Monday, January 08, 2007

WAGS Game of the Year

Well, it's been a great year for WAGS - we've added a number of new games (nowhere near the explosive expansion of 2005, of course) and one new regular member, the inestimable Bharmer.

To help fend off the post-holidays malaise, I propose we select individually and then as a group our favourite game of 2006.

Technically, many of the games we played as "new" in 2006 were probably published in 2005, so I'll include them here as well. Should we include games that were played for the first time in WAGS in 2006 as well, or would that be too broad and confusing?

Arkham Horror
Ca$h & Gun$
Conquest of the Empire
Funny Friends
Fury of Dracula
Louis XIV
Mall of Horror
Mission Red Planet
Monsters Menace America
Paranoia Mandatory Card Game
Railroad Tycoon
Shadows over Camelot
Ticket to Ride Europe
Vampire: Prince of the City
Vegas Showdown
Wits and Wagers

I've culled this list from the games I've rated at BGG, so feel free to add any that I've missed. I've only included games that a majority of players in WAGS have played; although I haven't played Caylus, I know that at least three WAGSters have. I haven't included a number of wargames that I was introduced to outside the WAGS group either. Taj Mahal and Maharaja, although introduced to the group this year, fall outside the 2005-2006 range.

Of these games, "Railroad Tycoon" jumps out at me as the one I most enjoyed playing this year, so that would be my nomination for all-around Game of the Year. Despite its flaws in production and design, it appeals to me most of all of the games in the list. "Antike" probably comes second in this category for me.

In terms of "european"/"designer"/"german" style games, I would nominate "Louis XIV" as the winner in that category. A close runner-up would be "Vegas Showdown", but it's not strong enough to win it, nor is "Mall of Horror", though both are good in their own way.

In the "american" style games (a fairly narrow category, with Arkham Horror, Conquest of the Empire, Fury of Dracula, Monsters Menace America and Vampire: Prince of the City comprising the field), I'd probably select "Vampire: Prince of the City", but "Conquest of the Empire" would probably also be deserving as well. Hard call.

Any other categories or special mentions? What are your picks, fellow WAGSters?


  1. My picks:

    New (to me) game of the year: Taj Mahal

    Without a doubt this is the game that blew me away this year. Other very good games in this vein that we played this year (let`s call them 'pure, strategic german games') included Maharaja, Wildlife, Quo Vadis? and Louis XIV. Although I enjoyed all of them to varying degrees, Taj Mahal is head and shoulders above all them them for me. I need to play it more, but I`m guessing this has a shot to reorder my top 3 or 5 games.

    Favorite Game released this Year: Railroad Tycoon
    Runner up: Antike

    It actually hurts me a little to pick that game as game of the year, because it has SO MANY FLAWS.
    1) Production errors (colour issues, mostly. The warping hasn`t really bothered me)
    2) A general feeling that many things didn`t get all the testing it should have received. The south west of the board, for example, will never get played on, even with 6 players. The tycoon cards are uneven.
    3)The turn order auction and the way the cards get turned up doesn`t quite work for me as published.

    That said, it's the game I had the most fun with. Even with all it`s flaws the game remains engaging, thematic, tense, etc. With the help of the variant we last played with, I am much more comfortable with the game on that level, anyway.

    Antike is also a game I quite enjoyed, and from a design perspective there is more to admire. However, RRT remains more fun to play, and that`s what matters in the end.

    Special prize: Fury of Dracula
    This game is excellent for what it is. However, it`s so long it won`t get played that often.

    Best Expansion: PowerGrid:Italy
    I really enjoyed our session of this, and I`m not normally the biggest PG fan.

    Best big, sloppy, american game: Conquest of the Empire
    Another flawed game which is enjoyable because it's a thematically rich game which gets just enough right to overcome most of it`s weaknesses. Also in need of some sort of house rules, I look forward to fiddling around and coming up with a variant to make it a real winner.

    Best 'Fusion' games: Mission: Red Planet, Vegas Showdown
    Two games which can only be described as combinations of previous games but which both worked for me. I haven`t played either enough to know for sure, but they seem to have done a good job of creating fun games out of an engaging theme and well worn mechanics.

    Most successful oddball games of the year: Mall of Horror, Funny Friends
    Mall of Horror and Funny Friends stand out as games which were fun to play and were memorable because of the shear originality of the theme and experience.

    So, basically, my favorite game of the year was released in 2000. My favorites this year are mostly flawed products in one way or the other. Does that mean it was a weak year in games? Not really. I, personally, have had a blast continuing our Wednesday night gatherings and I`ve had as much fun as ever. I think that part of the reason for the harsh sounding words is that in the first few years we played a lot of the classics (traders of Genoa, El Grande, Puerto Rico, Tikal, etc)and this year we branched out to more thematic games, and I enjoyed them at that level. We played a lot less truly silly games (the cheapass stuff, less lightweight card games in general), which matches my preferences so I`m not going to complain.

    Who knows what next year will bring? I can predict that we'll be buying even less games this year, since our collective collection is quite large now, and filled with very good we haven`t played nearly enough.

  2. I also wanted to add that this was the year I played my first 'real' wargames after cutting my teeth on Midway last year. Wilderness War (Card Driven wargame), Rommel in the Desert and Napoleon (both Columbia Block games) were all played a number of times, primarily by me and Kozure. I`ll never be able to play this type of game regularly, but they've been an excellent change of pace. I'd probably say that Wilderness War and Rommel in the Desert are tied as my favorite of the four I've tried.

  3. I hear what you're saying about Railroad Tycoon. It's flawed in many respects, both in production and in certain mechanics which you mention. It's certainly not the most polished of designs.

    But it's fun, finishes inside of two hours, and has tension and competition. There's very little analysis paralysis or downtime, and a definite sense of achievement in the end.

    For me, it fulfills many of the "perfect game" criteria (except for criteria 10 and 11 - leader and loser related problems).

    Taj Mahal, hmmm? I definitely enjoyed it, but something was missing about it for me. I can see that it's a very well-designed game, but something about it doesn't click with me the same way that Power Grid, Puerto Rico, Tikal, Railroad Tycoon and Wildlife work for me.

    As for next year... Yeah, now that I've reached the 100 game limit, I'll be choosing new games with a great deal of care (well, not that I chose carelessly before, but now even more quality and inventiveness will be required to displace another game from my collection).

    Fortunately, I have about a half dozen games wallowing around in the 3-5.5 rating range which I wouldn't be loathe to get rid of.

  4. Anonymous10:45 AM


    fast with virtually no downtime
    simple mechanics yielding deeper strategy