Most-played Boardgames of 2016

keltisHere are the nine boardgames that I played more than thrice during 2016. The year’s total was 87 different games.

  • Keltis (2008, travel version, very handy, and Cousin E loves its mathiness)
  • Sechs nimmt / Category 5 (1994)
  • Deception: Murder in Hong Kong (2014, like Clue + Werewolf) *
  • Heimlich & Co. (1984) *
  • Taluva (2006) *
  • Blokus (2000)
  • Carolus Magnus (2000) *
  • Qwirkle (2006)
  • Telestrations (2009) *

These are mostly short games that you can play repeatedly in one evening. Taluva and Carolus Magnus are a bit longer. A long game that I played thrice was Glory to Rome. All are highly recommended!

Dear Reader, what was your biggest boardgaming hit in 2016?

Stats courtesy of Boardgame Geek. And here’s my list for 2015. Asterisks above mark 2016 arrivals on the top list.

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Boardgaming Retreat

This past weekend saw my seventh annual boardgaming retreat: 43 hours in good company at a small hotel (in Nynäshamn for the first time), all meals included. My buddy Oscar organises everything. This year we broke the attendance record, with 28 participants, mainly guys in our 30s and 40s. Before Sunday lunch I left early and went to the release event for Karin Bojs and Peter Sjölund’s interesting new book on X-chromosome haplotypes, Swedish male-line descent and genealogy: Svenskarna och deras fäder, “The Swedes And Their Fathers”.

I played thirteen sessions of ten different games in Nynäshamn. To give you an idea of how popular each individual game is, I’ve included its current BGG rank. For instance, Scythe’s 10 means that right now there are only nine boardgames that the largely US-based users of Boardgamegeek.com rate more highly. And they have rated tens of thousands of games!

  • 4 Gods (2016). Ranked 4059. Players simultaneously lay a kind of jigsaw puzzle together and put little plastic dudes out to claim land areas. Bit stressful!
  • Ave Roma (2016). Ranked 3226. Intricate cube pusher / worker placement ostensibly about the Roman Empire. Interesting worker / initiative mechanic but little to make you care.
  • Deception: Murder in Hong Kong (2014). Ranked 289. Mashup of Werewolf, Resistance and Clue. Good with large groups.
  • Detective & Co. (1984). Ranked 1329. An early design by Wolfgang Kramer, who won the first of his five Spiel des Jahres awards for this game and went on to design El Grande, Tikal, 6 nimmt and many more. In the deceptively simple Detective & Co, you only know the colour of your own playing piece and anyone can move any piece around the board.
  • Glory to Rome (2005). Ranked 117. Intricate card-based logistics game by Carl Chudyk who later released the excellent Innovation. Good fun, not too long!
  • Love Letter (2012). Ranked 154. Minimalist card game with few components but a lot of depth.
  • Meeple War (2016). Ranked 3381. Light and varied worker placement / war game.
  • Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu (2016). Ranked 639. A re-skin of the 2008 hit Pandemic, with Lovecraftian horror added. Both versions are good and you only need one.
  • Patchwork (2014). Ranked 38. Competitive tile-fitting game for two. Elegant! This is the game I’m most keen to play again of the ones I learned at the retreat.
  • Scythe (2016). Ranked 10. Intricate cube pusher / worker placement / mini war game in the dieselpunk world of amazing Polish military painter Jakub Rozalski. Not enough interaction for my taste.

The Nynäsgården conference hotel has an interesting history that I got wind of when I used the basement service corridor. Its walls are hung with really good 1970s art prints, some of which deal with themes of Labour movement nostalgia. A senior staff member explained that the place was built as an old folks’ home in the 1920s and converted into a study-course facility by the Workers’ Educational Association in 1971. The art was donated to this organisation and was eventually sold to the current private owners along with the whole building. This stuff’s message is not what the current owners want to project (cf. the removal of the statue of the ideal working-class family from in front of Vår Gård in Saltsjöbaden), so they’ve put it in the basement.

