Thursday, December 27, 2007

What Games Did We Play This Year?

A good indication of a great game is that it's played often.

There are many reasons why a game may not get played often. You may be a sucker in the "cult of the new" (always playing new games). Or the game doesn't really have the drawing power in practice that it has on paper. Also, you might lose a game, or only acquire a game at the end of the year.

Some great games are played only once or twice a year, such as long complicated war games, although a single "game" may take several dozen sessions to finish. And some great games don't get played at all if you can't find willing opponents.

But a game that survives the initial plays and is played often throughout the year is a good indication of high game value. This is especially true in a game group where there are many games to chose from. High game value, or extreme boredom and laziness.

For that reason, at the end of each year, many gamers and game group organizers like to list what games they actually played that year. We call them "nickel and dime lists"; games played five or more times are "nickels", ten or more times are "dimes", and so on.

The 2007 JSGC Nickel and Dime List

I don't bother doing a personal nickel and dime list, but here is the nickel and dime list of my game group, the Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club.

Of course really light board games are played multiple times in one session. So ten games of Boggle: is that 1 play or 10 plays? I'm afraid that I'm inconsistent about this. I usually count all Bridge hands as a single game, while I count several plays of Boggle as individual games. So whenever I do that, I'll explain.

In parentheses is the number of times that we played the game last year.


Bridge x 31 (19) - The greatest card game for a standard deck of playing cards. Some core players in our group are just getting started with this game and happy to play every week. I wouldn't mind playing some other light games, but I don't mind playing Bridge, either. It's an incredible game. Each game night includes between 3 and 12 hands.

Caylus x 11 (8) - A heavy eurogame of building and resources. I don't like the game much because it's very repetitive, mechanical, and long, but other members in the group are happy to play it just about every week.

Cosmic Encounter x 15 (12) - A classic chaotic board game which has been around for over thirty years. A game can be long and tedious or furious and hilarious, but it's always wild. That's what makes it so good. We play more now that I own my own copy.

Go x 11 (10) - The perfect two-player abstract game is too perfect, sometimes, as it's hard to take losing, and you can't get better unless you play an awful lot.

It's Alive / The Menorah Game x 21 (18) - A light auction and set-collection card game. We got the published version mid-year, but we've been playing the prototype version all along. This is my own game, and a good choice as a filler, especially for 3 players.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation x 14 (29) - A themed bluffing game using the Stratego mechanic. One of the members who loves this game didn't come to the group much this year. A quick but tense filler game for two players.

Magic: the Gathering x 17 (22) - The definitive collectible card game. While occasionally others will play this, most of the plays are between David and me. Still a fantastic game, and always will be.

Netrunner x 11 - Another CCG. I really love this game, but the only other people who would play it with me were David and Binyamin. David ended up never wanting to play it because there is too much luck, while Binyamin and I haven't had more opportunity. And I have new cards which I haven't played with, too.

Power Grid x 21 (18) - A game of route connections and money management. This has become the game of choice for most evenings. I now have some new maps to play on, too. Lots of money counting.

Puerto Rico x 12 (15) - This is The Game, number one game in the world for a reason, but it doesn't get so much group play because many of us play it so often outside of the group. And Rachel will play it in the group, but she's been in Canada for the last half a year.

San Juan x 13 (13) - PR's little brother the card game is nice but less filling. Seems to be the default opening filler for some people while waiting for others to show up.

Tichu x 14 (4) - A ladder card game. A really nice alternative to Bridge which requires less thinking and exactly four people, but most people in the group would rather just play Bridge.


Chess x 6 - Played by a few specific members on occasion.

El Grande x 5 (3) - A hefty area-control game, the best. It's nice to see its numbers go up slightly. I could play it more often.

Lost Cities x 5 (1) - A simple card game. I tried this and decided it was simply brainless. Maybe very good for non-gamers. Traded away.

Lost Valley x 7 - A nice medium game of resource collecting and buying special abilities, but can occasionally turn into a runaway game. Slightly flawed in that regard. But I still want to play it.

Princes of Florence x 9 (6) - A classic and well-loved game, very cerebral. Tight money management and set collection. Lovely theme.

Settlers of Catan x 8 (12) - The original and best introductory euro game of resources and civ building. Tends to get played by the newer players as a gateway game to other games. It's by now brainless for me, having played it a thousand times, and old hat to some of the others, but still a good game.

Zendo x 5 (7) - A pure induction game. One of our members loves this game and brings it with him. He hasn't been around much lately, however.

Zertz x 5 - A nice GIPF game, I prefer Dvonn, Yinsh, or Tzaar. All the GIPF games are pretty two-player abstracts.

