Top 10 Obscure Gems from 2010

7 Wonders?  Yeah, kind of interesting, but the decisions aren’t all that interesting, and there aren’t that many of them.  20th Century?  Fine game, but there’s really not that much variance from one game to the next, and a lot of the game time is spent on nothing but auctions. London?  Another interesting game, but didn’t really capture me.

Did you realize that there are nine 2010 in the top 100 on BGG?  And 31 in the top 400?

None of those will be appearing here.

The following represents my 10 favorite 2010 releases*.  I’ve titled it Top 10 Obscure Gems from 2010, since you’ve seen very few of them in other “top of 2010” lists here, but these really do represent my favorites from the year, and in fact the only ten releases from the year I care for enough to own.  They aren’t all truly obscure – but clearly these are not the games which have excited other folks here.

*Well, kinda.  You’ll see.

In alphabetical order:

18Neb: In every other case, games are on this list because I’ve played them many times, and really enjoyed them.  With 18Neb, I’m cheating – I’ve played it just once.  But I enjoyed it very much, and put in an order for a copy.  It’s a shorter 18xx game, but on first blush it seems to avoid the common “short 18xx” issue of not offering sufficient variety to remain interesting through multiple plays.

Adlungland: This game was released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of small German publisher Adlung, known for many years now for their small box card games.  Adlungland allows players to collectively build an amusement park, where each of the attractions is themed around a previous (or concurrent) Adlung release.  It’s not a complex game, but it’s a fun, fast game, and the theme is very well carried off; there are a number of great little in-jokes to be found throughout the design.

Black Friday: One thing I realized long ago was that I don’t care for stock market games where the results are simply random.  As a result, I wasn’t well inclined towards Black Friday initially – but the game won me over.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure just why; the random element isn’t really mollified.  But my best guess is that the big differences are (1) that there isn’t _one_ random result with each adjustment, but multiple random results, handled quickly, and (2) the next result has a dependency upon the previous result.  In any event, it works for me.

Don Q. und die Vermessung von La Mancha: OK, now we’re getting truly obscure.

This is the third game in the series, all published by Edition Perlhuhn in limited quantities, and each designed by a different designer.  All three are two player abstracts, with interesting recycled pieces.  This game – themed around the surveying of La Mancha– was designed by Heinrich Glumpler, the designer of Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League among other games.  There’s a very clever twist to this game – for the first half of the game, both players take on the role of Don Quixote, while for the second half both players take on the role of Sancho Panza; the switch comes when one of the players decides that Don Quixote has done well enough to claim the role – knowing that all future scoring goes to Sancho.

Famiglia: Very few two player games catch my attention.  Even fewer two player card games manage to capture me – Cribbage fills the role so well.   And I don’t play many two player games, so there are very few such games in my collection.  But I knew I wanted to buy Famiglia as soon as I first played it.

Founding Fathers: I’ve known Jason Matthews for years, and as a result really wanted to like one of his games – but neither Twilight Struggle nor 1960 really worked for me, and I avoided Campaign Manager 2008 for some time because of the comparisons to 1960 it kept drawing.  (I’ve since played it, and enjoyed it much more than I’d expected.)  But Founding Fathers – the theme is of more interest to me than any of his other games, and the fact that it’s a multiplayer game makes it one I’ll play much more often.

Inotaizu/Kaigan: OK, I’m cheating.  I count Inotaizu (the version I own, since I had it before Kaigan became available) as a 2009 release – but since Scott Tepper made the game much more available with his 2010 reprint, _and_ I only discovered the game in 2010 – and I don’t really have a 10th game to list anyway – here it is.  Great game; it’s clearly the best game I discovered during the year.

The major four of Heizei: Once I discovered Inotaizu, I began to explore Tanabe’s other designs – including this 2010 release, a simple but pleasant filler card game.  It’s hard to imagine a game with 15 cards in each of four colors offering a challenge to players – but The major four of Heizei certainly does.

