Another year is already half-way over! Can you believe it? …I guess with everything that’s happened since January 1 (Pandemic! War! Inflation! Supreme Court!) I should be surprised we haven’t filled the history books for three years yet. In these historic times, it’s nice to take on different perspectives, learn from the past or at least get away from the present with the tried-and-true method of (historical) board gaming. Here’s what I did so far this year – the numbers, the games I played most often or were otherwise remarkable, and how I stand in relation to my board gaming goals for 2022.
The Raw Numbers
Let’s start with a statistical overview for the first half of 2022. So far:
- I’ve played 10 different games.
- 2 of them were new to me.
- These 10 games resulted in a total of 37 plays.
- The month in which I played most games was May (with 13 plays), the month with the fewest plays March (2 – I was on a busy vacation for half the month)
- Of the 10 different games, 5 are historical. These account for 28 of the plays.
- 3 of the 37 plays were solo.
- 22 of the 37 plays were digital.
All in all, that tracks with last year’s numbers – just the amount of solo gaming has plummeted sharply. Not surprising if you compare the pandemic situation in early 2021 with that of this year.
Games Played Most Often
The game which I’ve played most often so far this year is – by a wide margin – Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games), which I played 14 times. Now don’t misunderstand me – Unconditional Surrender! takes, by its own admission, fifty to a hundred hours to be completed (for the full 1939-194? campaign). I certainly didn’t play 14 full campaigns, just one campaign over fourteen evenings (and a few more evenings before and after).
As you can see, my Axis have taken a rough beating and are close to the eponymous unconditional surrender. It’s been a wild ride – Italy had joined the Allies early in the war and a small Axis spoiling attack close to Smolensk resulted in rough losses, a Soviet breakthrough and the collapse of the entire eastern front in summer 1943. As often with games like this, winning and losing is dwarfed by the emergent historical narrative that the players create together.
The second spot is taken by a 2022 discovery of mine: Watergate (Matthias Cramer, Capstone Games/Frosted Games). For this one, I don’t need to explain why I played it so often: It plays quickly (30 minutes). It is designed for my most common player count (two). And, of course, it is riveting. Trying to smother the Editor in redacted evidence as Nixon or finally connecting an informant to the president as the Editor just feels so satisfying, and there are loads of tense little fights over initiative and momentum and evidence and informants every round. The only thing that bugs me about it: We haven’t found a way to win as the Editor just yet. Nixon has won eight of eight games, no matter who played him. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the game is broken or unbalanced or anything – I’m sure that there was an abundant amount of playtesting, and reading people’s experiences online also doesn’t track with a Nixon supremacy (in fact, I think there were more people having trouble to win as Nixon than with the Editor). So I guess we’re either playing something wrong (I did re-read the rulebook, though) or just haven’t figured out good strategies for the Editor yet. If you have good Editor tips, let me know in the comments!
Other Remarkable Games
Imperial Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games) is another 2022 discovery. Obviously, I was bound to pick up the spiritual successor to one of my all-time favorite games, but it still took me a few years. I’ll have to say it’s less accessible than Twilight Struggle, but it gives you a very pleasant brain-burn over all the options presented to you – whether you advance your commercial prospects in India or the Caribbean, whether you make an alliance with the Austrians or the Algonquin, whether a fleet or a fort or a hopefully talented commander will tip the balance of forces in your favor for the next war in a given theater. Typically, you can do a few of these things on your turn, but never everything.
I’ve only played it twice so far, but it has kept my imagination busy since then. I ponder strategy. I’ve picked read a book on the diplomatic history of the period (the commendable The Rise of the Great Powers (Derek McKay/H.M. Scott). And, of course, I itch for new games. I’m really hoping to get it to the table a few more times this year.
Speaking of “to the table”: A game I haven’t played in person for a long time is Here I Stand (Ed Beach, GMT Games). Its disadvantages (high player count, long playtime) have made it a surprisingly good fit for pandemic times – people suddenly had more time and were thirsting to fill it with exciting things that were possible no matter how locked down they were, like playing Here I Stand online. We’ve started another of these games early this year… and haven’t gotten very far yet. There have been long intervals in between games because people suddenly have commitments again. And when we can all agree on a day, there’s at least one person who has to leave early for another commitment. It’s still great fun, but as the COVID situation has become less threatening, I’m pretty sure that the next Here I Stand session I schedule will be in person again – on the physical table.
That brings us to our last remarkable game of early 2022: I’ve played Eldritch Horror (Corey Konieczka/Nikki Valens, Fantasy Flight). Not particularly remarkable as such – after all, I enjoy the game a lot, and as it is my wife’s favorite game, it does hit the table regularly (and thus features regularly among my favorite non-history games of a given year). This time, however, it was not only the two of us. It’d been my birthday, and I figured there was no better way to celebrate than to gather a few friends, eat some cake, and play a board game. Eldritch Horror presented itself as most of the guests were already (somewhat) familiar with it – and as one of the few games in my collection, it accommodated all seven people. Seven! That’s a gaming gathering I haven’t had in a long time. Gives one hope for the future, does it not?
Board Game Resolutions
Ah, the future. Still half the year to go. An excellent time to have a look at those board game resolutions I put out earlier this year and see if I have fulfilled them or seem likely to do so:
- Finish the two-player Unconditional Surrender! campaign: As described above, the surrender of my forces is imminent and will only take one or two more sessions.
- Magical Triangle: It hasn’t happened yet, but a date is set… and even one game specifically bought for the occasion.
- Attend a game fair or convention: I haven’t attended anything in the last six months, but I might very well go to SPIEL in Essen again this year.
- Complete a 5×5: Two sets of games played five times are already completed (Unconditional Surrender! and Watergate, see above). There are games sitting at 4, 3, and 2 plays each – so making it to five within this year is absolutely doable.
Not going so great:
- Play more mid-weight, mid-length games: Yeah, except for a few online games of Root (Cole Wehrle, Leder Games), that hasn’t come to fruition. At least the Magical Triangle is likely to remedy this a bit, as we gravitate toward Euros of that kind.
- Play more games with three or four players: Similarly bad. Once more, Root saves me from full embarrassment. Thanks to my fellow bloggers Dave and Michal who fight over the woodland with me!
How has your 2022 been going so far? Let me know in the comments!