I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I do love a good challenge. Just as 2020 was ending, my partner, Emma, asked whether it would be possible to play every game in my collection in a year. I saw that as a challenge and started a list.
Welcome to the my latest stupid self-imposed task. I’ll be reporting in throughout the year to show my experiences, whether I’ve found any forgotten gems and what I’ll be getting rid of. Also the logistics of trying to play every game during a year where we’re all still in lockdown.
As the most organised least organised person around, I use Trello to manage my writing, but now also a massive checklist of board games. I played a few on New Year’s Eve, but those wouldn’t count. It would only be everything from January 2021 onwards.
Even though we’re in the fourteenth month of 2020 at time of writing, I’m incredibly blessed by having a girlfriend and a lodger who both play board games. That’s going to help with most of the games on my list.
There are a number of solo games, which will be easy enough to complete, as I’m not locked into anyone’s schedules for those. For any two or three player games I’m having to deal with the willingness of Emma and Lee to take part. There are also a number of games which have to have four or more players, which I’m just putting to the back of my mind and hoping to play in a hypothetical post-lockdown time.
I’ve excluded a number of games: Legacy games which I’ve already started with other groups (Betrayal Legacy, Pandemic Legacy, Gen7). I’m not including ‘classic games’ which I’ve generally inherited like chess, dominos, boggle and Tell Me. If I get enough of a headstart on things, I may add them in but they’re not essential for this task. Then there’s Cards Against Humanity, which is shit, but it’s still in my collection. It’s there mainly for sentimental reasons as there’s a CabinCon expansion which was printed especially for it, and my writing group made a ton of custom cards over the years. My partner helped take out the worst offenders, so I’ll have to suck it up and play to rule, so the first person to ten points finishes the game, then we can get on with our lives.
I’ve managed to not go through a week without finding a game I’d not logged in my checklist, leaving me now at 178 games (oh, Past Charlie… you fool, how this will change – Present Charlie), with another few due from Kickstarter later this year. This will also help my self control in buying new games, as that’ll also add to my task.
This is one of a bunch of tiny card games which are about the size of a pack of gum. They’re of varied quality and while my partner and I saw them in Cardiff, it took a little research to decide upon Hue to pick up. It’s a little colour-matching game, where you play the cards in your hand with three colours in each. You score according to the last card in your hand, and for a tiny game there are a bunch of little, fun gimmicks to shake it up.
Ganz Schön Clever
This was possibly the game of 2020 for my partner and I. It’s a roll and write game and despite being a big sucker for theme, sometimes a game has so little theme, it circles all the way round and breaks through my defences. You roll dice, pick one to fill in a space on your sheet, trashing the rest and giving your opponent one choice at the end of the round. Each set of boxes have different requirements and benefits. It’s really simple, really neat and gets that kind of ‘bingo’ compulsion of crossing things off.
We finally started Rise of Fenris last June and have been slowly working our way through it. I love Scythe and I was good at it, before I started going out with Emma. Since then, she’s thrashed me most times. When people at CabinCon acted like she was probably new to board games, she leveraged that and beat them. I ended up coming a solid third every single game of Rise of Fenris and I’m adult enough to admit I got a bit huffy about it. We played the last module early in January and I had a much better time. I realised it was because games five through seven of Rise of Fenris felt like there was nothing I could do to catch up. Between upgrades and faction abilities which really emphasised speed, and endgame triggers which happened before I could really do anything, I was peeved. The last game was still a loss for me, but I didn’t care as it was really enjoyable. I managed to get a lot done, and I realised that’s the difference. If I can lose, but still have done things, interacted with the systems, then I’m good. We’ll return to Scythe at some point, I’m sure. We all love it in the house. We just… need a break from it.
Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
This was my first roll & write game, which I played a lot, then put away for ages. Like Ganz, this is a game where you roll some dice and jot things down, but in this game it’s railway tracks and roads, trying to make connections. We played using the river expansion which I managed to do some fun things with. This is another solid keeper, even though the dry erase markers may need replacing as some are in bad condition.
