Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gamethyme's Game of the Year 2013

Realistically, this was easy enough to narrow down to a small handful of contenders.

Kemet, Mutant Meeples, Mythic Battles, and Augustus.  These are four great games which I was first exposed to (in play) since the last GenCon.

The first to fall was Mythic Battles.  Not because it's undeserving, but because two-player games just don't hit the table often enough for me.  If I played more 2p, this would have been much tougher to scratch.  Because I do love this game. And its expansion.

That left three games that I really like.  Kemet holds up to five players, scales well to as few as three (I haven't played it with two, yet); Mutant Meeples holds up to seven players, and also scales well to as few as three; and, finally, Augustus (which is being retitled Rise of Augustus for its US release), which holds up to six and scales well to as few as three.  I suspect all three of them are just fine with two.

So let's quickly go over what I like in a game:

Strategy Over Luck
I like a game where a skilled player will defeat a beginner more often than not.  Not because I like beating up on newbies, but because I want to feel like the time I spend playing and/or thinking about a game isn't wasted time.

Multiple Paths to Victory
If there is One Perfect Strategy that your opponents can't screw up, then what's the point of playing the game?  You could just as easily "play" from another state via telephone.  "It's my turn?  Okay.  Here's what to do ... "

High Replayability
I don't like playing the same game over and over and over and over and over.  Really. A game needs to be different enough each time I play it that I have a reason to come back to it.  More than just learning a new strategy, that is.

Player Interaction
I play games to interact with people. Often, that interaction is across the table and not actually on the board - but a game in which my decisions influence the decisions of players around me is (for me) the ideal.  Part of it is also that I really love a bit of "Take that!" in a game.

Reasonable Play Time
Most of my gameplay these days is Wednesday nights, where I only have a few hours in which to play. And I prefer to play two or three games (or one game two or three times) in that span.

So how do the remaining three games stack up?

Kemet has almost no luck.  There is a bit, but not enough to tip the game. There are a number of successful strategies that I've seen used, which keeps the replayability high.  Every decision you make on the board influences every other player, so there is a ton of interaction.  The play time, however, can run a bit long with beginners (or, oddly, with very experienced players).

Mutant Meeples has almost no luck - it's an analytical game, though, not a turn-based game.  And the player interaction is all about trying to get your plan in place before someone else does.  There's also not a ton of opportunity to trash-talk your opponents because of how it works.  But it's relatively fast (especially when playing with Andrew).  There's not a ton of strategy per se, but there is a bit.

Augustus is very luck-driven.  There is strategy, and once you grasp it, the game does improve dramatically - but it's possible for luck to beat strategy.  The player interaction is all around the board rather than in the game itself.  But it's very fast-playing.  I can get five or six plays of this in a good evening. But there's something about this game that keeps bringing me back to it.  It's just fun.

So I think I can safely drop Mutant Meeples from the list, which leaves only Kemet and Augustus.  And here it gets tricky for me.  I had Kemet a month or two before it was released, in part so I could write an article for GTM about it.  I've had Augustus for a month or two, but it has more to do with our ability to demo than for any other reason.  I actually worked on the English translation of Kemet, but Augustus was one I'd never even heard of when I was taught to play.

These are both games I'm nearly always up for playing. By which I mean simply that it doesn't matter how my day went, or if I'm suffering from brain burnout, or am especially crabby, I'm still willing to play either of them. Provided I have the time in which to do so.

So this is not an easy decision.  And it's funny, because Augustus doesn't really fit much of what I'm looking for in a game, if you look at the list above.  It shouldn't be a difficult decision.

But, really, I have to give it to the game that I'm going to play tonight (a week or so before you'll see these words).  Because - even though I love both games, I do have to give the edge to one of them. And it's by the narrowest of margins, here, but my Game of the Year for the span between GenCon 2012 and GenCon 2013 is Augustus. Or, as you'll see it at your Local Game Store, Rise of Augustus.

No comments:

Post a Comment