2. Star Realms
4. Cardline Animals
5. Boss Monster
9. Sushi Go!
10. Forbidden Island
2. Adventure of Marco Polo
3. Oh my Goods!
9. The Game
10. Grand Austria Hotel
2. Merchants and Marauders Seas of Glory
3. Prodigal’s Club
4. The Gallerist
5. Voyages of Marco Polo
7. The Game
9. Epic Card Game
10. Flick ’em Up
So how’s that for very different lists? For many reasons, it’s sort of a bummer that Cards Against Humanity still tops the bestseller list. My biggest concern is the lack of crossover, that is, customers who come in looking for CAH have zero interest in other products.
I’m going with Codenames as the single most influential game of the year. It is an excellent party game that will sell for years to come, and has the opportunity to expose many people to the modern world of games. If we can get Vlaada a little tipsy, maybe he’ll make the dirty version of Codenames, and wham-o, we have the next Cards Against Humanity. Seriously though, the hobby needs more games like Codenames and Spyfall because not everyone wants to brain burn all the time, especially your non-gamer friends and family.
My list and Ben’s list would have more crossover, but I limited my list to games that were available on American retail shelves in 2015. We played some fantastic games that debuted at the Spiel convention in Essen, Germany, but some of those games did not ship to retailers in 2015.
As far as my #1, TIME Stories was the single most unique gaming experience I had this year. Yes, it’s $50 for one playthrough (three sessions though). Yes, the final puzzle bothered us a bit. Yes, the third session was a bit lackluster compared to our first two sessions. But despite all the quibbles, I enjoyed the heck out of it, and want to play more. There is no other game on the market quite like it.
Final thoughts for 2015, it was a pretty incredible year for the hobby. We had amazing releases across all genres. GenCon was fairly meh this year compared to previous years, but the Spiel was amazing, and we will see the fruits of that show during the next few months.
Hobby board game sales grew nationwide, for both online and offline channels. The hobby is becoming more and more mainstream, due in part to great games, but great game media is contributing in a big way. The increasing shift in purchasing away from brick and mortar towards the many online forms (Kickstarter, direct to publisher, Amazon) still threatens the longevity of the hobby, but there is plenty of time to shift the tide.
Asmodee made a bold statement at the end of the year about the importance of brick and mortar stores and the third place they provide. If more publishers embrace this mentality, and Kickstarter publishers find ways to include retailers, all sales channels benefit long-term. Think about your own regular game groups, how important was a third place (store, pub, cafe) in creating those groups? Hopefully 2016 will bring more interest in long-term growth over short-term gain, it starts with the publishers!
Happy 2016 everyone, enjoy your game gifts!
I feel compelled to say a little something about a new game we recently played, The Golden Ages. While it hit the shelves Wednesday, it has been available in Europe for about a year now, so you may have seen some copies floating around the circuit.
I am a huge fan of civilization style games, so when I saw some buds setting this up at Dice and Drinks at My Father’s Place this Monday, I was pretty excited. Now My Father’s Place is not an ideal place to play a game of this sort. The place is designed for drinking, not playing mid-weight euros. But we worked our way through the game, struggling to see some of the icons, and trying to keep drinks and food from mucking up the components.
I was ho-hum after that first play. I didn’t see a ton of depth, it felt short, and the winner was leagues ahead of anyone else on the score track. I did still want to try again. So the other night I did, a 2-player game with Kirsten.
Normally I would never dream of asking Kirsten to play a civilization building game with me, mainly because she doesn’t want to sit through an hour of rules explanation followed by 4-6 hours of 20 choices per turn brain burning. I did not hesitate to ask her to play The Golden Ages though, and that is part of what I now really enjoy about this game. The game provides so much of the civ feel within a relatively simple set of rules and in about 2 hours.
The Golden Ages has everything you’d expect from a civ game: a tech tree with advancements that really affect the outcome of your future actions, the opportunity to construct buildings and Wonders, a super simple combat system, an elegant resource control system, and the opportunity to change leaders to direct your progress. In my opinion, a true civ game also has a map, and the Golden Ages makes that happen with a set of tiles that players use to construct the world as the game progresses, a very nice, and again elegant, feature.
After playing the game a second time, I realized that a few of the shortcomings I saw in the first play are actually strengths, especially because I now have a civ game that Kirsten has said she will easily play again. The game is short for a civ game, about 2 hours, and the depth is nowhere near that of games like Clash of Cultures, Sid Meier’s Civilization, or Through the Ages. But trimming the time and depth makes The Golden Ages far more playable more often and by more people. Grognards, stay far away and keep checking the mail for Through the Ages deluxe.
