March 2018: I loathe most of the top 10 games on BoardGamegeek

Boardgamegeek has a ranking of games that’s been around for a long time.  During living memory, Twilight Struggle has been the top game with the usual suspects filling out the other slots (Brass, Agricola, Power Grid, Caylus, etc.).

I had a peek at the top 10 games today and of the games I’ve played or know enough about, all of them are absolutely terrible.  Not only that, Cosmic Encounter has dropped out of the top 100 games which indicates to me that something has gone very, very wrong with the BGG algorithm (all of the top 10 games are from 2012 or later except for one).

1: Gloomhaven

This solves a problem for many gamers without game masters to play a real RPG or to avoid continuing to play with a group’s really awful GM, but after two excruciating plays of this, I can say I hated every moment of this game, from the set up to the leveling up to the combat.  Like Mage Knight, everything about this one stinks.

FAR Better games:  Descent, The Others, Massive Darkness, Dead of Winter, Heroquest, Advanced Heroquest, Talisman

2: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Legacy games (where the game changes forever as you play) are great fun, Pandemic is not.  What Pandemic is, unfortunately, is a solo game where one player plays against the board like CHAINSAW WARRIOR, except it pretends to be coop instead of like CHAINSAW WARRIOR, it’s supposed to be solo.  All the other players are not only superfluous, but hamper attempts to win the game.   Needless to say, Pandemic is the ultimate quarterbacker game.  No thank you.

FAR better games:  The Others, Dead of Winter, Descent, A Study in Emerald

3: Through the Ages

Never played, can’t comment.

4: Twilight Struggle

This is a good game, but it’s 2 player and a bit programmed.  I’ve only played it once and while I would play it again, the subject matter isn’t all that interesting to me.  I was surprised this stayed on the top of the pack for so long, and I’m surprised it’s number 4 at this point.

Somewhat better games: MTG, Pokemon CCG, Seasons, Advanced Squad Leader

5:  Terraforming Mars

Never played, can’t comment

6: Star Wars: Rebellion

This is a lot like Twilight Struggle and is probably a good 2 player game.  I watched a multiplayer game being played though and it looked painful to me.  Very painful.  It was simply a quarterback on both sides and one of the players on each side were not needed at all, and they knew it.

Better games:  Pericles, Eclipse, Fief, All the Quartermaster General games.

7: Terra Mystica

Played this once and out of my mouth came ‘never again.’  This is like an accountants Fantasy Empire game, a game that is so dry in play that it’s akin to getting an I.V. of gin for a few hours, or a gin suppository.   This is by far the worst game in the top 10. So dry, so tedious, so boring.

Way better games: everything else in the top 300 games on BGG is better than this and probably a few hundred games sub 300 as well.

8: Scythe

Another game I’ve had to sit through a few times in mental pain and anguish.  This looks like a Euro/Ameritrash mash up, but it’s not AT ALL.  It is a garbage euro with nice pieces and cool art.  I know a lot of people that talk about how they love this game, but then does it hit the table?  Very rarely because it’s just not very good.  This company’s previous game (Euphoria) is pretty solid, so I don’t know why they went so wrong with this one.  There’s just so little interaction for what this game looks like, it’s sad.

Better Games:  Eclipse, Nexus Ops, Blood Rage, Rising Sun, Fief, Struggle of Empires and even Twilight Imperium 2nd edition, Caylus, many others.

9: Great Western Trail

Haven’t played, can’t comment.  I want to play this one though!

10: 7 Wonders Duel

Another 2 player game in the top 10.  This is a good game, fun, fast to play but with a really messy and confusing set up.  Is this the 10th best board game every made?  Nope.   I can see why this one ranks high though.

Slightly better games:  Netrunner, MTG, Seasons

I bet we see only games released in the last 5 years in the top 10 going forward because I think that’s what the algorithm is built off of.

A Study in Emerald Sequel: AuZtralia!

A Study in Emerald has quickly become one of my favorite games.  It’s combination of solid deck building and treachery just warms my cockles!

After the events in A Study In Emerald, Northern Europe is in ashes and the peoples need to rebuild civilization in Australia with trains and stuff and of course, the remaining Old Ones waking up.   Auztralia also by Martin Wallace, looks great and will be good for a twofer Saturday of aSiE.  It’s not out yet but should be in 2018!


Sons of Anarchy board game

I was looking at Blood Rage’s successor: Godfather by CMON. Area control, destruction of business and gangsters, etc. Seems great but shit man it doesn’t fit the theme well. The 5 families in the movies had issues from time to time, but to constantly be in conflict would have sunk them all very quickly, especially since the gangs of New York had shrunk to a minuscule amount compared to the era of the Dead Rabbits and Native Americans who numbered in the thousands.  I was thinking it would need to be FAR closer to something like Republic of Rome or Dead of Winter, where you work together, have your own goals, but also have serous external threats that could sink everyone in the game. If the Sicilians wiped themselves out like portrayed in the Godfather game, we’d be watching ‘mafia’ shows centered around the Irish gangsters, Polish, Jews or Greeks or any of the post WW1 immigrant groups instead.

