Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Top 10 Board Games from 2012

Every year I keep track of all the new to me games I've played for the year, you can read my blog posts about 2010 and 2011. This year has included over 60 new to me games, so it has actually been a little less than the average over the past several years, but still that is over 1 new game a week. So even to be in the Top 10 isn't too bad for these games. I do want to give some honorable mentions, as picking 5-10 was really difficult for me this year. Some others that almost made the list were: Legacy: Gears of Time, Divided Republic, and Eminent Domain. Finally, I have purposely left out Guild of Thieves, because though I know it isn't the greatest game in 2012, because I published it myself it is something I'm proud of and think is good.

10. Smash Up. It was real tough trying to decide what game to fit into this 10th slot. I decided to go with Smash Up though, because I do enjoy the game a lot, though to get that enjoyment there is a learning curve. It probably took me 3-5 games before I understood the different races, what to expect from them, and how to make them work together to make the game fun. Until that time, it can seem very boring and mathy of just play a card and go on with your life. However, I feel it deserves a spot on this list, because it is unique compared to a few other games that may have made the list. Status: Owned and looking forward to the expansion.

9. Dune. This game has so much theme, that it got me to read the book after playing it. Another game were all the players have special abilities and even different win conditions. You negotiate and form alliances, but only at specific times, and try to control the planet Dune. This is a game you'll need a bunch of time and a bunch of dedicated people to play, but you won't regret doing it. I was lucky enough to play with a really cool home made set, which made the experience even better. This is an absolute epic game though, both in time and story, so it will be an once every couple years experience. Status: Won't be purchasing, because it wouldn't get play time in my group.

8. Android: Netrunner. This is another living card game, similar to Warhammer: Invasion, where players build decks to compete against each other. The cool thing about this one is that one player plays as the Corporation and the other players is the Runner who is trying to hack into the Corp's servers. Both players go about game completely differently, which makes your deck building and play style completely different as well. I've played about 15 games of it this year and would like to play more. Status: Not getting, just because I only have the time and money for one LCG, but I would get if I didn't already have Invasion.

7. A Fistful of Penguins. The first dice game on this list. Players roll penguins, kangaroos, squirrels, and other animals trying to get sets, while spending the penguins to be allowed to roll again. I've played the game about 20 times face to face and well over 70 times on my iPhone with their app. It is a cute game, yet a game that has enough depth to keep me interested. If not for #2 on this list, it would be my favorite dice game of all time I think. Status: Own both the digital and physical versions.

6. Last Will. This game takes a bit to wrap your mind around, since you aren't trying to get all the money in the world, rather you are trying to spend it all as fast as you can! You start with $X and try to be the first to get rid of it all by taking expensive carriage rides, going to special dinners, and buying mansions to let them run down and selling them at a huge loss. This is a game, that uses all the Euro mechanics we know, and turns them upside down into a fun and engaging game. Status: I'd like to add to my collection.

5. Trajan. This is a themeless Euro game, but it is a great Euro game, possibly Stefan Feld's best. Though both Macao and The Castles of Burgundy might fit that bill as well. The coolest part about Trajan is that it uses the hundreds of years old Mancala mechanism of moving pieces from one cup to other cups and getting them around the board. This is how you select your actions in the game though and the more pieces you move at once, the faster the game proceeds. Status: I'd trade for it for sure, and consider purchasing it.

4. Chaos in the Old World. I'll be up front with this one. The theme isn't for families. It is quite mature and one that I wouldn't suggest to anyone under 15 years old. Players play as various gods in the Warhammer universe, trying to control the world. I think if this game was themed as a pre-WWI game, it would be in my collection in a second and be very popular with my group. As it is, I'm on the fence about owning it. However, as far as game play goes, this game is absolutely great. Players all have asymmetrical powers and win the game in a variety of ways. The game play is intriguing and deep and the area control makes for a huge plus for me. Status: With the theme it stays as only a possible trade.

3. The Resistance: Avalon. If I have 10 or less players, I'm going to choose this game over Mafia/Werewolf everytime. In it players are either Loyal Servants of King Arthur or Minions of Mordred. However, this information is all hidden and players attempt to figure out who is who while trying to complete 3 of 5 quests for the victory. There are a few special roles you can add in, but I've got to say, you hardly need them. This has been a hit with my family and with my game group and I'm glad I helped Kickstart this one. Status: Kickstarted and still owned.

2. King of Tokyo. This game much like Tichu and Dominion is a game I've sold several copies of just this year, because it is just FUN to play. The best part though is that it is fun to play, not just for me as a gamer, but for my non-gaming friend, or even the 6 year old who loves rolling dice. The amount of cards that come with the game, the fun monsters, and the quick play time make it perfect for any person who wants to play any game. I honestly believe that. Basically, you roll dice 3 times, get points, heal your monster, and kill other monsters while the cards adds special abilities for everyone. That's it! The only reason it gets beat out by the next game, is because generally I prefer to play somewhat deeper games than King of Tokyo provides. Status: Bought soon as I could after playing.

1. Age of Empires III or as it is currently called: Glenn Drover's Empires: Age of Discovery. Why haven't I been playing this game for the past 5 years?! It isn't a new game, but for some reason I hadn't played it until this year and I'm really glad I did. It immediately went on my must own list and for the reason it has most of my favorite things in gaming. It has lots of cool plastic bits, especially the very nice merchant ships. It has worker placement. It has direct conflict, but only up to 4 times a turn for the whole table, which makes it the perfect amount for players to mess with each other, while keeping it minimal enough not to make the whole game about it. Finally, it has varying player abilities with the buildings that can be purchased, and so each player's strengths differ as the game progresses. This is a game, that there is little doubt in my mind, will one day be in my Top 25 games of all time. Status: Received for Christmas!

