NYC Gamer              

Nickels and Dimes and Quarters, Oh My!

January 7, 2008

January can only mean one thing, another Five & Dime List of course. Every list has to have a twist to make it unique, and since I didnít do one last year, this one will be a comparative list that highlights how many times I played each game not only in 2007 but also in 2006. This means Iíll be able to see whether a game is on the rise or interest is declining, and maybe realize that a game I used to enjoy plenty in 2006 didnít see enough table time in 2007.

Before we get started with the list, letís begin with a few stats. Since I started tracking games played in June 2005, I have 1,834 plays (note that this number is slightly inflated by the fact that I log both the base game and expansion if I play a game with an expansion). Broken down by year, there were 357 plays in the latter half of 2005, there were 786 in 2006, and 658 plays in 2007. So it looks like 2007 saw a bit of downturn in gaming, with 128 fewer games played, which is not surprising given the fact that I was a full-time student in 2006, and graduated five months into 2007, so I had to study for the Bar exam and begin working full-time. This has decreased my game playing opportunities slightly, but thankfully not nearly as much as I had feared, so Iíve played plenty of great games in 2007 as youíll see below.

So how many of those games in each year were unique different games? Out of the 786 plays in 2006, I played 129 unique games. Whereas out of the 658 plays in 2007, there were 165 unique games played. While thatís how many different games I had a chance to play, this list is about the games that were worthy of many repeated plays, not the games that were one and done. So how many games reached nickel, dime, and quarter status in each year (i.e., how many games did I play at least 5, 10, and 25 times)? There were 16 nickels, 17 dimes, and 7 quarters in 2006. This means that 31% of the games I played in 2006 reached at least nickel status. By way of contrast, there were 24 nickels, 12 dimes, and 2 quarters in 2007. This means that only 23% of the games I played in 2007 reached at least nickel status. The numbers tell the story, which is that Iíve played a wider range of games in 2007, focusing less on particular titles, which is why I have 5 less quarters and 5 less dimes, and 8% fewer games reaching at least nickel status. I try not to just play a ton of different games one time each, and am happy to see that my nickels have actually risen by 8 this past year, and will try to raise the percentage of games reaching at least nickel status in 2008. I feel like five plays is probably enough to be able to form an accurate opinion about most games, and try to give a second chance even to games that donít grab me on the first time out. Then again, Iím not about to go out and buy a game that I didnít enjoy on my first play, so getting that second chance in depends on someone elseís copy being available, and the opportunity doesnít always arise.

Quarters are a perfect place to start so letís start there. The two games that grabbed the coveted quarter spot for 2007 were Crokinole and Ultimate Werewolf. Crokinole ran away with the race for most played game of the year with 84 plays. After receiving my Crokinole board on December 25, 2006, I gleefully played it an incredible 35 times before the end of 2006, making it my second-most played game of 2006, despite having only 6 days in which to accomplish the feat. This also means that Crokinole is the only game to gain the status of quarter in both 2006 and 2007, since none of the other 2006 quarters were able to repeat and I didnít receive Ultimate Werewolf until August of 2007. There isnít much I can say about Crokinole that I havenít said before. To check out my gushing about Crokinole and why it has deserved its 84 plays in 2007, see my Hilinski Brothers Tribute and the 1876 entry from my Games of the Years article. I took a risk in getting such an expensive game without having ever played it before, but am extremely glad I did, and encourage anyone sitting on the fence to definitely give this game a try. Itís incredibly replayable, surprisingly strategic, and an immense amount of fun.

