Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Ten Board/Card Games fo 2010

It is my favorite time of the year to blog, because I get to make lists of all the fun stuff I did over the past year. This year I spent more free time (which I had less of this year than any other year) playing board and card games. One of the biggest reasons for this is because Abigail really went all in claiming gaming as a hobby this year. This year, she attended Gen Con, pre-ordered a game on her own, and less than an hour ago suggested how great it would be if we could have a specialized table for playing Dominion.

By my count I played about 30 games that were released in 2010. It was hard picking the 10 best, because the majority of the games I played from this year were good ones, but top 10 lists have a much better ring to them than a top 18 list. If you want to know more about the game, just click on the game's name and you will be taken to a site that gives you all the information you could want about it. Of course they are listed in descending order for dramatic effect.

10. Trenchzone
World War II games are fairly common. However, World War I games are a lot harder to come by. Especially World War I games that are not detailed hex and counter simulations. Trenchzone is a fairly easy and quick game that delivers a good tactical experience. Much of Trenchzone is spent trying to soften up enemy positions, while gathering one's own strength to go over the top. The World War I theme comes across well. The game is highly replayable, and I suspect that it will one that comes out a good deal in the future.

9. Nuns on the Run
Nuns on the Run is the second best game that I played this year without buying. The main reason for not getting this game is because it plays best with more than two. I really like the premise of this game. One player is in charge of the Abbess and prioress while the other players control nuns. The nuns have a secret wish, like a piece of cake, that they are trying to get. The nuns have to sneak out of their cells, get a key, obtain their wish, and make it back to their cell. The abbess and prioress are trying to catch them sneaking. I played this game at Gen Con and loved it. There is a game that I play with the youth called Underground Church, and Nuns on the Run takes what makes Underground Church and delivers it in a board game form.

8. Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League
Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League is based off of some sort of long running German serial story. I don't know much about the theme, but this is an excellent two player game. This game's essence is based in picking up goods on one world and delivering them to another. It works really well as a two player only game, and the game has some really interesting choices. In order to upgrade a ship requires spending victory points, so players have to decide if the upgrade will net them more points than they are spending throughout the game. This game plays quick and has a fast set up, so it is one that we will be playing a lot.

7. Ascension: Chronicles of the Godslayer
After Gen con there were two "deck building" games that had a lot of buzz: Heroes of Graxia and this one. I played Heroes of Graxia on the first day and bought it. I did not play Ascension until the last day and I was not sure if I got the right deck building game. Fortuantly, my secret santa fixed that for me. I think that Heroes of Graxia might technically be the better game, but the quick speed and set up of Ascension really lends it to being more fun. Plus, everyone i have taught Ascension to has instantly wanted to play it again. That is why Ascension is on the list and Heroes of Graxia is not (though Heroes of Graxia would probably be #13)

6. Frontline: D-Day
I have only played this game once, so it is really potential that puts this game so high on the list. This game came out in February of this year, and it was pretty much my most wanted game all year. I wanted to buy it at Gen Con, but could not find it, and I finally got it for Christmas from Abigail. Frontline is a card game that simulates skirmishes between WWII squads. Unlike other games, each card represents and individual person. The game does a great job of delivering a very miniatures like experience while still feeling like a card game. This game delivers everything that I wanted it to, and I can not wait to play it again. . . and again. . and again. . .

5. 7 Wonders

7 Wonders should be on this list if anything because it pulls off an incredible feat of playing up to seven players without dramatically increasing the play time. This is a civilization building game, where players use cards to slowly create a bigger and more powerful civilization. The great part of this game is that the main mechanic is card drafting, so players are taking a card from a hand and then passing the hand to someone else. There is also resource management and a lot of really unique card interactions. Like, Nuns on the Run the reason I do not have this one is because it does not play 2 players all that well.

4. Settlers of America: Trails to Rails
I like the Settlers of Catan, but there are some annoying flaws to the game. For example, when numbers do not roll the game stalls and it is possible to get stuck and unable to do anything. Settlers of America fixes those problems with a larger board, and the ability to get gold when the numbers are not rolling for a person. The best part of Settlers of America is the delivery of goods. Some complain that Settlers of Catan is all about luck and getting good numbers, but in Settlers of America how one uses their resources is what the game is all about because there are a lot more ways to use resources. The game plays a little long (2 hours minimum) but it has been a great experience each time I have played it.

3. Cyclades
Technically, Cyclades was released in 2009 BUT it was not available in the United States until March of 2010 so it counts. I love Cyclades. I love everything about the game. Sadly, Abigail hates the game. She hates everything about the game. I could go into more detail, but I already did so I will just point you there: Why I love it, Why she hates it. Because Abigail disliked the game I traded it for Zombie State, which was not a bad trade since that game would probably be # 11 on this list.

