10х10 – A 2015 update

10×10 challenge is meant to combat the cult of the new by making sure you pick 10 games from your collection and play them at least 10 times within a year. This approach is meant to encourage in-depth familiarity with your favourite games. While I cheated a little bit by not writing out my list in advance – by the end of September I did play 10 games 10 or more times and wanted to summarize my impressions of these after repeated plays.

The games are listed below by increasing number of plays in 2015.

10. Harbour from Tasty Ministrel Games (12 plays)

Lots of game in a little box.

Lots of game in a little box.

This compact and appealing brain-burner set in a bustling fantasy harbour is surprisingly popular with my wife, who is not a heavy gamer. The small format means it sees a lot of travel with us and the brief playtime means that it is not an intimidating time commitment.

It works well with three people and is easy to explain (though difficult to master with the market fluctuations) so it makes it to the table often when we have a guest over too.

While it is a solid game it never seems to knock it out of the park in terms of enjoyment so while it made it to the list – it’s at a relatively low spot.

Check out my review of Harbour here.

9. Pandemic from Z-man games (12 plays)

Pulling this card when Manila is already heavily infected is  bad sign.

Manila is not a good place to be right now.

An old reliable favourite, Pandemic remains an appealing solid challenging co-op to bring to the table. The easy rules and the fact that everyone is familiar with the game makes it easy to bring out. The adjustable difficulty means that it can accommodate anyone from casual gamers to masochists who want to ratchet up the challenge.

Scoring extra points for the diversity of its cast of characters, Pandemic, even without the many expansions remains a favourite that I would play in most environments with most people.

Familiarity and availability of other options ultimately prevents it from going too high on the list but this game is guaranteed a place in my collection for a long time. Check out my review of Pandemic here.

8. Space Hulk: Death Angel by Fantasy Flight Games(13 plays)

Nothing like crushing defeat for a good nights sleep!

In the future there is only war.

What a lovely ridiculously difficult co-op this is! I am a proud FFG fanboy and this game hits all the right notes for me. The dynamic claustrophobic action of leading a squad of space marines through an alien-infested space wreckage is exciting and challenging.

I love this mostly as a solo game but it works well with one or two dedicated partners. It relies strongly on the rolling of the devious red die (that seems to hate you) so can be frustrating, but it manages to tell so many exciting action stories through playing.

The available expansions packs greatly extend the lifetime of this game and the brief playing time make it a surefire hit for a quick bit of gaming. Check out my video review for SH: Death Angel here.


7. Eldritch Horror by Fantasy Flight Games (13 plays)

Eldritch Horror by Fantasy Flight Games

Eldritch Horror by Fantasy Flight Games

Oh, Eldritch Horror. Probably my favourite game at this point, this beast of a co-op promises hours of engaging, dark storytelling in the world of H.P. Lovecraft.

Its’ long duration and complex setup prevent it from hitting the table too often but this remains a treat when we are able to get it to the table. Many people dislike the reliance on dice but for me the storytelling always makes this awesome because the stories remain amazing whether you win or lose. The expansions give an even more in-depth experience to this gem.

6. Tokaido by Fun Forge (15 plays)

The Tokaido box in its austere beauty.

The Tokaido box in its austere beauty.

What an absolute joy this game is. The players compete as travelers in Japan, vying to have the most fulfilling vacation along the titular trail from Kyoto to Edo. Designed by the visionary Antoine Bauza, whose love for all things Japanese is hardly a secret, this game is gorgeous to look at and a joy to play.

With its airy design, light yet meaningful decision making, ridiculously simple rules and manageable play time – there are no obstacles for this to become a frequent and satisfying option. In fact it would probably place higher on the list but I only got this game around April of this year.

Check out my review of Tokaido here.


5. Carcassonne by Rio Grande Games (17 plays)

The game that gave us meeples

Game that gave us meeples

Ah, now we are getting to the real heavy hitters. Carcassonne is an epitome of elegant light design and a modern classic. The rules are so simple you can explain them in two minutes and you’re off laying tiles to construct appealing French countryside.

The rich strategic options, the ease of play that leaves open an opportunity to socialize, the very broad audience of people who know and love this game open up lots of chances to play it.

It doesn’t offer as many thrills as is it used to but bringing it to the table is like hanging out with an old friend – warm and familiar. In fact we had to gift our copy of Carcassonne to visiting relatives (second time this happened) to take home with them so we need to get a new copy so that this can score some more plays!


4. Sushi Go! by Gamewright (18 plays)

Board Game Habitat - Sushi Go

Sushi Go for Board Game Habitat

Not surprisingly the top of this list is dominated by games that are very quick to play. Sushi Go! with its 15 minute time commitment is certainly a light and welcoming option.

With its cute graphics and breezy gameplay that still makes you think – this is a very pleasant game even if it’s not going to be a centrepiece of your game night.

It is also a great game to introduce new players to board games and to the card drafting mechanics in general. Very easy to take on and who doesn’t like sushi! Speaking of theme – prepare to crave sushi any time you play this.

You can check out my review of Sushi Go! here.

3. Friday by Rio Grande Games (30 plays)

Friday game health

Things are not looking good for Robinson.

The race between the #2 and #3 game on this list is a very tight one, but for now the solo-only Friday takes the bronze in this list with 30 plays so far this year.

The game that invites you to teach Robinson Crusoe how to survive on the island by deck-building through overcoming a series of obstacles without dying. The versatile use of cars allows the game to achieve its goal with minimal components.

It is a difficult game with adjustable challenge and quick gameplay that packs a lot of decisions and tension. A great travel companion and a perfect way to get a quick gaming fix. One of my favourite games, even though the solo-only nature introduce natural limitations. You can check out my review of Friday here.

2. Dixit by Libellud (31 plays)

The art truly speaks for itself

The art truly speaks for itself

Few games can get people so engaged with so little rules. The truly breathtaking surreal art by Marie Cardouat lends this card game a nearly universal appeal.

Focusing on the players’ ability to interpret abstract imagery this games truly gets to something human and real – it never ends up being about the score or winners.

Every single group I introduced this game to loves it and I take it to most parties I go to. A great way to counter the views that board games are dry, non-interactive affairs, Dixit is a wonderful offering and one that only gets better with additional decks. My review is here.

1. Dungeon Roll by Tasty Ministrel Games (42 plays)

Dungeon roll - custom dice galore!

Custom dice galore!

Yup. The game I play most is Dungeon Roll. A simple (perhaps overly simple) design driven by custom dice to portray the classic tale of heroes descending into dungeons for loot and glory. I will be honest – Dungeon Roll is not a great game. It is 90% luck reliant and there isn’t a ton of variety. Why then did I play it so much and why am I likely to get to 60 plays by year’s end?

Very simple. My 2.5 year old son loves it. He gets to roll all the dice and is able to call out the results and it’s fun to tell colors and count up what he rolled. At this point he is even able to make decisions about resource use and knows functions of most of the treasures! We frequently play this while he’s eating – does a great job of capturing his attention.

I am very grateful to Chris Darden, Dungeon Roll’s designer for making a game that serves as my son’s first step into our hobby. You can check out my review of it here, though it only assesses the game as an adult offering, so misses the point entirely 🙂

In conclusion

I love that I played these games so many times this year. It really makes you appreciate their designs and get familiar with their flow. Highly recommend doing a similar experiment to see what you think of your favourite games – I bet your appreciation will increase! Have you done something similar? Which games got the most plays in your collection this year? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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