2015 was a solid year. Numbers-wise, no complaints, and quality has been excellent.
I played lots of good games with my son, who has continued to be an active member of the cult of the new. A new game for us to try? He’s game.
My daughter is also growing up and we’ve been moving on to less childish games. She’s very eager, but she generally wants to play her favourites again and again and is less interested in new games – though she’ll try new games and is open to finding new favourites.
Last year I proclaimed I’ll miss both Ropecon and Lautapelaamaan in 2015; that fortunately turned out to be false, as I was able to attend both. Ropecon was once again a great day of gaming with my son and as one of the absolute highlights of the year, the Ropecon organisation awarded me the Golden Dragon achievement award for my work on promoting board gaming.
I also attended JyCon, a tiny little con in Jyväskylä. That was fun as well.
Good new games (2014–2015)
Dale of Merchants was very much the game of the year for me, I’d say. The designer sent me a print-n-play copy of the game to try, and it turned out to be great – good enough that I listed it as number one on my top 5 deck-building games video. Better than Dominion? I don’t know, but certainly more interesting right now.
Fields of Arle is the pinnacle of Uwe Rosenberg resource management and farming games. It has a particularly lovely dose of theme and tons of interesting things to do. A proper sandbox, compared to the much tighter Agricola. A pleasant change of pace, and for now the one I prefer. Fields of Arle is strictly a two-player game, but as I prefer Agricola with fewer players, it’s not a problem.
Patchwork is another another great Uwe Rosenberg game. A simple two-player game, but it works so well. It’s easy to play, easy to teach, done quickly, yet fun and challenging. Doing well is far from simple. An elegant, pleasant game.
Istanbul is the Kennerspiel des Jahres winner from 2014, and a really fine game. I got my first taste in Ropecon, and that single game led to two purchased copies of the game. I clocked in seven games during the year, which is pretty good. I’ve played both two-player games with my son and multiplayer games with other people; my mother really likes the game, and so do I, as Istanbul is simple, elegant and exciting.
Codenames was one of the party game hits of the year. It’s my favourite in the genre, as it is still very much a game and not an activity. It plays fast, has simple rules and very engaging game play. All in all a success, and something I’d like to have in my collection. I’m waiting for the Finnish version, though.
Concept is a prime example of something that’s better described as an activity as a game: try to explain a phrase using cubes placed on symbols on the board. Creativity required! Even the rulebook says not to both with the scoring, and it does seem a bit pointless. I also hate the suggested two-player team play – I don’t want to play this in teams. But fortunately rules are there to break, and as an activity, this is quite clever and enjoyable.
Spyfall is the third great party game of the year – what a great year for the genre! Here I understand some folks really hate the game, but I found this absolutely lovely. Players are somewhere and know where they are – except the spy, who knows nothing and needs to figure it out. The game is played by asking and answering questions: “how often you come here?”, “what are you wearing on your feet?”, “what was for lunch today?” and so on. The spy needs to come up with convincing answers, which is made easier by the need for the other players to avoid giving the spy clues. Stressful, but in a very good way.
Kyoto Protocol is the other great Finnish game of the year. This is an energy-themed filler game (the designer Petri Savola is a Power Grid fan, which may or may not have influenced the theme). I like this: there’s plenty to think about here, for a filler, and the art and the graphic design are very much to my tastes. An excellent filler.
Imperial Settlers seemed promising and turned out great. It has problems, but most of them don’t really bother me. I’ve only played this as a two-player game, and don’t expect that to change. I shudder at the thought of playing this with four players. Three might work. This is tableau-building and resource management with lots of possibilities to do things, and lots of changes for nice combos. The player interaction is on the other hand limited, on the other hand quite nasty, which is odd, but the end result is quite charming.
Quartermaster General is a light wargame, focused on logistics. There are units that are in combat, but they don’t move at all. That’s kind of odd. I’ve only played this twice, but it seems to be a good six-player game. So far it seems very difficult for the Axis to win, but I’m intrigued by the game.
