Friday, December 27, 2013

Year in Review

It's embarrassing that it's been so long since I posted. As they say, "It's my fault but I blame others." Christmas, work, painting. Probably the main culprit is the brain numbing cold and darkness that together make me as productive as a groundhog.

Groundhogs hibernate through the winter in tunnel complexes up to thirty feet in length. You learn many interesting things when you have kids and live in the country.

As I gear up and prepare to knock out a few posts it seems appropriate to look back on 2013 and try and come up with some sort of Best Of list. I like reading other people's lists. Let's give it a go.

Best Miniatures Game
X-Wing Miniatures Game. I do dislike the Star Wars merchandise empire and I resisted buying this game until it was deeply on sale. That being said it's fun, simple, and has a lot of tactical depth. We've played it as straight ahead skirmish combat and with scenarios. It works with three ships on a table and I've played in a game that featured literally dozens of ships. In all cases it's fast and engaging. It feels like a Star Wars space battle. The miniatures are decent quality and (relatively) good value for the fun you'll have with them.

I have really enjoyed the Bolt Action rules for the Second World War. I like how they move the emphasis of the game away from masses of armor and towards infantry maneuver and fire. Further, the rules hit many of the buttons that I look for- they include opportunity fire, they don't encourage rules debates, and they demand a fast moving game. The possible downsides are the expense in starting up (rules, army book, and special dice) and of course the need to have many painted miniatures. Unless of course you have spent the last forty years accumulating painted miniatures. Score.

Best Board Game
Phantom Leader. I have played the heck out of this game over the last year. Phantom Leader is a solitaire game in which you manage a squadron of pilots in the Vietnam conflict over a short or long campaign. In the course of the game you pick targets, assign pilots, arm planes, and then try to navigate through defenses to finish your mission. The game has huge replay value and is quite engaging. I want a solitaire game that I can win occasionally- not never (ahem, Dawn of the Zeds) but enough to bring me back for more. Between replay value and elegance of rules Phantom Leader has been an awesome addition to my collection.

Other than Phantom Leader I can't say any board game has seemed particularly noteworthy this year. Seasons remains entertaining. It's colorful, tactically interesting, and certainly lovely. With the right crowd The Game of Thrones Board Game is terrific fun, but "with the right crowd" is a big caveat. You need to invest some time and some attention to make the game work- not for casual players.

Best Children's Game
King of Tokyo, no question. This game is simple, fast moving, and Exactly deep enough to entertain adults while giving younger players something to think about. It's inexpensive, durable, and colorful. There is some reading involved but in such small amounts that a younger player can simply remember what the cards say. What else? Good for two players, good for more players, has some expansions... Just get it.

I did pick up Mice and Mystics for Christmas. This looks like a lovely game but we haven't played yet. It could be terrible in execution but my guess is that it will be awesome.

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