The Golden Ages also really shines as a euro-style game. The hallmark of many euros in my mind is tight timing. Euros may be quiet affairs without much direct player interaction, but in the good ones you have to pay attention to your opponents and time your choices according to theirs. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Golden Ages is the tightness of timing throughout the game.
One critical timing choice comes from the rule that the first person to pass in each round of the game decides how the round will be scored from a set of visible scoring cards. This is so fascinating. Often the scoring choices involve resources on the map. Easy, just move guys to those spots. But wait, I can’t reach them, so I develop more transportation tech, and there’s a building or wonder to help with that, just need to acquire it before someone else. Cool, got the tech, but if I move my guy now, blue player has the ability to sweep in and take it from me, so I’ll do a few other actions before moving. What, you passed!? And that’s how you chose to score!? Not cool. Trying to time all of these decisions based on other players’ actions is the kind of challenge I enjoy, and it is what helps this game work so well as a short and relatively simple civ game.
If you enjoy either euros or civ games, or both, I recommend giving this a run through. We’ll have it on the rental shelf next week, and I’ll be demoing it this Sunday, so you’ll have lots of options for test driving it.
Game on you crazies!
The cat’s are finally back from their month-long hiatus, but the mice did not play much, in fact they worked their tails off! We are so grateful for their hard work, because we needed the break.
Apparently we’re not the only cat back in town making a grand entrance. Our mostly friendly neighborhood prowler, Elvis, decided to provide extra entertainment at our latest Dames & Games night by bringing a lively mouse to show off. Nice work Elvis, way to impress the ladies.
Before I get too deep in discussion, I should mention that this week is crazy with new releases. By the end of the week we’ll have Pandemic: Legacy, The Grizzled, Game of Thrones LCG 2nd edition, and Mysterium on the shelves. Wow, just wow. And just when you get your budget in order for those games, the Spiel show in Essen starts this week, and releases from that show may hit our shores sooner than usual. Anyone else need a gaming line of credit?
Now while we were away, we did not actually play many games. In fact I went on a gf-diet, plenty of gluten but no games. I even skipped multiple sessions with my regular game group. I didn’t think it was possible, but game playing burnout had set in, so it was time for me to step back.
But now I’m hungry, and I’ve missed out on a lot of new stuff. So what did I do? Scheduled a new game day at Cloud Cap. What I thought would be just a few people turned into quite a group, some regulars and some relatively new folks. While I was teaching a game of Gold West (and left out an important scoring rule), our friend Jason from the dockingbay94 podcast stopped by. I was able to rope him into a game of Mottainai (again leaving out an important scoring rule) and chat about the stunning art of Ryan Laukat of Red Raven Games. We also had a group wander in, grab our rental copy of Eldritch Horror and some beers, then hang out all day having a blast working through the game rules and fighting off insanity. Somewhere in there, I also taught Pokemon to a couple kids who were perhaps too young to truly learn the game, but I think they went home happy and ready to play.
Did anyone buy anything during this whole day of game teaching and chatting with friends? I suppose so, but I didn’t care. It was the perfect return to reality. Worrying about sales, I realized, was what precipitated my bout of burnout. Teaching games, helping to create positive gaming experiences, and generally just sharing the bounty of the hobby is really why we started Cloud Cap, and I believe that is why we are still in business today. Sure, we pay the bills (just barely) by selling products, but our real goal is to help people find community through play. It’s a goal that’s easy to forget when you spend most of your days staring at spreadsheets, bills, and statements. Thanks to all of you who do buy things to help us work towards our true goal, and for all of you with infectious passion.
Now to further the goal of sharing the joy of the hobby, Cloud Cap will be helping our friends at the Tattered Board podcast run an all day gaming extravaganza on October 24. From 1pm-late, the Tattered Board gang will be sharing some of their favorite games with you, and whether you like the games or not, these guys know how to make any game a good time. So please join us to support their podcast efforts, and just generally celebrate the hobby. We’ll be posting a schedule of games soon, and RSVPs for individual games or for just generally hanging out are highly recommended since we are the smallest shop in the city.
We’ve also got our Epic Card game demo day coming up this Sunday, Game of Thrones second edition demos this Saturday, a 7 Wonders dine and game evening next Saturday, and plans for a board game league that will be announced soon. So get ready to game at Cloud Cap this month, I’m jonesing!