Couple of quick notes: Isle of Skye is promising enough that I bought it after one play, as is The Voyages of Marco Polo. M.U.L.E. I’ve played twice, and found entertaining, if a bit swingy. Epic is, well, epic, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort. Cthulhu Realms is an interesting take on Star Realms and La Granja seems well worth exploring.
Good older games I haven’t played before
Notre Dame is one of those games I’ve heard lots of good things about for a long time, and I’ve wanted to try it for years, but it just hasn’t happened. Now it did: we were looking for a game to play in Ropecon and I saw this one on the board game library shelves. I ended up buying a copy for myself. Not a bad game at all, I can see why some people really love this.
1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties ended up in my collection this year. I backed it in the first failed Kickstarter but not in the second, successful one. Then I read it was maybe running out from retailers and I decided I need to get it. After all, I’ve been terribly impressed by 1860, so another Mike Hutton 18xx can’t be bad. It wasn’t; this is an excellent design.
Le Havre: Inland Port is much more to my liking than the big Le Havre. I’ve enjoyed my games – all with my son – a lot, this game of building and collecting resources is really my cup of tea. It may well be this would need an expansion in the long run to provide some variety, but that hasn’t been a problem so far.
Carcassonne: The Castle and Carcassonne: The City joined my collection this year, when I decided I want to explore these independent Carcassonne games. So, I got them, The City even in a nice wooden box (though to be honest, I’d prefer a standard Carcassonne box as it would fit my shelves better). These are fine games, I’m particularly fond of The Castle which is probably my favourite Carcassonne outside the basic game these days. I prefer Carcassonne with fewer players, and it is an excellent two-player game. The City is nice as well, but not as good as the Castle.
Jaipur is an excellent filler card game for two players, it’s up there with classics like Lost Cities and Battle Line. An excellent game, very much worth checking out if you’re into two-player card games.
Glass Road is part of the Uwe Rosenberg groove I’ve been enjoying this year. It’s certainly different from his other games, and quite enjoyable too. It’s remarkable that it features a strong “guess what other people are doing” mechanism, and I still enjoy it. That’s something. The rulebook is extra charming, with all the historical notes and comments from Uwe. A lovely game.
Here’s a list of all children’s games that we played at least five times. It’s interesting to see how the games change year after year.
Love Letter was our number one game. I clocked in 44 plays this year, and about ~40 of them with the kids. My daughter loves the game and wanted to play it again and again. I don’t complain, as I think this is one of the very best family games there is: simple, plays quick, yet clever and interesting. It’s lucky enough that the winner is essentially random, but the game does a good job hiding that.
Super Rhino did get some love, and the second most plays (mostly because it’s so short, and we played at least three games every time we played the game). It’s a fun dexterity filler and in that capacity has mostly overthrown Animal upon Animal.
Lost Legacy was the obvious next step from Love Letter. The kids were a bit puzzled by this in our first games, but figured it out soon enough and we ended up playing the two sets I have (Flying Garden and The Starship, both DIY versions with alternate themes) over ten times.
Phantom Rallye is pretty awful, but it was available at the circus school where I’ve spent many hours with my daughter, and she likes it, so… I’ve played it a lot. Not much game in it, though.
Coconuts continued to entertain us. Not quite as much as last year, but still quite a bit. And why not – it’s a very good game, and not just a gimmicky toy (Toc Toc Woodman, I’m looking at you).
Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers is the same game as the original, but with new animals. It’s equally good. This one has an Alpine theme. I bought this for the circus school; it was charity and an attempt to keep me sane by making sure there are also good games available and not just Phantom Rallye…
Schildkrötenrennen is still a staple game; it’s one of Knizia’s best titles.
Ghost Blitz is still a special game for me and my daughter, we’ve played this at the circus school. She usually beats me (but we still play without the penalties).
Das kleine Gespenst is still on decline, but still sees active play. It’s one of the better memory games.
Dino Race was a new game this year. Not bad, and my daughter really likes this even though she’s also frustrated and annoyed by it. That’s odd, but it’s not a bad game. It has some sharp corners that could use development, but it’s a decent game that works well in a parent-playing-with-kids scenario.
