Sometimes you like a board game a little, sometimes you like it a lot. The great games stay great forever, giving you a little tremor of excitement every time you think about them. Others fade a bit over time, as you become too familiar with their dynamics and play other games that improve upon what they do. Other games just fade away for reasons you can't quite put your finger on. This week, I talk about a few games that I find less fantastic than I used to. I'll try to understand why.
Now, I was never a big fan of Small World. I liked it. “Like” is a horrible word. It's a weak word, its only power gifted to it by social networks. But “like” was always as much as I'd say about Small World. It's an inoffensive, colourful game with nice mechanics and a likeable cast of characters/races. It has some clever little twists, and its whole notion of domination and then decline, allowing you to constantly bring new units onto the board's landmap, is fresh and fun. But this game, over the years, hasn't managed to grow any stronger for me. It's one of those games that just kinda is. You play it, someone wins, and then you move along to the next hour of your life. In all those games of Small World I've played, I'm not sure I can even remember who won, or if I've ever won, because victory is never dramatic enough to make any impact. It's like a slow train ride through some nice scenery, all very familiar, quite comfortable, but once you've made that trip a whole bunch of times you're hardly mad keen to buy another ticket.
And yet, I dunno, it's still on my shelf. I feel like Small World is a game that I just don't get, because other people seem to love it. People have paid fortunes for extravagant collectors editions of a game that I find to be lukewarm. Is the problem with me? Maybe – but the fact remains that this game, never a real favourite of mine, continues to fall off. It's been quite a while since I last opened that box.
KING OF NEW YORK
Okay, listen – this is still a great game. In my original review I said as much.
Back then, I said: “The game is a little bit more tricky to learn than King of Tokyo. It’s not as easy for newcomers – but it’s still a very light and accessible game. And it is the perfect sequel. It doesn’t make the first obsolete, but it improves on it – widens it. That’s what I think right now, anyway. As with all board games – time will tell.”
Well, time did tell, and King of New York hasn't been hitting the table as much as King of Tokyo. Tokyo continues to be the go-to giant-monster dice-rolling game, while King of New York has been sitting there without being invited to the party. And its undoing has been that extra level of complexity, I think. The game inhabits quite a strange space – with more going on than King of Tokyo but maybe not enough going on to have it move into the realm of deeper games. Another factor is that King of Tokyo is far better for kids, and so it remains that all-conquering family game that will have everybody at the table feeling enthusiastic about playing it. King of New York has more decisions, and more engaging moments, but it just doesn't pop from the table quite as much. There's more thinking going on, and thought can make a game more quiet, less wild, and that serves to weaken a game about giant monsters smashing the hell out of each other.
I still like this game a fair bit, but it's interesting to note how it has settled below King of Tokyo in my estimation, when first impressions suggested it would rise above. King of Tokyo is, of course, a modern classic, so there's no shame in being under that mighty bastard.
I was a bit ho-hum when I reviewed this one. Again – a good, solid game, but really not as thrilling as I'd expected based on the advance word I'd heard about the game. See my review.
And this game just hasn't managed to win me over yet. It hasn't helped that a couple of other, superior hidden movement games have been back in the limelight in the time since. Fury of Dracula, one of my absolute favourite games, was re-released in a streamlined third edition (which I've yet to play) and Escape From The Aliens In Outer Space has a fancy new Ultimate Edition. Both these games are fantastic hidden movement games, full of tension and excitement. My issue with Specter Ops has always been that it's far more fun for the hidden player than it is for the hunters, and the game runs too long for the roles to be swapped around at the table. There are better options available. And so this game just sits there, looking awkward.
It's SO ANNOYING, though, because aesthetically this game is right up my alley. It's all Metal Gear Solid-looking, with its weird cybernetic ninja types and mad wolf guys. It has beautiful components. And yet the game just doesn't GRIP me. If anything, that GRIP has been growing weaker and weaker. I'm not sure, at this point, if I'll even be hanging onto this one.
Agh! It's hard. I'm a positive guy, and I like to give things a real good chance to win me over. I'm going to play all these games again, and try to approach them all with fresh eyes. Then I'll make my mind up.
What about y'all? Are there games you used to love but now hate? Or games that just don't demand to be played anymore? I'm always keen to hear about this stuff – because games really should be legacy things, right? Board games should last a lifetime. Do we go too easy on these games, sometimes?
Next week, I review Games Workshop's old-school deathtrap LOST PATROL.