it's woefully broken (something I felt the one time I played it, as well). So how it finished 3rd seems weird to me. Maybe it was the art.

Artwork & Presentation

The nominees:



How many of these nominees I played: 15/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 9/15

Who won:

Winner - Abyss
Runner Up - Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary
3rd Place- Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

Why it was wrong: It wasn't, at least not the winner. Abyss was a thoroughly mediocre game in almost every possible meaning of the word, an utterly dull experience - a dullness that was made all the more disappointing due to how much of a treat you thought you were in for when you first sat down/set it up and saw how beautiful everything was. For as bad as the game is, the art is seriously next-level stuff. The other 2, however...this is the first category where you really start to see a situation where people go "Well, I haven't played hardly any of these games, but I liked X and Y, so I'll just vote for them whenever I see them". Dead of Winter is a fantastic game, but the art and presentation is absolutely nothing notable. Jesus, they used standees instead of minis (something I'd expect of other companies, but Plaid Hat loves miniatures). THere was no reason for DoW to even have a nomination here. And Ticket to Ride? Really? I like what they did with the wagons, but otherwise? Come on.

Who should have won:

Abyss
Scoville
Dragonscroll

Why: The category is called Artwork AND Presentation. Whilst Abyss's art is next-level stuff, Scoville's presentation is similarly stand-out. The pepper cubes and player board were vivid, well thought-out, attractive, and even took colour blindness into consideration, which is huge for a game that's so colour-centric. Dragonscroll, whilst a strictly BAD game (seriously, so, so bad), has AMAZING presentation, and the little dragons are show-stoppers. How this wasn't nominated is beyond me...

Card Game

The nominees:



How many of these nominees I played: 10/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 4 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Star Realms
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers
3rd Place - Sheriff of Nottingham

Why it was wrong: Hey cool, another victory for Ascensio...errr, I mean Star Realms. I, personally, would have chosen Greenland for reasons I'll go into below. Have already explained my thoughts on Settlers. The one I find offensive is Sheriff of Nottingham, which is a thoroughly mediocre game in every possible meaning of the word, a boring experience from start to finish where by the end of it, everybody is just rushing along so it'll be over. Even the felt bags were a bad choice, given that many people (myself included) find the feel of felt akin to listening to nails on a chalkboard (kids, look up "chalkboard", it's a thing us old timers used to use - and stop reading this blog, it's Rated R in places)

Who should have won:

Greenland
Paperback
Imperial Settlers

Why: Phil Eklund does it again. I don't usually go towards small-box games. It's so very thematic, it's got so much going on for so little components, the mechanics are fantastic, gameplay is not overly complex (something I actually look for in a card game), great strategy, the luck element isn't onerous (and what luck there is is utterly necessary). I think this is just a situation to where nobody even had access to this game, let alone my commentary about the onslaught of casual gamers. I wanted to put Pathfinder here, but RPG solitaire is just weird on tabletop.

Children's Games: I have no real commentary on children's games, as I only played 2 of the nominees and one of them (Hare & the Tortoise, the ultimate winner) I found to be a delightful title entirely worthy of praise.

Expansion

The nominees:



How many of these nominees I played: 13/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 6 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - 7 Wonders: Babel
Runner Up - Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice
3rd Place - Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture

Why that's dead wrong: Oh look! 7 Wonders is accessible to casual/quasi-gamer types, everybody plays 7 Wonders, so clearly Babel must be the best expansion EVER! Um, no. Not even remotely. For one, it's 2 mini expansions in 1 box. That you shouldn't play together. For another, whilst the Tower of Babel expansion can be mixed and matched with any/all previous expansions, the Great Works section clearly can't. So you've got an expansion that doesn't seamlessly integrate with the rest of the game/expansions. Further, what these expansions do is so subtle as to be wholly unnecessary. Yet more populist Bieber-voting bullshit.

