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These would be my picks…

Scott Almes: I have played a few of his Tiny Epic Games, but I would have to go with #Claim. This trick-taker keeps the player on their toes due to each suit (race) having a different ability. With each expansion/standalone the variety and replay ability increases.

Ted Alspach: I would go with #Castles of Mad King Ludwig (#Suburbia is second for me). Nothing like bidding on the next crazy addition of this work in progress castle. I’m sure I am not alone when I say I can’t wait for a deluxe version of this.

Antoine Bauza: #Ghost Stories. My favorite co-op. Love the theme and its brutal difficulty. Damn those hopping vampires.

Bernd Brunnhofer: probably best known for #Stone Age, but for my pick I would have to go with the engine/tableau builder #St. Petersburg. The last time this was reprinted by ZMAN which added some extras (like the market), but I would have loved to have picked up the older version with the artwork that was closer ascetically to the time period when the game was set.

Richard Borg: Honestly, I haven’t played many from Borg. I owned and played the rummy variant #Wyatt Earp and #Thunder & Lightning. I no longer own either.

Inka & Markus Brand: Lots of admiration goes to this power couple. For my money, #Village is their best. What other game allows you to kill off your workers? People say Euros are not thematic, I say check out Village.

Tony Boydell: #Snowdonia hands down. It is one of the few games where the dummy player is not limited to two players. Plus the weather mechanic is nifty. I admit I wanted to like #Guilds of London, but the iconography made it a bear to learn and teach.

Richard Breese: Can’t think of a standout here.

Bruno Cathala: Strangely I feel that this designer does his best work with others. For my pick it would have to be #Abyss which was co-designed with Charles Chevallier. Aside from the artwork, the game does have a lot of neat mechanisms attached to it (press your luck, hand management, and set collection). I will say the game needs the #Abyss: Leviathan to cover what I feel is its weakest points (monster track).

Matthias Cramer: #Rococo which Kind of cheating because it was a co-design with Stephan and Louis Malz. Deckbuilding with area majority. My masculinity is not threatened by dress making. I kinda of regret getting rid of my first printing, but grad school is expensive and I have kids to feed. I did pick up the deluxe version.

Carl Chudyk: I feel like every one of his designs attempts to be like #Glory To Rome. Glory to Rome was the first game after playing CCG/TCG that got me hooked. Every card in this game seems overpowered and the lead follow mechanism is brilliant.

John Clowdus: Known for his small card games, which often seem a bit too similar in my opinion. I will have pick #Omen: A Reign of War. Game is a tug of war race that feels close to a CCG/TCG.

John D. Clair: I’ve played two of his designs: #Mystic Vale and #Space Base. I played a lot of vale via app. I did think it was a gimmicky deck builder at first (card crafting), but the press your luck aspect of corruption is quite fun. I will say that Space Base fixes what I hated about Machi Koro.

Rüdiger Dorn: #Istanbul (not Constantinople). Pick up and deliver mixed with wheelbarrow racing. Favorite aspect is the family member that is constantly incarcerated.

Stefan Dorra: Probably best known #For Sale. For my pick I’ll go with the abstract #Medina (second edition). Basically the most interesting thing about this is how each player plays a game of chicken regarding claiming parts of the city.

Phil Eklund: Haven’t played a ton from him, but I do like #Pax Porfiriana. The Eklunds have a knack for building games that can make a historian swoon.

Steve Finn: King of the fillers. #Biblios is my favorite here. Mix drafting and an auction and you get this game. Will note that is the first game I played with my (now) wife before we started going out. This game also made me realize that I am terrible at teaching rules.

Stephan Feld: I am a stickler for multi-use card games like #Bruges, but for this I have to go with #The Castles of Burgundy. Probably my favorite dice placement game and the very definition of point salad. Genius of how every aspect is so integrated.

Friedemann Friese: To be honest, I was not a huge fan of #Power Grid. Maybe because I was tired the first time I played it, maybe it was the people I played with. Played #Friday quite a bit. Honestly, I don’t think I ever won a game.

Jacob Fryxelius: n/a

Mac Gerdts: #Concordia. Honestly when this pandemic is over with I can’t wait to play this and Ra.

