Spiel des Jesse 2014

Every year, I sit down at the end of the year and look back at the new to me games I played.  And up to this year, I’ve just called this post the “New to Me” list.  However,  this year, I’m calling it the Spiel des Jesse.  This is an award given out to my favorite game that I played for the first time in the last 12 months.  It does not have to have been published in the last 12 months, it’s just something I had never played before this year.  First, I’ll be taking a look at the 61 eligible games for this award using my newly patented Yeah-Meh-Bleah rating system.  In case you can’t figure it out for yourself, Yeah is awarded to games I like and enjoy playing (with extra exclamation points added for emphasis).  Meh is awarded to games that didn’t really do anything for me – they may still be good games, just not something I enjoy.  Bleah goes to games that I actively dislike and do not want to try again – there’s too many games I do enjoy to waste time on stuff I disliked the first time on the off-chance I may like it the second time.  And with that, here’s the list – 61 new-to-me-titles this year.

  • Abyss (2 plays): This Bruno Cathala/Charles Chevallier design is gorgeous to look at, and a lot of fun to play.  I got a copy for
    Christmas, and look forward to playing it more.  VERDICT: Yeah!!!
  • Adaman (2 plays): A friend of mine had a Decktet, and I tried this solo game out while visiting and everyone else was napping.  I lost both times, but I enjoyed it – a good solo game.  VERDICT: Yeah.
  • Agents of SMERSH (1 play): This is Tales of the Arabian Nights with a James Bond spin.  It was a good time – a very detailed game that worked well as a coop.  VERDICT: Yeah.
  • Argent: The Consortium (2 plays): I got this as a review game from Level 99 and really enjoyed it.  It’s got a ton of choices and variability, and is a really solid game all around.  Read my review here.  VERDICT: Yeah!!!
  • AttrAction (4 plays): This is a dexterity game with magnets.  I thought it was a lot of fun as a five minute diversion.  Read my review here.  VERDICT: Yeah!
  • Black Fleet (1 play): It’s a light pirate game where you are controlling three different ships.  Lots of strategy, and beautiful production from Space Cowboys.  VERDICT: Yeah!
  • Boss Monster (1 play): This was like a less interactive Munchkin.  And that’s not a good thing.  This gets my award for biggest turkey of the year.  Verdict: Bleah!!!
  • Coin Age (1 play): Interesting area control game using money as markers.  I only got to play the PnP once, but I enjoyed it, and would play again.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Coup (1 play): It’s a nice short social deduction game, but feels more random than I’d like it to.  The player elimination is not too bad since the game is so short, but it really didn’t do much for me.  Verdict: Meh.
  • Dead of Winter (2 plays): This is the zombie game to end zombie games because it’s more about the characters and the experience than killing zombies.  Great fun.  Verdict: YEAH!!!
  • Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (1 play): I’m not a huge fan of the Discworld series, and maybe that’s why the game fell a little flat for me. It might be better with fewer players – secret objectives might come into play more. Verdict: Meh.
  • Dragon’s Hoard (1 play): A friend of mine taught this to me, and I enjoyed it. A nice little drafting set collection game with sheep. I don’t remember a whole lot about it, but I did like it. Verdict: Yeah.
  • Equinox (2 plays): I got this as a review game from Asmadi. I enjoyed it – a very interesting tactical abstract game. Verdict: Yeah!
  • Famiglia (1 play): I had played this a few times on Yucata.de, but it never really clicked for me.  Now that I own a physical copy, it makes sense, and I really like it.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Forbidden Desert (5 plays): I didn’t win this game until my fifth try.  More difficult than Forbidden Island, and I think I like it better.  Verdict: Yeah!!!
  • Friday (5 plays): I got a chance to play a friend’s copy early in the year, and won my very first try.  I must’ve played wrong, because now that I have my own, I have yet to come close to winning.  Still a very enjoyable solo game.  Verdict: Yeah!!!
  • Got It! (2 plays): This enjoyable math filler was sent to me as a review game.  Not a strategic game per se, but a good simultaneous puzzle to solve.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Guts of Glory (1 play): This is legitimately one of the weirdest games I have played.  A post-apocalyptic eating game where you’re shoving stuff in your mouth, spewing stuff into other people’s mouths, and gaining chew tokens?  It’s bizarre.  I think I like it, but it’s very strange.  Verdict: Yeah?
  • High Noon Saloon (1 play): This falls into the same category as Boss Monster for me.  The fighting is just too random, and there’s no planning ahead you can do – you might as well discard your whole hand and see what new cards you get every time.  Verdict: Bleah!
  • Impulse (3 plays): A good quick space-themed 4X game.  Asmadi sent me a review copy, and I like it a lot.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • King of New York (1 play): This takes King of Tokyo to the next level, and into more of a next step category.  I like it, but I still really appreciate KoT for its simplicity.  Still, this is one I would recommend.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Koryŏ (1 play): This was a surprisingly good game.  It has a Love Letter type feel, though it plays differently and has more cards.  The big reason I haven’t sought a copy out for myself is that $30 is a little much for what amounts to a 60-card game.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Legendary Encounters (1 play): I’m not really a fan of the Alien franchise, but I do like the Legendary system.  This game does well to remove the semi-cooperative aspect, and is probably better thematically.  The jury is still out for me as to whether it’s better than Marvel, but I like it.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Lewis & Clark (1 play): A really deep deck-building Euro about exploring the Western US.  I need to play again, but I really enjoyed my first play.  Verdict: Yeah!!
  • Lost Legacy (1 play): This is Love Letter with a fantasy spin.  It’s OK, but a little more convoluted.  I definitely prefer Love Letter.  Verdict: Meh.
  • Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper (1 play): Before this, I had only played Jekyll & Hyde from the Mystery Rummy series.  I think I like this one better – it does a great job of emphasizing the mystery aspect, and is a very good game to boot.  Verdict: Yeah!!!
  • Ninja Dice (1 play): You roll and try to beat certain challenges, and the positioning of your dice may affect others.  It was kind of dull to me, but I’d be willing to give it another shot, maybe when I’m more awake.  Verdict: Meh.
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf (1 play): I don’t really like Ultimate Werewolf, and with this version, I don’t feel like I ever need to play again.  I played the Daybreak version, but I already think the system is great.  Verdict: Yeah!!
