I recently posted my 100th review here at iSlaytheDragon. Time flies because it doesn’t seem like I’ve been working with these fantastic people that long! But the post count doesn’t lie and the milestone encouraged me to look back at where I’ve been. Even though it’s only been four years, it’s fun to examine how my gaming tastes have changed over time.
I thought I’d look back at the first 100 games I reviewed to see what has stayed on my shelf, what’s been purged, and why those choices were made. Shelf space is a major consideration in this house, so while ideally I’d keep every decent game I encounter, that’s not practical. Some of the cuts were easy, others were more difficult. Some were even gut-wrenching. Often, what makes the final decision is a gut feeling, or an intangible that’s difficult to explain to anyone who doesn’t reside in my head. Many times it comes down to asking, “Does anyone ever ask to play this game anymore?”
What stands out the most to me is that over the past few years my collection has lightened up in both weight and size. I own/have owned many more games than these 100 and looking at the whole, I’ve trended toward a lighter collection recently. It’s the phase of life I’m in, I guess. Aging parents, jobs (I have more than one), and just getting through regular life mean there isn’t a ton of time for gaming anymore. Those epic daylong gaming sessions just don’t happen like they used to. And, as it’s harder to get a big group together, many games that require more than two or three to be great have gone by the wayside for me.
This isn’t a “pity me,” statement. I’m still playing plenty of games, so there’s certainly no room for sadness or regret. I’m enjoying the lighter side just as much as I enjoyed the heavier side. It’s simply worth noting that we move through the seasons of life and gaming is such a flexible hobby that it can move with us. There aren’t many hobbies you can say that about, but it’s one thing that makes gaming great.
I’m sure that in another 100 reviews my tastes will have changed again and some of the things on this list that are with me now will be gone by then, replaced by things that suit me better. But it’s cool. If everything stayed the same, life (and gaming) would be boring.
- CV: Gone. I loved this game when I reviewed it and I still have a soft spot for it in my heart. It was supplanted, however, by The Pursuit of Happiness. I found I preferred its worker placement mechanism to the dice rolling of CV. I only need so many life simulation games, so CV got the boot.
- The Adventurers: Pyramid of Horus: Kept. This is still one of my favorite games. Love the adventuring, the minis, the light gameplay, and the fact that I can get anyone to play it.
- Las Vegas: Kept. This simple dice rolling affair still hangs in as one of my favorite fillers. It’s pure fun for us. I even sent off to Germany for the expansion and am glad I did.
- Scavengers: Kept. I keep this one for one reason: We love to camp and this is the perfect camping game. Thematically it fits, plus it’s small enough to fit on the table in the RV.
- Enigma: Gone. As much as I liked the idea of the game’s 2-in-1 gameplay, I’m terrible at the physical puzzle aspect and it ended up being more frustrating for me than fun. Plus, the thin theme didn’t do it any favors over time.
- Pandante: Gone. I didn’t care for this game when I reviewed it, so it was an easy one to let go. The instructions were poor, everything you needed to play wasn’t included in the box, and the whole thing was unnecessarily complex.
- The Adventurers: Temple of Chac: Kept. Like it’s brother (Pyramid of Horus), this one remains a favorite for the same reasons. It’s a thematic Indiana-Jones-esque romp that I can get anyone to play.
- Among the Stars: Gone. Oh, this one broke my heart. I loved it when I reviewed it and I still have a soft spot for it, but it ended up being so fiddly and the special 2-player rules just never managed to be “great.” Plus, in a huge moment of stupidity, I bought the expansions which only added to the fiddliness and turned the thing into a complex mess that ended up killing my enjoyment of the original.
- Trifecta: Gone. This card game was so-so when I reviewed it and it never grew on me. It didn’t help that my gaming partner is a math nerd and dragged the whole thing down with AP as he tried to “solve” it.
- Timeline: Americana: Kept. I still enjoy the simplicity of the Timeline games in their basic forms. If nothing else, they’re fun to play solo to kill some time. I always manage to learn something.
- Tokaido: Gone. Another heartbreaker. It’s a really great game, but after a while we simply got bored with it. Plus, it never played super-great with just two.
- Tokaido: Crossroads: Gone. This expansion went with the base game. It reinvigorated the base game for us a bit, but not enough to sustain our interest indefinitely.
- Jamaica: Kept. Even though it’s not best with two, we still find it fun. We mostly keep it around for holidays as it’s so pretty and fun that everyone will play it.
