Fifty Years of Gaming
Well, I’ve only played a few published games this year, but still I did enjoy it so it can make the list. I was able to meet up with Netters, Mitch and a friend on a trip to San Francisco and played a game of this light engine-builder that everyone is talking about these days.
This was a pretty crappy year for me. Lots of games and gaming passed me by. Still this game is a highlight. Just 18 cards in both solo and multiplayer modes work well. One of many route/tile type games you will see on my list.
Honorable Mention: Just One
2017: Meeple Circus
Let’s get this straight, you are speed stacking circus themed meeples to a matching soundtrack? What is not to love.
Honorable Mention: Near and Far
2016: Terraforming Mars
I interviewed Stephen from Stronghold a while before this came out, and the idea of “real” science piqued my interest. I was able to get one of the early first-run copies and played it a ton. I switched over to playing it mostly solo due to the play time. but some of the expansions have helped with that. One of my most played games because I like the idea so much.
Honorable Mention: World’s Fair 1893
2015: T.I.M.E. Stories
Hard to talk about without spoilers. TIME stories was the second game in our “Epic Game Night” series started by Pandemic Legacy. We decided to continue on with another series of games. We played about five variants before we moved on to something else. I think we are still interested, just wanted a break.
Honorable Mention: Arboretum
One of my favorite games, definitely a favorite two-player game. Unfortunately, I do not play two-player very often so this doesn’t get played as much as I’d like. I love route-building / pick-up and deliver and this does it with an great spatial requirement in the tiles to find the location for your temple excavations.
Honorable Mention: Deus
2013: La Boca
Another spatial game. Discovered this at BGG*Con and picked up my own copy soon after. This is a timed, teamed-based building game with 3-D polyominoes where you and your team mate are trying to build a structure that looks correct when observed from each of your perspectives. You might have to say “I don’t see any yellow, or I see one black poking up at the top” and figure out how to stack and turn the pieces so it looks correct from both sides.
Honorable Mention: Gravwell
I bought this having never played it, but I’d heard so much about it a few years ago at a Gen Con meet up. The boy and I figured it out and played a game. It soon became a favorite and I think I played it about 15 times that year. Since there is an online version, and since it is so hard to come by, I teach people it there often so they can get in a play. A strange combination of tile placement, area control -- there really isn’t anything else like it in my list.
Honorable Mention: Suburbia
2011: Flash Point: Fire Rescue
This is one of our most played games. It helps that my wife likes it so much, and that it is also easy to teach and easy to understand for new players. It is a co-operative game where a team of firefighters, each with a special role (even a dog in the expansions), work together to save victims in the burning house while keeping the fire under control. I own every expansion and variation but usually just play the basic houses, but love the added characters and tokens the expansion have added.
Honorable Mention: Rhino Hero
2010: Lords of Vegas
Usually makes my top 10 lists. Heavily themed around classic Las Vegas seen in Rat Pack movies. In fact, the paper money has the stars of those movies on it. Starting off with a few parking lots you build up an empire of casinos noted by cardboard rings around a dice. On future turns, if a card is drawn matching the color of your casino, you get points on how many squares of cardboard you have and money based on the dice pips inside. The limits in the scoring track encourage merging and take overs of casinos often accomplished by crazy, against the odds, stand-up dice rolls.
Honorable Mention: Alien Frontiers
I picked up this one because I like Greek mythology and the minis looked cool. Was I lucky because this is another personal favorite. An area control with a small amount of combat with more subtly with clever use of the auctions to gain control of the favor of the gods. Two player is not great, but the board expands well for other ranges.
Honorable Mentions: Snow Tails, Telestrations, Tobago
We played a ton of this game and all of its expansions. Many complain about alpha players in co-ops, but I’m happy to step aside and enjoy watching others figure things out so we can figure out how to win as team.
Honorable Mentions: Dominion, Stone Age
Fantastic Days of Wonder components add to fun game play. A very tight game with an unusual score track where you can only score if you improve over a previous play, though you do get the income. Each turn you work to perform the ultimate show hoping the Emperor or one of his aides is in your expanded Colosseum. We enjoy describing our shows explaining and role playing, adding the the theatrics.
