2020 was a weird year.
Covid-19. Let’s get the big one out there first. Covid-19 was a big thing, and wasn’t. The total amount of games I played was about the same as it has been in previous years. The ten year average is 751, I played 753 games in 2020; in hours the average is 330 hours, and 2020 I played for 344 hours.
What did change was the average number of players: it dipped from 2.6 in 2019 to 2.35 in 2020. I stopped going to my weekly game night in March, and haven’t returned since. The board game cafe closed the doors from March to June. The game night was then active from June to November, before local restrictions put it on pause again. But, I’ve played a lot with my son. I’ve been very fortunate in that. My son has a smashing taste in games, he’s by far my favourite mitspieler and we’ve enjoyed the games we’ve played a lot.
Thus I didn’t venture into online games or solo games. I played couple of games in Tabletopia, but that’s it. It’s not my thing, I don’t enjoy it, and I find hard to find time for it.
Magic: The Gathering. Wizards released Arena on Mac in the summer, and off I went. My Magic games exploded. I decided not to log my online Magic plays. It looks like I’ve played a couple of hundred matches per month, so in total we’re talking about four digits here.
Early on I played a lot. I managed to reach Mythic ranking in constructed twice in a row due to a solid deck and lots of time spent. I’ve since reduced the time spent playing Magic. (I had to start using mouse with my left hand, because my right-hand index finger got sore from too much clicking. I blame Magic for that.) I’m mostly playing Standard constructed; I’m generally terrible in draft.
Online Magic has been a significant gaming outlet for me in 2020, and will remain so. It’s great fun, and very affordable. This year my Magic spending is about $5, because I bought the cheap entry pack, and that’s all I’ve bought. Online Magic isn’t a terrible money sink, you get tons of stuff for free by grinding the constructed play. If you enjoy constructed, it’s great (if you only want to draft, prepare to throw more money at the game).
Playing fewer new games. I’m trying to play fewer new games. That was successful. Last year I played 72 new games, this year the number is down to 61. That is a very good direction.
Reducing game purchases. I was hoping to reduce my purchases even more. I wasn’t expecting to sell as many games as in 2019 (I can’t sell hundred games every year, I’d run out of games to sell). After another heavy cull, I did end up selling almost 100 titles. I removed more good, even great games, that don’t match my needs. I documented everything in a geeklist on BGG.
Last year I spent about 1,200 € in games, buying about 30 games and backing four Kickstarter campaigns. This year I spent about the same amount of money on about 20 games and three Kickstarter campaigns. I bought less, but the games I bought were more expensive. That’s fine. In the end, after selling over 90 titles, I ended up 50 euros in red. That’s not a bad total for a hobby.
Thanks to Arena, my spending on Magic: The Gathering dropped from 200 € to 5 €, yet I acquired a ton of new cards.
50×50 finished! In November I realized my fifty by fifty list was close to finishing. I decided to act on it to finish up the list by the end of the year. I succeeded in that, and now I feel empty. What’s next? I guess I’ll keep on pushing the H-index up, but the jump to 51 will be tougher, as I’ve plateaued many games at 50 plays. The highest H-index in Finland I know of is 53, so beating that might be one goal – but knowing the guy who has it, it won’t be easy.
Pelaajien valinta. I again skipped the Pelaajien valinta jury duties, but still worked in the background. The family game of the year is Quest for El Dorado and the gamer’s game of the year is Wingspan. These are good winners.
Good new games (2019–2020)
The Crew piqued my interest in the Essen reports. I had to wait until March to actually get a copy, but then it hit fifty plays in a record-breaking four days. It helps when a single play is a single hand of trick-taking and takes at most five minutes. Unfortunately we played this once, then Covid-19 hit on the next week or so, and that’s it for the campaign. But, I started another campaign with my son. The game works quite well as a two-player game. At some point we moved to the variant where we removed one colour from the deck. That improves the two-player game. My Game of the Year 2020.
Hallertau is a big box Uwe Rosenberg game. It is the first interesting Rosenberg title since Nusfjord in 2017. The box is deceptive in its size: this isn’t quite as heavy as something like A Feast for Odin. Neither is there a ton of components included, even though there are plenty of cards. There were many sheets of cardboard, but that’s big boards instead of hundreds of small chits. No, Hallertau is a rather lovely medium-weight game that plays in 20–25 minutes per player. It offers a nice challenge that is both constricted – this is no sandbox, no! – and allows for creativity in the shape of cards, which you get plenty and can play at will. It reminds me of At the Gates of Loyang in many ways. I like it, and it’s the strongest candidate for the Game of the Year this year after The Crew.
