Best Books & Games of 2014

Happy New Year! Here’s a list of my favorite books and games of 2014. The items within each category category aren’t ranked; they’re chronological.

Books:

Flowers for Algernon
Flowers for Algernon
The Martian
The Martian
A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove
Kindred - Cover
Kindred

Games:

Dominion
Dominion
Portal
Portal
Epic Battle Fantasy 4 NPC
Epic Battle Fantasy 4
Hearthstone
Hearthstone

Dominion

I bought Dominion last month knowing nothing about the game except that lots of people love it. I’m now one of those people, too! 🙂

DominionDominion is a deck-building card game that supports 2-4 players. Players take turns performing actions with the cards in their hand, buying additional cards, and then discarding their cards and drawing a new hand.

The game initially seemed a little confusing (as one can expect when playing a new game), but that went away after a couple turns of play. Gameplay is actually pretty straight-forward, although some of the action cards (like throne rooms, which let you play a card twice) can make things complicated.

One of the things I like about Dominion is how quick it is. It’s easy to learn how to play and a game only takes about 30 minutes. It’s great for when you want to have some fun, but don’t have a few hours to devote to playing a game like A Game of Thrones.

Another thing I like is how the game isn’t the same every time you play.  There are 24 different types of Kingdom (action) cards, but you only play with 10 per game. You’ll find your strategy changes depending on which Kingdom cards are selected for the game. There are also plenty of expansions available that add all sorts of new and interesting cards, though I’ve only played the original game so far.

The only critique I have is that the game can feel like everyone is playing their own solitaire game since players concentrate on their own decks and there aren’t a lot of cards that affect other players (at least not in the original game).

Dominion has won all sorts of awards since its release in 2008 and for good reason. Dominion is totally worth picking up. 🙂

Favorite Games of 2013

I played a bunch of new games this year and I’ve included my favorites below (I hope I didn’t forget any!). The games weren’t necessarily released in 2013; I just happened to play them for the first time this year. Click the links for my full reviews of each game.

Board & Card:

  • 7 Wonders – strategy card game based on civilization-building

Console:

  • Lego Lord of the Rings – action-adventure game (I didn’t write up a review of this game, whoops!)

Mobile:

PC:

7 Wonders Board Game

I picked up 7 Wonders when it was the Deal of the Day on Amazon a week or so ago. I had never played it before, but I had heard great things about it and it had a 4.8 out of 5 star rating, so I thought it was worth getting. I’m so glad I did!

7 WondersIn 7 Wonders, you control one of seven ancient cities. You gather resources, trade with your neighboring cities, and choose to build up military, commercial, scientific, and/or civilian structures to make your city powerful. You also have the option of erecting a wonder, which gives your city various bonuses for every completed wonder stage.

I played 7 Wonders for the first time yesterday with 3 other first-time players. The directions were a bit confusing at first, but once we started playing, the rules made sense and we all caught on quickly.

The game starts in Age I and each player receives 7 cards. There are 3 Ages in total and each Age consists of 6 turns. At the start of a turn, each player chooses a card from their hand and everyone reveals and plays them simultaneously. Then, each player passes their remaining cards to the player sitting next to them and the next turn begins. Because you’re always giving your unused cards to your neighbor, it makes the strategy interesting. Do you play the card that will help you the most or do you get rid of the card that would give your neighbor a distinct advantage?

The game is surprisingly quick, about half an hour in length. Because everyone plays simultaneously, it should even be a quick game with a large group of players. Although I’ve only played with 4 players so far, the game works with 2-7 players and it seems like it would scale really well.

7 Wonders is a lot of fun and I think I’ll get a lot of play out of it. 🙂

Monopoly

This week, it was announced that there would be a change to Monopoly’s tokens. Monopoly fans from around the world have chosen a new token, a cat, to replace the iron token.

New Monopoly token possibilities
New Monopoly token possibilities

Fans voted on a handful of potential new tokens: robot, helicopter, guitar, ring, and cat. They also voted on their least favorite current token and it apparently came down to the wheelbarrow, iron, and shoe. I’m so glad the shoe pulled through; it’s my favorite. 🙂

I was cleaning up my tablet a week or two ago by uninstalling apps I wasn’t using. Before I uninstalled, though, I played the games to give them one last chance to redeem themselves.

One of these games was Monopoly, which I got from Amazon’s free app of the day a year or so ago. It only has an average rating of 3.0 in the Google Play Store, but it seems like most of the complaints are from people whose devices can’t handle the game (it runs fine on my Nexus 7 😛 ). Other complaints are regarding poor customer service (which one should expect from EA) and the AI which is “too hard” (you can adjust the AI difficulty level, though).

