Cardboard time machine: My 2008 in life and board games

Ten years ago, in the summer of 2008, I started to get back into gaming. So what better reason to start an annual post looking back over my years in the hobby?

I’d loved the usual stuff in my youth (cards, Cluedo etc), had a nerdy phase in my teens (D&D, Warhammer 40K, Blood Bowl), then dabbled with the Magic and Wyvern TCGs in the mid 90s – but 2008 was definitely the real turning point.

The year turned out to be a crazy one. I was working for a small magazine publisher in Farringdon while starting to have discussions about moving in with my then girlfriend of two years. We decided on Watford and the planning began. We had music in common (we were mad keen gig goers), but what else did we have in common? I was creative, she was a numbers person. Our TV habits differed. What were we going to do with all this new ‘us’ time?

Two of her most prized possessions were lovely old wooden versions of Mancala and Nine Men’s Morris. We’d played both a few times (she thrashed me), but they hadn’t quite scratched my gaming itch – but it did mean we both liked games, in theory. Maybe there were some other games out there that were abstract, so she’d like them, but a bit more modern so that I might better get into them too…

My game plays in 2008

I didn’t discover Board Game Geek until around October time, while I introduced my two new purchases to our new home in November. I certainly wasn’t an expert in BGG Fu at that stage, but I did log my plays.

In the last couple of months of the year we managed a very healthy 10 plays of Ingenious (2004) and four of Blokus Duo (2005). They were high street games at the time (I got them both in John Lewis) and they wen’t down really well.

Maybe it’s because they were the first games that got me back into the hobby, or maybe they’re simply great games (the latter mainly, I think), but both are still in my collection and have easily stood the test of time. My current girlfriend also loves both games, while Blokus Duo has become a favourite for one of her daughters too. Blokus is a less regular choice for me (I have 28 total plays over the 10 years), but Ingenious is still a favourite (53 plays and counting).

My hindsight Top 10 Games of 2008

Unbeknownst to me at the time, 2008 shaped up to be a pretty good year in board gaming for new releases: five BGG Top 100 games amongst a slew of still popular titles. But my top 10 would be:

  1. Dominion: The original and still best deck-builder.
  2. Dixit: Unique imagination and word game with beautiful art.
  3. Nefertiti: Clever tactical push-your-luck dice game.
  4. Stone Age: A great euro game for new players in the hobby.
  5. Pandemic: The classic and clever co-operative game.
  6. Uruk: Fantastic civ-building card game in a small box.
  7. Metropolys: A clever and thinky abstract game.
  8. The Climbers: A great competitive puzzle using gorgeous wooden pieces.
  9. Fauna: A general knowledge game done right.
  10. Crossboule: A fun outdoor dexterity game played with hacky sacks.

Honourable mentions go to thoroughly enjoyable racing game Formula D, and the quick, fun, take-that card game Monopoly Deal. Of this list though, only Dominion, Dixit, Nefertiti and Uruk are in my collection (along with Monopoly Deal). Stone Age and Pandemic were once but played themselves out, while the rest I’d always be happy to play but they’ve never entered my collection.

The year’s end

Much like Blokus and Ingenious, I’m happy to say that girlfriend is still a treasured old friend and we still regularly stay in touch. But December 2008 was when all the crazy happened. Much like a classic blues song I lost my girl, my house and my job (through redundancy) all at once – but a new chapter of my life started just a few weeks later in a different city, with a new job and (not too long afterwards) a new young lady friend. See you in 2009…

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