Saturday, 3 November 2007

Ubergames of 2006

So everyone has been coming out with their game awards, and Best of 2007 lists. I find some of the criteria for these lists bewildering. For example, the award is for 2007, but the games were published in 2006 except for those that were published in 2007, unless the games were published earlier and weren't readily available in the U.S. until 2006, or they were originally published years ago, but were reissued in 2006. I think I need errata for this rule. Of course, there is always the debate over what is a Family Game, and what is Children's Game, and is Battlelore a War Game or a War Themed Game.

I decided to just make my own list. The criteria for the Ubers is easy. The game must have been published in 2006. I get to decide the criteria for each category. It's a Family Game if it is playable by three generations of my family, including flaky grandparents, ADD in-laws, and normal, non-gifted, non-geek kids. It's a Children's Game if typical children can play it with other typical children without my having to grab them by the scruff of their necks to separate them. If nothing exceptional was published in a category, no Uber will be awarded. Only one person gets to vote - me.


Fury of Dracula - Ubergame 2006.
This has already reached the status of Classic in my mind.


Marvel Heroes - Uberslugfest 2006.
A strained marriage between Euro mechanics and AT sensibilities, this game is clunky, fiddly, complicated, and the rules are a mess. However, it is still a damn fun game to play. Don't over-think it, and for heaven's sake, never, ever play with any over-thinking, AP-prone person. Just go out there and kick the crap out of the bad guys.


California - Uberfamilygame 2006.
Alhambra-like with a sense of humor, and no boring scoring. It's accessible; it's fast; it's tense; it's easy to teach; it's got just the right amount of passive-aggressive "screw-you." Plus it has the hot chick.


Blue Moon City - Uberabstract 2006.
Despite the so-called theme and pretty artwork, this is an abstract game. For some inexplicable reason, Blue Moon City triggers a Talisman sense memory. Maybe it is that it is a race game where we run around, picking cards and hope for the best, and accumulate dragon scales, like dead enemies, for points. Then when we are ready, we "go-up" to the center of the board.


Warrior Knights - Uberwarthemed 2006.
This game has it all - theme, player interaction, tough choices, negotiation, a touch of chaos. A game where players get so immersed and invested that by the third turn they are threatening vengeance - that is one awesome game.




Cleopatra and the Society of Architects -Uberboring 2006.
See also Masons.



Leonardo da Vinci- Ubercrap 2006.
See Also Cartagena II, Thurn and Taxis, & Tempus.

42 comments:

Mr Skeletor said...

Ok, here are my comments:

FoD: Good choice, though it could be argued not enough changed from the classic for this to qualify as a 2006 realease.

Marvel Heroes: Disapointing. For such a complicated game there just isn't enough going on, it needed that extra layer of chrome. It is possible an expansion could fix this. I'm baffled by your claim of euro mechanics, I don't see any.

Blue Moon City: An abstract? Eh? I can't agree with that at all. Yes the theme is thin, but I have never played an abstract that had cards or powers and things like that. I'd mark this as a definite Euro.

Warrior Knights: Great choice.

Cleopatra: Meh, not brilliant but I like it enough.

Leonardo: Never played it but it can't be possibly worse than Turn and Taxis.

mtlawson said...

Ubarose, good idea about a Best of 2006 list a year later. All the Best of 2007 lists may miss out on which games will have the staying power to keep getting pulled out to play; you need time to find out what's a flash in the pan and what's not. (Kind of like all those "Best Of" lists for sports teams or draft picks.)

--Mike L.

Michael Barnes said...

Hmm...this reminds me that it's almost time for the 2007 Trashies Awards...hey Weeks- wanna do an awards show?

FURY OF DRACULA is one of the best games published in any year, even in those twilight years when it wasn't actively being published. It should always be on any "Best Games of the Year" list. It's fucking immortal.

ubarose said...

Marvel Heroes: Disapointing. For such a complicated game there just isn't enough going on, it needed that extra layer of chrome. It is possible an expansion could fix this. I'm baffled by your claim of euro mechanics, I don't see any.

Euro mechanics is probably a bad choice of words. It feels as if they were trying to Euro it up with the VPs, and the 'resource management', and the cards that automatically give you VPs like the cards in Settlers. I agree that it needs an extra layer of chrome and an expansion.

Blue Moon City: An abstract? Eh? I can't agree with that at all. Yes the theme is thin, but I have never played an abstract that had cards or powers and things like that. I'd mark this as a definite Euro.

Chess is less abstract than Blue Moon City. I know you don't mean that you have never played an abstract card game, because that statement would be silly. As far as abstract board games with cards that can do more than one thing, and powers, I guess you haven't played SORRY! in a long time.