Monopoly app

It’d been a long time since I’d played Monopoly, so it was fun playing it again. The graphics and animations give the game a realistic, polished feel. It’s also fairly customizable; you can change some of the rules, the appearance of the “room” you’re playing in, etc. You can even play multiplayer, but I haven’t tried that out. It’s a decent app, but I’m glad I got it for free; I don’t think I’d pay $4.99 for it.

I wonder when there will be an update to reflect the new tokens. 😛

Star Trek: Catan

Star Trek: CatanThis weekend, Nick and I had some friends over to play board games. We decided to play Star Trek: Catan, which was great because Nick and I had never played Settlers of Catan and have always wanted to. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, it is a popular multiplayer strategy and resource management board game. The Star Trek version came out earlier this year and is (apparently) pretty much the same as the original game, but with a Star Trek theme.

There are 5 resources in the game: dilithium, tritanium, food, oxygen, and water. We had a hard time remembering which color was dilithium (green) and which was tritanium (red), so we opted for giving the resources condiment names instead: ketchup (red), mustard (yellow), relish (green), mayo (white), and blue remained water. 😛

I still haven’t played the original Settlers of Catan, so I can’t compare the two. I think the character cards were a new addition, though. Each player has a character card (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Scott, Uhura, Chekov, Chapel, Rand, or Sarek) that gives the player special abilities liked forced trades or protection from the klingons. Players have to swap out character cards after they use them once (or twice), so it keeps things interesting.

We had a lot of fun learning and playing the game and we’ll probably be adding it to our Christmas wish list this year. 🙂

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game

Sorry about the lack of posts over the last few weeks; Nick and I have been busy buying our first house. So exciting! 🙂

We went to Card Kingdom in Ballard a couple weeks ago with some of Nick’s friends from work and we played A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (second edition), which I’ve been meaning to blog about. Card Kingdom was a pretty cool place. They sell all sorts of board games, card games, puzzles, tabletop games, etc. and they have tables set up so people can play at the store. They also have private rooms where you can play (which is what we did). There is a cafe, too, which provides food and drinks to the gamers. We’ll definitely go back there again sometime.

A Game of Thrones: The Board GameThe Game of Thrones board game felt very similar to Risk, but it takes place in Westeros, the continent in the Game of Thrones world where most of the action takes place. The board game supports up to 6 players (unless you let multiple people play as one team, like we did), where the 6 players represent 6 Great Houses from the Game of Thrones series: House Stark, House Lannister, House Baratheon, House Greyjoy, and House Tyrell. You can still play the game with as few as 3 players and it seems like the creators of the game thought that out well, changing the rules a bit to support fewer players. Like Risk, the world is broken up into many regions and the goal of the game is to try to take over as much of the realm as possible.

The game was much more complicated than Risk, though. For instance, players are allowed to control the seas around Westeros and use the seas to move their units quickly around the continent (Nick and I tried to employ this strategy). Another difference is that there are four different types of units and some are better at defense, whereas others are better at offense. Furthermore, players receive house cards (characters from the series, who aid the player during battles), order tokens (which allow each of the player’s controlled regions to perform various actions), and power tokens (used for bidding). Oh, and I almost forgot! One of the cool things about the game is that there are also three influence tracks (the Iron Throne, the Fiefdomes, and the King’s Court), which allow players certain abilities based on their ranking on the tracks. The player with the highest ranking on each track also gets a dominance token for that track, which allows additional special abilities.

A Game of Thrones: The Board GameIt was the first time most of us had played the game and it took us a while to get started, because we had to set everything up and learn the rules. With all that there is going on in the game, it was definitely overwhelming at first, but everyone caught on quickly enough. There game lasts 10 rounds (unless a player controls 7 castles/strongholds before the 10 rounds are over) and each round consists of 3 phases:

  1. The Westeros Phase: The top card from each of three decks is turned over and their effects are carried out. Wildlings can also attack during this phase and players will have to work together to fight them. (This phase is skipped in the first round)
  2. The Planning Phase: Players assign orders to each of the regions they control by placing order tokens in the regions. There are 5 different types of orders: march, defense, support, raid, and consolidate power.
  3. The Action Phase: The order tokens are resolved and most of the player activity takes place.

There is a lot that I left out (I told you it’s complicated!), but we had a lot of fun playing it. Your first game will probably go pretty slowly (we had to cut our game short about halfway through), but should go faster after everyone gets a handle on the rules.

So if you love strategy games, I’m sure you will enjoy A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. We certainly did!