Abandon All Artichokes came from W. Eric Martin. He has a good track record on recommending specific kind of games. After Martin said he likes this, I knew I had to take a look at this. The art is super cute, even the tin it comes in is nice and the game play is very smooth. It’s so smooth I guess some people won’t like it, but for me it works, and both my kids like it, which is always good.
Fort was intriguing, but first I wasn’t going to buy it. It was Dan Thurot’s praise that got me to buy it – and Kyle Ferrin’s art. It was a good purchase, and one I’m curious to try out as a multiplayer game once the Covid-19 restrictions stop. So far as a two-player game it’s been a good filler. I see some very interesting potential in the multiplayer game as well.
MicroMacro: Crime City doesn’t count as a game, it’s a puzzle, but since it’s on BGG and whatnot, well, let’s mention it here. I bumped into this on BGG, tried out the demo and knew I’d like this. I got it as soon as it was available in the friendly local, and very good I did, as it was soon sold out everywhere. I liked this advanced Where’s Waldo puzzle a lot, the only flaw being that it’s too easy and too quick to finish. I did an interview with one of the designers, this was one of the article highlights of this blog in 2020.
Trails of Tucana is one of the better coupon-filler* games this year. The genre has been on the rise recently. This year it landed in Finland in full force, with loads of new games appearing on the market. This was one of the highlights of genre, yet still not a keeper. (* I prefer the Finnish term “coupon-filler” to the English “roll and write”. The Finnish term covers all the flip and writes and draw and writes and whatnots better.)
Undaunted: North Africa was an obvious move after we had enjoyed Undaunted: Normandy. I got it as a birthday gift to my son and we played through the campaign in nine days. So, a success! We haven’t returned to the game since. I have only played as the Allied forces and it would be interesting to try out the Italian side. So far we haven’t done that for some reason – I guess I don’t find the game all that alluring for repeat play after all.
Minecraft: Builders & Biomes is worth a mention: it’s a solid family game and does the Minecraft theme well. It can’t capture many – even most – aspects of the video game, but it shouldn’t even try. It does get the aesthetics correct. The game play is simple yet interesting and Minecraft fans can get building ideas out of it. For us, this was too light and didn’t make it to the table after the initial interest spike flattened out. This is still something that was long overdue.
Cities: Skylines was interesting, because I’ve spent some hours playing the video game. I wasn’t happy with the game being a co-op, but this turned out to be a rather nice city-building puzzle. Cities shines as a two-player game when you can bounce ideas off each other. Solo gamers will no doubt like this as well.
Good older games I haven’t played before
I had dismissed Everdell as another Kickstarter game. You know, lots of style but little substance. But no, it’s not for nothing it’s currently ranked the second best family game on BGG and in the top 40 of all games. It’s darn good, that is (but for very advanced families). It sure looks nice, thanks to the splendid Andrew Bosley art, but I also like the game play. It starts with so very little, and snowballs into a proper engine in no time. I loaned the game from library, gave it a go and went on and bought it after the first play. I also got the Bellfaire expansion right away and I have some of the small expansions. I’ve skipped the other big expansions so far, and will likely keep it that way. Everdell is the Best New Old Game of 2020.
Tyrants of the Underdark is the polar opposite of Everdell. It has interested me for a long time. While the game has a distinct style with all the shades of purple and turquoise in the world thrown in, it’s very ugly. Yet, the combination of deck-building and board play got me interested. My first play earlier in the year got me hooked in. Later, I loaned the game from a friend and played more, and yes, it is a fine game. My son liked it, too, so we played it for a while. The box is too big and it’s still very ugly; I don’t need my own copy, but I wouldn’t say no.
