Things of No Interest: Geek Madness 2018 Final Four

Things of No Interest: Geek Madness 2018 Final Four

We are down to the Final Four! So, for those that haven't kept up - it is that time of year again! Time for the 15th Geek Madness Tournament. Each year, folks get to vote on their favorite games in head-to-head matchups to determine the best! Past winners:

Past Champions of the Aldie Award:
2017: The Castles of Burgundy
2016: Power Grid
2015: 7 Wonders
2014: Android: Netrunner
2013: Android: Netrunner
2012: Agricola
2011: Agricola
2010: Power Grid
2009: Twilight Struggle
2008: Power Grid
2007: Power Grid
2006: Power Grid
2005: Puerto Rico
2004: Tigris and Euphrates

The full 2018 bracket

Last year's title winner (Castles of Burgundy) was eliminated in the previous round of 8. We have a new title guaranteed to make the finals against two classics - one that has won the tournament multiple times and the other a two-time runner-up. The new games I haven't played at all, so I'm going to pick solely based on which I'd rather play if I only had the opportunity to try one or the other.

Terraforming Mars vs Gloomhaven
I predicted this as the likely showdown last week. Two new hotness games. Let's start with Terraforming Mars.

What I think I know about Terraforming Mars: card driven (though not a deck builder) game, engine building game, asymmetrical player factions, slight nod to tactics over long term strategy, medium (towards the heavier side) of Euros.

What I think I know about Gloomhaven: dungeon crawler, legacy game, card driven, branching quest-story.

So far, I have avoided Terraforming Mars due to its length and a number of reviews that have indicated that there is a fair bit of luck of the draw with cards and a lot of card reading that needs to be done. If this was a 90 minute game, that'd be ok, but a 2+ hour game makes me hesitant to try this. It is likely the kind of game I'd enjoy playing at least once. On the other hand, I love fantasy games with a campaign, but this game has a couple of reviews that have kept me away (that and the price of the game, but since we are assuming I got the opportunity to play one or the other of these two, that isn't the consideration here). Things I've read that don't sound fun: make or break decision points (anyone that ever read a choose your own adventure book as a kid and kept their finger in the last section they were at knows why this sort of thing is obnoxious), setup and teardown, and between game maintenance. I have Descent 2nd ed (which I love) and a lot of it. It lets me play solo, co-op or head-to-head, campaign or Diablo (random dungeon) style, and is in my head, quick.

So how do I choose? I waffled on this one a lot. In the end I picked Terraforming Mars. Gloomhaven would be one where the satisfaction would come from playing it a bunch and experiencing the life of the campaign and the growth of the heroes. All I'd really get out of a single play would be an understanding of the mechanics. With Terraforming Mars, I'd at least get a chance to see if this is something I'd really like, or if it is just the next "Agricola hotness", which I feel it may be. Being that doesn't make it bad or mean I wouldn't enjoy it, but it seems as though a lot of the appeal and hype is from the same player crowd. Regardless, if I had to pick one to sit and play, Terraforming Mars would be my choice. Lucky for me, it sounds like the app version is coming soon and I'll actually get to try it out sooner or later.

Ticket to Ride vs Power Grid
This is an amazing match up of what are now "classic" games. I've written about the two before, so if you want my thoughts on why I like each please go back and check my previous posts.

So how do I pick the "better game"? If I use the same standard as I did for Terraforming Mars and Gloomhaven - which game would I rather sit and play if I had to pick one - I might say that it depends on who I would be sitting down with at the table and how many of us there were (which feels like I'm looking at my two kids looking at me while I pick my favorite).

For two or three players, Power Grid is just no good, while Ticket to Ride really shines. For 4-6 players, both games are excellent, but Ticket to Ride is easier for newer players. But if the 4-6 players are gamers, Power Grid is SOOOOOO good. When I first got into gaming, it was probably 6 months of weekly game nights before I played the same game twice and I'm sure that Power Grid is the first game I got to replay. After a little while, I could get a game of PG in just about every week and never minded if I did. On the surface, it all seems very straight forward, but the depth of manipulation needed to do well at the game is what makes this one a perennial champion in this tournament.

After more than 10 years, Ticket to Ride has not only survived, but thrived because of the things that make it a great game. Large number of expansion maps that make the game interesting and different without completely overhauling the experience (note, this is also the same for Power Grid), really good for any number of players (2-6), and quick turns with simple enough choices that a new player isn't overwhelmed, but interesting enough decisions in the game for experienced gamers to want to play.  A family game that gamers can enjoy.

In the end, I voted for Power Grid. While both games are excellent and while it certainly sounds like I was making an argument for Ticket to Ride, I've just had more "great" gaming moments playing Power Grid. Not that Ticket to Ride hasn't been for me, because any game that I can play with my family and gamer friends is a great game.

So there you have it. If you too want to vote, go let your voice be heard! Vote at: 2018 Geek Madness Tournament: Round 6 - Final Four

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