Near Misses

Amun-Re x 3 (5) - A building game in ancient Egypt. Played less because I returned the copy of the game I had borrowed. Nearly everyone likes the game well enough.

Children of Fire: the Boardgame x 4 - An interesting game of blind bidding. Binyamin notes that the setup can result in some people having more natural allies than others, making for unbalanced starting positions. More concerning are some rules problems and no guaranteed end to the game (solve this by declaring the game over after 8 turns).

Geschenkt x 3 (5) - A quick and very light filler card game, excellent for new players.

Mr Jack x 4 - A new deduction game in the collection. Fun, even though one of the sides can lose the game with one mistake, while the other just has to be fairly competent and hope for luck.

Mykerinos x 3 - A decent game of area control, but not especially gripping.

Santiago x 3 (7) - One of my absolute favorites, unfortunately others don't feel the same way. It's an elegant area connection game with a brilliant auction system.

Taj Mahal x 3 (7) - A set collection route connection bluffing game. Another great game that doesn't get played as much as it used to, owing to other games being even better.

Tigris and Euphrates x 4 (8) - An excellent area connection tile laying game, this is a great game, but much more confrontational than some of the others.

Wildlife x 4 (1) - We tried this area connection game and found it to be overly long and not so interesting after all. Don't know why. I traded it away.

Yinsh x 3 (9) - One of the best of the Gipf games.


Backgammon x 2 - Rarely played, except as an unusual choice for a filler.

Blokus (and Trigon) x 2 - Beautiful abstract games, but better suited for non-gamers. Somehow too abstract for our group.

Boggle x 2 - I still enjoy this, but most of the group doesn't like word games, and those who do don't want to play this for some reason.

Carcassonne (all types) x 2 (2) - A great intro tile laying game. I don't own a copy at the moment, but this is another good game that doesn't seem to go right with our group. Too many possibilities with each move, possibly. I like it.

Colosseum x 2 - An overproduced OK euro.

Die Macher x 2 - A great German political game, but really, really long. We keep trying but never finishing a game.

Dvonn x 2 (5) - Another excellent in the Gipf series.

For Sale x 2 (11) - Great auction card game for non-gamers, not enough substance for the group.

Mau x 2 - I loathe this induction card game. A few of our members like it.

Pirate's Cove x 2 - I haven't played this euro. Well received, I believe.

Robo Rally x 2 - Really fun and chaotic game for computer and engineering geeks, but play with a very small board and only one goal, and then see how long it takes. Can take a long time to play on a large board.

Saboteur x 2 (1) - A light Mille-Bornes like card game which scales for 3 to 10 players. I seem to have misplaced my copy.

Shear Panic x 2 - Poorly written rules, and really cute pieces. It's an ok abstract game, but not enough for us. Traded away.

Tic Tac Toe x 2 - Don't ask.


24/7 (1) - A nice tile laying math game for kids, but not interesting enough for our group. Traded away.

Apples to Apples (1) - An excellent portable party game for non-gamers, totally not right for our group.

Arimaa (1) - A modern, slow abstract played with chess pieces. I just don't like the mechanics.

Arkham Horror - A new game, long, complex, and RPG-like. A cooperative game with little player interaction. But greatly themed and fun. But did I mention long? And lots of bits.

Atlantic Star - I really like this simple card drafting game, but all the people I played with didn't see its depth. I haven't been able to get it out again.

Blue Moon City - A very nice area control game which belongs to Binyamin. I wouldn't mind playing again.

Bus - A pickup and deliver game with a very interesting but greatly flawed bidding system. I would love to fix it so we can play the rest of the game.

By Hook or By Crook (4) - The definitive rock-paper-scissors game, a mechanic only some of us like, but others hate.

Casbah - A very simple and simplistic abstract.

Checkers - More depth than most people give it credit for, still not exactly thrilling.

Chrononauts - I didn't play, but I believe that I would hate it.

Cities and Knights of Catan (3) - We used to play this a lot, but there are runaway winner problems. Still a good game for occasional play. Based on Settlers, but with more special cards and pieces.

Cleopatra and the Society of Architects - Lots of 3D components and an OK euro.

Colossal Arena (3) - Not a bad bidding card game, but nothing too exciting for its category. Traded away.

Cribbage (2) - A time killer for two people and a deck of standard playing cards.

Crossword Dominoes - Old game that I wanted to check out. Not worth much.

Down Under - A new tile-laying game. I think it's quite nice. Good for 2-4 players. The other people I played with didn't like it.

Feurio - Awful game, unfortunately. The designer made a slightly better game with the same components, Vulkan.

Grave Robbers From Outer Space - Old-style game for those that like that sort of thing.