Cheers all, its good to be back.
Force Friday may have come and gone, but the branded products aren’t stopping. Fantasy Flight has repackaged their X-Wing starter set, adding lots of blue color to the box and the ships. The same cool mini ships and gameplay, but now 100% more soothing.
If you do grab yourself an X-Wing starter set, you will also want to pick up a cool new Perplexus Death Star to fully reenact the classic movie scene. Once you’re done talking like Luke and making cool fake laser pulse sounds, you can try to send a tiny metal ball through one crazy maze into the heart of this addictive planet destroying labyrinth.
We also received a few expansion this week, for Tragedy Looper and Camel Up, two very different game experiences, but great in their own right.
Finally, tiny but mighty Mottainai is here. Carl Chudyk is one crazy game designer, and he’s no copycat, except of his own designs perhaps. Best known for Glory to Rome and Innovation, now he brings us Mottainai, another twist on the Glory to Rome concept, I’m in. Chudyk is sorta like the Uwe Rosenberg of ‘which way do you want to rotate your cards’ games.
Oh yeah, we have our Kickstarter copies of the Epic card game (from the designers of Star Realms) arriving this week, as well as our store prerelease kit. We wanted to run an event for Epic this coming weekend, but guess what, its intellectual predecessor, Magic, owns the whole weekend. Stay tuned for an update on when the event will happen. We also have a killer 7 Wonders organized play kit, so get ready for another Splendid Evening, or a 7 Wonderful Evening I guess.
That’s my short but sweet update gang. One more week left on our stay/vacation. Game on while I fish on!
The Machi Koro: Millionaire’s Row expansion is here! Machi Koro has been one of our best sellers since its release last fall, and for good reason: It’s light, fast, adorable, and it can be enjoyed by a very wide audience (hardcore grumpy frowny gamers excluded). The young ones can even join in because everything is face up on the table, nothing is hidden, and the math and text in the game are simple, (warning: possible education factor). Playing the game is easy, roll some dice, collect money if your buildings pay out based on the dice result, then buy more buildings to expand your neighborhood and your revenue stream. The Millionaire’s Row expansion will add an element to the game that I have been waiting for, the ability to shut down someone else’s building. Oh what money does to people, even in the cute little town of Machi Koro.
We’ve got a few other notable new releases arriving today, including Car Wars the Card Game and Firefly Shiny Dice. The Firefly dice game does look interesting, but it is yet another competitive game with the Firefly license. I’m going on the record here: the heart of the Firefly shows and graphic novels is the camaraderie of the crew, so Firefly games should not be competitive! Maybe the roleplaying game is the way to go, but I’m still waiting for the definitive Firefly board game, a cooperative adventure game! Perhaps the Mage Knight system should be used, like it is for the newly announced Star Trek game. Speaking of reskins, we are also receiving a very limited number of copies of Cthulhu Realms, a cartoony Lovecraftian version of Star Realms. No comment.
Did you click on any of the game links above? If you did you should have noticed that we now have a webstore! We’ve had it for some time, we’re just actually starting to use it. It’s nothing fancy, and it is not complete, but we wanted a way for our more distant fans to buy from us without necessarily driving down to the deep south. Coming soon to the store will also be the ability to preorder with us as well as establish wish lists that others can view to help with gift buying. We’re also working on offering gift wrapping for those who want to save some gas and time but still shop local and have a gift in time for the party.
OK, pull out your calendars and clear your schedules, I mean it, do it now, you don’t want to feel crushing regret when it’s too late:
Imperial Settlers Night (Saturday August 22, 7pm, $5 cover that can be used as store credit during the evening): Alas, the new Atlanteans expansion has not arrived, but we’re going to gather and play Imperial Settlers anyway. Despite having Settlers in the name, this game is nothing like the Settlers of Catan. Don’t let the simple rules and cute Farmville artwork fool you, many moments in this game can cause serious brain freeze, but it oh so fun. This Saturday we’re going to focus on playing 2-player games only, but feel free to play with more if you’d like. And beginners are absolutely welcome, I and others will be available to teach the game.
Passport Sale (Saturday, August 29, 11am-7pm): BIG, BIG, BIG sale folks! And not just us, the whole neighborhood is throwing a crazy discount, raffling, snacking party! We will be running a massive sidewalk sale with 30-50% tons of items. You can also toss your name in our raffle to win a copy of the new Risk: Game of Thrones game, or any themed Monopoly game of your choice. Other shops throughout the Sellwood/Moreland neighborhood are going just as crazy. Whether you want some goodies for yourself, want to get some early Christmas shopping done, or just want to enjoy the party vibe, get yourself to the neighborhood on August 29!
