I put myself on a self-imposed gaming acquisition ban this year during the holiday. My parents wouldn’t allow me to buy anything new from around Thanksgiving to Christmas. Their reasoning was because nobody knew what the elves were making and I obeyed because I didn’t want to incur the wrath of Christmas Elves by purchasing a toy that they were currently hard at work preparing to put under our tree. After seeing a shirt early this season that said, “When You Stop Believing in Santa Claus, You Start Getting Underwear,” I immediately fell deep into my childhood spirit and declared, “no games.” Full disclosure, and as luck would have it, I did have a couple of games on pre-order that came out during the acquisition ban (Thank you, Dungeons & Dragons Attack Wing and Imperial Assault), but those don’t count, right? I am just a victim of someone else’s distribution schedule.
The other thing I will mention before getting back on track, is that when you are participating in a self-imposed acquisition ban, one should stay the hell off of twitter. The gaming community loves posting all the shiny new games they are playing. The experience is quite similar to looking in the window on Christmas morning, watching a family open all their presents while knowing none are for you, then having someone immediately and without warning, wax all the hair off your body.
The upside to this effort however, was it gave me plenty of time to rediscover some games that I haven’t played in a while, as well as put a few games on the table that I previously purchased but had yet played. This started me thinking about my failed attempt over the course of the year at playing 10 games 10 times. I heard it referenced once on a Pair of Dice Paradise segment and thought it sounded like a noble challenge, but had no idea it was a thing.
As I mentioned in my last post, The End (of the year) is Nigh!, I will be formally participating in the Play 10 Games 10 Times Each Challenge. The challenge was created in 2014 by game designer and BoardGameGeek user, SilvaShado, after challenging herself to play all her unplayed games in 2013. She wrote in her 2014 Challenge introduction that the 2013 effort left her feeling like she wasn’t able to really dive into the heart of a game, because she was promptly moving on to the next game. Play 10 Games 10 Times Each was designed to refocus the energy towards picking some games and really diving into understanding them through multiple plays. The response was apparently strong enough that she created the challenge again for this year, 2015 Challenge: Play 10 Games 10 Times Each.
Here is the mission statement SilvaShado created to introduce the 2015 challenge: “As a counterpoint to the Cult of the New, this challenge encourages people to play each game several times to explore and experience them in-depth. There is no rush to find the optimum strategy on your first play, or read all of the cards beforehand. Instead, each play reveals something more and something different, you get to try various strategies, and everyone’s strategies evolve with their understanding and learning of the game. If you are tired of constantly learning new rules when running after the latest hotness, never really learning various strategies to any game, and needing to relearn the rules of old games because it’s been too long since they were played, this is the challenge for you.”
I am participating in the hardcore challenge, which means I pick 11 games and have to play ten of them, ten times each. You cannot change the games in the list (which is the big difference between the hardcore and normal challenges), but you can downgrade to the normal challenge. The rules are pretty straightforward and are listed on the challenge page, so I won’t quote them here.
(You can follow my progress and comments by reading my GeekList here)
Without further adieu, I present to you in all its dubious glory, my list for the 2015 Challenge:
1. Pandemic: The Cure: I like dice games. A lot. I also like Pandemic, so marrying the two sounded like it should be fun and it is. The goal of the game is to find a cure for four nasty infections that are spreading globally. There are 48 infection dice that you roll in certain quantities and at certain times, placing in various regions of the world, according to the result of the roll. Then, each player takes on one of seven different roles (Scientist, Containment Specialist, etc.), trying to find cures for those infections by rolling their action dice and performing actions based on the results (fly to a region, treat an infection, take a sample, etc.). There is a push your luck element that can result in the infection rate increasing, more outbreaks of the diseases, and other such mayhem. The thing that fascinates me about this game, is it’s ability to feel quite a bit different from the original game, while maintaining an almost identical concept. As of the publication of this post, I am 5 plays into the game since January 1. This game is well worth it.
2. Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island: I really enjoy games heavy with theme, especially when that theme ties in seamlessly with the game play. Ignacy Trzewiczek knocks it out of the park with Robinson Crusoe. Players take on the role of shipwreck survivors and, depending on the chosen scenario, have to complete certain objectives to win the game. It can be very difficult and requires a good amount of planning, but such is life on a cursed island, right? Playing this game gives you the feeling of having truly completed a session of adventure, regardless of the outcome. If you don’t believe me, check out my previous post, where I documented a game session in the form of a shipwreck survivors diary (click here to read). The game also plays solo (and does it well), so that is always a plus as this is a good one to set up in advance and tackle once the children are snug in their beds.
3. Among the Stars: Your goal is to create a space station in order to promote trade and relations among other alien races, post an apparently epic space war that left the galaxy ravaged. This is accomplished by card drafting (think 7 Wonders) and strategic placement of those cards in your space station, which is how you get points. After four years (In-game. Whew!) the player with the most points wins (which seems a bit counter intuitive to promoting relations, but whatever, it’s a game, right?). I’ve only played this once previously and really enjoyed the experience.
