Here’s my traditional year end review. However, I’ve worked the format a bit, hopefully so it’s more interesting for other people to read. I was inspired by Mark Johnson’s post back in 2004, so thanks to Mark!
Here’s the deal: first I’ll list the 2005 publications I enjoyed. Then come older games I played for the first time and enjoyed. After those I’ll mention few games I’ve continued to enjoy this year and finally I’ll list some new games (well, new to me) I tried and didn’t like.
After that there’s a some numbers.
Feedback on the format would be most welcome. Here’s Games of 2004 for comparison.
Good games published in 2005
Antike — One of the best games from Essen. It looks like a Civ lite thanks to the Mediterranean map, but it’s more about logistics and efficiency. There’s no trading, for example. Brightest idea? The permanent victory points, which make sure the game actually moves forward all the time and doesn’t stall.
Caylus — Haven’t played this one much, yet, but I’m pretty confident it’s one of the better gamer’s games in 2005. Heavy, yes, too long, yes, exciting, yes! The game works, and will probably make a pretty good three-player game.
Fettnapf — I went to Essen expecting to find a fun, light card game, either from Amigo or Abacus. I found Fettnapf, which fits the bill more than enough. It’s already seen lots of action and earned its keep.
Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck — The game has some definite problems (length being the most obvious one), but still — it looks very good and is great fun at its best.
Indonesia — Looks good so far, despite some usability issues. The theme is interesting and the mechanics clever. After Antiquity, buying this one was extremely easy. We’ll see next year how it turns out in the end, if I get to play it few more times.
Older games I tried for the first time and enjoyed
Antiquity — A real monster, three-four hours of anxiety, misery and pushing little cardboard bits around. Almost a dexterity game. A very good game for budding citybuilders, Antiquity puts you through some pretty heavy decisionmaking.
Attribute — My new favourite word game, Attribute rewards creative thinking and is a good source of laughs. I’d love to buy it, but this is one of those games that are useless if they’re not in Finnish, so I’ll keep on playing with my home-made Finnish copy.
Blue Moon — I had my doubts, but not any more: Blue Moon is a really good game. Simple mechanics, clever game play and generally good-looking art make up a very good game that is an interesting mixture of euro game and a collectible card game.
Cosmic Eidex — The best trick-taking game for three, and overall one of the more interesting trick-taking games. Sure, it’s a pain to learn if you’re not familiar with Central-European trick-taking games, but it’s worth it. The cosmic powers add variety.
Dawn Under — The vampire memory game is one of those games I seem to enjoy alone, at least if you look at my GeekBuddies. However, the game was really popular in Jyväskylä, where it was enjoyed by both kids and adults. It’s no children’s game, but a true family game. The production values are gorgeous and the game is great fun. Don’t judge it by the simple memory games you know, but try it. The expansion is fun, but not a must-buy as it’s pretty expensive for what it offers.
Dvonn — I played a ton of this on Little Golem and ended up buying it, too. I’m not sure I’ll play it often live, as it is an abstract two-player and situations for those are scarce, but it is a good game I’m glad to have.
Industrial Waste — Another new game that I really enjoy. While Industrial Waste falls a bit short of its closest competitors, it’s sufficiently short and efficient to see a lot of play time. 20 games is not a bad score at all. Most of those are three-player games; Industrial Waste is already third on my all-time most-played three-player game list.
Lost Valley — Interesting game of exploration and efficiency. The game has its flaws, but I think it’s good — it’s good fun and plays pretty fast, and that works for me.
Mhing — I knew and enjoyed Mahjong and played it perhaps once every two years or so. In comes Mhing and look: I scored about 20 games this year. Many of them were two-player games with Johanna, which contributes a lot to this game’s success. A new 10 game for me, as Mhing is a game I can see myself playing for years and years to come.
Mogul — One of Michael Schacht’s good small games. Mogul has a cruel bidding system, where anybody can steal the pot. Typically it’s the player right of you, of course, and just as you were going to do the same. This game takes skill! I’ve learned my timing is terrible in this game, I’m always quitting early. That makes me want to play the game more.
Die Sieben Siegel — Very good trick-taking game. Works like a trick-taking game should: you can do well with any kind of cards, if you can play them right and make the correct prediction. That’s tricky, of course.
Werewolf — The biggest hit on the Enter magazine cruise. We played over and over again and it was a blast. I haven’t played since and I know the situation where Werewolf works doesn’t come often, but when the situation comes, I’m glad I know Werewolf.
