This is the fourth post in this series going back through my decade in the hobby. 2010 is an important year for me because it’s the year I started Boards and Bees. So I’m looking forward to revisiting some of the games I talked about when they were brand new. As always, this is not a ranked list, just games from the year that I enjoyed. On with the show!
7 Wonders (Antoine Bauza, Repos Productions) is the undisputed biggest hit of 2010. It’s not the first games that used card drafting as a mechanism, but it was one of the first to build an entire game around it, much like Dominion did with deckbuilding in 2008. The game plays with up to 7 people, each with a different wonder. In each of three ages, players begin with a hand of seven cards, from which they will choose one to play immediately. These cards range from resources to military strength to scientific achievements to prestige buildings to gold production. Cards can either be played face up, paying the required cost, or can be discarded for money, or can be played face down (along with the required resources) to build a stage of the player’s wonder. The remaining cards in your hand then get passed, and this continues until all players just have two cards remaining. They’ll play one and discard the other, which ends the round. After calculating military achievements, you begin a new age. After the third age, the player with the most points wins.
This game has served as the template for a number of drafting games that followed, including Sushi Go and Lost Legends. It really brought drafting to the forefront of game design, and while it’s often easier to include the mechanism as a part of a larger game, 7 Wonders proved it can be pretty much the only thing going and the game still works. The two player version, 7 Wonders Duel, was released in 2015 and is currently #8 at BGG (the original is #37), but 7 Wonders is clearly one of the best releases of 2010. (Also, it was the subject of my very first post on this blog.)
Alien Frontiers (Tory Neimann, Clever Mojo Games) is the game we have to thank for the current Kickstarter craze. In this 2-4 player game, players are trying to colonize a new planet. On your turn, you will roll the dice you have available and place them out into various areas. You could send them out to get resources (fuel or ore). You could send them out to colonize. Or you send them out to build your fleet through gaining new dice, gaining alien artifacts, or stealing cards from your opponents. Each area takes a different combination of dice to activate. Once you have a colony, you get a point and the different regions of the planet give special abilities (plus a point) to the person who controls them. When one player places their final colony, the game ends and the high score wins.
When Alien Frontiers launched its Kickstarter campaign in April of 2010, not many people were really sure what that was. It was pretty successful too, making $14,885 on a $5,000 goal. I say that it was successful – in today’s era of stretch goals, that would probably be considered a really low final total. But Alien Frontiers was the first game to make a splash on Kickstarter, and it’s still finding its way there seven years later (a fifth edition from Game Salute made over $100,000 on a $47,777 goal back in February). It’s a pretty important game, and a pretty good one as well, though it was definitely improved by the Factions expansion.
Catacombs (Ryan Amos/Marc Kelsey/Aron West, Elzra Corp) was a game that brought together dungeon crawling and dexterity. One player is the Overseer, and is responsible for setting up the dungeons and playing as the bad guys. The other players are heroes, trying to make their way through the dungeon and defeat the boss at the end. In each room, players will be moving around by flicking discs and attempting to hit monsters. If they do not clear the room by the time everyone has gone, the Overseer gets to flick the monsters around in an attempt to hit the heroes. There are opportunities to buy items and heal as you go, but the ultimate goal of the heroes is to defeat the main villain at the end of the dungeon, and the Overseer’s goal is to kill all of the heroes.
When Catacombs came out, I feel like a lot of people said, “Huh, why didn’t I think of that?” Until that point, flicking games were either abstract, like Crokinole, or racing games, like PitchCar. But Catacombs opened up a whole world of thematic flickers, including Ascending Empires, Rampage/Terror in Meeple City, and Flick ‘Em Up! A new edition with much better art came out in 2015.