Before I Kill You Mr. Bond (Director’s Cut)
This is a classic Cheapass Game, and one you won’t be able to get in this form. I’m keeping it because of this reason. Cheapass made super low budget games with extremely variable outcomes. This one is about building lairs, trapping spies and taunting them. It’s fine, and with three players it was pretty short. I have a later edition, after Fleming’s estate probably got a bit threatening. I’m sure there are changes, but we’ll see what those are later in the year.
This is a short dice chucker. Emma’s not a fan of dice games, but this is fairly quick. You play zombies looking for brains, but also trying to avoid survivors with shotguns. We didn’t play it for ages as the rattling of the dice in the tube the game’s stored in used to drive my dog nuts.
Arkham Horror: The Living Card Game
Arkham Horror is possibly my favourite Living Card Game. We finally finished the Dunwich Legacy campaign which was on hiatus initially so Lee, my friend Steve and I could finish Pandemic Legacy, then when we started gaming with Emma and Steve’s wife Nicky, this meant we had too many players for this game and a specific combination to aim for. Instead we played Charterstone and Legacy of Dragonholt.
In this game we play investigators searching for clues and trying to stop eldritch horrors. We had stepped through a portal to another realm at the end of 2020 and had to deal with being in a strange dimension beyond time and space for the finale. It was really good fun, and we’re already looking at starting the next campaign.
I love a bit of Hostage Negotiator, and I ran through the campaign mode recently, which I’ll report back on at some point in the future. I had a morning to solo a couple of games, so I grabbed one of the abductor packs I’d not opened yet (I think I’ve still got two after this) and gave it a go.
I took the negotiator deck I didn’t use in my campaign and tried to take down an influencer whose hostages were also worryingly loyal fans. It was tricky, but I still managed to fight through and stop her in time.
The virtual UK Games Expo had a lot of tie-in sales from online stores, so when I saw Raxxon in Leisure Games’ sale, I had to pick it up. Admittedly, this was less for the game and more for the promo cards for Dead of Winter, which is a game I love.
Raxxon’s about people trying to quarantine folks and hide them away safely during the viral zombie outbreak which would later cause Dead of Winter. My partner did not want to touch this game and I totally get that. Luckily there’s a solo mode.
The game was a neat little puzzle with some light nods to Dead of Winter, from cameos to placement of action tokens (instead of DoW’s dice) and story cards which won’t always trigger, but might. You have a growing grid of survivors and potentially infected or undead people, then you need to manage the logistics of your actions to evacuate some people, destroy the zombies and not cause the Umbrella Corporation-ish Raxxon to step in.
In our house we have film nights on Fridays, so I managed to incorporate this challenge into it. Film Frenzy is a card game you play during an action movie. We chose Doom as the film to watch. The one with The Rock. It wasn’t a very good film; definitely at the Resident Evil level of video game adaptations. It worked pretty well for Film Frenzy, where you play a card to score points when a trope, character or item appears. There are ‘pause’ cards to flush and redraw your hand, and ‘rewind’ cards to play a card for something in an earlier scene. It’s fairly mindless, but fun.
Doppelt So Clever
This is the sequel to Ganz and a bit more of a brain-burner. It’s really enjoyable and a fresh challenge. I gather there’s a third, but I feel I should get better at this one first.
A tile-laying game which feels like it could almost be a phone puzzle game. It has the most beautiful, tactile playing pieces which you take from sets in the centre of the table, trying to pin your opponent into having to make bad choices or possibly ‘breaking’ their tiles if they can’t place them. I thought I did well and hadn’t noticed Emma racking up several columns full of tiles before ending the game. Still, I don’t care, it’s too pretty a game to have a problem with.
7 Wonders Duel
I like 7 Wonders, although I rarely manage to get it to the table. Duel is the two-player version and plays really quickly. It’s a nice little game, adapts the core gameplay loop and simplifies it a bit. Like my last game of Scythe, I lost but got to do a lot of things. I very nearly won through military might (a way of winning which immediately ends the game, instead of going to endgame scoring), but alas, I was unable to by a card.
