2017 is my tenth year in the hobby. I’ll be celebrating ten years on BGG on August 30, and Christmas will mark ten years since I got my first real hobby game – Puerto Rico. So, this year on The Eleven, I’ll be looking at each year from 2007 to 2016, and picking out some of my favorite games from each. As always, this is not a ranked list, and I’m not necessarily saying these are definitively the best games from each year, I’m just saying that these are some of my favorites of those that I’ve played. Also, I didn’t play these games when they first came out, but I have played all of them since – I’ve included a New To Me date for each one. Disclaimers out of the way, let’s get started with my first year in the hobby, 2007!
Alchemist is a 2-5 player game by Carlo A. Rossi that was published in the US by Mayfair Games. Each player starts the game with 12 random ingredient cubes that are kept secret behind a screen. On your turn, you may create a new potion, copy an existing potion, or take ingredients. To create a new potion, choose one of the ten cauldrons on the board and add 1-5 ingredients, not using any ingredient more than twice and not using any ingredient that matches one of the preprinted byproducts for that cauldron. After creating the potion, you’ll choose how many points it is worth (1-10, with each point value only able to be used once). To copy an existing potion, discard the ingredients from a recipe you did not create (except for one, which you give to the creator of that recipe). You then score the points the potion was worth. If you want to take ingredients, take one from the reserve or two randomly from the bag. When two or fewer ingredient types remain in the supply, the game is over and the high score wins.
What makes Alchemist really interesting is that decision about how many points to give for potion values. Go too high, and you’ll get lots of people scoring points off of you, but you’ll also get lots of free cubes. Go too low, and no one will think it’s worth their time. Make it too hard, and people will avoid it just because they can’t afford it. It’s a game I’ve played a couple of times in real life, and several times online, and one I can NOT get my head around. I still like it, however.
NEW TO ME: May 30, 2010
Archaeology: The Card Game is a 2-4 player game designed by Phil Walker-Harding that was originally published by his company, Adventureland Games. It was picked up by Z-Man Games in 2009, then published in a new edition in 2016. In Archaeology, players are trying to collect artifacts in order to sell them to museums for points. On your turn, you must first draw a card, which could be an artifact, a map, a thief, or a sandstorm. A thief allows you to steal a card from another player. A sandstorm loses all players half of their cards. In any case, you can then trade with the market, or play a set out in front of you, or use a map to plunder the monument (the Great Pyramid was the only one in the original game, but there are a total of six in the new edition). Once all players have played all cards from their hand, the game is over and the highest score wins.
Archaeology is a great set collection game. It plays pretty quickly, and works well with all player counts (the new edition goes up to 5 players, and still works fairly well). It’s a pretty easy game to get into, and while the theme is not super strong, it does help frame what you’re doing.
NEW TO ME: July 7, 2016
Galaxy Trucker was Vlaada Chvátil’s break out game, published by Czech Games Edition and Rio Grande Games. This 2-4 player game is all about building your ship from old sewer parts, then trucking them across the galaxy for profit. Each of the game’s three rounds is divided into two phases. In the first phase, players are grabbing parts from the center and adding them to their ships in real-time, attempting to get crew holds, cargo holds, engines, guns, batteries, shields, and alien life support before all the good stuff is gone. In the second phase, players set out on their journey across the galaxy. The journey will not be easy – in fact, bad things WILL happen – and the players who are lucky enough to limp into the final stop with a functional ship will earn lots of cash. If you have any cash at all at the end of the game, you win. However, if you have more cash than anyone else, you are a little bit more of a winner.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? I LOVE THIS GAME. It’s my second favorite game of all time, right behind Cribbage. It’s an absolutely hilarious good time, especially if you go into knowing and accepting that your ship is going to get torn to shreds and there’s nothing you can do about it. One of my best gaming memories ever is getting the back half of my ship blown off on the very first card of the last round. Good times. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s fantastic.
