2019 Unplayed Games Recap

I was able to get my unplayed games down to 0 at before end of last year. Then Christmas came, I made a few trades, and bought a few more. Spoiler alert: I got back down to zero again, but I wanted to take some time to recap the games that joined my collection. Some have gone. Many have stayed. 

I give some credit to doing the Get Your Magic Number to 0 Challenge again this year. Your magic number is the number of unplayed games. Through plays, trades, or donations, you have to get to 0. Having less than 7 or 8 unplayed games in my collection at anyone time made it quite easy to complete.

As with previous years' lists, I'm going to give a quick run down on each and give an update on its status in my collection.
I thought the theme of this game was really interesting. Players are all part of a family running a hotel that kills the guests and takes their money. The idea is to make the most amount of money without being caught by the police. Some of the guests will make it out alive and may even get hired to help out with the dastardly plans. It wasn't interesting enough to our group for me to keep it, so it left the collection during my last big purge.
I don't really care for cooperative games, but for some reason the dice version of Pandemic (a game I've never even played) has been on and off my wishlist for a long time. I traded for the base game and got a great deal on the expansion. Our only play of the base game didn't go over great, I was even accused of "quarterbacking" at one point, and it hasn't seen the table since. I want to get this back to the table and check out the expansion additions before making a decision on this one.
Michael Kiesling is one of my favorite designers and this is the first of a few games that I played of his in 2019. Heaven & Ale was my favorite of the bunch because of the anxiety it made me feel going into the final round. Everyone is competing for the same resources to become the best brewer in the monastery. It has tile placement and racing elements that I really adored. As of today I've only had that one play, but I can definitely see this becoming one of my favorite games.
We played another version of Legendary Encounters and Christine thought it would be cool if there was a X-Files version. It turned out that there was one, so naturally I had to pick it up. It's a cooperative game, but I was actually engaged because of my love of the show and the deck-building aspect. Players have to defeat enemies and creatures while collection evidence to help defeat the conspiracy and save the world. I don't know how much play this will see over the years, but it's good enough to stay even without a favorite theme of ours.
Game number two of Michael Kiesling's is a tile placement/auction game where players are building their own individual worlds of islands. The key mechanic to the game lies in the pricing wheel that pairs meeples and tiles with set prices. I thought this would be a good game for our group because despite the title, there is no player interaction. I enjoyed it and would love to play more, but I don't think everyone else was as keen on it. Vikings will stick around for a while, at least until I can get in more plays of it.
I've highlighted other games that Grant Rodiek has designed in previous posts because I like the way his mind works. He looks at a mechanic and tries to do something new with it. He accomplished that with Solstice: Fall of Empire, which lead to a broader publication as Imperius. Drafting other players cards and secretly deploying them is something I had never seen before and really liked about Solstice when I played with Christine. I backed Imperius and was excited to teach it to our group. It went over like a lead balloon and if I remember correctly, we stopped playing after a few rounds. Ultimately I traded it away, but I've held onto the smaller boxed Solstice for possible future plays.
After playing World's Fair 1893 and Sentient, I became a big J. Alex Kevern fan. A designer friend of mine from Twitter always lists Gold West as one of his favorite games, so I thought I'd check it out. Gold West has a little set collection, area majority, and network building that's all run through a cool mancala mechanic that players use their resources. I REALLY like this game. It falls right in my favorite game weight (complexity) range, it's easy to teach, and also pushes my brain buttons in all the right ways. If I remember correctly, I didn't do all that well but that didn't take away my enjoyment of it. This is a solid keeper that I want to play a lot more going forward.
Richard Ham (Rahdo) mentioned Warsaw in one of his videos and since I had not heard of it before, I looked it up on BGG. It's a tile playing and drafting game that sounded right up my alley. After watching Rahdo's Run Through on it, I knew I had to get a copy. Thankfully NorthStar Games localized the game from Poland and I was able to find a trade for it. I was blown away on how quickly the game ramps up over the rounds. Having to build in either a 3x4 or 4x3 pattern while also losing tiles after two of the rounds, requires quite a bit of planning. Add the drafting portion, where you want to take tiles that are good for you, but also to keep others away from your opponents just makes this game even better. The combo of mechanics and restrictions made this one of my favorite games that I played in 2019. This one may have cemented its place on the shelf after just one play.