Also, every year, I give out the Dust award to that game that I absolutely abhorred the most that year. This year it goes to a party game: Would You Rather? This game is broken. You roll a dice, move your piece, and hope to land on a spot that will let you do a challenge to move up to the inner circle, to roll your dice, to hopefully hit a spot that will let you move up to the next inner circle, where you will roll your get the idea. It is possible to keep rolling, over and over, and over and over, and over, and never hit that spot to even get the challenge. This game is horrible.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Expected Journey (some spoilers)

I didn't mess the title up. Nine years ago, after coming out of the midnight showing of The Return of the King, I expected I'd eventually be making the journey to see Bilbo's journey through Middle-earth happening on the big screen. Friday morning at 12:01 am, I did and so here are my thoughts on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

First, going into this movie, I was expecting to watch a hobbit themed fantasy adventure film and honestly this was much more than just it felt very Hobbit! This surprised me and maybe Jackson will wander more from the book in the next two installments (he did in LotR), but for this first one I thought he stayed pretty close to the book and had several direct quotes from it, including the cleaning up song by the dwarves and my favorite direct quote about how the game of golf was invented by Bullroarer!

Second, I was really worried that they were going to make a Gandalf/Galadriel love connection. Thankfully they didn't. They just showed how much Galadriel cared for and comforted Gandalf which is true to form, since she really wanted him to be the leader of the White Council. Either way, though I don't think the hand patting and hair brushing had to be in the movie, I do think it wasn't done romantically, so I'm just fine with that.

Third, the music is awesome! I absolutely love the dwarven theme music. The Misty Mountain song is great, they continue having different sounding music for the different locations that the scene is in, and Howard Shore has once again invoked an epic sound to the world of Middle-earth.

Fourth, I like the dwarves. I like them a lot. The dwarven culture is my favorite from Middle-earth (I know everyone likes elves and hobbits, but I like me some dwarves) and I think Jackson did a very good job with them. There are a 13 of them, so I understand making them a have a different beard and profile, even an old orc axe in the head of Bifur. I'm not extremely impressed with their beards though. Fili's beard is pretty much non-existant. I understand getting rid of their colorful hoods, but dwarves need beards! Out of all the beards to mess with, the biggest and most important one not to "fix" is Thorin's, and as I said a year ago when they released the first trailer, he looks like a salsa dancer. At least his beard does. He is going to be King Under the Mountain. He needs a king's beard. Okay, rant over.

Fifth, the Riddles in the Dark scene is absolutely awesome. It is funny, it is scary, it is disturbing, it is exactly what it should be. Gollum is excited to have someone to talk to and remembers games he played with his grandmother, yet at the same time he is evil. I thought it was great.

Finally, go see this movie! If you are a LotR fan, go see it. If you have yet to get into the great Tolkien universe, go see it. It is a fun, entertaining movie, that sticks relatively close to the story from the book (I'm sure this will change in the next two movies) that shows how Bilbo earns his place as the 14th member on the Quest to Erebor!

P.S. I'm going again, who wants to go?!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Best Christmas Movies

Just a quick thought on great Christmas movies and maybe a few on some not-so great Christmas movies. Let's try for the top 5 Christmas movies. I think I can do 5.

1. The Muppet's Christmas Carol. I remember first watching this at the Strand Theater in Shelbyville with my dad. We watched it on their smallest screen, which was about the size of many TVs today. I don't remember liking as much then as I do now. I guess it has grown on me. The sly comments, the fun Muppets, and Michael Cain as Scrooge is just great. My personal favorite scene is when the Book Rats are asking for more coal. Scrooge gets angry and they quickly say, "It was the frog's idea!"

2. It's a Wonderful Life. I just really like the movie. It is good clean entertainment with a deep message of how a single individual's life can change the lives of many people around them. Jimmy Stewart is one of the greatest actors of all time and he shines in this. My favorite scene from the movie is right after George is back on the bridge from his adventurers and Burt the cop comes up to him and George realizes that Burt knows who he is and starts screaming, "My mouth's bleeding!" That's good stuff.

3. White Christmas. Well, it's in TechniColor! Why else would I love it? I think because White Christmas is my favorite Christmas song, so that has to do with me liking this movie so much. Perhaps also watching it a lot as a kid. I think though it is honestly Danny Kaye. He makes the movie with his humor, dancing, and singing. My favorite scene, probably is actually the very first one, when they are all celebrating Christmas at war in Europe.

4. Home Alone. I laugh a lot every time I see this movie. The bandits just make it hilarious too me. Sure, it's Three Stooges humor, but it is still extremely funny. The story about Christmas with family is good and all, but I watch this to laugh when the bandits step barefoot on ornaments, burn their hands, get hit by paint cans, and everything else that happens to them. My favorite scene...I don't know. Any of them that makes me laugh, so a lot of them.

5. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The one with Jim Carey. I like the song Where Are You Christmas. I like the humor for the most part. I like the Whoville crazy looks and I like they made a whole movie out of a poem. My favorite scene is when the Grinch is going through the phone book declaring his hate for all the residents of Whoville.

There is the list. What'd I miss? I'm sure there has to be something I didn't think about that would've made it. Now for the bad Christmas movies:

1. The Santa Claus 2 & 3 - Horrible.
2. Anything on the Hallmark Channel about some lady that who lost her boyfriend/husband to an accident or some other misfortune and then finds true love on Christmas.
3. Elf. I don't get the love for this movie. It probably shouldn't be on the bad list, but I'm putting it there out of spite to even out all the great lists it'll be on.