Quinns: Morning everybody! We can’t offer you a new video this week, but we can offer you something significantly more stupid.
This week BoardGameGeek user ThunderCat23 sent me quite the gift! ThunderCat23 wanted to chart the BGG game ratings of Tom Vasel, pater familias of popular board game content network The Dice Tower, against the ratings of the Dice Tower’s Mike Dilisio.
Entirely by accident, ThunderCat23 ended up charting Tom’s BGG ratings against my BGG ratings. Not wanting to waste their work, they then sent me this data, letting me write an article listing all the games Tom and I disagree on the most.
Strap in, folks! The opinions are gonna fly hard and fast. Someone could lose an arm.
Note: The following might not accurately reflect the current opinions of Tom Vasel. We could ask him, but that would take the fun out of it.
And with that, we’re off to the races! If the races featured a horse with an opinion so bad he had to be put down.
Please, just let me explain my thought process (why do I get the feeling I’m going to be typing that a lot?). Vanishingly few board games stick around for decades, and even less can be said to have touched the culture of the times. Twister was a controversial game that swept the world in the late ‘60s, and played a role in our culture’s sexual liberation! Milton Bradley’s competitors went so far as to accuse the company of selling “Sex in a Box” (which, coincidentally, is how I’ve always described Terra Mystica).
#2: Cockroach Poker
I could absolutely see somebody playing Cockroach Poker a couple of times and deciding it’s a 5 out of 10 game, in the same way I could see someone trying to kick a football twice and declaring that soccer is a 5 out of 10 game.
In both cases, I just don’t think you can argue against the sheer quantity of joy that the game generates. By now I must have played Cockroach Poker with fifty different people, and it’s been a source of smiles and giggles every single time. The rest of Drei Mager’s “Ugly Animals” series is well worth checking out, too- Cheating Bee and Cockroach Soup (also available as Cockroach Salad) are fab games in their own right.
#3: Food Chain Magnate
I don’t actually think that Tom is wrong here. In a sense, I think all of Splotter’s games – Food Chain Magnate, Bus and Roads & Boats are the ones I’ve played, and Ava had some thoughts on Antiquity in podcast #111 – feel like 4s as much as they feel like 9s.
That’s because of a sense of liberty that accompanies Splotter games. This company is going to make the games they want to make (with almost with no regard for what people might want to buy), and in those games players will be free to do anything they want. And yes, that includes “losing on the first turn of a 4 hour game”.
I forget where I was going with this. Onto the next game!
#4: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Again, I’m not sure either of those ratings are wrong. I’ve played cases of Consulting Detective that made for 10 out of 10 experiences. I’ve also played cases where when my group read the finale aloud and fell into a tense silence as we all took a second to absorb just how crap that was.
I guess it comes down to how much you’re willing to forgive this game it’s foibles. Seeing as SU&SD had such a farcical experience playing Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, I expect we’re going to stay pretty forgiving for the time being (although I’m looking forward to trying the next game in that series).
#5: Flamme Rouge
Aaaaaaaaargh. AAAAGH. PNNNFFFPRBTGH!
I’ll keep this simple. Matt and I think that this might be the best racing board game ever made, it only gets better with every expansion (especially the app that lets you play in a campaign), and for years we’ve had to watch the rest of the games press dismiss it as “simple but unexciting”.
I don’t want to exaggerate, but that is literally the worst feeling in the world.
I’ve got to admit, since publishing our review I’ve played Container twice, and both times it wasn’t as fun as I was expecting.
You didn’t hear it from me, but Tom might have me beat on this one.
Who gives Hive 5 out of 10!? The most portable AND one of the most intelligent little abstract games ever made?
There’s only one answer. I think when Tom was very little, a bee must have stung him somewhere very private, forever souring him on the very notion of insects. I’m not going to say where he must have been stung, Tom deserves more dignity than that. I’ll just say it rhymes with “benis”.
#8: Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends
This is just exactly what happened with Hive, except slightly more egregious because I don’t think we can speculate that Tom was stung on the benis by a centaur.
In all seriousness, I think that Tash-Kalar is a great game that never quite took off in the way the design deserved. I could deal with Tom giving it a 6, but a 4 is very mean.
