I set a goal for myself on January 1 of 2022 to play at least one game a day this year. And I’m happy to say that I was successful! Most of them were solo games, and I typically played the same game several times in a row. They were usually games I already knew, but I did get to play some that were new to me. So here’s my annual new-to-me list, with a declaration of the winner of this year’s Spiel des Jesse. Ratings are based on my patented (patent pending) Yeah-Meh-Bleah scale.
- Abstract Academy – A card game from the designers of Point Salad. It’s cool. Very abstract, but an interesting way to doa kind of tile laying puzzle. Yeah.
- Bargain Quest – A game where you’re the shopkeeper supplying the heroes going out to fight the baddies. It’s a great twist on a common theme. I played with two, and I suspect I would have liked it more with more players. Yeah.
- Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger – I grew up on CYOA books, and this was my first time playing a CYOA game. And…it wasn’t great for me. I played solo, and it’s probably better to play with some others because I think I just blitzed through some cards. I want to try again with more people. Meh.
- The Cupid Crisis – One of three Holiday Hijinks games I played this year, and probably my favorite. Yeah!
- Delicious – A flip-and-write game from Pencil First. It’s good, though I wish it were a bit more interactive. Yeah.
- For Northwood! – I got this as a pre-Kickstarter review game. It’s a solo trick-taking game. Pretty clever, though I definitely had some issues with the win conditions. Yeah.
- FORK – An upcoming trick-taking game that will be crowdfunded. I got to play a review copy, and the review is coming soon. Yeah.
- The Fox in the Forest – A two-player trick-taking game. Some really interesting choices to be made here. I’m trying to get more into trick-taking games lately, and this was a fun one. Yeah!
- Game of Trains – We got this for my parents a few years ago, and I finally got a chance to play it. It’s basically Rack-O with trains. Not bad. Yeah.
- Gnomes At Night – This is my daughter’s game. It’s a stand-up magnet game, a little like Pyramid of Pengqueen, but it’s cooperative. It’s an interesting puzzle. Yeah.
- Hunters of the Lost Creatures – I got a prerelease review copy of this. It’s very light, and probably not one I’ll play much. Meh.
- In Dreams – A beautiful storytelling RPG that I think people will like, but ultimately was not for me. Meh+.
- Jetpack Joyride – I’ve had this for a couple of years, and finally pulled it off the shelf to play solo. It seems like a game I’d rather play with more people to get more of that race feel, but I did enjoy it. Yeah.
- Kodama: The Tree Spirits – I’ve had my eye on this one for a long time, and we finally got a copy this year. My family loves it. My seven-year-old daughter does quite well with the game, and we all enjoy how the tree grows out. Yeah!!!
- Kraken Attack – We got this one for my daughter. It’s a very easy cooperative game for kids with some really cool pieces. A light and enjoyable game. Yeah.
- Mandala – This two-player abstract card game has a cloth mat, and is all about collecting sets. It’s really well designed, and I really enjoy it. Yeah!!!
- New York Zoo – The biggest problem with this game is also one of it’s coolest features – the little tiny wooden animals. They’re cool, but it takes some very delicate dexterity to move them around. Yeah!
- Parks – A really fun trail game. I liked the art and components a lot. I thought maybe four rounds would seem too short, but the whole thing felt pretty satisfying. Yeah!!!
- The Pumpkin Problem – Another Holiday Hijinks game, this one themed around Halloween. And another good one. Yeah.
- Railroad Ink – A railroad themed roll and write game I got as a Christmas present. It’s a very interesting puzzle. I enjoyed it. Yeah!
- Set a Watch – I was very excited to get this solo game, but the first time I set it up, I got a bit confused and never played all the way through. I did finally get to play it, and really liked it. There are some fascinating mechanisms going on. Yeah!!!
- The Shipwreck Arcana – This is a deduction game where you’re simply trying to figure out the number someone is holding based on some minimal clues they are giving. I really want to play this some more. Yeah!
- Sunset over Water – This beautiful game is all about painting landscapes. It uses the same kind of wake up first mechanism as something like Fresco, but does it in a pretty unique way. Yeah!!!
- Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up – This is the sequel to the original Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade. I got both physical games at the end of 2021, but first played this one in 2022, so it’s on the list. Four new boards, and each one provides a kind of different experience. Yeah!
- Ten – This number based game is a push your luck game where you’re trying to create sequences of cards in order to score the most points. It can take a minute to get your head around the concepts, but it works very well. Yeah.
- Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition – I only got to play this once (solo), so it’s ineligible for the Spiel des Jesse. But it’s a very good game with some obvious inspiration from Race for the Galaxy. Yeah!!!
- Traditional Deck Games – At one point this year, I got really into playing traditional deck games. Not Klondike or anything like that, but modern games designed to be played with a traditional deck. I even tried my hand at creating a couple of my own. I played a bunch of them, and I won’t list them here, but if you’re interested, you can check out my Geeklist on the subject: My Big Book of Solo Traditional Deck Card Games
- Trekking the National Parks – This is a kind of Ticket to Ride-esque game where players are traveling around to different national parks and trying to collect souvenirs. It’s pretty light, but fun. Yeah.
- Under Falling Skies – This solo game is all about trying to survive an alien invasion. I haven’t tried out the campaign yet, but the base game is very good. Yeah!!!
- Weavlings in the Wilds – Another prerelease review game. It’s more interesting than I thought it would be, though luck can play a big role in how everything works out. Yeah.
And with that, it’s time to hand out the annual Spiel des Jesse, my award for the best new-to-me game of the year. The rules for eligibilty: I have to have played for the first time in 2022, and I have to have played at least twice (which eliminates two potential contenders, Parks and Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition, both of which were only played once). Also, I have to have really liked it, but that should be obvious. Here are this year’s nominees.
- Kodama: The Tree Spirits – 2016, designed by Daniel Solis, published by Action Phase Games/Indie Boards and Cards
- Mandala – 2019, designed by Trevor Benjamin and Brett J. Gilbert, published by Lookout Games
- Set a Watch – 2019, designed by Mike Gnade and Todd Walsh, published by Rock Manor Games
- Sunset over Water – 2018, designed by Eduardo Baraf and Steve Finn, published by Pencil First Games
- Under Falling Skies – 2020, designed by Tomáš Uhlíř, published by Czech Games Edition
And the winner is…
In a year where I played so many solo games, it’s interesting to me that I’d pick this two-player abstract game. But Mandala is my choice. It’s got such an interesting puzzle element to it, with the tug-of-war going on to score at the right time, and also try to score the most points possible. It’s very clever, it’s very pretty, and it’s my favorite new-to-me game of the year.
Quite honestly, nothing super blew me away this year. My nominees are all games I really enjoy, but in other years, I don’t know that any of them would have competed for the win. But, they’re all good, and I look forward to playing all again. Still, congratulations Mandala, and welcome to the Boards and Bees Hall of Fame, joining previous winners Argent: The Consortium (2014), Colt Express (2015), Burgle Bros (2016), Clank! (2017), Azul (2018), Rhino Hero Super Battle (2019), Roll Player (2020), and The Isle of Cats (2021).
That wraps up another year of the blog. Normally, I’d do a reflection/anticipation post next, but not this year. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know my output has dropped off in the last year and a half. That’s not going to change – this blog is still going to be relatively infrequent. I do have a new series that I’ll be starting soon, so you can look forward to that. Thanks for sticking with me!