Sharing the spotlight with Crokinole is Ultimate Werewolf, which I received as a gift in August of 2007. Iíd never played werewolf before in person, only online once, and wasnít sure what to expect, but it turned out to fill a very underserved niche in my collection. I generally donít play games with more than 5 players, but having a set of werewolf means that now I donít need to split a group of 9 into two tables of 4 and 5, but rather everyone can enjoy a game or two (or three or four) of werewolf together. The 33 plays of Ultimate Werewolf from 2007 are from only a few separate occasions, on which the game was played many, many times. Whatís especially amazing is that the game is fun despite the fact that I am absolutely horrible at it. Everyone seems to know my role within moments of my receiving a card, but itís still a delight to watch the game unfold even if Iím eliminated or even as Moderator running the game, but not participating. Itís not a game that Iím likely to pull out very often, but itís wonderful to have because when the right circumstances arise, itís sometimes the perfect game for the situation and is likely to see many plays on those occasions.

Now itís time to see what fell from grace and how far they fell. What were the quarters from 2006 that failed to repeat in 2007 and how many times did they get played this past year? There were 6 games that were quarters in 2006 but were not in 2007. They were Hey! Thatís My Fish! (which saw 41 plays in 2006, but only 10 in 2007), StreetSoccer (with 35 plays in 2006 and 6 in 2007), Tigris & Euphrates (which was played 35 times in 2006 and a measly 2 times in 2007), Caylus (with 34 games played in 2006 and a drop to 7 plays in 2007), Reef Encounter (which I played 29 times in 2006 and 9 times in 2007), and finally Ra (with 27 plays in 2006, but only 10 plays in 2007). While Ra had the smallest drop with only 17 fewer plays, the biggest drop was Tigris & Euphrates with 33 fewer plays in 2007.

Iíve played Tigris & Euphrates a total of 66 times, making it my most played game besides Crokinole since Iíve started tracking games played (which means that itís my most played game besides a few like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne that were played a lot before I began tracking). Iím amazed to see that itís fallen so far from 35 times in 2006 to only 2 times in 2007. I guess the numbers confirm the fact that I had a much smaller desire to play the game this year, and justify the fact that I lowered Kniziaís masterpiece from #1 on my personal Top 10 down to #5 on the list. I think I might have overdosed on the game a bit in 2006 and needed a break, but Iím happy to say that in 2008 Iíve already managed to equal my total number of plays of Tigris in 2007, having already played Tigris on January 1st and January 3rd. I hadnít played the game in a long time, and really enjoyed both of my recent plays of it, plus both games involved at least one opponent who had never played before, and their positive reactions to the game has served to remind me why itís so fabulous. Their eye-opening moments as they began to grasp how the game worked and flowed has reinvigorated my interest in the game, and now Iím even considering going out of my way to get the gorgeous Hans im Gluck version even though I already have the Mayfair version.

Hey! Thatís My Fish! had the second biggest drop-off with 31 fewer plays in 2007, falling from 41 plays to 10 plays. Then again, Hey! Thatís My Fish! managed to remain a Dime for 2007 and 10 plays seems about right for this game. I think 41 plays in 2006 was due to the game being new and fresh, and while the game hasnít gotten stale by any means, itís fallen into place with a solid but not excessive 10 plays. I see Hey! Thatís My Fish! getting around 10 plays every year from here on out hopefully and would be happy with that. Itís a wonderful two-player spatial abstract game without any in-game luck, just a random setup. While itís not so good with more players and takes a while to setup the board, the pasted on theme is a good one and the game plays out very differently every time, plus itís very quick and serves as both a great filler and worthy of back-to-back plays if used to fill up a larger interval.

Cornť van Moorselís StreetSoccer lost 29 plays, falling from 35 to 6 in 2007, which reminds me that I need to break this game out again soon! I absolutely love StreetSoccer, despite usually disliking games with dice and not particularly being a fan of soccer itself. I canít quite figure out why I enjoy StreetSoccer so much, but I really do. It fills a great niche as a quick two-player game thatís not simply a card game (unlike Lost Cities, Odinís Ravens, and Balloon Cup), and is always tense and exciting. Not to mention the fact that it definitely involves a lot more strategy and decision-making than it would seem at first glance since you need to keep you people in good position without letting them get disjointed all over the place.