NEW TO ME: December 28, 2008
Jamaica is a 3-6 player game by Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, and Sébastien Pauchon that was published by GameWorks. It’s a pirate race game where players are racing around the island of Jamaica, attempting to gather goods and money that will help them be successful. Each round, one player will roll two dice and decide which will represent day and which will represent night. All players will then choose a card from their hand, and in turn order will apply the day and night dice to their card. This could cause them to gain cannons (useful for attacking opponents), food (useful for paying dock fees), or money (also useful for paying dock fees). You could also move forward or backward. When a pirate reaches Port Royal (the finish line), the game ends once everyone has completed their turn for the round. You’ll then add up points to see who won – points come from treasures, gold, and how far you are from the finish line.
Jamaica is a very light game, but it’s a lot of fun. I tend to play with a variant where everyone does their day action, then everyone does their night action rather than doing both on one turn. It makes the game a little more thematic and emphasizes the programming aspect a little more. But overall, it’s a fantastic family game. The art is very very good as well.
NEW TO ME: June 24, 2009
Kingsburg is a 2-5 player game by Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco that was published originally by Stratelibri, with Fantasy Flight distributing it in the US. It’s a dice allocation game where players are trying to influence different advisors to gain resources that will be used to construct buildings and hopefully defeat invaders. The game is broken up into five years, with each year separated into three productive seasons and an invasion. During the productive seasons, players will roll their dice and use them to influence various people on a pyramid structure, from the Jester all the way to the King himself. At the end of each year, an enemy will appear, and if you can defeat it, you gain a small bonus. However, if you cannot defeat it, you will incur a significant penalty. After five years, the player with the most points is the winner.
Kingsburg marks what I see as a turning point in hobby board games. Up until that point, dice were almost completely shunned in Eurogames. There had been a few games that successfully used dice (such as Yspahan in 2006), but mostly, it was seen as too random and avoided. When Kingsburg came out, it proved that there was a way to use dice in a Eurogame that was engaging and didn’t completely rely on luck. Also, it had a fantasy theme, something that was almost unheard of in Eurogames. I see Kingsburg as the game that practically invented hybrid games because of this, and that makes it one of the most important games to come out in 2007.
On a personal note: I HAVE NEVER WON A GAME OF KINGSBURG. The closest I ever got was a three-way tie in a three-player game, and I lost the tiebreaker because I didn’t have enough buildings. The dice seriously hate me in this game. I have had at least one game where I wasn’t able to get above the second row the entire time. Despite that, I still really enjoy it.
NEW TO ME: June 23, 2009
Marrakech is a 2-4 player game by Dominique Ehrhard that was published by Gigamic. It’s essentially an abstract game where players are trying to manipulate the movement of a rug market owner in order to make the most money. On your turn, you roll a die and move the market owner (Assam) 1-3 spaces. If he stops on one of your opponents’ rugs, you must pay them according to how big a space their rugs cover. Then you place one of your rugs so that it is adjacent to Assam, covering two spaces. The game ends when the last rug is used. Each rug half you have visible and each coin you have is worth a point, and the high score wins.
The coolest thing about this game is the rugs. It probably would have been easier and cheaper to use cardboard tiles to represent the rugs, but this game uses actual strips of cloth cut to cover two spaces. The game itself is interesting and I like it, but it sets itself apart by using rugs.
NEW TO ME: January 1, 2013
Notre Dame is a 2-5 player game designed by Stefan Feld and published by alea (Rio Grande distributed the original run in the US). Players are trying to build up their regions around the famous cathedral of Notre Dame over the course of nine rounds. In each round, you will first draft cards from an initial hand of three. Then each player will take two actions, which could get you more cubes, more money, more points, or fewer rats. At the end of each round, players will have the opportunity to hire a person before the rats attack. Let the rats get to numerous and you will suffer harsh penalties as the plague takes hold. Whomever has the highest score at the end of the ninth round is the winner.
Notre Dame was the first hobby game I bought when we moved to Champaign, IL and I had a game store that was relatively close to me. I’ve enjoyed it ever since. There’s a lot to think about, and as it’s an early Feld game, it’s pretty cool to see some things that would later emerge as his signature style. There’s a tenth anniversary edition coming out later this year, hopefully it does well.
