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mkgray Board Games
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2013 Game Stats

Hot games: The Duke, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Chess, Forbidden Desert, Love Letter, The City

- 302 games played on 130 days
- 180 distinct titles, 67 new-to-me titles
- 99 fellow players
- > 160 games played at home, > 30 at my regular gaming group

Almost all of these numbers are down a little from 20112
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Eleven years ago, I suggested the "month metric" for identifying great games from my own (or other people's) game logs.  The idea is a game gets a point for every unique month it gets played in.  So, a short game that gets played repeatedly doesn't have an "advantage" over a longer game, and a game that was very popular over a short period of time is capped in how much that can contribute.

When I first calculated this number for various games, a total of 23 games had a month metric of 10 or more.  There are now 68 games with at least that score.  At this point, the bias toward games that have been around a long time is conspicuous.  Many of the games with a current score of 10 have been played about once a year for a decade.  The fact that they keep getting played is a great sign, but not quite capturing what I was going for.

So, what are the games that have gotten to 10+ that have not been being played since 2003 or before:

Dominion (39 months) is an expected member of the list, hitting more the 50% of the months in the last 5 years.

Race for the Galaxy (37 months) had almost a hiatus in the middle of its history, but is also expected.

Sentinels of the Multiverse (17 months) has been a huge recent hit for me and my regular gaming groups.

Blue Moon (16 months) got to ten very quickly, and has continued to get some regular play.

Funny Friends (14 months) is a personal favorite, but requires the right crowd.

Ticket To Ride (13 months) isn't actually one of my favorites, but it so consistently plays well with non-gamers, it comes out regularly.

San Juan (13 moths) made the list, but has been almost 100% suppressed  by Race.

Heroscape (13 months) deserves the list, and reminds me I should play this again/more.

Go Away Monster (13 months) and Monkey Madness (10 months) make the list by being the games that can be played with 2 and 3 year olds, but are unlikely to up much from here.

Incan Gold (11 months)  only barely makes the 10 year cutoff, and only barely makes the 10 months threshold, so isn't too surprising.

Descent (10 months) counts first edition only, but given my feelings about second edition, I may go back to first edition.
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I've noticed recently I'm skewing toward longer and shorter games.  In the past, I think I've tended to prefer games in the 60-90 minute range, and I still like a lot of those, but many of the new games that really have my interest recently are either quite long (>2.5 hours) or quite short (<= 30 minutes).

The long ones don't get as much an opportunity to be played, but I still find myself wanting to play more Eclipse, Mage Knight, Through the Ages, Earth Reborn and Descent.

On the short side I've been enjoying The City, Wurfel Bohnanza, Love Letter, and Escape and I just picked up Room 25.

The only new/recent game I can think of in that middle-length range has been Copycat, which plays in about 90 minutes.  I love Friedemann Friese games in general, and bought this without having played it, and was worried once I read the reviews, but I actually really liked it.  I'm not clear why people seem to be so down on it.
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Kevin Sharp's profile photoJonathan Butler's profile photomkgray Board Games's profile photo
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Yes, playing more games with kids, but not these new games, for the most part.  But it's possible that's an undertone.

To be honest, one theory is that there's been a few games in recent years that have captured the same pleasure and depth of a 60-90 minute game, but in 30-45 minutes (Race, Dominion and Sentinels), and that has pushed me to hunt for satisfying games at the lower and higher ends, since there's 3 good existence proofs that the expected goodness of a 60 minute game can be gotten in ~30 minutes, if you pick the right game :)
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Resharing my post with further gamer-y commentary/observations.

I played Sentinels earlier this week and +Grant Dasher made the observation that he felt the outcome frequently came down to luck.  I'm not sure I disagree, but enjoy the game anyway, but got to thinking whether there was a better way to estimate the likely difficulty of a game so made this scoring system.

A lot of the scores line up exactly like I'd expect:  Absolute Zero is a weak hero, as is Mr. Fixer, while Legacy, The Scholar and Omnitron-X are quite strong.  Rook City is an unusually brutal environment.  Matriarch, Iron Legacy and The Chairman are tough villains.

Others surprised me.  I didn't think Ambuscade seemed that profoundly easy, and I don't know if I've played with Cosmic Omnitron more than once to realize how difficult he is, in general.  I also didn't think of Expatriette as weak or of The Ennead as an "easy" villain, but it seems to bear out, at least in the 2000 games logged by the project I used for source data.

