2018 10×10 recap

2018 ended with the failure of my 10×10 Challenge. I ended up getting in 87% of the way there. I completed the plays for 6 of the games. I was hoping to get in 5 more plays the week of Christmas but I came down with a cold that left me with no drive for gaming. Even with those additional plays I would have missed the 10×10 challenge by 8 plays. I started off pretty strong with the 10×10 challenge but things petered out at the end of the year. I was surprised to see that through the challenge three games were culled from my collection. I intended the the challenge to be a way of reintroducing me to some of the games that weren’t hitting the table. Earlier in the year this was very much true. If you wanted to here more about the reasons why I selected them, check out my post from the start of 2018.

I’ll run through the games I had in the 10×10 Challenge and let you know how I faired.

  1. Burgle Bros.– I got to 6 plays of this games. This is the game that I was hoping to blitz through the last week of the year. I thought that this game would be a slam dunk since it was something that hit the table during game nights. But in 2018, my attendance of the game nights was spotty at best so majority of these plays were at home either solo or with the kids. For some reason, this is one that is overlooked when I’m selecting games to play at home. Only reason I can figure it an “out of sight, out of mind” problem since it is an odd shaped box and it ends up being stored in a bin with card games. Without it being directly in front of me, I don’t think of it. I’m accused of this same action when looking for items in the fridge so there is some validity to this statement.
  2. Ex Libris – This is the first of 3 games that has left the collection. This was a new game to me when the year started so I was looking forward to exploring the game. It turned out that the play of the game was shallower than I had hoped so it quickly lost its luster and was sold early in the year. The game play of Ex Libris is a mix of worker placement and tableau building. This are two things that are up my alley. For the multi-player game, there are great options to interact with the other players without completely ruining their plans. This game played well the handful of times I played with a group. The game truly fell flat in the solo experience though. I’ve discussed that in a previous post when I talk about why Ex Libris exited the building.
  3. Legendary: Marvel, for example, was a game that was seeing reduced plays in the last couple years but finished the year with a solid 21 plays. This may have been aided by one of my favorite characters being included in the Champions expansion. A great deal also led me to pick up the two Aecret Wars expansions. This increase content gave me a lot to explore and discover in Legendary. This was the only game on my 10×10 that got in more than the 10 plays.
  4. Fallout was the second game that left collection, but unlike Ex Libris, I only got in 7 out of the 10 plays. I got a fair amount of plays in early in the year due to Con of the North in February. This was a great game if you like the exploring the story of a game. The game play itself was pretty straight forward and had some good variability in setup of the tiles. I found that the game was good at the 3 player count but the excitement seemed to dwindle when it was played solo. The solo game was fine but it was hard to progress the story lines fast enough before the end game was triggered. With more players, the story lines emerged quicker and provided a better play experience. For this reason, this game lost its momentum when I started playing it as a solo game. The length of the game prevented it from being a game night game. I decided to sell it when I looked through my 10×10 Challenge and felt that I “had” to play it rather than excitement of “Sweet! I have a free evening to play Fallout!”.
  5. Flash Point: Fire Rescue like Legendary is a classic of my collection. I got it early and have since acquired almost all the expansions. The one big upgrade I did this year was getting the Broken Token box or the game. In addition to the box, I took the extra time to stain and varnish the box so it feels more like a collector’s piece now. This was one of the games that were impacted by the end of year sickness. I got to 9 plays and was expecting to get my last one in before the year end. That didn’t happen when I came down with the cold. The new storage solution helped speed up setup, but Flash Point suffers from the expansion fatigue. Each expansion adds new mechanism and there is always a little needed to do a refresher on the various rule changes for the chosen maps. One of the best plays I had of Flash Point in 2018 was with the work gaming group where we had 6 people playing the game. There was a mix of people familiar with the game and brand new to the game. We played a version somewhere between the family game and the advanced rules. It was a great to see the excitement the new players had for one of my favorite games. We ended up losing the game but it was great to see how the group came together to try to figure out a way to save the building on our last turn.
