Disappointing Opening

Common wisdom seems to be that 2011 is off to a great start game-wise and is shaping up to be a much better year for new releases than last year.  I beg to differ.  The first half of 2011 has been anything but inspiring, with only a handful of bright spots so far and more than its fair share of duds.  I’m here to caution you to beware and at least try before you buy when it comes to many of the most recent releases.  It’s possible that my sample size has been too small with 18 releases from 2011 tried so far.  It’s certain that many of these 18 games have their fans.  But for the opposing viewpoint — and for anyone hoping to save money or shelf space by trimming their wishlist — read on.

I’ll start with some optimism.  It’s early yet.  There is plenty of time to go and there are even a handful of releases I’m looking forward to trying.  For instance, I haven’t tried Yggdrasil yet and as a fan of cooperative games it’s a must try.  There’s also the long-awaited Spectral Rails to continue eagerly awaiting.  Then there’s the Summoner Wars: Master Set which looks like just the ticket to suck me into this nearly collectible game.  There’s even the SDJ-nominated Lancaster by Matthias Cramer of Glen More renown, although the game’s nomination is far less impressive because it sits aside the dreadful Strasbourg.  So there are good things on the horizon and always that hope that the next great game is just around the corner.  You know that small hope that keeps you buying and trying new games year in and year out.

Some of you may not have had an opportunity yet to try all of the newest crop of games, so I decided to write up why you’re not missing much and might as well continue living in the past.  Where to start though as we take this tour of the disappointments?  First things first I suppose are the obligatory deck-building games.  Thunderstone: Dragonspire and Nightfall are the two that I’ve tried from 2011.  Both put their own spin on the Dominion universe, just like Ascension, Puzzle Strike, and all the others that came before.  I’m biased since the entire genre fails to excite me.  A whole style of game that seems to premise its appeal on its speed is lackluster to someone who seeks out memorable game experiences.  I want to be able to think back on an epic game of Through the Ages, Twilight Struggle, or Descent and recall something memorable that happened, or at least to think back on the hilarity of a Haba or dexterity game.  Deck-building games are just a haze, a blur, simply passing time, a waste of time.  Thunderstone is at least the best because it tries to incorporate some semblance of a theme, but as a result it’s less streamlined and too cumbersome for it’s own good.  It’s also dragged down by very poor graphic design in terms of card layout.  Nightfall has a clever gimmick in terms of chaining cards together, but it’s far too fast as a two-player affair to be meaningful and fails miserably as a multi-player affair due to the overwhelming emphasis on simply deflecting attention.

What are the worst offenders of 2011 so far you ask?  It’s a toss-up between Artus and Strasbourg.  Both by venerable designers and both utterly miserable.  I had high hopes for Artus given its Kramer-Kiesling pedigree, its Alea brand, and its King Arthur theme.  It seemed like such a promising game.  I played it twice too just to be sure that it was as terrible as it seemed.  It is one of the most ridiculously chaotic games in recent memory.  There is absolutely no reason to pay attention on anyone else’s turn or make plans for the future because the board can and will change so dramatically before you go again that you might as well get up and stretch your legs.  It’s marginally better as a two-player zero-sum affair, but still an exercise in futility and not worth your time.  Strasbourg is one of Stefan Feld’s many recent releases.  I think it’s clear that he’s over-extending himself.  Feld can be one of the greatest designers out there and has created some fantastic designs in recent years.  But as his output grows, the quality is taking a nose dive.  Strasbourg is an extremely uninspired exercise in blind-bidding.  A series of repetitive auctions where players lock in their bids ahead of time and try to read each other’s mind, not my idea of a good time when the random difference between bids of one or two can be critical.