I’ve blogged before about the retreats in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. In 2013 I was recovering from pneumonia and teaching my first term in Umeå, which may be why I never wrote that one up here.

Boardgame Recommendations

There’s a scifi convention in my home municipality near Stockholm this weekend: Fantastika 2016. I’m giving a talk on my Medieval castles project, and I’m also on a boardgame recommendations panel. Below is the list I’m bringing: it’s a selection of my favourites with an emphasis on the period 2010-2016.

“BGG rank” refers to the Boardgame Geek web site, where lower is better. So the higher the number here, the less conventional the recommendation. To put the rankings in perspective, note that BGG covers tens of thousands of games.

Plato 3000: game design by Sheamus Parkes, art by Steven Bagatzky.

Plato 3000: game design by Sheamus Parkes, art by Steven Bagatzky.

Game

BGG Rank
7 Wonders (2010)

26
Agricola (2007)

8
Caylus Magna Carta (2007)

498
Death Angel (Space Hulk CG; 2010)

453
Elysium (2015)

236
Glass Road (2013)

163
Innovation (2010)

217
Istanbul (2014)

93
Love Letter (2012)

145
Pandemic (2008)

51
Pergamon (2011)

747
Plato 3000 (2012)

2787
Province (2014)

1699
Samurai (1998)

136
Shogun (2006)

96
Thebes (2007)

298
Tigris & Euphrates (1997)

45
Yggdrasil (2011)

499

LinCon 2016 Gaming Convention

Spent two happy days at the LinCon 2016 gaming convention in Linköping. 1500 gaming geeks of all ages from newborn to dotage, and with a very good gender balance. The only age/gender demographic that was visibly missing was old women. But brown and black people were sadly almost entirely absent. My own main complaint though was that for the first time neither of my kids came along to the convention.

This year I didn’t learn any new games, but I taught a couple and I took part (rather ineptly) in a little Blokus tournament. Here’s what I played, all enjoyable games that I recommend.

  • Agricola (2007). Build the best farm in Early Modern Germany! Worker placement and resource management.
  • Glass Road (2013). Build the best glassworks & brickworks in Early Modern Germany! Resource management. By Uwe Rosenberg who designed Agricola, Bohnanza and more.
  • Caylus (2005). Build the worker’s village at one of Louis the Fair’s castle construction projects. Worker placement and resource management.
  • Elysium (2015). Collect sets of cards under the vague pretence of constructing your own version of Greek mythology.
  • Tobago (2009). Find buried treasure by adding successive scraps of treasure map that constrain the set of possible spots until only one remains.
  • Dominion (2008). Deck building.
  • Kingdom Builder (2011). Settle land according to recombinant rules that make for a different game each time. By Donald X. Vaccarino who designed Dominion.
  • Blokus (2000). Abstract.
  • Repello (2010). Abstract.
  • Heckmeck (2005). Abstract. By Reiner Knizia who designed Tigris & Euphrates, Samurai and more.

2016 was my fourth LinCon after 2010 and 2013 with Jr, and 2015 with Jrette.

Always free tea at LinCon!

Always free tea at LinCon!

Most-played Boardgames of 2015

sabotHere are the ten boardgames I played the most during 2015. The year’s total was 78 different boardgames.

  • Saboteur (2004) *
  • Istanbul (2014) *
  • Love Letter (2012) *
  • Manhattan (1994) *
  • 6 nimmt / Category 5 (1994)
  • Elysium (2015) *
  • El Grande (1995) *
  • Magic: the Gathering (1993)
  • Province (2014) *
  • Boss Monster (2013) *

These are mostly short games that you can play repeatedly in one evening. Istanbul, Elysium, El Grande and Boss Monster are a bit longer. Another long game that I played a lot was Galaxy Trucker. All are highly recommended!

Dear Reader, what was your biggest boardgaming hit in 2015?

Stats courtesy of Boardgame Geek. And here’s my list for 2014. Asterisks above mark 2015 arrivals on the top list.