 Another of my favorite designers, Wolfgang Kramer, designed this with a father and son team and it was published back in 2000. It's one of the earliest polyomino games to hit the market, a feature that's been very popular over the past few years. The game is centered around an auction for various pieces and cards each round that will make up a player's palace. Auctions aren't a favorite among the group so I knew it was a hard sell, but it went over okay. The scoring system reminded me of another of Kramer's designs, Colosseum. I'm not sure if I'll keep this one or not.
 Rolling America is one of the more recognized Roll and Write games on the market because it came out in 2015, before the explosion of them in the past year or two. It's a frustrating game, but in a good way. Players have to write in the numbers shown on the two dice that are rolled each round. The problem is, you can't place numbers adjacent to one another with a difference higher than one. So a 2 can't be next to a 4. You're at the will of the dice rolls, but some special abilities help you manipulate dice or placement. It plays pretty quick and plays an infinite amount of players as long as you have enough copies of the player sheets. We're big fans of Roll and Write games so this one isn't going anywhere.
 Games with chunky wood or plastic pieces that I get to move around are always welcome. I traded for the German version of the climbers because I read that the piece are more consistently cut and painted. It's a very straightforward game where you are trying to get your pawn to the highest point when everyone can no longer make a vertical move. There are different sized pieces with different colors on each side that players move and rotate to attempt to climb higher each turn. You can really screw other players by moving a piece they'd need or blocking them from being able to place near their pawn. Shawn busted out a lazy susan to make seeing all sides of the structure easy. I really liked this one and want to play it again as soon as possible. Because it's unlike anything else I own, I'm keeping it.
If you know me, you know that I love abstracts. I don't mind if they have a pasted on theme either. Reef is beautifully produced and very easy to learn. Players either take an available card and add it to their hand or play a card from their hand. When a card is played, the player takes the two matching pieces, place them on their player board, and then score the matching spaces shown on the bottom part of the card, if possible. The decision to take a card you think you'll need versus playing one to build up a big scoring possibility is always on players' minds. You're also racing to score before one of the four colors has been exhausted. We've played this a couple times and everyone seems to enjoy it. Games like these have staying power, especially because our kids will be able to pick them up soon.
A friend from Twitter sent me the original Polish edition of the now localized, Bloom. The games are nearly identical, with the newer version being slightly easier to make it more family friendly. Bukiet is a Roll and Write game where players are fulfilling flower orders by circle groups of flower icons. Players score points by circling all of each colored flower and all flowers in each flower bed. Incomplete or wrong orders will cost player points, but they may help them in the long run. It's a simple game that plays quickly. Most Roll and Writes, like this one, come in smaller boxes so you can have a bunch of them in the same space that a single game might take up. I'll keep this one and keep adding more like it going forward.
I kept seeing pictures of this game pop up in my Twitter feed during one of the GenCon or Origins a couple years ago. The theme of delivering various space goods like Chinese food and energy crystals is kind of odd, but that's what made me gravitate towards it. It's a commodity speculation game where players are collecting and delivery goods and while doing that, affecting their values. You want to collect items that will be valuable at the end of the game, while dumping the less valuable ones at the right time. I think this was my first experience with commodity speculation and I really liked it. I don't know if this one will stick around forever, but I want to play it a few more times for sure.
This was a game I had heard about but wasn't really interested in because of the theme. Train themed games have been an instant turn off, but then Rahdo mentioned it in a video so I watched his run through of it. After watching how it played, I wanted to give it a try because it has tile placement and an action point allowance system. Each tile has train tracks that once placed, create paths for the players' trains to move on. Figuring out the puzzle of moving your train across the board while collection resources to deliver later on is a lot of fun. I liked it so much that I picked up the expansion for really cheap. This is another game that I could see making it on to my top games lists.