But it’s not all terrible, some of the games hot off the presses are disappointing because of missed opportunity and unfulfilled potential.  Take Burgery Burger von Burgerson of Burgundy, or whatever Alea big-box # 14 is being called these days.  It could have been another in a long line of great Alea releases but it needed a bit more time in the oven and seems rushed.  The game lasts 25 turns, but I strongly believe this is too many.  I don’t care how long the game takes minutes or hours-wise, that’s not the issue.  The issue is that a game needs to have an arc like a play, it needs to make sure that Act 4 and Act 5 don’t drag on too long.  The denouement in Burgerman of the Burgerland is too long.  Games like Princes of Florence are clever because the game’s time-space is constrained and players are pressured to execute quickly and efficiently.  The Burgerfest in Burgerspace gives players too much room to work with and as a result fails to adequately incentivize players.  20 turns would be plenty to allow players to formulate and execute a plan without giving players such a big cushion that drains all of the tension from the game.  An unrelated issue is that the game loads down its clever core mechanic with superfluous mechanics that could have easily been paired away to make the game shine brighter.  The allocation of goods to the various ship spaces is beyond unnecessary and could have been lifted to keep the spotlight on the key game elements.  The goods should have been available through a much cleaner and simpler selection method (a by-product of which would be removing the most useless building in the game).  Finally, the game needs a small adjustment to balance for when players roll doubles, which are generally inferior.  A small consolation or a potential re-roll method would be sufficient, but it’s such a simple and apparent thing that in conjunction with the game length and goods allocation issues convinces me that this game was rushed.  When it comes to Die Burgen von Burgund, the disappointment lies in the promise it left on the table.

Then again it’s more fun to lament the bad than to moan the merely fair, so back to the bottom of the ladder.  In the camp of games that are not as terrible as Strasbourg or Artus, but still better to avoid are Pergamon and Spring Fever.  It pains me to say so for the former because it’s a Stefan Dorra game and I’ve always had a soft spot for Dorra designs (such as Kreta, Njet, and obviously For Sale).  Then again Dorra did inflict Tonga Bonga on the world and at least Pergamon doesn’t achieve that level of pain and suffering.  If it wasn’t apparent yet, I’m obviously prone to hyperbole, which ironically is an understatement.  Pergamon is an archaeology game (a la Thebes) where players purchase artifact tiles to compile sets that they show in the museum for victory points.  Visually speaking the game is incredibly difficult to read.  You need to pair up the front and back half of various artifacts and as a result need to remember and try to find on the board the back half of a bracelet, but the front of a mask, and the front of a jug, but the back of a vase.  It’s a headache and a chore and not worth the effort.  Money is tight and turn order is crucial in financing your purchases, but good luck not getting randomly shorted by the cards even after you go through all the trouble of finding the best set of fronts and backs of cryptically depicted artifacts.  Spring Fever is much easier to play and much less substantial.  It’s purely a light bluffing game of trying to deceive the player to your left and read the player to your right.  At least it’s mercifully quick.

That brings us to the whole big middle of the pack – Mondo, Cargo Noir, Pantheon, 7 Wonders: Leaders, Pastiche, Airlines: Europe, and Volle Scholle.  Mondo should have struck a chord with me given that I’m a sucker for fast-paced puzzle-like games such as Factory Fun, Ubongo, and Galaxy Trucker.  Instead I found it to be a boring and repetitive entry in that venerable line.  No matter which of three difficulty levels you try it on, Mondo is too simple.  That’s not to say it’s easy, but that it’s straightforward, it’s essentially the exact same each time, and it’s just basic.  There’s no there there, to be trite.  If you try to scratch the surface of this game you’re liable to tear right through it.  Cargo Noir seems tailor made to appeal to the Spiel des Jahres jury, but it looks like they missed the mark.  The production values are superb, but the game is simply a round-and-round auction.  I wanted off this merry-go-round long before the game ended but it just kept spinning as players bid and re-bid for goods in an auction-set collecting whirlwind.  Pantheon was the best effort of the bunch to actually create a solid strategy game.  It includes a novel resource management element of managing both your pillar tokens and your feet tokens, the former of which are used permanently and the latter of which are recovered after each of six rounds.  The “walking” mechanic to reach your destinations around the Mediterranean is clever, but the game is marred by its overwhelming randomness.  The swings of the random deity tile draws, as well as the token and card draws, are just too much and they topple the fine underlying structure that the game has built.