Honorable Mention: Race for the Galaxy
2006: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
I do not own a physical copy of this game. My buddy taught me this online with the two of us sitting next to each other and walking me through this challenging game. We also play it in physical form — usually Jim/Zach and I who are about the same level and can knock out a game in a casual game night. The new app version is incredible and is one that I continue to play on a regular basis.
Honorable Mentions; Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, The Pillars of the Earth, Yspahan
2005: Glory to Rome
Usually in 1st or 2nd place for my number one game, depending on when I make the list. I remember when I was taught this and my buddy starting chaining actions together and I said to myself “I want to learn how to do that!” This is definitely a game where repeated plays and an expectation of what cards are in the deck and may come out is important. I’m also lucky to have the revered “black box”, the art of which is also derisive. Although valuable, I still bring it out to conventions (sleeved for its protection).
Honorable Mention: Caylus
2004: Power Grid
After a pause of gaming for college, marriage, and a child, I eventually found a new game store and gaming group. This was one of the group favorites and quickly became one of mine too. One of the few game I have also accessorized with upgraded bits and special tokens etc. I usually get in a group game with fellow friends at at conventions and a local friend set up a “play all the maps” semi-weekly event that I join whenever I can.
2003: Hey, That's My Fish!
To be honest, 2003 was hard for me. I didn’t have many choices. I like this game, but I really can’t tell you the last time I played it. I probably only have it as an app by now. Then again, the little plastic penguin miniatures are pretty darn cute.
2002: Puerto Rico
Another staple regularly played by my regular game group. My buddy Bruce has a great library and I try to play his anniversary copy whenever he holds his annual birthday game day. I’ve finally hunted down the expansions to switch out some of the buildings to try to mix up the “standard openers.” Still, the game is not perfect with undertones of racism, in addition to expected plays.
Another year with few options. I like Hive, but as stated, two-player games are not my thing, so this doesn’t get played much. It has kind of a Chess-like feel, with each piece having special moves trying to capture the other player. The chunky tiles are great.
Who doesn’t love a tile layer? I still enjoy this on occasion. Usually on an app. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of expansions as heard in the Carcazooooone segments of the Draft Mechanic podcast. I own The Princess and The Dragon, which I didn’t enjoy, and The Catapult, which is nonsensical fun.
You won’t find a lot of Knizia’s auction games on my list. This one makes the cut because of the push your luck element added. The Egyptian theme, although not critical the the play, doesn’t hurt.
Kind of creepy when you think of it, but the lighthearted art and text lightens up the mood. Gain points by getting the best noble to the front of line to be beheaded next. Also, there is a card called the piss boy and I get to say “you look like the piss boy,” a line from one of my favorite movies, “History of the World: Part One”
I jokingly say this is Rosenberg’s best farming game. A simple set-collection game with a complication that your cards must stay in order in your hand with new cards added to the back. This encourages trading to get the next card in your hand out during other player’s turns so can play the one you want deeper in your hand. Some of the art is creepy, but not as bad as the dice version. We play this a ton.
1996: Kill Doctor Lucky
Another weak year for choices. Not a bad game — but still it is just OK and could be easily replaced. The idea of trying to kill of Dr. Lucky, by trying to maneuver him to a space where you are alone with him, is interesting. The weakness is that the game usually ends when everyone runs out of the “foil the plan” cards.
1995: El Grande
This is the other game that ties for my favorite game slot. You will see a lot of area control games on this list. This game is pretty much pure area of control. It’s best at four or five players. I have an annual game at Origins with a regular group of experts and we always have a tight game, and lots of fun.
1994: Iron Dragon
One of the many crayon rail games I have. See Empire Builder below. I have two copies, the original and the reprint. I tend to collect these games. This one combines fantasy play with the train theme in an interesting way, adding an underground tunnel area and characters for special building abilities.
1993: Star Trek: The Next Generation — Interactive VCR Board Game – A Klingon Challenge
I still have my copy. We went thru our VCR game phase. This is probably one of the most famous. Not actually played it in years.
1992: The Omega Virus
Amazing toy factor with a voice box. Weird combination of co-operative with a winner-take-all end game. My box is pretty beat up, but the solid state components still work after all these years. I really did get my copy for $0.50 at a garage sale!