This was one of those games I dreaded playing but would have to get out of the way. I like the idea of Hive, but I don’t have a good tactical brain. We played a couple of games and I sucked each time.
Another tiny game, this is a Looney Labs joint from before the pointy pyramids were restricted as far as import to the UK. It’s a game about matching a pattern of pyramids in the centre of the table. You have your own set and roll a die which says what you can change. The fun trick here is that you can change your stack or the central one. It’s a keeper for being a short game which takes up little space. Also I think I have other pyramid games which work using the components.
Undo: Curse from the Past
This is a puzzle game I bought at AireCon as Emma and I had enjoyed Exit and Unlock. I think Exit still wins the system which we engage with the most, but this one was entertaining. You’re aware of a death and have a limited number of actions to travel forward and backwards in time, changing things despite your lack of detailed information. I’ll be giving it away to a friend as there’s no replay value in it.
Devil Bunny Needs a Ham
This was a Cheapass Game which I bought at GenCon UK after enjoying Witch Trial and Kill Dr Lucky. I’d not played it as it looked a bit like arse and was so small I’d often forget I had it. The game’s two bits of card and you provide your own tokens. You need to reach the top of the building and roll dice to move either or both of your two pawns up. The problem is that Devil Bunny might dive down and knock the highest token down. It’s got some good risk-taking elements.
Fluxx & Cthulhu Fluxx
Fluxx is not a very good game. I enjoyed playing it when I was younger, inexperienced, more foolish. I did… things, trying to get Fluxx promos; sometimes ordering other Looney Labs games, sometimes dancing for Andrew Looney at a convention. I’m not proud.
Ultimately the gameplay loop of Fluxx is still a solid one. You draw and play a card, but then you also change up the rules as you go. It feels satisfying to make moves and entertainingly silly when you’re drawing five cards, playing the first one randomly, then playing two more and change up the entire board. The problem is the goals and the ability to keep any attempt at winning out of the way until someone lucks into victory. It needs some other mechanic to help force an end to the game somehow.
I still have my copy of the core Fluxx (I think it’s a couple of editions old now). It has a lot of promo expansions; the Treehouse, The Traitor, 10th Anniversary, Christian Fluxx, Jewish Fluxx, a signed Andy Looney card and a number of others. I used some blank Fluxx cards to make goals for the keepers which came up the least amount of times in my deck, to help make victory a little easier.
Like Before I Kill You Mr Bond, this is in my collection mainly for sentimental reasons more than anything else.
Cthulhu Fluxx is similar, but it’s one of the more playable expansions due to the amount of Ungoals, the investigator symbols and doom symbols in the deck. Emma and I braced ourselves and played them both in one sitting to get them over with.
This is a game I’ve had for ages and really love. Like Ganz Schön Clever, this is a theme less game, but a fantastic one. You have four lanes of numbered cards and each simultaneously play cards from your hand, trying to have them enter the lanes but not be the sixth card in there, or you score all the cards which in this game is a bad thing. You play through ten rounds, often trying to outguess your opponents or to corner them into making increasingly bad choices. For years I thought my ancient copy was missing one card, but it turned out to be missing about nine or ten, so Emma bought me this one a few years ago. It’s still a cracking game.
This is a game I have multiple editions of and yes, I’m trying them all. To start off with, we tried the Star Wars themed version of Love Letter which my friend Glen created and gave away in a charity stream. He gave me a copy, along with an X-Wing Tie Fighter pilot card for the generic academy pilot I’d named Kenneth Academy-Pilot and made a backstory for on my second ever game. His surname was double-barrelled and he’d felt pressured into the job because of it. Somehow, despite being an incompetent wideboy, he outlived Darth Vader in that game.
Still, this was Love Letter. Even as a two player game, it’s great fun.