Then there’s 7 Wonders: Leaders, which is the inevitable first of many expansions to 7 Wonders.  Leaders admirably tries to inject a dose of long-term strategy into the game and succeeds to some extent, but in the end it’s not enough to notably improve or alter the game.  For those who love the base game, I’m sure the new cards will be a fun diversion from the monotony.  For those who were already bored, there’s not enough new life here to resuscitate your interest.  Pastiche takes the theme of Fresco and ramps it up into a technicolor nightmare with a palette that extends to the likes of olive, scarlet, magenta, violet, teal, amber, and everyone’s favorite bisque.  In a twist, the primary colors are actually the most valuable and difficult to acquire, so the focus is in large part on seeking out the elusive red, yellow, and blue without having to use an entire turn to acquire them if possible.  Volle Scholle is a light card game by Martin Wallace of all people.  It’s a quick auction game of trying to balance the value of the ice flows you win with the value of the penguins in your losing bids.  It could be clever and could grow on me, but in a crowded field it didn’t really stand out.  Lastly, Airlines: Europe is the one that really might grow on me but didn’t have that spark that made it memorable at first blush.  For now I prefer Stephensons Rocket and Chicago Express for my stock-buying / company route-expanding needs.  The randomly limited pool of available stocks was frustrating at times as compared to the open-ended nature of the two I prefer.  I can see how the limited options would make for a more accessible, intuitive, and quicker game, but I think those are generally traits for a different audience.

Lastly, to end on a slightly brighter note, some of the better games from the year so far – Uluru, Letters from Whitechapel, BITS, and Olympos.  Uluru is the 2011 game that I’d probably say is my favorite if pressed to name one, but so far I think I’d have to say 2011 is the first year since 1996 when I’d rather decline to select a game of the year.  Uluru is exactly like a logic game from the LSAT (for the lawyers among you).  It’s a game of arranging colored pawns around a table according to a set of rules such as blue wants to sit next to orange, but yellow wants to sit across from green, and green wants to be around the corner from blue.  For some inexplicable reason, it’s a concept that really works for me and that I just get.  I know that it’s pure misery for many people, so Uluru is far from a game that I’d widely endorse.  Instead, it’s a niche game for those of us insane enough to enjoy speed logic puzzles.  Letters from Whitechapel is the runner-up for best game among a lame crop thus far.  It’s a deduction game of sorts set in the world of Jack the Ripper that I’m told is in the same mold as Scotland Yard.  One player takes the part of Jack and tries to avoid the other players working as a team of investigators.  The game claims to work for 2 to 6 players, but I think that’s hilarious.  With any more than 3 players I’d find it a miserably tedious exercise.  With 2-3 players it’s a devious game of cat and mouse that avoids becoming boring and too bogged down in analysis for the most part.  BITS is Knizia’s successor to FITS and actually better than FITS due to the fact that players diverge more significantly in their board development and have more open-ended options.  But it’s still a simple and ultimately repetitive puzzle.

Finally, Olympos is the new Philippe Keyaerts design from Ystari, not to be confused with Olympus, the FGG game by the Kingsburg guys, or Heavens of Olympus, the game that countless people have warned me not to try.  Olympos takes the time track from Thebes (or Jenseits von Theben for purists) and combines it with a deterministic combat mechanism along the lines of Small World, although not at all the same as Small World in how it specifically functions.  Olympos works decently well for 3 players, but I’m told and I can imagine it quickly begins to break down when you add a fourth player.  The game length would increase, the downtime would increase, the chaos would increase.  With 3 it shows some potential of being a decent game of conquering territory to gain resources that are used to acquire technologies that give players special abilities and victory points.  I’m happy to see the time track redeployed as it was a welcome mechanic in Red November and tends to force players into interestingly difficult decision-making spaces.  However, I’m not sold that Olympos overcomes the fundamental problem of combat games that reward the player who most evades combat.  I tend to play such games aggressively and am disappointed when the player who inevitably comes out on top is the one who I happen to attack the least (i.e., Antike, Twilight Imperium).  I don’t think a turtle strategy will work to the same extent in Olympos so it may not suffer that fate but at first blush it’s a concern that bears further investigation.