NEW TO ME: June 25, 2008
Parade is a 2-6 player game by Naoki Homma that was originally published in Japanese by Grimpeur in 2008. It was later picked up by Z-Man in 2010, and had its most recent edition (the fourth) published in 2015. In Parade, you are trying to avoid points as you add the characters of Alice in Wonderland to a Parade. Each card is in one of six suits, and is numbered 0-10. If, on your turn, you play a card to the end of the parade that is less than the number of cards already in the parade, you’ll take any cards less than or equal to the card you played as well as cards of the same suit that are near the beginning. Once the deck runs out, or a player collects their sixth suit, the game ends and the lowest score wins.
Parade is a game that twists your brain around a little bit. You’re trying to avoid getting points, but at the same time, if you have the most cards in a single suit, you’ll only get one point per card rather than face value. It’s a delicate line to walk, and I enjoy it. It’s a very clever quick small game.
NEW TO ME: May 21, 2016
Race for the Galaxy is a 2-4 player game by Thoas Lehmann and published by Rio Grande Games. It started life as a card game version of Puerto Rico, but then Andreas Seyfarth did San Juan (using some of Lehmann’s ideas), so it was rethemed into a sci-fi game. On each round, players each choose one of five actions – Explore, Develop, Settle, Consume, or Produce. Then, depending on which actions got chosen, players will get an opportunity to draw new cards, build developments, settle colonies, consume resources, or produce new resources on select planets. The game ends when someone has twelve cards in their tableau, or when the VP chips run out. The player with the most points wins.
What I’ve always liked about Race is that simultaneous selection of actions. It leads to some great indirect interaction as you try to think about what your opponents will do and what you should do to take advantage of that. The game has always gotten a lot of flak for its symbology, but I don’t think it’s any better or worse than a lot of games that try to use icons for shorthand.
NEW TO ME: April 25, 2009
Thebes is a 2-4 player game by Peter Prinz and Queen Games. It’s a reprint of the 2004 game Jenseits von Theben. In Thebes, players are archaeologists trying to gain the knowledge needed to go to various dig sites and hopefully find fabulous treasures. On each turn, you can move around the map and spend time doing various tasks, such as gaining knowledge or digging. When digging, you compare how much time you want to take with how much knowledge you have, then pull cardboard out of a bag. If you get a treasure, you keep it, but if you get sand, it goes back in the bag. After a couple of years, the game ends and the player who has scored the most points is the winner.
Thebes is one of the first games to use the time track, a fabulous mechanism that I wish was used a lot more than it is. This time track makes things much more thematic, as does the drawing of tokens from the bag. That drawing is very random, and you can sometimes draw a lot and get very little. However, the game is still a lot of fun and thematic, and a good one for families.
NEW TO ME: July 7, 2009
Vikings is a 2-4 player game by Michael Kiesling that was published in the US originally by Rio Grande Games, with Z-Man taking over the license in 2014. In the game, you are Vikings, but with significantly less pillaging than you might imagine. The game is played over six rounds, and in each round, players take turns purchasing a Viking and land combination from a rotating wheel that determines price. Blue Vikings feed your people. Yellow Vikings give you gold. Green and Red Vikings score you points. Black Vikings repel ships that would take gold or points from you. After six rounds, the Viking with the most points wins.
This game is my absolute favorite three-player game. You can play with two or four, but with two, it is extremely difficult to feed all of your people; with four, it feels like you don’t get enough Vikings. I still like it, but I love it with three. The game could have been themed to just about anything, but at least you get cool little Viking meeples included.
NEW TO ME: January 10, 2010
There’s a couple of notable games I left off the list that I wanted to mention here. First, Zooloretto – I like it, but I think it pales in comparison with its predecessor, Coloretto. Then there’s Agricola, the 900-pound gorilla that dethroned Puerto Rico from the top of the BGG rankings. I don’t like it nearly as much as a lot of people do – I always feel like it’s more work than it’s worth in the end.
So that’s my take on 2007. We’ll take a look at 2008 in March. Thanks for reading!