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Barnes Best 2021
Also great to see the diversity of tastes and depth of thought behind opinions that feels like the TWBG hallmark; I agree with Southernman above that it’s perfectly fine to love your jam whatever it may be, and also with (and extending the opinion of) Charlie that whatever that jam may be, you (meaning all of you) should totally write about it here. Like many I dare say, this site is still my primary source of different + interesting opinions within the hobby.
Adding to the best of commentary I have a few that I liked but only played a handful of times as it’s mostly been a year of playing comforting old favourites. The one game that has continuously stuck around and which I expect to be playing for some time to come is Imperium: Legends. I love that it is something of a deck-building meta with every faction leaning into a different mechanical trope; there are thin deck factions, fat deck ones, tableau controllers, discard manipulators, accelerants that race through their cards, ones that seed waste cards into opponents decks, one that helps everyone else by dragging them along in it’s wake, and more. Layered on top of this are options to tune your faction in your own unique way, opening up some interesting agency and interaction as you adapt your position based on the direction your opposition are taking their own faction. I am completely fascinated by Imperium, enjoyable to play and I appreciate the competence and care behind the design.
Also of note are our favourite party games of the year: So Clover which sits in familiar ground yet manages a truly original twist on word association games, and Pictures with it’s wonderful tactile element of using odds and ends to suggest a connection to a single target image within a selection of photos.
I haven’t played Imperium enough to include it on my list but it’s a good inclusion and I definitely intend to play it more. I was originally concerned about single path to victory/solvability of the decks but then I realised that that this is primarily a feeling created by the decks in Imperium: Classics and more importantly, it doesn’t actually matter. The market forces you to adjust your strategies in subtle ways that can force you to veer off of a main plan; however, even if the decks are “solvable” the process of solving them requires playing the game sufficiently for it to have been excellent value. It’s equally great solo and with two players.
I’ve only played it once but my takeaway is that So Clover does the same thing Wavelength does but with even less scripting. It also helps reveal how bonkers your friends are and the internal maps their minds have. Mapping someone’s preferences to a 1D line means Wavelength can degenerate into a game of “more or less” with a minimal of discussion. So Clover avoids this problem by giving you more degrees of freedom so a discussion is necessary. It’s one of the better party word games I’ve played.
One game of 2021 I really want to hear more about is Atlantic Chase. It’s very much not a me game but I love it when games model fog of war.
sornars wrote: One game of 2021 I really want to hear more about is Atlantic Chase. It’s very much not a me game but I love it when games model fog of war.
i traded for a copy of this, read through the rules, and then never actualyl set it up to play through a solo game... because thats what i do with solo games a lot of time lol. eventually i'll actually get it to the table!
Boardgame of the year is probably new violent Dune. The only other games I played where Oath and Imperium Classics which I thought were interesting but haven't really bitten me.
sornars wrote: +1 to everyone should write more even if it’s not popular. I’d love to hear what ASL modules are hot in 2021 if only because it gives me a glimpse into something I know little about.
I may not remember to say 'Thank You' for everything, but this forum's commentariat has led me to many of my all-time favorite games.
Very long story short, a friend of the family on the opposite coast had been storing my collection for a couple years and I discovered last August that at some point he had re-married, moved, and sold/donated all of my games without contacting me. Barring the handful of games I’d kept on hand, I have had the pleasure of rebuilding my entire collection from scratch for the last year and a half.
And I do mean 'pleasure.' Running down my collection summary on ToS and asking, “Do I like this enough to re-buy it?” of every title was… illuminating. Yes, it sucked to find or pay for some of those games a second time. However, I didn’t end up re-acquiring nearly as much I expected, and my collection is almost all keepers now. There's even a silver lining to some of the things too costly to replace: sure, I miss owning The Queen's Gambit, but I don't miss the amount of space the box hogs for a game I rarely played. I’m sitting at about 100 games at the moment, which is 1) a psychologically satisfying number and 2) basically what I have space for anyhow. I've spent most of my time tracking down older games, so it was a bit of a shock to see that I've played four games released in 2021.
Crash Octopus: Irresistibly colorful. The core gameplay of flicking treasures at your ship is fairly straightforward; positioning the octopus heads and bouncing a die off them into someone else’s ship to knock their loot back into the sea has a much higher skill-cap, and is that much more entertaining. It is probably not worth whatever post-KS price it’s commanding since the Island and Pink Pirate bits were repackaged together as an expansion that costs as much as the base game. That said, it’s a blast and I am happy to own it. I’m particularly fond of the little pennants they give you to flick things around. No arguments about pushing/pitching/sliding/how long it’s legal to keep your finger touching a piece, you twirl the pennant between your fingers like a foosball rod and hope you don’t hit someone in the eye.
Sleeping Gods: I was unbelievably lucky to score a copy. I found a Kickstarter edition (containing some significant and currently unavailable gameplay content) for a hair above the original price in what must have been the three-day period between the game’s KS release and the industry’s manufacturing / fulfillment meltdown. My girlfriend went bonkers over the game during our first campaign, so it took zero effort to justify tricking out our copy with all the add-ons. Neoprene battle map and metal coins? Yes. Sculpted, painted tokens? Of course. Promos? Every one. Compared to buying a copy of the base game right now, those goodies are cheap.
Do you need all this stuff to enjoy Sleeping Gods? Fuck no. But the bits and baubles do make it seem like a “seeing it on the big screen” version of the game , which has felt worth it for one of these 60+ hour “experience” type titles during quarantine. The narrative doesn’t always pay off the game’s mechanical complexity, which means it can drag somewhat if you’re campaigning for hours on end. As a whole, though, to quote Charlie Theel’s review, “This is good stuff.” Now I have a very nice copy of a very good game and I don’t know what I’m going to do with it once we finish exploring the entire map.
X-Men: Insurrection: Even though I’m glad the Avengers are having their day in the sun, I’ve been into the X-Men to exclusion of most other superheroes since I was a kid. It’s too bad that Dice Tower evidently trashed the game in an early review and potentially jeopardized the possibility of an expansion. I would still like an official version of Nightcrawler. I’ve never played Elder Sign, so maybe I don’t know better, but we liked the one game we played enough that we’ll try all of the scenarios eventually.
Necromolds: My First Tabletop Wargame. Everything about it looks and feels like it was ripped straight out my childhood in the 90's. Smooshing your enemies' monsters is viscerally satisfying and the "toy"/"wow" factor here is incredible. Not exactly the pinnacle of tactical complexity (to be fair, I haven’t played with many of the expansions or optional rules) - still works better than 40k. Molding the miniatures is quick and easy once you've done a couple. (The ring-smashing also gave me the idea for high-stakes Legacy Chess: wooden board, borosilicate glass pieces, and when you capture an opponent’s piece, you smash it with a hammer. For an extra $30, we will engrave your initials on the hammer, which you can also use to mount your board.)