I wrote about this game in more detail as a part of my Top 5 Heavy Games list. I love the theme and the way it feels like a video game (because it originated as one). It's one of the only games I've really enjoyed playing solo, so for that reason alone it'll stick around the collection.
When Azul finally dropped below $20 on Amazon, I had to buy it. I'd held off because the other half of our group wasn't impressed when they had the opportunity to play it. There are a couple of reasons why I knew I needed to get it: 1) It's a Kiesling design and 2) It's beautifully produced. People all over Twitter and BGG have raved about how good it is, so I knew it couldn't be bad. News flash: it's not bad. It's great. Because it's an abstract, the rules are simple, but the decisions can be tough. One of my favorite things is the ability to "hate draft", meaning drafting tiles that my opponent needs rather than what will possibly help me more. Even though players are adding tiles to their own boards, the drafting is the crucial part of the game. Obviously, I'm keeping it and I look forward to playing this with people who like its style.
Kramer and Kiesling came together to design this game of area control, set collection, and card drafting. Players buy building pieces and erect stacks of them all around the board to try and score points for having the most in different areas. The game is fueled by identical player decks that give players two cards to choose from each turn with different actions and number of actions to do. I love area control so I knew I'd like it (I did), but it's not a favorite among the group so I wasn't sure how it'd go over. I know everyone didn't like it as much as I did, but I'm glad I got to play it.
I'm always on the lookout for little card games that do something special. Point Salad had been on my radar for a long while as I watched pictures of its creation pop up on Twitter. I followed the developers to keep an eye on the set collection game with cute art and theme. Players build their own salads by drafting two cards from the general supply and then get to score them at the end of the game by drafting one scoring card from the general supply. The whole crux of the game falls on every card having a scoring combination on one side and a vegetable (or fruit, I see you tomato) on the other. I've played about a half dozen games in total so far and it's really a lot of fun. I don't think it'll kill any other drafting games like Sushi Go! or 7 Wonders, but it's definitely worth keeping.
Another game that I had been wanting for a long while was Hawaii. There was some controversy when it came out after a well known reviewer threw it in the trash as part of their review. I'm not a fan of that reviewer or the types of games he likes, but I am a huge fan of Rahdo and he liked it so I thought it was worth a shot. He described it as Feld-like and our group loves Feld's designs so that was another box to check. It also had a familiar mechanic of building lands like in Vikings, so I was geared up to enjoy this one. Ultimately, I did like it, but I didn't love it. The initial set up and board refreshing between rounds were a bit much. It's a fine game, but not one I think will stay on the shelves.
I got this almost a joke gift from my sister-in-law. If you play "The Game" you just lost. The object of The Game is for players to discard all of the cards into four general piles in either ascending or descending order. The thing is, players can't say exactly what they have to one another. This was all the craze when it came out, but I don't like co-op games usually and this one failed to impress. The Game is a game and nothing more.
Citrus popped up on my radar when I saw it on sale on Amazon for a substantial discount. TMG released an English only edition in 2018, bringing distribution to the US. After watching a Rahdo run through and reading some reviews, I decided to treat myself with a new game. I rarely buy games, so I was really expecting a lot from this one. I'm happy to say it didn't disappoint. It's a semi-light tile placement game with a bunch of restrictions that make the choices each turn very interesting. Players are balancing harvesting fruits to get money in order to buy more and keeping control of their orchards in order to score the fincas with a majority. Christine enjoyed this one, so it's definitely a keeper. One of my favorite things about it is how the bland looking board transforms as the colorful tiles get placed.
2017 was the year of Michael Kiesling with Azul, Heaven & Ale, Reworld, and Riverboat all coming out. I thought the first two were fantastic. Rahdo said he thought this was the best of the bunch, so I had a lot of hope that this one would be just as good as the two I played. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up, but that's not to say it's a bad game. I liked it quite a bit, but it just didn't give me the same sense of anxiety that Heave & Ale did or the ability to really stick it to my opponents like in Azul. Christine HATED this game, so it immediately hit the trade pile. If I were collecting games I might keep this one, but shelf space is at a premium so its days are numbered.
