Since I've managed to acquire a massive backlog of games to blog about, some of the games mentioned here won't have links or blogs yet. They'll be added as and when possible.
At the start of 2021, I wondered whether my gaming would pick up in '21? The answer is a resounding yes! The breakdown is below.
Number of different games played: 78.
Of which were new (To me.): 46.
Total number of gaming sessions: 333.
Total number of different games played: 29.
Of which were new (To me.): 13.
Total number of gaming sessions: 49.
Why have the numbers have significantly increased? Put simply, it's due to Board Game Arena: Around May 2021, we reconnected with an old friend who had moved abroad and we started playing games on BGA and playing games digitally is really quick! There's no unpacking and packing, or setup and clean up, there's even no need to tally scores, it's all done automatically. As a result, it's easily possible to play 4 or 5 games in a 3-4 hour window and this includes playing a game several times! Hence the six fold increase in game sessions.
Which games were played the most?
Love Letter is a fairly quick game to complete and we probably play 2 or 3 games per session on BGA, so I don't doubt we've played it over a 100 times in 2021; not bad for a game that only consists of 16 cards.
Over 2021, Love Letter became more of a ritual than a game, the calculating, the guessing and double-bluffing, twists of luck and reversal of fortune, along with the banter and bragging made it our mainstay over BGA.
Enough of boring numbers; it's time to now talk about the highly coveted and still world-beating 3 Spellcaster and a Dwarf 2021 game awards!
These are not necessarily new games, but they are games I first encountered in 2021.
Game of the year: The Crew: Mission Deep Sea.
What a game! It blends analytical, cooperative gameplay and whist-like trick-taking to pack so much longevity and replay value into a 40 card deck, a 96 card task deck and some tokens; it's almost mind boggling.
Even after the final level has been completed it remains re-playable.
We only started playing The Crew: Mission Deep Sea in late October and by the year's end had played 25 sessions.
It was an instant hit.
Disappointment of the year: New Frontiers.
I find it hard to believe that I'm saying this about a game that shares DNA with the singular Race for the Galaxy, but I found New Frontiers just frustrating to play.
It takes the core concepts of Race for the Galaxy and turns them into a board game, also adding 2 currencies (Money & colonists.) to the mix, this serves to add complexity to the game, yet somehow New Frontiers seems quicker to play and makes for a less satisfactory experience? So quick in fact, that often the game ended before I managed to do anything interesting.
It's not bad because it's based on a great game, just.... disappointing.
Surprise of the year: The Crew: Mission Deep Sea.
I'm going have to give it to The Crew: Mission Deep Sea for the reasons above.
Honourable mention: Railroad Ink.
This roll-and-write, dice-rolling and route-building game is accessible, easy to learn and a pleasure to play. It throws a healthy dose of luck into the game, but because of the way the game plays, this luck affects all players equally, so if a player doesn't score well, they've only got their planning and themselves to blame.
3rd October 2021
It's time for more Sunday gaming goodness on Board Game Arena.
The first game of the night was Incan Gold.
Brave the temple, get the gold, avoid the traps, escape!
Indy never had it so easy! He should something really frustrating - like Incan Gold.
Caveat: We've only ever played Incan Gold digitally.
What's in a game?
Incan Gold's utilises good, evocative art that suits its theme.
How's it play?
On to play
Incan Gold is played over 5 rounds of varying turn lengths, in each round players decide whether to continue exploring or run away! Cards are drawn from the quest deck by the first player until everyone has chosen to flee or the game goes bust.
Play continues until 5 rounds have been completed.
Players count points from the 3 types of treasure they might've acquired and any artefact cards they collected.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
Incan Gold is a very focused push-you luck game, a couple of cards may be added or removed to the quest deck every round, but broadly speaking the quest deck is split 50/50 between treasures and hazards, flipping a card is like flipping a coin. It really is pushing your luck.
There are also some other interesting things going on in Incan Gold.
At the start of a round, the length of the exploration into the temple will have already been determined by shuffling the deck and there's no way for players to alter this. It means the game's 'luck' affects all players equally, if one player got further into the temple than all the others, it because they had the guts to push their luck further. Conversely, if a player went bust when others got back to camp, then they foolishly pushed their luck too hard!
Of course, there will be occasions when both approaches may prove beneficial and players will have to judge when it's a good idea to return to camp or not.
The artefact rules add a wrinkle to the game; acquiring an artefact can earn a lot of points, especially in games with higher player counts where treasures are split between more people. This of course means outlasting all the other players and surviving, adding a game of 'chicken' to Incan Gold.
Using cards to secretly choose whether to continue or retreat is the final interesting rule for various reasons.
Treasure on the path is split between all retreating players, so sometimes, retreating when it's obvious to retreat may not be the optimal strategy, as those treasures will get split amongst all retreating players. Pushing your luck here may prove beneficial, depending on how much treasure you've already got, but other players are thinking the same thing...
When an artefact appears, it can add an extra element to this, how far is a player willing to push their luck to get the artefact? Is it worth retreating to collect treasure on the path instead? Can an opponent be bluffed into going too far. Are the other players going to fold? If a player's behaviour and motives can be predicted, it can be exploited.
While a round will have a limited number of turns before it busts, a player doesn't have to reach the end, they need to be last explorer exploring.
Incan Gold is a game with just 2 decisions, but there's always risk and reward behind those decisions, it can give players tricky and meaningful decisions to make.
We've only played Incan Gold digitally and it's a game that employs a significant amount of randomness, something which computers are not very good at handling. It can lead to weird or erroneous results appearing in games, so it's hard to discern if our experience of the game was influenced by this not.
We found Incan Gold to be a frustrating experience. The push-your-luck element of the game felt too harsh, too punishing to be fun. The 2nd hazard card seemed to pop up far too often and players frequently busted very early. Eventually we ended up barely turning over any cards before returning to camp, it seemed the most efficient move to make.
It felt like the risk far outweighed the reward and it made for an unexciting experience, one we didn't feel like repeating.
I play, I paint.