Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Gamethyme's Game of the Year 2012

This last year has seen a lot of new-to-me games hit the table.  It was a big year for 4X games, too, if you look at what I've played. But, despite the appearance of Eclipse this year, the winner is not a 4X game.

Don't get me wrong: Eclipse is every bit as good as you have heard it is.  If, for some reason, you hhaven't heard how good it is, do some research. In all honesty, it is probably the best game of the last year.
So how can I say that and not give it my Game of the Year?

Because it's too long a game for my usual group, so it only hits the table on full day game sessions or special occasions.  It's a stellar, amazing, stunning game that I can't play regularly enough.

Much like last year, I spent hours going over my games played and notes I'd taken. I played so many games for the first time this year, that it genuinely wasn't easy - especially given how many of the games that were new to me are so very good.

So which game wins?

My Game of the Year this year is Shitenno.  It's a relatively fast-playing game that is equally as good with two, three, or four players.

And it still (so far as I know) lacks a US distributor, which is a shame.

I hesitate to call it a resource allocation game, but it is.  Resource allocation and set collection.  There is a huge degree of player interaction, and it has a real cutthroat edge to it - but it's a very subdued cutthroat.  While my group enjoys this game a great deal, you could easily play this game with your family - a rare combination.

The ease of play should not be mistaken for a lack of depth, however.  Experienced players will have a definite edge over beginners, because they'll know the value of the various bundles.  And your first few plays will involve a great deal of fumbling as you try to figure out what's going on.

But once you (and the other players) know what the relative value of the various items are, this game really starts to shine. And it scales very well - too many games are great with two and terrible with three. In fact, "three" seems to be a very tough number to write a game for.

Three player games tend to turn into two players bashing on the leader - Shitenno, on the other hand, makes it very difficult to bash the leader, because they are the ones assembling the bundles.  By the same token, the leader needs to assemble decent bundles, because if the other players all refuse the bundle, then the leader is stuck with it. And what I want in a bundle is different from what you want in a bundle, making it entirely possible that every player will get what they are after in a given turn.

It's a fascinating way of balancing a game, and I think it's fully deserving of more recognition (and is also in need of more play).

I'd like to play it more, and I will be easily able to do so. That is why I've chosen Shitenno as my Game of the Year.

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