Candy Chaser is a nice little bluffing game. You know nothing, but have to figure it all out by the end of the short game. That’s not particularly easy. I think I played most of my games with the kids.
Takenoko made my list in 2012 when I played it with my son, but left the list then. Now it’s back, as I played it a lot with my daughter – again at the circus school. That has been a good opportunity for me to play games with my daughter alone. She likes Takenoko, just like her brother did before. I haven’t really played this with both of the kids at the same time; I wonder if I should try that.
Afrikan tähti is the ultimate Finnish classic game. Fortunately we don’t own it, but usually when we’re visiting the grandparents, this gets dragged out for a couple of games. It’s not that bad, really.
Little Prince: Build Me a Planet is a very good game. I think this is an excellent family game (though it can be a bit mean), and not bad with adults, either. All in all a good game with a nice theme and cute art.
Between Two Cities was a Kickstarter project I backed because I thought it might make a good family game. I have very little interest in carrying this around to our weekly game nights, but as a casual family game this is excellent.
Klask is a neat little dexterity game. The kids were quite enthusiastic about this, even though it tends to bring up frustrations. I should start introducing them to Crokinole, I think.
Fleeting Foxes is on the decline. My daughter still likes this and we’ve played it at the circus school, as it’s a small box to carry around, but we don’t really play it at home anymore.
Colt Express is very much a family game for me. I think I’ve only played it with the kids. It’s good for that and works well enough with three players, and it’s too light and flimsy to play with the weekly gamer group.
Battle Sheep is one of the better games I bought for the circus school; I don’t like it much myself, but it has very tiny rules and is easy to play, so I thought it was a good choice there, and so I’ve ended up playing it couple of times myself.
Europa Tour has been a bit on the decline, but now my daughter has picked it up and we’ve played it couple of times with three players. That’s fun, though it’s still a bit difficult for my daughter.
Rock Paper Scissors Game is a horrible waste of good raw materials.
Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye Found It Game is still in the rotation – we just played it as the first game of 2016 – but it’s clearly on the decline.
Memory is on the decline. We used to play it more last year, but now it’s going out of fashion.
Magic Tower is non-offensive fun, my daughter likes, but fortunately requests it less and less.
Camel Cup has been a family game for me. Even my wife enjoyed it. I did play it at my birthday party with seven players, just to see how it works, and it did work quite well. My initial lukewarm response has improved a lot: this is a fine game for many occasions.
Pickomino gets requested every now and then, but I should really start saying no whenever that happens, as this tends to end up in tears just about every time – it’s such a frustrating game when you lose your worms.
Mucca Pazza won the Finnish Children’s Game of the Year, but it’s not a family game, it’s a kindergarten game – ie. it needs a group of players of similar skill. Not a good game for families, as it’s super easy for the adults.
Games I’ve kept on enjoying
Agricola keeps on rolling. My son and I play it every now and then, mostly with Farmers of the Moor, but without the cards. We’ve tried the cards once, but at the moment I believe they’re a bit overwhelming for my son.
Abluxxen keeps working as a filler. It didn’t get many plays, but it is in standard rotation. I still enjoy it quite a bit, it’s one of the best quick card games and pleasantly unlike most games.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig continues to be a favourite. I got the Secrets expansion, but it’s not a thriller – not quite as good as Suburbia, Inc. for example. But I like the moats, and the game is still very interesting without the expansion.
Lewis & Clark continues to entertain. It was interesting enough to get me interested in Discoveries, which I ended up buying. My son thinks Lewis & Clark is the better game of the two; I think I agree, but I’d really like to explore Discoveries more. Both are fine games.
Stich-Meister has become a staple game, it gets played every now and then. As trick-taking games come, it’s easy to play, has plenty of variety between plays and doesn’t take too much time.
