The Best of 2005?

Verflixxt!
I don’t normally go in for choosing a top 10 of the year but, after browsing a few of these over recent days, I was intrigued to see if my choices were close to what others thought. The following are the list of games I have gained the most enjoyment from in 2005. They are not meant to reflect the most deserving releases of 2005 (and indeed one is a 2004 release that I only first got to play in 2005), but they are the ones that made the best impression on me. So here, in alphabetical order, as I would struggle to place these in order of preference, are my picks of 2005:

Australia
Beowulf – The Legend
Caylus (despite our 5 player game running too long)
Havoc: The Hundred Years War
Hazienda
Kreta
Louis XIV
Shadows Over Camelot
Tower of Babel
Verflixxt!

I’m sure the rest of the Shrewsbury Games Club will concur with my choices. If not, they can always tell me where I went wrong in the comments section.

Let’s hope 2006 brings more excellent releases along the lines of these 10.

New UK Blog

Piddinghoe Gamers
I’m a bit late in noticing this but the Piddinghoe Gamers have just launched a blog on their website here.

The latest entry about the price of poker chips and their downward spiral is pretty upsetting. It rubs in the fact that I bought my set 18 months too early at a very steep price when you could only get decent looking chips online. Now, of course, you can get poker chips everywhere on the high street (albeit not as good quality) and the sellers of quality chips have had to drop their prices accordingly.

I’ll just go and sulk in the corner for a couple of hours.

Counter #31

Counter 31
The latest issue of Counter dropped through the letterbox today.

Weighing in at a healthy 84 pages, there is plenty of discussion about the Essen Games Fair, even an article from Derek Carver contrasting the fair of 20 years ago with that of today. Added to that are oodles of reviews and the usual letters section, which means I’ve got plenty to read over the next few days.

Bitz Quiz 6

Bitz Quiz 6
My latest Bitz Quiz has been added to my Trickylight site.

Like previous quizzes, this is just for a bit of fun – there are no prizes on offer, simply the pride in getting all of them right (No chance!) Unlike previous quizzes, there is no need to send me your answers or wait a month for them to appear on the site. Just a click on a button will make everything clear.

Although you don’t need to e-mail me with answers, I’m still very keen to get feedback on the quiz. Is it too hard, too easy, any problems with the images? There is a link to my e-mail address on the quiz page or you can comment here.

Bitz Quiz 6, together with all the older ones, can be found here.

SR: 25th November 2005 – Caylus

Caylus
Just added the latest session report to my Trickylight site:

“We’ve all been keen to try this since I brought it back from Essen, but this was the first chance we’d had to get it to the table. The hype it’s been getting certainly heightened our anticipation and, as a result, we ended up being a little underwhelmed.”

You can read the full report here

Trickylight Homepage

I’ve just given the Trickylight homepage a bit of a springclean to try and ensure it changes a bit more regularly. So you’ll see the latest session reports on the front page together with a pic of our most recently played game. I’ve also added this year’s HOF summary for ease of reference for those interested (Nige). Finally, a random bit will appear each time the page loads to test the old grey cells. More bitz to be added soon.

The One Hundred

Over the last couple of weeks, Mark Jackson and Stephen Glenn have been counting down The Official & Completely Authoritative 100 Best Games of All Time Ever Without Question. This has been compiled from the top 15 games of some 65 dedicated gamers. The results are very interesting and are a pretty good approximation of the best games around. I might argue with the order and some of the games aren’t really to my taste but it’s been fun trying to work out what the highest placed games might be. I’m not surprised by most of the top ten although Tichu is higher than I would have expected. There are obviously more people who love this game than I expected (and 4 people voted it as their Number 1 pick). In the latest post, Mark questions How Big A Geek R U? I guess I have to admit to being pretty geeky as my score turns out to be 162 (made up of 87 of the 100 played and 75 owned). Nige rang this evening to ask about Tichu so we’ll have to play it sometime soon. Maybe we ought to have a night solely on card games as there are quite a number we’ve not played at the Shrewsbury Games Club before, Schnappchen Jagd, Wizard and Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde to name but a few.

Essen 2005 – Friday 14th October

David, Angela and I had agreed to meet up and play some games together this morning so I arrived at the Jung Hotel at around 9.45. While waiting, I bumped into the Piddinghoe Gamers and chatted with them for a short while. I say, chatted, but really I think they were either busy recovering from the previous evening or they definitely are not morning people. Once we got to the fair, we headed first to have a look at the new Eggert Spiele game, Antike. Unfortunately, the demo tables were full so we had to rely on a brief synopsis from one of the demonstrators. This was just one of several civilisation in the Mediterranean games I’d seen and it appeared to tread very familiar ground. The choice of action mechanic appeared quite novel but, in the end, we moved on without buying.

I then suggested we head to the Hans im Gluck area and, by chance, we found an empty table and grabbed it so that we could try Hazienda. We were joined by two Dutch gamers, whom Angela and David had met the day before (apologies that I can’t remember their names).This was a new Wolfgang Kramer game and looked like something that would appeal to the Shrewsbury game crowd. In many ways, this is a typical Kramer game with players having 3 action points a turn and there being lots of different ways to score points. It seemed nicely balanced as different routes to victory seemed to end up with a very close finish. Also, I was surprised that the person I had thought was comfortably leading ended up only in third place as her massive chain of farms was counter-balanced by few points being accumulated in the other scoring areas. Very good game and this was a definite purchase. We didn’t manage to play the Euphrat & Tigris cardgame but this was a definite purchase for me anyway. I was sad that the English edition wasn’t available but decided to go for the German version anyway as the components were completely language independent.