That said, if you’ve looked at Godfather and are interested in that type of game MUCH cheaper: have a look at Sons of Anarchy.  14$ on Amazon, it’s a steal currently (which probably won’t last) and after a single play so far, I can say it’s well worth that measly amount.  The components are solid, nothing felt cheap either in the plastic and none of the sturdy cardboard was de-laminated at all.

More importantly, the gameplay is smooth and gives interesting choices for the players.  You start with a gang of prospects and full gang members and have a goal of having the most cash at the end of six turns (cash is analogous to glory in Blood Rage except you can spend it).  The game has locations, randomized at the beginning of the game, that the gangs can exploit for guns or cash or contraband, but you have to be the only gang present to do so.  If other gangs are present you can bribe them to move out or duke it out on the streets.   Fighting can be as tame as just a barfight style beatdown, or the guns can come out which can, at the right moment, nearly wipe out an opposing (or even both gangs).  You have to balance your muscle and economy at all times, and attempt to get an economic engine going of areas that you persistently control.

Like Cosmic Encounter, each of the five gangs in the game break the rules in some way, such as not having to pay to move gang members to other locations during a throw down, or bonuses when you are the first player in a round.

Despite the almost immediate dismissal of a board game based on a show or movie, Sons of Anarchy is a solid area control game and the theme works well, as the biker gangs aren’t as concerned with ‘business’ as the Sicilians of the Godfather game would be, so the catastrophic violence seems quite a bit more appropriate.  The price (right now) is certainly right.

Dungeon Degenerates!

I was one of the proud backers of this game TOTALLY ON THE ART ALONE and did so with no regrets.  However,  we have here an  interesting game on our hands in addition to being a beautiful one!  The art is basically gamer porn if you love Aly Morrison and John Blanche stuff from GW of old.  Chaos Marauders feels like a strong influence for the art style, both ooze theme, but this shit goes to 11 in metal.

If I was to compare this game to anything I would say it’s like a coop version of Tom Wham’s Search for the Emperor’s Treasure with a much darker backdrop and a bit more complexity in a few areas.   If you’ve never played SFtET that’s OK, it should become obvious what type of game this is with a brief description.

You are a group of escaped prisoners from the city dungeon of Brutellburg in the province of Wurstriech.  Wurstreich is getting worse and more dangerous all the time. The party can choose to fulfill various missions (or not) as you run away from the law and various monsters.  These missions lead to other missions and then you have a long story arc for your party through the game. You level up(sort of) and buy new gear as well.



The rulebook is a bit daunting. I read through it as a PDF a while back but didn’t have the game in front of me so very little STUCK up inside the brain. I have given it a go solo and here are a few things to look for in your first play.

  1. Paths can be used, but you cannot fast travel (force march) on them until they are explored
  2. It’s very important to understand the threat / town level system for the game as it determines encounters (the meat of the game). Which spaces have their distinct threat level and which share with their territory is critical to note.
  3.  Roads and paths are ‘spaces’ so you draw a danger card every time you move on to one. (I know this seems obvious but…)
  4. Combat – note that most combats you are rolling 5 dice. 2 are defense, 2 are offense and one power die. It’s a straight forward system similar to Search for the Emperor’s Treasure.  There are LOTS of conditions and effects to track as well as ‘approach’ effects such as ambushing.
  5. The Danger cards are worth reading and re-reading about as they have some things that will seem odd at first.  the TAGGING of the main threat number is critical as that’s the deck you draw from.   At it’s most complex, it is an encounter (card) draw, plus an Epic monster, plus normal monsters that are NOT of the area you are in. You need to know how to match the threat level on the card to the threat level on the space or area you are in. This is the most complex thing in the game, so study it closely for faster play.
  6. You SPEND your XP when you rest and you SPEND your gold when you rest in a town area for loot.  Your XP does not accumulate to level you up, you level up by buying skills.
  7. Read and re read the hand of doom rules.

Tuesday night will be the first play through with people (though my kids may force my hand earlier) and I’ll post feelings then on more than just the presentation.

Last I want to say this.  I got Massive Darkness and this within a few weeks of each other.  Both are Co-op Explore/Kill/Loot/Mission games.  Dungeon Degenerates I actually set up and played immediately and will do so again asap.  Massive Darkness — I doubt it will get busted out even with the kids until Xmas or something.

The Blood Rage Box

I like Blood Rage– a lot.  Sometimes I wish it was chits and small wood pieces though because for a time, I was carrying the fucker around in a PELICAN case with all the miniatures having to be removed from their original boxes every time we played.  This meant that set up and especially take down time was prohibitive for most gaming nights.  Since the game needs to be played more often that was no good– just really damn unacceptable don’t you think?

Matt got me the laser cut box insert for Blood Rage (the go7gaming one) for my birthday last month and I slapped it together in an hour or so last week.  The only thing weird I did was get some different while glue per the recommendation in the instructions, rather than just using elmers.  I used a damp paper towel to clean off the excess glue.  While the construction was tricky in some places, the instructions were easy to follow all the way through, with just a couple DUHHHH’s along the way.

