Readers who have met me in real life know that I live for social interaction in games. It doesn’t even need to be an element of the mechanics, just present at the table in some form. If you’re the table that’s laughing and cutting up, that’s where I want to be. So I didn’t understand why so many gamers were so taken with playing games solo. On some level it defeats the entire purpose of playing games, which is to spend time with friends.
Disclaimer:This session report is long. My goal was to create a session report that was much more "realistic" and capable of allowing more immersion for the reader. In an effort to meet that goal, I have included background, characterization, explanations, ect. All in an attempt to add flesh to the story. If you dislike the idea of reading a session report that has become a novella, please save yourself the time and trouble and stop reading now. Thanks.(Due to its length, I have broken this report into two parts. I hope to have the second half of the session up within a week).
Despite what I or anyone else thinks of it, Kickstarter has been a pretty amazing development in the democratisation of the creative commons. The crowdfunding model has empowered both individuals and small groups to realise their visions on a larger scale than previously thought possible, providing them with a platform and an audience hungry for the unique, the niche and the passionate. It’s wild success has seen it embraced by both independent operators and established businesses to the point where it has become near ubiquitous, towering over the hobby scene like a pulsating colossus and acting as the almost de-facto promotional and pre-order portal for all your shameful carboard and plastic fetish needs.
I really can’t be bothered to preface this with too much detail. As many of you will know I keep a list of the Ameritrash badge-holders on BGG and every year following the post-holiday badge giveaway I compiled a list of average game ratings by those user. Minimum 30 users rating, expansions don’t count and only the highest-rated edition of a game is counted. There are nearly 600 badge holders now. Here are their favourite games.
It’s that time of year again when I head on over to boardgamegeek and compile the average game ratings of everyone that’s bought an Ameritrash Fan badge and make a top fifty chart. In some ways it’s a meaningless excercise in number crunching but I know of no better way of capturing the zeitgeist of the Ameritrash community: certainly the “thematic games” domain on TOS falls woefully short. And people seem to love it, so I keep on churning out the stats year after year.
And so we come, without due ceremony, to the last of my yearly writing traditions: the top-rated games of people who hold the “Ameritrash fan” badge on boardgamegeek. The rules, as ever, are that a game must have at least 30 ratings from amongst the 814 people that own the badge, only base games count, only the highest entry from a series or multiple editions of a game count, and the results are ordered by average rating first, number of raters second.You may recall that last year, the fifth anniversary of the list, I inaugurated a new tradition: silver and gold awards, given to games that had spent five years on the list and five years in the top 25 respectively. It seemed a good way of identifying games that had been earmarked as genuine must-play classics in the whirling flux of ratings that the list has turned out to be.But there was another reason. It also allows us to remember popular games once they’re been obscured by the maelstrom of new material. And now, some have sadly disappeared from view, brave casualties in the endless war against the cult of the new. Remember them now, good gamers, and perhaps take one to your next game night to remind your comrades of their glory. They are: Starcraft, Railways of the World and - perhaps saddest of all - The Fury of Dracula. Gone, but not forgotten.On with the list. A few shocks to come, I suspect. It certainly took me by surprise.50 Friedrich Avg rating : 7.72 No. raters : 65 Re-entryIndeed we start with quite a surprise: a re-entry for this innovative multiplayer wargame. Likely trailing in the wake of its more recent and more popular sibling Maria, which missed the list with 26 votes at average of 8.02.49 Nexus Ops SILVER Avg rating : 7.72 No. raters : 330 down 7This classic is the first of our surviving award winners, but plummeting precipitously.48 High Frontier Avg