Jonathan Franklin: My eclectic top 10

2010 was an OK year for games released.  For my top ten, I approached it as if I were packing for a three month trip and I could only have ten games from 2010 along with me.  I used games listed as 2010 in a database, not games first played in 2010 as my set to choose from.

Oh, did I mention, no expansions! Finally, no adding games I have not played, so I added a ‘most want to play’ list at the end of the Top 10.

Multi-player games (can play 3+ players):

Alien Frontiers – Not for the perfect information or multi-player solitaire crowds, but a light, yet thoughtful game.  It is easy to teach and explain situations as they arise.  If you win, it was your skill.  If you lose, it was due to bad luck.  If there is a knock, it is that it can overstay its welcome.

Hanabi – A brilliant little cooperative game where everyone has a hand of cards and the only hand you cannot see is your own- a la Code 777.  You are trying to achieve a high score by playing sequences of cards.  How do you know if you should play a card if you cannot see them?  Because your teammates give you information, either through clues or through the absence of clues.  Tricky and fun.  People can take Hanabi very seriously and one sub-optimal play can bring their ire down on you.  Find out beforehand if you are playing for fun or for blood.

Key Market – A really nice heavier Euro with nice twists that make each game different.  Place workers, move workers, harvest cubes.  The cool part of this game is that there are about 16 different guilds, but you don’t play with all of them at any one sitting.  The guilds are effectively special powers and they add a nice spice to a very good game.  Takes brain-power and concentration, not a closer.

Merchants and Marauders – I’ve only played this once, but what a play it was.  I left the table thinking – meh, but nice art – the longer I was away from it, the more I wanted to play it again.  It is not a pirate game that makes you go ‘aargh’ and run around the room with rum dribbling down your chin.  It is a thematic Euro with dice for combat, in a zone similar to Alien Frontiers in some ways.  I liked that you could choose paths, ships, etc. as well as whether you want more pirate vs. pirate combat or pick-up and deliver via the merchant’s life.  It can take a while and even longer if you try to learn the rules yourself.  It has a very clean structure of three actions per turn, but a fair number of exceptions, so it ends up being more rules heavy than Alien Frontiers.  The bits and art are fantastic.

Mord im Arosa – This nifty little game is totally different from the other games on this list.  You have a tower of boxes stacked one on top of another like that stacking toy made of different sized cylinders.  The cool thing is that there is a hole in the top of each level and no bottom.  You drop cubes in the top and they rattle down to settle on one of the levels (or go all the way down and hit the table.  There is a theme, but basically, you are listening to figure out how far down each person’s cube went and then on your turn reveal that level and hope you are right.  It is silly fun, but takes things in a nice direction because opening a level is a bit like opening a gift.  Sometimes you find what you wanted and sometimes you don’t.  A bit like Gulo Gulo in that it is a game built around an elemental idea.  If you know someone who is good at Igloo Pop, they are likely to be good at this game too, so beware.

Stich-Meister – A fun trick-taking game with ever-changing conditions.  Only in German, but most of the cards are not hard to figure out.  The conditions change each hand, so one hand you might be trying to avoid one suit and get one number.  The next hand you are trying to get that suit.  It is really the sequence of changes that keeps your brain feeling nimble or fried, depending on all sorts of things. Unlike trick-taking games where some hands that are objectively better than others, this game lets the players each submit a condition, so you pick the condition that best suits the hand you were dealt.

Sun, Sea, and Sand – This is a great little game.  It is thinky, but plays in under an hour.  I guess it is light worker placement, but there is not the feeling of getting locked out very often.  You have four choices of things to do with your resort: build cabanas, build signs, build attractions, and get guests.  After your family members go do those things they are occupied for different lengths of time.  In the meantime, you earn income each week depending on how many guests you have, which lets you build more cabanas and attractions.  Final scoring is based on number of visitors, attractions, signs, and landscaping (which is really how many spaces there are between attractions. There is some chrome, such as the wandering backpacker, but the game is boiled down in a good way.  Plus the four colored meeples are different shapes representing what they are doing.

Two-Player Games

Famiglia – I loved this game from the first time I played it.  It is a mafia-themed tech tree game where two of a lower tech permits you to claim one higher tech from the pool, called ‘the stree’ in this game.  For example, you need two yellow 1s to get a yellow 2, etc.  Also, the different suits have different powers that can be used in series to create ‘aha’ plays.  It plays quickly, but is thoughtful and likely has even more depth than I realize.  When I lose, I am not sure if it is due to luck or lack of skill, but I am always happy to play again.

Mr. Jack Pocket – I have the two Mr. Jack games and the expansion.  I think this is the best of the series.  It captures so much about what is great about them all in a small box with a tight rule set.  If you like thoughtful cat-and-mouse games, this is your game!

Rivals for Catan – I have to give credit where credit is due.  As a long-time Settlers the Card Game player, I was cynical about this revision.  It is smoother, faster, and overall improved.  About the only things I miss are the expansions from the previous edition, but given the Settler’s franchise, I have little doubt they will be coming, too.

Games that just missed: Samarkand, K2, RRR, Defenders of the Realm, Adlungland, Magnum Sal, Florenza, 7 Wonders, Forbidden Island – I’d be happy to play any of these.

Games I respect, would be OK playing, but don’t need to play again: Inca Empire, Navegador, Merkator, 20th Century, Vinhos, London, Firenze (not for those who don’t like take that).

Unplayed 2010 games that are at the top of my ‘to play’ list: Troyes, High Frontier, 51st State, Keltis: Das Orakel, and Moongha Invaders.

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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4 Responses to Jonathan Franklin: My eclectic top 10

  1. Mark Jackson says:

    An expansion box for Rivals for Catan is slated for this fall. Your wish is Klaus Teuber’s command!

  2. Alex Yeager says:

    I find Mord im Arosa fascinating because it is at its best, a game that relies on your sense of hearing for success – and one of the best of the (very limited) genre. Listening to the cubes drop makes for a very unique game mechanic (and very different from something like Schrille Stille). It was a must-buy for me at Essen, and despite some pooh-poohing from the heavy-game crowd, I’ve been very happy with it.

    I am not interested in exploring the genre of game that require smell.

    Alex Yeager
    Mayfair Games

  3. jeffinberlin says:

    Scratch-n-Sniff “Zicke Zacke Huehnekacke,” however, is to be avoided at all costs:-)

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