Who should have won:

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island – Voyage of the Beagle (Vol. 1)
Clash of Cultures: Civilizations
Cyclades: Titans

Why: BGG likes to claim that Voyage of the Beagle came out in 2013 and....technically...it sort of did, but it wasn't available to anybody who wasn't willing to go to great lengths to get it until LATE 2014 thanks to Z-Man's ineptitude (I, personally, had to order a copy from Poland...and then sleeve my cards because they didn't match the RC game). That expansion takes an already fantastic, top-tier game and elevates it to a whole new level, the pinnacle of co-operative play. The campaign is engaging and interesting, the build-up is awesome, the mechanics are fantastic, there's significant challenge. It's got everything you could want. Clash of Cultures Civilizations fixes the one thing that held CoC back: The fact that everybody had the same tech trees. By adding unique tech capabilities, special leaders, and new buildings and options, Civilizations did to CoC what Voyage of the Beagle did to Crusoe: Took an already OUTSTANDING game and brought it up to a whole new level - and did so seamlessly. I was torn between 'Titans', 'Fire & Ice' and 'Tuscany' for 3rd. Tuscany helped fix a game that was in desperate need of help in Viticulture. Fire & Ice is a well thought-out expansion for an already amazing title, but it doesn't elevate it the way Civilizations or Beagle does. Titans, on the other hand, takes a game that I found to be rather mediocre (a battle royale in a fish bowl) and completely transformed it into everything I was hoping it could be. That's the mark of a truly awesome expansion, and that's why I'd give the nod to Titans over the other 2 that I didn't list.

Family Game

The nominees:



How many of these nominees I played: 12/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 6 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Splendor
Runner Up - King of New York
3rd Place - Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary

Why it was wrong: It wasn't. This is one area where I thought Splendor should have had a real good chance of winning. It's a wonderful family game, because typically not everybody in the family is a gamer. Whilst I have serious reservations about listing KoNY or Ticket to Ride as "new" games given that neither of them are that materially different from their predecessors, they're fine family titles in their own right. Personally, I'd have given Black Fleet and Colt Express their moments in the sun because those are truly new titles and are every bit as good as the winners, but there's nothing egregious about these winners, except it again highlights voting via limited data points and by what has the most exposure. Some of the nominees here were head scratchers. Games like Ludwig and Red7 are far too complex in plausible strategy for a child to be proficient at. They didn't belong on this list.

Innovative

The nominees:

 

How many of these nominees I played: 12/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 3 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Runner Up - Alchemists
3rd Place - Five Tribes

Why it was so wrong: Oh boy. Next to GOTY, this is the category that most has me (and many others) saying "Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot?"

Innovative
adjective
1.
tending to innovate, or introduce something new or different; characterized by innovation.

What in the HELL is innovative about Dead of Winter? Nothing! For as lovely as that game is, one of the biggest categories it had no business even being in was "innovative". What, conditional event cards are "innovative" now? Give. Me. A. Break. That is a stretch of the highest order. This is a shining example of a category where people just voted for the 1 game they knew they liked and ran with it. It defies all logic. In a year where you saw the rise of the hybrid cardboard/digital game (Golem Arcana, Alchemists), in a year where you saw a new take on modular space games (Xia), in a year where you saw a wonderful "bag building" mechanic (Orleans was nominated, but Hyperborea did it better and is a better game), you're going to say with a straight fucking face that DEAD OF WINTER is the most innovative title of 2014? That's like saying Apple has ever innovated ANYTHING in the last 20 years! It's revisionist history built upon cultish fanboi-ism! And Five Tribes? FIVE TRIBES? What in God's name was in the Kool-Aid for people who voted on this category? I fear for our education system if this is what people legitimately classify as "innovative". This defies all logic in every possible level. This is worthy of a National Lampoon's Vacation Clark W. Griswold string of obscenities and insults that only Chevy Chase could pull off. Jesus Christ!

