2015 10 Games 10 Plays Challenge

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A common problem that most board game collectors have is the desire to stay within the “Cult of the New.” Buying and learning and then playing new games is a thrill that can only be matched by moving on almost immediately to the next shiny distraction. My collection has grown to quite a substantial size since Megan and I moved in to our own place in 2011. I have collected more and more games every year. I have cycled a couple out of my collection as gifts or in the case of the infamous In a Pickle Incident, set aflame in the backyard. The problem with constantly acquiring new games, other than the quarterly pinching of my wallet, is that the original stars and cornerstones of my collection see less and less play time as they get pushed further back into the storage area in the attic. The more I give into my consumerism, the more cheap I feel. Leaving games behind while I try to push others under my friends and family’s noses, “Hey Dad/Hunnie/innocent passerby, wanna learn how to play New Game Title Here? I know its only the fourth game I have taught you this year, but I am sure you are going to love it!” To this end I am going to put a padlock over my board game budget and say enough is enough. This year not a single new game will be purchased with money that could go into something my wife and I truly need. This year I am going to take the time to really assess whether or not I like a game enough to really delve into it and root around in the details and design choices that drew me to that game in the first place. Are these games really worth the shelf space they take up, or am I simply turning a blind eye to buyer’s remorse?

Last year, a collector named Sarah Reed proposed this challenge on the popular communal website boardgamegeek.com In her article, which I shall repost HERE she lays out her reasoning and the rules of the challenge.  In summation the challenge is to play ten different games in my collection at least ten times each in 2015. I will accept the challenge while logging all of the games I manage to play this year with anybody who will allow themselves to be chained to a dining room chair. I will post my progress here and write about anything applicable that I learned or discovered about the games, play sessions, and the people who willingly sat down to play them with me.

Below is the list of 10 games I will try to play this year, with each I have provided a small blurb that has hopefully been edited down to avoid too much gushing or praise. The games are in no specific order whatsoever and are simply numbered for convenience. Also included is a single alternate at the suggestion of the original poster.

Updated August 10th: 3 Games Completed, 40 Plays Remaining

1. Small World by Philippe Keyaerts (Completed July 3rd!)

My very first game in the collection I started in Dover. This game is often described to new players as Risk with fantasy races. Each game provides randomized army choices with strategic decisions that expand with each turn.  I am a huge fan of this game and I am confident it need never leave my collection. This is a game that I played literally at midnight before the day of my wedding and one that I love using to introduce others to a more in depth level of board gaming. I think this is one of the best gateway games our there and one I hope to play with my family for years to come, may it never leave my shelf. Aside: Since I taught my wife to play it last year I have never defeated her in a one on one match. This will hopefully be rectified in ten plays or I am a Cursed Dwarf.

2. King of New York by Richard Garfield (Completed July 26th!!!)

This is a new acquisition from a Secret Santa and is what I used to describe to new players as Yahtzee with giant rampaging monsters. Since I taught this game to Megan she has assured me that it is NOTHING like Yahtzee, but has conceded that there are giant rampaging monsters. Players roll dice, vaguely like Yahtzee, which determine how their titans charge through the city districts of New York, trampling buildings while the army shows up to futilely try and resolve whatever custody dispute warrants wanton cardboard monster standee destruction. I like this game because it is easy to teach, it offers different paths to victory and it has very chubby bouncy dice that barely fit in the average human’s cupped hands.

3. Imperial Settlers by Ignacy Trzewiczek (Completed September 4th!!!!)

This game is also very new in my collection and is the first Euro game on top of that. Players choose one of four civilization factions; Egyptians, Barbarians, Romans, or the Japanese and exchange small wooden tokens and cards to build the most impressive settlement. The game revolves around points and using cards for multiple purposes. At a glance the game can seem a bit boring, but what really appealed to me was the art style of the game and the diversity offered from each of the different factions. This is also one of the games that can be played completely solo, with an artificial opponent. This game was very hyped up in 2014 and admittedly it has the most to prove for kept around, but I am very optimistic about what this game has to offer.