Leonardo: Never played it but it can't be possibly worse than Turn and Taxis.

Turn and Taxis is a shorter game, and therefore the pain is brief.

ubarose said...

Mike L.

Everything you said is right on the money. How many people will still be pulling out AGE OF EMPIRES 18 months from now?

And it's not only that, but also how many times did you pull it out in those 18 months.

ubarose said...

Michael Barnes said...
FURY OF DRACULA is one of the best games published in any year


FURY OF DRACULA got the bone. It was robbed. AGE OF EMPIRES and PILLARS OF THE EARTH can bite me.

Michael Barnes said...

Yeah, but people will be playing and loving FURY long after AOE and PILLARS are completely forgotten.

the red phantom said...

Ugh.

I haven't played the last two Eurogames, but except for the obviously amazing Fury of Dracula, I can't agree with a thing here.

Marvel Heroes a slugfest? That's precisely what's wrong with it! It's the antithesis of a slugfest! California is richly themed by Schacht standards, but I could think of twenty new releases that are more fun. I can't agree with Blue Moon City as an abstract, but it's definitely a good game. Warrior Knights remains a baffling disconnect with my beloved FFg. How it can be called Uber-anything leaves me baffled. And it can only be called a wargame by people who haven't played any, no disrespect intended.

As a dedicated AT-er, Marvel Heroes and Warrior Knights offend me with their namby-pamby Euro sensibilities. When is Age of Conan coming out?

the*mad*gamer said...

Hmm...this reminds me that it's almost time for the 2007 Trashies Awards...hey Weeks- wanna do an awards show?

Sure, let me know when you are ready.

mtlawson said...

Ubarose, in light of the big Mayfair brouhaha, I found it amusing that people were saying that Mayfair's stuff wasn't worth the money. What were these people doing going ga-ga over Pillars of the Earth in the first place?

--Mike L.

neonpeon said...

the red phantom: And it can only be called a wargame by people who haven't played any, no disrespect intended.

Good thing she didn't call it one. ;)

Ken B. said...

Nice article. FoD is really an awesome, awesome game, I'm glad it got the nod.

Marvel Heroes IS a slugfest...how can it be anything else? It's just the slugfest is more abstracted than people might have expected. Every turn, you go somewhere, a bad guy and some henchmen turn up, you bash their brains in, the mastermind shows up to shake his testicles at you, boom shaka laka, you get the idea.

No one will be playing Da Vinci in five years. Hell, I barely hear it mentioned anymore anyway, I'd pretty much forgotten it existed.

I've really cooled on Blue Moon City, probably enough that I need to go re-rate it. It's just so...balanced. There's drama, but it's artificial. It doesn't seem to matter if you've played once or six times, everyone finishes "just a move away" from winning the game themselves. "If only one more turn!"

I'd like to think I'm just really clever and mastered the system right away, but I think so long as you're not a bonehead and don't just waste your turns, you can't help but finish in contention at the end.

ubarose said...

the red phantom said...
Ugh.

California is richly themed by Schacht standards, but I could think of twenty new releases that are more fun.


Personally, I can think of many games that I rather play as well. However, looking over the history of my last 18 months of gaming, the numbers don't support any other game. I purchased CALIFORNIA as a joke to play with my neighbors, who like me, have spent the last 10 years renovating our Victorian homes (an old house isn't just a home, it is a lifestyle). I thought that we would play once or twice and then the game would end up at the bottom of the game chest. The reality is that CALIFORNIA became the most requested game by visiting family and friends. We even had the electrician that was installing a new light fixture join us for a game. I lent it out a couple of times. Two people purchased it after playing it at my home.

For me the proof is in the pudding. There are the games my intellect tells me I like best, but then there are the games that actually get played over and over again. That's due in part to the people I play with. It is kind of difficult to convince people to play STRUGGLE OF EMPIRES with me. However, I realize that my own sub-conscience preferences play a large part. After a typical work day, I'm simply more likely to gravitate towards a game that entertains and amuses me, such as MARVEL HEROES, or BUFFY, or MONSTERS MENACE AMERICA, than I am towards a game that is challenging or strategic. My brain is just too fried and tired after solving logic problems all day, and my sweetie is usually looking for an emotional outlet and a little escape after dealing with the crisis and tragedy that makes up his daily routine.

So I can certainly agree that objectively there are better games than the ones I have chosen for my Ubers. However, the five I have chosen are the five from 2006 that we actually choose to play.

StephenAvery said...