Hisashi Hayashi: Only played a few, but will have to say #Yokohama is our favorite. It is kinda like worker placement mixed with a mancala.

Steve Jackson: #Munchkin. I haven’t played a game of it in years, but I will say that #Munchkin Cthulhu is the best because of its alternate win/end condition. Game does have the tendency to go on like a bad rash.

Wolfgang Kramer: #El Grande. Pound for pound the best area control game. Needs 4 people to be playable.

Reiner Knizia: #Ra. Such a clever auction game with press your luck and set collection. This is a hard one for me as Knizia has a bunch of great designs.

Michael Kiesling: One of my grail games is #The Palaces of Carrara btw. I haven’t played #Azul enough, so my pick would be #Vikings. Haven’t played it in a bit, but how the auction wheel will move as tiles/Vikings are bought.

Richard Launius: I’ve played #Elder Sign a lot, but nothing else from him. Part of the appeal is the Lovecraftian lore (I am from RI after all). Co-op #Yahtzee is what this is. Game does need either the omen expansions like #Elder Sign: Omens of the Pharaoh Expansion or the #Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham Expansion to shine. Probably the only games we house rule as well. Game is technically over when all of the investigators die. Yeah, not doing that…

Scott Lang: Haven’t played enough to pick here.

Vital Lacerda: I own #Vinhos Deluxe, but have yet to play it. Mainly bought one of his titles due to Portuguese pride to be honest.

Daniele Tascini & Simone Luciani: #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar. I was ready to chalk up the gears as a gimmick, but they are really an ingenious way to plan when and what a worker will get.

Thomas Lehmann: Much like Chudyk, I feel like most of his games are tableau builders like #Race for the Galaxy. I will say that this game works best with 2 and requires a bit of a commitment to get good at (I’ve played this over a 1000 times and I still suck at it). Common complaint about this one is its iconography.

Paulo Mori: #Via Magica/ #Rise of Augustus. Bingo with a little extras. First game I was able to play with our 2.5 year old.

Corné van Moorsel: Will have to go with #Habitats. Probably his best known title to begin with. Honestly it is an easy tile laying game that requires a little planning. Who does like building their very own ecosystem? Also. If you have the 1st printing, you have those cute handmade ceramic animals as well… or you can do what I did and buy some Red Rose Tea figurines.

Shem Phillips: I own #Raiders of Scythia, but haven’t played it yet. Can’t pick a favorite here.

Alexander Pfister: #Port Royal since I haven’t played #Great Western Trail trail yet. Port Royal is a simple card game with press your luck.

Uwe Rosenberg: Hard choice here as well. #At the Gates of Loyang followed by #Caverna: The Cave Farmers / #Agricola (Revised Edition).

Vladimír Suchý: What I love about this designer is that he rarely designs expansions. I haven’t played #Underwater Cities enough to say that it is his best. I have played #Last Will will a few times and will say that the theme and gameplay are unlike anything else. The entire premise is to blow all of your money to win and the ways that you can part with that cash is outlandish.

Andreas Schmidt: Own #Heaven & Ale, but haven’t played it yet aside from solo. N/A

Reiner Stockhausen: #Orléans. Not sure if this was the first “bag builder”. Orleans is kinda point salad. Probably favorite aspect of this is the travel aspect that reminds me of another favorite, #Village. One expansion can also make this a solo or co-op game as well.

Jamey Stegmaier: #Viticulture: Essential Edition w/  #Tuscany: Essential Edition. Very simple and streamlined worker placement. I used to help my grandpa (Avo) make wine so this always reminds me of him and that time. Lovely production quality.

Ignacy Trzewiczek: I would pick the #51st State: Master Set over #Imperial Settlers. They are similar, mainly because both were modeled after the original #51st State. I think where state has the edge is how the game will end at a set point value. Almost every game of Settlers ends with a blowout and has a set amount of turns.

Justin De Witt: The only game I really played from him is #Castle Panic. The game is akin to those tower defensive games. Simple co-op that is a great entry point into the genre. The game does feel like the #Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower expansion should have been included from the start. Was curious about the failed kickstarter that was going to be a deluxe version.

Martin Wallace: Only played a few from him, but I would pick #London Second Edition.