4. Forbidden Desert by Matt Leacock (7/10)

After playing its predecessor Forbidden Island at my first Unity Games day in Danvers I was smitten when I encountered its edgier and younger brother in a department store in Maine. Forbidden Desert is portable, simple, random, and easy to teach. It is cooperative and requires no combat, unless you count combating dehydration. It has variable player powers which is always a plus for a game I intend to play many times. On the whole I think the game is just more approachable to others and that is what I want on my list; games that I can expand my player pool with and teach to others more readily. Forbidden Desert catalogs the story of a group of explorers seeking a lost civilization’s remnants buried beneath the sand. Unfortunately their transportation is compromised and they find themselves needing to explore the random desert tiles for parts of an ancient flying machine that will bring them to safety before death by sandstorm or fatigue seeps in like some sort of substance through an hour glass. Each player takes on the specialized role such as; Meteorologist, Water Carrier, or Climber, etc. The deck is stacked against the intrepid band however, as the winds threaten to bury them and the lost city completely. If any of the company perish before they accomplish their goal, the whole table loses.

5. Super Dungeon Explore by John Cadice, Deke Stella, and Chris Berkenhagen (7/10)

Back in 2011 I became enraptured by this game and obsessed over adding it to my collection. Super Dungeon Explore (or SDE for short) is a game with an Inception-esque theme of playing a board game about playing a video game about adventurers questing through a fantasy realm besieged by evil. That run on sentence either has you running for the door or ensnared by dozens of intricately sculpted miniature grappling hooks. The game had fantastic sculpted fantasy miniatures with a distinct cutesy Anime vibe, colorful bouncing dice, and diverse components. What the game didn’t have was pacing, balance, a legible rulebook, simplistic setup, or a gentle learning curve. This is not to say that I didn’t have a couple very exciting and successful plays of the game, but never enough really to justify holding onto it. I was ready to sell this game early last year, but then the designers promised a second edition with more characters, play modes, monsters, and most importantly – balanced rules. Now I have the chance to really put this game through its paces and see if all this well-molded plastic is destined for my gaming shelf or a remorseful eBay listing.

6. Cadwallon: City of Thieves by Pascal Bernard and Laurent Pouchain (6/10)

Before I ever began collecting modern board games or even before I was aware of any real variety in board games I was taken with the cover to the box of this game. The art of the Cadwallon style games has a unique fantasy flair with some gritty out of the ordinary and quirky blended in. I have several plays of this game with Joe at Toys’n’Things in Danvers,MA, but still was happy to receive a copy of my own. Thanks Mom! The game puts each player at the helm of a gang of fantasy realm thieves in one of the quiet and unsuspecting districts of the city of Cadwallon. As the night progresses the thieves dodge patrolmen, swash-buckle, break, enter, and burgle and try to line their pockets with as much treasure as possible. Soon the authorities begin blocking off all the exits and players risk losing all of their hard stolen loot and paying bail for their bumbling compatriots if they don’t escape in time. The game is mostly just maneuvering plastic miniatures and rolling dice, but it rewards bravado and planning on the fly. There are several different missions in the game and I still haven’t tried them all, which I look forward to doing with this game on my list.

7. Guilds of Cadwallon by Gaetan Beaujannot and Charles Chevallier (Completed November 1st!!!!!)

A second foray into Cadwallon because the artwork is just too good to turn down. Posing as heads of noble houses in the city, players send agents into the city to try and control the commerce at its core; the Guilds of Cadwallon. What this really means is cards forming a square grid where participants play pawns to score the largest and most impressive suites of those cards. The game can be a real brain burner and the depth of strategy mounts with each round. Sometimes I find myself looking several turns into the future and trying to predict the next guy’s moves just like in a game of chess. I think the game is very fun and it doesn’t last too long due to a finite number of rounds by design. I purchased the game via Kickstarter back in 2013, but have yet to play with ANY of the game’s variants or alternate winning conditions. I would absolutely like to teach this to more people and really learn some of the more diverse ways to play it.