The not-so-good, the disappointing and the plain bad
JAB: Realtime Boxing sounded like a good idea: a realtime boxing game. I like realtime games, so this should be an obvious winner, right? Well, no. It was confusing and not really fun at all. With more experience, there might a good game in it, but frankly, I’m not interested in finding out. One game (not even completed), and off to the trade pile goes JAB.
Origo shows that even the masters fail occasionally. This Wolfgang Kramer title just isn’t very good. The components are substandard and while the basic game play rolls along nicely, there are some parts to the game that just don’t fit, and the rules are unnecessarily clunky.
Age of War is a lemon from Reiner Knizia. Try to roll the right symbols to conquer cards. Too bad it’s just not fun at all. The game is frustrating exercise in failure.
La Isla Bohnita is supposed to work with two players, but no, it doesn’t. It’s awful.
Southern Rails is a Winsome game by Harry Wu, which is a very good starting point. Where it ends up is, however, not quite up to the standards set by Wabash Cannonball or Samarkand: Routes to Riches. Southern Rails is a game with too many sharp corners.
Where are they now
Subdivision got one measly play in January, afterwards it was promptly forgotten. I’m not sure why we haven’t played this anymore. I suppose Suburbia and Castles of Mad King Ludwig are simply so much better.
North Wind fizzed out. The ships are gorgeous, but the game itself is a tad too repetitive. We have only played this once this year, and I’m not particularly thrilled to play again.
Machi Koro has been on a decline. 16 plays last year, just four this year. Well, four is not terrible, but it’s definitely going out of fashion, and gets suggested only occasionally.
Fives and dimes
- Love Letter (48)
- Super Rhino (21)
- Dale of Merchants (18)
- The City (15)
- Phantom Rally (14)
- Abluxxen (14)
- Kyoto Protocol (12)
- Schildkrötenrennen (12)
- Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers (12)
- Castles of Mad King Ludwig (12)
- Coco Loco (12)
- Ghost Blitz (11)
- Die kleinen Gespenst (11)
- Dino Race (10)
- Splendor (10)
- Takenoko (9)
- Afrikan tähti (9)
- Candy Chaser (9)
- Zèrtz (9)
- Lost Legacy: Starship (8)
- The Little Prince: Build me a planet (8)
- Codenames (8)
- Between Two Cities (8)
- Star Realms (8)
- Fleeting Foxes (7)
- For Sale (7)
- Innovation (7)
- Patchwork (7)
- Imperial Settlers (7)
- Klask (7)
- Istanbul (7)
- A prototype (6)
- Port Royal (6)
- Jaipur (6)
- Yardmaster (6)
- Rock Paper Scissors Game (6)
- Nations: The Dice Game (6)
- Le Havre: Inland Port (6)
- Colt Express (6)
- Dominion (6)
- Europa Tour (6)
- Battle Sheep (6)
- Das magische Labyrinth (6)
- Agricola (5)
- Lost Legacy: The Flying Garden (5)
- Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck (5)
- Yinsh (5)
- Bohnanza (5)
- Cacao (5)
- Mucca Pazza (5)
- Blueprints (5)
- Camel Cup (5)
- Carcassonne: The Castle (5)
- Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (5)
- Magic Tower (5)
- Stich-Meister (5)
- Suburbia (5)
- Battle Line (Schotten-Totten) (5)
- 18XX (mostly 1846) (5)
- Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It (5)
- Memory (5)
- Battle Line (Schotten-Totten) (14/15)
- San Juan (12/12)
- Attika (11/13)
- Age of Steam (11/13)
- Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (11/14)
- Villa Paletti (11/14)
- Animal upon Animal (8/8)
- Dominion (8/8)
- Carcassonne (11/15)
- Ta Yü* (10/13)
First number is the years I’ve played the game, second is the number of years since the first time I played. So, I first played San Juan eleven years ago and have played it every year since that. With Battle Line I’ve missed a year. I didn’t play games marked with an asterisk this year.
My H-index for this year is 11 (14 last year). My total H-index is 36, up three from last year.
Reaching 37 next year is certain, 38 will be a bit of a challenge. I wonder if I’m going to come to a point where increasing the H-index every year becomes difficult.