Next we headed for the Queen stand as we were interested in looking at the several new games they had on show. No luck with getting a table, but I spotted a group of Brits trying out Aqua Romanum. They thought it was ok but, from the description, it sounded very similar to Metro and Linie 1, so I knew Nige would hate it. Watching the guys playing it, it also looked to be a deep thinker with the potential for lots of downtime. The other big box game from Queen was Timbuktu by Dirk Henn, which I felt sure I’d played many years ago in its previous incarnation, so I passed on this too. Of the small box games, I’d been told RaubRitter was dreadful so I didn’t bother looking at that but Revolte in Rom looked as though it would be quite good. Unfortunately, there is a fair bit of text on the cards so I decided to wait until the Rio Grande version of this comes out. While in the vicinity, I next looked at the Cwali stand. Neither of their two games really tempted me: Ahoy looked to be a kid’s game while Aloha sounded too reminiscent of Maka Bana to persuade me to part with my cash. As you can tell, I was really sticking to my guns of being very selective this year. A quick glance at the Fairplay scouting report showed Caylus and a game called Big Kini as being the hits of the show so far. We headed, therefore, to Hall 9 and promptly got a short explanation of how the game played. It seemed interesting so I decided to pick that as my impulse buy of the day. While in Hall 9, we had a very sketchy outline of Il Principe given to us. The publisher, Mind The Move, scored a hit with last year’s Oltremare (which was back this year in a big box version from Amigo) but due to the poor explanation I decided to wait on this one and see what the general reaction was.

I wanted to go and visit the Sunriver Games stand, as I enjoy reading Chris Brooks’ blog and was interested to see what their new game was like. Havoc: The Hundred Years War sounded a bit war-gamey to me, so I didn’t have great expectations. Unfortunately Chris wasn’t around but the game’s designer, KC Humphrey was and sat down with us to explain the mechanics. It was nothing like what my pre-conceived idea had been and it turned out to be a fairly straightforward set-collection and poker type game. The wars only represent the rounds of play, the spoils of which are VPs awarded to whoever displays the best 6-card poker hand (with lower VPs for 2nd and 3rd). So you have to balance adding cards to your hand with when you feel you’ll do well in a war. Mid-way through the game, Julie Brooks took over from KC, and I asked how the family were enjoying the trip. Turns out they’d been in Germany a while and had made the most of flying such a long way by seeing some of the sights. Anyway, Havoc turned out to be a nice surprise and we ended up buying two copies from Julie. Unfortunately, some of the games had shipped with an incorrect card and my copy was one of those. This wasn’t a problem as it didn’t affect gameplay, but they took my details anyway and agreed to send me a replacement card.

On the way through Hall 5, I stopped by the New Century Games stand to see how they were getting on with Cash Trap. Whereas yesterday they were not too busy, today things had picked up. I would have sat down with Angela and David to try it but their demo tables were in full swing. As I only live up the road from them, I knew I’d be able to pop in and see them after the fair so I wasn’t too disappointed. Angela was interested in seeing some of the raft of Sudoku games that were available. I suggested the Kosmos one might be the pick of the bunch, purely because it had Reiner Knizia’s name on it. We managed to collar a Kosmos demonstrator, found a small space on the floor and he explained how it worked. It turned out not to be that interesting, with it being a very simple tile placement game on a Sudoku grid and using Sudoku placement rules. We also had a demo of Ubongo while in our Kosmos floorspace. This turned out to be a speed visual puzzle game of fitting various pentominoes into differently shaped grids. Those finishing the puzzle within the time limit are rewarded with little gems of varying colours, with the first to finish having more flexibility about which gems to take. The person with the most gems in one colour at the end of the game wins. We played a few rounds just to get the idea but none of us are too enamoured with speed games, so we finished early and didn’t buy.

After that, I parted company with David and Angela in order that I could do the rest of my buying. As I was wandering round, I bumped again into Greg and Rick who were just finishing a game of Big Kini. They both had enjoyed it and were in the process of buying it, together with the 5/6 player expansion. This was lucky as I’d not realised that you needed an expansion to play with more than 4 people. This was soon corrected, thankfully. My final stop was Warfrog to pick up Byzantium, remind Geoff of my continuing support of Martin’s games, and then it was off to the airport for the flight back to Birmingham.

So, what was my total haul? Definitely lighter than last year but I’m sure I may have missed one or two good ones. However, the full list turns out to be: Frankenstein, Wordwild, Flix Mix, Rotundo, Wizard, Fettnapf, Carcassonne: The River II, Havoc, Zatre, Sushi Express, Shear Panic, Ark, Hazienda, Key Largo, Dragonriders, Elasund: The First City, Euphrat & Tigris: Das Kartenspiel, Carcassonne: The Discovery, Caylus, Big Kini, Mesopotamia, Bang: A Fistful of Cards, The Pilgrim’s Chronicle, Byzantium and finally Old Town (for John)