Here are some pics of the work in progress and final.

Here we have the start of the process with the Clan boxes complete at the top of the picture.  Each clan has a box and it’s LABELLED (see below) for ease of putting away.  The clan boxes go on the bottom of the BR box.

Close up of the clan boxes with the Snake clan up inside already.

In the back is the big monster box that will also support the board.  In the foreground is the excellent card holder that stacks and then is placed sidways in the box.  It holds sleeved cards no problem (you did sleeve your cards right?)

On the upper right are the smaller monster boxes before I placed the dividers in.

Close up of the serpent clan box.  This fits everything related to each clan from all expansions.

This is the final result. Cards are in the upper right, a token box with a lid in the middle and you can see that this layer of the box is dominated by the monsters and gods.  The clan boxes are below and support the level you see.

Overall, I am quite pleased with this insert.  My BR box has taken a beating so far, but seems to be holding together for now.  Best thing is that the pelican case has gone back to the basement!

Older person birthday

I decided to have a party at my house instead of going out to a bar (a gaming bar that is) all day this year. It worked out well. My old place was too small to ever have anyone over, but the new place has a bit more space and we had multiple games going at once! We played a lot of stuff and people got drunk and the kids all sang me the cat licking the birthday cake song instead of the regular birthday song. I did get the regular birthday song sung to me but in GERMAN earlier in the week so it’s OK.

We played a great game of Quartermaster 1914– very tense and fun. I missed out on a game of Secrets, but played Ethnos and A Study in Emerald instead. The capstone to the night was a seven player Cosmic Encounter game with what I think is all new Aliens (Nanny? Cloak?) on account of me getting the Cosmic Eons expansion for my birthday that day. As always, Cosmic proves to be the best board game ever made.  Can’t ONLY play just that one game, but it’s just the best.

Meanwhile, the kids all got to playing DCC with my now 7 year old running it. He has not begun to understand that it is not a competitive game so put the hapless first level guys against an AC 18 Owlbear that ripped off limbs on a whim…

France trying to explain their fucked economy to the Entente.


Restorationists ??

Kids DCC about to commence.

Ruminations on the Talisman Bounty Hunter

I did a long write up on the fallen from grace Monk years ago, focusing on the fact that with the new version of Talisman, where your characters can easily gain Craft by sending in trophies, the Monk would either be the most powerful character in the game or, as he is now, one of the worst and just how difficult it must have been to design him so he retained his original flavor but wasn’t totally broken.  Basically he got nerfed so bad no one would ever select him if given a choice, as there are few characters worse than the monk these days.

However, I’ve been really pleased with the FF Talisman design team’s designs. I think Fantasy Flight were AMAZING shepherds of this very difficult brand and game since many of us are utter fanatics and I, for one, had a tough time letting go of 2nd edition.  Fate has won me over, gaining craft from trophies has won me over (not totally…) and even dealing with the Balkanization of players with all the boards is OK if you don’t play with all the boards.

One of the designs I want to discuss is the new Bounty Hunter from the City Expansion; despite the fact that he looks like a gladiator. I’ve been in one game vs him and feel that he is a very strong character, but one that does some things absolutely new to Talisman that especially effect experienced players.

First let’s talk about trophies in 4th edition.  Since your Craft and Strength stacks are extremely vulnerable in the game to Spells and some adventure card effects, it’s best to not have a stack of either until you absolutely need it.  Tactically, this means turning in trophies at the very, very, very last moment to gain the Craft or Strength from them–right before a roll vs a monster where you absolutely need it.  Also, psychologically, the other players are looking at your stacks of chips (you are using poker chips right?) to see how close you are to going for the win.  If they don’t see a stack, they will assume you are weak and fiddle around rather than attacking you or going for the win themselves.  This is crucial, and the designers know this.  It takes a bit of play to know when to turn in your trophy stacks, but the basic concept is simple– don’t walk around with a large stack of craft or strength unless you have to. Turn in trophies as a surprise when attacked or attacking another character FTW!

While the Bounty Hunter seems only slightly annoying to new players,  advanced players quake in fear in that he attacks your trophy stack rather than your Strength and Craft stacks because they will be sitting on as many as possible for as long as possible.  With him on the table you can’t be holding onto a huge pile of trophies because there is always the chance that he will drop on in and help himself to them.  This means players in a game with the bounty hunter will be spending their trophies ASAP, leaving their stacks of craft and strength vulnerable to spells and other effects.  The Bounty Hunter is a very meta-esque card that also can work for noobs that don’t even hoard trophies to protect their (future) stat increases.

The Bounty Hunters other special effects are gold when he wins battles which with the addition of the City board, actually helps rather than gold accumulating uselessly late game.   Note that he also wins stand offs against monsters and other characters, in combat and psychic combat, so his first goal in a game is to get the Full Plate armor.  We don’t play quite enough to determine tiers for characters in 4e like we did in 2e, but I feel the Bounty Hunter is way up there, especially if he can get some sort of mobility control to start grabbing those trophies.