Marvel Champions: The Living Card Game
Last year we played through the Rise of the Red Skull campaign box for this living card game and it really made it come alive. We revisited it to try out some of the heroes we’d not seen in action before, and to fight the Wrecking Crew; four construction-themed villains who we had to take on all at once.
Emma played Hulk, who was dispensing a ton of violence and then dumping anything which wasn’t played, so she was doing her best to clear her hand every single round. I played Black Widow and kept laying down preparation cards in order to have them trigger and help us out in time. It was okay, especially as I like thwarting enemy schemes more than I like punching things. BLack Widow was still pretty good at punching things, luckily. Lee played Captain America, a favourite of his.
This is still a good game, I’ve still got some characters unplayed and we’ll be playing more of it even though it’s crossed off the list.
Lost Legacy: The Starship
The sibling to Love Letter, Lost Legacy does some really interesting things with the same base mechanics. You’re not just looking for a high value card, you’re trying to identify where an artefact is; either in someone’s hand, your own hand or the ‘ruins’ which is where a normally excluded card goes in Love Letter. The Starship set involved manipulation of the ruins and some basic attacks on one another. The other Lost Legacy games add new mechanics, but there’s something simply and fun about this one. I’ll be trying the others I have soon.
Where I dreaded Hive, Emma dreaded this. It’s a deck-building game where you’re buying letters to add to your deck and then trying to make words each round to buy more letters. It has a satisfying gameplay loop and it’s just fun playing with words. I have an app version of it which has some real login problems for multiplayer, but is pretty chilled to just make words with. Hopefully this means Emma will play it again and I’ll be able to reclaim my crown, as this was the first Paperback defeat I remember having.
This is a weird one. I’ve reviewed a lot of bad licensed board games on Who Dares Rolls and this has been the only keeper in the collection. You have a wrecked garden made of nine cards, then you gather resources either from the garden centre (deck) or cheaply from the recycling (discards). Anything you build with becomes resources the other players can potentially use, so you need to be careful what you play and what you take. It feels like a fixer-upper of a game, but it’s still good fun.
This was an attempt to play one of my longer games. Eldritch Horror’s a game of exploring the world, having weird encounters and trying to stop unspeakable horrors. In our game, Emma also played a librarian who was firing mind-lasers from the dreamworld to destroy cultists popping up throughout the world. Just like Lovecraft would have wanted.
It’s a game which sings at three players and while Arkham Horror Third Edition distils it into a tense narrative ride, there’s something a bit more chilled about the bigger scale and pace of this game. It’s why I’ve kept them both.
Skulls of Sedlec
Emma saw a game with skulls being reviewed on Shut Up and Sit Down, so we now have a game about skulls. Specifically you’re trying to build a catacomb with a pyramid of skulls, all of whom need to be placed in certain ways. Nobles want commoners underneath them, criminals want to be next to priests and priests want to be alone on each level. It’s a Button Shy game, so it consists of 18 cards and has a tiny expansion. It was a neat little game.
Star Realms: Colony Wars
I have multiple Star Realms games, so like Love Letter and Lost Legacy we’ll play them all as different entries.
Star Realms is a really simply deck-building game about space. You have a tiny deck of spaceships you’ll be playing to generate money to buy ships and lasers to shoot your enemy. You buy better ships, shoot the enemy for more and try to synergies the abilities of the four factions in the game. One heals, one destroys cards to remove bad cards from your deck, one does exceptional damage and one draws you more cards or discards your enemies’. Really nice and easy.
This was a new acquisition, so I’ve added to my list of games I need to play this year. It’s a fun little game about high fantasy retail. You put out an item in your display to tempt adventurers and sell them things. You can sell them garbage or useful items before they run off to either fight and win, returning with money, or they die and are replaced with new customers. There are some fun moments of mercenary thinking in this game, and all looking at a mage, realising none of us have the items which will allow her to survive this bandit. It was bought from a friend and has an expansion, so even though it’s crossed off the list, I’ll have to try it again sometime this year.
