2012 Board Gaming review…

We’re almost into February already, so if I don’t scribble this down now it’ll never get done. Therefore… herewith and within: a few random thoughts on my boardgaming exploits of the last 12 months 🙂

My most-played board game of 2012:


…was Inka and Marcus Brand’s Village. Well, actually, my most-played game of the year was level-pegging between Village, Pandemic, and Power Grid — but Village was one of the big releases of the year and the others are oldies, so for arbitrary tie-breaking purposes and a more interesting article, I’ll call this one in Village’s favour.

Village is a pretty good game. It wasn’t my favourite new game of the year, and it doesn’t really tread any revolutionary new ground (though chewing over the idea of it being a “worker removal” game rather than a “worker placement” game is a fun mental exercise). BUT… it’s easy to teach to people, plays in sensible 90 minutes or so, and always seems to deliver a satisfying sort of gaming experience. Plus, the fact that it won the Kennerspiel prize meant there was a fair bit of interest/demand for it at the local gaming group… so it got its fair share of outings.

The forthcoming Village Inn expansion seems interesting — it adds bits for a 5th player (useful!), a brew house (facilitating a new beer-making craft), and another “major” building — the eponymous Village Inn, with new scoring opportunities and paths to victory. It’s something I’ll definitely want to get my hands on in 2013 🙂

Favourite new game of the year:

Agricola: All Creatures Big And Small

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

I was so impressed with this one that I made a video. The video got 3,000 hits on YouTube, and lots of BGG thumbs-up and tips. Sadly, slipping in a free (and unsolicited) ad for my favourite boardgame store was my slight undoing, as YouTube’s moderators rejected the video for monetization, and lots of parties who would’ve otherwise been very happy to embed the clip & give it more exposure didn’t do so for sake of publicising a competitor …Oops! An important lesson to be learned about boardgame video-making there, I think.

Anyway, I’ve already gone on at length about what a great game this one is, so I’ll spare you the repeat. Suffice to say the expansion — More Buildings Big and Small — pushes the game even further up the scale of greatness. Which, I guess, saves me the trouble of having to write a separate “favourite expansion of the year” category. Because that would be it 🙂

Favourite new board game of the year that I didn’t actually buy:



I didn’t rush out and buy it initially, because I wasn’t sure how much lasting appeal it would have. And I didn’t rush out and buy it after becoming convinced that it did have lasting appeal because… well, all the cheap copies had sold out by then. Cracking game though; I’m sure I’ll get one eventually 🙂

Least-favourite board game experience of the year:



This appeared as after-dinner entertainment during a trip to see my parents. It turned out to be everything that I don’t like about after-dinner party games, in one conveniently-sized package. Ugh.

Most criminally-underplayed game of the year:



I won this in a competition in the summer, but since acquiring it I’ve played it a grand total of… *gulp* … two times. And that’s NOT because I don’t like the game … from 2 plays, it seems like a really sound eurogame, it looks great, and it’s got some interesting and unique things going on with it. The problem is, basically, this:

There isn’t a single occasion where I’ve pulled Hawaii out of my bag at the local games club where the conversation hasn’t immediately turned to “Hey, wasn’t that the game in THAT video?….” …usually followed by people quietly backing away from the table and finding other stuff to play.

Forget the fact that Hawaii got a KennerSpiele recommendation… or that the Dice Tower’s Ryan Metzler slipped out a revisionist (and complementary!) review a few weeks later, or that my favourite FOLGS owner (boardgameguru) cites this as his favourite middleweight euro of 2011… it seems that Hawaii is fated to be forever be known amongst gamers as THAT game in THAT Tom Vassel video.

Murdered at birth. Apparently it was the designer’s first published game too, which makes the video seem even more badly-judged. It’s a decent game though… play it if you get the chance!

