Games Played in 2008

Here is a summary of board games I played in 2008.  These are “face-to-face” games, not games played with a computer.  I expect game playing to be a regular activity for the remainder of December, with the Holidays and all, so these numbers are expected to change.  It is interesting for me to see how many different board games I played this past year.  And it’s also interesting how some of the really “hot” board games from 2007 didn’t see as much activity this year.

I also believe that 2008 was an excellent year for new board games.  There were so many interesting titles that hit the table this year.  For some of the games, they were played a lot at first and then less often in the following months.  However, this was not always because of the attraction of new games to try, rather that there were so many exceptional great games we added in 2008, so we were always rotating through more game titles than usual.

This summary is ranked from most frequently played to least. Most frequently played is first.

Carcassonne
2 – 5 players
60 minutes
Ages 8+
Played in 2008: 30
This was one of the first “euro” games we purchased and still remains a favorite.  I think we own all the expansions but frequently play with just a few:
Inns & Cathedrals
Traders & Builders
Abbey & Mayor

Pandemic
2 – 4 players
45 minutes
Ages 10+
Played in 2008: 28

A new game for us in 2008.  I’ve played this game at work over lunch, at home with family and out with friends.  It’s a cooperative  board game, all the players struggle to beat the game itself.  The theme is that each player is a researcher working in a team trying to save the world from outbreaks of diseases.  The game mechanics are quite clever and the game components and colors are first-rate.  This is an excellent game, and obviously very popular.  Pandemic is one of the those games that when it gets newly introduced to people, they often want to go out and purchase their own copy.

I still enjoy playing this game and even enjoy playing it solitaire.  However, it’s not as “hot” as it originally was with my family.  Still if I were constructing a collection of board games to introduce, this one would definitely be included.  I’ve written up a review about this game.

Escalation!

2 – 6 players

15 minutes

Ages 10+

Played in 2008: 21

We started playing this game in 2007 and it still remain a family favorite.  I’ve recorded that we have played this game 77 times since we first owned it.  Escalation! is a fast-paced, fun card game.  We frequently use it to “break the ice” when beginning a game session.  I’ve also written up a review about this game.

Mr. Jack
2 players
30 minutes
Ages 9+
Played in 2008: 16

This is a very cool strategy game and was new for us in 2008.  The premise of the game is that one player is playing “Mr. Jack” and the other is trying to figure out who he is.  The challenge is that there are several detective figures on the game board and one of them is Mr. Jack.

The game plays pretty quick, I’ve introduced it a lunch time at work and it has seen several plays there.  It feels a little like Chess because you need to out-think you opponent carefully.  I like this game a lot, and frequently play with my son.

Stone Age
2 – 4 players
60 minutes
Ages 10+ 
Played in 2008: 13

A new game for us in 2008 too.  This is a “worker placement” game with a bit of luck too.  The board game is beautiful and the components are first-rate.  There’s even a leather dice cup.

For a while there our family played this game every week.  It’s still highly regarded by my family.

Chess
2 players
A classic and familiar game to many
Played in 2008: 12

My youngest brother hand made a wooden chess board for me back when he was in High School Wood Shop class.  I still use it to this day with a very nice set of wooden chess pieces given to me 30 years ago.  I taught Nicholas to play Chess years ago and he’s getting better at it.  These games were all played between the two of us.

Factory Fun
2 – 4 players
45 minutes
Ages 10+
Played in 2008: 12

My wife surprised me with this game as a Christmas gift last year.  She looked over my Wish List on Board Game Geek and discovered I was interested in this game.  I’m not sure how she found a copy but I was delighted.

This is a “puzzle” game.  Each player adds interesting factory machines onto their factory floor game board, looking for ways to optimize the connections (inputs and output) and locations on the floor.  I’ve played this game over lunch at work.  It also works as a solitaire game.

 

Felix: The Cat in the Sack

3 – 5 players

20 minutes

Ages 8+

Played in 2008: 10

This is a light card, auction game, by Friedemann Friese, the designer of Power Grid.  It’s not quite as fun as Escalation!, but we also use this game as a session “starter”.