Havoc: the Hundred Years War (15) - A nice poker-like game for up to six players, good for non-gamers especially. A little long for its class.

Hearts (5) - Good card game, but a very good game when played as teams.

Intrigue (2) - Total backstabbing game for those who like this sort of thing. I hate it.

Leonardo Da Vinci - Looks like a nice Euro, but we didn't actually finish a game.

Louis XIV (3) - An OK area control, but feels a bit clunky, especially the scoring. Playable.

Medici - I didn't play, but supposedly a good auction game.

Metro - A light tile laying game, I didn't play.

Mississippi Queen - A nice brain-burning route-planning game. I'd like to get this out on the table again.

Modern Art (8) - A pure auction game, too pure. Lacks a little substance.

Nautilus (3) - An OK Euro, ruined by the random scoring chips that you have to pick up.

Odin's Ravens - A nice light two-player card game. Not too much thinking.

Order of the Stick - Another RPG like game, very funny if you know the comic. Typical dice game with encounters.

Palazzo - An average set collection auction game.

Poker - I like to play this if it's not for real money.

Queries and Theories (1) - A decent introduction which is actually educational.

Ra (Lo Ra) (3) - Another classic auction game, we play Nadine's Jewish themed version. Still, it's a bit dry.

Railroad Tycoon - I love pick up and deliver rail games, and this one is a decent one, but the physical components, rules, and graphics just suck so badly that the game is unplayable.

Samurai - A very abstract tile laying game by Knizia. I haven't mentioned Knizia until now, but this is probably the twentieth game of his on this list, so far. It's a very good game, but unlike all other Knizia games, I don't like the scoring mechanic here.

Schotten Totten - A light card game which I have yet to play. I'm hoping it will be better than Lost Cities.

Shadows Over Camelot (8) - One of the definitive cooperative games. I don't really like the mechanics, but it has a lot going for it. It plays equally well with 3 to 7 players, and people can join or leave the game at any time without disrupting it. We would play more, but I don't actually own a copy.

Shogi - Japanese Chess, I don't get to play this enough.

Stephenson's Rocket - Another rail game, but not an exceptional one.

Thor - A very, very light card game. Geschenkt is better in this category.

Tikal (1) - An exceptionally beautiful game, and a really good one too. I have no idea why we don't play this more. We should.

Toutankamon - I didn't play this and know little about it.

Tower of Babel - Ditto.

Vegas Showdown - Ditto.

Vulkan - The slightly better game for Feurio pieces, it's still not a great game, but it's ok.

Wall of China - I didn't play and have no idea.

Winner's Circle (6) - My daughter Tal's favorite game, it's a dice racing game that actually has some fun take that tactics. Not a bag game, but lots of dice rolling and not at all strategic.

World of Warcraft (1) - Another long sprawling RPG like game which I won't touch, as I don't care to play 6 hour dice rolling combat games.


These games were played last year, but were not played at all this year.

AD&D (5) - I finally had enough of this system, and I'm hoping to try another system sometime this coming year. I still like RPGs.

Age of Steam (2) - This is a brilliant wonderful rail game. Has a few flaws, but not many. Unfortunately, I don't own a copy. Wish I did.

Alladin's Dragons (1) - An OK blind bidding euro.

Andromeda (1) - No idea.

Anagrams (2) - I actually love this game, even more than Scrabble. You flip over tiles and try to form words as you see them. Our group is not into word games, however.

Attika (1) - I played this more than once, and hated it every time. I must have something wrong with the rules, because lots of people like it. I can't figure out why. It's a dull tile laying game.

Bernini Mysterie (1) - A dirt simple abstract that never ends with good play.

Beyond Balderdash (1) - An excellent party game, definitely not for our group.

Big City (1) - No idea.

Bohnanza (1) - A set collection card game with a funny theme and some funny rules. It's OK, but not tense in any way. I think of it as a kid's game. I traded away my copy.

Capitol (2) - An OK euro.

Clans (3) - An area connection game that seems too easy to me. I got bored of it after one play.

Davinci Code (1) - No idea.

El Caballero (1) - A decent tile laying game, but not good enough to warrant keeping. I traded it away.

Elfenland (1) - An average route-planning euro.

Empire Builder (1) - An old style train game, nice for the first hour and then gets repetitive.

Entdecker (1) - I didn't play this.

Fluxx (5) - Lord preserve me from ever playing this again. A horrid but slightly amusing game where the rules change with every card played.

Gipf (1) - Another Gipf game, I didn't like this one.

Goa (1) - I traded this away, despite it's high praise. It's another heavy euro with a complicated integrated series of progressions and resource collection, but every path seemed about equal to every other path, except for the one slightly broken strategy of card collection. It was slightly boring.