The wunderkind of Essen 2005 was one of my most played games of 2006 with 34 plays that year, but it lost 27 plays in 2007, as I only managed to get it to the table 7 times this past year. I suppose the lack of randomness in Caylus has contributed to my slightly declining interest in playing it, but thatís not to say that Attiaís gem is going on the trade pile anytime soon. Iím still a huge fan of two-player Caylus as a relatively quick duel that is always challenging and engaging. While each game is not very different from each other game, the interest derives from trying to select your actions each turn and the order in which you need to take those actions. Trying to predict what buildings your opponent will place workers on is the most interesting part of Caylus for me, so you can prioritize your worker placement and block your opponent where possible. This is what makes games like Caylus and Agricola not remotely multiplayer-solitaire because theyíre all about prioritizing your action selection.

Richard Breeseís Reef Encounter dropped from 29 plays in 2006 to 9 plays in 2007, but is still definitely a Top 20 game in my book. I think Iíve finally settled on three-player Reef Encounter as my favorite way to play it, since there seems to be just the right level of interaction with two opponents to face off against. Unfortunately Iím still waiting for Z-Man to print the Reef Encounters of the Second Kind expansion, which I really think would infuse new life into this game and make it rise in plays for sure. Iíve already played other peopleís copies of the expansion twice and really enjoyed it both times, so itís an immediate buy for me if or when it is released in the U.S.

Finally, Kniziaís Ra was the final game that dropped from quarter status in 2006, declining from 27 plays in 2006 to 10 plays in 2007. Ra is another fantastic three-player game, although nothing like Reef Encounter of course. For some reason that I canít fully explain, I absolutely love Ra, but am lukewarm about Medici, and will hopefully never play Modern Art again! I canít quite put my finger on why I have such a wide range of reactions to Kniziaís Auction Trilogy. Iíve played Ra 50 times in total now, and just love the way that the value of each type of tile is completely different for each player once the game gets under way. At the beginning, each pharaoh, civilization, flood, etc. is worth the same to everyone, but once one person has a few rivers, and another has a couple monuments, and someone else gets two civilization tiles, then it really gets interesting because figuring out when to invoke Ra and how much you need to bid depends entirely on looking both at what youíre doing and what all your opponents are doing. I was pleasantly surprised by how well Ra works with the two-player variant, and think that two-player Ra is only slightly behind three-player Ra in terms of fun the game is, but I definitely know itís not a game that I want to play with five players, and not as much with four either.

Thatís all the Quarters from both 2007 and from 2006. Now itís time for a quicker look at all the 2007 Dimes. Hereís the list of 2007 Dimes with the number of 2007 plays in parantheses: Hansa (23), Age of Steam (20), Notre Dame (18), Mr. Jack (14), Piranha Pedro (13), Canít Stop (12), eBay Electronic Talking Auction Game (11), Gheos (11), Kreta (11), Loopiní Louie (11), Hey! That's My Fish! (10), Ra (10). Two of these twelve Dimes have already been discussed above since they were Quarters in 2006 (i.e., Hey! That's My Fish! and Ra). The other ten make up quite an interesting, varied, and somewhat unexpected list.

First, Hansa is one of my very favorite middle-weight two-player games. If you check out my chart for Picking the Perfect Game, youíll see some of my other favorite middle-weight two-player games, like Through the Desert and Samurai, plus some newer releases like Arkadia, Taluva, and Mr. Jack, but if I had to pick a favorite in the category then it would probably be Through the Desert, although Hansa would be right behind in a very close second. I love the niche that Michael Schachtís Hansa fills as a two-player game and China fills as a three-player game, since both provide a lot of game in under 60 minutes. The mechanic of the boat controlled by both players in Hansa is ingenious and is at the heart of what makes the game so interesting and the decision-making so difficult, as you have to balance your own goals with positioning the boat the avoid helping (and sometimes hopefully to actively hinder) your opponent. This is why the two-player version is by far the best in my mind since itís a zero-sum battle where you can really take boat placement into account fully.

