This year I didn’t get a ton of gaming in compared to previous years. That said, the games I want to play have narrowed quite a bit as what we don’t have is TIME, so faster games are getting played more. Gone are the weekends where we could conceivably play something for two days in a row or for even 8 hours straight. Anything over 4 hours is really never going to hit the table again unless it’s either really good or there is some exceptional circumstances.
End of the summer and Fall was slower for gaming as usual, but there was some fervor for a few games that made people really want to get out and push some wood on cardboard. Mostly, that fervor was around Eclipse, which is the clear winner for best game (and most played) over the course of this year. I got in 18 games of it, and seeing as most Risk-like strategy games I own have been played maybe 3-5 times ever, that’s saying something. The game is almost perfect for the 4X space genre and really, my complaints about it are the mediocre alien art rather than anything to do with the game itself. The first expansion is also excellent. While Eclipse games can sometimes be a bit boring if all the players turtle up or get a bad draw (or are eliminated)–it’s due to lack of experience on how to rack up the points. While totally dominating the 4X space genre (bye bye Twilight Imperium), Eclipse by no means takes the place of Cosmic Encounter as both the best sci-fi board game and best board game ever made but shit– it’s close.
Other than Eclipse, Glory to Rome is my second favorite for the year. While an older game, it had a reprint this year and it kicks ALL sorts of ass. It’s what we all wanted Race for the Galaxy to be and just didn’t know it at the time. There are just so many paths to victory, and while you are trying to set up your own stuff, like Race for the Galaxy, there’s much more interaction with other players. I think this will get played an absolute TON in 2013. Easy set up, easy to play, difficult to win and a Knizia level of nastiness makes for a total winner.
Second tier games that I liked but got pushed out by the two above: King of Tokyo is the first of the equals here. I love this game and will play it any time but it’s really light, doesn’t have much strategy and I can see some people not liking the randomness of it. There are some tough decisions to make in the game, but at it’s surface, it seems all about just rolling dice. The dice are a factor however, so this is why I like to play 3-4 games in a sitting to even all that random out. Secondly is the Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre. This is a fun little game but with too many players, say 5+, the turns take forever and because you have to win 2 rounds the game can take 3-4 HOURS to get through. Sitting down to just play a single round is well worth it. While light and not very strategic, the art and getting to yell out the spells makes it a solid game to play when you don’t have a ton of time.
The last two are games I wanted to like, but am not sure about. First is Blood Bowl Team Manager. While a solid concept, I became frustrated in two four-player games where I was the last player to go on the first season of each game, limiting my play options. It seemed impossible to catch up in either game and made me think that this is a serious design flaw. While I love Blood Bowl, and Team Manager is a cool concept, I can’t see this hitting the table due to this balance issue. In contrast, In Nexus Ops, the players after the first get a bonus to their cash to balance out the power of the first turn. Team Manager has no such fix and from my few plays at the wrong end of the table, it needs it. Secondly: Feudality by Tom Wham. This is also a fairly light game with a lot of randomness to it. I’d describe it as Catan with fighting. While enjoyable to play, the same dice issues that I have with Catan creep up in Feudality and it doesn’t seem like you can knee-cap the player closest to winning easy. I don’t expect it to hit the table all that much.
Games that fell by the wayside this year a bit. First off is Warhammer Fantasy Battle. I hate to say it but I only got in a few games this year while painting a lot more than I usually do. I assume I’ll get in another game before the end of year, but this SHOULD have been played a lot more than it was. Sure I could have packed up my shit and gone to the GW store any given Sunday for a game, but it’s tough when you have a basement set up with a table.
Secondly, I only got to play Cosmic Encounter FOUR times this year. That’s a crying shame and has to be rectified in 2013.
I did get in some old stuff this year that proved to be pretty awesome. The first was Epic 40K, the third iteration of the Space Marine rules– yes the ones that TANKED after 6 months of support from GW. I was surprisingly pleased with the rules and wish now that I had played it a lot more in the heyday (if there was one) for this ruleset. Bolt Action uses these rules (essentially), so if you are looking at a modern iteration, that’s where to go. Following the old GW vein, I was coerced into playing 40K, a game I rather loathe since the new ‘mass close combat’ style rules came out, but in it’s 2nd edition which still has some tactical depth for the scale with individual models rather than moving globs of models en masse (which is ok for EPIC scale, but 28 mm skirmish? No).
Shockingly, Advanced Space Crusade got raised out of the dust and played. This is one of Games Workshops pinnacles of design with both a campaign game and tactical game wrapped in one. While not something I could play a lot of, it’s a solid experience and one of GW’s best 40K offshoots.
So that was 2012– what is there to look forward to in 2013? First off is Talisman City. Fantasy Flight is tackling one of the more difficult to design expansions to Talisman. If the success of Dungeon is any indication, I have a lot of confidence that City will be excellent. Talisman has a ton of expansions at this point and I’ve played with all of them but Dragons, which looks like a lot more work than integrating the rest of the expansions. Moongha Invaders is the next on my list for 2013– and a kickstarted I’ve supported. Other than that, there’s not too much that’s coming out next year for board games that I know of now. I’m sure there will be something to grab at my hard earned cash and if not, there is always Eclipse…