Who SHOULD have won:

Golem Arcana
Hyperborea
Alchemists

Why: Golem Arcana did what NO OTHER GAME IN THE HISTORY OF THE FUCKING HOBBY has ever done - it took miniatures gaming and made it accessible to people who don't want to wade through a rules tome 3.4 feet thick - I'm sorry, 3.4126 feet thick, because that precision is important to miniatures gamers - and argue about whether an attacker is 1/32" out of range or not and whether it's because the person who measured it nudged the attacking figure back 1/32". THAT'S INNOVATION! This isn't even close! It was Golem Arcana and then EVERYBODY ELSE this year, and yet GA didn't even get nominated - likely because of the cost of the game! Talk about absurd. Alchemists similarly bridged that cardboard and app gap, and did it amazingly well through use of the camera on a smart device. That's innovation! Hyperborea innovated on the deck building mechanic with the cube building/bag building mechanic and somehow tacked it into an area control civ building battle game, and did a fantastic job in the process - that's innovation! I feel bad leaving Xia off the list, but it fell 4th in one of the strongest crops in forever - a crop that was, with the exception of Alchemists, completely crapped upon and made into an epic gaming joke! What these titles did was not an evolution of the hobby, they were god damn REVOLUTIONS of it, displaying a fundamental shift in how people will view and play games in the future!(Caps, bold, italicized, underlined, exclamation point!). They created WHOLE NEW GENRES within the hobby! Yes, I get it, Golem Arcana and Hyperborea are very expensive games (Hyperborea, especially, given what you get). It doesn't change the fact that they are light years ahead of anything that got nominated. Epic fail. Epic, epic fail.

Writer's note: I'm tired of linking images to the post. It's taking forever, which is a waste of time even though I'm getting paid whilst I sit around doing this. I'm changing format for the rest of this topic.

Party Game

The nominees:

Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition)
Concept
Good Cop Bad Cop
King of New York
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Pairs
Red7
Sheriff of Nottingham
Spyfall
Ultimate Werewolf: Deluxe Edition

How many of these nominees I played: 8/10
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 3

Who won:

Winner - Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition)
Runner Up - One Night Ultimate Werewolf
3rd Place - Sheriff of Nottingham

Why it was wrong: Ca$h & Guns isn't a new game - it's a game that's about a decade old which has only had a couple of adjustments made to it and then re-released. It's also fun precisely...about 1 time. I've already talked at length about Sheriff, but for this category I should point out that it doesn't scale to "party" sizes.

Who should have won:

One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Concept
Spyfall

Why: One Night, even though it's based on a classic party game theme, drastically changed the way the game would be played, severely reduced the amount of time commitment (which makes it better for parties than games with elimination aspects....you know, like Cash & Guns). And it did all this without losing the Werewolf feel. Concept is a delightful title that scales really well and requires just enough brain wattage to be interesting for adults.

Print & Play:
I didn't play a single one of these games. Not even one. Nor did I play an alternative to draw off of. Hence why I never even voted on them. Who knows, maybe this was the perfect selection category.

Solo Game:
I played a significant amount of these games. But did not play any of them solo. As such, I'm not really in a position to where I can talk about how they play solo. Of them, my guess is the co-op titles ala Pathfinder and Doomrock lead the pack, as co-op games scale perfectly from 1 to max, but no way to know certainly.

Strategy Game

The nominees:

Alchemists
AquaSphere
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Deus
Five Tribes
La Granja
Hyperborea
Imperial Settlers
Istanbul
Kanban: Driver's Edition
Orléans
Panamax
Roll for the Galaxy
Star Realms
Xia: Legends of a Drift System

How many of these nominees I played: 15/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 10

Who won:

Winner - Five Tribes
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers
Runner Up - Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Why it's so very wrong: Five Tribes?!? Fucking FIVE TRIBES?!? The best strategy game of 2014?!?! Was everybody just farcing this category? Are you flippin' serious?! FIVE TRIBES?! My thoughts on it, I've already given. Let me expand on why this would arguably be the dumbest decision outside of innovation: There is actually very little strategy to the game. The game gives you the IMPRESSION of having it - but really, you're just trying to react and optimize play relative to what other people do vs. setting yourself up. You do not need to think multiple moves ahead. You don't have other avenues to victory to ponder at all times. You are seldom, if ever, really torn on what to do. The game is entirely based upon staring at the game field long enough to discern which one gives you the most points. What an epic, unmitigated joke. And it's not even that GOOD of a game, let alone strategy game! The worst part about this is, there were between 8-10 legitimate contenders for this title, and it goes to god damn Five Tribes...

