4 Board Games I’ve Gotten Rid of – It’s Not You It’s Me.
In the quest to have a manageable library of games in a 1-bedroom Los Angeles apartment, you have to be quite selective in curating your games. Sometimes, there are good games or better than good games that you have to put into the trade pile. A game takes up space both in your house, and in your brain, jostling for an opportunity to get played.
I’ve gotten rid of over 50 games. I anticipate getting rid of even more games in the coming year. I wanted to talk about some good games that I’ve parted ways with:
Agricola is a great game. It is so tense, and I love the delicious blocking that goes on in the main worker placement phase. I love how the space cards come out, revealing new actions, and how actions get more and more resources round to round when untouched until someone cashes in a massive bounty.
The reason I got rid of Agricola: the card system is a drag. Everyone has 7 minor occupations, and 7 minor improvements. Some decks of these cards come with the game, and others can be purchased separately. Most heavy-strategy gamers draft these cards, which makes the burden of knowledge so high at the very beginning of the game. You sit for 30+ minutes handing around stacks of cards before the game starts building a strategy that will last the entire 2-hour game. You could be out-drafted by a veteran player and have next to no chance before you even start. Many of the cards are unbalanced, banned in competitive play. Having to balance the 7 minor occupations, the 7 minor improvements, and the 10 shared major improvements in my mind is just too much for me. Too much referencing the cards. Too much shuffling around. Too much to literally hold.
Alternatives: I’ll admit I have not tried Caverna (I will someday), but the 2-player Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small is a delightful game that has a lot of the blocking/actions with much less of the overhead of its big brother.
Pandemic might be a good game. If you spend any time looking at the type of games I like, you’d see that the cooperative genre ranks very close to the bottom. I love the rush of competition, and the social interaction provided by competitive games. Cooperative games frequently devolve into a quarterback telling everyone else what to do. They typically feel more like a puzzle than a game to me. What satisfaction is there in beating a shuffled deck of cards? Pandemic has perhaps the best modern theme for a board game, showing non-gamers the epic world of gaming that they have missed out on. However, it isn’t interesting enough and increasing the difficulty just makes the game more frustrating, not more tense.
Plus, if the deck is shuffled poorly, it can actually be statistically impossible to win. That’s just silly.
Alternatives: I really enjoy the extreme challenge of Ghost Stories, and perhaps the best true co-op I’ve ever played is Burgle Bros, which is dripping in theme and manages to sidestep some of the quarterbacking issues.
Power Grid is another great game. It consists of three parts: The auction, which is amazing; the resource collection, which adjusts based on supply and demand brilliantly; and the placement and powering of power plants. Sigh. The placement and powering of plants phase is so dry and so mathematical. My friend who owns this game has player-colored calculators in the box of Power Grid to help facilitate the last round of play which can take upwards of 30 minutes number crunching. If I wanted to do spreadsheets on the weekend… I’d stay at my desk job.
Alternatives: Concordia is great, if you are looking for map-based positioning, a shorter playing time, and less mathematics, but it certainly isn’t a direct replacement. You could probably talk me into playing Power Grid. I just don’t need to own it.
Scythe is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a Euro/optimization game dressed up as the world’s most exciting 4x game. I kickstarted the Collector’s Edition, and drooled over the components and shiny bits. I played it over and over again looking for that interactivity where friends and enemies are made on the battlefield.
Scythe is certainly not a bad game. In fact, I absolutely adore the economy actions that simultaneously make an action more effective and another action cost less resources, complete with dual-layer chipboard. It is extremely satisfying. However, at some point I looked down at my mech army and realized that they were barely capable of attacking other players. The game deliberately contains systems to prevent you from interacting with your neighbors. Insane movement restrictions for each faction ensure the opening turns are rote, and getting into more than 2-3 combats in a game is a sure-fire way to lose. It’s checking all the good boxes—theme, gorgeous artwork, cool minis, cool components, huge table presence—but ultimately hides its true self behind a strong veneer.
I’ll still play it, and I’ll still humor my friends who think it is the best game of all time. I’d just rather be playing Inis, Cthulhu Wars, or even Blood Rage. They don’t realize they are playing a re-skinned trading-in-the-Mediterranean action-selection game. I guess that’s OK?