Second, Age of Steam is unquestionably a Top 5 game in my book, and sometimes I ponder whether it really should be my all time number one game. What I really love about Age of Steam is the fact that a group of people who already know the game can sit down to play it with a brand new map. All you have to do is spend a few minutes going over the slight rule changes for the new map, and youíre ready to begin. This is incredible because it usually provides an entirely different game experience, but without the delay and effort of learning a whole rule set. The other enormous benefit of this is the fact that it means the game can scale effortlessly from two to six players, accommodating varying number of players with different maps. I enjoy Scotland and Alpha Centauri with two players, Scandinavia, Ireland, Japan, Montreal Metro, Soul Train with three players, and Germany, Rust Belt, and Western United States with four players. I also donít mind the game with five or six players, but generally prefer three or four. This really is Martin Wallaceís masterpiece and one of the masterpieces of board gaming without question.

Third, Notre Dame was my tentative Game of the Year for 2007 before Iíd had a chance to play nearly all of the 2007 releases, but I have a strong feeling that it will hold on even after Iíve had a chance to try out all of the 2007 games to maintain its status as my favorite game of 2007. Iíve played Alea #11 eighteen times and would be happy to play it many more times. I enjoy the card passing mechanic, the cumulative benefits from the buildings, and of course the angst of never having enough of either money, cubes, or plague elimination, not to mention victory points. Itís impossible to deal with all four of these things effectively and fighting the game system is a joy, as itís so challenging. I also love the interaction that comes with passing cards, and enjoy playing a slight variant where you switch the direction of passing to make it counter-clockwise for the B phase, just to mix it up a bit.

Fourth, Mr. Jack was not a game that I thought Iíd play many times after the first couple plays, but has turned out to have a longer shelf-life than I ever anticipated. Iíve now played it 14 times and itís still going strong. I thought the replayability would decline quickly with this one, just like it did with Saint Petersburg, but itís quick enough to play and each game is different enough to make it still a joy to pull off the shelf. I do hope to eventually snag a copy of the Extension to add five new characters and spice this one up a bit though.

Fifth, Piranha Pedro is one of the many games that I never would have considered purchasing if it werenít for BrettspielWelt. I was turned onto the game on that site and quickly became enamored with itís rock-paper-scissors mechanic. For some reason, I definitely didnít enjoy the similar rock-paper-scissors mechanic in either Adel Verpflichtet or Vabanque. I think itís because Piranha Pedro distills it down to a very simple form and the game moves so quickly. I also love the look and feel of the game, which really contribute to it and make me glad I went ahead and purchased a physical copy to play in person. This is one that is definitely under-appreciated, and just like some other fine Goldsieber games, it would have benefited from a U.S. printing (e.g., Kreta).

Sixth, Canít Stop is another fine example of a game I first played on Brettspiel Welt, and immediately realized it was a game I wanted to own. This was due in large part ironically to the fact that I didnít enjoy the game online, but realized that it would be great fun in person. The dice-rolling and interaction of taunting each other to keep going just doesnít translate to the computer, but is a blast to play when sitting around a table together. Iím glad I went on eBay and got myself a copy of the old stop sign edition.

Seventh, speaking of eBay, the next game on this list is the eBay Electronic Talking Auction Game. When someone first suggested this game at a game night a while back, I cringed. Iíve always been skeptical of licensed games, especially video games based on licensed characters, and was very prejudiced against this game from the get-go. This is why itís so incredible how much I enjoy this game and how eagerly Iíve shared it with many others, turning them on to the genius of it in the process. I immediately went home and bought a copy of this game after having been introduced to it. Itís a wonderful auction game with a set collection mechanic and a digital timer that randomizes turn order and randomizes when each auction ends, while making you take your turn within a matter of seconds to avoid forfeiting it. This is a stellar three-player auction game, but donít play it with four players despite what the box says, as it really only works best with three.

