Monday, November 19, 2012

My top five games of the autumn

This year I've been playing a lot of games, more that in any other year of my short but agitated life a as board gamer and I decided to take a break from telling you about our 'usual suspects' and share some thought about my favorites. 

When I play, I am not looking at the BGG rating of the game or the year it was launched and I can appreciate a good game and get excited about it even if it at the tenth edition and I am the last player on Earth who's played it. So, let us begin...

Well, those who know me very well will think I've gone mad. I am happy to tell you that's not the case, I am still as normal as I used to be, it's just that... I can appreciate a good party game when I see one. Ugg-Tect is the king of game that makes you scream Akungu! in the middle of the street. Even more, after two days since we played, I am still playing with my little nephew with the inflatable clubs, hitting each other and laughing, even though we don't even have a common language of communication.

I can say that it's the best party game I've played in a long time and the best of this autumn.

Many people who played Among the Stars said that it's a clone of 7 Wonders and I cannot really contradict them. But I like 7 Wonders and Among the Stars is a good follower. It brings some of the best graphics I've seen even in a board game, I love the space theme and it scales down nicely for two players. In my humble opinion, it brings enough new elements so the authors cannot be accused of duplicating an other game, the card drafting was not invented by the authors of 7 Wonders and the special abilities on the cards make a lot of sense after a few games.

Among the Stars is the first game I have ever backed on Indiegogo, even before I considered using it for funding Exodus and I am glad I did because it is a game that I can put on the table anytime a newbie comes by to visit, see our collection of board games and wants to try something that is "easy to learn and takes less than half an hour".

The King of Siam is a game from 2007 which I have only discovered during the Lucca convention thanks to a very good friend who recommended it. At first we played it wrong and it still made sense, we discovered by mistake a set of rules which made the game playable and enjoyable. 

With the real rules though, the game is very interesting. It is a very fast political game, in which you make 8 decisions and you have to show support by taking ownership of one of the cubes of the specific faction  thus sabotaging exactly the faction that you support.

It's a game a great tension which can very well be played in the car during a traffic jam (I speak from experience), it's fast to learn and there's almost no luck, at least not in the relevant moments.

2. Luna

I know Stefan Feld from Trajan and even though I played that game more that a few times, I cannot say that I became a fan. After seeing Luna I changed my mind. The freedom that this game brings is, in my opinion, unique among Euro-games because it offers so many choices and each single one of them can make a difference for better of for worse.

Luna is still a worker placement game, with limited but relevant interaction between players. One of the beautiful things about this game is that you can put pressure on your opponents by choosing actions that are still helpful for yourself. I found a level of strategy which is typical for more complex strategy games and very rare for this genre (Euro). 

The minus of this game is the theme which doesn't really integrate, but at the end of the day, who plays Euro-games for the theme?

I have to confess at first that I was very skeptical about this game when I heard of a Euro-game in the Dungeons & Dragons universe and I was almost convinced that it was simply a marketing strategy from the publisher to increase sales. After having opened and played the game I can honestly say that... it does not matter. 

Lords of Waterdeep is the kind of game that innovates a bit, enough to be unique but not so much to re-invent the genre, being still easy to learn and even easier to play. The innovation is the usage of Intrigue and Quest cards - probably the only thing that reminds the players about the theme - and the core of the game is simple worker placement, with the same decision range as is the established games of the genre.

The advantages of Lords of Waterdeep are the reduced play time, almost the same (45 minutes) in two, three and four players (experienced groups), the fast setup, the functional graphics and the amazing box interior, where I managed to fit every single component without reading anything about the game before the unboxing.

So, this was my top five board games of the fall of 2012. I have a lot of games waiting to find their turn on the table this winter (Essen loot) and I will make a new top early next year. Until then, happy gaming!

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