Personal grail-game acquisition of the year:

Galaxy Trucker

Galaxy Trucker

Not really a true grail game, as it was sort-of available-ish at retail for a big chunk of the year, but it WAS out of print for most of 2012 and therefore shifting at sillier prices than it probably should. I think my frugal Yorshireman DNA stopped me from pulling the trigger when it was selling at £60+ a pop. However, when a few copies appeared on Amazon at £32 quid… the deal was sealed!

My Random Gaming Firsts of 2012:

Bought my first copy of Spielbox magazine… and discovered it was pretty much everything I could want from a gaming mag, but… written in the most awful-to-read English imaginable. How a mag could be SO pleasing, but SO outright disappointing at the same time??… hmmm, that’s probably a topic worth a blog of its own.

Did my first Math Trade. Rapidly followed by my second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth math trades. Math trades are great (and addictive!) — I wrote about them here.

Played “Brass” for the first time. That’s another entry in the boardgamegeek top 10 that I can cross off my list of games played. Brilliant game — well deserving of its high rating.

Beat Olly at Ingenious. Beating Olly at Ingenious is kind of a big deal at Newcastle gamers. No, really it is! 😉 Speaking of which…

2012 was my first full year as a Newcastle Gamer! I joined Newcastle Gamers — my almost-local game club — in October 2011, and have attended pretty much religiously ever since. It’s been a good time to be a member… at the start of 2012 the club moved to a new (bigger) venue, and — by convenient co-incidence — the attendance figures went up quite dramatically a short time afterwards, which has really benefitted the club.

How so? Well… game clubs with a small membership are a bit of an awkward thing. I mean, we all nominally like board games… but there are so many different TYPES of boardgame, and so many different tastes in boardgames.

Analogy time: suppose you joined a film club. A club for people who like films. Realistically, while all the people in that club like sitting and staring at a screen for 2 hours, they’re going to be interested in different TYPES of film. So if you go to that club to watch a film… well, the people who are really into sci fi movies might end up having to watch a rom-com, because there’s only one projector. Or because all the sci fi guys started watching something an hour ago and you’re too late to join in. Or something.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, the club has reached a nice tipping point where there’s so many people around, with such a breadth of gaming preferences, that you can usually rely on being able to get into a game of something you’ll enjoy in fairly short order. There’s no need to get trapped watching a 3-hour rom-com any more just because it’s the only thing on offer. Which is a good thing.

It’s also been nice to get to know the regulars — discover what their gaming tastes are, and how well (or badly!) they mesh with mine. When somebody comes up to you with a game you’ve never heard of before, and tells you “I think this one is right up your street…”, and they’re dead right; you do like it… well, that’s a good experience. That makes you feel like you belong. 🙂

TLDR; check out your local game group. It’s great. If you’re near Newcastle upon Tyne you have an extra bonus, as we’ve already got past that awful metaphorical rom-com watching phase, AND you get the chance to play games with ME! … how can you pass up on an offer like that!!?

Corbridge Gamers – This was the year that I discovered I’m NOT the only gamer in the village (Aside from Mrs Shep, that is… but she’s more of a part-timer than a dyed-in-the-wool gamer). Owain ( ) lives just down the road from me, and by unlikely-but-happy co-incidence has a surprisingly similar taste in games. Many evening trips up (and down) the road have ensued. Good times!

Gaming Things that I totally failed to do in 2012:

Play Eclipse. Not sure how. Everybody seemed to be playing Eclipse at the start of the year — but then it sort of fizzled away. Never mind, I’m sure it’ll happen in 2013. Probably.

Design my own board game. I guess I subscribe to the theme-first school of board game design. One day, the _perfect_ theme will pop up out of the ether, and I will KNOW it is the right thing to pursue, and I will pursue it!

But… I’m still waiting for that to happen… 😉

Build a major international board game media empire. I don’t know where I went off course with that one. Everything seemed to be going so well when I did that Agricola vid…

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One Response to 2012 Board Gaming review…

  1. Pingback: Newcastle Gamers, 9th February | John's bit of the web

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