- Labyrinth: Kept. This one often gets lumped in as a kid’s game, but we love the maze-y aspect to it. That plus the fact that it shines with two players and it’s great for non-gamers means it stays.
- Snapgammon: Gone. It turns out that we don’t love backgammon enough to keep this variant around forever. It offered some interesting twists on basic backgammon, but once we’d played it a number of times, the novelty wore off.
- CV: Gossip: Gone. This expansion went out with the base game. It was fun and added some neat new cards, but ultimately wasn’t enough to save CV once my loyalty shifted to The Pursuit of Happiness.
- Nanobot: Battle Arena: Gone. I wasn’t overly fond of it when I reviewed it and the longer it stayed in my collection, the more I realized that it over-complicated what was really a simple abstract game at its core. That over-complication made it too hard to love.
- Lords and Ladies: Gone. I loved the theme of this one, but there was too much take-that play, it tended to drag on, and it just lacked the replayability to stick around.
- Hyperborea: Gone. This one was a victim of collection lightening. It’s takes too long to play for most of our game nights, it was heavier than we like these days, and the disconnect between its fantasy appearance and Euro mechanisms meant it was never something we reached for even when we did have time to play. Add in the giant box and it had to go.
- Legendary Showdown: Gone. This was a funny little card game that was ultimately done in by its silliness. Once the jokes wore thin, there wasn’t enough strategy and depth to keep it around forever.
- Epic Resort: Gone. This was one I so wanted to love. The theme was so fun, but the gameplay was lackluster, punishing, and long. Plus, it never felt like you were building a resort. I dumped it before the revised edition and expansion came out, so I don’t know if it ever got better.
- Arboretum: Kept. This is still one of my favorite card games. It can go anywhere and anyone can learn to play it. It’s beautiful and the mental puzzle is a treat.
- Musee: Kept. Gorgeous and from one of my favorite designers (Alf Seegert), this one stays because it’s a fantastic mental puzzle. Arranging your Musee so that you score the bonuses forces you to think horizontally and vertically. It also plays super fast, has no screwage, and can be taught to just about anyone. I love it so much I just bought Seegert’s Fantastiqa Rival Realms, which merges Musee with Fantastiqa.
- Just Desserts: Gone. It was a cute, fun little card game that, like day old donuts, eventually got stale with repeated plays. We enjoyed it for a while, but it wasn’t special enough to keep it around forever.
- Battle Sheep: Kept. I credit this one for raising my interest in abstract games. It is cute and the modular board keeps things interesting. What I love, though, is that it provides a mental challenge without being as brain burning as chess or some other abstracts. It keeps things light and fluffy but with just enough to tickle my brain.
- Diner: Gone. This was a cute game that got the axe only because it’s essentially a speed game, something neither of us cares to play more than once in a rare while.
- Transylvania: Curses and Traitors: Gone. The only thing that killed this one was the fact that it is for 3+ players and has no real viable two player option. With shelf space being at a premium and the fact that my larger groups don’t usually go for titles like this, it had to go. But man, it was a fun game.
- Indigo: Kept. Another abstract that hits the sweet spot in my brain between challenging and painful. Plus, it’s lovely, plays very well with two, and easy to get others to play.
- Word on the Street: Gone. As much as I loved this, I can never find anyone willing to play word games with me. Sadly, it had to go.
- Ticket To Ride: Alvin and Dexter: Kept. There’s really nothing to say here except that it’s a cute little addition to Ticket to Ride and you’ll pry my TTR collection out of my cold, dead hands.
- Parfum: Gone. The problem here was that the game is really a light family game, but it takes much longer to play than it’s worth. As a result, it never got picked over other, quicker options when we wanted a filler, and it never got chosen when we wanted a meatier game. Never chosen=out the door.
- Machi Koro: Kept. This one continues to make the cut for now, although I suspect it might not for much longer. We still enjoy this light, fast engine builder, but it’s beginning to get stale. Ever since we got Dice City, it’s seen less and less playtime. Dice City just seems to scratch the dicey-building itch a bit better for us.
- Machi Koro: Harbor: Kept. As long as we keep the base game, we’ll keep this expansion. It adds some needed cards and variability.
- Dark Seas: Gone. This ended up being one of those games that was cute for a while, but eventually got old. It’s really a beer and pretzels type game that’s more of a time killer than a game with meaningful decisions. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but we played it out and it was time to move on.
