The Group of Ten, 2015-2016 Edition

You may recall that last year I wrote a piece about what games I would keep in my collection if forced to winnow it down to just ten titles. At the time it was just an interesting thought experiment, but it ended up gaining a little traction. My friends at DFW Nerd Nighters ended up doing a whole episode about it, their longest one I believe. This year, Nerd Nighter JR Honeycutt has released an updated version of his list from last year. Continue reading

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The Rumpus Room Top Twelve – 2014 Edition

A pogo stick!

The holiday season is a time for tradition, and as we all know “tradition” is a Christmas-y word for obligation. I’ve been at my tradition for five years now, where I look at my twelve favorite games and see what has shifted over the last year. My approach has evolved some, but I do it again from scratch every year. Our tastes aren’t set in stone after all. You can see by reading my lists from 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013Continue reading

The Group Of Ten

Count ’em.

Once you have been in the hobby five years, you begin to look at your game shelf and say, “I have too many games.” This doesn’t actually mean you’re going to get rid of any of them or that you will stop buying new ones. Mostly it’s just an acknowledgement that, hey, space is getting a little tight, and that you’ve spent a considerable amount of money on all the games you have. Continue reading

Coming Up For Air

gasping for air

I saw the signs for a while before I did anything about them. Playing games out of duty, not just to review them, just to keep up with a steady stream of releases. Releasing that I hadn’t played my favorite games for a couple of years. Trying to get up excitement for game night only to find that it was wearing thin. Looking through a list of releases and feeling only a gaping sense of exhaustion. I was beginning to run out of goodwill for one of my favorite things. I needed to come up for air. Continue reading

Training Wheels

I pledge allegiance to training wheels

Training wheels for America

Being the guy who reviews games means that I’m usually the guy teaching them. This was the case even before I started writing about games regularly, since I was one of the buyers among my friends. I would decide what I wanted to play, buy it if no one had it already, and then teach it to everyone else. Teaching is something that most gamers need to figure out, and I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at it. But lately I’ve grown weary of being the teacher. I’m not sure if it’s a function of too many games, or a growing sense that more and more games require “training wheels” to enjoy the experience. But either way I’m tired of learning and teaching games. I’d much rather play them. Continue reading

The Best Games of 2013

wild party

Why did I eat so much paper last night?

Every end-of-the-year board game article I read makes a general assessment over the entire year, something I’ve never felt qualified to do. For starters, there are a lot of big releases that I still haven’t played. If I don’t get a review copy of something, I have to catch the wave of popularity every new release gets before my gaming friends have moved on. When that doesn’t happen, it becomes less likely that I’ll get around to something without trading for it. That’s why a couple of major releases like Pathfinder and Kemet passed by without comment from me. They haven’t made a lot of impact in my immediate circles, though they have been very well-regarded online. Besides that, the end of the year is when Essen releases are just beginning to trickle to the US. Some promising games are about to be inserted into my rotation (like Tash-Kalar and Steam Park) that would normally be considered 2013 releases. Let’s just assume those will be eligible for the 2014 list, especially a couple of games below are in that shadowy realm between 2012 and 2013. Continue reading

A Not-Quite-Three-Hour Tour – Robinson Crusoe Review

Robinson Crusoe Cover

I think I can go get more material for proper adventuring clothes in that direction!

I’m so over the entire genre of cooperative games. I’ve seen too many of them fall into the same traps to ever have too much faith in them. This is not because of the “quarterback problem,” so called because one person can command everyone else around the table. I’ve always considered that to be an interpersonal problem more than one based on design. My real issue is that it’s tough to build a lot of variety into a game that relies on AI. It’s not that the games get easy, though that can be an issue. It’s that there’s an inherent sameness when dealing with an automated system. Even when it’s a challenge, you’ve seen it all before. This is a bigger problem with lighter co-ops like Pandemic, where the emphasis is more on strategy then on creating a strong narrative experience. The cooperative games that engage me most worry less about mechanical brilliance and more about a good story, where the issue is no longer whether the group wins but whether you had fun getting there. Robinson Crusoe does this more effectively than any cooperative I’ve ever played, and does it without sacrificing all of the strategic richness that thinkers will want.  It’s the best cooperative game I’ve ever played. Continue reading