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November Madness: Part 2

December 16, 2008

November was so chock full of gaming that discussing the 158 games that I played last month couldnít possibly fit into a single article. A couple of weeks ago I wrote Part 1 of this series where youíll find my ranking of the 30 new releases Iíve played, from my favorite 2008 games such as Ghost Stories, Planet Steam, and Chicago Express down to my least favorite new games such as Boss Kito, Stone Age, and Street Paintball. In addition, since Iím breaking down the games played into topical categories rather than going through them chronologically or alphabetically, Part 1 covered all of the cooperative games and all of the racing games. Iíll try to fit the rest of November Madness into this Part 2 and save you from drawing it out into a trilogy. There are a few more categories to go though, so this might mean trying to be concise, which has never been my forte.

BGG.CON is Heaven on Earth

The single biggest reason why I played more games in November than in any previous month was certainly BGG.CON. This is a convention run by BoardGameGeek that was held in Dallas from November 20 through November 23. This was the 4th annual BGG.CON, but the first time that I was able to finally attend. Iíve been wanting to attend BGG.CON every year since it began back in 2005, and Iím very glad I finally made it this year. Iím already looking forward to heading back down to Dallas in November of 2009. I played countless games over the five days of BGG.CON (counting Wednesday makes it five days, and there were something like 200 people there already on Wednesday afternoon and evening so it certainly counts in my book as a fifth day of the convention). The library wasnít open on Wednesday yet, but the party game shelf and dexterity games room were both ready to go, so it was a blast. Much has already been written about this convention elsewhere and how itís the best open gaming convention you could possibly attend, but Iíll briefly discuss the convention itself before diving into the games I played there. Itís really the best $500 (to cover airfare and hotel) you could possibly spend on gaming, assuming that youíve already built your collection to the point where youíve got plenty of board games at home to keep you busy. If youíve already got over a hundred or two hundred games then spending that $500 on more games doesnít make nearly as much sense as going to BGG.CON where you can try tons of new games and make much more informed purchases for the coming year. You get to meet all sorts of very friendly geeks from around the country and in some cases from around the world, including designers and publishers. You also get to play any game you could possibly want to play, from the wacky dexterity games to the long and grueling monster games. The game library is breathtaking. It puts thousands of games at your fingertips, including most of the spectacularly hard-to-find and rare games in existence. You simply pick it up off the shelf, check it out, wave it in the air, meet some new people, and start playing. Rinse and repeat for 5 days straight until your brain simply canít digest new rules any more. Finding time to tear yourself away to eat and sleep is really the most tricky part. Without further ado, let me get to discussing some of the games that I played at the convention. Although I should preface this with a note to say that this section doesnít include nearly all of the games that I played there because I broke out games played at the convention when they fit under any other category, such as cooperative, racing, or dexterity. So this section simply covers games that I played at the convention that didnít fit neatly into a different category, thus this is more of a catch-all group than anything else.

Expansions are the Spice of Life

Iím not always a fan of board game expansions, as I discuss in another article, but the three that I played in November were all actually very good. Iíll actually consider adding all three of these expansions as permanent parts of their respective base games when I play in the future.

Abstraction

Iím not normally a huge fan of abstract games, probably due in large part to my unbelievable ineptitude at them, but I got to try a few new ones in November, as well as a few old ones, so they deserve their own section here. Of the six abstract games I played in November, Ta YŁ is by far my favorite of the bunch. I just love the way this game scales to accommodate various player counts and I love the look of the game, that is the old blue version, not the new red version. I did enjoy learning (and getting crushed at) Quoridor though, and I am always up for Ingenious as well, which is my sixth most played game with 58 plays.

Interwebs

I definitely prefer playing board games in person, but Iíve been known to play them online from time to time. There are so many great websites where you can play board games either in real-time or with a turn-based system where the game may stretch over a few weeks. Iím particularly fond of Spiel by Web and MaBiWeb for turn-based play and BrettspielWelt of course for real-time play. I only played four different games online in November, although I played one of them a decent number of times.

Dexterous Domination

Many of the categories up until now have been paltry compared to the overwhelming number of dexterity games that I played in November. I played 16 different dexterity games in November a total of 38 combined times. I believe only two of these (Street Paintball and Sorry Sliders) are new 2008 releases, so this category doesnít really belong on a list discussing new games, but many of them are new to me, and I called the article November Madness to get around just this problem of potentially restricting myself to new Essen games. Iíll go through these 16 dexterity games in alphabetical order for lack of a better organizing principle.

ďOlderĒ Fare

I did manage to play a few ďolderĒ games in November among all of the hot new Essen games and wacky dexterity games, and I might as well end this epic article with a brief mention of those games.

The End

Thatís my November Madness in a nutshell, albeit an enormous mutant nutshell. Unfortunately it took me so long to finish discussing November that December is already halfway over, and of course Iíve already played 53 games in December, including 7 new to me. Iíll save those for another day though. For now, Iíll sign off for 2008 and be back in 2009 with more garrulous gaming discussions, including my Big Apple Awards for the best of the best in 2008 (Hint: I played Ghost Stories 4 more times over the weekend... although it's going to have some stiff competition). Hereís hoping that you get to play a game or two over the holidays and maybe a chance to introduce these games of ours to your family and friends.

(See Boardgame News for an edited version of this article plus additional comments on it)