New Year, Old Year: 2016 Revisited
Day Five: Unique
What I Got Right!
Probably the most significant success from this list is Inis, which still feels like it came out no more than three months ago. That’s how fresh it feels. Dudes on a map, but inhabiting a system that isn’t interested in the usual dice-thwacking. Instead, it’s a game of escalating politics, policing the best cards to get the job done, and very carefully hindering anyone who inches within grasping distance of the crown. It’s king-making at its subtle best.
Most-played? Easily Captain Sonar. It’s common for us to have large numbers of visitors at game night, coupled with an unreasonable unwillingness to break into groups. Only a handful of games both accommodate teams and get people stressed enough to move onto something calmer once their submarine has been scuttled. At that point, smoother fare includes Vast: The Crystal Caverns, which is still the king of wild asymmetry that actually works, and Millennium Blades, which remains my favorite game to include mental bandwidth as its primary resource. Both are tremendous examples of what can be done when a genre doesn’t exist, so you invent it.
Finally, while I didn’t play as much Star Trek: Ascendancy or Scythe as I would have liked, both remain games that I’m very unlikely to turn down. They’re also polar opposites. Where Ascendancy revels in its sprawling playtime and table commitment, wild negotiations, and dog-pile conclusions, Scythe is a measured game of economics and the occasional timber raid or doomsday invention. Their only real parallel is that both were further improved by expansions.
What I Got Wrong!
For the sake of argument, I’m being as critical as possible here. In any other situation, I wouldn’t regard Zimby Mojo as a failure. For one thing, it’s about as wacky as games get. Set up like a bloodier version of capture the flag, wherein everybody is after the same well-protected flag, Zimby Mojo lets you raise zombies, cast spells that break the board, and join into temporary alliances of yowling cannibals.
So what’s the problem? The length and the fact that it’s sort of difficult to explain. And that’s it. Even the best of games are hard to get to the table when their conclusion is so long in coming.
Even more surprising, at the time Star Wars: Rebellion did the impossible by making me care about Jedis and Death Stars. By casting the two sides of its conflict as entirely distinct, with the Rebellion skittering from hiding place to hiding place while the Empire rooted them out with superior force, it presented an idiosyncratic take on galactic war. Rather than trying to win outright, it was a game of hearts and minds, counterinsurgency, and hanging on for just one extra turn.
Unfortunately, it was hampered by a disappointing combat system, a lengthy playtime, and far too few moments where the Star had any Wars going on. Whether the expansion will mend these flaws has yet to be seen, because I’m on Dan Standard Time and haven’t gotten around to it.
There you have it! The ravages of time afflict all things. Have any of your favorite games of 2016 changed in your estimation?