This video is about the war games I enjoyed the most playing in 2012, regardless of when they originally came out. Dust Tactics is my favorite game for now, but since I do not consider it a war game it is not featured in this video.
2012 was a great year for gaming! Let’s face it, no matter what genre you like, there was goodnes all over the place! Whether it was big name publishers providing beautiful, exciting, and adventurous fun, or it was Kickstarter/Indiegogo sites providing creative avenues for others to bring their creations to light, there was a LOT of fun to be had on tables everywhere that’ll likely bleed into 2013!
As we close out the old and ring in the new, I’m a big believer in looking back to know where we’ve been before moving forward to even more greatness! With that, I give you the 5 awards I made up semi-randomly, that obviously mean everything! (Tongue, planted FIRMLY in cheek as said!)
Are there other games that should be in all these categories? Sure. The arguments can, and should, be made for them. I encourage you, our Critical Fans, to tell not only me, but the world, what you think by discussing below, or on our social sites! Whatever you do though, enjoy your games and the experiences they bring you! Everyone has their favorites and these are merely mine, with some thoughts and suggestions for discussion by the best fans anyone can ask for… YOU!
Crit of the Year:
Some people tell you that their “game of the year” was hard to choose. To me, this was a no brainer this year. Mage Wars is by far, the most fresh, fun, exhilirating time I’ve had sitting across from an opponent in years, let alone through all of 2012!
Mage Wars is a beuatiful work of art, with stunning picutres on it’s cards, but also is a fabulously designed game! At first glance, the rule book seems daunting, but aside from needing their codex for a few keyword look ups for those you don’t normally use, the game is extremely logical. If true magic was real, Mage Wars would be the documentary about it!
It scratches the miniatures itch (as each card feels like a mini you are pushing around the board), it scratches the card flipper itch, it scratches the strategic combat itch… it scratches hundereds of itches, and out of the box, is one of the best values, best designs, and most fun you can have over an evening of gaming this year, or ever!
Hit of the Year:
This was a more interesting look back at 2012. While there were a lot of GREAT games, there were a lot of “almost” great but still completley acceptable fun-filled games! The Hits this year were from all over, from all genres and from all walks of life!
Without a doubt though, the one game in the Hit category that stands above the rest is Marvel Legendary! UDE, Jason Brenner, and Devin Low have crafted themselves an amazingly fun deck bulding game, built on the backs and capes of some of the icons of comics! The gameplay is well done and the art is unique (albeit we all seem to want more of it) but add to it, the ridiculous amount of replayabilty this game offers and it’s sure to proide quite a bit of fun for a while to come, true believers!
Sure it’s from UDE and sure people are worried about long term support, but for the moment, we have a well designed, fun and ever changing experience to let us don our capes and lace up our knee high boots over our spandex tights in an evening of card flipping fun!
Best “Crowdfunded” Game of the Year:
I struggled with this one a lot! I really still feel, that aside form the challenges that Kickstarters and Indiegogo backers deal with, that the developers work through to deliver us the games, and all the press (positive and negative) that both sites, and others, offer a breeding ground for creativity!
It was hard because there are so many great games! I decided to only include games that finished and delivered their projects in 2012. So anyone wondering why things like Pixel Lincoln or others aren’t mentioned, well, that’s the deal.
One game though, continously hits our table, continously is fun, and continues to provide a deep amount of strategy in both solo and pvp play…
It’s a mouthful, but one that I ensure if you try out, won’t dissapoint you at all! It’s gladiatorial combat at it’s best and offers some of the most basic gameplay, yet highly rewarding strategic gameplay I’ve seen in an indepenedent game in ages! Are you not entertained!? Yes, I am!
Hoplomachus easily incorporated the best utilization of a Poker Chip in gaming, well, since Poker! Moving your champions around and pummeling your foes is fun, but throw in solo capability, strategic difference between cities, and an enticing enough backstory to make you desire expansions, and you get a game that, even when losing, makes you want to play again and again and…
The “Game I didn’t get to review” of the Year:
This was my most favorite to look over. There was a LOT of amazing games that released in 2012 that I didn’t get a chance to do Critical Reviews of, and hopefully in 2013 that list will be much smaller! The boundries of space and time conspire agianst me though, but there are still plenty to be recognized, so with that, I give you the best game I didn’t review… Seasons!
Seasons was the first thing I went after at Gen Con this year, and while I missed it, I was thrilled when I finally got my copy. This game is literally, a work of art! It’s gorgeous artwork, beautiful components, unique world, and simple, yet strategic gameplay will please nearly anyone I can think of that likes to game!
Dice drafting? Check. Card drafting? Check. Strategic set up? Check. Cute undead bunnies that can make you lose the game unless your dragon whelp takes them out while drinking from a magic goblet? Check.
This game is without a doubt a Crit, but unfortunately didn’t get in front of the camera this year… but that said, you should definately check it out! Asmodee is known for high quality and this does not dissapoint. I highly suggest you try the suggested starting formations of cards for your first few games, but after you have the just of things, you’ll discover an amazing amount of strategic depth and replayability engulfed in a gorgeous package!
