It’s the end of March and now the dust has settled enough to look back at my game-discoveries from 2022, and do a write up of my favourites…
But first some key figures – courtesy of BG Stats and the BGG API:
- 7 of my top 10 most played games of 2022 were new-to-me games.
- 40 of 109 games played where new-to-me.
- My H-index of the year dropped to it’s normal 8.
- Number of days with games increased slightly to 154.
- Estimated hours played kept quite stable at 245, though.
Enough numbers, here’s my list of noteworthy new-to-me games from 2022. (As usual this is not really my favourite nine games, but rather a kind of optimal games library of games I played in 2022.)
I gave Next Station: London to my son for Christmas and it quickly became a favourite. A very elegant take on flip-and-write route making with a lets-create-a-metro-system-in-London-theme.
Favourite mechanism: I really like the very simple way to have length of rounds vary by having two different types of cards in the draw deck, and at the same time making it easy to keep track of what the upcoming cards might be, since the deck is quite small…
A game that got lots of hype when it was nominated for Spiel des Jahres in 2022 was Oink games’ SCOUT. Impossible to get hold of at the time, so a friend of mine created his own version in Card Creator. Since I also have this great tool I adjusted/upgraded it with names of people I know… (When it became possible to get hold of it I did, of course, buy the real version.) And lo and behold! It was great!
Favourite mechanism: Apart from the clever take on bohnanza-style fixed hand, being able to scout artists from acts in the table – even if you could have beat their performance – place them wherever you want in your hand and turn them to the orientation you want leads to some great megalomaniac pushing of ones luck. (And the once per round “Scout & Show”. Great, great stuff.)
My son describes the next game out here, ‘L.A.M.A. Party Edition, as a bit like UNO, but good’. And indeed, this was also an interesting interesting discovery, even though it is a little bit like UNO. (But good.) When someone explains the rules of game to you, it almost doesn’t seem like a game. It is just too simple, but then when playing you discover the bluffing and double-bluffing and folding. Oh, the folding. Dr Knizia has struck again! (The party version of the game is the best way to play it, methinks – if you don’t mind even more chaos than the original… (Incidentally my copy of L.A.M.A. started out as a regular edition, but I’ve… pinked… some of the cards to make it into a party edition.))
Favourite mechanism: The fact that you can push your luck and try to win a round by getting rid of all your cards and thus be able to throw away one negative point chip (that can be worth, 1, 10 or 20 points) seems like such a minor rule, but leads to fascinating decisions and tension.
Cascadia is kind of a more streamlined and lighter version of yesteryear’s Calico from the same designer group. Whereas Calico lures you in with cutesy graphics and then hit you in the head with real brain burnery decisions, Cascadia lures you in with cutesy graphics and then hugs you tight with a way more open gameplay. That’s not to say the decisions are not interesting. You just have less control, so the experience is way, way more laid back, less analysis paralysis-y. So, most days I prefer this newer take.
Favourite mechanism: The pine cones that you can… burn… to optimise your choices. Or keep for points. But you most likely will throw them out to get the perfect combo you need. Nothing spectacularly new, perhaps, but it works wonders here.
Dan Hughes rambled on about Akropolis in an episode of the Sporadically Board podcast that I listened to on my way to work the day we had a board game evening with friends planned at my new favourite board game bar here in Lyon – The White Rabbit, so I read the rules (a bit too quickly) while waiting for the others to show up and we got to play it a couple of times. (Both with the wrong rules and correct ones.) And it was great fun. Thanks Dan!
Favourite mechanism: The 3Dness of it makes for great decision points. Do I sprawl out flat, or do I build high?
Paleo is one of the two best gateway+ games I discovered in 2022. (It is the best cooperative discovery.) As an added bonus it is a game that both my son and my daughter really enjoys, so we get to play it regularly.
Favourite mechanism: Each round you pick one card out of three available to you, knowing what type of card it (most probably) is, based on the back of it – and discussions with your fellow hunter gatherers.