- Abyss: Kept. This one hangs in largely because of the theme and the gorgeous production. I can get most people to play it once they see it. Yet every time I do a purge, I find myself wondering if we’ve played it out and/or if I should buy the expansion. It’s a great game and a keeper for now, but we may have seen most of what it has to offer.
- Takenoko Chibis: Kept. Takenoko remains one of my favorite games. It has a fantastic depth to complexity ratio. It’s easy enough for most people to grasp, but has enough strategy to entertain gamers. The expansion freshens up the game without adding bloat and complexity, so it will remain with the base game.
- Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row: Kept. As long as we keep the base game, we’ll keep this expansion. It adds some needed cards and variability, plus it addresses some balance issues with the base game.
- Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman: Gone. I enjoy the Story Cubes series as an activity or a creativity booster, but I’m not a big enough fan of Batman to keep this particular set around forever.
- Sneaky Cards: Gone. As this was really an activity designed to be “played” only once, it was gone not long after my review.
- Conquest at Kismet: Gone. This was just a bland game that failed to do anything different from many others. I wasn’t fond of it when I reviewed it, and more plays never changed that opinion.
- Risk: Star Wars 2015 Edition: Gone. This was thematic Star Wars fun for a while, but eventually we tired of it. Games began to feel the same after a while and with luck the dominating factor in winning or losing, it never felt really fair. Which would be fine in a filler, but in a game that tried to feel like a strategy game, it just wasn’t fun after a while.
- Expedition Famous Explorers: Gone. This was a great game that was a heartbreaker to get rid of. However, it came down to feeling like we had too many other games that did the same thing (route building) better. I still recommend it, though, for people wanting a solid family game.
- New York 1901: Kept. This game is on par with Ticket to Ride in my mind. It offers the same appeal to both gamers and non-gamers, and the same depth to complexity ratio. It also has advanced rules to make it more appealing for gamers. Where it differs is that it’s more of a spatial puzzle, which is a bit rare in a game that’s not an abstract. All of this plus its good looks means it’s a keeper.
- Zombies vs. Cheerleaders: Gone. While an interesting asymmetric card game, the theme did it no favors in my mind. It’s just not something I want to look at on the table.
- Mystery: Motive for Murder: Gone. As much as I wanted to love this because of my love for the TV show, I just couldn’t. It was far too fiddly and difficult to explain to non-gamers (who, it seemed, were really the target audience of the theme). I could never get anyone to try it more than once, so it had to go.
- Raptor: Kept. This remains one of my absolute favorite games. The theme, the asymmetrical play, the tension, the quick play time, and the depth of thinking that you do during the game all scratch my favorite gaming itches. I’ll play it anytime.
- Tides of Time: Gone. As gorgeous as this game was, we simply stopped playing it. I’m not exactly sure why, either. It’s a great two player game that plays fast yet makes you think. But after about 20 plays, we just never reached for it any more. I think at least some of it is because card drafting isn’t our favorite mechanism and a game that uses it has to be really fun or exceptional for us to love it. We’re also not huge fans of memory games, and Tides of Time relies heavily on memory. Overall it’s a great game, we just fell out of love.
- The Best Treehouse Ever: Kept. I still enjoy this cute building game. Even though it’s card drafting, which I disparaged above, this one stays because the idea of building a treehouse is just fun. I said in the beginning that sometimes it comes down to an intangible when deciding what to keep and what to purge and the fun of building a treehouse outweighs the thinky memory challenge of Tides of Time.
- Lanterns the Harvest Festival: Gone. This was one that I loved when I reviewed it and I still think highly of it. However, after many plays I felt like we’d conquered it and since it was better with more than two players, we let it go in favor of other tile layers. I never tried the expansion so I don’t know if it would have helped or not. Note, though, that we played it a lot before we got rid of it, so it was still a good value proposition.
- Timeline Challenge: Gone. I found that I really prefer the simplicity and portability of the original Timeline. Turning it into a board game added unnecessary fluff that complicated the experience for me and the groups we play with. While some may prefer a “real” game, we’re sticking with the original. (This one did give me some new cards to play the original with, though, so it wasn’t a total loss.)
To be continued…
Tune in next week to see which games from 51 – 100 stayed, and which got the axe!
(Photo courtesy of Alexas_Fotos)