You forgot the absolute worst game of the year: Factory Fun. This POS totally replaces my previous "Most Hated Game" Riccochet Robot as the least fun game ever. It pretty bad when you have to put "fun" into the title just to advertise that the is supposed to be a game.

Steve"DiscerningGamer" Avery

Joel A. said...

Steve, I'm confident that you would do a 180 flip in your opinion of Factory Fun as well as Ricochet Robots--if they were re-themed as "Penguin Fun" and "Ricochet Penguins."

StephenAvery said...

Oh - now if its penquins that is a totally different matter.

Actually the only cool Penquin is Squawk the Penguinoid.(http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/100337) And even he couldn't save Factory Fun. (unless he crytalized it with his frost breath and shattered it to a million pieces..then stomped the peices to a fine powder)

Steve"FactoryHate"Avery

Michael Barnes said...

Heh, while Avery was playing FACTORY FUN I was running a full table of SUPREMACY. The guy playing China kept saying "I sell you nuke for two birrion dolla!" I walked in and saw Avery with Billy Motion playing that "gem" and laughed at them. What's next? OFFICE FUN? RETAIL JOB FUN? DOCKWORKER FUN? SALT MINE FUN?

MARVEL HEROES...you know, I think the problem is ultimately that it's just too much game for what it is. It's just way overdesigned. A game with that theme and that sort of concept needs to be really immediate and action-packed, like MONSTERS MENACE AMERICA. I don't want to manage resources, budget actions, and all that...I want clobberin' time! Go check out the old GW JUDGE DREDD card game for a better example of how to do this kind of game...

BLUE MOON CITY is just lame...I liked it for two games, but then I realized that I was playing a game where essentially I was taking on the role of a contractor working for dragons, who would deign to shit a golden scale on me if they liked my work. Not to mention how insanely balanced and methodical the game is. It's a wooden boy of a game...no soul.

CALIFORNIA- it's pretty much a safe bet at this point that if the title of a game is a place name or ends in "-ia" or "-a" then I'm going to hate it. Haven't played it, but given Schacht's track record with me (anybody remember HANSA?) I probably won't even give it a chance.

Juniper said...

it's pretty much a safe bet at this point that if the title of a game is a place name or ends in "-ia" or "-a" then I'm going to hate it. Haven't played it, but given Schacht's track record with me (anybody remember HANSA?) I probably won't even give it a chance.

That's why they should have called it FURY OF DRACULAGUM.

NeonPeon said...

CALIFORNIA- it's pretty much a safe bet at this point that if the title of a game is a place name or ends in "-ia" or "-a" then I'm going to hate it. Haven't played it, but given Schacht's track record with me (anybody remember HANSA?) I probably won't even give it a chance.
No free copy of Wallachia for you - I wouldn't want you to review it negatively.

What about Valhalla? It could be about Valkyries pleasing Odin.

ubarose said...

MARVEL HEROES...you know, I think the problem is ultimately that it's just too much game for what it is. It's just way overdesigned...I don't want to manage resources, budget actions, and all that...I want clobberin' time!

Crap! You know what, you are right. But when you get to the clobberin' time in MARVEL HEOROES, it's sweet. It's like you have to eat your veggies to get pie. Honestly,I must confess, we were playing wrong for awhile. Someone corrected us, so we played one game by the actual rules. We decided the actual rules sucked and went back to playing wrong, boom shaka laka.

Michael Barnes said...

Hmm...yeah, the fighting part of MARVEL HEROES is pretty fun...just everything else isn't.

Funny enough, I don't think MARVEL HEROSCAPE is terribly satisfying either although it's more clobberin' time...there just hasn't been the Great Superhero Game yet...I really think that JUDGE DREDD game is closest because it cuts right to the chase. Haven't tried CAPES N' COWLS yet, every time I go to order it from that weird occult website it's out of stock.

But this unpublished MARVEL TEAM-UP game that my pal Richard designed...it's pretty awesome, it has enough game there and enough action to make everybody happy...and it has a great cooperation/competition element the likes of which we don't often see. It's really a card game, but it's pretty rich.

Orthodork said...

Leonardo: Never played it but it can't be possibly worse than Turn and Taxis.

It can be, and is worse. Leonardo DaVinci is one of the few games I've simply refused to finish playing.

J de said...

(anybody remember HANSA?)

I do. And I quite like Hansa. But then again you don't agree with me anyway. Your loss.

Shellhead said...

I agree with Barnes that there hasn't been a great superhero game yet. But I do enjoy Strange Synergy for at least capturing the feel of two or more teams of heroes/villains engaging in one big, chaotic fight. Only thing is, I thought that the Foglio artwork was totally wrong for the game, way too cutesy.