The “Game that provided the most gut busting fun” of the Year?
Guy Fawkes, as a baby you are trying to rehabilitate, and he can blow the board up… yup, seriously, this game is ridiculously fun!
Evil Baby Orphanage provides one of the most hilarious, fun, crazy, whacky and downright good gaming experience of the year! It still makes us laugh today and is something I’ve even used as a “gateway” game with much success!
2012 has been a great year, for gaming, for fans, and for our site! Crits Happen has been able to give away signed copies of games, we’ve met fans at Gen Con, and collaborated on videos with other great industry friends… and we’re looking forward to more this year!
All our success is, quite frankly, due to you, our Critical Fans, so as we wrap up 2012, tear into 2013 and look ahead, I want to make sure I wish you all the best at this special time of year! I thank you from the bottom of my lil’ meeple heart for all your support, your interaction, your feedback and your thoughts! You are the best and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings us all!
Now that 2012 is almost over, it’s time air out some dirty laundry from the previous year. Should this become tradition? Please note that a couple of these are technically late 2011 releases if you live in Europe, but all of them didn’t hit the United States (where I live) until 2012. So… here is my rant-ish slam on some of the games in 2012 that several people worked very hard to bring to us. I’ll add 10. If anyone else wants to add more, feel free to do so!
Bios: Megafauna was released unfinished. It might be finished now but, it was unfinished when I played it. First, the original rulebook put me to sleep multiple times. I really wish the publisher had broken the rules down into a standard Euro ruleset with lengthy explanation on the left and a column of “quick rules” on the right. Alea does this in all of their rulebooks for example. The rulebook is indexed which is great. More games should do this, but the Example of Play is next to worthless. There is no “why” or “how” that is clearly presented to a lay person. Everything is intermingled with “science”. I love science more than most people, but let me penetrate the game mechanics first. Then, you could have designer’s notes in an afterword explaining all of the scientific links to the game. As it’s printed, it’s extremely hard to grasp.
To top it off, I also made the unfortunate decision of downloading the living rules which lists like eight vastly different ways to play the game. It seems like there could be a good game here, but what a pain in the butt to have to figure out the right way to play. And then I am supposed to feel confident in teaching it to others? I still have hope for other games from this publisher/designer as they usually tackle themes right up my alley.
Hawaii might be another game I just don’t understand. It was somewhat interesting for the first couple of plays, then almost immediately fell apart in front of me. I felt like I had been tricked! The setup and round to round refresh completely devastates any long term strategy and the game becomes very random… in a frustrating way. There are infinite ways to score points. Too many in fact. The theme seems to be 100% pasted on which is a problem for more and more Euros as time goes by.
Everything(!) gives you points and there is no other interaction, metagame, or delayed payoff involved. These features also remove any narrative the game might have. You are doing the same thing in the last round that you are in the first round. Instead of using the game’s randomization to add replayability on top of a tight system, it’s just random for random’s sake. The game seems to have grown out of mechanics begetting more mechanics.
Given some of the initial buzz, I ended up being very disappointed in Archipelago. It seemed to have several things that I have been looking for in a civilization-ish type of game. I really don’t like the random goals combined with random endgame conditions combined even further with the randomly distributed evolution cards. Also, the points that players are awarded for each of the different goals in the game are so close that when you finally do score for whatever your goal is, the winner seems very determined by luck. The veritable hodgepodge of Euro mechanics makes the game very obtuse to initially grok, and the first games will seem very much a grind with little to no payoff. The rules organization doesn’t help out either.
Finally, the game ends up being way too long for the return on investment. It feels like it grew out of mechanics added upon mechanics. Compile that with the fact there never seems to be anything exciting happening, and I don’t understand the lauding for this one.
A game of Mercurius is like watching paint dry. I don’t want to get too mired into mechanics, but yeesh! You buy or sell “stuff”, play a card and adjust the price of said “stuff”, then draw a card to refill your hand. Every turn. That’s it. Buy or sell, and then play a card that adjusts prices. The prices move so incrementally that you end up making just a couple of bucks on each transaction. More often than not, you are dealt such a random haphazard set of cards that you can’t really do anything meaningful on your turn… or even for several turns in a row.
Now. I will grant that there is some long term planning that can happen when you play the game with a full boat of five players. Playing with less than five is pointless. With five, you could make minor adjustments on what you expect the market to look like in several turns, based on card counting and checking out the cards in play. However, that is interesting for about three quarters of a play. Then you realize that you could be playing one of a thousand other games that have a splash of tension in them.
I currently have this game ranked as a 4. The actual gameplay might rate a 5, but the components pull it down to a 4. It’s impossible to read what’s happening on the board, given the cluttered color palette. It’s horrifying actually. In regards to the gameplay, it’s “fair”, but the inclusion of the expert character cards really comes across as a big afterthought. There just aren’t enough actions/turns available to make the characters have any impact on the game. I gave this one a fair shot, and after multiple plays found that you are always better off refurbishing buildings for points.
