Boards and Bees Turns Nine! (Plus a Top 11 Update)

With Spiel 2010 just around the corner, it seems that 7 Wonders is about to conquer the world of board gaming much like Dominion did in 2008.  After hearing talk about it, I looked into the rules.

Those words were posted nine years ago today, and were the words that launched this very blog. Since that first game overview, there have been 898 other posts covering all kinds of topics in the gaming world (and a few outside). So here we are, post 900, my annual retrospective of all things Boards and Bees.

Well, there’s not much to report. Things have been chugging along. I’m still a one-man show, putting out content at least twice a week. Sometimes I work well ahead of deadline, sometimes I’m scrambling to get a post up on a Tuesday or Friday, but I’ve mostly stuck to it. Life gets in the way sometimes, but you know how that is.

Over the last year, I’ve managed to do some reviews, some game overviews, some session reports, some random con previews, and some game design posts. I finished up last year’s Eleven Artists series and started the Eleven Game Changers series. I have no idea what, if anything, I’ll be doing for next year’s Eleven. I’ve also streamlined and shortened my Kickstarter Blitzes. And to be perfectly honest, I’m feeling kind of burnt out on those, so those may end soon. Just a heads up.

Really, my favorite thing that I’ve been doing lately has been the Random Convention Previews. If you haven’t seen them, that is where I just randomly select some games that will be available at a particular convention and talk about them. It’s easier than manually perusing the lists, and helps me find what might be some hidden gems.

But I’m still enjoying writing this blog. It’s cathartic for me to learn about games and talk about them. And it helps fill some of the void, since I’m not playing nearly as much as I’d like to.

Four years ago, I posted my Top 99 of all time. The full list is posted up on the top bar above. I’ve thought about redoing the list as plenty of things have changed, but it’s a lot of work, and I mostly did it then so I could have something scheduled to post automatically after my daughter was born. So, rather than doing the full list, I’m just going to post my current Top 11.

image by BGG user monteslu

11. DOMINION (previously #7) – Ever since I first played this shortly after it came out, I’ve been quite taken with this first of the deck-builders. It’s a very clean game, very fun, and plays really quickly with people who know what they’re doing. Sure, the theme is non-existent, and it can feel like you’re not interacting with other people, but it’s ultimately a race to get the most points before things end. I really enjoy it, though I haven’t played in a while.

image by BGG user FC Dynamo Turbine

10. BLUE MOON CITY (previously N/A) – This is one of the few Reiner Knizia games I enjoy. At its heart, it’s an area control game, but there’s something about getting increasing benefits for different tiles by completing adjacent ones that makes it something different. Also, I love making the choice of when to use cards for their abilities, and it has great art (I have the Fantasy Flight edition, not the recent CMON reprint). Most Knizia games feel really mathy to me, but this one doesn’t (even though it still is pretty mathy). It would have been pretty high up in my last list as well, but somehow it got omitted when I was putting together titles.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

9. SHADOW HUNTERS (previously #3) – There is no reason why I should like this game. It’s social deduction. It has player elimination. It has roll and move. It has random damage assigned by die rolls. It should be a horrible game, but for some reason, it all WORKS. I attribute that to the Neutrals in the game, which make the game much more interesting than it would be if it were just Shadows versus Hunters (by the way, don’t play this four player – it’s  just Shadows versus Hunters). It’s dropped a bit because I rarely have the right crowd to play anymore.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

8. ARGENT: THE CONSORTIUM (previously #9) – This was my first Spiel des Jesse winner, and I still love it. Granted, I don’t get to play it much because it is such a table hog, but it’s a fantastic game about trying to gain the votes in order to become the Chancellor of Argent University. It’s got very clever worker placement mechanisms as the different works have different powers. There’s an incredible amount of variety in the box, and I love it.

image by BGG user Fubeca

7. BURGLE BROS (previously N/A) – This was my third Spiel des Jesse winner, and it’s still a game that I can’t get enough of. I’m a fan of heist movies, and this is one of the only games I’ve played that really gets the tension of a good heist movie right. Each game is a unique experience as the setup changes every game. A sequel was recently Kickstarted, and I’m eager to see how that one works, though I don’t know if it would replace this one for me.

image by BGG user Werbaer

6. PUERTO RICO (previously #4) – I think this game stands out as one of the finest designed games ever. It’s incredibly clean, and perfected the role selection mechanism. It has dropped for a lot of gamers over the years mostly because people have studied it to the point that they know all of the strategies and get upset when people don’t make the optimal move. People also scream loudly about the theming, and specifically its glossing over of the slavery issue. Those things don’t bother me too much – I tend to forget how good the game is until I play it again.

image aby BGG user Siegfried

5. SEASONS (still #5) – At GenCon 2012, I ran to the Asmodee booth to pick up this game, only to find out they had sold out to the people who got in before the convention doors opened. When I did finally get my copy, I love it. The art is amazing, and was what first attracted me, but the game is a very clever take on dice drafting and resource management.

image by BGG user cambridgeganes

4. GLORY TO ROME (previously #12) – This game is a hot mess. It really is. The art is admittedly atrocious, the cards are hard to decipher, your play area can get incredibly cluttered, and the special powers are really out of balance. And, like Shadow Hunters, all that disaster leads to a great game. There’s a ton of strategy involved, and it takes role selection to a whole new level. The black box version Cambridge Games Factory cleaned everything up visually, but I feel like it took a lot of the charm away when it did.

image by BGG user angelkurisu

3. INNOVATION (previously #13) – This is another one from Carl Chudyk, and it’s basically interchangeable with Glory to Rome – I flip-flop on which one I like better. This is a civilization card game where you’re developing through the eras, trying to score enough achievements to win. It’s got its own unique vocabulary, and like GTR, every single card is broken – which is fascinating. A card can win the game for you one time, and be utterly worthless the next. It’s an amazing game.

image by BGG user Purple

2. GALAXY TRUCKER (still #2) – This is the first game in the hobby that I got really excited about. When I first saw it on an old video (that I can’t find anymore), I instantly knew it was something I would love. And I did, and I continue to, as you can see by it still being in my top 2. The game is not for everyone – a lot of people hate the lack of control you have when horrible things start happening to your ship in the second half of the round. But I think it’s hilarious, and it’s a game I can play over and over, still having a ton of fun.

image by BGG user poppentje

1. CRIBBAGE (always #1) – When I named this as my number one game last time, some readers expressed surprise. I think they were expecting the list to be all hobby games, and weren’t expecting me to name a nearly 400-year-old traditional card game as my favorite game ever. But it is. It’s part nostalgia as I grew up watching my dad and grandfather play, but it’s also an amazing game of strategy. There is a lot of luck involved – a novice can win if they just get the right cards – but knowing the odds and how to try to manipulate that luck is critical to success. This is a game I’ll never turn down playing, and that’s why it’s my number one.

So that’s another year. We’re marching towards the end of the first decade – join me for the ride, won’t you? Thanks for reading!

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