It’s the start of a new year which means looking back and reflecting on the last twelve months. And while I’m at it I should probably set some vague goals for the future. Let’s see, play lots of games? That’s a good start. Do more writing? I should really get on that, I’ve got this big old stack of games begging to be reviewed!
Before I get ahead of myself though I’m going to take some time to reminisce about how incredible 2014 was. When considering the past it helps a lot to have real data about what you did to fill in the gaps. Fortunately I started recording my played games four years ago and it’s both fun and enlightening to see if what I actually played compares to what I remember or had hoped to accomplish. I did a similar reflection last year (Three Years of Games) and am going to follow-up on how my gaming habits have evolved and whether I was able to achieve the goals that I set for myself.
Looking Back: 2014
I’ll start off by looking at what I played and some of the major events from 2014.
I’m going to cheat a little bit and peak back a week into 2013. The year was wrapping up and much to my surprise one of my most highly anticipated games for the coming year, Race For The Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, snuck in before 2014 even had a chance to begin. Coincidentally this happened again with Roll For The Galaxy, what’s up with the crazy end of year releases Rio Grande Games? On that note the year was off to a fantastic start, Race ended up as my second most played game of the year and practically all of those plays included Alien Artifacts.
At the start of the year I wasn’t sure how my gaming future was going to shake out. My wife was preparing to graduate medical school in May and we could have literally ended up just about anywhere in the country for residency. Fast forward to June and she got placed in a hospital here in Indy so we got to stay which meant my gaming future was secure. Or at least as secure as it could be considering the transition we were about to go through. One the biggest change at that time for me was to stop working as a consultant and start my new life as a nanny. This meant far less flexible hours and no more lunch gaming group but I was determined to get some gaming in when I could find the time.
Along with all the life changes I had quite a few new gaming experiences in 2014.
- Playtesting a game (The Ancient World)
- Attending my first convention (Origins)
- Attending my first Gen Con (despite having lived in Indiana for the last 8 years).
- Demoing games (For Asmodee at Origins and Gen Con)
After Origins and Gen Con there’s now a running joke in my game group that I’ve become a spokesperson for Asmodee. I show up with my Asmodee bag full of the latest Asmodee games and force everyone to play them. In all seriousness though it was a tremendous experience to work with them and I hope to get the chance again this year. Now go buy some of their games!
Nickles and Dimes
Two observations that I made last year when looking at my most played games were that they’re largely biased towards newer releases and shorter games (30-60 min). The challenge with playing older and longer games consistently is that board gaming operates within a group dynamic and more accessible or exciting (new) games are generally favored in my various groups. Did this hold true in 2014?[half]
That’s 18 games with at least five plays and 15 of them were either released (or had an expansion) in 2014 or at the tail end of 2013. The exception are all games that have become staples in my collection (Dominion, Biblios, Kingdom Builder). Even then I received a copy of Biblios via Kickstarter after giving my previous copy away and Kingdom Builder has relatively new expansions. It isn’t until you dip down into my near misses that you’ll start to find older games mixed in with all the new releases
When I consider my most played games from the last four years this trend seems to be pretty evident. Here’s a list of my ten most played games (excluding fillers) from the last four years and their relative position in each year.
Plays across the years
Ranking: Most played games[table id=8 /]
7 of these games could be considered game systems which have offered expansions that allow them to compete with new releases. My big three (Dominion, Race, Ascension) have established themselves to the point where I wonder if they would continue to see play even if no new expansions were offered. Dominion is a good case study here because it appeared to be at an end. Consequently it nearly dropped out of my top 10 for the year but was revitalized when I introduced it to a friend who quickly became addicted. If not for him I would have gotten in a measly 2 plays. That doesn’t bode well for a game that I consider to be my #4 game of all time. Fortunately a new expansion for Dominion was just announced so it should be able to hang in there even if my preference for new releases continues.
Biblios is the main standout amongst all the hotness that has dominated my last four years. It’s the only game outside of my big three that I’ve managed to nickle for the last four years and it’s done so without the help of any expansions. On that note I’m astonished to find out that I’ve only been able to play 8 games more than 20 times over the last four years. If there’s any proof that I’m a breadth gamer and not a depth one you need look no further than that. If it weren’t for my big three (and their many expansions) I’d have no case at all for my ability to actually replay games adequately.
Perhaps looking at some other stats from the past four year will shed more light on this topic.
Play Stats[table id=10 /]
There’s a slight trend towards increased plays across the years and nickle/dimes have been creeping up accordingly. However, between the jump in unique plays and drop in percentage of plays from my most frequently played games I’d say that I’m slowly shifting towards being more of a breadth gamer and less of a deep one. Even my collection reflected this trend as I expanded from a barely manageable 67 games to a threatening-to-take-over-their-own-room 81. I’ve been feeling more and more recently like I simply have too many new games and am not adequately keeping up with actually revisiting my favorites let alone playing all the new stuff. I’d like to think that I can be both a deep (play the same games frequently) and wide (play many different ones) gamer but as I’ve already seen my most frequently played games tend to be new releases that then drop off in subsequent years unless they are continual supported. Should I make a change or simply embrace the fact that I like to learn and explore new games? Does it even matter what I’m playing so long as I’m having fun and enjoying the experience? How should this impact my collection? These are all good questions.