One of my favourite race themed games is the deck deconstructing game of Flamme Rouge. Heat: Pedal to the Metal is kind of a follow up to that, but here the focus is on hand management, and especially, heat management. This is be my new favouritest race themed game!
Favourite mechanism: The HEAT cards! Such a deceptively simple concept. You want them in your engine, but not in your draw deck (where they will end up clogging your hand) nor in your hand (where they are annoying to get rid of). This leads to a very fascinating balancing act where you constantly try to spend the heat in your engine at the right time.
I’ve never played the ‘real’ Fleet game, but the roll, draft and write version, Fleet: The Dice Game (Second Edition) has been my favourite new-to-me solo experience. Super easy to run bot that only focus on disrupting your plans, adding its own unique puzzles to the mix. As an added bonus, the game works great with other human beings as well.
Favourite mechanism: The I-pick-you-pick-then-everyone-gets-the-leftovers twist on dice crafting works great here, methinks.
I had been looking forward to it since I heard about it around Essen last year. A friend of mine gave us a teach and we played a game Monday after it was out and, lo and behold it did live up to the hype! I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so, since it was still not sold out at my friendly local board game store, I invested in it the very next weekend. What an amazing puzzle of a game! So many excruciating decision points! (What card don’t you upgrade? Do you perform an action sub-optimally now, or wait for it to get stronger?) I guess the only slight downside to it is that it can take quite a bit of time, so, sadly, it is difficult to get to the table often enough… (Maybe it can benefit from a ‘Terraforming Mars: Prelude’ style expansion?) Luckily the solitaire mode is great out of the box. (I have heard good things about a certain automata circulating on boardgamegeek, but I have yet to try it.)
Favourite mechanism: It could be the coffee breaks, or the end-game condition, but, in fact, I think it must be the mechanism borrowed from Civilization: A New Dawn: the action selection by revolving cards system. Coupled with the fact that these actions can be upgraded – but not all of them! Not all of them…
So, there you have it. My “Ludoteca Ideale” of my 2022 discoveries… I can’t wait to get either of these ones back to the table! Now for some honourable mentions!
Honourable mentions (sorted alphabetically)
- Abandon All Artichokes - The simplest introduction to deck building I’ve encountered with one of the most interesting win-conditions in any game I played in 2022: don’t draw any artichokes. Not terribly deep, but great, great fun.
- Bag of Chips is a clever little super simple betting/push your luck game where you are matching ‘missions’ to chips coming out of a bag. (Both this one and the previous game on this list came home with us after a
pilgrimagevisit to Philibert’s store in Strasbourg.)
- Cartzzle: Brocéliande - Collaborative puzzle game with cards.
- Criss Cross - A great Knizia roll and write game that I wrote an AI for and blogged a bit about that here.
- Dune: Imperium has been on my list of games to try since I heard about it. We played with the Ix-expansion and it didn’t let down. It could possibly have moved on to the main list if I had gotten to play it some more…
- Everdell is yet another game that has been high on my list of games to try after all the hypebuzz surrounding it. It too didn’t let down, even though, as I pointed out in my Top 50 from December, I was fooled in the last possible moment by my… teacher… (With no plan B, since I didn’t think it was that kind of a game…)
- Fjords is a great abstract two-phased game of Norwegian landscape building followed by area control. Also one of the best box covers of 2022.
- Great Western Trail (Second Edition) - This game won my Top 50 from December, but it is not different enough from the original to warrant a place in the main list, methinks.
- Just One is the best new-to-me party game I encountered in 2022.
- Moon Adventure - Oink Games revisit my favorite game of theirs, Deep Sea Adventure, and turns it into a tense collaborative(!) dice roller.
