As at the end of July, I’ve rated (and commented on) 389 of the top 500 BGG games and 700 of the top 1000.
If we ignore all the puzzle games and the multiple editions that clog up the rankings (did I mention I reckon they don’t belong there?!), and ignore most of the wargames (which I enjoy for the intellectual challenge, but they’re not something I seek out as a preference), there’s only a few games in each bracket of 100 that I’m still yearning to get my hands on.
Then, whenever I think I have a handle on all the good stuff, new games come inbound. And then someone reels off a session report full of quality stuff that hasn’t risen in the rankings because not enough people have ranked it yet. It’s the nature of the times – there’s always more good stuff out there. Some of that may lie below for you …
I started keeping game stats back way back in 1999 and part of that stat-keeping is allocating an average time for each play of a game. When multiplied by the number of times played, it provides the total time I’ve spent playing a game, which eventually provides a sense of value on the original purchase.
By looking at the number of plays within any one year for each game, I can also see which game I spent the most time playing in that year. In turns out that all the following have provided pretty good value for money over the years:
Times Played: 3, with review copy provided by Floodgate Games
In Bosk, each player is a species of tree in a national
park trying to be the dominant species in the park. The board is set up on the
table, and each player takes all the trees, leaf tokens and leaf tiles in their
color. A score track and a wind direction track are set off to the side. The game is played over the four seasons of
the year with play happening in summer and fall and scoring happening in summer
and winter. As each season is different,
I’ll go over each one separately.
Design by Shawn Stankewich, Molly Johnson and Robert Melvin Published by AEG 2 – 6 Players, 30 minutes Review by Greg J. Schloesser
AEG has introduced a line of games that are targeted squarely at the family and casual gamers market. The games are designed to be fairly simple and easy-to-grasp, and can be played to completion in about 30 minutes or so. While we gamers tend to ignore games such as these, the vast majority of Americans – and indeed, folks worldwide – fall into this demographic and are the target market for this line.
Point Salad by designers Shawn Stankewich, Molly Johnson and Robert Melvin is one entry into this field. The game consists solely of a deck of cards (108 in total) depicting different vegetables on one side and scoring goals on the reverse. The theme is to properly grow one’s garden so as to meet the demands of one’s customers. Growing a vegetable garden is one that certainly has near universal understanding and perhaps appeal, so that is one potential success factor in terms of the game resonating with the general public.
The deck is shuffled and divided into three equal stacks, with the “point” side facing up. Two cards are revealed from each deck and placed below with the vegetable side showing, forming three columns. Players do NOT receive any cards to begin the game.
Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Wizkids
Over the past few years, the Dungeons and Dragons people
have been trying to gain a foothold in the more traditional boardgaming
scene. The first game that I can
remember is Lords of Waterdeep – a game that we reviewed here in 2012. Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (referred
to as Mad Mage from here on) is part of the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure
system series – bringing elements of the full RPG into a boardgame system. The different modules in this series can be
used to expand and complement one another.
So, games like Castle Ravenloft or Tomb of Annihilation can be combined
Designer: Rob Daviau Artists: Scott Okumura, Ben Oliver Publisher: Avalon Hill Players: 3-5 Time: 45-90 minutes per game Times Played: The entire campaign plus several post-campaign haunts
Betrayal Legacy is the greatest game ever published. You’re free to disagree, of course, but you would be wrong. And please note that I’m not limiting the discussion to board games. Card games, video games, lawn games, whatever games – Betrayal Legacy is the greatest of them all.
I recognize the fact that (though on some deep level I do not understand why) not everyone will enjoy Betrayal Legacy. Not everyone enjoys Citizen Kane, Don Quixote and Daredevil, either. That doesn’t mean they’re not the greatest film, novel and comic book series of all time.
No other game has so perfectly combined luck and strategy, theme and mechanics, agency and narrative. From the first time the components are spread out on the table, players take themselves on a wild ride through the history of one very haunted house. Generations of families will return to this place decade after decade, century after century, and they will discover mostly terrible things.
If you’re familiar with Betrayal at House on the Hill, you’re familiar with the core mechanics. (If not, I encourage you to go play Betrayal at House on the Hill. It’s the second greatest game ever published.) Things have been changed to make gameplay smoother and better. Fifty new haunts have been written. Legacy elements have been added.
Halfway (give or take) through each game, the haunt begins and (usually) one of you becomes a traitor. The traitor is given a different victory condition than the rest of the group. Occasionally, the traitor will be so well-positioned when the haunt begins that victory seems all but assured. Occasionally, the traitor faces an uphill climb that feels like the big mountain in the background of the Machi Koro box.
Some people don’t like that variability. Those people tend to complain about “broken” haunts. There are no broken haunts. If you can’t stomach the idea of an unbalanced game every now and then, Betrayal Legacy is not for you. It’s all right. Not everyone adores the elegance and power of a 1950 Château Lafleur.
The primary thing that elevates Betrayal Legacy is its use of story. The players, of course, have storylines that develop over time. And the game has an overarching narrative that unspools in delightful and surprising ways that often pay homage to – and play with – the tropes of classic horror films. But the home itself becomes a character here. The original 1666 house expands through the years, occasionally with renovations and upgrades but mostly with tragedy and death. It becomes ever more haunted and terrifying.
A smaller piece of Betrayal Legacy’s brilliance is the heirlooming of items. Few things are as enjoyable as claiming a pitchfork, then finding it in a later game and being able to take advantage of its full power because it is your pitchfork.