Goldland (3) - This seemed like an average euro after one play. It played with the same sort of mechanics as Lost Valley, but didn't seem as elegant. I should try it another time or two.

Hive (11) - A simple abstract game played without a board. Kind of like thumb wrestling with bakelite pieces. A bit dry for my tastes, but I'm certainly willing to play many more times.

Ingenious (2) - A really good abstract game of area connections. Available under many different names, including MENSA and Connections. I would play more if I owned a copy.

Keythedral (1) - I didn't play it, but I heard good things about it.

King's Gate (1) - No idea.

Kotsuku (5) - A game given to me to review, it needed a slight fix to make it a decent very, very quick and lite game.

Letter Hold'em (2) - Just a deck of cards with letters on them, meant to restrict the type of poker hands you can make.

Lift Off (1) - A speed card game of slapping cards onto the board in a certain order. Cute, but not my type of game. Traded it away.

Maharaja (2) - This is really a very good area control game that it totally ruined by the scoring mechanic. I loved this game, until we get to the last third of the game. The winner is always already decide by then. A terrible shame. I traded the game away, but I think I should simply have fixed the scoring and kept it.

Maneater (3) - An abstract game where the guy playing the shark decides who to kill and everyone else wins, or so it seemed. A little more to it than that, but not enough.

Martian Chess (1) - An abstract game played with Icehouse pieces. I didn't play.

Medina (1) - Another I didn't play.

New England (2) - A decent auction set collection game, with a few too many mechanics and some silly attempts to fit a theme in. I would be happy to play it again.

Nexus Ops (1) - A back and forth light war game with missions. Not my type of game. You keep hitting each other until someone wins. It's better than that, but that's the essence.

Odds and Evens (3) - Don't ask.

Oh Hell (2) - A luck-filled game which is still sun to play. My daughter loves it.

Origins of World War I (1) - A negotiation and area control game, somewhat like Diplomacy. A simple game for the war gamers.

Primordial Soup (2) - A nice game of civ building, whose only problems are its length and runaway leader issues. That's a deadly combination for problems. Not all the games exhibit these problems, and the ones that don't area really good. A few too many did, however. I traded it.

Quo Vadis (5) - A negotiation game, needs exactly four or five players. It's a bit too long for what it is, but it's a decent game.

Railway Rivals (1) - A rail game that didn't excite me overly much.

Reef Encounter (1) - I didn't play it, and I'd love to.

Rheinländer (1) - An OK euro.

Rook (1) - A classic trick taking partnership game which doesn't get played owing to Tichu and Bridge.

Runebound (1) - Another long and complicated RPG-like game with lots of dice based combat.

Santorini (1) - A simple abstract which only works for two. Didn't hold much interest for me after a few dozen plays.

San Marco (4) - A nice area control game with a cool card splitting mechanic. I don't find this too challenging and I enjoy it. But it's definitely top-tier.

Scotland Yard (1) - An old deduction game, really a two player game. Like Master-mind, the game is eventually solved.

Seargent Major (1) - A card game I don't know.

Secret Sevens (1) - Ditto.

Set (4) - An excellent pattern matching game for non-gamers, but only for those that "get" it. Those that don't will hate it. Everyone should try it. One good feature is that any number of people can play it at once.

Settlers of the Stone Age (1) - I didn't play it.

St Petersburg (1) - Another well-regarded game that I really don't like. I really tried to like it, but it's just deeply flawed. I traded mine away.

Tarot (1) - A card game which I don't know.

Thurn and Taxis (2) - A light game of route building that somehow managed to have no tension and is therefore rather dull.

Ticket to Ride (3) - A super intro game for new players, it just didn't hold my interest enough.

Torres (2) - Another excellent game that doesn't see enough play. You build towers and maneuver your knights around them.

Trendsetters (1) - A card game. I thought the central mechanic was really bad.

Twilight Imperium III (2) - Yet another RPG-like game of combat and dice rolling that takes several hours to play. Some nice mechanics, but too long.

War (1) - Don't ask.

Ys (2) - A blind bidding area control game, this is a set of nice mechanics but almost soulless in the way of theme. Has too many tracks for scoring points. Still, a fun game if you like lots of complicated scoring tracks.

Zero In (1) - Essentially a light party game, it has two hundred questions and then you're done. Very portable, though.



Seth Ben-Ezra said...

Looking for a new RPG system, eh? I could recommend a few. Whatcha lookin' fer?

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Seth, We've almost started Children of Fire a few times. I really want to play that.

We have someone who's willing to run a GURPS campaign also, so he says.