Top Plays of 2016

Making last year’s Top Plays of 2015 post a tradition, it’s time to count down my most played board games of 2015! You can see everything I played, tabletop-wise, over on BoardGameGeek. And stay until the end, because at the end of the list, I set myself some hobby-related goals for 2017.

While most of my tabletop time in 2016 was been spent on board and card games, I did manage to up my role-playing a little bit. There was the stop-and-start campaign of Skull & Shackles, sadly more stopped than started, and a biweekly playthrough of The Dracula Dossier for Night’s Black Agents. I continue to hope that next year will be the year that I get more regular role-playing opportunities, and I have some thoughts on how to achieve that.

That said, on with the countdown, from least plays of 2016 to the most.

5. Betrayal at House on the Hill

That perennial favorite of mine, the haunted house-building, cheesy horror movie tribute game Betrayal got a richly deserved expansion this year, called Widow’s Walk. The prospect of experiencing new haunts helped me get in six plays of the game in 2016, though maybe half of those came after the expansion’s release. Probably my most memorable session of the game remains playing through “The Manor of Your Demise” and teasing out just how deep down the rabbit hole one can go.

4. Codenames

Codenames is the second newest game to make this list. It’s a party-sized game, where two teams try to figure out what the hell the spymaster means by “Blue 2” and other clues meant to help them pick out specific words from a grid of options. It’s also one of those games where you can rack up a lot of plays in one or two sittings as teams shuffle around, or someone tries to reclaim their dignity after a poor turn as the spymaster. Of my seven plays of Codenames, I struggled as the spymaster every time I was in the hot seat.[1]

3. Arkham Horror: The Card Game

The most recently published entrant on the list, the Arkham LCG was my only — and thus most — anticipated game to play in 2016 since news first slipped out in April. The blend of cooperative play and the Cthulhu mythos really appealed to me. I’m reasonably certain I’m on record in at least a couple Decked! episodes or comments noting I played Arkham‘s predecessor primarily for the theme, rather than the thrill of competitive play.

I don’t know yet if Arkham has staying power for me, but experiencing the design of the Curse of the Rougarou standalone expansion did far more to convince me I would enjoy playing this game than the introductory scenarios in the core set did. It seems very likely I’ll get in more sessions in 2017 than the eight I managed in 2016.

2. Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game

It will surprise no regular reader of Held Action that I have played quite a few games of the Call of Cthulhu living card game, going so far as to make videos of them for the internet’s delight. The Cthulhu LCG is my all-time most played game on BoardGameGeek, with 189 matches logged. In 2016, however, Call of Cthulhu slipped to second place for plays of 2016. I “only” got in 10 matches, and that was probably thanks in large part to at least one “you people need to buy all the extra packs I ordered” draft event at Black Moon Games in Lebanon.

Since Fantasy Flight stopped publishing new cards — and yes, the game is still enjoyable without a constant stream of new material — that put a major damper on the local play group making the time to get together. I’d love to play more — and still have yet to make substantial use of anything from The Mark of Madness — but I anticipate this game being in direct competition with the Arkham LCG for time and attention. The local play rosters for the two games are almost identical and we are all working stiffs with a limited amount of time on our hands. So it goes.

1. Sentinels of the Multiverse

And as the Call of Cthulhu LCG slips from first, so does Sentinels of the Multiverse rise to take the crown. This is the title that people at area game nights have come to expect to see me toting. I introduced my friend Margot to the game this year, and she took to quite readily, so the list of people who are almost always up for a game of Sentinels is slowly growing.

While I got in 11 plays of the ink and cardboard version of Sentinels this year, I logged far, far more time playing the digital version. I took advantage of free time over the holidays this year to knock out the achievements a solo player can attain, including all the story challenge achievements for unlocking variant character cards.[2] All that remains is the achievement to play with Handelabra or Greater Than Games, or someone who’s played with them.

Sentinels has been the game that occupied most of my attention in 2016. Handelabra Games launched a phone-friendly version of the game, giving me something to do during downtime out and about — I knocked out a quick game waiting for Rogue One to begin last week, for instance. The weekly one-shot challenges became the feature of Decked! episodes. Greater Than Games raised funds for the game’s final expansion and host of bonus content, which also helped reinvigorate my interest in the game.