Those are the 18 games from 2011 to prune from your wishlist for the most part.  They’re not all bad of course and I’m sure many people out there will absolutely love a few of these.  I know you can find plenty of fawning praise out there for new releases, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to add a dash of disappointment to the mix.  Now excuse me while I get back to playing the “classics” from 2009 and 2010.

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22 Responses to Disappointing Opening

  1. John Bohrer says:

    It seems obvious to me, from this post and from the earlier voting here, that none of you have played Lancaster yet. Schade!

  2. Pete Ruth says:

    You’re not playing the right games!

    Battleship Galaxies is an incredibly well designed, fun game, and Conquest of Norrath is quite good so far; definately a Runebound-killer. Ascending Empires is outstandingly good, far beyond even my very high expectations of it. Chaos in the Old World’s expansion is a game changer as well, and is worth every penny unlike so many FFG titles. Speaking of FFG, Mansions of Madness is pretty damned good, albeit flawed, from most of what I’ve heard and at TrashFest in Atlanta it was really talked about a lot.

    Eminent Domain is AWESOME, and that’s coming from a guy who believes that Dominion was packed with magical faerie dust that makes people overlook a lack of player interaction and fall madly in love with multiplayer solitaire games.

    I do have to agree, though, that there’s far more shit being produced than good quality stuff. The issue, I think, is that publishers realize the need to feed the beast or lose customers to other hobbies as the attention span of many is so short (or perhaps OCD Collector’s Gene so deep) that unless they get new stuff every single day to try to keep up with, they get bored and crawl back into their holes, so to speak. I mean, how many cube-pushing variants on the same 10 games with tacked on theme and the various mixes of the same 10 mechanics can they keep putting out before people just stop buying into the bullshit altogether?

  3. Pete Ruth says:

    That was RuneWARS, not Runebound. Nothing can kill Runebound, it’s the God of Advenutre Games.

  4. Welcome Pete Ruth! Yes your comments on Dominion are correct. Dominion has cube confusion without the cubes.

  5. Dale Yu says:

    @JohnB – Sadly I haven’t had a chance to play Lancaster yet. I hear that it will finally hit American shores soon, so I’m hoping to get a chance to see it too! It seems that every year, when the SdJ nominees are named, there’s at least one game on that list that I essentially have had no access to prior to the announcement. This year, it’s Lancaster.

    @PeteR – I’m looking forward to Battleship Galaxies. Do you have a copy already?

  6. Larry Levy says:

    What is this, the Tag Team of Gloom? First Levy trashes the 2010 designs and now Rosen tosses 2011 under the bus?

    While I don’t share Tom’s pessimism over what we’ve seen so far, I do concur with some of his sentiments. Artus, Strasbourg, and Olympos have been disappointments, although I do need to try the latter two again to see if I missed something. And while I think that Pergamon fits the bill as a nice family game, it’s not a title I figure to spend much time with (although Tom’s concurrent criticism of Dorra’s Tonga Bonga is not only way off base, but akin to kicking a puppy—how can you heap abuse on such a charming classic?).

    Most of the others are perfectly reasonable games, even if they aren’t top shelf. Spring Fever is a harmless bluffing game. Mondo accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to be a fast-paced, puzzle game. Letters from Whitechapel is really clever, but I suspect Tom is right about the proper number of players.

    Then we come to the games that are actually good, in spite of Mr. Rosen’s complaints. Leaders is an excellent expansion to 7 Wonders, and one that the game’s many fans should love. Airlines: Europe is a wonderful game, but it’s a middleweight. Comparing it to Stephenson’s and Chicago Express is insane, even if there are thematic and mechanical similarities. If you want a heavier game, fine, but the existence of those two older titles in no way diminishes the quality of the Moon design.

