New Year, Old Year: 2019 Revisited
As has become a February tradition around these parts, it’s time to rewind a whole year and a month to Best Week 2019. But this is no warmhearted jaunt down memory lane. Oh no. This is an interrogation. This is when we take a look at the titles I proclaimed the best of the year and discuss whether I was right, wrong, or somewhere in between.
Day One! The Inveiglers!
What I Got Right!
Depends on how we classify “right.” Now now, before you accuse me of trying to dodge my stint under the interrogator’s lamp, let me clarify what I mean. When it comes to board games, I’m an omnivore. Heavy stuff, light stuff, multiplayer stuff, solo stuff. This list was specifically about the games you could bring home to mom without fretting over whether they’d track mud across the carpet.
As far as family-friendly goes, most of these have stood the test of time. Horrified is still proof that Prospero Hall is one of the premier design collectives of our day. More importantly, it’s still less punitive than Pandemic, and that’s before we jump into how painfully relevant that one has become. I gifted Horrified to my sister, and apparently it’s seen plenty of use. To lesser degrees, the same is true of Watergate, Men at Work, and Wingspan. That first one in particular. I introduced it to my Dad. It took him all of five minutes to go from “I remember this” to “At least Nixon had the decency to resign.” My personal favorite of the trio is probably Men at Work, which gets so many things right about stacking as a game mechanism without needing to go more than a few inches off the table. That’s impressive.
And then there’s Unmatched. If any game has improved over the past year, it’s this one. That it would still be around was to be expected; Restoration Games was hoping to birth a system, not a single box. That it would exceed itself twice over, first with Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot and then with the sublime Cobble & Fog, I couldn’t have told you way back when. But if there’s any game I haven’t used as a friendly launchpad into gaming’s deeper waters, the answer is the same. It’s possible that this is a reflection of my neglect more than of the game itself, but the fact stands that Unmatched didn’t get nearly as much play as I expected.
What I Got Wrong!
Apart from some pedantry, this big misstep was Bloom Town. It’s cute and combo-y, but those aren’t exactly in short supply in this hobby. If I remembered how it played, I might have more insight into why it hasn’t weathered the test of time. That in itself might be telling.
On a personal note, there were two titles I was often informed I’d gotten wrong. The loudest voices cared very much about Wingspan. When it amassed the hobby’s version of the EGOT, one snooty person thanked me for helping shill Stonemaier products. An odd accusation after I panned Tapestry and Pendulum. I suppose I was wrong about Wingspan’s broad appeal. Allow me to clarify: Wingspan is an excellent game that will appeal to many people, but not to anyone who sends hate mail to strangers.
On the next page, I’ll be less snarky. Promise.