Cheers all and Happy Gaming.
Whew, quite a busy summer so far. Lots of people think the game business would slow down in the summer, not true. We’ve got kids running around everywhere and the whole Sellwood neighborhood becomes a shopping destination when the sun is shining. We’re seeing a lot of new faces, many from out of town. Game enthusiasts always seek out cool shops wherever they vacation, and we’re glad that some of them found our little hideout, and we love the kind words they leave us with.
About 5 years ago we set out to create a different kind of game store. We’ve made some blunders and barely cleared a few hurdles to get where we are now. While we’re definitely not the top choice for hardcore gamers, many who are finding us this summer like what we have to offer. Thanks to all of you who support us. We see a lot of great folks who we feel are amazing ambassadors for the hobby, and we’re glad to have them return to our humble game parlour. Thanks also to everyone who made the July Star Realms tournament and the GenCan’t events a blast. If you want to hear some post-event reports, check out the podcasts recorded at the shop by our friends at the Tattered Board.
Now in an effort to keep improving what we offer, we’ve hired on a few new cloud busters, Alex and Eli. Alex is a great guy that we met at our Magic prereleases. Of course he’ll be working on expanding our Magic calendar, but he’ll also be helping me with some game events aimed at younger audiences, as well as helping us run more Saturday night events. Eli is a multi-talented local character who’s been hanging out at the shop for many years now. He is finally old enough to put on the payroll, and you’ll see him mainly on weekends helping out with Pokemon, Magic, and anything else we can rope him into (apparently he’s going to school during the weekdays, and participating in some sort of thing called sports after school).
As for events this month, we’re a bit light. Ben’s been out of town for a good stretch, so we’re working overtime and have little energy to run special events. You can always find our list of regular events on our website, but we do have one special event coming up:
Imperial Settlers Night: Saturday, August 22, 7pm, $5 cover (which can be used for store credit during the evening). Imperial Settlers is one of my favorites, but I do not play it enough. It shines as a 2-player game, so we’re dedicating an evening for playing Imperial Settlers as such. If we get enough players, we can run a small round-robin tournament. Bring your set if you have one.
Speaking of Imperial Settlers, we’ll be running a release event for the Atlanteans expansion when it arrives, hopefully in September.
September should be a busy month in general, at least once we’re back from our vacation. Keep your eyes peeled for a Tides of Time release event, and Epic card game event, and more!
Now for a few highlights from GenCon. For a complete list of what board game geeks liked at the largest game convention in North America, head here. If you see anything on that list that you know you want, let us know, we always offer 20% off on preorders!
On with a few highlights.
2-Player drafting games: My most anticipated games of the convention all fall within a 2-player drafting category, and they will all instantly go into my personal library. 7 Wonders Duel is the only one I have not yet played, so I am super excited to try it out. Ben and I got a sneak play of Tides of Time in Vegas earlier this year, and this is gonna be sweet. Eighteen beautifully illustrated cards comprise a surprisingly rich games. Finally, the Epic card game by the creators of Star Realms will have a draft variant. Epic is going to be Magic the Gathering for board gamers, less broad appeal than Star Realms, but awesome for old guys like me who enjoy Magic but can’t dedicate our lives to it. Expect us to be running release events for all of these games sometime within the next few months.
Codenames: This was the most popular game of the convention with board game geeks, which is not too surprising considering that the convention is a very social event, and this is a very social game. This game is the next big hit in what I like to call the ‘party games for gamers’ genre. If Wil Wheaton hasn’t made everyone angry and the Tabletop show continues with its popularity, Codenames will be on that show. And, at $20, it will not be on shelves for very long, so if you want a copy, let us know soon.
T.I.M.E. Stories: Finally, something extremely unique. This is a fascinating cooperative crime-solving game where players travel back in time, becoming different characters with different abilities, in attempt to solve a set of puzzles and crimes. Apparently the scenario included in the box can be spoiled by watching review videos, so I’m avoiding learning much more about it. But like the previously released Tragedy Looper, this will be one wild and interesting ride, with a richness similar to a game of Arkham Horror. Despite this richness, there are concerns about replayability and price, but I hear the publisher may be throwing in some exploding kitten cards and a few plastic miniatures, so you know you’ll get your money’s worth now.
Happy Summer Gaming!