Sip-reviews of newish Board Games I tried for the first time in 2013

Since the deadline for wishing people a Happy New Year here in France is not before 24h00 the 31st of January, I figured I would take the opportunity to try to jot down some musings on some of the new board games I have encountered last year before the month is up… I’ll kick off with the seven that I enjoyed the most.
The beginning...
The Start of a Dominant Species Game...
Or Candy Evolution Saga?
(If the franchise was in other hands...)

Darwin on Ice

The very first new board game I tried in 2013 (according to my rather flaky board game geek-logging - and a little bgg scraping script) was the fabulous Dominant Species. Pros: Excellent theme(!), and relatively fast paced gameplay. Cons: A potential flaw is that maybe a bit too many points are scored at the very end of the game - something that can potentially lead to Analysis Paralysis when it is nigh…
Love Letter
Still early in Love Letter.
But someone knows already
something about someone.

Velvet Bluffing

One of many Japanese game-discoveries of the year was Love Letter. An excellent quick to learn filler of a bluffing game with only 16 cards that fit in a little ultratransportable velvet pouch. Pros: Quick to play, quick to pick up, easy to bring Cons: Rather a lot of luck involved

Monsters, monsters, monsters… In Japan

In the train from Düsseldorf to Essen, yes Essen!, I was introduced to a… stripped down, materialwise, version of King of Tokyo, an excellent push-your-luck dice game designed by Richard Garfield of Magic fame, spiced up by a fun power-card buying mechanics, and a fascinating concept where basically you keep wanting to put yourself in a situation to be beaten close to pulp... Anyway, this wins "Slapstick Game of the Year". (In competition with Martian Dice and SmashUp.) Cons: The main downside, for me, is that players knocked out are, well, knocked out. And that can potentially happen early - especially for new players. (And of course this has quite a bit of luck involved...)

Gaiman, Chtulhu, and Sherlock Holmes… and more!


Restaurationsts plotting to restore.
One of the best games I played in Essen was Kai’s copy of A Study in Emerald - a KickStarter funded game based on a Neil Gaiman short story inspired by the "A Study in Scarlet" Sherlock Holmes novel. The core of the game is a deck builder, and it played surprisingly well. I enjoyed the fact that as the game started, you didn't really know who was on what "team" - who were Restaurationists and who were Loyalists. Also, a neat mechanism was that, to win, your team would have to win, and you had to be the best among your mates. And you can't really beat the theme - Chtulhu! Sherlock! Vampires! Zombies!
(BTW; As BGG points out, the short story the game is based on can be found freely available here.)

Faster Forward Through the Ages

Building a nation
- from some cardboard
and a limited amount of wood.
I was introduced to Nations by one of its Swedish designers by playing one quarter of the whole game. One age if you want. That was sufficiently interesting to merit another go in the evening. I have a feeling that took us around 3 hours, so when i say faster forward, I refer to the notorious playing time of other civilisation builders. Because this is that. A civilisation builder. And a mighty good one, methinks. Looking forward to play it again!

Double Layers of Anoraks

Trains
End game of Trains.
I promise you - it is more fun than it looks!
Probably the best game I didn’t try in Essen this year, but received considerable buzz - and was played extensively in the player lounges at our hotel, was Trains. (I remember thinking it looked rather scary and dull - seemingly millions of different train cards all over the place and not very inviting graphics, but oh, how wrong I was.) One could (or should) argue that it leans heavily on the mechanics of Dominion. Maybe too heavily. But I’d say it differs enough to merit it's own place in my collection. It has interesting strategic decisions to take based on the board - in addition to the deckbuilding itself, excellent theme, fun(!) waste management (yes, that does sound like an oxymoron), and no buy limit. All this in less than an hour of play. Perfect in this modern day and age, so this might be the best game I played in 2013 that I actually can get to play regularly...

Mystical Terraforming of Tree Vomit

Friendly terraforming among friends.
This brings us to The Best Game of 2013: Terra Mystica. The good folks at Shut Up & Sit Down referred to it looking like "something a tree [has] vomited", and I guess that is indeed a valid first impression. However, maybe because this was another game I was introduced to by (one of) it's creators in Essen, one notices little by little that almost everything on the board serves as player aids of how the gameplay flows, as well as having an aesthetic quality. Beautiful, beautiful game - only trouble is that it clocks in at (at least, I'd say) 45 minutes per player...

Oh, and the one that doesn’t have a name, yet

Last but not least I had the fortune to play test a promising game designed by my good friend Frode.

The List

This is the complete list of new games played in 2013: * Dominant Species * Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar * Kingdom Builder * Terra Mystica * Nations * King of Tokyo * A Study in Emerald * Martian Dice * Smash Up * Sushi Draft! * Rampage * Sentinels of the Multiverse * Iliad * Mauna Kea * Relic Runners * Augustus * Ready to Rock! * Twilight Struggle * Trains * Love Letter