Tabletop Goals for 2017

I’d like to start a new part of this end of year post tradition: setting some play goals for the year to come. In no particular order, I would like to:

  • Get in more plays of the games I own and enjoy. Eldritch Horror has yet another big box expansion on the way and I have barely scratched the surfaces of the Strange RemnantsUnder the Pyramids and Signs of Carcosa expansions. Likewise, there is so much more of Widow’s Walk to play.
  • Play more role-playing games. Dracula Dossier is my regular game at the moment and as one that’s played on the weekend, there are often things that get in the way of everyone making it. I’d like to find or start a regular game on a week night that isn’t already crammed on everyone’s calendar. By some twist of synchronicity, everyone in Chittenden County thinks Tuesday is the optimal night to play games, which means there’s a plethora of choice, but not a lot of crossover as people commit to one place and set of players.
  • Find and create my next big game-related project. I’ve produced a podcast. I’ve made YouTube play videos through Decked! I like to produce game-adjacent content, it seems, and I would like to find a new endeavor or area of interest to focus on, like I have with Cthulhu commentary and Sentinels one-shots in the past. I don’t know what shape that might take yet, but I’ve been giving it thought and hope to come up with a fun project for 2017.

[1] Almost as much as playing the ghost in Mysterium.

[2] In fact, Steam’s telling me I spent almost 70 hours on the game in the last two weeks, though I’m not sure if that’s total time the game application was open, or time where I was moving the mouse and clicking things.

Top Plays of 2015

I keep track of the games I play over on BoardGameGeek, and its role-playing-focused sibling. So as the year winds down, I decided to take a look at the game I got to play the most in 2015. These will be all board games, as all my role-playing this year has been of the one-shot variety. Perhaps that will improve in 2016. So, counting up from fewest to most plays:

5. Eldritch Horror

Clocking in at 7 plays[1], Eldritch Horror is a game I would love to play still more often than I managed in 2015. While it hasn’t reached Arkham Horror-scale sprawl, this game has a number of expansions I haven’t gotten to put through their paces properly. Most of the time, I find myself playing with one or two players new to the game and we opt for a simpler mode of play. For 2016, my wish to get some serious play time with the Antarctica and Egypt expansion boards.

4. Hex Hex

This caught me by surprise at first glance, but then I recognized that Hex Hex is a game where you can rack up a lot of plays very quickly, depending on how you count. All eight of my logged plays came from one sitting at the Fletcher Free Library’s board game night.

3. The Resistance

Popular among one group of friends because it can readily accommodate a larger number of players and wraps up readily before Game of Thrones comes on, The Resistance is one of those games I play because it’s being played and otherwise you’re coming across as a spoilsport.

2. Sentinels of the Multiverse

My energy for the tabletop version of Sentinels waxes and wanes. Usually it peaks slightly after an extended bout of playing the computer version. There’s still so much more content available in the tabletop version than the digital implementation that I haven’t even gotten to crack yet that I would love to try out. I got to play tabletop Sentinels 10 times in 2015.

Sentinels is one of those games that benefits from having some dedicated fellow players who are down for a deep dive session, where you work the heroes and strategies until you crack the seemingly unbeatable villain and find amazing combos emerging from developing a rich understanding of the game and its elements. With yet another big expansion on the way that deepens the Vengeance play mode, Sentinels is another game I would really like to enjoy more in 2016.

1. Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game

Perhaps surprising no one at all, my log shows 72 plays of the Cthulhu living card game, including store events and playing for Decked! The announcement of the line’s discontinuation took the wind out my and the local players’ sails. I don’t think I’ve played the game since September, maybe.

There are still decks to build and matches to play — and prize support store owners wish to move from their inventory — but for now, I’m letting Cthulhu lay fallow for a while while the sting fades.

Honorable Mention: Digital Sentinels of the Multiverse

The honorable mention for top plays of 2015 has to go to the digital implementation of Sentinels of the Multiverse. Since I bought the season pass, the periodic infusions of new characters keep me coming back to try them out on their own, and in conjunction with all the older content. Steam tells me that I’ve played 148 hours in total of digital Sentinels, and since the game launched in November 2014, I think the vast majority of those hours were in 2015.

Since the game launched, they’ve rolled out a number of expansion packs and added an online multiplayer mode, which I wished for back then. Handelabra’s weekly live streams including previews of upcoming releases have done a lot to keep my interest piqued and give examples of how to think about the game and play well, so that’s been helpful. Can’t wait to see them explain the niceties of Captain Cosmos.

[1] The seventh play eking under the wire starting at 6pm New Year’s Eve and ending around 12:30 on New Year’s Day. We lost against Yog-Sothoth in a pretty spectacular way. I didn’t realize we’d have to keep solving mysteries after the ancient one awoke.