  6. Imperial Settlers is an example of a game where the additional content was preventing me from playing the game. I had the small box, Why Can’t We Be Friends, and the larger Atlantans expansions. With these expansions you could just through them into the decks but there were some situations where the game wasn’t balanced for this. For the best experience time needed to be spent steering up the decks based of which expansion was going to be used. This was a killed my desire to play since it felt like a chore just to get started. I ended up selling the expansions early in the year and playing just the base game. This was great for me since I wasn’t sorting through cards and looking up rules. I was able to sit down, shuffle the cards and play. After getting back to the basics for this game, I was reminded why I love this game. There are so many choices you can make during the game but they are presented in such a way that you are not overwhelmed. You are limited by the cards you have in your hand and what resources you have. Based on those factors you need to puzzle out how best to convert those into victory points. All my plays of this game was solo and played mostly with the Barbarians which let me start thinking about the game a little differently and identity which cards are setup or early game cards. Then trying to get the combo cards that would ring up the victory points each turn.
  7. Nemo’s War was the third game that left my collection in the year. I only got 5 plays completed during the year. With the low amount of plays and the fact that I sold it, gives the wrong impression of my thoughts on the game. The time commitment along with the thought requirement is what limited my plays of the game. This is one game that I required 2-3 hours of focused time to play. This game rewards repeated plays in order to get a “winning” outcome. The goal of the game is to survive to the end of the adventure deck. If you achieve that goal, you then move onto the scoring phase to see how well you did. I was batting 85% on surviving but when it came to scoring I never scored anything above the base tier. With my last couple plays, I was finally beginning to understand what I was doing wrong. In late 2018, I heard that there was going to be a Kickstarter for the 3rd printing of the game with some minor improvements. These were mostly box size and organization improvements, but I took this as a chance to liquidate my old copy in order to offset some other new game purchases. I got rid of it, but odds are this will come back to the collection once the 3rd printing his retail.
  8. Pandemic: The Cure – This game has been a mainstay and ranks up there as one of my favorite games of all time. This co-op game offers great play-ability as a solo game since there is no hidden information and there is no resources or cards controlled by each player. Each player has a set of dice that determines their actions. This game hit the 10 plays relatively early in the year. The Experimental Meds expansion added 2 unique modules to the game. One of the expansions is one that I play with most often since it adds a little more variability to the dice, in both good and bad ways depending on when you roll the new dice. This made the game more fun for me. The second module makes the game harder by putting up additional barriers and challenges that the players need to take into account. Learning these two new modules made it an easy for me to get my plays in throughout 2018.
  9. Scythe and its expansions are edging towards complicating setup so much that it prevents the game from coming out. However, in this case, I will put the time to get this game to the table. I have all three expansions for this game: Invaders from Afar, Wind Gambit, and Rise of Fenris. The expansions aren’t the only challenge with this one. This one that takes up significant space so I’m physically limited where and when I play it. I don’t have the space where I can leave games setup and play over a day or two. The game comes out only when I have a large enough window to finish the game. The Rise of Fenris expansion has been awesome so far through episode 5. This specific expansion adds to the setup time since I have to do a refresher of the rules as well as the story before I start. This is one part I enjoy in being reintroduced to the world and picking up the story. I’ve gotten more than the 10 plays in 2018 if you include the digital plays. I had held out on purchasing the digital version but I picked it up when it was on sale and found it to be a great way to get a game in without the setup issues. It’s great just to be able to fire up and play the game. With the digital version, I do miss the social interaction since that is one of the draws of gaming for me.
  10. Viticulture: Essential Ediction is one game where the only way I play is with its expansion, Tuscany. The Tuscany introduces a couple elements I consider essential. It is a modular expansion in that the expansion changes the board and then allows you to add other modules if you like. At the start of 2018, Viticulture was relatively new to me so I was just playing with the expansion board and the mechanic that went along with that. Majority of my plays were solo and the game was brutal in that I never logged a solo win with just the expansion board. Things turned around on the win front when I added in the remaining modules. This new modules added in new abilities which could be linked to get some great combos. The game is still very dependent on the card draws but the modules give you more opportunities to cycle through cards to find what you need. This is almost the opposite in terms of setup and space to Scythe. This game fits nicely on my coffee table so am able to setup and play the game over a day or two without much complaint from the family. Also in regards to focus, I can play this with the TV on or a movie is playing. With Scythe, I may have some music going but other than that I need to be distraction free. I feel this is one game that I improved at during the course of 2018.

