Cardboard time machine: My 2010 in life and board games

After the crazy upheavals of 2008, then the fresh beginnings of 2009, 2010 was a year of relative calm. Zoe and me were settled in the flat on the edge of Cambridge and work was going well with (then) Broadband Genie. Zoe was happy in her work as a teaching assistant and all was well with the flat (after some teething problems). Life was good.

My 40th birthday saw me hiring the back room of The Portland Arms in Cambridge, with about 100 people turning out to celebrate. In contrast, my 50th was spent in my house with Sarah thanks to lockdown. Still lovely, but quite the contrast. Although due to my rising anxiety, its hard to believe the same me wanted to host a party for my friends just 10 years ago. How can I be such a different person mentally just a decade on?

But when I wasn’t drinking and socialising at pubs and gigs, I was gaming. Zoe was happy to play some games with me (although largely lighter ones); while my regular week-night group with Andy and Carl went from strength to strength. I was happy to buy new games and they were happy to play them! After a relatively slow start to the year, from July on I recorded around 30 plays per month.

With the addition of a few other players (notably Howie and Matt), we also started playing on a weekend. And that Andy/Carl/Howie weekend group is still going today (when coronovirus isn’t forcing us online). Howie was also happy to pick up a few games, so I was also getting to see a few more titles I might not have looked at myself. But we still had a relatively small pool to pick from.

My game plays in 2010

2010 saw a new high for total plays: 257, up from 163 in 2009. Different games played shot up to 37 from 14 the previous year. I owned about two-thirds of those, with Howie chipping in with most of the rest. I also went to my first games day at the Cambridge Union, getting in plays of Rattus (which I later bought) and Fresco.

While it dropped off quite a bit from 2009, Race for the Galaxy was still the number one game of the year for me with 41 plays. But it was pushed hard by Dominion, just behind on 39. Four more games made it past 10 plays in 2010: Ticket to Ride (19), Roll Through the Ages (16), Ingenious (13) and Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (10). Race was the only one Zoe wouldn’t touch with a barge pole – while Andy and Carl turned their noses up at Ticket to Ride!

Of those, Roll Through the Ages is the only one I don’t still own today. It was fun for a while, but fell off a cliff in terms of interest and was sold shy of 20 plays. It was also when I realised I wasn’t going to be a collector. After picking it up, I also grabbed a few more in the Gryphon ‘Bookshelf’ series. They looked great together – but Money! also quickly went on the trade/sell pile. The only one I still own is For Sale.

A new favourite

2010 was the year Ra (9 plays then, more than 50 now) came into my life. I picked it up in October and it became an immediate hit with the midweek group. Ra became a regular and stayed that way for years to come. And it is still one of my favourite games today.

But not every game fared so well. San Juan (9), Thundestone (8), 7 Wonders (6) and Roborally (4 plays) shone briefly before heading for the exit (two from my collection, two from Howie’s). And the less said about Zombie Fluxx and Poo! The Card Game the better…

But some other favourites were introduced to me in 2010. These included Thebes (8), Archaeology: The Card Game (6), Agricola (5) and Macao (4 plays in 2010). While previous favourites Blockus Duo (4), Arkham Horror (3) and Mystery Rummy: Jekyll & Hyde (3 plays) were hanging in there. It was the last ‘big’ year for the last two, both of which were sold after a few more plays. But Blockus Duo is still on the shelves, 30+ plays and counting.

My hindsight Top 10 Games of 2010

After a pretty crappy 2009, 2010 was a solid year for new board game releases. You can check out my full Top 10 games of 2010 here. But briefly (and with shout-outs to near misses Luna, Hanabi and Forbidden Island):

  1. Navegador: Classic Mac Gerdts rondel game.
  2. Lords of Vegas: Fun euro with a big does of thematic luck thrown in.
  3. Fresco: Gorgeous worker placement game with some nice thematic twists.
  4. Dominant Species: Brutal action selection and area control game.
  5. Troyes: Dice placement euro game with some clever interaction.
  6. Firenze: Build towers to score points in this light but tricky euro.
  7. Earth Reborn: A great minis battle game with loads of scenarios.
  8. Onirim: Classic solo card game with unique original artwork.
  9. De Vulgari Eloquentia: A euro at its euro-ist! Loads of chits and points.
  10. The Boss: Head-scratchy and agonising family card game.

I played Fresco in 2010 and still can’t believe I’ve never picked it up. I’ve played it a few times over the years and always really enjoyed it. I do now own Navegador, Lords of Vegas, De Vulgari and Onirim. And previously owned Earth Reborn, Troyes and The Boss. And to be honest I wouldn’t rule out picking up Dominant Species and Firenze in the future…

Other notable 2010 releases included 7 Wonders (mentioned above) and Runewars (never played). Next down the BGG top 2010 Games list are Alien Frontiers, Civ and Merchants & Marauders. People in our group picked all of these in 2011. And while I had fun playing all three, none became favourites. Finally, Mr Jack Pocket shone brightly for Zoe and me for a few months after release in 2010, but we burned out on it soon after.

The year’s end

The year ended as calmly as it had begun, with life ticking along in a fittingly stable, middle-aged way. But plans were already afoot for exciting trips to Barcelona and New York – and my favourite band were about to reform! I was about to start commuting to London a little more for work too, where a certain board game club had made a name for itself. And I was also about to start writing some board game reviews – and later that year, my own blog. Exciting times. See you in 2011…

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