And at long last, the moment you have both been waiting for. Yes, it’s the final stage of the award so exclusive that most of the designers and publishers nominated have no idea that it even exists. This really is a hipster award. So, without further ado, I give you the final of the 2016 TaG Award, and present the finalists, which have made it through a rigorous and exhausting selection process to get this far: Dragonheart and In A Bind.
We played Dragonheart first. To be fair, Miss B started off with a shocking hand, which I later found out included four of the ship cards, which just isn’t a happy way to get going, take my word for it. It’s the sort of hand I seem to always get when playing the game online. Her fortunes picked up as we went along, but I ended up with a comfortable win in the end.
Then, of course, we came to In A Bind. I removed my glasses (only fair!), we shuffled the cards, and then got going. A couple of minutes later my cards went everywhere and Miss B was giggling at my ineptitude. So we had another game, this time using In A Bind Junior, an alternative set that replaces some of the trickier cards with nutty stuff like making animal noises when someone draws a card, and I managed to get my revenge, so we had to have a decider (best of three), which Miss B won. I consider myself a winner, though, having managed to avoid any cricks or strains from putting myself into awkward positions.
I will now hand you over to our head judge, Miss B, to report on the results of her deliberation…
These are things I think make a good game:
-a bit of a challenge
-a bit of a laugh
And In A Bind has all 3. Dragon heart is a good game and came very close to winning because of the thinking you have to do and neat ideas in it. Overall In A Bind won because of this. 😀
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the winner of the 2016 TaG Award: In A Bind.
We had a good month of gaming in October. It was mostly short games, many of which got played multiple times, so that we have had, for the first time, an average number of plays per game a little above 2. Our total number of plays was 37, our second highest of the year, and that was of 17 different games, which is also a very respectable count.
We had a couple of get-togethers with other families for gaming afternoons, which was great, and always helps keep things ticking over.
The thing that pleased me most from the month is our most-played game, which was Cribbage, on 5 plays. This is a traditional card game with somewhat arcane and bizarre rules, but is one of my favourite games of all time, and one which I may well have played more than any other in my life. On a whim I offered to teach it to Miss B, and she enthusiastically accepted and then picked up the rules far more quickly than I did when I was a kid. It is now becoming one of her favourites and she is starting to get the hand of the tactics in the game, so she will start winning more often soon.
The other games we played more than once were BraveRats, Push It, In a Bind, and Giftmas with the Grimms (one of my prototypes) on 4 plays each, plus All Hands on Deck, Cockroach Poker, Hnefatafl, and TiddlyWinks all on 2 plays.
And that leaves us with our three top games for the year stretching their lead over the rest of the field, but staying in the same position relative to each other: Push It keeps its nose ahead with 16 plays, closely followed by BraveRats on 15, and In a Bind, which only had its first play in June with a strong 13 plays. Next up is the mighty little tin that is ‘6’, which has still been played 9 times this year.
It looks like we have three plausible candidates for this year’s crown, and only two months left to see which comes out on top — or if we get a sudden surge from an outsider.
Hot on the heels of the first game-off report, here we have the second. We already know that In A Bind has reached the final, so now we need to find out the second finalist, from the pair of very different card games, Dragonheart and Murder of Crows.
Our first play of this session was Murder of Crows, a game where you are trying to play cards in front of yourself to spell the word “murder”, with different letter cards having special effects when you play them, and the winner being rewarded by getting to read out a short (and bizarre) murder story formed by their cards. This is really neat (and has the mother-in-law seal of approval), and our game followed the usual pattern of stealing cards from each other and good-natured growling. And a win to me!
Dragonheart takes a bit longer to play, but is a really cute card game where you play cards onto spaces on a well thought out board which has a layout that graphically reminds you of the effects of the various cards. Playing the right cards allow you to take other cards off the board to add you your score pile, but then provide opportunities for your opponent. Plays of this game tend to be full of swings and roundabouts as passages of play are profitable for one player for a while before the other gets a period of doing well — though once in a while one player just has a stinker and never seems to get a break. This time we had a pretty close and dynamic game which ended up with Miss B getting a pretty decent win.
So which game will progress to the final. Over to the head judge…
Dragonheart won this time, but this play was also very close. Murder of crows is fun though. I like the way it tells a murder story at the end of the game.
So, the grand final for 2016 will be between In A Bind and Dragonheart. A daft, physical game versus a game of cagey manoeuvring. Should be good…
With the runners and riders all lined up, it’s time for me to finally let both of you in on the results of the first game-off for this year’s TaG Award. Actually, the runners and riders have probably all gone home by now, so I’d better just get on with it.
Our first match was semi-randomly selected to be Apotheca and In A Bind, so a largish box full of really shiny things versus a very small box full of more silliness than you would imagine possible.
We played In A Bind first. I usually have the great advantage of wearing glasses (which is massively unfair — if you play the game you will soon find out why — but we now treat it as a balancing mechanic to help me out) but this time I was without, and that is my excuse for the embarrassing degree of my loss here. On the plus side, losing at this is usually funny. Sometimes even for the loser!