rating : 7.73 No. raters : 41 New EntryAnother surprise entry for this mind-boggling Phil Eklund space-exploration simulator. So .. people actually do play his games rather than just stare at the pieces in confusion?47 Hammer of the Scots SILVER Avg rating : 7.73 No. raters : 114 up 1I keep thinking this is going to drop off the list, but its gradual descent down the ranks has actually reversed this year.46 Antiquity Avg rating : 7.75 No. raters : 37 New EntrySo here’s another oddity straight in out of nowhere, a long civilisation style game focussed on strategy in late medieval Italy. Could well be a short term visitor to the list.45 Tichu Avg rating : 7.75 No. raters : 137 down 3Everyone’s favourite cocaine substitute continues to haunt the lower reaches of the scale.44 Star Trek: Fleet Captains Avg rating : 7.77 No. raters : 71 New EntryI hadn’t taken much notice of this newest Star Trek game on the block, but it’s proving fairly popular in spite of complaints around some of the components.43 LotR: The Confrontation (Deluxe) SILVER Avg rating : 7.77 No. raters : 122 down 8Not a personal favourite but most of you disagree - this has been a fixture since its inception, but is dropping sharply now.42 Wings of War: Miniatures Avg rating : 7.78 No. raters : 41 down 9A flash in the pan entry for this flash miniatures game of world war 1 combat, likely superceded by a newer title you’re waiting to see further up the list.41 Napoleon's Triumph Avg rating : 7.84 No. raters : 54 down 2Probably the most innovative game I’ve ever played, as well as the best-looking, and deserving of the gracefully slow speed of its descent. I hope it sticks around to win a silver rating: it certainly deserves it.40 Advanced Civilization SILVER Avg rating : 7.84 No. raters : 67 down 4There's another game higher on this list directly inspired by this. The lower rating here is thanks to its age and high entry barrier, but it's still a silver-grade classic.39 Seasons Avg rating : 7.85 No. raters : 51 New EntryWhat the? I don’t even...38 Washington's War Avg rating : 7.85 No. raters : 54 down 14What I thought was a superb re-working of wilderness war and one of the few guaranteed one-session card driven wargames on the market is proving not to have long-term appeal in the wider market, having been in the top ten only two years past. This is the joint second-biggest ratings drop on the list.37 Gears of War Avg rating : 7.85 No. raters : 80 New EntryAnd here’s our first co-operative game, FFGs conversion of the popular video game franchise. Didn’t make the list on release year which suggests a slow initial take up, but those initial figures are pretty solid now.36 Commands & Colors: Ancients SILVER Avg rating : 7.86 No. raters : 162 down 2On paper, according to my rules, this remains the most popular of the now rather bloated range of Commands & Colors games. But here’s a thing: the new Napoleonics iteration matched it for rating, only losing out on the number of raters, and could possibly take its place next year. This is also the first game on our list with a highly-rated expansion, Rome & the Barbarians, with an impressive 8.35 rating. Currently out of print, but I see it’s on GMTs p500 programme.35 Legend of Drizzt Avg rating : 7.87 No. raters : 49 New EntryGlad to see a representative of what I thought was one of the best new game systems of recent years on the list. Disappointed that it’s the one in the series that I liked the least.34 Paths of Glory Avg rating : 7.87 No. raters : 66 up 12Here’s a thing. I found Paths of Glory entirely incomprehensible, as well as impossible to find the time for. I know it’s popular with a lot of gamers, but I’m at a complete loss to explain it’s sudden and quite drastic push up the chart (the third biggest upward move on the whole list) after years of gradual decline. Anyone?33 Star Wars : Queen's Gambit SILVER Avg rating : 7.9 No. raters : 108 down 4One of the few silver/gold award-winning games I’ve never played. Where are you all finding copies of this to try out?32 Merchants & Marauders Avg rating : 7.9 No. raters : 168 down 4This game of piracy and nautical adventure is proving to have solid sea-legs.31 Space Empires: 4X Avg rating : 7.91 No. raters : 38 New EntryA small surprise, this. But perhaps not so much upon reflection. The subject matter is entirely suited to the tone of the ratings list, and the publisher is well known amongst the target audience too. But it’s rarely talked about: perhaps it’s time