- New Frontiers - ‘The board game based on a card game based on one of my favourite board games did not disappoint. This is, for me, just a better version of Puerto Rico. It solves my main gripe with it’s predecessor – fixed turn order, by adding a new role that lets you grab the first player marker.’ – (Top 50 - part 2)
- Quacks & Co.: Quedlinburg Dash is a great version of Quacks for smaller children.
- Space Base - John D Clear re-imagines Machi Koro in space (and makes it into a better game (just like he did for Augustus with Ecos (and made it into a (way) better game))).
- Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace – A Love Letter Game - I really like this take on the Love Letter formula. Having two fractions – and a ranchor – really makes a difference.
- Star Wars: Unlock! - More Star Wars. And Unlock. Fun was had.
- Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition - Did I have too high hopes for this one? A mix between Terraforming Mars and Race for the Galaxy? I guess in multiplayer I would pick either of the others instead, but as a solitaire game, this one every time. (It was this close to be my solitaire game of the year, though!)
- Tigris & Euphrates - The oldest game on this list for sure (BGGID 42!), but I hadn’t played it before. Yet another Knizia! Great, chaotic(!), fun.
- Via Nebula - I had fun with this one from Martin Wallace, but it kind of didn’t live up to my expectations… (And/but I played it too few times.)
- Wind the Film! - I played the new ‘Photography’ edition (but I like the old name better). A really clever little card game with Bohnanza style fixed card positions in your hand, and beautiful art.
- Architects of the West Kingdom: Works of Wonder - is not a new-to-me game, but, rather a new-to-me-expansion for one of my favourite lighter worker placement games. With this expansion, however the game becomes a… real… game… Way crunchier – in a good way. One of my favourite expansions of all time. I wouldn’t always want to play with this as it adds a bit of play time and sometimes one would like a breezier experience, but with the right crowd…
The games I look forward the most to play in 2023
- Darwin’s Voyage – I have Kickstarted this (a long, long, long time ago) – let’s hope it lives up to the hype… and that it arrives this year… (Spoiler: It has arrived!)
- Through Ice and Snow - Another kickstarter with a theme I couldn’t resist (I was heavily into the story around the discovery of the Northwest passage some years ago with, among other things, The Terror (both the book and the TV-series are great!)) that should arrive in 2023…
- Revive - Post-apocalyptic multi use cards and tech trees!
- Tiletum - Seemingly everyone’s favourite T-game…
- Marrakech - Feld!
- The Guild of Merchant Explorers - revisiting some mechanics from Next Station London, but developing them into a… real… game. (Spoiler! I’ve played it and it is great!)
- Wayfarers of the South Tigris - Another S J Macdonald and Shem Phillips collaboration!
- Imperial Steam - Austrian train logistics!
- Coffee Traders - Coffee!
- Carnegie - Nominated to As d’Or 2023 – with art from Ian O’Toole!
- Isle of Cats: Explore & Draw - I like the mother game a lot, and random-writes in general, so I’m curious about this.
- Come Together - Worker placement music festival in the ’60s?
- Planet Unknown - Lots of buzz around this game that “…innovates on the popular polyomino trend by allowing simultaneous, yet strategic turn-based play”.
- Dead Cells — I’m very curious to see what Bauza and Maublanc manage to massage one of my favorite video games of all time into…
From earlier years:
The Castles of Tuscany, The Search for Planet X, Under Falling Skies, Praga Caput Regni, Pipeline, Watergate, Cooper Island, Barrage, Spirit Island, Blackout, Gugong, Teotihuacan, My Island, …
Shelf of shame/opportunity
- Crystal Palace!
- The Nano9Games: Railways, City Planner, and Empire – These ones arrived just before Yule, so I still haven’t gotten them to the table…
- Expansions to:
- Viscounts of the West Kingdom (This one arrived not long ago!)
- Railways of the World (I kickstarted, and received, the solitaire deck, but haven’t tested it yet.)
- On Mars (I don’t know why I haven’t tested this yet!)
- Maracaibo (Ditto!)
