Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My most played games of 2014

It's that time of year again: the time of the 'looking back' blog post. This is going to be a post like my holiday wish list post or my best 15 new games of 2014 post, it's going to be another list of great games.

This time I'm going to list the 10 games that I played the most in 2014. These don't include any expansions and also don't include iOS games, just physical board games. If I did include iOS plays Star Realms and Ascension would top the list by far.

Starting with number 10, the least of the most:

Hive - My wife and I love Hive. To me it's one of the best designs out there. It also helps that I have a rediculously good win/loss ratio in the game. For me Hive just clicks and I don't loose often.

Besides being a great game, Hive is very compact which means you can bring it anywhere. My wife tosses our copy in her purse and we play at coffee shops, pubs, restaurants, parks, wherever.

Tokaido - This one hit my best new games of 2014 list. It's such a deceptive game in a couple of ways. First it seems like the most peaceful zen game ever, until someone starts to screw the other players over and the game becomes all about backstabbing. Second, it looks very simple without much strategy, until it clicks in that taking other people's spots can be worth more to you than just taking the spot that gets you the most points. Once this clicks the becomes much more strategic.

I've picked up the expansion for this one and haven't actually tried it yet, it looks like it ads even more strategy to an already great game.

Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends - This was a game I knew nothing about, despite being by the designer behind Galaxy Trucker, Vlaada Chvatil. It was a local FLGS owner that convinced me to try the game out as it was selling very well. I'm glad he did as Tash-Kalar is one of the better games I own.

One issue this game has is that it's not what you expect. Looking at the box I expected miniatures or standees of monsters fighting it out. Instead it's a very abstract piece playing and pattern making game. You play cards to place down round markers in your colour, the cards you can play are based on the patterns already placed on the board. Each card will also allow you to remove some enemy tokens, hopefully screwing up their patterns.

While not what I expected Task-Kalar is a great abstract game and especially good with three players, something you don't see often.

Takenoko - I received this great looking game as a holiday gift from my oldest daughter last year. She really liked the Panda on the cover. Little did she know it would be one of my most played games of the year. Of course a few of these plays were with her, but it's also proved to be a very popular game at WGR events.

Awesome looking components combined with easy to teach rules and a surprising level of depth make Takenoko a really good game that's just as fun with my 7 year old as it is with a group of middle aged old school gamers.

I'm actually tempted to pick up the ridiculously expensive but awesome looking Collector's Edition.

Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men - If you told me last year I would get into a collectible game where I would be buying boxes of 60 boosters at a time, I would have laughed at you. That laugh would have been ironic though as a new collectible game hooked me this year. That game is Dice Masters.

Dice Masters is a fantastic game. It takes the basic system of Quarriors! and improves on it. It adds a much needed re-roll phase, a cleaner combat system and makes the game Player vs. Player as opposed to victory point based. All of this makes for a better more competitive and engaging game.

The second base set is out now and early availability issues appear to have been fixed. Coming soon is a DC version, a Yu-Gi-Oh version and even a D&D version.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig - This is the newest game on my list. It hasn't been out long at all but I love it and have been playing it pretty much every chance I can get. I've gotten in 3 plays just in the last week and the game is currently set up downstairs waiting to be played at my Gaming in the New Year party tonight.

Take Suburbia, improve the economic engine, add some more player interaction and re-theme it to be something much cooler than building a Suburb and you have Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

The master builder phase and the way the economy work really makes this game great.

Camel Up - If it wasn't for the Spiel des Jahres I probably would have never heard of Camel Up. It's the kind of game that I think  many gamers would have just dismissed without looking at. Which would have been a shame as Camel Up is my current favourite quick filler game. It plays up to 8 players, it's very easy to teach and people get very into it while it's being played.

The way the camels stack up, is what makes this race game. When there are camels on top of other camels and one moves, the entire stack above it, moves with it.

The look and excitement of the game is great for public play events as it never fails to draw a crowd just to watch the game.

Star Realms - even without counting iOS plays, I've played a lot of Star Realms. There's good reason for this, it's one of the best deck builders I've ever played. It takes the gameplay of Ascension and adds the player vs. player aspect of Magic the Gathering to it and the result is like peanut butter and chocolate.

Added to the great art and fantastic gameplay is the price point. Star Realms is one of the cheapest games on the market. Only $15 (or less if you can find it on sale)!

Star Realms is so good that I recently picked up two more decks of the game so that I can try playing with 4 and/or 6 players.

Augustus - sometimes called Rise of Augustus. I got this one dirt cheap on Amazon and had no idea how fun a game I was getting.

We usually call this game Roman BINGO. That is due to the fact that the basic mechanism on the game is BINGO. A caller draws tiles out of a bag and the players cover up matching spots on their player cards. When a card is complete the player says Ave Caesar and gets to put that card into play and pick a new one.

For having such a simple basic system Augustus has a solid amount of strategy. Trying to decide what cards to try to compete for, working out combos and a push your luck style scoring mechanism makes this game a lot more than just BINGO.

The Duke - The first item on this list is Hive. I have a confession. It's been a very long time since I've played Hive. The reason for that is: The Duke. The Duke has become my favourite two player game to play with my wife. It's now the game we bring with us to coffee shops or when staying at a hotel. It's my new favourite abstract two player game and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Sure it's not quite as portable as Hive but the gameplay makes up for that. The Duke is pretty much a chess variant. The biggest difference though is that after you move a piece you flip it over, and pieces move differently depending on which side is up.

So that's it for my my played games of 2014. What games did you play the most this year? Are you obsessed with the new hotness or are you still playing some old classics?

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