 

Agricola

1 – 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 12+

Played in 2008: 8

We received our copy of this game in August, so there’s hasn’t been much of the year for playing it.  Even then it shows a healthy 8 plays in only a few months.

Agricola is a board game about farming.  And it’s an excellent game.  There’s a set of rules for the family/starter and the regular rules which provides for a rich gaming experience.  This really is an outstanding game.  I’ve read great reviews about it and enjoyed teaching it to others.  Invariably, while the game is on-going I’ll hear someone remark how cool this game is.  I recommend that if you want to learn this game, waste no time and go over and see the excellent video tutorial Scott Nicholson created on his Board Games With Scott web site.

Note that there are official rules to play this game solitaire.  Also, it’s become such a popular game that many people have “tricked out” their components with custom made pieces.  We did it too.  We made a whole set of very cute and fun custom Sheep, Pigs and Cows for use in playing this game.  It just adds to the fun.  This game is rated number 1on Board Game Geek, having been the first board game to displace Puerto Rico from it’s long-held number 1 position.

Agricola may not be for everyone but I recommend you give it a try if possible.  The only downside I feel with the game is that it can take about 3 hours to play the first time with newbies.

Hive

2 players

20 minutes

Ages 9+

Played in 2008: 8

Hive is an abstract strategy game.  Each player is provided with a set of insects that have unique movement abilities, like pieces do in Chess.  However, this plays nothing like Chess.  The board is formed by the placement of the pieces.  And the pieces can move around as each player tries to surround the opponent’s Queen Bee.

I keep a copy of this game in the car and often play a game with Nicholas if we go out somewhere for lunch or dinner.

Ticket To Ride

2 – 5 players

45 minutes

Ages 8+

Played in 2008: 8

This was our first “Euro” game and remains a family favorite.  If I’m introducing someone to European Strategy Board Games, I always bring out Ticket To Ride.  It’s reputation as an excellent “gateway” game is deserved.  We always play with the USA 1910 expansion nowadays.

Our family can usually complete a game of Ticket To Ride in 30 to 45 minutes.  We haven’t done anything to “trick” this game out, even though it is a family favorite.  I do admit though that we purchased the Ticket To Ride: Marklin game just to have the purple and white train pieces so we could use them with the original game.  You can see we’re pretty big fans of Ticket To Ride.

Cuba

2 – 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 10+

Played in 2008: 7

This is another “worker placement” game with beautiful components and game board.  It’s an economics game.  I think it’s quite a bit of fun and consider it a medium-weight strategy game, not quite as light as Ticket To Ride.  We played Stone Age and Cuba often in the same weeks, and did not tire of either.


I’m not going to break out details about the other games, but they are all excellent examples of modern board games and I am happy to have them in our collection.  Each of these games were played about a half-dozen times in the past year.  Some of the board games have not been played very often just because there’s hasn’t been lot of time, and there are so many excellent new games to choose from.  Here’s some of the remaining list.  Each entry has a link to it’s entry at Board Game Geek.

Thanksgiving Day Board Gaming

Our schedule prohibits traveling back to Ohio to visit with family members this Thanksgiving Day.  Between school schedules and my work activities, we decided to stay in Omaha for the holiday.

When talking with one of my friends from work we realized that there was an opportunity for our two families to get together and spend the day playing board games.  We’ll also stay for dinner and just make a great day of it.  Since we’re the invited guests we will be bringing a gift, but instead of a bottle of wine we thought we’d donate a new board game.  I’m not going to say which one since my friend may read this before Thanksgiving day arrives.  But it is a new additional copy of one of the games we are bringing.

Since I obviously own a large selection of excellent board games, we’ll bring along several for playing.  I thought it would be good to share here which games we selected to bring and why.  First, some parameters.  There will be 6 adults present and several children, ranging from 5 to late teen years of age.  Probably the youngest will not really be playing board games.  I imagine that we’ll have several games running in parallel.  My friend’s family enjoys playing board games and has a few very nice Euro Games already.  For example they love playing Ticket To Ride, Nexus Ops and Pandemic.  Excellent games.