Eighth, I canít believe I played Gheos 11 times in 2007. I have a feeling that number will fall considerably in 2008, especially since I added this game to my trade pile after my last play. I gave it more than a fair shot, and I just donít think itís my cup of tea. When I first read the rules to Gheos I thought it would be incredible. Itís got a bit of Carcassonne tile-laying, mixed with some Tigris & Euphrates civilization building, combined with some of the push-your-luck from Canít Stop, and the timing mechanism from Ra. It seemed like a combination that couldnít miss. For some reason that I canít quite put my finger on, the game just doesnít work in practice, at least for me in the 11 times Iíve played it. Iíve played it two-player 9 times and three-player 2 times I believe, so perhaps that has something to do with it, but as a two-player game it just seems like the landscape is too dynamic with about as many tile placements being used to replace as they are for new placement, but a large hurdle for catching up once your in a deficit since investment in civilizations is often relatively equal. I wanted to like this one so bad, itís a shame that I havenít had much success on that front.

Ninth, Kreta is a game that Iíve had no trouble falling in love with, even if many of my opponents have been significantly less hot for it. Kreta is the exact type of board game I love! As you can see from my previous article about simplicity, Kreta truly captures the essence of eurogames with its simple rules, beautiful components, difficult and meaningful decisions, and reasonable game length. I know that some of my opponents have been turned off by the unpredictability of which regions will score and also the tactical nature of the game. I know that the luck of the cards plays a big role and there isnít a lot of room for long-term strategic decision-making, but the game still clicks with me in a big way, making it one of my very favorites. I just admire how simple and straightforward the rules are, yet how difficult the decisions can be from turn to turn. Kreta has always proven to be a highly engaging four-player game for 60 minutes.

Tenth, Loopiní Louie is not a game that you can understand how fun it is from reading about it, but all you need to do is try playing for a couple minutes to appreciate this dexterity game ostensibly for children. Itís fast, furious, and incredibly fun, as players are banging away on their lever to block a motorized airplane from ramming into their chicken tokens. The last player standing with chickens surviving wins, which never takes long as preventing that plane from hitting your chickens is awfully tough. This is the kind of game that Iíd immediately buy if it were readily available, but I donít want the new inferior small version, and I canít really justify paying the prices that the better older version is fetching, so Iíll have to be content to play other peopleís copies. Whatís so perfect about this game is slotting it between long, involved games like Antiquity and Age of Steam to give yourself a bit of a breather, thatís when the game truly shines.

So those were the Dimes from 2007, but what about the Dimes from 2006 that fell off the wagon of late. There were 17 Dimes in 2006, and surprisingly only one of them managed to repeat (and even that one had half as many plays). Here are the 17 Dimes from 2006 with the number of 2006 plays and the number of 2007 plays in the parentheses, respectively: Canít Stop (24/12), Ingenious (23/4), Carcassonne (21/9), Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (21/0), YINSH (20/0), Carcassonne Traders & Builders (17/9), Carcassonne Inns & Cathedrals (16/9), Thurn and Taxis (15/2), Tikal (15/4), DVONN (14/3), Wits & Wagers (13/3), Fjords (12/1), Amun-Re (11/5), Clans (11/1), Louis XIV (11/2), Samurai (11/4), Ticket to Ride (10/1). Canít Stop has already been discussed above as a 2007 Dime, but the rest are briefly discussed below.