This was bought at my first UK Games Expo and I’m really pleased I’ve got it as it seems tricky to track down. String Railway is a game where you build a railway using drawn cards and bits of string, in a world bordered by string, containing a string mountain and a string river. It’s adorable.
I like Viticulture, even though I’m sure there are better worker placement games. There’s something about the gentle pace of planting vines, harvesting them, making wine, letting it age and selling it which I find quite satisfying. It had been a while since we played, but we’re so familiar with it that I added an expansion we’d not tried; arboriculture. We could make apples, olive oil and tomato sauce. Those mechanics weren’t really encountered too much, and I doubt I’ll bother going back to them unless someone asks.
This is a neat little game about building tech tree looking sets of villagers from people passing by on a road. They’re all cards, and you’ll be taking turns drafting visible villagers or blindly drafting villagers who you’re aware of the type (hayer, miner, etc) but nothing else. It’s an interesting game and you feel like you’re accomplishing a lot with the amount of points you rack up at the middle and end of each game.
This is a game I love, but it’s been so long I managed to mess up some rules. You play adorable little animals represented by wooden pieces, while they asymmetrically have ways to slaughter each other and win the game. Lee played the Marquis de Cat who controlled most locations to begin with and need supply lines to harvest the forest, eventually filling it with their buildings. Emma played the Underground Duchy who were trying to sway over their ministers while sending groups of moles out through burrowed holes. I played the Corvid Conspiracy who laid traps and hid, hoping for them to go off.
The factions were fun, but we definitely need more games to get used to each faction and make sure the rules are right next time.
Tyrants of the Underdark
This is a deck-building game like Star Realms, but you’re playing cards to buy cards and also to place units on a map of stupidly-named places in the underground locations of the Forgotten Realms. You have spies who can infiltrate places and neutral people to kick out of some places before one faction or another takes hold. Each faction consists of an interesting set of monsters; we used aberrations and dragons this time. The dragons were pricy but gave big victory point boosts for certain requirements. The aberrations messed about with discarding cards, using spies and being tricksy bastards.
This is a neat little game where you’re trying to empty your hand by building levels on a skyscraper. Sometimes you’ll need to place a wooden rhino hero pawn, or force someone to take more cards, reverse order of play and so on.
The first game was over far too quickly when Lee knocked over the tower after nervously trying to place the rhino. The second game was far more impressive all round, although Lee still ended up toppling the tower.
Catch the Moon
This is another dexterity game. For a dyspraxic person I do quite like them. It’s flicking games I can’t manage.
This game has you rolling a dice which will tell you how to place a ladder into a tangled knot of existing ladders. It’s really light and really good fun. The structure can move and shift as play goes on, and the result challenging players to try and beat the highest spot on the structure is really tense.
This was a game I bought in a bring and buy shortly before lockdown. We’d played it once before and it was a joy to go back to. Last Will’s a game where you’re all wealthy people trying to lose all your money as quickly as possible to be able to cash in on your rich uncle’s will. I blazed through my money but had a lot of property to juggle getting rid of without gaining money. Emma barely beat me. It was a fun time, and I might just treat myself to another game if I’m ahead in this challenge.
I bought this in my blitz of grabbing any of James Ernst’s Cheapass Games but never had the heart to play as it looked like it might be bad. It is, and not just because of the theme of butchering animals. It’s a lot less bad than I expected, but still pretty poor. You move around trying to hunt beats while laying tiles and beating other hunters to the chase. This is on the ‘to sell’ pile.
A neat little co-op game where you’re recovering artefacts from a sinking island. Emma and I are pretty good at this now, so despite a long time away, we aced it on normal difficulty. If you want to train people towards Pandemic with a bit of a simpler game, this is it.