    Finally, there’s Pantheon and Burgery…ah, Die Burgen von Burgund. I recently played both of these with Tom. This means I can conclusively say that his criticism of Burgen is based on his playing style, rather than any problem with the game. After 20 turns, Tom had a big lead on the other two players, but during the last 5 turns, both of us passed him, as he had left himself few ways of making points. Essentially, he was playing as if the game was 20 turns long, while the other players paced themselves properly and had no problem making lucrative moves up to the very end. So I place very little stock in his critique (and I also note that, far from being rushed, the game was delayed from its planned 2010 Essen appearance due to production issues). Ironically, I have a different problem with the game. Even with 3 players, I found the game’s pace to be a little slow. Not a huge amount of downtime, but it’s more sluggish than I think it needs to be. If I can get a group (including myself) who can play this more quickly, then I think the title could shine, but for now, I’m downgrading my rating a bit. It’s still a good game, but not quite up to the standard I tend to hold Alea to, at least not yet.

    As for Pantheon, I’m also reducing my rating a bit. The luck factor Tom describes was in full force in our game, particularly with regards to the demigods. I hadn’t noticed it in my previous two games, but based on the comments of others, it wouldn’t surprise me if this proves to be a fragile design, where a reasonable percentage of the time the luck factor tends to dominate. Just as with Burgen, the rating is subject to change and I still want to play the game some more. Even if the problems persist, this is still an enjoyable game and a worthwhile addition to the rotation.

    The overriding comment I would make is that the first half of the gaming calendar year is usually overwhelmed by the second half, as publishers reserve their big efforts for Essen. So it’s not uncommon for us to have slim pickings at this time of the year. Given that, I still say that this has been a good start to 2011, even if some of the games haven’t quite lived up to my first impressions of them. Tune in later this year, in which we see if we can find someone who will serve as the curmudgeon for the Essen games and take the pressure off of Tom and me!

  7. Mark says:

    Strasbourg is not a blind bidding game. Bids are made in turn order. My understanding is that many people played the game incorrectly at the Gathering; perhaps this is the basis for your misinformation. But check the rules. The game actually features an interesting mechanism where you must decide at the beginning of the round what bundles of money you want available to you for bidding (do you want a bunch of small quantities of money, or just a few large wads of cash, or some mix in between), but then the actual bidding play is fully in turn sequence with quite a bit of information available to you. There are other valid criticisms to leverage against this game, but dismissing it is a blind-bidding guess-fest is not one of them.

  8. Joe Huber says:

    Interesting perspective, Tom. I’ve had a very different reaction to the 13 2011 titles I’ve played so far, in spite of the fact that most of which overlap with your list. My average rating for those 2011 releases is nearly the highest for any year since I started keeping track; only 1997 surpasses it.

    For the five that don’t overlap – Rails of New England is a very nice design, though one I’m sure will not appeal universally. Das große Kullern is a very clever little children’s game. But Great Western is a fair game ruined by an awful map, Top & Down is an uninspired game in the Easy Play line, and Ubongo: Das Kartenspiel is still another failed attempt to make an interesting portable version of Ubongo.

    But given the difference in opinions we have on the games we’ve both played, perhaps you should avoid Rails of New England and seek out Ubongo: Das Kartenspiel. I find both Die Burgen von Burgund and Pantheon to be delightful game. The former is set just right at the 25 turn length, IMHO, and I don’t get the complaints about the randomness in the latter, since I find that (as with Africa) the possibilities are of sufficiently similar value that what one pulls isn’t a killer. I also find Artus to be a delightfully evil game; I agree that there are limits to the forward planning, but who cares when turns are so quick? I also found Pergamon much more enjoyable than you seem to have. I’m not sure why you found the board and tiles so difficult to read; I didn’t have any problem, and didn’t notice others I played with having a problem either. I don’t really disagree with your assessment of Spring Fever – it’s not my kind of game – but it’s pleasant enough that I was happy to teach it to another group and join them for a couple of plays. I did have a similar reaction to Airlines: Europe and Uluru – but while I didn’t love Strasbourg, I found it tolerable; I’d have it in my “middle of the pack” bucket.

