New Year, Old Year: 2020 Revisited

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Day Two! Agony, Sheer Agony!

What I Got Right!

Babylonia. That’s what I got right.

Every so often somebody will inquire about which of the Good Doctor’s games is his best. It’s an impossible question for many reasons, not the least of which are the countless options. Of his many titles, though, Babylonia has become my favorite. It isn’t Knizia’s most groundbreaking offering. Nor is it likely to spawn imitators. But it just might be his most assured effort to date. It has a confidence that soaks into the gameplay itself. Even its imbalances are perfect, the work of a man who knows that perfect balance is not only illusory, but undesirable.

On the whole, this is one of those rare lists that remains largely intact. Although I haven’t played them in a while, Dual Powers continues to show that there are many ways to portray history while Sensor Ghosts remains one of those rare empathy-building games that isn’t totally insufferable — which really ought not be mistaken for faint praise. High Rise sticks in the mind both for making rondels exciting and for its handsome standees. As someone who often prefers the visual pop of vertical cardboard to another set of washed-out gray miniatures, this is one of a string of games that works perfectly without bulky plastic towers.

What I Got Wrong!

The Grand Carnival is the toughie of the batch. The scoring always struck me as somewhat flawed, but it perfects so many little touches with its polyomino placement that some scaled points don’t qualify as a significant ding. To be honest, this one slid beneath the cut mostly for the sake of balance. I often wish I could spend more time revisiting old goodies, a poor fit for anyone who wants to write about ~100 games per year. This one has been beckoning for ages. Not beckoning hard enough, apparently. Is it that the scoring got to me in the end? That carnivals strike this graduated R.L. Stine reader as inherently spooky? Or is it that it flew under the radar during a distinctly unfortunate period of our lives?

When I wrote about Thrive, I mentioned that it probably wouldn’t be around in five thousand years. Call me prescient, because it only took one year to disappear from my consciousness. I’d claim prophecy, but unfortunately this is the list’s “What was I thinking?” I still adore the idea of tailoring my pieces’ moves to my needs mid-game, but Thrive’s tit-for-tat has a surplus of tits and way too many tats. It’s a problem I’m always looking out for in abstract games especially. Somehow, here it escaped my notice until it was too late.

On page three, we’re relieved that the stakes were so low.

Posted on June 21, 2022, in Board Game and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. While I do think with some folks there was a bit of special pleading re: Reign, and I said as much, you actually weren’t one of the ones I had in mind, Dan, to be clear.

  2. In a world obsessed with the new, I always appreciate a good retrospective. Thank you.

  3. I agree that the response to ‘the mission’ and some other kerfuffles has been disappointing.

    On the other hand, there never was an Eden, and there never will be.

    But this site is good, and the core conceit of this site is true: that games, both as artistic achievements and as the scaffolding to support shared exploration of a system, are worthy of serious criticism.

  4. Cosmic Frog is freaking awesome. It feels like a fresh breeze in the stale world of streamlined Euro games. It’s a pallet cleanser from the hype and the churn. It’s also a great way to “settle scores” from other games. And two years on it still stands out and gets requests at my gaming group.

    Cosmic Frog; the pick of 2020.

  5. I will never apologize for telling folks Reign of Witches is one of my favorite games of 2020, despite how much it annoys Amabel.

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