Liv's Beehive

A Year of Board Games

Monday 1 January 2024

In early 2022, if you had mentioned board games, I would have assumed you meant something like Monopoly, Scrabble, or one of the many other "classics" you find in the toy aisle of pretty much any shop.

But then at some point Youtube recommended me a video from Shut Up and Sit Down and I discovered the world of "modern" or "hobby" board gaming. I watched more and more of their videos, and soon I was hooked.

For my birthday that year I was given a few board games, and I didn't know it at the time, but that was the start of what would become one of my main hobbies.

The boxes for Horrified, Sagrada, and Switch & Signal stood up on a table

I wanted to write this post now to summarise my first full year of board gaming, from 1st January 2023 to 31st December.

For the first few months of the year I was playing with my partner at the time, exclusively playing everything two player.

One of the highlights was playing through the second half of the Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion campaign which we had started late in 2022. I enjoy the Gloomhaven system a lot (it's a dungeon crawling game where your character has a unique set of cards with two halves, and each round you must play the top half of one card and the bottom half of another.) and was tempted to buy the main Gloomhaven game which has nearly 100 scenarios to play through, but didn't get a chance to.

An in-progress game of Gloomhaven, with standees and miniatures a map in the pages of a book, and an iPad keeping track of enemy health.

In April we parted ways and I was suddenly entering the world of solo board gaming. Many board games don't have a way to play by yourself, but as I soon discovered, a large number do!

An especially good genre of games for playing alone is roll-and-write games (roll a dice or flip over a card, then use that to draw something or mark something on your own personal sheet) since you play with your own sheet and what you do doesn't affect other players. I especially like using my iPad for these games, because it's easier to correct mistakes and I'll never run out of sheets to play on.

A game in progress where an iPad has an abstract tube map drawn in various colours connecting stations represented by symbols. Next to the iPad are cards with the different symbols on.

Around August I met my current partner šŸ¦Š and so multiplayer was back on the table (pun very much intended)! One of our favourite games to play is Artisans of Splendent Vale, which is a co-op adventure campaign game that plays similarly to D&D, but each character has an entire book with their dialogue and choices for what to do. I've always wanted to try playing D&D, but I feel like I don't have the imagination for it, so this is a nice compromise ā€“ it's less flexible than a "proper" D&D campaign, because there's no room for emergent storytelling, but I don't have to feel quite so self conscious because I don't have to improvise. The combat is also fun without being punishing.

A combat scene from Artisans of Splendent Vale, where an enemy spider is riding on the back of a bigger enemy spider.

In late September, I learned about Solotober, an annual challenge to play a solo board game each day in October and share your thoughts with the group. It's no surprise that October was the month I played the most games out of the entire year, because I made sure to play a solo game each day, even on days where I also played two player. I really enjoyed the act of reporting back about what I had played, and it made me sad when November arrived and there was nowhere to share anymore.

That is... until I learned about Solitaire Games On Your Table! This is another group of like-minded solo gamers who like to play games and share their experiences. There's no challenge or requirement, just a friendly community of people who like to hear about what you've been playing. I discovered it at the start of December and I've been posting there every time I play a solo game ever since. The act of writing about a game after playing it makes it more satisfying, somehow.

So, about that collection: going into 2023, my collection contained 12 games. As of 31st December, there are 65 (plus a bunch of expansions that aren't included in that number). I think I'm hooked.

A set of shelves full of board games.

For the record, I did also remove some games during the year: sometimes you play a game and realise it's not for you for some reason or another. For example, Twilight Inscription left after being played once, because it has an extremely mean combat mechanic. I recently sold Brass Birmingham (currently rated the best game of all time on BoardGameGeek) because although I enjoyed playing it, it's a very complicated game and doesn't have a solo mode.

Other than amassing a collection, another way I played some games I wouldn't otherwise have access to was by visiting a board game cafe. For a small fee you can book a table and play any of the games in their library, which often has a couple of hundred games available. It's a great way to try games to see if you like them before spending money on them. This was how I discovered games like Wingspan, Everdell, and Dunc Imperium.

Being a nerd for tracking data, I use an app to track every time I play a board game. As a nice summary of just how many board games I played in 2023, here's a year in review (which I had to make by hand because I don't know of a tool that will generate something like this).

A year in review image styled similar to the ones created by steam. 80 games played; 195 plays; 61 new games; 153 hours; 159 days played

Here's a breakdown of the top 10 most played games from the image:

  1. My City: Roll & Build is a roll-and-write where the dice determine the shape and size of a building on a grid. Played 10 times.
  2. Dorfromantik is based on the video game of the same name. It's a co-operative game where each turn you place a tile to build out villages in the countryside to try and meet goals. Played 9 times.
  3. Azul is an abstract game about making patterns with coloured tiles. One of the few games left in my collection that doesn't have a solo mode. Played 7 times.
  4. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion ā€“ described above. Played 6 times.
  5. Railroad Ink is another roll-and-write where the dice have roads and train tracks which must be placed on a grid to form a connected network. This is one of my favourites because of how simple it is. Played 6 times.
  6. Next Station London is not only another roll-and-write, but it's anothe train-themed roll-and-write. Flipping over cards with symbols on determines which stations to add to the tube network. Played 6 times.
  7. Kim-Joy's Magic Bakery is no longer in my collection because it can't be played solo. It's a co-op game about running a bakery by playing and exchanging ingredient cards to bake cakes. Played 6 times.
  8. Marvel Champions is another co-op card game about Marvel superheroes teaming up to fight villains. Each hero has unique cards that are very thematic and make a lot of sense in context. Played 5 times.
  9. Artisans of Splendent Vale ā€“ described above. Played 5 times.
  10. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is similar to Marvel Champions but instead of superheroes, you play as investigators hunting for clues to Lovecraftian horrors. Played 5 times.

Of course there are lots of other games I played in 2023 that I can't mention here. Usually board game people share their top 10 favourite games at the end of the year, but I struggle to pick my favourites because my collection only contains games I like and would want to play more.

One last highlight of 2023: in December I played my first ever games with more than two people! We met up with a couple of friends at a board game cafe and played train themed games with four players. I'm hoping to do that again soon.

To wrap up this wrap-up, I will simply say that my intention in 2024 to continue playing board games just as much (if not more), but maybe to curb the spending a little bit. I don't want to think about the total cost of my current collection, but it's probably a scary number. I'm taking part in the 2024 Mindful Spending Challenge to hopefully keep a lid on it and try to play more of what I already own.

And of course, I'll continue posting on SGOYT about the things I'm playing, because if this long post didn't give it away, I enjoy talking about board games almost as much as playing them.