Also, for reference, here’s my list from 2021.
All new-to-me games played 2022
|Abandon All Artichokes||2020||1655||6.66457||1.3187||10+||20||2-4|
|Bag of Chips||2021||4376||6.7348||1||8+||20||2-5|
|Cartzzle: Brocéliande||2021||Not Ranked||7.08333||0||8+||45||1-4|
|Fleet: The Dice Game (Second Edition)||2020||1901||7.8854||2.1364||8+||45||1-4|
|Great Western Trail (Second Edition)||2021||46||8.47438||3.7079||12+||150||1-4|
|Heat: Pedal to the Metal||2022||231||8.21423||2.1527||10+||60||1-6|
|L.A.M.A. Party Edition||2020||3263||7.02136||1.0667||8+||20||2-6|
|Next Station: London||2022||1708||7.38338||1.3333||8+||30||1-4|
|Quacks & Co.: Quedlinburg Dash||2022||4246||7.39945||1.3077||6+||25||2-4|
|Sea Salt & Paper||2022||3219||7.12086||1.4||8+||45||2-4|
|Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace – A Love Letter Game||2022||1686||7.33412||1.4091||10+||20||2-6|
|Star Wars: Unlock!||2020||1374||7.07961||1.8438||10+||60||1-6|
|Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition||2021||160||7.72191||2.915||14+||60||1-4|
|Tigris & Euphrates||1997||103||7.70313||3.5017||12+||90||2-4|
|Unlock!: Escape Adventures – Noël en Juillet||2018||13835||6.71135||2||10+||30||1-6|
|Unlock!: Game Adventures||2021||3088||8.10855||2.6||10+||60||1-5|
|Unlock!: Heroic Adventures||2018||595||7.66443||2.2424||10+||60||1-6|
|Unlock!: Une Aventure – Ralph Azham: Le Foie de l’Axolotl||2019||16628||6.084||1||10+||30||1-6|
|Wind the Film!||2016||2508||7.4098||2.0667||12+||20||2-4|
|Architects of the West Kingdom: Crossover Promo Pack||2022||Not Ranked||7.93902||2||12+||80||1-6|
|Architects of the West Kingdom: Works of Wonder||2022||Not Ranked||8.07645||3.375||12+||80||1-5|
|Dune: Imperium – Rise of Ix||2022||Not Ranked||8.80121||3.1408||13+||120||1-4|
|Evolution: Promo Pack III||2016||Not Ranked||7.59772||2.25||12+||0||2-6|
|Jamaica: The Crew||2017||Not Ranked||7.81218||1.9474||8+||75||2-6|
|Lost Ruins of Arnak: Alicorn Promo Card||2021||Not Ranked||7.83603||1.6667||12+||120||1-4|
|Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders||2021||Not Ranked||8.72604||3.1084||12+||120||1-4|
|Lost Ruins of Arnak: Saxophone Promo Card||2021||Not Ranked||7.88175||2.5||12+||120||1-4|
|Paladins of the West Kingdom: 2019 Promos||2019||Not Ranked||7.88484||3||12+||120||1-4|
|Paladins of the West Kingdom: City of Crowns||2021||Not Ranked||8.27775||4.1364||12+||120||1-4|
|Railways of Great Britain||2013||Not Ranked||7.90581||2.7273||13+||90||2-5|
|Railways of Portugal||2019||Not Ranked||8.01905||2.6667||10+||120||2-4|
|Railways of the World: Event Deck||2011||Not Ranked||7.56273||2.6875||12+||120||2-6|
|Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition – Promo Cards||2021||Not Ranked||8.09767||3||14+||60||1-4|
|Trails of Tucana: Ferry||2021||Not Ranked||7.72413||2||8+||0||1-8|
Data from ingress in table form
|Year||New to me in top 10 (by # plays)||Things played||New things played||H-index of the year||Number of days with games||Estimated hours played|