2. London
London is the game that Abigail pre-ordered this year. She likes anything London, the city and she likes games that have a lot of card interaction. It was pretty much a given she would like London, the game. In London players are rebuilding London after the great fire by playing cards that represent buildings in the city. Players then "run" their city for victory points and money. However, this also causes poverty. The game is all about getting cards that work well together and minimizing poverty. It is a good game that offers a lot of tough choices and deep strategies. Along with the next game, this is one that I think has potential to get a spot on my top 10 favorite games list.

1. Manoeuvre
Manoeuvre saw the second edition come out in 2010. The first edition came out in 2008, and that was when I was first getting into board games again so I missed out on it. I absolutely love this game. It contains armies for multiple countries and each country has their own deck of cards that controls attacking. There is a lot of strategic and tactical depth in this game. It is a game that I could play again and again with out getting tired of it. In May, when I make my annual list of favorite games I am sure Manoeuvre will have a spot on it, and it is my favorite game released in 2010.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I NEED to tell a story

For the longest time, years in fact, when I had to list my hobbies I would always include reading and writing. I suppose in some ways, writing has been a hobby. For one year of my life I actually got paid to write video game reviews, and my previous post has a link to a lot of writing that I have done this year. So I do like to write, and it is an activity that I do engage in. However, when I listed "writing" as a hobby I usually meant fiction writing-that is something I do not do all that much.

I am not the greatest writer of fiction, but I do enjoy crafting a story. However, I have a really hard time writing if I do not have an audience. I know that good writers write for the sake of writing, but I have a hard time doing that. For me to find the motivation to sit down and write anything I need to know that someone other than me is going to read it.

I really have the desire to write for a couple of reasons. First, one of my life goals is to participate in national novel writing month. If I am going to do that, I need practice. Second, reading a youth ministry book about the importance of story, has reminded me of all the fun that I had with role playing games. Way back when I played RPGs I was the GM and I think I was not to bad at it. I liked being the GM because I got to create these interactive stories that the players experienced. For the past 10 years or so I have really being able to create stories. Given my current life circumstances the odds of me ever playing a RPG, much less run one, are fairly low. Given that, here is my plan on how to be more serious about writing and have fun creating stories.

Starting in January I am going to create a new blog, that is going to be for a serial story. My plan is every two weeks (twice a month) to add to the story. Of course, there will probably be months (and looking ahead, June is one of those months), where I might fall short. Hopefully, I will actually have people reading this story who will help keep me accountable.

So the question is what story do I want to tell. There are three genres that I would be most interested in exploring, and I would love feedback as to which one to go with:

1. Space Opera
Being a huge Star Wars fan, of course I want to tell stories set in space that involve big starships fighting it out and rebels fighting an evil empire. Well actually, I would probably avoid rebels and empires because it does not get more cliche than that. As I think about this genre, I probably would focus on spaceships and the fighting they then get into. One of things that I find most appealing about this game is that creativity can feed creativity. A game that I really like, Warcosm, is all about space opera spaceship battles. The game is a little free form in the creating of ships and scenearios. Thus, what I write I can then actually play and what I play I can write. This connection may help motivate me to stick with the writing process for the entire year.

2. High Fantasy
As I blogged about a couple of years ago, when I was in elementary school I created a fantasy world called Giam. From time to time, I have come back to this world. The advantage to going this way is I already have the beginnings of a story idea that date back to about 2003. The basic idea is a pair of siblings are destined to be the ones to stand against a tyrant, and the story is them coming to terms with the call in their life. A couple of the details are there, but the story is not very fleshed out, which means a serial story where I make it up as I go along anyway might be the way to finally tell this story. The only hesitation, is that fantasy worlds in general are highly derivative and not all that original. However, it is all for fun anyway so that may not matter.

3. Pulp Adventure
I really like the idea of pulp adventure. The most well known example of this type of story today is probably Indiana Jones. It is also a genre I have never really written in. However, I think it would be a lot of fun. I have an idea for a Private Investigator/Adventurer who travels the world in his plane and gets into all kinds of trouble and adventures. That sentence is all I have to go. I think writing these kind of stories would be fun, but my lack of experience with the genre and under-developed idea might make it harder for me to see it through.

So any suggestions?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Games we Played This Year

December into early January means that it is time for end of the year posts! I am not a huge fan of math, but I do like useless statistics, especially when they are about me and the things I am interested in. The board game website that I am active on allows users to record plays of games. Thus, I can tell you exactly how many times I have played a certain game since December of 2008, the month I started recording all of my plays.

I complied a list that broke down the games I played this year month by month. You can see that list here: 2nd Year of Recorded Plays

If you want a more detailed look at what I played, and if you want to see where a lot of the time I spent writing for fun went, I made another list that compiled all of my writings such as game reviews and sessions reports. You can see that list here (as well as a couple of pictures of Connor): My 2010 Contributions