Merchant of Venus has hovered on my radar for a long time, as I do like pick up and deliver games. This year I decided I’ll start hunting and I found a copy of the second edition. I’ve only played the Classic version though, the new version rules seem terrible. I do like this, it’s a fun romp in space. I’d say this is the best roll and move game in my collection…
Cartographers was another library loan. Everybody has been touting this as the best coupon-filler, and I can see why. Especially armed with coloured pens, drawing the map is good fun. I’ve only played this once with the actual game, but I bought the app version and have been playing that on and off. I find the scoring in the solo game annoying, luck-heavy and somewhat frustrating. In multi-player games it doesn’t matter. In solo games, some setups make scoring big difficult. I do agree this is one of the better games in the genre, but it’s not a genre I enjoy a lot.
Underwater Cities was the last new game of the year, with the first play couple of days before the year was over. This is another loan from a friend, and seems like a solid game. It took us a long time to get it on the table, because I thought it might be too long. In the end we played our first game in an hour or so, and it was quite good. My friend says Underwater Cities makes Terraforming Mars obsolete. I’m not quite ready to say that, this does seem quite interesting. Both games look terrible, though, dreadful graphic design here at parts.
Here’s a list of games that we played at least five times. It’s interesting to see how the games change year after year.
I’m no longer counting games played only with my son. They’re not children’s games, and don’t make much sense here.
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza was a spot-on match for my daughter. I knew it the moment I saw this game. I got a review copy and sure enough, my daughter LOVES this game. It’s not my favourite game, but I’ll play it to please her, no problems there – at least it’s mercifully short and quite silly.
Abandon All Artichokes worked well with the kids, and even my daughter wanted to play it. The cutesy artwork is definitely one attraction here.
Machi Koro had the best year ever. I figured out it was one part of the shortest path to completing my 50×50 challenge. Because of that, I taught the game to my daughter. I had never played it with her before. She grew to like it. In the last days of the year, we played a bunch of four-player games with the kids and my mother, who also got into the game. My daughter won most of those games, solidifying Machi Koro’s place among her favourite games.
Just One keeps on entertaining. Even my wife wanted to play it! That’s some major praise. I like this one, because it’s a co-op. That means it’s all soft and fuzzy, and that’s what’s good about it. There’s no competition, no hurt feelings, and plenty of good times to have.
Twin It! I would have passed this one, but the game went and won the Party Game of the Year award in Finland. I’m not sure how good a party game this is; maybe for small parties. But it is a fine reaction test game and I’ve enjoyed playing quite a bit (more than Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza for sure).
Europa Tour got a bit of a makeover. I got the brand new Finnish 10 Days in Europe edition. It is the latest version, with very bright and garish art. It’s more modern than the old Schmidt edition I have. I do like the changes in the gameplay in the new edition; the more vibrant look will still take some getting used to. the colours in the board in particular have gone a bit overboard.
Love Letter got more plays than in 2019, but it’s still played much less than it was before. To some extent that means we play less in general, but it also means we play other games, which is fine.
UNO got plays, as my daughter got a copy of Harry Potter UNO as a birthday present, and of course wanted to play it quite a bit. That fizzled out at some point. It’s not a terrible game, especially when you don’t play it to the 500 point goal which takes ages. There are many better games out there, though.
Da Vinci Code wasn’t as big a hit as it was last year. We played it enough to make it reach 50 plays, but that’s about it.
Second Chance was a review copy that I kept, because my daughter liked this. This is a fine game, it’s a very much in the Unix tool philosophy: it does one thing and it does it well, and that’s it. As far as simple coupon-fillers go, this is the simplest.
Afrikan tähti is still a hit. The Finnish national broadcasting company had an Africa-themed month in the summer. As a part of that, a journalist did a series on Africa based on different aspects of Afrikan tähti. He interviewed me in one of the episodes, where we talked about the game itself. Other episodes covered the diamond trade, crime, public transport, explorers and so on.
Animal Upon Animal made it to the list only because I was short some plays to reach 50 plays. Otherwise, we’re done with this. It’s fun, sure, and I’d consider this something of a children’s game classic, but we don’t seem to play this anymore.
The Mysteries of Peking was a candidate for 50 plays, but Machi Koro bypassed it. That’s good.
Coconuts is still one of my favourite dexterity games, and I still like to play with my daughter.
Connect Four is a good check: did we visit my dad’s summer cottage? If we did, we played Connect Four.
Decrypto still works fine. I wouldn’t mind playing this with my friends, but as it happens, this seems to be something I’ll play with the kids and my mom.