But, I really didn't expect Miss Information to come out as the weakest villain, given that the game that triggered this discussion was a (reasonably fun) loss against her with a number of strong heroes.  The total difficulty of that game was -180, which suggests we should have had a > 90% win chance, and it wasn't close, unless we were unusually unlucky or played poorly (did we? +Grant Dasher  +Felix Rodriguez +Alison Cichowlas +Matt Fishburn).  The very limited data for Advanced mode (which we played) suggests that for Miss Information, the Advanced Delta may be more like 100 or even 125 points, rather than the 75 I suggest, but even still...

Also, some comparisons for individual games suggests that my original hypothesis (A well balanced difficulty level yields the most fun game) may not be true, but I think it's nice to be able to tune for difficulty a little  more methodically.
 
TL;DR: I made a Naive Bayes based difficulty estimator for the game Sentinels of the Multiverse.

I really like the card game Sentinels of the Multiverse by +Christopher Badell, +Paul Bender and +Adam Rebottaro.  It's a cooperative superhero game, but different combinations of heroes, villains, and environments can make for somewhat hard to predict difficulty level.

Fortunately some folks started a project to log details of a large number of plays of Sentinels, providing the raw data to do a difficulty estimator.  I wrote a Naive Bayes win/loss "classifier" to yield a scoring system which lets you predict the likely difficulty of a particular combination.

http://x.gray.org/sentinels-of-the-multiverse-difficulty-scores.html
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2012 Game Stats

Hot games: Sentinels of the Multiverse, Quarriors, Core Worlds, Eclipse, Resistance, Star Trek Deck Building Game, Lords of Waterdeep

- 324 games played on 132 days
- 202 distinct titles, 67 new-to-me titles
- 136 fellow players
- > 160 games played at home, > 40 at my regular gaming group

Almost all of these numbers are up about 30% from 2011.
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My personal Game of the Year for 2012: Sentinels of the Multiverse

20+ games in and I'm still enjoying it and I haven't even played with all of the villains in all of the expansions.  It's an effective cooperative and the variety and depth of the different character, villain and environment combinations makes for great replay value.

Looking back over the last decade or so, I thought I'd enumerate the personal game of the year going back.  These aren't necessarily the year the game came out, but are the year I "discovered" it.

1990s: RoboRally
2000: Lord of the Rings
2001: Battle Line
2002: Puerto Rico (honorable mention: TransAmerica)
2003: Electronic Catchphrase
2004: Heroscape (honorable mention: San Juan)
2005: Fiese Freunde Fette Feten (honorable mention: Crokinole)
2006: Descent (honorable mention: To Court the King)
2007: Race for the Galaxy
2008: Dominion (honorable mention: Pandemic)
2009: Viva Topo! (see below)
2010: Space Alert (honorable mention: Forbidden Island)
2011: 7 Wonders (honorable mention: Ascending Empires)
2012: Sentinels of the Multiverse (honorable mention: Quarriors)

Almost all of these still see some regular play, which is impressive, and I'd highly recommend them all.  Some (Battle Line, FFFF & To Court the King, especially) are games that are more my personal taste/preference than many of the others which could readily be the top game for many more people.

2009 was an unusual year, in that no new game really grabbed me.  Viva Topo! got played a fair bit with the kids, but really 2009 was the year of Race and Dominion, repeated.

From 2007 to 2009, over 20% of my game plays were either Race or Dominion, which is highly unusual for me.  More typically, the top two games of a year get about 10% of plays.

What's your game of the year for 2012 and how have your past picks (actual or retroactive) fared?
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Played more stuff. Quick comments, I may write up a full post about any of these, especially if there's any interest:

Trains: Deck-builder with a board for laying out trains & cities.  I went in with high expectations and wasn't blown away, but wasn't disappointed either.  Rating: B+ bump down if you don't like deck-builders.  Could go up with other cards, too.

Mice and Mystics: Cooperative story-driven mice-as-adventurers dungeon crawl.  Good mechanics, nice theme and art.  Fun items & equipment and powers.  It should work well with kids.  Rating: A- but bump down if you don't like coops or adventure games. 

Sheepland: Stock speculation game structured as moving sheep among pastures.  Not a bad filler, a little clever.  Rating: B but bump up if cute sheep and geometric constraints on future moves are appealing.

Indigo: Connection/route game a la Metro or Tsuro where every connection scores for two people.  Interesting decisions/planning and plays reasonably quick, with a light memory element ("who's scored the most already?").  Rating: B to B+, but easy bump up if light abstracts are your thing.

Vegas: Dice game where exact ties cancel each other out, so there's some entertaining discontinuities in the payoffs.  Fun, light, lots of dice rolling, but some dramatic swings of fortune.  Rating: B, but an easy bump up if you like dramatic swings of fortune.