A Tangled Tale Of The Arabian Nights

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Most story boardgames don’t let you do much tactically to influence the results or win. I’ve reported previously on what a game of Arkham Horror (2005) can be like. And I’ve played Betrayal At House On The Hill (2004) quite a lot. But the storiest of all story boardgames I’ve played is Tales Of The Arabian Nights (2009). Me and my friend Roland played it Sunday, which took us 22 rounds and about 4.5 hours.

Roland was Ali Baba and finally managed to win, which was no mean feat given that it’s hard to get the damn game to end at all. You need 20 points to win. But we had 40 points each at the end, because each of us had gotten stuck with annoying disability cards which said plainly that you couldn’t win while having them and were really hard to get rid of.

Ali Baba’s story would have been well worth chronicling, particularly the bits where he kept trying to get home to his wife in Sri Lanka and almost got there but drifted away or got teleported – to Ireland, twice! But I played Aladdin, and here’s his story. My favourite bit is the one with the barber.

—–

A poor young man named Aladdin travelled from Baghdad to Shiraz in southern Persia. There he hired someone’s slave as a bodyguard for a visit to his mistress. Sadly the woman really disliked the slave’s looks, so she refused to let Aladdin in and instead cursed him. Aladdin decided to forget about her and head for China. In the Central Asian mountains he came upon a mystical fire but escaped harm by means of prayer. The experience toughened him up. Then our hero ran into some cheerful brigands. He attacked them and was badly hurt by a spear.

Though wounded, Aladdin soon reached the great Chinese city of Suzhou and found a secret temple frequented by evil fire-worshipping Magi. He tried to blend in among the congregation to steal valuables, but was unmasked. Only the intervention of a friend saved the young man, who ended up with a consuming envy of rich people.

Aladdin rode a boat south along the coast and went ashore in a mountainous region. There he happened upon another one of those secret evil fire temples. This time he prudently reported his discovery to the Sultan. The wise and powerful ruler of the Muslim world somehow had this Chinese temple torn down, but forgot to reward Aladdin. The young man’s covetousness grew even worse. He headed for the city of Gaya in eastern India.

In Gaya Aladdin tried to help an insomniac wizard. When he failed, the wizard had him dragged behind a horse until near death. After this harrowing experience, Aladdin decided to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. But first he debunked a snake-oil salesman. The bystanders were so impressed by Aladdin’s learning that one young woman offered to marry him. He refused and instead went south to Tana. Here a chained Ifrit asked him for help. Aladdin refused and was tricked into drinking magical water. Suddenly he was a woman!

The confused young (wounded, mangled, covetous) woman went to Muscat in Arabia where she was beaten and crippled by a Jinn. Continuing on up the Persian Gulf to Basra, she made the acquaintance of an extremely talkative barber who began pursuing her relentlessly in order to bore her further with his endless blabbering. Fleeing the barber to Mecca, she completed her pilgrimage and managed to hide from her pursuer. She was now a Hajjah. However, the barber was so angry with her that he spread evil rumours of her all around Mecca and she became publicly disgraced.

Having shaken the barber off her trail, Hajjah Aladdina went to eastern Turkey and helped a beautiful enchantress get rid of an annoying former lover. She simply pointed out the risk the man was running of getting turned into a toad. This little victory was enough to turn Aladdina into a respected magician and master storyteller. She immediately decided to go on another pilgrimage, this time by way of Hamadan in northern Persia. Here she carelessly asked a madman for directions and got completely lost. Before finding her way again she was chewed upon by an unspecified beast.

Back in Mecca, Aladdina witnessed a house fire. Drinking from a water bucket, the crippled young woman became violently ill. But she completed her second Hajj. Travelling through the desert in this state, she came upon a mystical river where she took a boat ride and caught four magical fishes. Pleased with her catch she rested to regain her strength.

Arriving in Damascus, Aladdina was hypnotised and robbed by a magician. Ali Baba came travelling through town, and Aladdina made sure he too caught the illness she had contracted in Mecca. She then went back into the desert again where she safely performed meteorological studies of a great storm. Ali Baba came along and paid her to treat his illness. Nobody could explain why Aladdina couldn’t administer the same effective treatment to herself.