First, Kniziaís Ingenious is still a great game that I especially enjoy pulling out when I have four people so we can play a two-versus-two team game, but I havenít had the urge to play it as much recently, and the opportunity to play hasnít arisen much. Itís one of those games that Iíve slotted into a niche, and unfortunately that niche isnít in high demand. I suppose I also enjoy it as a two-player game, but thatís such a crowded field so while itís often mentioned as an option when picking a 45-minute two-player game, it usually doesnít get picked to actually play. It could be the lack of theme that keeps it from grabbing my attention sufficiently to make it off the shelves, which is a recurring issue as youíll see since the Project GIPF games all suffered considerably in 2007, or it could be the randomness of the tile draw that is finally starting to get to me. Nevertheless, I still rate this one rather highly, and feel it deserves a spot in my collection.

Second, Carcassonne just missed the Dime cut for 2007 with 9 plays, so it hasnít fallen nearly as much as the rest of the games on the list (especially since the next most-played game fell all the way to 5 plays, nowhere near Dime status). Iíll lump Carcassonne and both the Traders & Builders and Inns & Cathedrals expansions in together here. As discussed in my Carcassonne review, I think those two expansions really are indispensable to the game. As you can see, I went from not always using those expansions in 2006, to playing with them every single time in 2007 (since the base game and both expansions all had 9 plays for that year). I know that logging the expansions artificially inflates my number of games played, but I think the benefit of being able to see how often the expansions are used compared with how often the base game is played on its own outweighs any downside. One of the advantages is that I can see that I didnít use any of my other Carcassonne expansions at all during 2007. I knew Iíd stopped using Princess & Dragon and added it to my trade list, but I didnít realize that some others like King & Scout, The Count, and both River expansions had also stopped making it to the table altogether. This reminds me to play those mini-expansions again soon, even though I donít like using them every time, I still think theyíre nice to throw in every so often.

Third, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is the first of two games that were Dimes in 2006, but had zero plays in 2007. All of the other Dimes from 2006 had at least one play in 2007. However, itís slightly misleading to include LOTR: Confrontation in this group because I did play the Deluxe version twice in 2007. Then again, I also played the Deluxe version three times in 2006, making the game one shy of being a Quarter in 2006 if you combine plays of the basic and Deluxe versions for that year. As for the game itself (whether basic or Deluxe), I actually really like it, and this makes me realize that I need to play it again soon! Having been a fan of Stratego long ago, this really is a much improved version of that. And while the analogy is extremely tenuous, currently being a fan of Bonaparte at Marengo, LOTR: Confrontation is a perfect way to get a very roughly similar experience in one-sixth of the time (approximately 30 minutes versus 3 hours, give or take). Albeit, LOTR: Confrontation doesnít have the elegance of BaM, but it does have the asymmetrical sides and fog of war, which when combined with the excruciatingly tight board, make it a winner every time.

Fourth, YINSH is both the second game to drop from Dime status in 2006 to zero plays in 2007, and the first of two Project GIPF games to lose their Dime status in 2007. Iím rather surprised to see Project GIPF lose a combined 31 plays between YINSH and DVONN from 2006 to 2007. I even picked up ZERTZ relatively recently because I thought I liked the series so much and thought it would be worth adding another game from the series to my collection. Now Iím beginning to wonder if that was really necessary, given the fact that it seems I havenít actually been playing my Project GIPF games very much at all this past year. I guess part of the problem is the lack of an opponent who is interested since all of my opponents would rather play a more traditional eurogame. The other part of the problem is my own unwillingness to commit. I love the components to these games of course, and I enjoy playing them casually every so often, but thereís no way I could see myself committing to really study or learn any of the Project GIPF games very well. That could mean that theyíre doomed to fade away since they appear to be the type of games that really benefit from close study. Then again, Iíd be happy to pull them out every so often and mess around with them, if I could find someone interested a bit of YINSH, DVONN, or ZERTZ. However, I doubt any of those three will make Dime status again, and may also struggle to achieve Nickel status in 2008.