that changed.30 Up Front Avg rating : 7.92 No. raters : 45 up 2Yet another round of reprint rumours seem to have the fan base stirred up again. But will it ever emerge from development hell?29 Chaos in the Old World Avg rating : 7.97 No. raters : 226 down 15Now, here’s a shock. The once-mighty Chaos in the Old World, king of area control games, beloved of the Games Workshop fanbase and all-round cross-genre crowd pleaser takes the biggest ratings tumble of all the entries. Why, I cannot tell. I once thought it was a shoo-in for an eventual gold award and it remains a favourite of mine. The Horned Rat expansion clocks in a respectable 8.35 rating.28 Cosmic Encounter SILVER Avg rating : 7.97 No. raters : 247 down 10The ever popular Cosmic takes a bit of a tumble too, but its classic status is already sealed. Most popular expansion of the current crop is Cosmic Incursion with a big 8.51 score.27 Arkham Horror SILVER Avg rating : 7.97 No. raters : 464 down 1After all these years I’ve come to believe that one of the most central and important purposes of this list is to highlight the most popular Arkham Horror expansions out of the absurd quantity available. And the answer is that for big-box aficionados it’s Innsmouth Horror with a whopping 8.62 and for small-box fans it’s Lurker at the Threshold with a still-impressive 8.49. Dunwich raises a respectable 8.32. And three is enough for anyone, frankly.26 Combat Commander: Europe GOLD Avg rating : 7.99 No. raters : 108 down 3The first of our gold recipients, none of which have yet actually dropped off the list. And it’ll be a good while before this does, because next year either the Pacific iteration will have gathered enough votes to make the cut, and its score is such as to make them rank very highly indeed. The only gold-standard game I've never played - could do with fixing that omission this year. Does it play via email?25 Dune GOLD Avg rating : 8.00 No. raters : 166 down 10First CitOW, then Cosmic, now this. The mighty are falling in this years list, with Dune being a former number one. The modern reprint Rex is unlikely to ever trouble this list with a current average of 7.57, although I feel it has some advantages over this original.24 Through the Ages Avg rating : 8.01 No. raters : 173 down 5As the list solidified from its roots and took on a definite flavour of thematic games, only two Euros stood and took the battering. One was Railways of the World which has now dropped off. The other was this, and it’s still going strong. One more year in the top 25 and it’ll make gold status, although that seems unlikely.23 Descent SILVER Avg rating : 8.02 No. raters : 81 up 24This is the biggest climber this year, but no prizes for guessing why with a shiny and heavily overhauled new edition on the shelves. Since there’s been some complaint over how much replay value the game has, it’ll be interesting to see where this goes next year.22 Crokinole SILVER Avg rating : 8.02 No. raters : 117 down 1A brand new silver-status for everyone’s favourite dexterity game. Well, not mine, since I’ve never played it. We have small houses over here in Europe, and nowhere to store such a monster! It missed making gold by one single ranking, having been at #26 in 2011 before moving back up the chart again. Might make it next year though.21 Claustrophobia Avg rating : 8.02 No. raters : 140 down 14This was the biggest riser in last year's’ chart: now it’s one of the biggest fallers. Not a game with longevity perhaps? Personally I’m bitter enough to blame the expansion, which was released without any guidance on back-compatibility with old scenarios, a bit of a bind for latecomers like me who bought both together and dislike having to remove expansion material between games. None is forthcoming as yet, either.20 Successors Avg rating : 8.03 No. raters : 34 New EntryWell, look at this. Old game, new entry. It’s always been a peculiar feature of this list that because of the minority of very active historical wargames amongst the AT community, classic wargames could suddenly pop out of nowhere thanks to the 30 rating threshold. But a deserved spot on the list for this classic multi-player CDG.19 Star Wars : X-Wing Avg rating : 8.03 No. raters : 86 New EntryWere you expecting to see the Cracked LCD game of the year, and my #3 pick, higher? I was. I reckon the price could be putting people off, and we haven’t even got to the financial pain of the wave 2 double-size releases yet.18 A Game of Thrones Avg