Forbidden Island (Matt Leacock, Gamewright Games) is a streamlined, more accessible for younger audiences version of the 2008 cooperative game Pandemic. Rather than facing apocalyptic diseases that threaten to wipe out humanity, this game has you trying to collect treasures from an island before it sinks. On your turn, you have three actions to complete. These could be to move, shore up sinking tiles, give cards to people on your space, or turn in enough cards in the right location to discover one of the four treasures. It’s not that simple, however. At the end of your turn, the island will sink some more, and tiles that go completely underwater disappear from the game. In addition, you will run across Waters Rise cards, which reshuffle the locations that are already in jeopardy and cause you to possibly draw more cards. If you as a group can collect all four treasures and ALL make it back to the helicopter before the island completely sinks, you win. If any treasure becomes inaccessible, or if someone gets cut off from the helipad, or if the helipad itself disappears, everyone loses.
This is a great game, and probably a better gateway type of game than Pandemic, just because the theming is so much more palatable. My wife won’t play Pandemic, but she loves Forbidden Island. Part of that is that it looks REALLY good – it pretty much sets the standard for production quality when compared to price point – and part is that it has a really strong narrative arc as you race across the island, just barely making it to the helipad in time and fly away as the last few tiles sink below the waves. A more compile follow up, Forbidden Desert, was released in 2013.
Hanabi (Antoine Bauza, Les XII Singes) was originally released in 2010 as a two game set with Ikebana. Ikebana was almost completely ignored because people liked Hanabi so much, and it eventually won the Spiel des Jahres in 2013 after AbacusSpiele printed the German version (R&R Games has the US rights). Hanabi is a cooperative game where players have a hand of fireworks cards that everyone else can see but themselves. On your turn, you either play a card, hoping to get it in sequence with cards on the table; or you give someone else a hint about what they have, telling them all cards of a certain number or color; or you discard a card and hope it’s not something you needed. Once the deck runs out and all players have had a final turn, the game is scored based on how many cards were played correctly. A perfect score is 25, but I’ve never gotten higher than 18.
Hanabi messes with your head. You have to remember stuff about cards you can’t even see, and you have to be able to give appropriate clues. It’s a tough game, but it’s a lot of fun. I, like most people, didn’t play it until it was under Spiel des Jahres consideration. But it’s a fun one, and if you haven’t played it, you should check it out.
Innovation (Carl Chudyk, Asmadi Games) was Chudyk’s next game after the enormously successful Glory to Rome, first published in 2005. It’s a civilization card game where players are trying to be the first to a certain number of achievements. On a turn a player may draw new cards from the deck of the highest age they have so far attained; they may play cards out of their hands to the top of piles of the same color; they may use the special abilities of their top cards; or they may take an achievement if they have a high enough score or have met another condition. You have to keep an eye on your opponents as you play, because if someone is more powerful than you in a certain symbol, they may be able to take the same action as you and take it first. The first person to the target number of achievements, or the first person to complete a special winning condition on a card they have in play, is the winner.
If I was ranking these lists, this would be my number one game of 2010. It’s BRILLIANT. There’s just so much going on in a relatively small package. Any card can give you a massive advantage if played at the right time, but at the same time, one amazing card in one game can be utterly useless in the next. Every game plays out completely differently, and you’ll discover a new strategy every single time. I love it. The game has been reprinted a few times with “better” art, but I really like the minimalist feel of the original.
Isla Dorada (Bruno Faidutti, Funforge/Fantasy Flight) is a game based on systems created by Alan R. Moon (Elfenland) and Andrea Angiolino/Pier Giorgio Paglia (Ulysses). In the game, you will be moving around as a group to different locations on the island. Everyone has their own goal of where they want to go, and everyone has a place they want to avoid. In each of the sixteen rounds, players will bid to see which way the party will move. If you end up on a space that matches a treasure you have, reveal it for positive points. At the same time, if you end up on a space that matches your cursed cards, reveal it for negative points. There are special adventure cards you may be able to play throughout. After 16 rounds, the player who has collected the most treasure points wins.
I wasn’t too sure about this game the first time I played it. I mean, it’s an auction game for crying out loud. But it’s actually a lot of fun. There’s a nice tug of war as you try to direct the party and prevent others from sending it to places you don’t want to go. It’s quite lovely, with great art and some pretty cool minis. If you get a chance, check it out.