Finally, let’s talk about the dice. The wonderful, infuriating dice. (Yes, these are the same dice found in Betrayal at House on the Hill. Nonetheless, they deserve an abundance of praise.) At first glance, they look like normal six-sided dice. But they are, in practice, three-sided dice. Each die has two 1s, two 2s and, most importantly, two 0s. It’s a masterful distribution. When you roll four dice, the potential outcomes range from 0 to 8. The potential emotions range from unmitigated despair to unrivaled elation.
Without descending into spoilers, there’s not much more to say. I will point out that, as of this writing, the users of BoardGameGeek have rated 566 games higher than Betrayal Legacy. The users of Internet Movie Database have ranked 548 movies higher than the original 1933 version of King Kong. Insanity.
Betrayal Legacy may not be to your taste. I get it. Genius is not always appreciated. But make no mistake about it, Betrayal Legacy is genius.
Full disclosure: I was one of the many who playtested Betrayal Legacy.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Patrick Brennan: It seems one of the Betrayal Legacy envelopes may have contained a serious hallucinogenic! If only it could have kept me interested long enough to get to it ;-)
Frank Branham: It seems that you misspelled Middara. You should fix that.
The legacy aspect and story are handled well, but I actually prefer the legacy aspects of Seafall more. With Betrayal, the story is a weird pastiche of horror tropes that doesn’t really form a cohesive whole. Although, the fact at the end you have a fully-customized copy of the best version of the Betrayal game is a nice bit of icing.
Brandon Kempf: Seriously, you weren’t supposed to ever open that box/envelope. Five sessions in, and I don’t really care if I ever see the end of it. I understand why folks love this game, it’s the epitome of these types of narrative, dice chucking, swingy, luck fests. But it all seems to be lost on me. I honestly wish I did understand and even enjoy it, but I haven’t, at all. So it sits on my shelf of unfinished Legacy games, along with Charterstone & Pandemic Legacy Season 1. I’m sure Machi Koro Legacy will be the one to buck that trend, right?
Mark Jackson: We are enjoying Betrayal Legacy immensely… then again, I’m playing it with 3-4 teenagers and myself (who has the emotional range of a teenager), so it’s not a surprise that we’re digging this one. Granted, I’m a huge fan of Rob’s legacy games (we were playtesters for the earliest versions of SeaFall), so your mileage may vary. A lot.
Brian Leet: The clock has struck eight on our journey through the campaign, so I have a bit to go. I wouldn’t go so far as Erik in my praise, but I am loving the experience, and the twists, to this game. Each session is a fun romp through some horror story with a satisfying blend of familiar tropes and clever twists. There is a real feeling that easy decisions today may have painful consequences in future games. If you don’t care for the original game, nothing here will change that, but if you enjoy it at all this deserves your time.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it! Erik Arneson, Mark Jackson, Brian Leet I like it. Frank Branham Neutral. Patrick Brennan Not for me. Brandon Kempf
Designer: シマムラロックボーイ (Shimamura Rock Boy) Artist: ドウゲンロックボーイ (Dougen Rock Boy), ヤマウチロックボーイ (Yamauchi Rock Boy) Publisher: ハレルヤロックボーイ (Hallelujah Rockboy) Players: 3-5 Ages: 10+ Playing Time: 20-30 minutes Times Played: 7 with a purchased copy
There are a few pieces I’m mulling over in my mind that I haven’t decided if I’ll write. One is an exploration of my shift over time into playing “card games” –a term that to me refers not to the components of a game, but more to the feel: a central deck of cards, each player with a hand of cards; there are suits, there are ranks, and we play them to do some things.
I don’t know if I have shifted, but I sense that I have. We’re here today because Gossip and the City is one of those games.
In theme, players are freelance gossip reporters trading the scoop on an embezzling white-collar criminal, an addict singer-songwriter, and a doping volleyball athlete. You want the most credible gossip, but also the juiciest. You also must be safe, as if the subjects of your works find out about an exposé you’re brewing, you may find yourself the victim of an “accident”.
The game consists of a deck of cards and a few tokens. The cards range from 0 to 7 in each of 5 suits. There are actually three 0’s in each suit, and the various cards will have a different number of gossip symbols on them; some may have safety icons. Some of the cards are strictly victory points and a few are safety icons. The players are dealt a various amount of cards depending on the player count, and each player receives a specific piece of starting gossip in one of the suits.
In the end, you’ll each play the same number of cards. They represent the stories you’ve written. Some of these cards will come from the cards in your hand –the gossip you know at the start of the game. But, you’ll have a chance to trade one of those pieces each turn with the active player. The active player will trade a piece of information with one of you, and that player will take a card that wasn’t in their hand. If you’re not chosen, you’ll still write a story, but it’ll be the one you tried to trade away. (Was that a sincere offer, or were you bluffing?)
In non-new gaming, Keyforge has received a ton of play over the recent school holidays, in the form of a tennis-style tournament to find our best deck and consequent other games to determine deck rankings. It’s a fun little meta-game that my youngest has been enjoying to give reason as to who plays who and some meaning to the result.
Gloomhaven is up over 50 scenarios played now. It’s on hiatus for a month due to work interrupting our Wednesday sessions, but our last remaining character will be opened after the next scenario is won and then we have 4 more scenarios to finish off three major storylines. After which, it’s onwards to the Forgotten Circles storyline.
If all my writing has you tired out, here’s a nearly all pictorial view of the oddball (to me) underpinnings of the show. Read on to see the overconfidence of a man in a purple jersey, class it up with a nice pen, or turn on the charm with a nice fez. It’s not over til someone rides off on a sheep…