1991: Advanced Civilization
Who doesn’t have 8-12 hours to play a civilization building game where you start with one chit — yes one — and build and empire from nothing. I DO. We now play this once every few years on a vacation day. I picked up the home-brew reprint seen here.
1990: Daytona 500
This is an early variant of what we now know as Downforce. My buddy has this and we play it every few years. Downforce seems pretty similar and is readily available .
1989 Taboo - This was part of our party game phase my wife and I would have couples over and play games like these, not hobby games. Still a ton of fun.
1988 Merchant of Venus - the quintessential pick up and deliver with a space theme. You start off by exploring the universe to find the alien races and who is where and where their desired goods are. Once you discover the optimal route you maximize it, build upgrades and take the win.
1987 Illuminati: Deluxe Edition - A Steve Jackson game we played a ton of. Variable player powers. Silly jokes and interesting play.
I had the original SJG clam box with tiny slips of paper for money and mini cards. They later printed this box that is showing a lot of wear from repeat play.
1986 Polarity - a weird magnet game, you balance your pieces trying to get them to float in the magnetic fields rather than snap together.
1985 How to Host a Murder: The Chicago Caper - This was one of many games of this type. I seem to recall this was our first. Half the fun was dressing up and role-playing as your character. I was a Babe-Ruth like baseball player.
Not sure why I save these but I still have them.
1984 Wizard - solid trick taker. Everyone starts off in round one with one card and bets how many tricks they will take. Positive points for meeting your goal and loosing points for missing your goal. Each round escalates with one more card until the entire deck is played.
1983 Talisman - roll and move fantasy. Build up your character and move to the inner core and win the crown of command and win the game. Crazy things along the way, turn into frog and loose your stuff or fight each other and die.
Photo is from the 2nd edition. Isn’t it glorious?
1982 Empire Builder - Founding father of the crayon rail series. Cards tell you what items are desired where. You build lines by drawing, with crayon on the board, between the cities. Then pick up and deliver the loads. I’ve learned a lot of geography from this game.
I think the box shown here is from from 1982.
1981 Car Wars - Think of this as Mad Max the board game. You design and build a car with armor and weapons, then race and attack each other. Building the cars was probably more fun than the races, which were painfully slow.
1980 Titan - one of the mega long games of my youth. An epic Avilon Hill fantasy themed game of building up your armies to defeat your enemies after oh 8, 10 , 12 hours of play…
1979 Star Fleet Battles - epic space battle game play your favorite race and duke it out on a hex base star map with chits and ship data trackers in plastic covers marked with china markers.
This photo is a newer “streamlined” version but looks essentially the same.
1978 This Game is Bonkers! - One of those games I played a ton of as a kid. They have since reprinted but I have a 70s era copy, if not my original. I can get some “real” gamers to play it late night at a con.
1977 Rummikub - I just recently played this. Brandon and Craig did a series on the SDJ winners and I never realized this game was winner nor much about it. We later saw it at a cafe and gave it a try. It is fun and pretty affordable.
1976 - The Bionic Woman. I had to order this on Ebay to find a game to fill this slot. This would make a pair with my Six Million Dollar Man.
1975 Bermuda Triangle - I remembered playing this a child. Then in the last few years my buddy had it at a game day thinking of reworking it as a modern board game. I decided to find a copy and now I have two, one for spare parts. The magnets in the boats are a cool part but would be hard to replace. The spinning cloud picking up the ships has so much fun toy factor.
1974 Crude: The Oil Game - I played the Stronghold reprint. So much plastic. Lots of fun though.
1973 Conspiracy - not a great game. Interesting two faced pawns. Horrible stereotypes. I’m interested how this is going to be brought up to the modern era by Restoration games.
1972 Waterworks - a pretty sillly mass market card path laying game we played a lot as kids. Leaky pipes you can play as “take that” on others and tiny wrench tokens to repair them.
1971 Mastermind - I recall the version with the old guy at the table with the lady standing over his shoulder. Great logic puzzle. I remember trying to come up with a way to play it via twitter in the last few years.
1970 Masterpiece - I recently played a modern version of this game. I’ll call this a play for 1970.
1969 Venture - I always look for Sid Sackson games. This economic card game did not fail. I seem to recall these were recently reprinted by EGG.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be celebrating my birthday having a game day with friends. Look for a blog post about that in the future.