rating : 8.03 No. raters : 87 Re-entryHere’s another crazy thing. A Game of Thrones scraped into the list just once in 2010 and then vanished off into the mists of time again. Until now, when after a two year absence, it’s back thanks to a spanking new edition. Which, interestingly, didn’t make all that many changes to the game play. Unlike, say, Descent, which it’s comfortably managed to beat.17 Labyrinth Avg rating : 8.04 No. raters : 63 down 6Didn’t think this would have the legs to stick around after I decided it was more interesting for its thought-provoking politics than its game play. But I’m clearly in a minority.16 Runewars Avg rating : 8.07 No. raters : 169 down 1This has pretty much proved its longevity, settling comfortably into the top twenty. I suspect the upcoming tweaked small-box reprint will help it stay there for next year at least. Not actually played this one yet: it was released at a time when I couldn’t do longer games. Now I’m waiting on that re-issue myself to give it a try and very much looking forward to it.15 Hannibal GOLD Avg rating : 8.1 No. raters : 124 up 1After missing the list in the very first year, Hannibal has been in the top twenty every year thereafter and has earned its gold badge. Deservedly too: while I have my reservations about it being a true great, it’s a game everyone should try, and the Valley Games reprint means everyone can.14 Risk Legacy Avg rating : 8.11 No. raters : 57 New EntryAn unsurprising entry, given its rock-solid trash pedigree and astonishing level of innovation. I suspect it’ll fall rapidly since it’s something of an “event” game that may shed interest once the board is properly personalised. Not played my copy yet: I’m saving it for the next gathering of my old University Risk-playing society.13 Summoner Wars Avg rating : 8.14 No. raters : 79 up 17The second-highest climber after Descent. Again no prizes for guessing the reason: the acclaimed iOS conversion by PlayDek bought the title to a whole new audience previously unaware of its delights. Including me,12 Blood Bowl SILVER Avg rating : 8.15 No. raters : 84 Non-moverOf all the games I’ve catalogued over the years, this has perhaps the oddest profile having bounced up and down the lists like a yo-yo. I think that’s down to a combination of the various editions available and the marketing boosts provided by franchise releases like the ill-fated computer version and the Team Manager card game. The latter, out of interest, having been heavily feted after release and winning several year-end awards, has actually plummeted off the list from 25th spot last year, now coming in a few spots below 50 with a score of 7.71. Seems the critics (me included) were wrong about it. It’s parent game, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength, being only one year off the gold standard.11 Here I Stand Avg rating : 8.16 No. raters : 76 down 1In spite of its monstrous play time this remains extremely popular and widely admired. Helped no doubt by its suitability for long-term PBEM play it too is only a year off gold.10 Eclipse Avg rating : 8.16 No. raters : 165 down 1The naysayers on this are in the minority, and it continue to hold its own. With an iOS conversion and an expansion in the works, I can’t see that changing much. But, you’ll notice, it still hasn’t “killed” TI3. A consequence, in part, of the fact that Eclipse is every bit as complex and takes a bit longer to play than the advertised 30 minutes per player.9 Mage Knight Avg rating : 8.18 No. raters : 143 down 3Another upstart entry from last year that seems likely to be here to stay. It appears that glacial pace and long play time are a small price to pay for the wealth of strategy, variety and narrative that this game provides. 8 Twilight Imperium GOLD Avg rating : 8.19 No. raters : 275 Non-moverHere’s the old monster, staying stubbornly ahead of its rival Eclipse. But it’s finally showing some signs of vulnerability. For the first time ever, a TI3 expansion does not have the highest score when I compiled the ratings. For all that Shattered Empires and Shards of the Throne still bag enormous averages and the #2 and #3 slots with 8.98 and 8.84 respectively, the latter demonstrating there’s a lot of value in a frequently-ignored release.7 Earth Reborn Avg rating : 8.25 No. raters : 99 down 5Last year’s big surprise package is still surprising this year, although it’s fallen off its perch a little from the dizzy heights of a number two new entry. And still