Looking back it feels that the 10×10 Challenge was more of an expansion challenge. Through 2018, I found that expansions don’t always improve the game. The added complexity puts up barriers for me to get the game to the table. The additional overhead of relearning rules and unique setups for expansions were something that also prevented games from coming out. Story elements are something that may overcome this problem. This is exactly what occurred with Rise of Fenris, but I’m have not seen it replicated by any other expansion.

When I finished 2018, I was 100% sure I wasn’t going to do a challenge in 2019. After getting this recap done though, I’m thinking of a smaller scale challenge but something that would allow me explore the some new games or some that were left off last year..  The top contenders there are: Renegade, Too Many Bones: Undertow,  and Pandemic: Fall of Rome.

Checking in on the 10×10 Challenge

Quick shout out to the BG Stats app that allows me to easily track the progress of my 10×10 Challenge. It’s a great app to track the basic play or you could go for all the nitty gritty details of each of your plays (where did you play, who played, scores, etc.).

10x10 Through May

Summary of 10×10 through May

As of today, I am 45% through my plays with 210 days left in 2018. In my analytical head, I translate this info into needed to play a game every 3.8 days to stay on track. I’m still feeling that this challenge is doable, but now I’m running into the try obstacle that I’ve made great progress with the shorter games but the more involved games are left. In addition, I’ve had some recent acquisitions that have taken some of my gaming time. I’m looking at you Renegade and Oh My Goods! Two games have gotten to 10 plays already this year. One of those, Ex Libris, I discussed in my prior post about getting the plays in a week’s time. The second game that has hit 10 plays and then some is Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding game. The main driver behind the Legendary plays is the “Starter League” I found on BGG as well as the Champions expansion which included my favorite superhero, Nova. The league has 3 games a month so I got my plays in for those and finished off my 10×10 plays by early April and the May league featured the Champions expansion so I just kept playing. To date, I’ve gotten in 18 plays of Legendary in 2018 so far. Last year,  it hit the table just 10 times. This has been a great game to setup at night on a weekend and play a couple games.

Remaining Plays

Remaining plays through May

Remaining plays through May

Remaining plays through May

Fallout is the first game that hasn’t been completed yet. I’m up to six plays for Fallout which is great since this game is one of the bigger games that takes some time to setup and play. This is so high in plays already due to the fact that this was played 3 times during Con of the North back in February.  I’m evenly split between 3 solo games and 3 multiplayer games. The one benefit I’ve notice with more players is that the deck is cycled quicker. This means that the various storylines move along and more is discovered before the end of the game. With the solo plays of the game, I need to make focused decisions to explore a particular story line. The slower development of the story means that there is less opportunity to change strategies and shift focus. Fallout is one of the games that I’ll play to discover the storyline rather than trying to win the game. This is true especially when playing the solo game since it may feel that the game is impossible to win.

The remaining seven games have been played at least twice so far this year with 5 having 3 plays to date. Burgle Bros.,  Pandemic: The Cure, and Flash Point are my co-ops on the list that are a bit “swingy” in the sense that games can be quickly lost. If this happens, I usually end up playing two games back to back. Imperial Settlers (3 plays) tends to be a game that I play while watching TV or a movie. It’s not one I’ll overly think and plan out. I enjoy just building my little engine and seeing what happens. My lack of though comes through when I see some of the scores people tend to get in the game.  The last three games: Scythe (3), Viticulture (3), and Nemo’s War (2) are the larger single play games that may be a challenge for me to get the plays in. Scythe will likely be the first one completed since I’m already eyeing up the Rise of Fenris campaign expansion that is due for release in August. The last two are proving to both be difficult for me to pull off a solo win. Nemo’s War is the longest of the the games and I need to be in the mindset to sit down for 2 hours to really focus on a game. I’ve played Viticulture a handful of times and have yet to win a solo game. The only win I’ve had was my first multiplayer game. When I play solo,  I am playing with the Tuscany Essential board, but not the special workers or extra buildings modules from the expansion. I need to read up on those modules to see if that will help improve my win ratio.