Poseidon: As with 18Neb, this is another go at a short 18xx game.  But two elements – the lack of track, and the fixed number of turns – conspire to make this the 18xx game I have played in the least time, a mere 75 minutes; under the right circumstances, I believe the game could be played to completion in an hour.  And while I worried about replayability, I’ve now played it eight times, and there are enough choices and differences that I don’t feel I’m anywhere close to fully exploring the game.  There is no single 2010 release that most stood out for me, but if I had to choose a favorite today – this would be my choice.

Stich-Meister: I often enjoy Friedemann’s games – but I’ve never had three among my top ten games for the year before.  But Stich-Meister is right up my alley – it’s a trick taking card game, with a bunch of chaos thrown in via the rules the player’s choose.  But the chaos is in the interaction of the rules, not in the play of the game; players can usually do quite a bit to temper the chaos, playing their hands as best they can given the circumstances.  It’s a fun little game, for fans of casual trick-taking games.

For reference, the other 2010 releases I’ve played are: 1880: China, 20th Century, 7 Wonders, All kinds of flowers Profusion, Armorica, BITS, Campos, Catacombs, Constantinopolis, Cyrano, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Discover India, Dragonheart, Era of Inventions, Forbidden Island, Fresco, Fun Fair, Fürstenfeld, Glen More, Grand Cru, Hey Waiter!, Innovation, Jump Gate, Leaping Lemmings, Level X, Loch Ness (Hans im Glueck), London, Mad Zeppelin, Merkator, Mille Grazie, Mord Im Arosa, Namibia, Nihonsyoki, Norenberc, Perpetual-Motion Machine, Porto Carthago, Queen’s Ransom, Railroad Barons, Railways of the World: The Card Game, Rattus, Schweine-bande, Seeland, Seven Card Samurai, Skyscrapers, Snapshot, Spot!, Sun, Sea & Sand, The Last of the Independents, The Speicherstadt, Titania, Travel Blog, Troyes, Velo City, Vicious Fishes, Wampum, Workshop of the World

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9 Responses to Top 10 Obscure Gems from 2010

  1. McJarvis says:

    Thanks for providing a look at games I might otherwise have not been aware of, rather than just rehashing a list of familiar games I’ve already seen several times. I agree that Poseidon and Black Friday are good finds, and look forward to seeking out other things on this list.

  2. Eric Brosius says:

    I’m amazed that I agree more with Joe’s list of “obscure gems” that I do with the mainstream lists of the other contributors. As Joe could tell you, I don’t typically love his favorite obscure games.

  3. garygarison says:

    Don Q. looks fascinating. Do you have the designer right, though? Its BGG entry has it as Matthias Schmitt.

    • Joe Huber says:

      Yes, I have it right – I actually checked w/ Heinrich when working on translating the rules. And it’s correct on BGG; Schmitt designed the _previous_ game in the series. Which is also an excellent game, but a 2009 release.

  4. garygarison says:

    Ah, sorry for my confusion, Joe.

  5. David D. says:

    I love that Black Friday made it to your list. I sometimes have trouble figuring out stock trading games but not this one. This is a great game.

  6. Matt J Carlson says:

    Played Poseidon and though it was a well done adaptation of 18xx type games slimmed down to make a more playable game. However, I think the whole 18xx, corporation/train type game where you start and end companies just isn’t my bag. It’s a whole genre of game that is nearly impossible to teach to new players and have them play it successfully (one really needs to see someone make one company go bust to fuel a second one to grasp “how it’s done”…) Since I play with people much newer to the hobby it’s not one that would be a good fit. (If I were to get a game of this type, Poseidon would be near the top of my list…)

  7. Rich Parker says:

    I recently picked up a copy of Adlungland on the cheap; and, I have one question about play.
    If a player has already “earned” one of the risk penalty cards (let’s say that “fear factor” one for example) is he/she allowed to play into a situation where he/she would ordinarily earn that card while he/she already has it?

    • Joe Huber says:

      Absolutely, yes. If you have a penalty card, it impacts your cost or scoring, but there’s nothing to prevent you from taking an action that keeps it with you.

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