This leads nicely into looking at my favorite games and seeing how much I’m actually playing them.
Plays: Top 10 games[table id=9 /]
I’m quite proud of the fact that despite being practically obsessed with new releases that my top 10 remains more diverse in terms of release date. I had a couple of newer games break in since last year (Keyflower and Ginkgopolis) but have maintained a decent average release year of 2008. I was quite sad to push out a couple of older pillars from my collection but don’t regret doing so: Caylus (2005) and Galaxy Trucker (2007).
My top 10 continues to be an even split between medium-light card driven games and medium-heavy euros. I tend to enjoy heavier euros as a whole more but I often don’t play them enough to strongly consider their inclusion in my top 10. Keyflower was an obvious choice because it’s such an exceedingly brilliant design. There are several other recent games that are parked right outside of my top 10 (Nations, Bora Bora, Hyperborea, Glass Road) that may end up making it in if I can actually manage to play them enough to decide where they fit. Then there’s a couple of new comers that threaten to blow past everything and jump right in (Fields of Arle and Roll For The Galaxy). It’ll be an interesting year, hopefully my top 10 won’t completely collapse under the pressure of all these new fangled games but only time will tell.
But just because I claim to love all of these “older” games doesn’t mean that I’m actually getting them to the table. I set an unofficial goal to play all of my top 10 games at least 5 times in 2014. Clearly that didn’t happen but I do feel like I made a step forward from last year and managed to get 9 of them played twice and 7 played three times. I’d really love to follow through with this goal one of these years. It’s just so hard to compete for table time with all these new games, especially as a reviewer. Perhaps simply attempting to play all of them at least once (poor Agricola) would be more realistic.
Goals and Successes
Considering all of this would I say that 2014 was a good year? Absolutely! As much as I’d like to pride myself on really exploring a handful of games I do think I’m the kind of gamer that enjoys exploration and discovery. There’s no shame in that and as a reviewer it’s helpful to be able to draw on experience with a wide variety of games. I would like to stick with my general guidelines to play games at least 5 times before I review them but I think it would be refreshing to stop beating myself up for not getting older games to the table more frequently. After all, gaming is a shared hobby and I’d rather be flexible than push my own agenda.
The only thing that I may give more thought to is the size of my collection. Not getting games played as often as I’d like is one thing but not getting them played at all is another. Of my 81 games I didn’t even end up playing 23 of them a single time in 2014. Some of them were picked up in a math trade or right at the end of the year so the priority wasn’t very high in getting them played but that’s over a quarter of my collection that went unplayed. I managed to trade quite a few games last year but that doesn’t really help decrease the number of games that I own. It’s likely time that I started looking into actually selling off some of the games on my shelf that are gathering dust. That is part of the reason why I started recording plays in the first place, perhaps 2015 can be the year where I actually manage to downsize my collection (or at least break even).
Looking Ahead: 2015
Now it’s time to unabashedly look to the future and think longingly about all the upcoming games that will compete with my poor collection for table time. It’s not my fault, really. I’ve got to keep up with all the latest games so I can write about them in Dragon’s Peak after all. And what better place to start then the games that I’ve already spent my hard earned money on.
Eminent Domain: Microcosm – I’ve really enjoyed Eminent Domain and the kickstarter for this quick playing 2-player spin off came with enough promos to make it worth the cost even if I didn’t end up enjoying the game. I still haven’t really looked into what this game is all about partially to make it a fun discovery when it actually arrives. Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Outer Earth – I was attracted to this one initially due to the unique visual design of the pipeline system. It looked attractive and unique enough to push me over the fence considering it also fits right into the quick playing card driven games that I enjoy.
Keyflower: The Farmers & The Merchants – Considering the fact that Keyflower jumped from out of nowhere straight into my top 10 I thought it was worth investing in the expansions. I don’t intend to mix everything together all at once, I’ll probably start with The Merchants and then work my way to trying The Farmers once I’ve gotten in several plays. Really I’m just hoping to play Keyflower more this year with or without expansions.
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival – I nearly made it through this campaign without buying into Lanterns. Then in the last week I thought, “what if no one I know gets it?” I’m always looking for games that are short of explanation and let you jump right into playing but still reward good decisions. Lanterns sounds to be just that and I fully intend to introduce it to as many people as possible once I get my copy. I fully expect it to be the 2015 Splendor (which is indeed high praise).
oddball Aeronauts 2 – I backed the original game last year and was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of the sequel in the fall. I love the folks from maverick:muse and will continue to back their games in the future to show my support.