…And now we’re moving onto the games where Tom’s ratings are higher than mine. Up till this point, I hope I’ve had the crowd on my side. By the end of this list I’m expecting to have to flee the stage while people throw cups of pee.
#9: Arcadia Quest
This is the single game where Tom and I deviate by a stunning 8 points, and I can only speculate that I was playing Arcadia Quest wrong, or that gorgeous miniatures carry a lot more sway with Tom than they do with me.
Actually, that’s something worth knowing about me- I’m struggling to think of a case where the quality of a game’s miniatures would have changed my mark out of 10 by more than 1 (e.g, a 7 changing to an 8). I’m all about the design of the game itself, baybeeee.
#10: Concordia Venus
No, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO.
I’m not sure that there’s ever been an expansion that I loathe more than Concordia Venus. I’d love to see someone pull off a team-based eurogame, but I think that would have be designed from the ground up. The act of playing Concordia with a partner is a very small change that nonetheless turns the original game’s smooth sailing into a rattling carnival ride.
(Or maybe this is just me being an only child and not wanting to share my toys? Who can say (My therapist, probably))
#11: Zombicide: Black Plague
Again, I think the miniatures explain this deviation. In the case of Zombicide, I bet that Tom, like most people, feels that the cool miniatures justify a dull game. On the other hand, I just see a dull game made more expensive and taking up more shelf space because of its clutch of minis.
To clarify, I love nice components! I love miniatures and nice cardstock and poker chips. But when you ask me to weigh up the value of “cool game design vs. cool components”, it’s like asking me which I prefer, the act of eating or guacamole. One is a quasi-spiritual passion that I was put on this earth to enjoy, the other is guacamole.
#12: Lords of Waterdeep
Haha. Oh dear.
Look, SU&SD has always marked games harshly, but I feel like we mark especially harshly when it comes to eurogames. Remember when we told people not to buy Marco Polo because it was missing that magical je ne sais quoi? Well, I’ll happily admit that Marco Polo is a masterpiece compared to Lords of Waterdeep.
Also, I hate contract fulfillment! Who gets out of bed and says “You know, what I really want to do today is fulfill some contracts”? Those people are cHUMPS
#13: Blood Rage
I almost didn’t choose to mention this game for fear of retribution. Look, I don’t like Blood Rage! I don’t like Rising Sun! My favourite Eric Lang game is Chaos in the Old World. I’m not trying to be difficult, I was just born this way and it’s a problem for us all
Right, listen! LISTEN TO ME!
I wanted to like this game. I still want to like it. It’s got simple rules (check!), it’s got a wicked new lick of paint from Restoration Games (check!), and it’s by Wolfgang Kramer (check!).
But I’ve played it twice, and both times we got unlucky with how the race shook out and the game ended up being underwhelming. The same thing happened when we played Tim Fowers’ Sabotage- we played it twice, and both times the random elements of the game conspired against our ability to enjoy ourselves. It was just bad luck. But the fact is, if we get unlucky in our first two plays of a game, we have to conclude that the game isn’t robust enough for us to justify continuing the review process.
That said, those expansions for Downforce sure do look good… maybe I’ll pick them up and try this game just one more time. Maybe I can FORCE myself to be UP on DOWNforce(?)
#15: Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
Oh dear. We close with another beloved game I find as appealing as a box of bees.
I’m sorry! My problem with Robinson Crusoe is that as a co-op game, the puzzle is totally opaque. It’s impossible to know how to win without first playing the game and going crashing through a series of unexpected, unpleasant systems like you’re riding a cart through the weighty double-doors of a ghost train.
But that then means that this is a game that’s uniquely susceptible to quarterbacking- anyone around the table who’s played more Robinson Crusoe will have a way better handle on when to explore, what to craft first, and when to take chances. And that’s just not what co-operative games are about for me. I want ingenuity and teamwork, not experience, to determine what our table should do.
You know what? Explaining why we don’t like popular things is a lot less fun than explaining why we like unpopular stuff.
So let me ask you this, dear readers- what games do you love more than everybody else?