Our heroine now went by sea to Rome where for some reason she beat up a disabled man she had never seen before, calling him a “wicked hunchback”. This behaviour suggests that she may have been losing her grip on reality. Indeed, from this point on her tale begins to become strange even by Arabian Nights standards.

It seems that Aladdina travelled to Adrianople in western Turkey. Here she assisted a beautiful sorceress in a magical ritual, which failed. Aladdina then visited a magnetic mountain, where a ghost treated her to an evening of drinking and conversation before whisking her away to a haunted house – in southwest Khazakstan (!). Here an Ifrit showered her in gold, she told stories to it, and she believed that she had somehow been made Sultan.

“Sultan” Aladdina travelled south to Daybul in Pakistan. Here, despite being fabulously rich, she robbed a princess and received yet another curse. Our erratic heroine then went by boat to Zeila in Somalia where she avoided dealing with a chained Ifrit but instead ran into a vizier who was being chased by a mob. He hastily put his clothes on the unresisting madwoman and ran away, leaving her to get beaten by his pursuers. And at this point news came from Baghdad about Ali Baba winning the game.

Boardgaming Retreat

Hans, Jan and Urban learning Istanbul.

Hans, Jan and Urban learning Istanbul.

This past weekend saw my sixth annual boardgaming retreat: 43 hours in good company at our usual small Nyköping hotel, all meals included. My buddy Oscar organises everything. There were a bit more than 20 of us this year after a few late cancellations, mainly guys in our 30s and 40s. After Sunday lunch I left early and drove to Norrköping where I gave a talk about my recent excavations to 50 keen members the Friends of the Town Museum association, just like after the 2010 retreat.

I played thirteen sessions of nine different games in Nyköping. To give you an idea of how popular each individual game is, I’ve included its current BGG rank. For instance, Splendor’s 71 means that right now there are only 70 board games that the largely US-based users of Boardgamegeek.com rate more highly than that game.

  • Splendor (2014). Ranked 71. Short abstract numbers and colours game that makes for a fine filler when you’re waiting for someone to come off another game or for a meal to be ready.
  • Istanbul (2014). Ranked 102. Shortish worker placement and resource management game set in Istanbul’s bazaar. I brought this one and it proved quite a hit.
  • Boggle (1972). Ranked 1686. Word game with random letters on a grid. My buddy Jan brought the game and completely crushed everyone who had the misfortune to play against him.
  • Legendary Encounters: Alien (2014). Ranked 62. Combines cooperative play against hostile game mechanics with deck-building, all clad in terms and imagery from the scifi film franchise.
  • A Study In Emerald 1st ed. (2013). Ranked 397. Lovecraftian horror meets spy fiction and detective fiction in Victorian Europe in another hit game by the revered Martin Wallace, based on a 2003 story by Neil Gaiman. Combines deck building with various other mechanics in a nice salad. The best new game I learned at the retreat.
  • Elysium (2015). Ranked 290. Card game about the Greek pantheon. I bought this for the retreat to contribute something new, and two of the three guys I played it with agreed with me that it’s pretty great.
  • The Resistance: Avalon (2012). Ranked 33. A Werewolf variant in an Arthurian setting, where half of the players are baddies and know it, while the other half are goodies and don’t know who’s bad. Us baddies won, to some extent because I managed to convince everyone that I was a baddie and then complained loudly every time someone suggested that another baddie could be sent on a quest. They didn’t trust me enough to take my advice and so a lot of baddies got to go on quests that they could sabotage.
  • Codenames (2015). Ranked 54. This simple word association game is all the rage right now, and I don’t quite get the appeal.
  • Cyclades (2009). Ranked 110. We played with the 2014 Titans expansion that completely transforms the game. I was on a team with my buddy Jonas who knows the game well, so I mainly just did what he suggested. I did pick up that the game has a pretty neat auction, initiative and action space engine at its heart, and I’d be happy to play the basic version one day. I’m generally not fond of expansions.