Lords of Vegas (James Ernest/Mike Selinker, Mayfair Games) is a dice game about building up the Vegas strip. On each turn, you’ll draw a new lot that immediately becomes your possession. Then you can build a new casino on the lot, sprawl into an unowned lot, remodel a casino to a new color, reorganize by rerolling all dice in a casino to possibly change the boss, gamble on the roll of dice, or trade. Once you get to the Vegas Strip card in the deck, the game ends and the high score wins.
Lords of Vegas is an extremely interesting game. There’s a lot of luck in the dice rolls and card draws, but it’s a game where playing the odds is important. Which is entirely thematic. This game was the subject of the first review I ever did on the blog. I loved it then, and I would probably love it even more now had I played more than twice ever. I really need to find a copy.
Onirim (Shadi Torbey, Z-Man Games) is the first game in the Oniverse series. It’s a 1-2 player game, as are all games in the series, though it’s really just a solo game. The basic idea is that you are lost in a labyrinth of dreams and have to find your way out. On a turn, you either play a card to the labyrinth or discard a card. Your goal in the labyrinth is to play three cards of the same color in a row (though you can’t have two cards with the same symbol next to each other). If you do this, you discover one of eight doors needed to escape. As you go, you will encounter Nightmares, and these are dealt with either by discarding a key, discarding a discovered door, discarding your hand, or discarding the top five cards of the deck. If you discover all eight doors, you win. However, if you run out of cards, you are overwhelmed by the Nightmares and you lose.
Onirim is a great solo card game. It doesn’t take up a whole lot of space when playing (unlike other games in the Oniverse), and provides a challenging experience. This challenge can be amped up with the expansions included in the box – 2014’s second edition includes seven expansions, as opposed to just three in the original. It’s a great and beautiful game, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in solo games.
Rattus (Henrik Berg/Åsa Berg, White Goblin Games) is a game set in the fun and whimsical times of the Black Plague. You’re trying to get as many of your cubes as you can on the map, hoping not to get wiped out. On your turn, you’ll add cubes to one region – you add more if there are extra plague tokens present. Then you can move the plague piece and infect other regions, then flip plague tokens and hopefully wipe out your opponents. Each turn, you may also choose one role to help you move faster, add more cubes, protect cubes, move plague pieces, or move your own cubes around. When one player has placed all of their cubes, or the rat tokens are all gone, the game ends and one final plague hits all regions. The player with the most cubes remaining on the board wins.
This is a very good game. It’s not really an area control game because you often do not want to be in the majority in a region – several plague tokens hit the person who has the majority. So you really want to spread out, but you have to be careful not to populate too much in certain areas or those are sure to get hit. I really enjoy the role selection aspect here as well – players can choose to take roles, but the more you have, the more likely you are to get hit by the plague. Despite the ultra-dark theme, this game is worth checking out.
Wok Star (Tim Fowers, Gabob Games) is a game that is on this list more for my first impression than what it evolved into. Wok Star is a cooperative game about running a Chinese restaurant, and it plays in real time. Over a certain number of rounds, players have to collect ingredients and make different recipes to serve customers before they get mad and leave. At the end of each round, you invest your profits into improvements. In the final round, you have to reach a certain amount of money in order to win.
I played this game for the first time in 2011 and loved it. It was a lot of fun, and I was really looking forward to the reprint. And then the reprint kept getting delayed – Z-Man was going to publish, and they requested some changes (such as shortening the game from 6 to 4 rounds), but they never did. Finally, Game Salute picked it up and did publish the game, but I felt a lot of the soul had been sucked out of it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. They swapped out the sand timers of the original for an electronic timer which is really hard to hear in a noisy game room, which was a definite oversight. I wasn’t a fan of a lot of the rule changes either. I think the experience inspired Fowers to start doing his own stuff without a distributor, and I think he’s flourishing because of it. Anyway, I’d suggest trying out a first edition if you can find it.
That’s the list for this month. Thanks for reading!