8. Smash Up by Paul Peterson (Completed July 22nd!!)

Smash Up is a card game of theoretical confrontation between uncanny combinations of science fiction and fantasy genres. Ever wondered who would reign supreme in a four sided confrontation between Cyborg Ape Zombies, Steampunk Kittens, Werewolf Princesses, and Secret Agent Pirates? The answer is just a few quick shuffles away. The game has literally hundreds of deck choices and the numbers are growing yearly. While the combat system is basically just settled through simple addition, the game caters to all sorts of play styles; the sheer brutality of Dinosaurs with laser technology, the subtle trickery of time traveling ghosts, or the seemingly endless combinations of Robot Wizards. Note: Never allow Greg Dass to get his hands on the Robot deck, Dumbledore help you if he does. I was also really impressed with how quickly my twelve year old brother took to this game and handedly crushed me without mercy.

9. Dixit by Jean-Louis Roubira (4/10)

I had to allow at least one party game onto my list and Dixit is by far one of my favorites. Dixit is a game where each player has a hand of cards featuring wonderful surreal art by some very talented artists. On his turn one player must secretly insert one card into a pool with all the other players cards and then offer a hint or riddle as to which card is his. Unfortunately each opponent is using that exact clue to choose their own cards. If enough, but not all, of his opponents can find the card he played then they will all get points. The trick is to not let your clue be too obvious or too simple, to really penetrate the other player’s psyches and your personal histories together. I know a game is going well when everybody gets lost into staring into the beautiful artwork of the cards they like and the game stalls. This game is also one that Megan does really well at. Using her sinister spousal mind penetrating powers she has often scored so many points that an outsider might assume I am throwing her the game. I assure you that I am not smart enough for this sort of cahootery.

10. The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game by Nate French (6/10)

Before I was married, I spent a lot of time playing World of Warcraft. I sunk so much time into it that it was a very tense subject in our relationship and I have been free of the game for quite some time. There are many board games, but not many that I know of can mirror the experience of a large World of Warcraft raid or dungeon crawl. What comes close is the Living Lord of the Rings Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games. Players each construct a deck with cards themed by designers and artists who deeply respect the lore of Tolkien. Various game mechanics represent the progression of fantasy questing in a company of heroic fictional characters. The game is cooperative and requires all of the players to be in sync and handling different aspects of combat and exploration. When the game turns against me and I find my back to the wall, instead of staring into the faceless pixels Azeroth on a computer monitor I am seeing my dad squinting desperately over a hand of cards. This brings a smile to my face and gives me new hope that maybe we can scramble together to save our skin from a vicious hill troll or warg pack for just one more round. This game can also be played alone, but my excursions into Middle Earth by myself have been very difficult, perhaps this year I will find time to master solitaire play, but if not I can always turn to my own Fellowship.

Alternate: Sushi Go! by Phil Walker-Harding (4/10)

The original poster suggested an alternate game, and while I wanted to keep most of this games on this list deep and meaty, I cannot say no to anthropomorphic Japanese cuisine. Sushi Go! is one of the many little filler games I have in my collection, but I chose it because it is the newest and Megan likes it. The game is a very straightforward drafting game where players craft the most appetizing plate of sushi which is measured in points. The art has adorable smiling sashimi and the game rules are easy to teach and grasp. I will track this game along with the other ten in case I am unable to reach my goal with any of the other games and I look forward to teaching as many people as possible.

D&D Wrath of Ashardalon by Peter Lee and Bill Slavicsek (Removed May 1st)

This is more accurately referred to as the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System, the game is essentially D&D in a condensed experience. Without all the time requirements and preparation that usually goes into a role-play session, this game can really scratch my itch for some fantasy monster-slaying and dungeon delving. The coordinated cooperative experience mixed with the almost insidious random occurrence of bad things happening almost makes up for the lack of a Dungeon Master or any deep story telling elements. It is uncanny how this game can generate the most painful and hopeless scenarios able to push players to the edge of desperation. I have lost to this game several times, but this makes the moment of victory even more savory when a plan comes together and the quest is completed. This game can also be played as a solo experience, but I find it to be a rather unfulfilled time without anyone else to share in the tragedy or glory.

So it begins …

For more in formation on the The 10 plays challenge by Sarah Reed please visit:

Original Challenge Post: http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/166160/2014-challenge-play-10-games-10-times-each/page/32?

For more board game resources please visit http://www.boardgamegeek.com/

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