I've mentioned my love of tile laying games many times, so whenever I see one that's doing something interesting I'm always interested in trying it out. Bloom Town has fixed player boards where each player is building their own town and scoring points depending on where they are placed. The interesting wrinkle comes from the draft of tiles from the central board. Where you draft from determines where you can place on your board. It also determines when the different types of building are going to score. We played a couple of games, one on each side of the board, and it went pretty well. I think there were some missed opportunities with the way the main board was laid out and how information was trying to be conveyed. The end game trigger doesn't build the anticipation I was hoping for because it can happen too quickly. While I liked the game, I have a lot of tile layers that I prefer so I'll probably trade it.
I'm not a big party gamer and I don't normally like cooperative games either, but when a game wins the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) I'm definitely going to check it out. While I don't usually like party games, the ones I have liked are word based and that's exactly what Just One is all about. As a team, players are trying to guess 13 consecutive words correctly by giving clues to the guessing player. However, if two people write the same clue, that word is eliminated. This can leave the guesser with almost nothing to go on. Being the guesser is WAY harder than I thought it would be. My group gave me two really great clues and I had an answer (the right one!), but I chose to pass so we wouldn't lose two points. We scored average by game's end and I think everyone enjoyed it. I'd definitely like to play this more and with a higher player count. I'll keep it because it gave us a very memorable gaming memory. Christine was the guesser and the answer was Belgium. When our answers were revealed for comparison, we had CHOCOLATE, EUROPEAN, and JCVD. Kelly and I were very confused at Shawn's clue until he showed us what it was acronym stood for. It's hilarious when you figure it out.
Our dear friends Shawn and Kelly, who we do almost all of our gaming with, gave us a copy of this for Christmas. Shawn had a very similar idea for a design about this very theme years ago. The goal of the game is to be the first player to get all of the pieces shown on a card into their little suitcase and have it shut completely. The first player to do this 3 times is the winner. I don't normally enjoy real time games, but the dexterity puzzle type is a little niche that I truly adore. I've talked about my love for Junk Art here on the blog and another favorite of mine is Dimension. Get Packing falls right in line with them. Is it strong enough to stay on the shelves forever? Hard to say. But it is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.
This was a very late edition to my Christmas list this year after watching the GameNight! play through video. I'm always on the lookout for food themed games and knew that if I put it on my list that my mother would most likely buy it for me. The theme of the game is players building their own food courts with various types of cuisine. Each cuisine has its own ability to help score and/or give you money to buy more food stalls. Once the kids were occupied with some of their new toys, my brother, mother, and I sat down and played a game. It's fairly light, so everyone caught on quickly, but my experience playing games pushed me into a run away lead once I had built a pretty sweet engine. I think with a group of experienced gamers, it would have been closer. After the game ended, we realized we were playing on the wrong side of the board meant for 4 or 5 players instead of the 2-3 player side. I don't know how much of a difference it would have made other than being able to buy stalls a bit quicker because they would have cost a dollar less. Regardless, it's a quick and light game that keeps everyone engaged because even when you're not the active player, you're probably going to get some resource during the first step of the active player's turn. I really like the theme and look forward to playing with all of the different combinations of cuisines and chefs the game has to offer. I also hope it seems some expansion content that adds a wrinkle or two to give it just a little more meat, if desired. I don't have a lot of games that I can play quickly with my casual gaming family, so this one will be around for a long while.

Last year I said I probably wouldn't have another one of these posts because I was trying to curate my collection and not add so many games. That's still the plan, but I do like writing these posts so I'll continue to do them as long as I add unplayed games to my collection. The posts will probably be significantly shorter, but we'll see what happens. 

Thanks for reading and happy gaming!

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