So I found a website where somebody posted images of all the characters from his Champions rpg campaign. I downloaded several dozen decent-looking character pictures, re-sized them to fit the scale of Strange Synergy. Then I printed to copies of each off on label paper, stuck them on cardboard and cut them apart with a paper cutter. I even re-did the box cover, substituting the cover artwork from Justice Machine versus the Elementals #2.

I do have two problems with Strange Synergy. One is the lack of any other aspect of superhero comics outside the big fight scene. The other is that games occasionally end in a total stalemate between two characters who can't hurt each other. For example, one guy can teleport but doesn't have any effective attacks, while the other guy is tough and dangerous, but too slow to catch the teleporter.

Malloc said...

Hey Weeks,

If your gonna do a show I suggest you get the entire FAT: crew on the phone .

-M

Michael Barnes said...

Let me tell you something about STRANGE SYNERGY...there's actually a pretty decent idea there (huge numbers of powers that can be combined for an infintely replayable game) but the chief problem is that god damned Phil Foglio furry artwork. It makes me fucking sick, and frankly Steve Jackson, along with Foglio, is almost solely responsible for bringing that furry shit into gaming (see also: SPANC). DO NOT get me started on furries...I spent like an hour in the art show at Dragon Con loudly berating all the god damned furry art there...I mean, someone painted a picture of this anthropomorphic dog king or something sitting on this throne with his cock sticking up out of his pants...as far as I'm concerned, furries are just shy of pedophiles on my "to exterminate" list.

One thing I really like about this MARVEL TEAM UP game is that it does have some other stuff going on other than the Big Fight...sometimes characters get waylaid having to deal with stuff in their private lives...y'know, Tony Stark's AA meetings for example.

J De- see, you only "quite like" HANSA...tell me about the games you FUCKING LOVE. But DON'T if you're going to tell me you dress up like Wiley Coyote and play them.

the*mad*gamer said...

Hey Weeks,

If your gonna do a show I suggest you get the entire FAT: crew on the phone .

-M


Great idea! I have been trying to get Mr. Skeletor on the show for the longest time!

J de said...

I'll try to refrain from understatement in the future but I FUCKIN' like: Struggle of Empires, Paths of Glory, Empires in Arms (how long till the computer version, Lord, how long?), Princes of the Renaissance, War of the Ring and Brittannia. And maybe a few others.

But to get back to the 2006 harvest:
Fury of Dracula I like a lot, but will have to try again to have a firm FUCKIN LIKE. Conquest of the Empire (no surprise there), Louis XIV, Arkham Horror, WotR Battles of the Third Age are also contenders.

Juniper said...

One thing I really like about this MARVEL TEAM UP game is that it does have some other stuff going on other than the Big Fight...sometimes characters get waylaid having to deal with stuff in their private lives...y'know, Tony Stark's AA meetings for example.

That's the thing that all published superhero games have overlooked.

The Marvel stories were never about Spider-man kicking ass. They were about Spider-man kicking ass and then coming home to discover that his aunt had had a heart attack, or that he failed a chemistry exam, or that his girlfriend hated spiders.

ubarose said...

J de said...
But to get back to the 2006 harvest:
Fury of Dracula I like a lot, but will have to try again to have a firm FUCKIN LIKE. Conquest of the Empire (no surprise there), Louis XIV, Arkham Horror, WotR Battles of the Third Age are also contenders.


Conquest of Empires, Louis XIV & Arkham Horror are from 2005.

WotR Battles of the Third Age is an expansion.

Ken B. said...

Yeah, but it has enough meat with two more games inside. It should be considered a standalone, but the collective hearts of BGG Euro fans would stop if TWO War of the Ring games were in the top 50.

I think the old Marvel Heroes RPG was *supposed* to cover all that personal life stuff, but every... single... game we played of it was:


"Ultron is in the downtown area wrecking stuff. You guys start here on the map. Go get 'im."

The rules for playing villains in the game were flat BUSTED...you got karma (essentially "re-roll" or freebie points) for breaking stuff, damaging property, killing bystanders, that sort of thing. It was like watching the score roll-over on a video game how quickly we could boost the bad guys' karma scores.


The thing is--and this is the same problem with dungeon crawls--if people want RPG stuff, they'll play an RPG. Otherwise, without a central DM-like figure, storytelling (with RPG-depth) is impossible in boardgame form, unless you're willing to horribly script the thing and render it with little replay value.

mtlawson said...

Not to hijack a thread or anything, but has anyone gotten their copy of Hannibal yet? Mine just showed up today. After having looked it over, I still don't know what the hell some people are griping about with the artwork and stuff.

--Mike L.

Michael Barnes said...