We also discussed the challenge levels of the games we will play and agreed that a mix of lighter fare, like Ticket To Ride and heavier games like Power Grid would work well.  Here are the games we’ll be bringing along.  I’m not certain we’ll play them all but it’s a good selection.  The list is alphabetical and not in any favored order.  Although, as it happens, the fist entry in the list is one of my newer favorites.

 Agricola

1 to 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 12 and up

This board game is currently number 1 on Board Game Geek.  It’s a great choice because it’s very easy to teach yet has great depth and fun.  It has a “family” version of rules, and a more in-depth “gamers” version.  We play the heavier version because it’s easy to understand and is quite engaging.

Agricola is a new game about farming.  It sounds dull, but it’s actually a lot of fun.  Each turn goes very fast and every decision can be difficult.

The stock game comes with little painted wooden cubes to represent the farm animals (sheep, cattle and pigs).  For our own copy my family made custom animals from hobby clay.  Here’s a photograph of one of the custom “animeeples” my wife created for this game.  We’ll be sure to bring the custom “animeeples” when we play.  They are too cute and add to the fun of playing this excellent game.

Ave Caesar

2 – 6 players

30 minutes

Ages 12 and up

This is a fun racing game.  It’s very easy to teach.  Ave Caesar has a beautiful board and nice little chariots that each player races around the track.  Think “Ben Hur” and you get the idea.

It’s a lightweight game and should provide plenty entertainment for the younger boys and girls.  Although I’ve played this game several times with adults and it’s fun too.

Carcassonne

2 – 5 players

60 minutes

Ages 8 and up

This is the most famous euro-style tile laying strategy game.  It’s easy to learn, with maybe the exception of scoring the Farmers, and provides a lot of enjoyment.

We own all the expansions to Carcassonne and it’s one of my wife’s absolute favorite games.  The interesting thing about Carcassonne is that, depending on the players, it can vary from being lightweight fun to an outright battle-to-the-death strategy game.

Escalation!

2 – 6 players

15 minutes

Ages 10 and up

I’ve written a review about this game.  It’s a fast-paced easy to learn card game that always generates plenty of laughs.  Escalation! is one of my favorite games design by Reiner Knizia.

We often use Escalation! to start our gaming sessions.  It gets everyone in the right mood.  It’s light, fun and plays quickly.  I’m thinking this game will probably be played in parallel to the “deeper” games by younger members.

Galaxy Trucker

2 – 4 players

60 minutes

Ages 10 and up

This is a new game with great components and fun.  It’s lightweight and plays pretty quick.

Each player has to build a spaceship out of components you place together on a game board.  They can only be assembled in a “correct” manner, and you’re racing against the other players to get finished.

Then, once you have your majestic space ship assembled, all players go on a hazardous journey encountering space pirates, asteroids and other challenges.  Pieces of your space ship may become damaged and very likely fall off and be destroyed.  The fun in this game, believe it or not, is how much fun it is watching yours and your competition’s ship get pummeled to bits as the game proceeds.  It’s quite a bit of fun and easy to learn.

Metropolys

2 – 4 players

30 minutes

Ages 8 and up

This is also a new board game.  It’s easy to learn but gets your brain going in no time.  I’d rate this a game that’s only slightly more difficult to play than Ticket To Ride.

Each  player places wooden building components, almost in an auction-style game mechanic, onto the game board.  You have to pay attention to what your opponents are trying to do and plan your steps accordingly.

We play this game at the office over lunch some times.  My friend mentioned that he really liked this game and wanted to introduce it to his family.

Power Grid

2 – 6 players

120 minutes

Ages 12 and up

I love this game.  It’s one of my favorite deeper Euro games.  At it’s heart this is an economics game.  Each player is buying power plants that operate on varying kinds of fuel (coal, oil, burning trash, nuclear, or solar).  They must also build a network of powered cities onto the game board.

