Sunday, December 11, 2005

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ A great year of gaming

I decided that this week I'd try and cover the games I enjoyed the most in 2005. With only a week or so left before Christmas and then the New Year to follow it seems like a good thing to do.

And... I'm so frickin' behind schedule in just about every aspect of my life I have nothing else ready! Maybe things will settle out for me in the next month or so and I can get back to the serious job of making fun of games, gamers, publishers and anyone else who happens to appear on my radar. But for now, I'd like to bask in the warm glow of 2005.

Memoir '44 remained a favorite of mine and while it has recently fallen by the wayside that's only temporary. I rule in Memoir '44. Well, at least I rule so long as I roll the good dice... the sweet one's you know. Like three tanks when I make an armored assault against the Germans. I love this game and I resolve to play it another 50 times or so in 2006.

Power Grid saw many plays. What an awesome game. And now that I have the expansion map it'll reappear in 2006 for sure. This game rates a "9" for me on The Geek and I suspect it will stay there for a long time. The rules though, are horrible. What a mess. I know everybody thinks that guy Jay at Rio Grande walks on water and turned fish into wine or made bread from horse manure or something. He may be great, but he sucks at translating. It took my fuzzy, myopic and aching head about a year to find all the errors in the rules... along with the hidden gems. You know, like how to actually win. Not to mention, the guy who designed it is just weird. But man, he did good and I appreciate it muchly.

Axis & Allies Miniatures also got some play from me but not nearly enough. I found it to be a great little game and I think the miniatures are excellent. One of my last purchases this year will be the Flames of War rules because I fully intend to use those cool little tanks and men for a table-top game. I'm at a point where I don't want to paint any more. My thanks to Hasbro ~ Hasborg for those who speak Grognads ~ for making a fine game.

Robo Rally was a bit of a disapointment but only because the quality did not justify the price. I bought it anyway. Now I have everything from the beginning to present of this great game. The game itself is awesome and a lot of fun. I'd recommend you find a deal on this one, it's worth owning but not at $50.

Struggle of Empires and Conquest of the Empire. What an outstanding system. My hat is off to Martin Wallace, Eagle Games and whoever else is involved. I own both of these, have played them a number of times and I love this system.

Which means I also like Age of Steam. A nice, nice game. Here again though the $50 reprint seems quite a lot when you can get Railroad Tycoon for near the same price. Both games are "9" in my book and I'd recommend Railroad Tycoon if you enjoy great pieces, attractive and thematic art and an outstanding value. If you're a pissy little Euro-Newt and prefer your toast dry and your milk warm then by all means go overpay for Age of Steam. You'll feel better and still retain your pretentious veneer of superiority.

Star Wars Miniatures was a flash in the pan for me. I like it. But like many collectible games, it dried up quick for me. Overall WotC did a fine job with this game and it's very nice to look at and plays easy. I guess I would have stuck with it if it was exceptional. It's not. Perhaps a "7" at best.

Ticket to Ride Europe hit the table along with it's older brother many times. Everything that can be said about this game system has been said. I prefer Santa Fe Rails and played it as many times. Alan Moon is a pivotal designer in my book and I think he created a game system here that will make new gamers and cause many smiles for years to come.

Runebound is another game that I played a number of times and found to be a terrific experience. FFG did a great job here and my copy will see the table a number of times next year. I want to mention this... I hate Talisman. It sucks. Playing that game is like spending three days in the Juvenile Lock-up in El Paso, Texas and trying to convince the Warden you really didn't think anyone would get hurt. Especially your cousin. Not that anything like that ever happened to me, but I can imagine how horrible that would be, And that's how I view Talisman. A horrible, horrible game where you sleep on a thin, cold mattress and shower with a bunch of guys name Jesus, Manny and Loco. But I always wanted to like Talisman. I did like the price mine brought on eBay, but the game is devoid of anything but dice rolls and card screwage. That's why I love Runebound. It delivers what Talisman never could. Runebound is the equivalent of your Dad finally deciding the lawn needed mowing and coming down to talk to the Senor Noriega (The Warden) and getting you out of Juvey. If you had ever been there I mean. Which I wasn't. But I can imagine how nice it would be to get out. That's Runebound to me... sweet freedom and a freshly mowed lawn.

I also played a bunch of race games. Everything from Formula De to Regatta to Daytona 500 and more. I pledge that I will one day write about the Formula De league I used to run. It was a wonderful experience and there are a few people I want to embarrass. I will play race games whenever I can and I'm going to get a copy of that really cool European one with the large cars. If you have one and want to trade, email me. I also pulled out my old copy of USAC Auto Racing and vow to inflict it on my local gamers next year. It's awesome and can probably be had on eBay for $5 tops.

I should also mention El Grande, Vegas Showdown, Through the Desert and even Puerto Rico, I played them all and many, many more. Looking back though, there have been so many great new games that the old ones seem to be moved to the back and the new ones are what everyone wants. They aren't any less attractive, they're just, well, they've been played and there are so many new, unplayed ones that they don't get the love they used to. Even Bang!, which I played quite a bit in 2004 only saw my table a half a dozen times. And it's a fantastic game.

But what with Caylus arriving, Friedrich to be here soon, Reef Encounter, Command & Colors Ancients, World of Warcraft and many, many more, I wonder how many times I'll play the ones that slipped into the shadows the second half of 2005. Sitting on my table, still in the shrink, are Descent, Fairy Tale and Techno Witches. I don't think they'll make it this year because we're planning to learn Caylus, do the World of Warcraft thing and maybe even try out the new Power Grid expansion.

Hopefully you had as much fun being a Game Geek as me this year. My last few additions to this great blog will probably be all Christmassy and New Yearsy, but you can expect be to be back on top of things in 2006.

Oh yeah... and my cousin came out okay. He still limps and he slobbers a lot, but damned if that dump truck didn't look awesome when it exploded.


gamesgrandpa said...

My, you are just dripping with sweetness today, aren't you? Are you sure this is the real DW writing this?

Seriously, I enjoyed your comments. Wish I lived within driving distance to play all those great games with you.

Hope you have a fantastic holiday season and get to enjoy lots of gaming. (And I hope I'm not on your radar....)

Anonymous said...

What is the error in the Power Grid rules? I've never noticed any...

Anonymous said...

Played Fairy Tale for the first time today, it was pretty good. Im a sucker for card drafting games, I guess. If you like Runebound, you will definately like World of Warcraft.


Unknown said...

I agree with you about the Power Grid rules. The rules are written assuming you're playing with 4 (or is it 5?) and you don't find out about the different Step 2 trigger numbers and winning conditions until the last page.

Oh, and the Italy/France map is awesome. If you like Power Grid, it will be a breath of fresh air. (If one doesn't like Power Grid, this won't change their mind.)

DWTripp said...

Ah, Power Grid. As Ryan pointed out, the English rules are, at best poorly laid out and poorly written. There is an outright error where Phase and Step are used incorrectly, which leads to massive confusion if all the players are new to the game.

Even the winning conditions are difficult to understand without several re-reads. Just goes to show what a great game it is, the horrible execution of rules don't hurt it a bit.