Remember that Dead Milkmen song "You'll Dance to Anything"? Someone really ought to do a parody cover called "You'll Bitch About Anything" about internet board game bitchers...

But seriously, the folks bitching about Valley having piles of games at Essen but none for months-old preorders have a valid point...that was really shitty for them to do that considering those preorders are what made the publication possible in the first place.

I'll have a copy next week...really looking forward to it, never played it but I love WE THE PEOPLE.

J de said...

Conquest of Empires, Louis XIV & Arkham Horror are from 2005.

Which proves your point of doing a best of 2006 list now, because these are all games I first played in 2006.

WotR Battles of the Third Age is an expansion.

I have to agree with Ken here. The Rohan and Gondor scenarios are very different from the basic game, even though some mechanism have been copied.

Funny though how its success is being claimed as being somehow a problem for Euro gamers. This game has enough neat (´elegant´) mechanisms to please any euro fan.

MrSkeletor said...

Marvel Heroes biggest problem is that it's basically World of Warcraft with all the cool customization and decision trees taken out.

Juniper said...

But seriously, the folks bitching about Valley having piles of games at Essen but none for months-old preorders have a valid point...

It's valid, but it's not particularly strong. They got the game to US preorder customers as quickly as they could. Preorder customers wouldn't have gotten their copies any sooner had they not sold the game at Essen.

I believe that Valley Games used a fulfillment center in the US to ship everything. But I'm in Canada. This means I'll be getting my preorder copy after everyone else (including some US retail customers), since mine has to pass through customs.

I just hope that the box is easy to open.

Juniper said...

Correction to my post above: it looks like Canadian preorders are being trucked across the border and shipped from Canada.

I see no complaints on BGG about the box being difficult to open, but the use of parentheses in the blurb on the back of the box has been condemned.

StephenAvery said...

Marvel: Micheal's assessment is dead on. There is a good game here that has been cluttered up. I'd love to hear Uba's house rules.

Strange Synergy: Great idea which is only partially developed and very incomplete rules. *Worst Components Ever* and thats saying something.

Capes and Cowls: Good game with Crappy components.Each hero has basic statistics Att, Def, Health ect. and three super powers. The space that your hero is on dictates the power of your attacks and often whether you can use a certain special power. Reccomended (if only you got better components)

Richard Launius' Marvel Teamup Prototype: I liked it so much I asked to buy a copy of the prototype after the 1st play. It still needs a little balance tweaking. Also Richard and I disagree on the optimal number of players (he likes 6-8 player 3 hour games and I like 4-5 player hour and half games)
I'll keep the details of the game secret until it gets picked up but if it gets distributed get it. You won't be disapointed.

Heroclix: You left out a great game here. The big problem is an easy fix: no storyline. The game is all about pounding. With a little effort you can find player generated storylines that alter the gameplay and give more flavor and life to this overlooked gem.

Steve"Superhero"Avery

P.S. DC was the best hero RPG out there but I loved Marvel's damage labels (I hit him with a remarkable energy blast. He still suffered good damage despite his excellent armor)

Frank Branham said...

As far as Supers games go, Heroes Incorporated is reasonably good as well (caveat--I helped develop the expansion.)

It is clearly in the Marvel Heroes / Judge Dredd style, but it moves so much faster, and there is usually more competition for crimes.

The downside is that their are no licenses, the chrome has been dialed down a bit too much. Some of the heroes in the basic game are also terribly boring. The expansion adds just enough chrome back, and adds a few interesting characters.

The big difference over Marvel Heroes is that movement is more important. It often takes a couple of actions to move into a crime, and there are quite a few powers that deal with getting there.

StephenAvery said...

Oops -forgot about that one. Its probably got the smoothest gameplay and best balance but has a mechanical feel because of the action point allowance. Still I like the game and pull it out every now and then.

mtlawson said...

Well, if Valley Games handed the shipping to a fulfillment agency, they could take the rest of the stock and sell them at Essen while the fulfillment agency took care of things.

Sure, it didn't look the greatest, but Valley Games didn't have much control over the container shipment once it left the docks in Europe.

The quality of the resulting game is enough to make me consider buying Titan when it comes out. My main concern was that the board would turn out like the old version of Panzerblitz, and since it didn't, it looks fine to me.

--Mike L.

Michael Barnes said...

HEROES INCORPORATED isn't bad...but yeah, not having a license pretty much sinks it. It's weird, I can totally buy generic fantasy, sci-fi, or horror settings but generic superhero stuff just makes me angry. It doesn't help that the characters in HEROES INC. are obvious pastiches of characters we all know. You definitely want the expansion if you're going to play it.