New Year, Old Year: 2016 Revisited

Day Three: Iterated!

What I Got Right!


















Fine. But if I’m supposed to pick what I got wrong, I’ll need to stretch this a bit, because every last one of these games remains a hallmark example of why board games improve in iterative steps.

Take Tyrants of the Underdark, which is probably this list’s least-impressive game. It’s a hybrid design (between deck-building and area control) that had every last ounce of elegance and depth as something like Lords of Waterdeep. As in, while it wasn’t the grandest or most daring use of its systems, it still created an approachable path of entry for hybrid designs as a whole. That it didn’t catch on as well as Waterdeep was a pity, because it’s when deck-building gets paired with something else that it shines.

Which is precisely the case with Hands in the Sea, by the way. Not only is this a next-step takeaway of Martin Wallace’s A Few Acres of Snow, it’s also superior to its predecessor in nearly every regard. Its duel for command of the Western Mediterranean is every bit as gripping, unexpected, and brutal as the historical conflict between Carthage and Rome, with every card, fortress, and administrative necessity serving their purpose.

The same goes for everything else on this list — which was a pretty easy list to get “right,” if I’m being less self-congratulatory about it. Secret Hitler takes the lessons of its predecessors to craft a social deduction game with high stakes and unflinching immediacy. Evolution: Climate is Evolution but with some of its certainty replaced by an equal dose of anxiety. Exceed is Level 99’s BattleCON but faster and less paralyzing. Codex is Magic: The Gathering but without the paid super-decks, as envisioned through the lens of tightly-controlled in-game deck construction. Cry Havoc is about asymmetrical factions except more asymmetrical than usual. And New Angeles? Oh man. New Angeles is the game for people who like their traitor games long, involved, and full of so much negotiation that nobody is leaving that table without getting red-faced at least twice.

So what did I get wrong? Not a damn thing. These games are all excellent. My only regret is not playing a couple of them more often.

Score: 8/8

On the next page, the preachy games. I mean educational games.

Posted on February 10, 2018, in Board Game, Lists and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Happy Salmon is a true winner, never fails to warm up a crowd!

  2. Ferox is one of my favorite games! I would love to hear your recommendations for similar or better games along that vein. Thanks for all the incredible game reviews and coverage—I look forward to your work and always enjoy your take on this hobby.

    • I’m not sure I would say anything is precisely like Ferox. But in terms of clever two-player card games, I’d rather spend time mastering Omen: A Reign of War, Codex, or Summoner Wars.

  3. Out of curiosity: how many times have you played Food Chain Magnate? I’m a bit surprised when you say “overrated” and wonders “overrated compared to what?”. It’s anyhow one of the most demanded game by my friends. As a big fan of both Pax Renaissance and Pamir (latter more accessible for new players and the former a notch more intriguing), I rate FCM as equal. It’s of course a matter of taste and no big deal.

    • I’ve played Food Chain Magnate eight times, and probably received three plays’ worth of enjoyment between them. Any game where you can lose on the first round, only to be locked into a three-hour purgatory before the game has the decency to conclude, is not going to rate highly in my book.

      Also, “overrated” does not mean “bad.” It means overrated. Food Chain Magnate is a perfectly decent game that garners more attention than the design merits.

      Though the same can be said of much of the BGG Top 100.

      • I respect your viewpoint. Yes, it might be a probability if the map becomes too funky. However we choose to evaluate the map before deciding to start a round and the shifting synergies between players usually makes it a tight race.

        Overrated or underrated? I only play what I think is fun and don’t have the knowledge to conclude anything beyond what I like and dislike. Among BGG Top 100? Games like Caverna are of no interest to me, as it in my taste becomes a pointless exercise of tons of options for no good logical reason, but if it’s overrated I don’t know.

        To conclude: thanks for your articles about the Pax games, because otherwise I might not have noticed them.

  4. Awesome list of games I will investigate once my pile of unplayed gets smaller.

  5. This is one of my favorite features in board gaming. I feel like too few people revisit titles down the road to see how they hold up and discuss them further when they’ve had more time to really sink in. I’m so glad you started doing this.

    • I’m glad you approve, Dale. With a thousand new games springing into existence every year, it’s too easy to ride the hype train. This is the sort of thing that keeps me grounded.

  1. Pingback: Vaster Than Ever | SPACE-BIFF!

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