Outlook on Completion of the 10×10 Challenge

I’m still feeling good that I’ll be able to complete my plays of the games I committed to. The challenge will be if new games come into the stable and take some time away from the challenge games. I’ve enjoyed re-discovering the fun of these games. Some of these games only saw a couple plays last year, but playing them again reminds me why I liked them so much. The new games still catch my eye and cult of the new is rampant in my game group, but I’ve still enjoyed playing these games solo on the nights I’m not gaming with others.

Powering through to the end with Ex Libris

Ex Libris is the first game of 2018 that got 10 plays. When I added Ex Libris to my 10×10 Challenge, I had played it a couple times with 3 people and another handful of times solo. I loved the theme so much. I was an avid reader when I was younger and the theme really connected with me. I liked the additional effort for the team to include the various puns on the book bindings. Even though the theme won me over, the game play was just okay. I added the game to the 10×10 Challenge knowing the game was on the keep or sell bubble. Based on the 10 plays, I expected to finally resolve how I felt about the game.

Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned. Con of the North is a great local con in the Twin Cities that happens during President’s Day weekend. I’ve attended twice in the past three years. (The one year I missed I was busy vacationing it up in California).  I always run  game or two when I’ve attended in the past and this year was no different. I signed up to run a game of Ex Libris because this was the hot game when registration for the con opened up during the summer. What is a large gathering a boardgamers, without a math trade?? Well, I guess that is Con of the North. There was no math trade this year, but an auction/sale list that went up. I took this opportunity to list a bunch of games that I wasn’t playing. Ex Libris was not listed for sale upon my initial listing of games. After seeing quite a bit of activity on the sales front and playing another solo game of Ex Libris, I decided to list it for sale at what I thought was a higher price point. Low and behold, someone snapped it up within a couple hours.

Now I had a dilemma on my hands; I had a single play of Ex Libris in 2018 and I was selling the game in less than a week. Was I going to fail at my 10×10 Challenge because I’m selling one of the games. I thought about swapping out games but I didn’t feel that was in the spirit of the challenge. I knew I had 1 play scheduled at the con so I powered through 8 solo plays over the course of 2 evenings.

These plays that were essentially back to back  reinforced that I made the right decision to sell the game. Many of the games I keep around need to have some depth to their solo options. After playing the Ex Libris solo, I quickly identified the locations that I would discard first or the ones I would keep around for future rounds. This allowed me to control the public library better than if I just focused on my own library. This increased my win ratio in the solo game to near 75%.  The only way that Ex Libris increases the difficulty of the solo game is by discarding cards at the start of each round. The easy games may discard 1 cards and the master librarian may be discarding 5 cards.  Not a lot changing during the harder games.

I also found that I could  focus on the prominent works and shelf stability to deliver a win majority of the time. For those locations that allowed me to take multiple cards, I would just take the the prominent works. I would shelve books to maximize the score on shelf stability. By the end of the 8 games, I found the game to be something that could be played on auto-pilot.

The last play of the game was at the con the night before selling the game. This was a 4 player game that also showed why it wasn’t one of my favorite multiplayer games. The major complaint you’ll find for Ex Libris in any review, is the tiny print that describes what each location does. This was apparent as I was playing the game in the evening at a table in low light. Not only was the print hard to read, but in some cases the tiles did not give enough detail on what the tiles did. There are some tiles that only come out during multiplayer games, so I was unfamiliar with some of those which required reference to the rule book. The abilities of these tiles led to some interesting decisions, but the confusion around how many cards could be shelved was apparent. Some locations allowed 1 shelving, while others allowed 2 or even all cards received. The play was fun with the group but I wasn’t itching to play it again.

So to wrap things up, I finished the 10 plays I committed to Ex Libris, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them fun plays. At one point it felt more like a chore versus a reason to play the game. I’m sure many games would display their flaws during consecutive plays, but I think Ex Libris was not destined to be in my collection long.