  • Pastiche (1 play): A very lovely art-themed set collection game.  It really bogs down in the end, but is fairly simple to understand and enjoyable enough.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • The Pirate Deck (2 plays): A prototype of this was sent to me before it went on Kickstarter.  I liked it – it needed some polishing, but there were some good ideas there.  A good pirates game for kids and families.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Power Play (1 play): A review copy was sent to me by Level 99.  It was an interesting storytelling experience.  I haven’t gotten a chance to play more than once, but I hope to again in 2015.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Quantum (1 play): This is a dice-based 4X game that plays pretty quickly.  I really enjoyed my first play, and look forward to giving it another shot.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Qwixx (2 plays): I knew this game by reputation after it was nominated for the SdJ a couple of years ago.  Now that I’ve played it, I find it to be a very fun filler game, but not one I would have nominated for that award.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Rampage (3 plays): The game is now known as Terror in Meeple City, but my copy is Rampage.  I enjoy it – you’re smashing a city by flicking monsters around.  It’s dumb, but it’s fun.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Rattlebones (3 plays): This dice-building game is very unique and succeeds in being accessible while still offering some choice and strategy in how you build your dice.  A great game.  Verdict: Yeah!!
  • Red7 (4 plays): This game was apparently designed over Skype in 90 minutes.  And it’s fabulous – very unique, very portable, and with a whole lot going on in a very small deck of cards.  Verdict: Yeah!!!
  • Rise of Augustus (1 play): This game was nominated for SdJ the same year as Qwixx, and I think this is a much better nominee.  It is indeed gamer bingo, but is still very light and enjoyable in the right situations.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Sellswords (2 plays): I got this as a review game from Level 99.  It’s an interesting abstract that is comparable to (but very different than) Equinox.  I think I like Equinox more, but this is still pretty good.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Shadow of the Sun (1 play): A friend brought this to game night, and it didn’t sit well with me at all.  Everything you can do is completely dependent on the cards you can draw, and that’s just not fun for me.  Verdict: Bleah.
  • Sheriff of Nottingham (3 plays): I didn’t know how much I would like this, not being a very good liar, but it is pretty enjoyable.  At the very least, it sparks a memorable experience when played.  Verdict: Yeah!!
  • Slapshot (1 play): I’ve heard legends about this for years, and finally got to play it.  I was underwhelmed.  It was OK, but a little too random for me to really get into it.  Verdict: Meh.
  • Snowdonia (1 play): I thought this game would be about snow.  Instead, it’s a railroad-themed worker placement game.  It was good – I’d like to give it another try now that I know what’s going on.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Space Sheep (4 plays): This is a game I tried to learn from the rulebook in order to demo, and did not do very well (which I blame partially on the rulebook).  I think there’s a good game here, but after four plays, I haven’t found it.  I need to learn from someone who knows the game, I think.  Verdict: Meh?
  • Splendor (9 plays): Love this game.  It’s easy to teach, quick to play, and has some great components.  I haven’t played it’s competitors, but I do wish this one had won the SdJ this year.  Verdict: Yeah!!!
  • Spurs: A Tale in the Old West (2 plays): The Old West theme comes across pretty well in this roll-and-move game.  I liked it well enough, but I think that fewer players is probably better.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • StreetSoccer (1 play): It’s a roll-and-move soccer game!  It was OK, I suppose, nothing very exciting.  Verdict: Meh.
  • String Railway (1 play): Area control where the area is defined by actual string.  It was intriguing, though I think it might be better with more than two players.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Suburbia (1 play): I really like this city building game.  Lots of cool combos to find, even if the look is a bit on the bland side.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Sushi Go! (1 play): I played a print-and-play version of this, and liked it.  It’s like 7 Wonders, but simpler.  I want to play the full version now that it’s out.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Telestrations (2 plays): I had a demo of this at GenCon a couple of years ago but this year was the first that I got to play it for reals.  And I really don’t like it.  It’s one of those games where I think people try to force the hilarity, while meanwhile I’m trying to play the game.  I’ll pass, thanks.  Verdict: Bleah!
  • Templar Intrigue (1 play): A Resistance style microgame with a medieval theme.  I enjoyed my one play – it was pretty quick, and offered some variety from round to round.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Tiny Epic Kingdoms (1 play): A small 4X game (well, actually only 3X).  I hesitate to call it a microgame because of all the bits, but it is tiny.  I enjoyed my one play, and would play again.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Tokaido (3 plays): A beautiful game with a unique theme – tourists.  It utilizes the time track mechanism very well, and is a very peaceful game.  Very accessible.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Too Many Monkeys (1 play): Some friends brought this kid’s game back from vacation, and couldn’t wait to show it to me.  It was actually pretty fun for what it is (which is a kid’s game).  I’d recommend it.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • VOLT (1 play): I thought this one was going to be a dumbed down RoboRally, but it really offered something new to the programmed robot genre.  I enjoyed it, and would definitely play again.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • The Walking Dead Card Game (1 play): I give a big thumbs up to Cryptozoic for making 6 nimmt! accessible to the masses by slapping The Walking Dead on it.  I give them a thumbs down for component quality and for really not making the theme very interesting.  I haven’t tried heroic mode yet, but I’m happy with 6 nimmt! rules.  Verdict: Yeah for the game, Meh for the theme, Bleah for the components.
  • WayWord (1 play): Tom Jolly sent this to me as a review game.  And it’s a good one – you’re building paths of words to score points.  I’d definitely recommend it to people looking for something beyond Scrabble.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • WeyKick (1 play): Crokinole was big in my game group, but this year’s new hotness was WeyKick.  This game got played a lot.  It’s soccer with magnets.  I only got to play one full game, though I did kick around some shots off and on.  Verdict: Yeah!
  • Wits & Wagers Family (1 play): I like Wits & Wagers, and I think this is an appropriate port to a family game.  The scoring has been simplified, which is good.  The questions are more kid focused, which is OK since it’s a family game.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Zombology (2 plays): Jackson Pope sent this to me after I helped him with some feedback during NaGaDeMon last year.  I got to play it a couple of times, and it was enjoyable enough.  It’s not really about zombies, but about trying to find the cure.  Verdict: Yeah.
  • Zooloretto: The Dice Game (1 play): A fairly innocuous dice game based on Zooloretto.  It’s OK, though I prefer the board game (actually, I prefer Coloretto).  But a good portable dice game that goes quickly.  Verdict: Yeah.