Fifth, Thurn and Taxis is the first game Iím glad to see on this list. Seyfarthís second SDJ winner dropped from 15 plays in 2006 to 2 plays in 2007, and I fully expect it to drop to zero plays in 2008. Iím amazed that I even played it 17 times, given how much I dislike playing it. Itís been sitting on the trade pile for a while now, but I have a feeling that the luster has come off this one for most people by now, so there arenít a lot of takers out there. What do I have against this game? Itís not that itís awful by any stretch of the imagination, but rather that itís just boring, and perhaps gets some of my ire for having won the SDJ, given that it seems to me to be a bad representation of the hobby to non-gamers who might buy it because of that accolade without realizing the better options available. I donít care much about theme in my games, so building a postal network doesnít deter me. Rather, itís the lack of player interaction. This is odd to complain about given the fact that I love so many games that are constantly maligned as multi-player solitaire (namely Princes of Florence). However, I can justify this seeming incongruity. As far as I can tell, games like Princes of Florence, Agricola, Goa, and many others have a large amount of player interaction. If a game has an auction then I canít even begin to fathom how it could be like solitaire, that claim just makes no sense to me. Since youíre bidding against each other in PoF, youíre naturally competing and forced to monitor and understand your opponentís actions and plans. In games like Agricola and Caylus where actions can only be taken by one player, thereís obviously player interaction because of the need to block your opponents, prioritize your selections accordingly, and obviously monitor and plan based on how well you can intuit other peopleís behavior. Thurn and Taxis on the other hand lacks any of that whatsoever. Iíve played it 17 times, so obviously I understand that the value of each bonus chit goes down in value as other players take them, but thereís not nearly enough control over the unbelievably random card draw to be able to react to other people nearing completion of the requirements for a bonus chit that youíre after too. Perhaps Iím just missing something, but I think Iíve given this one far more than a fair chance, and itís time for me to move on and spend my time elsewhere.

Sixth, Tikal dropped unsurprisingly from 15 to 4 plays in 2007 because itís been almost completely supplanted by Java and also to some extent Torres in my collection. I know that all of the Mask series of games by Kramer and Kiesling are relatively different, but itís only so often that I have the opportunity to break out an action-point game, and when those opportunities arise, my go-to game is definitely Java! I feel like Java has all of the good elements of this type of game without any of the bad. I suppose my problem with Tikal is that it has the tendency to devolve into a back-and-forth struggle where you pointlessly move your workers from one temple to another, and then back again, and so on to try to gain the majority over as many as possible, while your opponents do the exact same thing. I know this is oversimplifying the matter, as the placement of new tiles does present some interesting decisions, but what I love about Java is that it prevents this back-and-forth nature by making it almost impossible to revert the board to a prior position, given the fact that the landscape is building up and tiles canít be placed directly on top of other tiles. I wouldnít be surprised if Tikal never makes Dime status again, and struggle to make Nickel status in 2008 as well.

Seventh, the most surprising thing to me about Wits & Wagers is not that I played it 3 times in 2007, but rather that I somehow managed to play it 13 times in 2006! I think itís a great party game, one of the best for sure, but itís only good in a certain niche, and I had no idea that this niche was in such demand in 2006. Iím happy to have it in my collection even if it only gets played a few times a year, and encourage everyone else to pick it up if they are looking for a top-notch party game. Alongside the likes of Taboo, Werewolf, and a host of dexterity games, Wits & Wagers is a staple for sure.