The purchase price of power plants increase as they become more powerful and efficient.  You end up bidding against the other players to buy power plants.  The resources needed to power your plants are available on a sliding demand scale right on the board.  As the availability of resources declines their price go up.  Each player, as they take turns, can purchase and stock resources.  This has the ability to influence what the other players may pay for resources they need.  It’s even possible to starve another player out since there’s a limited number of resources available in the game.  And lastly, as you place cities on the grid it also costs money.  Earlier investments in a location are cheaper.

With every turn you also generate electricity and power the cities connected on your grid.  The more cities you power the more income you receive.  The game has tight economics and every turn has interesting choices for players to make as they compete to have the most cities powered at the games’ end.  This is a great deeper strategy game.

Shadows over Camelot

3 – 7 players

(with the expansion it supports 8 players)

90 minutes

Ages 10 and up

Shadows over Camelot is a co-operative game.  With a twist.  The players are knights of King Arthur’s Round Table and they are trying to defend against evils on multiple fronts at once.

The rules are easy to learn and the board game and components, just like all the Day of Wonder games, are beautiful and outstanding.

The game is already difficult to “beat”.  But here’s the real twist that makes this game so much fun.  One of the players is potentially secretly a traitor and working to make everyone else lose.  It’s not assured in every game that someone is a traitor, but the odds are high that it happens.  The traitor is randomly, secretly, chosen by a card deal at the beginning of the game.

That potential for a possible traitor makes for a lot of additional tension and built-in doubts about the agenda of your fellow team mates.  Did he or she do that action because it was the best that they could do, or are they secretly a traitor?  Of course, you can accuse another player of being a traitor, but you better be right.  The interesting things is that a game may coincidently not actually have a traitor present, but no one knows for sure, so everyone scrutinizes and wonders about everything.  With the expansion, which we’ll be using, the game supports eight players and there’s actually the possibility for there to be 2 secret traitors.

After Thanksgiving Day Games post-note:

“Shadows Over Camelot” was the big hit of the evening.  We played it with a fairly large group of players — I think 8 — and with a mix of age ranges for the players from adults to early teens.  The game was enjoyed so much it got played twice in a row, even though it was getting late in the evening.

Starfarers of Catan

3 – 4 players

(with the expansion it supports up to 6 players)

120 minutes

Ages 10 and up

This is a great science fiction themed edition to the Settlers of Catan series.  We like this game a great deal.  It has excellent components, with some of the best looking retro-space ships available for each player.  The game has an additional exploration component, as each player explores the cosmos they discover what the various star systems provide as resources.  There’s also alien races to encounter and develop trade relations with.  We purchased the optional painted alien figures for our game to just add to the overall fun.

This game, like Ticket To Ride and Power Grid, was one of the first Euro board games our family learned to play and it still has a special place among our favorites.  It’s another one of my wife’s favorite games.  It’s middle-weight in depth and learning.  The only downside is that the game can take a long time with inexperienced players.  Although we can support up to 6 players, I think this game plays best with 3 or 4.

Thebes

(Also known as Jenseits von Theben)

2 – 4 players

60 minutes

Ages 10 and up

In this game you feel like an explorer seeking treasures and artifacts from ancient ruins around the globe.  It’s easy to imagine yourself as Indiana Jones.  You travel to exotic locations and “dig” for hidden treasures.  You can also return to various countries in Europe and exhibit your discoveries for points.

This game is lightweight and fun.  There’s a strong element of luck to it.  The components are outstanding.  There’s little colored cloth bags representing each dig site.  When you “dig” at the site you randomly extract cardboard chits from the bag.  Most of them will be “sand”, empty and of no value.  However there are also tablets, and statues and other rare artifacts that can bring you many points.  One of the cool thematic game mechanics concerns these bags.  When you draw out the useless “sand” chits you put them back in the bag at the end of your turn.  This makes the odds of the next player visiting the same dig site even worse.  Very cool.