Who should have won:
Kanban: Driver's Edition
Panamax
La Granja

Why: I've already talked about Kanban and Panamax at some length. I will simply say that both of these titles, as well as La Granja, place strategy at the highest of premiums. You are constantly forced to make tough decisions in order to determine how you will proceed. You are constantly forced to think moves, even rounds ahead. You are constantly challenged not only by your own strategies, but by the layout of the board and, in the case of Kanban, by the board's counterbalance in the form of the board's player. You are constantly tasked with the effort of working - and working hard - for every inch you gain. These 3 titles are some of the strongest strategy titles to come out in YEARS, and they got completely skunked? Good lord...That a game like Golem Arcana wasn't even nominated in this space is also beyond belief.

Thematic Game

The nominees:

Arcadia Quest
The Battle at Kemble's Cascade
The Battle of Five Armies
Colt Express
Cthulhu Wars
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Evolution
Greenland
King of New York
Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
Pandemic: The Cure
Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Thunder Alley
Xia: Legends of a Drift System

How many of these nominees I played: 11/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 7 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Runner Up - Star Wars: Imperial Assault
3rd Place - King of New York

Why it was wrong: A well-deserved win for Dead of Winter, which I felt should run away with this category. I don't know that I, personally, would have listed Imperial Assault, but I totally get it. King of New York is a complete head scratcher, though - there's little thematic about that game. I can only assume this is yet another one of those categories that had people voting for the limited amount of games they had played - and the data points were small.

Who should have won:

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Arcadia Quest
Xia: Legends of a Drift System

Why: Arcadia Quest is a ridiculously thematic experience. I'm not always the biggest fan of CMoN, but they really did something great here. And there's not a game they make (aside from Dogs of War) that lacks in theme. I was surprised it didn't get any recognition. Thunder Alley is another great theme game, but it's a racer, and the theme is really more in the form of a spreadsheet, so I get it. Xia, for all its faults, oozes theme start to finish, emboldened by the great spaceship miniatures and board interaction. I get the feeling a lot of people intentionally left Xia off of voting ballots - beyond the fact that it's hard to get so most people haven't played it - because it's so highly spoken of by its disciples that this game has somehow become both underrated and overrated all at once.

Wargame

The nominees:

1944: Race to the Rhine
The Battle of Five Armies
Blood & Roses
D-Day at Tarawa
Enemy Coast Ahead: The Dambuster Raid
Fire in the Lake
Heroes of Normandie
Holdfast: Russia 1941-42
Hoplite
Quartermaster General
Reluctant Enemies
Storm Over Dien Bien Phu
Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe
Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game
Wir sind das Volk!

How many of these nominees I played: 3/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 2 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Fire in the Lake
Runner Up - The Battle of Five Armies
3rd Place - 1944: Race to the Rhine

Notes: This is the only category where I played so few of the titles (20%) and still actually cast a vote. I cast one - for Fire in the Lake - which I found to be an immensely impressive title that I will very likely be adding to my collection soon. I don't usually vote with such limited data points, but I know that if I see GMT on the box, it's going to be great, so I feel confident here. I don't know if 3rd place was stupid or not. I liked Five Armies, but wouldn't feel confident calling it one of the best.

Best Podcast

The nominees:

Advance After Combat
Blue Peg, Pink Peg
Boardgames To Go
The D6 Generation - Dice Are Our Vice
The Dice Tower
Flip the Table
Heavy Cardboard
The Long View
Ludology
On Board Games
Plaid Hat Podcast
Rolling Dice & Taking Names
The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast
Shut Up & Sit Down
The Spiel

Who won:

Winner - The Dice Tower
Runner Up - The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast
Runner Up - Shut Up & Sit Down

Notes: I don't listen to podcasts. I do know that TDT is the gold standard in the industry though, so I'm not surprised it's going to run away with any award. I would like to see a video reviewer category next year, because the "Watch it Played" series on Youtube is a cut above everything else out there, and what I will ultimately hope to emulate when I get around to making my own video series.

Now get off my lawn.
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