Eighth, Fjords dropped from 12 plays in 2006 to 1 play in 2007. As I mentioned above with Ingenious, the two-player game field is a crowded one, and while Fjords often gets mentioned in the conversation about what to play, it doesnít usually get chosen in the end. Ninth, Amun-Re maintained Nickel status in 2007 with 5 plays, down from Dime status in 2006 with 11 plays. Just like Fjords, Amun-Re occupies a crowded field, that being lengthy five-player games, and it has trouble competing with the likes of El Grande and Princes of Florence, not to mention others that it has a better chance going up against like Santiago, Oasis, Traders of Genoa, and Wallenstein. Tenth, Leo Coloviniís Clans fell from 11 plays in 2006 to just 1 play in 2007. This one, just like the Project GIPF games, is the victim of not having opponents who are interested in playing it with me. Clans is one of the few games that I enjoy that others donít seem to enjoy as much as me; we can add Torres to the short list while weíre at it too. I really like the unique mechanic of secretly having a color assigned to each player that nobody knows until the end, but I guess the rest of the game is too dry and abstract for others. Eleventh, sadly one of my all-time favorites, Louis XIV makes an appearance on this list of shame, dropping from 11 plays to just 2 in 2007. I really do need to get this Rudiger Dorn gem to the table again soon. Then again, the appeal of this two-player area control game has worn off a bit as it approaches 20 overall plays. Iím not bothered by the endgame coat of arms scoring like most people, but instead by the artificial closeness of the scores, as it seems hard to differentiate yourself much from your opponent, but then again it could just be that my opponent and me are of equal skill levels. I do like the difficult decision-making in Louis and the clever twists on area control that it employs, so this one deserves at least Nickel status in 2008 hopefully. Twelfth, Samurai doesnít occupy a particularly crowded field, given that two-player middle-weights can be hard to come-by. However, Kniziaís Samurai does have to go up against two heavy hitters in the field, those being Through the Desert and Hansa, both of which are top-notch two-player middle-weights. Iíve been searching for more two-player middle-weights ever since I posted my article on Super Fillers for 2, but have yet to find anything to supplant the reigning trilogy of Through the Desert, Hansa, and Samurai. That being said, Samurai distinctly occupies the third spot on that list, and hence doesnít seem to get played as much as it might otherwise.

Thirteenth, unlucky Ticket to Ride drops from 10 plays in 2006 to nearly zero with only a single play in 2007. Iím not surprised to see Moonís gateway game suffer this drop-off because I only really use it to introduce non-gamers to eurogames, and I havenít been doing that as much lately. Ticket to Ride still occupies a prime position in the trilogy of games to teach non-gamers in my mind, the other two being Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan, but unlike the other two, Ticket to Ride is not a game that I particularly want to play when not teaching non-gamers. I just find the game too repetitive and the decisions not particularly engaging, given that youíre repeatedly deciding whether to take train cards, spend train cards, or take destination tickets, and after making that decision repeatedly, I just lose interest. This game certainly deserves its spot in my collection, but at least I can cross off all the other standalone versions and expansions from my list, since vanilla Ticket to Ride will fill its niche just fine.

Since this article has surpassed Dime status with over 10 pages now, I think it may be time to wrap-up without going into detail on the Nickels from 2006 and 2007. For purposes of comparing to my 2008 plays once January 2009 rolls around, Iíll list the Nickels here, but will spare you my thoughts on them.

There were 16 nickels in 2006. I played four of them 8 times: Age of Steam, China, Santiago, and Through the Desert. I played three of them 7 times: Goa, Hansa, and Web of Power. I played three of them 6 times: Cartagena, Liarís Dice, and Lost Cities. Finally, I played the other six of them 5 times: El Grande, For Sale, Java, Nexus Ops, RoboRally, and Wallenstein.

There were 24 nickels in 2007. I played four of them 9 times: Carcassonne, Carcassonne Inns & Cathedrals, Carcassonne Traders & Builders, and Reef Encounter. I play one of them 8 times: Taj Mahal. I played four of them 7 times: Arkadia, Caylus, In the Shadow of the Emperor, and La Citta. I played four of them 6 times: Chess, Imperial, StreetSoccer, and Stuff Yer Face. Finally, I played the other eleven of them 5 times: 1960: The Making of the President, Amun-Re, Bonaparte at Marengo, Die Macher, Goa, Settlers of Catan, Taluva, TransAmerica, Twilight Struggle, Wallenstein, and Yspahan.

All that being said, it has been a great two years of gaming, and Iím looking forward to another fabulous year of both old favorites and new releases in 2008.