4. Kanban: Automotive Revolution: Originally, I wasn’t sure who would be that interested in a heavier euro-game that takes place on an automotive assembly line and focuses on trying to create the best logistical, just-in-time production system. Apparently I was wrong. This game quickly swept through the community, garnering rave reviews and a plethora of twitter related posts and pictures. One of my goals this year was to tip-toe a bit deeper into the euro-game realm and this one may take me straight to the deep-end. Now, I just need to sign up for a night class to learn the rules…
5. Mice and Mystics: This cooperative adventure game has been on my shelf since early Fall. I have been trying to get the figures painted prior to playing, but given the amount of delays in progress I have experienced with that venture (too many nerd irons in the fire), it may have to get on the table with partially painted figs. Another game heavy in theme and story (The game plays out like an adventure story, with you reading sections of a book at certain points before, during, and after the game session), this will be a family adventure at the Gee household.
6. Lords of Waterdeep: Being a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, I was very excited when I saw this game announced in 2012, but that went flat when I saw some pictures. Where were the goblins and swords? Luckily, after hearing wonderful things about the game, I picked it up. Turns out, it is a very fun game and a great entry point into euro-style games. The main worker placement mechanic is core to almost all euro-games, but Lords of Waterdeep is extremely easy to teach, learn, and play. If it says anything about the game (and how wrong I was initially), I have played this game more times prior to the challenge, than any other game on the list, but I still want to dig further into the strategy and expansions. Well done Wizards of the Coast.
7. Kingsburg: A dice based twist on worker placement, Kingsburg tasks you with collecting resources, building things, and getting an army ready to fight invaders. At the end of the game (20 turns), whoever makes the King happiest with their territory development wins the game. When I first heard about it, I thought Kingsburg looked like an undoubtedly good time. I bought the game and even the cool, special edition dice sets (did I mention I like dice and dice games?), but thus far it has ended up collecting dust on my shelf, and I’ve even heard a few murmurs of dissatisfaction with the game (I am looking at you, Dukes of Dice). Hopefully my gut instinct was correct. This year, I will serve the King. Ten times, at least.
8. Power Grid: When this game was first suggested during a game night, I have to admit that I almost immediately started to check out. The theme didn’t sound interesting (supplying cities with powers), the components weren’t that appealing, and the rules didn’t sound that fun. Then we started to play. I was immediately fascinated by the auction phase, having to bid against each other for better, more efficient power plants. Once you own a power plant, have to supply it with the correct raw materials in order to power your cities. The commodities fluctuate in value based on supply and demand, much as in real life, which was intriguing. I also was amazed at how balanced the game is by managing turn order each round. You never feel like you are out of the game. I am most excited about diving into this game for multiple plays.
9. Forbidden Desert: One thing that is so charming about Matt Leacock’s games, is that he makes games that feels utterly familiar to each other due to core-mechanics that run through each title, but have a strikingly different feel from one to the other. It took me awhile to jump aboard the Forbidden Island bandwagon, but I was quick to hitch this sequel to my bandwagon-train. You work cooperatively with other players (like the other Leacock title on my list, Pandemic: The Cure), to try to survive swirling heat and sand storms in order to uncover pieces to a coveted, legendary flying machine. Family friendly and quick to play, this once should be an enjoyable and easy activity to complete.
10. Elder Sign: From the same designers as Arkham Horror and continuing the H.P. Lovecraft theme, this cooperative dice game can be equal parts frustratingly difficult and entertaining. No matter the amount of careful strategy and planning, the dice can play havoc with your sanity (literally). I play the digital app version of this game, which is different enough not to count for the challenge, but have only played the analogue version once. I am curious to see if the Ancient Ones impede my challenge progress.
11. Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin: I am not a huge fan of deck building games, preferring a board and pawns to cards and decks. I am not against them by any stretch of the imagination, I just don’t tend to buy them as much. When I first bought this fantasy themed deck builder, I played a few times and enjoyed it quite a bit, but it’s sat on my shelf ever since. As a family, we have begun revisiting Magic: The Gathering (My wife and I used to play back in the Beta days), and it, along with Legendary Encounters: Alien, have whetted my appetite to get this back out and give it another go.
The straw that may break the hardcore challenge camel’s back: Splendor: How could I have missed this game when I was compiling my list? It’s been on my shelf, calling out for me to play, and then I passed it by like it was nothing. I can’t downgrade to normal so quickly, but this engine building game about being a gem merchant during the Renaissance, may cause me to switch levels before it’s all over. That, or I will play 11 games ten times each.
There it is folks, a little peek into at least 100 game sessions I have planned for 2015. I think this is a noble challenge and look forward to every play. Let me know what is on your list, and maybe we’ll run into each other at a convention or local game store. Would you care to sit down and play any of these, with me?