In-depth gaming for the year: I catch up on what's happening
DC Deckbuilder 1 and 2: Yep, that's a deckbuilder. Plays pretty quickly, not super balanced, later turns get ridiculously overpowered. As a former total comic book nerd, I enjoyed this more than I should have. The second set is better than the first, and slightly more balanced, but I can't really articulate that vague notion?
Street Fighter Deckbuilder: Biggest surprise of the year. Tons of interesting tactical and strategic decisions abound. Ascension fans should check it out. A great 2-player game, not so sure about multi-player, though.
Blue Moon City: I love hand management games, and this game is no exception. Gorgeous art recycled from the card game, an icon salad that's second nature by the end of the first game, and great plastic dragons give Blue Moon City a unique appealing aesthetic.
Survive!: Played this with the girls, and they love having sharks, whales, and sea serpents moving around eating boats and swimmers willy-nilly. Great, over-the-top-production on components make this a delightful tactile experience.
Netrunner LCG: It's so good, and so deep, and so impossible to teach to a non-gamer. The asymmetric gameplay means play sessions aren't "same-y." This is a game that makes me feel smart, and I like to play even when I lose. Plenty of room as Hacker or Corp to build interesting decks and adopt multiple strategies.
Star Wars LCG: Mixed feelings here. In one of my introductory games of this, I equipped Darth Vader with his lightsabre, and went to town on my opponent. In another, as the hapless Light Side, I got overwhelmed by General Veers and a bunch of generic Stormtroopers. Deck-building has been simplified in a clever way: instead of cards, you have groups of cards, so you're only really choosing 10 stacks instead of 60 individual cards. Overall, it feels like the game is being aimed squarely at people who care about tournaments and nothing else, and I'm just not sure the overall timing mechanics allow enough room for games to develop organically (at least in a way that's pleasing to me). I was given a decent-sized play set so I'll try it some more, then probably trade it off.
Lords of Waterdeep, with and without Scoundrels of Skullport: I've been playing this some as a 2-player game, and loving it. The Scoundrels set isn't necessarily a must-buy (shiiiiit this hobby starts getting expensive), but now that I have it, I don't know that I'll play without it. Lords is pretty easy to teach, and it's not like there's a huge number of truly, amazingly-clever decisions in it, just spotting opportunities. Nevertheless, it's fun.
King of Tokyo (with and without expansions): I'm not very good at King of Tokyo, but it's definitely a clever enough tactical game. I don't like most of the expansions, other than the character-specific Evolutions. While I picked up the base set cheaply, I'm not going to get anything else for at least a dozen more plays.
Roll Through The Ages: I love how this game brilliantly evokes building a unique civilization in such a short time. Always up to play this.
Dominion: Dominion is like chess, in that there's a significant skill problem. These days, I mostly play with either people who play a lot more or a lot less than me, and that experience gap determines the outcome of the game. It's also a giant money pit. I enjoy the original set okay, have a lot of fun with Intrigue and Seaside, and am basically at sea for the last sprawling 2/3 of the Dominion print run excessiveness.
Manhattan Project: Winning a game of Manhattan Project is incredibly satisfying. Yes, you move workers around and push cubes. There's also a significant random factor in which buildings come out. Feel like playing a big-money strategy? Too bad, nothing but bomber production and mines are coming out. The back-and-forth as workers cover and uncover spots is elegant. Highly recommended.
Ascension: Yep, it's a deckbuilder. Ugly art abounds - so ugly that even I noticed it was ugly! I've only played with the first couple of sets, and I have to wonder who is buying so goddamn much Ascension. I've played this mostly with Alex in the last year, and she's done well on it as a gifted 9/10 year-old, sometimes beating me. I hear that the Ipad version is excellent, though.
Ra: A perennial favorite, even if I'm not very good at it. Lot of meaty decisions, never the same game twice.
Goa: Winning Goa is amazing, losing Goa is your own fault. Incredible system of auctions, actions, and spice production makes every move critical and meaningful. It's a real brain-burner, and a delight from start to finish. Second edition makes dramatic changes to how the auction works, preserves most other features. I've won under both rulesets but I think I prefer the first edition's bidding system with the, well, everything else of the second edition.
Forbidden Island: A delightful game for children and adults. Plenty of tension and a reasonable amount of strategy in such a small tin, with great production values. I like this so much more than Forbidden Desert, it hurts.
Smash Up: Yeah, I'll kick your ass at Smash Up, but only so we can go on and play a better, more interesting game. There's really not a whole lot going on here. You play cards to, ahem, win. If you draw badly, have bad match-ups, or play poorly, you lose. Expansions make for interesting scenarios. Nothing like your Dinosaurs/Bear Cavalry team beating down some Leprechaun Wizards. The Wizards faction has a lot more decisions than the average one, so it makes for huge differences in comparative downtime. Played fast, this is an okay filler. Played slow, it's a snoozer.
Outpost: I'm so bad at Outpost, and I like it so much. There's just something about having a handful of 13 production cards and figure out what to bid on new technologies. The Stronghold Games edition is both more beautiful, more functional, and more expansive than the original Tim/Jim edition, so buy that instead.
Phoenicia: Outpost's meek little brother. I have literally no idea how to make good decisions in Phoenicia, even less than I do in Outpost. Doesn't take all that much time, always ramping up towards painful decisions in final turns. Auctions feel as though designed for deliberate choke-points of the game's progress. I go hot and cold on how I feel about it. Good news is that copies flooded the market, so if you want one, it's gonna be easy to find.