Cole Wehrle: N/a

I tend to agree with this and have heard similar thoughts from notable game designers in past interviews. I think each mechanism tends to evoke a unique feeling and the gameplay can lead the audience in a very different way depending on which mechanics you give more emphasis to in the design.

For example:

Worker placement - I think this is one of the easier ones to identify. It's structured and very tidy, and makes players put on the hat of a manager.

Variable Player Powers/Asymmetry - Increases the level of immersion and places players in the shoes of the character.

Dice rolling and press your luck - Summons the gambling spirit in us all!

Engine building - This one covers a wide range of mechanics but overall, it makes the players take on the hat of an engineer to analyze/evaluate and develop a complex system.

Point to point movement - You feel like you're on a journey. The more static the game, the more of other stuff/mechanics needed to generate that story element. 

Sad week with basically zero plays :(

I did try out Board Game Arena for the first time though. Played a random game called Can't Stop which involves dice rolling and mostly press your luck elements

What's your interest level on Glory to Rome? Would you ever spend $250 for your "grail game"?

I would definitely dish out $250 for #Glory To Rome if I had that laying around, but I’d rather not sleep on the couch. Is the game worth it? One could argue that it is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. I do wish I had backed it originally, but I do feel that it will eventually be reprinted despite its complicated history. I have spent some money on some Kickstarter projects like #Tokaido Collector's Edition, but never on a single game without some extras. It is not lost on me that I’ve spent way more collectively on games like #Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game which brings to mind that marshmallow test by Mischel (2014).  Aside from Glory to Rome and #The Palaces of Carrara, I don’t think that there a many grail games that I want that won’t get reprinted. I had my eye on #City of Chaos, but it looks like a second edition will be on Kickstarter some point next year as will #ZhanGuo.

Which game did you enjoy playing the most this year and why?

This year was a little odd for me as I did not have a lot of extra time to play as much. I would honestly say Covid minimally impacted that fact. I will say playing simplified versions of games with our youngest was one highlight. The better half and I did manage to get #Rajas of the Ganges to the table at some point. I feel like the game is a bit open with two and we would be interested in playing with higher player counts. I do think it is neat that the end game is the same for everyone, but how a player arrives to the end is varied.

As we end 2020, what are your current Top 5 games and why?

I feel like I keep bringing up the same games. I am terrible at ranking so I’m just going to throw my picks out there:

#El Grande: I don’t think I would ever turn a game of this down (unless it includes the expansions and or has less than 4 players). This has a little of everything, hidden information, area control, and action selection. Game is still as relevant in 2020 as it was in 1995. I do wish that just the base game would get reprinted as the current big box is a waste of space. I am not so hung up on the mini meeples vs cube debate.

#Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game: Probably my most played game at this point. I have most of the expansions aside from the Spider-man homecoming and the villains’ standalone. I was a big marvel fan growing up and this game is able to conjure up comic scenarios. It is deckbuilding a team rather than playing as a single hero which I do not mind. With all of the current expansions, the game is infinitely repayable. Downside is that it is difficult to store of the cards at this point. While it is listed as a semi-co-op, we strictly play it as co-op because some of the schemes and mastermind combos are taxing that not working together makes the game much harder than it needs to be. I also won’t play this with more than two because the difficulty does not scale well with more people.

#Ra: My favorite Kniza design. I normally don’t like auction games, but this one is so elegant and streamlined how could I not like it. The game also has that press your luck and set collection element along with the calamities to keep everyone on their toes. Everyone needs to try this one at least once.

#The Castles of Burgundy: This is another one of those games where I dislike it with more than two. This is an example of where the quality of the game does not match its components. Dice placement at its finest. Game is flexible and it mixes strategy and tactics well. There is one sure path to victory here which makes it difficult to solve.

#Seasons: Game plays like a TCG/CCG so it scratches that itch for me. Does have a bit of a learning curve as figuring out which cards to draft together is paramount to success. Wish they would make at least one more expansion.

So, who is buying High Frontier 4? The third edition is a game that fascinates me, but I will never play. It looks like the fourth edition is a fairly affordable way to get a truly heavy game. 

Also, I'm quite glad to see that Fartzilla - a press your luck, dice rolling card game backed.