probably the least-discussed game in the top ten. iOS version of this would sell a treat, I reckon.6 Battlestar Galactica GOLD Avg rating : 8.29 No. raters : 341 down 1Our second de-throned number one game is still enormously popular. Interestingly, although people have been a bit sniffy about the expansions the highest scoring one, Exodus, has a very respectable 8.28 rating.5 Space Hulk GOLD Avg rating : 8.32 No. raters : 249 down 2Much of the board gaming community may have walked away from Games Workshop in disgust after their heavy-handed IP grab, but we still love them. And with an iOS version in the pipe, we’ll likely continue to do so. And when that hits the app store, I suspect many of the haters may find sudden forgiveness in their hearts.4 Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel Avg rating : 8.42 No. raters : 34 Re-entryNot as surprising as it may first seem, the sudden blazing re-appearance of a CoH game into the top five is largely a consequence of the rules of this list. It’s predecessor, Awakening the Bear, was a solid fixture in the lower reaches, and now its improved stablemate has gathered the votes to make a berth for itself. And wholly deserved too I might add, a superb game.3 Twilight Struggle GOLD Avg rating : 8.52 No. raters : 303 down 2So! Here’s the big surprise. Our apparently unassailable number one game for three of the past six years has dropped not one but two places! Remains my favourite title but age and over-familiarity are finally starting to weary this stupendous game.2 Android: Netrunner Avg rating : 8.63 No. raters : 81 New EntryAnd of all the games to de-throne it, this is a big shock. Not that it isn’t an excellent game - made my top five for the year - but to place so highly was most unexpected. Especially when a lot of people are complaining about its old-school feel while praising its qualities. Seems that perhaps old-school is what we’re secretly craving a bit more of. Be very interesting to see if the regular data pack releases through the year for this maintain interest and high ratings. 1 War of the Ring GOLD Avg rating : 9.01 No. raters : 41 up 3The new community favourite is an old favourite in shiny new packaging. The second edition of War of the Ring improved balance and playability, as well as re-enthusing the fan base and allowing a new generation of gamers to sample its considerable delights. Look at that score: this is the first time any stand alone-game has gathered and average greater than nine, and the gap to the number two spot is huge, boding well for it keeping the spot for a year at least.So there we have it. Not much to add really: the ratings speak for themselves and the long-term trend we’ve been seeing toward more and more historical games and two-player titles are continuing.
People seem to like these lists. So here I am again with your yearly dose of statistical hype-mixture. I've actually made a table this year rather than my previous paragraph-based efforts, but there are still comments beneath noteworth games. Enjoy.
A quick rundown of the rules for anyone new to the list. This is an average of the ratings given to games by people who've bough the "Ameritrash fan" microbadge on BGG. A game needs at least 30 ratings to be eligable. Games that have been in the top 25 for at least five years running are highlighted with a gold award, while those who made five years in other positions get a silver award instead.
The purpose of these awards is to partly highlight games that continue to be seen as classics over an extended period, to differentiate the brilliant from the briefly popular, but also so I can bring to your attention great games that have now fallen from the top fifty. This fate has befallen four silver-status games: Hammer of the Scots, Nexus Ops, Fury of Dracula and Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation. Play them, so that they might not be forgotten.
Here are those that survive:
So there you have it. The top half of the list continues to retain a pleasing solidity, suggesting we're getting to and holding the cream of the crop in terms of game quality.
Indeed, the most noteworthy trend for me this year is the rise and retention of classic titles in the face of newer upstarter. For the first time ever, we've got a re-entry. And there's quite a few older games that have climbed up a place or two, a phenomenon that was once rare amongst a fixed patter of top games slowly being pushed down the list by new entries.