On to the award!  I nominated five games for this list, with the caveat that I had to have played each nominee more than once.  This cut out a bunch of potential nominee, but I’m happy with my final list.  Most are from 2014, with one 2011 game sneaking in at the last moment.

  • ARGENT: THE CONSORTIUM (Trey Chambers, Level 99 Games, 2014)
  • DEAD OF WINTER (Jon Gilmour/Isaac Vega, Plaid Hat Games, 2014)
  • FRIDAY (Friedemann Friese, 2F Spiele/Rio Grande Games, 2011)
  • RED7 (Carl Chudyk/Chris Cieslik, Asmadi Games, 2014)
  • SPLENDOR (Marc André, Space Cowboys, 2014)

And the winner of the first annual Spiel des Jesse is…

image by BGG user Shampoo4you
image by BGG user Shampoo4you

Argent: The Consortium!  To be honest, Dead of Winter was the clear frontrunner until I played Argent.  I still like Dead of Winter a lot, I just think Argent is more of what I like in games – lots of variety, lots of different strategies to pursue, and a whole heck of a lot of chaos.  But I would gladly play any of the games on this list, and think you should play them all!

OK, folks, that’s it.  Happy 2015 – I’ll be back in a few days with my annual State of the Blog report, and then it’s off to the races for a whole new year of gaming goodness!  As always, thanks for reading!

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