Also, the scoring cards related to the character cards should just be removed from the deck all together. They are completely worthless compared to the scoring cards related to the various areas on the board. And, sadly, that is how you win the game. Luck-sack into the best scoring cards and boom… you are good to go. You might as well deal these out, everyone reveals them, and then you decide who is the winner and pack the game back into the box.
I actually enjoyed D-Day Dice for about four plays. That’s about all this game has to offer in terms of meaningful or interesting choices. Once you figure out that the solitaire game is close to impossible and four-player is impossible to lose, the game gets samey very quickly. The maps and variety of items don’t really do much to spice up the game… other than to confuse me as to which permutation of the variants in the back in the rulebook will actually balance the solitaire and four-player games.
It just feels underdeveloped. Playing solitaire as multiple players seems to be the best way to play this. When I played it with others, everyone had their head in their dice, or we just let one player figure out what resources each player needs to generate and then trade to everyone else. There is a kernel of a good game in here, and I should say that where the game lacks in replayability, it does make up for in terms of component quality and thematic flare.
Doctor Who: The Card Game is ALMOST solid. At first, the “play two cards then pass three cards” mechanic is interesting. However, the game is so filled with “Take That” cards that directly destroy your scoring cards, that the game devolves into total opportunistic guesswork. Even better…. you don’t score points until the end. So, you pretty much play through the first half of the deck blowing up each other’s score, without any real impact on the outcome at the end of the game.
The first half, or even two thirds of the game, is just going through the motions. Then the winner is decided by whoever luck-sacked into the better set of cards at the end. I’ve found two ways to make the game more interesting: Cut the deck in half, or play so the game ends IMMEDIATELY when someone places all 5 TARDIS or all 5 Dalek, instead of having to wait until the start of their turn… which is impossible.
What a mess Fallen City of Karez is. It was one of several Kickstarter games that were mediocre or worse for me this year. A lot of Karez seems really neat on first blush, as each player has a starting building associated with their chosen guild to give them a unique approach at the start of the game. Example. If you are the blacksmith who focuses on generating lots of equipment for other players to purchase, you could use this money to finance your own adventures, or even create your own dungeon for other players to send their heroes to. So… I could sell equipment to heroes to then enter my dungeon… where they could die and give me the equipment back? Sounds awesome. It doesn’t work out.
The dungeons and adventure system is very much the key to succeeding in the game. Everything else is a gigantic after thought. However, you can get really shafted by the strength of the various monsters, items, and heroes in the game. Everything is just massively unbalanced. The combat system is very hokey. It’s neat for one round of combat, but then it becomes an extremely exploitable system full of several holes. I hope this is not indicative of more games that try to be a “thematic Euro”. It’s got to be one of the hardest kinds of games to make: something extremely cut throat and calculating on the strategy end, but also meshing with an engaging theme. There are some interesting moments in Karez, but overall it’s a giant chore and the dungeon crawling is not even close to balanced with the rest of the economic gameplay.
I was also extremely disappointed in Power Grid: The First Sparks. First Sparks removes some of the mechanisms and complexity from Power Grid… and all of the excitement! The ENTIRE game is the “bidding” for tech tiles. There’s no rhyme, reason, or real decision to blocking other players on the board. Then, you just spend the rest of the game shuffling wood around. Even the bidding is completely uninteresting. It’s not really even proper bidding, which is fine.
Are auctions really that complex? Sure… most games take one play or so to learn the correct value for bids. But, why remove the tenseness and curmudgeonly craftiness of a good auction? To make the game more accessible to new players? Great, so I am meant to play this game once and then toss it on the increasing pile of also rans?
My main gripe is the fact that this was labeled with the “Power Grid” brand. Does this game even get made without that label? It’s a travesty.
The DC Comics Deck-Building game is by far the worst disappointment of the year, especially when juxtaposed with other recent super hero games. The gameplay is beyond mediocre. You buy cards and get more cards to get more cards to get more cards to get more cards. It’s a step backwards in the Deckbuilding genre. 2008 called…
If you draw your hand and have something even remotely interesting to do, the game seems to go out of it’s way to obliterate any sense of theme. So Aquaman uses the Batmobile this turn… and then I play… Wait a minute! What?? This is a cardinal sin. It’s possible that some will find this part of the game “cute”, but after playing Marvel Legendary (let alone Sentinels of the Multiverse), there is no reason for this game to ever hit my table. I constantly found myself mutter, “But how… How could this… I don’t know…. I don’t know…”
And the villains just kind of sit there, and then eventually someone wins, and it just… doesn’t matter.
If I may…. in Simpson comic book guy voice, “Could this game have ripped off Ascension more?”
~ Joel Eddy
Game system designed for small unit actions from platoon to battalion-sized formations:
Includes rules for: