Lucas Hedgren’s Top 10 of 2010

Luke’s Top 10 of 2010

So, I thought it was a great year. Lots of good games, and several great games for me. I even discovered a few older games this year that I really like. I feel like my game tastes have become a little more varied, but my absolute favorites still tend towards heavier euro games. I inconveniently had four 9’s and five 8’s, so I picked a couple good 7’s as a cop-out to round out my list.

Love, love, love this game. The current trend of interesting uses of dice in euros is very cool from my point of view. To me, dice never had that bad connotation that some associate with them, but for some reason don’t associate with cards. Plus, I don’t get the “too much luck” sentiment from some for this game. High dice are great for doing things, or collecting money from having them bought from you. Low dice are nice in that they won’t get bought from you, because others cannot manipulate them, like you can once you decide to use them. “But, all my high dice got bought from me before my turn, all the rest of my dice are low, I have no money to buy others’ dice, and I have no influence to make my dice better!” Umm, no. And if so, your fault, sorry. Anyway, the clever plays, huge replay potential based on which action cards are in play, and multiple avenues to victory make this a big winner for me.

I was unsure of this game after reading the rules. Then, and even now, this seems more like a “Kramer und Keisling” action-limited kind of game, rather than the structured kind of game I was used to from Feld. But, the play is really interesting, with the tension of an unknown end to the round, trying to be efficient with your dudes, and making chains of moves to accomplish whatever it is you are going for. Three main avenues for points (Luna herself, building shrines, and temple stuff) with several secondary ways to score as well (apostate, books, council) make for varied incentives, and lots of temporizing to try to figure out others’ plans.

Age of Industry
So, I am very surprised to not see this on any of the top 10’s so far, considering this won the IGA. Yeah, it’s Brass, refined. I was totally on the “You Can’t Improve My Brass” bandwagon for a while, but this really does improve it in a few ways, while falling short in a couple others. So, I’m happy to have it as a Brass alternative/variant. The system of building industry tiles, and then flipping them in different ways is pretty cool. The cards as a way to not allow just any old play is fine enough, though seems a little tacked on for strictly that purpose. Dunno, just fun for me.

Keltis: Orakel
My love for this game has been previously documented here. Orakel takes a good-ish family game, and revamps it with added depth, options, and retained intuitiveness. Works well with gamers and non-gamers, and I think this should have been the SdJ winner.

Hey Waiter!
Anthony Rubbo is a friend, but I don’t think that clouded my judgement of this excellent partnership game. (I think it really shines that way, as opposed to the 2 or 3 player incarnation.) The very clever, efficient, and elegant use of the cards is to be admired, and the partnership tension is spot on. The white action is the least intuitive, but once that is grasped, anyone can have fun with this one. Looking forward to getting more plays in.

I’m not the biggest solo games fan. (Except for At the Gates of Loyang, for some reason. I think it’s because the card phase of the solo version is more interesting than the standard one. Oh, and Race for the Galaxy too, but that interest has been overtaken by the excellent AI implementation.) Obviously, one of the main draws to boardgames is the social interaction. But, while this game can be played in a co-op mode, I love it as a solo game just as well. Were it not for the constant shuffling, I think it would have rated even higher. Unique theme, mechanics, and the addition of three included expansions make this little Z-man card game a big winner for me for the year.

This is one of those FFG mega games where there are phases upon phases, a bajillion (I counted) card decks, a fair amount of clarifications and errata offered after the fact, and plastic bits galore. I normally do not like this sort of thing. As I always say about these fantasy empire/adventure endeavors, the idea is always much better than the execution. Thinking about commanding an army and developing an empire, or leading a party or a single adventurer on a quest is sooo cool for most of us. The games themselves are sooo not, for the most part, for me at least. But, success in bridging this gap can be had in one of two ways. One way is to strip out everything (or many of the things) that make these games bad, and end up with a shortened experience. Get rid of complex/too lengthy combat, too much randomness, rich get richerness, lets-you-and-him-fightness, “I like turtling”, or downtime-o-rama. Several games that I enjoy fit this model: Nexus Ops, Claustrophobia, Sword and Skull. Runewars went the other way. The second way to ensure that the idea of the game matches the experience, is to do it all, but do it all in a clever, well maintained, not overblown way. Keep the multi-round combat, with special powers for all units, but have them not trigger every time. Keep the 8 different possible actions each turn of the game, but make the game max out at 24 turns so that you cannot possibly do all of them when you want. Keep a record of your resources, but adjust the amounts only at designated junctures, so the game isn’t bogged down by bookkeeping. The game is still long, and feels epic, but when I play it, I feel I made my fate and I had meaningful choices along the way.

It’s modified worker placement, and you attack people. And take their stuff. This feels really mean sometimes, and there can be some kingmakery stuff in there, too. But, the worker placement system of leading and following feels fresh, and the threat of attack keeps the tension high, beyond the standard “I hope they don’t take the action I want” that a lot of good worker placement games have. Those differences, and without adding any randomness, are what make me want to keep trying this one out, and what elevates it above the Egizia’s and the Finca’s of the world.

Two player card games with fairly easy rulesets are tough to make interesting enough for repeated play for me. I think this one has the legs. Different factions/strategies to focus on, as well as tactical plays, have made each game of this different from the rest. I’ve discovered new plays to make each time, as well as making big mistakes. (Locking yourself out of claiming any more cards mid way through the second trip through the deck is bad, even if you already claimed a bunch of “Rose” guys. Trust me.) I expect to be suggesting this for a long time.

Tie: Stich-Meister and Die Säulen der Erde: das Kartenspiel
I’m copping out with two choices. I am a trick taking game aficionado, and when I see innovative things happening in the genre, I have to call them out. Trick taking games fall in two big buckets for me. On one hand you have the serious level games, that when played competently by all parties lead to really interesting, competitive, nuanced play. Your Mu, your Schnappchen Jagd, your Dia de los Muertos, your Flaschenteufel. On the other end, are the games that are wild and crazy, swings of fortune and luck abound, as do the laughs and “wow”s when those crazy plays happen. Your Rage, your Wizard, your Where’s Bob’s Hat. Stich-meister belongs to this second group. You have a little control over how the round will play out, but don’t count on anything going completely according to plan. Sure, play the “Fish are trump” card when you have a bunch of fish. Great for you. But then sigh when “Fish cards are negative points” is played by your neighbor. Play the round out to the best of your ability once you see the rules, and then try to get ‘em next hand. DSdE:dK falls somewhere in the middle of my genres. It feels a bit like Sticheln to me, though the rules couldn’t be farther apart. You make early plays, hoping to strategically avoid taking the bad cards by playing middle power cards. Plays late in the trick can be very powerful, if you have saved the correct cards to “trump” with. But, there are only so many of those cards, and you may not have been dealt any. It feels like you have everyone-but-your-own’s fate in your hands. (But, that is self-contradictory, right?) Repeated plays have shown some nice depth, and really, what else can you ask of a trick taking game based on a worker placement game based on a novel?

With that, I end my list. I have several unplayed games that I think might contend for the list, but not too many. I could list them, but who wants to read about games I _haven’t_ played? On to 2011!

About Lucas Hedgren

Lucas Hedgren likes playing, designing, reading about, thinking about, and writing about games.
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