Biblios Dice – As a big fan of Biblios and Scripts & Scribes: The Dice Game I didn’t hesitate for a moment when I discovered that Dr Finn was revamp his excellent dice game. I was so enthusiastic about it that I managed to be the very first backer and graciously received a t-shirt from Steve himself as a token of his appreciation. Needless to say that I’m very much looking forward to this one.
Viceroy – I nearly resisted this one despite having it near the top of my Essen games of interest. Then I got some Christmas money and apparently had nothing better to spend it on then another game. Of all the games that I backed last year this is probably the one that I’m most looking forward to trying.
Temporum – I don’t care how much mixed reactions Donald X’s games are getting. If it sounds even slightly interesting to me then I’m sold. I ended up getting this one for Christmas but it has since struggled to overcome the table hog that is Roll For The Galaxy. Perhaps in a couple of weeks once things cool down a bit I’ll be able to make room for this one.
7 Wonders: Babel – Another Christmas acquisition that has yet to see any table time because of Roll. I haven’t had a ton of luck with getting any of the previous 7 Wonders expansion to catch on with my gaming group but my wife likes it so I’m hoping to squeeze in a play with Babel at some point in the near future.
Patchwork – I’ve really enjoyed to lighter 2-player offerings from Uwe Rosenberg (Agricola: All Creatures Big And Small and Le Havre: The Inland Port) so I’m very much looking forward to trying this one out too. The theme seems even more accessible which could prove to be an excellent gateway game for 2.
Orleans – This will be my first kickstarter test of 2015. I don’t regret backing so many projects last year but between the new games that I got for Christmas and the ones that I have on the way I’m not sure I really need to make any more acquisitions. Still I absolutely loved Hyperborea and it’s incredibly clever bag-building mechanic so I can’t wait to see how other games approach the concept. Even if I don’t end up picking it up this will be one of my most anticipated games of the year.
King’s Pouch – Hey look, another bag-builder. At this point I think I’d be willing to try just about any new bag-builder until I reach the same saturation point that I did with deck-builders. This one looks the most straight forward of the three current offerings.
Deus – Alright, I may have lied when I said that Orleans was my most anticipated game of the year. What I really meant to say was that Deus is. This one checks so many boxes for me and already has the full backing of fellow Euro Dragonslayer FarmerLenny. Pearl Games already blew me away with Ginkgopolis and I can’t wait to see what Deus has to offer.
Nations: The Dice Game – I’ve been on the quest to find my grail dice game and this year is off to a fantastic start between Roll For The Galaxy and Roll Through The Ages: The Iron Age. Is there room for more competition? When the dice game is based on one of my favorite games, Nations, I’d say so.
AquaSphere – I’m a pretty big Feld fan and this one sounds to be somewhat comperable in weight to my current favorite of his, Bora Bora. I still haven’t really been able to wrap my mind around what’s going on in this game but it sounds intriguing and I’ve been hearing lots of good things.
Ciub – Tom Lehman already offered up two excellent dice games at the end of 2014 but I’m more than happy to continue exploring what he can do. This one sounds to be more family friendly both in simplicity and theme which could offer a unique niche.
Cargotrain – This pick-up and deliver card game sounds really unique and streamlined. Any game that has card driven simultaneous action automatically gets my attention and the set collection scoring encourages interaction.
Hexemonia – When this one was announced I was very intrigued by the unique take on resource management and the beautiful artwork. Since then I haven’t heard very much about the game so I’m really excited for it to get a wider release so I can try it out for myself.
Dice Brewing – One last dice game to catch up on and this one offers a great theme. This one actual sounds more like a dice management game and offers lots of options for mitigating luck which is right up my alley.
I’ll be highlighting plenty of upcoming releases in Dragon’s Peak this year but I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the expansions for my big three games.
Dominion: Adventures – Just when I had given up hope of every getting any more Dominion expansions the most marvelous news appeared. We’re getting another huge set and it’s loaded with all sorts of crazy stuff. Duration cards are back and I’m sure there’s a whole load of great cards in store. I know some people burned out of Dominion expansions about 5 sets ago but I’d be happy to keep exploring the new offerings as long as Donald’s name is on the box.
Ascension: Dawn of Champions – I was really looking forward to an expansion to the fantastic Realms Unraveled but it seems as though the block structure is being set aside in favor of releasing two large sets a year. This was a bit disappointing at first but I’ll take more Ascension in whatever form they’ll give it to me. Dawn of Champions sounds to shake up the game more than any of the previous sets and plays off some of the concepts introduced in Realms Unraveled. I’m really excited to see what’s in store for us!
Race For The Galaxy: Xeno Invasion – It seems Rio Grande likes to sneak their releases in right before the end of the year and I’m really hoping I don’t have to wait until December to get the next Race expansion. This sounds to be another one shot expansion arc like Alien Artifacts and adds a new key word to the game in order to defend against an alien invasion.