And part of that trend is the surprising absence of some apparently popular and acclaimed titles. Last year X-Wing and the new edition of A Game of Thrones were riding high, but are now nowhere to be seen. Other high-flyers like Eclipse and Merchants and Marauders have taken colossal ranking falls. But look at the new crop from 2013: while Duel of Age and Clash of Cultuies did well, Robinson Crusoe, Pathfinder and Dice Duel all had sufficient numbers of people rating them to be eligable for the list, but none made it! Pathfinder came closest at #56.
There you go. See you next year. And if you'd like to see more in-depth analysis like this, might I remind you about my Patreon page where you can donate a little pocket change in exchange for my time spent crunching numbers in this very fashion.
Around this time of year, for the past few years, I’ve made a habit of listing a top fifty games according to the boardgamegeek ratings of people who hold the “ameritrash” microbadge. The idea originally was to get a better handle on what, exactly, the term was supposed to describe but as time has gone on it’s become more of a matter of interest onto itself, simply to recommend the best games to fans of the genre, even as the term itself has, perhaps, become even more ephemeral. This year, due to time constraints I’m barely able to find the space to keep up my article output, let alone make lists on BGG, so compiling an article around the statistics instead seemed an obvious solution. Hopefully in a few weeks time, when things have calmed down a bit, I’ll be able to post that list with some actual numbers on it and you’ll see the exact ratings and positions of the games I’m going to talk about. In the meantime I’ve picked out a few highlights for you to enjoy.
It has been said that there are 2 types of people in this world, those who lead and those who follow. I have a different way of thinking, a slightly more cynical boolean classification for the worlds population. The two types of people in Malloc's worlds are Creeps and Assholes.
Sagrilarus and flim_flam recently sat down with Adam Starkweather (adamant), the driving force behind Multi-Man Publishing’s critically acclaimed International Game Series (or IGS) for a wide ranging discussion about upcoming wargames and the struggles of trying to bring fresh ideas and approaches to the wargamer community.
As promised last month, Chris Pramas agreed to do an interview for F:AT. Chris Pramas worked with Wizads of Coast. His work for Dungeons & Dragon include: Slavers, Guild to Hell, Apocalyse Stone, Vortex of Madness and some work on the 2000 Players Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guild. Chris has also worked on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. He currently runs his own Role Playing Company Green Ronin Publishing. Green Ronin Publishing publishes Dragon Age, A Song of Ice and Fire and Mutants & Masterminds and DC Adventures.
I am sorry to inform you, but the product available at Tuesday Morning is a discontinued, unauthorized and unlicensed version of the game. I must recommend that you do not buy it from there.The New & Authentic version is currently available at Thought Hammer
Whoa -- that is a pretty BIG chunk of information you just dropped. Would you care to elaborate a bit?
What makes a block wargame and how to start blocking
It often seems to me that when it comes time to write my column, the stars align and I suddenly see that several of the game-related thoughts that have occured to me during the week actually have a connecting thread running through them that I can weave into a coherent argument. So it is again this week. My sources of inspiration start with a previous Gameshark column about buying too many games, continue with the resurrection of an old idea of mine about open and closed strategy in games, and closed with my recent shameful admission on the forums that, increasingly, the games I find myself enjoying the most are actually high-interaction Euros.
A long, long time ago I can still remember how … no, wait. Wrong era. A long time ago one Scott Alden asked me why it was that I had become suddenly unwilling to post my material on boardgamegeek any more. It was a fair question and I promised an answer but back then I just couldn’t find the time or, indeed, the right words to answer that question. Since media plurality is a big issue in the UK right now, it’s something that popped back into my head. In the wake of boardgamenews, a site I used to write for, has announcing that it’s going to become part of boardgamegeek I think perhaps that I can find the right words and I think perhaps that also that I can no longer afford not to find the time to write about this issue.
Y'all, what a year it's been.
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