Valley of the Vikings was a review copy, of course I wanted to give the Kinderspiel des Jahres 2019 a go. It’s fine, fun mix of physical action and tactics. Not for us, though, we had no reason to keep this after I had written the review.
Games I’ve kept on enjoying
Spirit Island worried me last year, as the plays had dwindled. I worried if Jagged Earth would arrive to a situation where we didn’t want to play the game again. No worries there! Jagged Earth gave us a good boost and we ended up playing Spirit Island ten times. That is great for something this heavy. It’s a solid challenge, trying out the new spirits has been good fun and we’ll keep on fighting back the invaders.
Res Arcana is a solid keeper. We added the Lux et Tenebrae expansion to the mix in January. We played this almost 30 times this year, making it the second most played game of the year (tied with Magic). We’ll be enjoying this for another 50 plays, I’m sure.
Magic: the Gathering, like mentioned, was HUGE in Arena, I ended up playing a lot, but we also played it offline a bit. Most of it constructed – my son designed a new deck, and that got us some play. Some cube drafting might be in order. Now that I’ve played a ton with the latest cards, my cube is starting to feel a bit dated. However, I’m not particularly interested in buying new cards. I also do get to play the new cards enough on Arena, so the older cards are fine.
Pax Pamir (Second edition) didn’t get much play, but five plays isn’t bad. It’s a weird two-player game where I tend to lose to my son. I need more practise
Altiplano made it to five plays as well. We played a bunch of Orléans this year as I had that on loan. That reinforced my opinion: Altiplano is the better game of the two. The Traveler expansion still remains unused and unnecessary.
Nusfjord is one of the better games from Uwe Rosenberg and we’ve kept on enjoying it. The Salmon Deck arrived and was much easier to source than the Plaice Deck. The new buildings are exciting and interesting. I hope more expansions are coming, as they do keep the game fresh.
We played A Feast for Odin three times in 2019 and three times in 2018. Well, in 2020, we played it 11 times! It made a big splash this year. My son got better in it, and this deeper dive has made me love the game. I got the Mini Expansion #2 and that has been a good addition to the game. We’ve used that and have played only the short six-round game with The Norwegians. It’s the best kind of expansion: it makes the game shorter, with a faster start and more action. I love it!
Attika got a solid boost from the 50 game challenge. That’s good. No matter how old this is – almost 20 years now, which is crazy – I still quite like this as a quick two-player game.
Innovation is a staple that works. Over ten plays is very solid for something ten years old. I still haven’t started with the expansions.
Dale of Merchants tends to come and go a bit. This year it was definitely coming, with the third small box. I first got it in preview format and later in the year as a proper release. It’s another fine set of animalfolk. This is a keeper.
Merkator is another staple filler. It plays fast and offers a nice little puzzle. We’ve settled into playing the long two-player game, with one-card hand (rarely used) and no money.
Fields of Arle is my son’s favourite. I prefer A Feast for Odin myself, but my son likes the openness of Arle better. Can’t blame him, and I don’t mind playing this again and again. I’m happy that I haven’t got stuck in specific strategies here, I find myself trying out new things. That’s good, a game like this could become stale from set strategies.
Escape room games are still a thing. We played every Unlock! box and have enjoyed them a lot. There are two Deckscape games I haven’t played. We only got one Exit, The Theft on the Mississippi, as Exits seem generally too easy. They’re not worth the effort of keeping them intact. Unlock! is my favourite series now, they are so effortless, fun and interesting.
The not-so-good, the disappointing and the plain bad
Wavelength had an excellent background, but did not deliver. Wolfgang Warsch and the authors of Monikers sounds great. At best it was awesome, coming up with the clues was fun and thinking about the clues given was interesting. A too large part of the clue-giving was boring, as was waiting for the other team to play. So in the end it did not shine enough.
Tiny Towns was a library find that was dreadful. The whole game was a feast of negativity and failure. It’s a question how soon you have to screw up all your plans and efforts. That’s something I don’t enjoy. Another game in similar vein was Calico, which also wasn’t my cup of tea.
War Chest was interesting, because it was from the makers of Undaunted. There are similar mechanisms in play here. I do prefer the more themed – even if it’s thin – approach of Undaunted to the stark minimalism of War Chest. Also, this felt very hollow, a five-minute filler with not much in it. (This amazed my friend who borrowed me the game, and didn’t understand how we can play the game that way. We should play a game one day, we both could learn something.)