  9. Kris Hall says:

    Yes, I have not bought a single one of this year’s games. Of those mentioned above, Pergamon is the one that I have played and enjoyed the most. But I must mention Ted Cheatham’s City Square Off that has just come out. This is a simple two-player filler game that plays in ten minutes, but my wife and kids love it. My family has played it at least fifteen times since we acquired a copy last week. This won’t cure anyone’s hunger for a good middle-weight strategy game, but it is rare that I am enthusiastic for a filler, and it is an oasis in the 2011 desert.

  10. rthornqu says:

    I’m with you, Tom – the games so far this year have been uninspiring.
    It’s not really too surprising, though, as the SdJ-oriented Nuremberg games of the past few years have had very few hits (for me, at least). Last year we had Egizia, but this year there’s really nothing that floats my boat. It looks like we gamers do have to wait for Essen for the good stuff (with at least one game I’m very much anticipating this year: Last Will).
    Some games were close, though. Pantheon and Burgund both had possibilities, but both ended up with issues that knocked them down a peg. Too bad, as I think the issues with both games could have been fixed with further development.
    I had such high hope for Artus, an Alea / Kramer and Kiesling production, but it was not to be. Not even close.

  11. Larry Levy says:

    Mark, I don’t know if Tom shares my feelings for Strasbourg, but since I’ve made comments about it similar to his, let me respond. While it’s true that the game doesn’t feature blind bidding, I think the bundling procedure at the beginning of the turn that Feld created is an attempt to give the feel of blind bidding without the usual drawbacks. I think he was partially successful: it does indeed feel like blind bidding, but it also shares most of the problems I have with that mechanic. Here’s an all too familiar example: based on the cards you are dealt, you make a stack of $7, thinking it will be sufficient to purchase the action you “have” to have. You play it, only to find that your left-hand opponent has a stack of $8, which he uses to merrily squash yours. In another turn, your stack of $7 turns out to be huge overkill, as no one has a stack greater than $3. Yes, I know you can recover one card from your bid, but that usually feels like scant compensation. I just found my game to be a very frustrating experience and it’s the kind of frustration I usually feel in blind bidding games.

    It’s quite possible that I played poorly–maybe I should have bid higher for essential actions and done a better job with the game’s positional play. That’s why I want to give the game a second chance, particularly in light of its SdJ nomination. But one of the reasons I wanted to try this in the first place was the bundling procedure and right now, I don’t think it accomplishes what I want it to do.

    • Thygra says:

      for a really important action you usually need a bit about 11-14, not only 7. And even if the second highest bit is only 4 or so, it was no overkill, it was it worth!
      I know that not each player will like Strasbourg, but if you see the current graph on BGG, and if you know that the SdJ jury did nominee the game, it should be clear that Strasbourg is not “uninspired” or “boring” like Tom wrote.

      • Larry Levy says:

        Wow, that’s quite a difference! It certainly shows that there was some groupthink at work in my game, as I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a single bid (by anyone) close to double digits. It occurred to me afterwords that I might have been a bit conservative with my bidding, by not taking into account the likelihood of cards being returned to the deck when bids were lost. Your comment makes me feel this was likely the case.

        I’m still not completely sold on the overkill comment–there’s only so much you can bid and splurging it all on a bid you could have won with a lot less feels like a good way to lose. But that’s blind bidding thinking–maybe the more refined mechanic in Strasbourg is different.

        Dale keeps telling me how great the game is, although given how different our tastes our, maybe he would be better served by using some reverse psychology instead. I’ll do my best to have an open mind when I play it again–I just don’t know when that will be.

  12. McJarvis says:

    Funny that we game together so much Tom; I think Letters from Whitechapel and Nightfall are a welcome reprieve from the mediocrity I saw in 2010 :-) [Not to mention that other cardgame I’ve been talking about far too much of late- Yomi.]

  13. Doug says:

    Good read, thanks Tom. I enjoyed the amusing quips, and sometimes it’s good to take a “positive” negative spin on recent releases. I’m pretty much on the hunt for new and different these days, and not the re-cycled Euro cube mincers … but I was tempted by the theme of Pergamon. Thanks for saving me there.

