Monday, 17 December 2012

A 2012 board game retrospective

2012 was an awesome year to be a board gamer. The hobby seems to be continuing to grow as it has year over year for as long as I can remember. Euro-style games are becoming as common here as are the traditional thematic games. Stores like Zellers and Toys R Us continue to add games like Catan, Carcasonne and even Dominion to their shelves. It seems like more and more mainstream media sites are talking about gaming. This is all a very good thing as far as I'm concerned.

As my personal game collection continues to grow and I wanted to share some of the best discoveries I made in 2012. Some of these are new just this year but many are just new to me. Games that have been out for some time but I just discovered them this year. This list also includes some games I don't actually own myself, stuff that awesome local gamers have brought out to our gaming events and have been cool enough to share.

One of the first games I played this year was Space Alert, which I broke out New Years eve. This is an awesome cooperative game in which players are trying to survive on a space station in crisis. The game uses a CD to tell the players what's happening to the ship as they plan their actions and react to things going horribly wrong. Gameplay is fast and furious and it's one of those games where it's almost more fun to loose than to win, not that you will be winning often.

Dominant Species was the next amazing game I tried in 2012. This is a great long play strategy game with a very cool theme. A deep thinker, this is a great main game for a night of gaming. Players each take on the roll of a species fighting for dominance on a randomly created Pangea. Mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, arachnids and insects start off in a delicate neutral balance which devolves quickly into survial of the fittest. One of the best and most detailed worker placement games out there, Dominant Species has players competing to become dominant on as many different terrain tiles as possible while trying to hinder their opponents from doing the same. Adaptation, migration and selective specification will all be necessary to get the most victory points.

Torres is a game that I heard was good, it won a Spiel and all but I had no clue what I was missing. It's one of the most unique game in my collection. In it players use plastic towers and wooden nights to rebuild the kingdom. Over three rounds players score points for each castle they have a knight in. Only the knight on the highest level of each castle scores and the points gained are equal to the height of the floor they are on multiplied by the area the castle takes up. It's a very cool looking game once under way, very three dimensional. 

Even with all of the other awesome games on this list no other game I played this year blew me away as much as Risk Legacy. It does things no other game has done before and so far no game has done since. Like many people I felt trepidation about permanently modifying my copy of the game but that went away after I ripped up the first set of cards. The only problem I have with this one is getting the group together to continue our war.

Next up is the reprint/second edition of Wallenstein. I tried the original version of this many years ago and fell in love. I picked up the English reprint/re-theme Shogun the month it came out and have loved it since. This new reprinting is well worth picking up though. It adds in all of the previously released expansions and clarified the rules somewhat (though there are no actual changes to the rules). I'm still in love with this mix of Risk style war game and Eurogame.

My friend Jamie introduced me to this one. He actually got it through Kickstarter and hasn't regretted backing it one bit. Alien Frontiers is, to me, the best of the new style of dice games that have come out. Get a set of six sided dice representing your ships, roll them and then place them on the board to complete actions. It's a new type of worker placement engine that I really enjoy. I haven't had a chance to play this one often but every time I have it's been very different and it's always been a close race to the finish. I'm hoping to get to pay this one more in the new year and hopefully try out some of the expansions that have come out since.

I picked up Ascension: Storm of Souls on a whim. We had our first gaming event out at Brimstone games this year and while there I wanted to help support the venue by buying a game. This is the one my wife and I picked and I have no regrets. This is the best deck builder I've played since Dominion. It plays just as well with one player as it does with four and the inclusion of Trophies and events are a significant improvement over earlier Ascension games.

Now I know this one is going to be on a lot of people's best of 2012 list and there's a very good reason why. Eclipse is an awesome game. It is the most elegant and well designed space exploration game made to date. It takes what games like Twilight Imperium and Galactic Emperor offer and refines it to a much faster, more intense and streamlined game. This is another one I hope to play a lot more of in the new year and based on how many others locally enjoy it, I doubt that will be a problem.

So those are some of the best games I tried for the first time this year. All of them are games I look forward to playing again and again, though I do have to wonder: what will 2013 bring?

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