Where are they now
Q.E. got axed, in the end I felt it was a bit of a one-trick pony, and I had seen enough of the trick. It’s funny, but. The kids haven’t requested Combo Color much. I thought it was pretty fine, but for some reason the game ran out of steam.
Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Operation Barbarossa 1941 and Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal – The Pacific 1942 both left the collection. Guadalcanal after only a couple of plays. I got good money for these, selling them almost at the same price I paid for them. I did keep the third edition Storms of Steel I bought in Spring. It seems to be the best incarnation of the series and considering how much we play these games, one is enough. I do want to keep that one.
Caverna: Cave vs Cave also got axed (pickaxed?), despite the expansion. It’s a fine game, but in a world with Nusfjord and Hallertau, there isn’t room for Caverna: Cave vs Cave. I also sold Le Havre: Inland Port, so I no longer have any of these small Rosenberg two-player games.
I had planned another full 1825 game for the summer, but Covid-19 made that impossible. Next summer, maybe?
Fives and dimes
- The Crew (126)
- Magic: The Gathering (29)
- Res Arcana (29)
- Machi Koro (20)
- Just One (16)
- Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza (16)
- Abandon All Artichokes (15)
- Unlock! (12)
- Everdell (12)
- Twin It! (12)
- Innovation (11)
- Dale of Merchants (11)
- Undaunted: North Africa (11)
- A Feast for Odin (11)
- Europa Tour (10)
- Spirit Island (10)
- China Hand (9)
- Attika (9)
- Nusfjord (9)
- Fort (9)
- UNO (8)
- Wavelength (8)
- Love Letter (8)
- Merkator (8)
- Da Vinci Code (7)
- Fields of Arle (7)
- Decrypto (7)
- Second Chance (7)
- Tyrants of the Underdark (7)
- Genial (6)
- Afrikan tähti (6)
- Animal upon Animal (6)
- Shards of Infinity (6)
- Azul: Summer Pavilion (6)
- Minecraft: Builders & Biomes (6)
- Trails of Tucana (6)
- Hallertau (6)
- Coconuts (5)
- Ora et Labora (5)
- Connect Four (5)
- Pax Pamir (5)
- Altiplano (5)
- Conflict of Heroes (5)
- Ticket to Ride: London (5)
- Cities: Skylines (5)
- Valley of the Vikings (5)
- Marvel: Infinity Gauntlet (5)
- Battle Line (Schotten-Totten) (19/20)
- San Juan (17/17)
- Carcassonne (16/20)
- Attika (15/18)
- Ta Yü (15/18)
- Age of Steam (14/18)
- Ingenious (13/17)
- Tarock (12/14)
- Innovation (11/11)
- Samarkand: Routes to Riches (11/11)
- Dominion* (11/13)
- Oregon (10/10)
- Agricola (11/14)
- Memory* (10/12)
- Love Letter (9/9)
- Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation* (12/19)
- Villa Paletti* (12/19)
- Animal Upon Animal (10/13)
- Schildkrötenrennen* (9/11)
- Suburbia (8/8)
Games marked with an * didn’t get played this year.
- Magic: The Gathering (3.37)
- Love Leter (3.12)
- A Feast for Odin (2.31)
- Ora et Labora (2.08)
- Tarock (2.03)
- Unlock! (1.85)
- Fields of Arle (1.75)
- Agricola (1.63)
- Suburbia (1.57)
- Dale of Merchants (1.43)
- Innovation (1.41)
- London (1.36)
- Age of Steam (1.32)
- Nusfjord (1.30)
- Mysteries of Peking (1.26)
- 1825 (1.25)
- Machi Koro (1.24)
- Conflict of Heroes (1.24)
- Altiplano (1.20)
- Great Western Trail (1.20)
- Carcassonne (1.19)
- Terraforming Mars (1.17)
- Colony (1.10)
- Oregon (1.06)
- Spirit Island (1.06)
This is a metric devised by Eric Brosius, and the scores for the games are calculated this way:
For each game and each year, calculate SQRT(number of plays in year) * (5/6^(current year – year)). Sum these, divide with the sum of year weights, raise to the second power and multiply by the game length in hours.
My H-index for this year is 11 (10 last year). My total H-index is 50, up six points from last year.