This list could go further, but I’m stopping here. Many of the games either will or will not make an appearance on the keeper list next year, and that’s the ultimate test, in the end.
Games I’ve kept on enjoying
Age of Steam — Still one of the very best gamer’s games. I’ve been playing the expansion maps, which offer a wide variety of different experiences, all pretty much equally impressive. One of the real gems in my collection.
Geschenkt — Last year’s top filler was still played a lot this year, as it arrived so late last year. It remains one of the very best filler games.
Go — Looks like I didn’t play a single game of face-to-face Go this year. Well, that’s not a big deal — I really like play-by-web Go and I played tons of that. I think my level of play has gone down a bit as my activity has dwindled a bit, but I’m comfortable with that. The biggest rush is over now; the game has settled into my life and might bloom one day again.
Memoir ’44 — Most of my Memoir action happened during few intensive sessions, particularly a one with Tommy in June. It’s by far my favourite war game, having just the right level of complexity and simulation. It’s short enough and very exciting, thus a definite keeper. The expansions are a welcome addition to the base game.
St. Petersburg — Still going strong, even though it didn’t get even ten plays this year. Too much competition, particularly from Industrial Waste. Still, I’m looking forward to see how the expansion changes the game.
San Juan — The little brother has found a place in my collection, as it got more play than Puerto Rico. I like them both; the experience is similar, yet distinctly different. Both are very good games that take some balancing and consideration.
The not-so-good, the disappointing, the plain bad
Angkor — Kind of cool, and looks nice — except for the plastic bits — but was definitely too “take that” for me. As a two-player game it was much better, but with more, it just didn’t click.
Big Kini — One of the Essen hotties. I didn’t get it. It’s kind of fun, but feels like it doesn’t quite work as it should. It’s not broken, but not quite fixed either.
Doom: The Boardgame — What an excellent game — but not for me. I would’ve loved this ten years ago, but now it’s just too big and heavy for such a light experience. It’s a good system, though, and a great base for modifications and own scenarios — just like the computer game was.
In the Shadow of the Emperor — I don’t know what happened (or didn’t happen). I thought the game was pretty cool, the mechanics are definitely impressive and the theme is interesting, but I only played this twice and haven’t felt too sorry about it. I’ll probably give it another shot and then it’s off to trade pile if it doesn’t catch on.
Logistico — Tommy could predict my opinion with an amazing accuracy: nice, but… I don’t know, it left me cold, even though the idea is great and the implementation is slick.
Monopoly: The Card Game — A horrible Rummy variant. The game doesn’t make sense without the Monopoly framework and even with it is pretty weak.
Raub Ritter — Tried at Essen and can’t understand why somebody would actually want to play this. One of the most frustrating game experiences ever. Why should I place my piece here, as somebody is simply going to come and beat it? Doesn’t make sense.
Who Stole Ed’s Pants? — Wasn’t quite as good as I expected. The idea is good and game is fun, but the mechanics aren’t that interesting and the production values could be much better.
I played 137 different games this year. I think that’s more than ever. Essen was certainly helpful, but it took more than that. Total number of games was 398, more than last year, but not quite as much as the 557 I played in 2003 (that was a manic year, or maybe it was lots of games at BSW, I don’t know).
Fives & Dimes
These games I played ten times or more:
- Industrial Waste (20)
- Mhing (20)
- Fettnapf (16)
- Geschenkt (12)
- Dawn Under (12)
- Memoir ’44 (12)
- Lost Cities (10)
- San Juan (10)
These games I played five times or more:
- Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck (8)
- St. Petersburg (8)
- Werewolf (8)
- Blue Moon (7)
- Mogul (7)
- Lost Valley (7)
- Die Sieben Siegel (6)
- Attribute (6)
- Dvonn (6)
- For Sale (5)
- Africa (5)
- Trivial Pursuit (5)
Month metric is simply the number of months in which the game has been played. This year the winners were St. Petersburg and Mhing, which I played in six different months. That’s pretty good, considering I played only eight games of St. Pete.
Overall my top games Month Metric -wise are Puerto Rico, Go and Carcassonne, with 19, 18 and 17 months, respectively.
Huber happiness product
The list of games that provided most happiness for me this year had few surprises. Caylus makes a fairly high-ranking appearance, as does Antiquity. Not surprising, since both are long, good games. Power Grid is probably the biggest surprise, since I only played it three times. But, it’s a long game as well.