I’ve blogged before about the retreats in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. In 2013 I was recovering from pneumonia and teaching my first term in Umeå, which may be why I never wrote that one up here.

Most-played Boardgames of 2014

pic293787_mdHere are the ten boardgames I played the most during 2014.

  • Sechs nimmt / Category 5 (1994, gets swift intense buy-in even from non-gamers) *
  • Innovation (2010)
  • Magic: the Gathering (1993) *
  • Plato 3000 (2012) *
  • Keltis (2008, travel version, very handy)
  • Glass Road (2013) *
  • Archaeology: the Card Game (2007) *
  • For Sale (1997)
  • Qwirkle (2006) *
  • Samurai (1998) *

These are mostly short games that you can play repeatedly in one evening. Only Glass Road, Qwirkle and Samurai are a bit longer. Another long game that I played a lot was Elfenland. All are highly recommended! Except Archaeology, a game of which I got tired fairly quickly – unlike its scientific namesake.

I played 62 different boardgames in 2014, less than the year before because I concentrated on ones I’ve got that hadn’t seen much play. Looking back since mid-2008, the number is 216, and 19 were new to me this year. Dear Reader, what was your biggest boardgaming hit in 2014?

Stats courtesy of Boardgame Geek. And here’s my list for 2013. Asterisks above mark 2014 arrivals on the top list.

Most-played Boardgames of 2013

keltisHere are the ten boardgames I played more than twice during 2013.

These are mostly short games that you can play repeatedly in one evening. Only Galaxy Trucker, Tikal and maybe Kingdom Builder are longer. All are highly recommended! Except Fluxx, which is just weird. I played it under duress at the Blåhammaren mountain hiker’s resort.

I played 74 different boardgames in 2013, same number as last year. Looking back since mid-2008, the number is 197, and so 26 were new to me this year. Dear Reader, what was your biggest boardgaming hit in 2013?

Stats courtesy of Boardgame Geek. And here’s my list for 2012. Asterisks above mark 2013 arrivals on the top list.

Gaming at LinCon

Junior and I went for two days to LinCon, the annual gaming convention in Linköping (est. 1984). There was a fine crowd of geeks, all ages and with a good gender balance, many in steampunk finery. I said to Junior, “Look at them closely, son. These are your people.”

Here’s what I played. All good games!

  • El Grande (1995). Power struggle in 15th century Spain. This is the only 1990s game currently on Boardgame Geek’s top-20, and so I wasn’t surprised to find that it was the best game I played. Highly recommended!
  • Hacienda (2005). There was a room dedicated to the games of Wolfgang Kramer, so after El Grande we played this one of his. It’s a geometrical and abstract thing with a thin veneer of theme having to do with stock breeding in Argentina. Not bad, not great.
  • Endeavor (2009). The Age of Discovery: find your way to other continents and establish footholds there. Another not bad, not great abstract game with insufficient theme for my taste.
  • Power Grid (2004). Build power plants, extend your grid and sell electricity to the Germans! I’ve been playing this for years and enjoy its combination of auctions, supply-and-demand economics and on-map strategy. But don’t rush ahead: the game is designed to punish the leader throughout.
  • Death Angel (2010). Been playing this collaborative game a lot in recent years and it’s always a hit with teen boys. Get into your power armour and prepare to clean out an evil alien infestation in the claustrophobic corridors of a derelict space ship. As usually happens, we all got eaten by the nasties.
  • Repello (2010). Abstract game with simple rules that produce unexpected emergent outcomes.
  • Pickomino / Heckmeck (2005). Yahtzee stripped down to its core mechanic: roll lots of dice, select a few and re-roll. A classic filler game. Its original name means “A ruckus in the frying-worm corner”, the unforgiving mathematical nature of the game having been wrapped in a kid-friendly theme involving, you guessed it, chickens enjoying an earthworm barbecue.

I reported from LinCon 2010 as well.