Losing at Board Games: Winter is Coming (Year in Review, Pt 2)

Winter has always been the time of year when the Political Mastermind and I learn new games.  This is nostalgic for me; I have written in this column about the games I played in my childhood, and these games are played indoors.  There are exceptions – my family played croquet by flashlight outside in the summer.

And yes, dad, I know the game didn’t start with flashlights, but when the game starts at sunset and goes for two hours lightning bugs don’t provide ample vision.


So inside it was.  Chess, Canasta, Poker, Pictionary, Scattegories, Clue Master Detective, Mastermind, Othello, Pente… these were the games that kept the dining room light illuminated late into the evening.

The Political Mastermind and I have had notable winter games.  DominionCarcassonneTicket to Ride.

These games were well researched, and purchased years after their initial release.  This year, however, something changed.  I made my “living” by freelance photography and writing.  And by working at Starbucks.  Games began to captivate many of my waking moments.  I started writing game reviews, doing game photography, and demoing games at The Wandering Dragon.


And we started buying games.  A lot of games.  I combed thrift stores, hobby sales, and started demoing games as a Wingman for Eagle and Gryphon Games. There were always sales.  There were always reasons to buy yet another game.

Our bookshelf of games became bookshelves of games.  I started condensing games and expansions into just one box.  And then somewhere along the way… I lost count.  I simply don’t know how many games we own.

The Political Mastermind drew a line in the sand.  She didn’t care how many games I learned, but she would only learn two a month.

This column is a greatest hits of our year of gaming.

Antoine Bauza

Okay.  This man is a genius.  I don’t think I’m telling you anything you don’t already know.  This was the year of Hanabi.
Hanabi‘s genius: making a game that is basically following basic principles of group solitaire… but which causes a group to create their own specific linguistic communication.

Hanabi retails for $11, and is one of the best games I’ve ever played.  Hanabi led to the purchases of 7 Wonders and Takenoko.  And it will ultimately lead to the purchase of Rampage and Tokaido.

Antoine Bauza. After Hanabi, I will buy any of his games sight unseen.


Lord of the Rings

This is the year I finally bought Lord of the Rings: The Living Card Game.  I had been on the fence about this one for awhile; finally I decided that at the very least it would be a fun game to play solitaire.

I’ve written about this game.  I have a fiendish dedication to it.  I’ve been playing weekly with Gimli, a good friend of mine prone to creating stellar dwarf decks.

Even if no one ever plays this game with me ever again I will continue to play.  I’m hooked.

This was the year of me realizing I could have a great time playing games solo.  Speaking of Solo, if Star Wars Living Card Game was playable without two players, I would have gotten into that one as well.

Jason Matthews

I call my wife the Political Mastermind.  That is because she beat me approximately 10 times in a row at Campaign Manager 2008. I finally got a win when she was exhausted and six months pregnant.   I count it.


The Political Mastermind graduated with her Masters in Occupational Therapy last December.  She got me a “thanks for supporting me” present.  That present?  Twilight Struggle.

We played Twilight Struggle three times the first week.  The first game was 3 hours.  The second game was 3 hours.  The third game was 7 hours.

It turns out that the Political Mastermind thinks that 7 hours is too long for one game.  She’s wrong, obviously.

But on the other hand, she did learn (conservatively) 50 games this year, and she still bought me Twilight Struggle.

Don’t tell her this, but she’s probably a gamer.

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