Hot Games

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

2011 Five and Dimes

10 or more plays



7 Wonders


Pinguïn Party






5 or more plays



Loopin' Louie


Power Grid: The First Sparks


Drum Roll


Ticket To Ride – all versions


The Bottle Imp




Hoppladi Hopplada!


Power Grid – all versions




Most years I record exactly zero ‘Dimes’ – in 2011 I managed to record no fewer than 4. A quick summary of each game:

I don’t need to go into any detail on 7 Wonders: this hit from Essen 2010, the top-ranked game of that year on BGG, continued to hit the table regularly in 2011. Its streamlined playing time and variety of play will continue to see it hit the table for some time to come. The ‘Leaders’ expansion refreshed the game in 2011 and is a natural addition for experienced players.

Pingüin Party also continues to hit the table regularly, whether at family gatherings or on game nights. This light filler continues to entertain and where would be be without the classic ‘Miserable Penguin’ opening? The good Doctor’s finest hour?

Dixit is the party game for family occasions, yet still not totally out of place on game nights. The second expansion ‘Dixit Odyssey’ added a lot of new cards to the mix, along with 6 new rabbits, allowing up to 12 players. Always guaranteed to produce laughter.

23 is perhaps the surprise hit from Essen 2011. A light card game from Amigo, covering much the same ground as ‘No Thanks’ or ‘6 Nimmt’. Its simplicity and simple gameplay has made this an instant hit.

Loopin’ Louie is the classic game of dexterity and skill – always entertaining, especially when alcohol is in the mix! My copy cost me £5 from Tescos five or six years ago. Money well spent – every little helps!

Power Grid: The First Sparks, or Power Grid Lite as it has been dubbed, is a wonderful re-implementation of Power Grid mechanics that plays out in about half the time of PG. This fun version of PG, with an iron age theme, was the 2F-Spiele game from Essen 2011.

Drum Roll was perhaps my favourite game of Essen 2011. A great theme with superb artwork.

This is a smooth and elegant implementation of the ‘worker placement’ mechanic, although perhaps plays 30 minutes too long.

Ticket To Ride continues to be consistently played. This year I played Nordic twice (the 2/3 player map of choice), classic USA once, Europe once, Switzerland once and the new India map once. The India map brought an enjoyable fresh variant to the game family and is currently my favourite. I also bought the Alvin & Dexter expansion which livens up the USA map. 2011 was also the year I sold Märklin – I just never got it to the table. I’ve also played some TTR using the excellent IPad implementation but only include ftf games on my play stats.

I purchased the Bottle Imp a few years ago, after a game with Steve Kearon at a con, but really only played it last year. This is a roller-coaster of a trick-taking game which seems to play excellently as a 3-player.

I picked up Braggart at the UK Games Expo back in June. This is a humorous light-hearted game which is great in the right setting. This is an ‘experience game’ – a bit like Dixit – nobody cares who wins, the fun is in the experience.

Hoppladi! Hopplada! is a rabbit-themed push-your-luck dice game. All of the plays relate to the holiday period in January.

Power Grid remains a firm favourite. This year I played classic PG twice, the Brazil/Spain & Portugal expansion twice and the China map once. Of these, the China map seemed to offer the most challenging game experience.

I first played Qwirkle at Essen, then some friends in Germany bought it and we played with them, and then we bought a copy for my Mother-In-Law and so we played with her. Frankly I detest the game, it is far too dependent on the luck of the tile draw, but usually do well when playing it.

Bubbling under: Totemo was a surprise hit (from Surprised Stare!) which I picked up at the UK Games Expo. Released in 2010, the bits are great and it is a great introduction for non-gamers.

All in all, I played no less than 96 different games in 2011 – and people wonder why I can’t remember the rules of games! The total number of games played was 251. Surprise hits of 2011: I’d pick out 3 – Small World, Stone Age and Hanabi.

I normally run a mile at the threat of dwarves, elves and the like. Fantasy games leave me absolutely cold – my fantasies certainly don’t involve pixies or ogres! However Small World was a great little area majority game and I look forward to playing it again.

Somehow Stone Age completely passed me by over the last few years. I finally got to play it at Midcon and had a blast. I now own the game and look forward to more plays in 2012.

I played Hanabi for the first time at Midcon as well, and I think it is the first time I’ve ever enjoyed a co-op game. The theme is that you are trying to stage a firework display by working together – the twist is that you can’t look at your cards, but everyone else can see them (you hold them the wrong way round). It is ostensibly a team puzzle game, but is a hoot.

Finally my ‘Top 10’ 2011 releases, at least thus far:

1. Power Grid: The First Sparks

2. Drum Roll

3. Pantheon

4. 7 Wonders Leaders

5. Airlines Europe

6. The Dwarf King

7. 23

8. The City

9. Nefarious

10. Coney Island


  1. Tell us more about Coney Island and why it made your top ten. I'd swap 1 and 2 around; in fact, the potential for locking up in First Sparks knocks it down at least another 8 places.

  2. Oh, and by the way; how can that stupid game with penguins be the "good Doctor's finest hour"? I mean; E&T, Ingenious, LotR, Ra and even some of his other card games (such as Money, Modern Art Card Game and Colossal Arena) put this debacle of a card game in the shade (very dark shade - like close the fridge door making sure the light goes off dark).

  3. One comment on the good Doctor's finest hour: tongue-very-firmly-in-cheek. I'd beg to differ on the overall value of PP though - it is a fine example of Dr Knizia's rich output of entertaining games based on a sparse ruleset (Ingenious, Heckmeck, En Garde etc).

    I can't currently decide whether I prefer First Sparks or Drum Roll. Having suffered the locking problem in FS, I now warn all newbies when it is played. I haven't witnessed it since my ineptitude, so I don't believe it is much of an issue. I have found that FS goes down a lot better with those that have played Power Grid before. Its mechanisms are not intuitive at all if you've never played Power Grid. However I always enjoy playing it, perhaps as much as a full game of Power Grid at present.

    I still really like Drum Roll, its mechanics mesh well and the theme and artwork are very pleasing. My only gripe with it is that it is too long. Having thought it through, I think the answer is to restrict each show to 4 preparation rounds and a maximum of one extra prep round following the vote. This would shorten the game, make the rounds more tense, make the scoring easier, bring certain cards into play (e.g. 'Fire a Performer') and make the final scoring bonuses less of a gimme.

    With the in-the-box Drum Roll rules, I think I prefer Stone Age or Fresco as worker-placement games. However I'm sure Drum Roll will get significant play this year.

    I played Coney Island once and enjoyed it, not enough to make it an instant purchase, but enough to want to try it again. During the game I identified (OK stumbled upon ...) what seemed like an obvious game-winning strategy and won by quite a distance. Therefore the game may or may not be 'broken', but I enjoyed the theme (in much the same way as Drum Roll) and the game experience. One to watch, but definitely no Zooloretto ...