Apotheca is a much less crazy game, to say the least. Now we have played it a few times, Miss B is really getting the hang of visualising the effects of the more complicated apothecaries and making some really cool moves. Just by way of a reminder, you get access to some very basic moves all the time, but can “hire” apothecary cards which allow you to do a load of unique special moves, and then you lose the use of these special moves as you gain points towards victory. It’s a very clever dynamic. I got to win this one, just.
So we have a featherweight taking on a middleweight, in terms of box size anyway, with both games being very clever and enjoyable in completely different ways.
Over to Miss B for the judging…
It was a really close competition. Apotheca is a really good game though personally I prefer In a Bind because you do more stuff, and that’s more my kind of game.
And we have our first finalist for this year. In A Bind will be competing against either Dragonheart or Murder of Crows for the title. Next time we’ll find out which…
September wasn’t a bad month for gaming, with a respectable 24 plays of 14 different games. The highlight of the month was the games afternoon we hosted. We didn’t have quite as many people as last time, but we had a nice houseful, with two tables of games running for a fair bit of the afternoon. Thanks to everyone who came, played, shared food, and took photos!
The games that we played multiple times were led by traditional counter-flipping game, Tiddlywinks, and house favourite (though not played so much this year), Dobble, each with three plays a piece. We also played Array, Codenames Pictures, Magic: The Gathering, Push It, Spyfall, and Yardmaster Express twice each.
Array was a gift brought back by S on a recent trip to the USA which, unfortunately, we found unenjoyable using its intended rules (“We don’t have to review this one, do we?” asked Miss B — no, we don’t), but we gave it a second play with some alternate (speed play) rules that we made up on the spot and had a fun time. Codenames Pictures was also a gift, this time from some of our visitors at the games afternoon, and I think we actually prefer it to the original Codenames, which is great in its own right (and won this year’s prestigious Spiel des Jahres prize).
Which brings us to the running totals for the year… Well, Push It has pushed its way into the lead with 12 plays, nudging ahead of BraveRats, still on 11. In a Bind is still on 9 plays (though Miss B has played a few more times without me), alongside 6. Then there is a gap before we hit Dobble on 6 plays and a whole heap of games with 5 plays.
So we are now three quarters of the way through the year. We’ve played a fair bit less than last year, and it has been a bit patchy, but that is fine. You know that whole “training a gamer” thing? Well, I think I am finally getting trained properly. Sometimes I’ll suggest playing a game, and sometimes the idea is accepted, but increasingly we get situations when Miss B comes in and points out a game that we haven’t played for a while and fancies having a go at.
Patience is rewarded.
I’m running massively late with this, but at last I would like to announce the shortlist for this year’s Training a Gamer Award (formerly the Golden Thingummy).
In case you haven’t been reading this blog in previous years, each summer Miss B and I choose a set of four games (Miss B chooses two and I choose two more) that we enjoy and want to play a bit more. These games are paired off so we can have two “game-offs”, playing a pair of games in one session so we can decide which we enjoyed most on that occasion. The winners of each heat become the finalists for one more game-off to decide which will win the prestigious and sought-after TaG Award.
Last year was won by flicktastic dungeon crawler Catacombs. What will get the laurels this year?
Miss B’s first choice was instant, the game of contortions, In a Bind, which she introduces to friends and visitors whenever she can. Her second choice surprised me a little as it is something we haven’t played for quite a long time, but she really fancied breaking out Dragonheart, which we used to play a fair bit a few years ago.
I added recent favourite Apotheca to the list as I think it deserves a few more plays and is probably at its best with two players. My second game is one that we haven’t covered here before, but Miss B did express interest in while we were discussing the award: a cute card game called Murder of Crows.
So we have four contenders, two new and two not so much. Coming soon: the game-offs.
We did pretty well for games in August, with a games afternoon with another family as well as a couple of father-daughter games afternoons throughout the month. We even got started (a little late) on this year’s Training a Gamer Award, so you can expect the reports for that to be forthcoming over the next few weeks.
Our total for the month was 28 plays, with 15 different games. This is well down on last August, but only beaten by two months this year. We had several games with multiple plays, top of which was In a Bind, with 6 plays, followed by Apotheca, Hey That’s My Fish, and Yardmaster Express, with 3 plays a piece, and 6 and Win Lose Banana each on 2. That latter game (WLB) is a bit bizarre (to say the least), requiring exactly three players and being a game that seems entirely random at first, but then turns into a game of psychology after a few rounds.
I think my highlight of the month was trying out Railways of the World, which I had been wanting to play for some time and then managed to acquire a copy on the cheap, then had a great opportunity to play it when we had a visitor over. We made a couple of minor tweaks to the rules to make it a little more accessible for a first play with kids, but after the rules explanation, the game flowed really well and we all enjoyed it very much.
For the year, BraveRats maintains its lead position with 11 plays, followed by Push It with 10, both unchanged from the previous month. But now we have 6 and In a Bind, right in the chase, each with 9 plays, so it looks like the race is well and truly on at the moment. There is nothing else we have played more than 5 times so far yet this year.