I’d only played this once despite loving Ryan Laukat games and was bought this for my 40th birthday. You sail around an archipelago, winning islands over by force or diplomacy, buying and selling things. The crew tokens are all lovely and you end up wanting the best for the little bird person or the sailor who’s definitely Ryan Laukat. I lost, but it was close and I got to play with all the satisfying interfaces the game has. I love that with Red Raven Games, as they (like Scythe) are a fun medley of different mechanics.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms Card Game
I love the Romance of Three Kingdoms and really wish this could have been good. Like Safari Jack this is a game I’ve owned for ages and never played. It feels dated, but like it would have been bad in the past, too. The rulebook was badly translated so while Emma learnt the rules, I had to find a better translation on BGG but that didn’t help. You have people and diplomacy or fight your way into controlling regions, but both stats have nothing to differentiate between them on characters.
Fights are basically ‘rock, paper scissors’ with character elimination and minimal ways to influence that. We cheered each other on in the hope someone would win and finish the game quickly. It could have lasted from 20 minutes to two hours and fortunately we were done in just under one.
Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game
I used to be a CCG addict, so Living Card Games are a controlled method of still getting that high. I love the LotR LCG, although Marvel Champions and Arkham Horror are my preferred ones these days. We’d been watching the extended Lord of the Rings movies and decided to give this a go. It still rocks.
You each take three heroes on a quest, which in this case was rescuing a kid who was trying to commune with the dead. We had some good fighting abilities, but were up against ghosts. This was one of those games which reminds you why you fell in love with it in the first place.
From good to bad. Lunch Money is an ‘edgy’ card game about schoolyard violence, applauded for its dark photography. It’s a simple game of attacking each other to remove points and would be fast, but no rules are on the cards and there are a ton of special cards to deal with. It was twice as long as needed and just a bit unpleasant. This one’s getting sold.
I always forget how nice this game is. You have [player] amount of rows and fill them up with colourful chameleon cards which have textures on them which would help colourblind people. You have to draw and add cards or take them, meaning you’re likely to get very little of what you want, or a lot of potential chaff. Only three colours score you points, the rest remove them.
It’s somewhere between the train cards from Ticket to Ride and 6 Nimmt. This game’s short and neat, I hope I don’t forget it exists again.
This is a Looney Labs game which we still love. You’ve got some old Larry Elmore art and a simple mechanic where you’re placing cards and trying to get a run of seven of your colour. The thing is, the colour you need to win changes through the game, as does the central card. It’s tricky and great fun. Annoyingly it’s out of print, although I’ve had friends who have bought German copies as those were easier to find and you can download the English rules.
There’s a category of traditional games in the house which are still on my shelves and I’m not entirely sure why. This was a present, if I remember correctly, but it’s been at least 30 years since I last played Ludo. We gave it a go while watching things on TV. It’s a bit of a ‘nothing’ game. God, this means I’ll have to play Snap one day this year.
This is Lunch Money but with drunks instead of children. I think they’re pretty much the same. This one didn’t learn from the last set, but there wasn’t an expansion, so we had less cards to deal with.
This is a pretty simple deckbuilding game where you generate buying and punching energy, then try to stop villains from running amok in New York. The character cards, villains, masterminds and schemes all change the simple rules quite heavily. Lee and I played through a couple of scenarios from a massive BGG scenario list which emulates different storylines. We played through the Days of Future Past and Infinity Disc. We won both games which is good, as we’ve had a bunch of losses which I am chalking up to only doing this two player and having less resources to play with.
What Have I Learnt?
I’ve got a steady pile of games to get rid of, and there are some gems which just get forgotten about between the Cult of the New and constant staples like Marvel Champions and anything Arkham-flavoured.
We’ve got a few more little filler games we can turn to instead of the usual few. The old games I bought and didn’t play for fear of them being bad were indeed bad. This doesn’t bode well for When Darkness Comes…, which is one of the next ones I need to read up on and run.
I also have a few standby games which are either really short (Tsuro) or all time favourites (Skull & Barenpark) which we’re saving for a special occasion.
At the moment I’m on track, but we’ll check in in the middle of 2021 to see whether I can get 50% of my collection played.