    So… what is new and different? Ascending Empires looks tempting….

  14. Ryan B. says:

    2011: I would say Survive, even though it is a reprint, was a good game release. Haven’t played K2, but thought that was very interesting. I liked Cargo Noir and would admit it would have been even better with more of a negotiation element. Looking forward to the Samuari Swords reprint: Ikusa.

    On the casual/family game front, we have a similar refrain that seems now to be echoed by others: we need a broadening of themes. My personal hope is that we get more themes not mired in obscure medieval history or the whole fantasy theme thing, which has been overbaked as well. I’m still looking for the next fun light theme a’la “A Dog’s Life.”

  15. Thanks to Joe H. for the nod on our Rails of New England. Your comments are very interesting, Pete, though we disagree on Pergamon, which my wife and I both like very much.

  16. Jonathan says:

    Tom, South African Railroads, Barons, Drum Roll, and Belfort might rescue 2011 for you even before Essen.

  17. Ryan B. says:

    RE: 2011 Survive was a good game to come out this year, even if it was a reprint. Looking forward to the reprint of Shogun (Ikusa) as well.

  18. Pete says:

    Ah, I see now why you guys are so disappointed: you’re looking primarily at Euros. The games I’ve seen of late hold absolutely no interest, and not because “I don’t always game, but when I do, I prefer Amer-Equis”, but rather because the cornucopial pile of fucking recycled ideas and incredibly boring theme kills any hope for me.

    I’m not a collector, to begin with, so I have no interest in the whole My Little Pony ideals of ‘collecting them all’, so when I buy, I only buy things that I’ve got a high degree of belief that I’ll enjoy. So far, little has come my way that I would classify as such. For instance, I was very graciously invited to chill with the OG’s last night and we played some fucktastic racing game that amounted to really cool bits playing hopscotch. I lost miserably, because I was a moron, but that didn’t detract from the game’s enjoyability, or lack thereof, it was because the game had absolutely nothing interesting about it other than the wee cars. This, unfortunately, is endemic of the entire Euro game offering of late. No more are the Tikals, Small Worlds, and El Grandes being offered but rather we get these Cargo Noirs, Frescos, and Avanti type games that are tantamount to intellectual torture.

    This is the year of Ameritrash, where all of you guys who spend too much time pushing cubes and pondering moves for 15 minutes at a time will be awakened to bloodletting, backstabbery, and epic combat with TONS OF DICE!!!! :) Well, maybe that’s wishful thinking, but so far this year I’m drawn more to those games than Euros, and I’d say that on balance, I like all games, be they American or European, as long as they don’t suck. Lately, Europe’s game offerings are just as bad as their economy.

    Panic Station will be good, from White Goblin, and some others that I’m not allowed to mention. Come Essen, or perhaps just past, we’ll start seeing quality, engaging titles coming from Europe. We’d better, or you guys are going to be walking around Origins in Battleship Galaxies and I (heart) Heroscape T-Shirts!

  19. Greg Schloesser says:

    Like Tom, I have not been very impressed with the 2011 releases. However, I do enjoy Pergamon far more, considering it a fine light-weight family game. Like Larry, I completely disagree with his dissing of Tonga Bonga, a game I thoroughly enjoy. It has also proven very popular with just about everyone with whom I’ve played.

  20. Dale Yu says:

    Larry (and Thygra) — yes, I still like Strasbourg very much. Just played it this weekend. And in our game, we had a number of bids in the 10-12 range and many that were >6. I tried a new strategy and managed to get 13 meeples in the city. I fell short by a few points (as I missed a bonus card on the last round), but it was an interesting attempt to get as many actions in as possible. There’s no accounting for your poor taste in games when it doesn’t match mine , but I do think that it’d be worth giving Strasbourg a second go-round just to see.

    And, in fact, I’m in the process of writing a rebuttal to Tom’s piece here — probably up on Sunday if I can get it done. I happen to think 2011 has been good so far.


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