Still to write up: Briefcase, Tzolk'in, Super Showdown, Seasons, Arcana and Edo.
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Bruce Murphy's profile photoLucy Hadden's profile photo
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Indigo plays better with a hand of tiles, and Trains was an interesting dominion-alike because there are suddenly timing and being-there-first things on the board. Hugely novel, no, but well done.

Vegas with 3 and neutral dice is a far more interesting game, since multiple people can pool their neutral dice to stop anyone who is doing too well.
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I've gotten to play a bunch of new and new-ish games. First impressions as follows...

Quite positive: Blueprints, Plunder, Prosperity, Rampage, and Glass Road.

OK or slightly positive: Cafe Melange, Florenza card game, Candy Craze, Bruxelles 1893, Handler der Karibik, Spyrium, Twin Tin Bots, and Sanssouci.

Negative: Relic Runners, Lost Legacy, Ka-Boom, and Trains & Stations.

I'll post more about the positive ones as time allows.
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I played Starship Catan today for the first time in almost exactly 10 years.

It's got several very nice mechanics including a clever exploration/memory mechanic, the unusual quality of 7 distinct resource types, and a good integration between the theme and rules.

But, it way overstays its welcome.  I suppose you could play to fewer points, or something, and maybe just making points a little less scarce/contended would help, but wow, way too long.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2338/starship-catan
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Felix Rodriguez's profile photoWil Wade's profile photoBay Chang's profile photo
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I've actually played this a bunch in a short span. Although I still think it's too long, it does speed up massively after a few plays since you know how to get your VPs more efficiently. 

Also, if I remember correctly the print and play missions also speed up the game. Or at least the first one which is the only one I've played.
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Legendary is not a cooperative game.  It is a game where any one of the players may win, and the game may win.  It is fun and a good deck-building game, played competitively.  Played cooperatively, it's bad.

The theme is good, and reasonably evocative for the villains, albeit a bit looser on the hero/player side but many deckbuilders are a bit lightweight in that connection anyway.

The gameplay is interesting, and the mastermind (where the players may all lose) adds a nice tension where the players who feel like they're in the lead want to defeat the mastermind quickly, and those behind are more interested in mopping up minor villains for points under many circumstances.

We played it once purely coop and it was really disappointing.  There's a number of mechanics (bystanders, eg) that simply make no sense coop.  And, it is way way too easy.  As a competitive game the mechanics all make sense and there's some, albeit low, risk of everyone losing.  I don't know what lead me to the misperception that this is in any way intended to be a pure coop, but be warned.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/129437/legendary-a-marvel-deck-building-game
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I just realized that Reiner Knizia, who has been one of my favorite game designers, hasn't published anything I've liked in a long time.

Fits is not bad, but it came out 3 years ago, and it's not great.  *Blue Moon City* was really good, but that was in 2006.  In 2006 and before, there are literally dozens of good to great games from him, but nothing even "good" by my personal taste in 3 years and nothing great in at least 6.  That's a shame, and looking at BGG, it doesn't look like I've missed anything.
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Matthew Gray's profile photoMatt Green's profile photoClay Blankenship's profile photo
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Just thought of a recent one I enjoy: The Hobbit (2011, not to be confused with several other games of that name).  It's pretty light (plays well with kids) but I enjoy trying to advance my resources on the various tracks and then using the gathered resources plus dice to beat the various quests.  I need to pull this one out again.
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Played Starship Merchants.  This is a really well crafted game, with an interesting theme, witha core set of mechanics that I just don't like that much.

It's a pick-up-and-deliver game with spaceship purchasing, obsolescence  technologies, pilots, mining claims, etc, but at it's core it's an economic pick-up-and-deliver game like some railroad games, and even though I like the idea of that kind of game, I don't find myself that fond of them in actual play.

There do seem to be a variety of reasonable strategies and cool options, and interesting tempo aspects to the game.  The total scale of the end game compared to the cost of ships makes the game feel even more about precision timing, and less about the strategies chosen.  This is, again, a less favored style of game for me.

But, it's clever in it's abstractions, and multiple strategic paths, led to an interesting game.

Rating: B, but give it a bump up maybe two steps, if you like pick-up-and-deliver games with a large tempo aspect, and maybe a bump down if you don't like the sci-fi theme.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/114912/starship-merchants
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In their circles
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Introduction
Comments, reviews, observations and ramblings about board games by Matthew Gray.

This page is an experiment; rather than post a high volume of board gaming stuff to my main stream, I created this page which people may then opt-in and opt-out of without following/un-following me fully.