Things of No Interest: Geek Madness Sweet 16!

Things of No Interest: Geek Madness Sweet 16!

Sheesh, been so busy personally since the start of this beast, and now we are already down to the Sweet 16 this week! 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
Normally, I vote for all the games I really enjoy, but this year I'm voting only when I've played both the games in a match up. I thought I'd share my basic thoughts on the 26 matchups I did vote on. I've found that unlike the real March Madness Basketball tourney, there isn't much chance for a Cinderella story. A game might upset someone in the first round or two, but the heavy hitters pretty much put them in their place sooner rather than later. So here are my Sweet 16 votes.

Castles of Burgundy vs Puerto Rico
These are two well respected games (numbers 11 and 14 respectively on the all time BGG Top 100). I really like CoB and would happily play it in most settings. Like a lot of Feld's games, it is a point salad, but it doesn't feel like a point salad bar (which I think a lot of his designs tend towards). This feels well crafted and purposeful which is likely part of why it is so highly ranked.

Puerto Rico was king of the hill for a LONG time, but the evolution of heavy euros has shown us that there are better ways for games to do things. I am not a fan (so yeah, I voted for CoB). I know that there are a lot of folks that still love and play PR, and I liked it in the beginning too. This (like lots of games) is best when all the players are of a similar experience level, so after being introduced, I desired to learn the game more so that I didn't feel like I was throwing the game when playing with my regular group (major flaw #1 - player to the left of the newb has an advantage). Luckily for me, this was one of the first games to have an app developed for it (albeit for the PC). I acquired a copy and played the crap out of it (its pretty fast solo against AI). What I found was - there just isn't that many interesting choices. The game felt scripted (which is honestly why I don't love Chess as well) and it never felt like you could make interesting choices if something was not working out for you. Couple that with the kingmaker flaw I just mentioned and the fact that better games came out after it means that this was a pretty easy match up as far as I was concerned. I likely would have picked about anything (maybe not, I'm going to claim hatred for some of the other games below) over PR - put PR up against a GOOD game, and it isn't close.

Carcassonne vs Agricola
This was an interesting matchup to me. Agricola is a very good game (I prefer Caverna, but to each their own). Agricola was THE heavy game that finally knocked PR off its throne and opened the door for people to admit that other games were superior. As mentioned, I prefer Agricola's spiritual successor Caverna for a couple of reasons. The first is it feels more accessible to play when you don't play much. Agricola has a LOT of cards and the best way to play the game involved drafting at the start to ensure you have some synergy, but that also means having more than a passing knowledge of the base cards and what you are seeing. The other thing about Agricola that I don't love (which I know Agricola fans disagree with me about) is that it feels like I spend most of the game trying to figure out how to feed my family instead of how to build a good game engine. I get it. I also know that if I played it more, I'd probably get over that as I got familiar with it, but I just don't want to put the effort into it when I feel like I can get what I want from a similar, but different game.

Carcassonne is really whole different category of game. Carc is a tile laying game that could be considered a gateway game. It also has a slew of expansions that make the game interesting and different in lots of ways. I have played a TON of Carc, because Carc was one of the first (and still best) conversion apps on the iPad. A lot of expansions have been released and I the easy online and async play made this a game I kept playing. I also learned quickly that this is a dick game - it invites play that will piss you and the other players off. That's when I stopped playing it as much. I pretty much only play this two players now (as lots of players is slow and chaotic) and even then, somewhat infrequently.

So which did I vote for? I voted for Carc, because honestly if there were two games forming and I had my choice of which to play, I'd probably opt for Carc and hope I didn't flip the table (or have it flipped on me). Kidding aside, I'm just more familiar with Carc (honestly in my two game scenario, I'd probably see if the Agricola group would consider Caverna instead first).

Power Grid vs Pandemic
This wasn't even a matchup that I had to think about. One of the best games of all time against a co-op with the Alpha player flaw? Yeah, pretty simple in my mind. You can call PG an exercise in math, but if that's all it was, it wouldn't have won this tournament 5 times since 2005. PG kicks ass because it is a kick ass auction game where sometimes the best thing you can do is sandbag a little. Playing the timing and manipulating the other players idea of what the timing actually is through the auction is what makes this such a wonderful game.

I've read that Pandemic Legacy is amazing, but that wasn't the match up here, so bye bye silly co-op game.

Through the Ages vs Stone Age
For those that have been living in a cave (in the stone age) and don't know, Through the Ages is the board game version of the amazing Civ series of computer games. Not the official one, but really, it is - who are we trying to kid? I loved Civ - I bought a PC back in the early 90s just to play Civ. The first time I played TtA, I was in love. Then I played it some more and honestly it didn't take that long for me to realize that TtA is not a good game. There, I said it. NOT A GOOD GAME. It is a long heavy game (which is perfectly fine by me), but it is a bash the loser game. And if you are the loser, sorry, there is no catchup mechanism, you are just screwed and will play out the rest of the game in misery. The worst part is, you might be the loser due to pure bad luck in the early part of the game. Military is king early and you might not be able to get the things that others are getting. If so, they have no incentive to attack anyone else with power and you will get repeatedly bashed. Thematically it makes sense, but it doesn't make the game enjoyable.

Stone Age is a mediocre worker placement game. It was a good game for its time, but the mechanics were done better in the game that came after it. That being said, it doesn't suck like TtA, so it got my vote. I'm not foolish enough to think it matters, but I just can't say that TtA is the better game - it isn't.

Dominion vs Ticket to Ride

So, the Granddaddy of all deckbuilder games (Dominion) vs what is arguably the best gateway game and series of games? Let me break it down for you. Dominion is not that great. Honestly, Thunderstone came out shortly after Dominion and it was miles better. It didn't take long for deck/dice/bag builders to take the fundamental mechanic and do more interesting and less flawed things with it. Is Dominion a train wreck of a game? No, it just is boring to me. I'd rather do yard work than play Dominion (and if you know me, you know I hate yard work).
Ticket to Ride? One of my top ten games. The base game itself is a wonderful gateway game that I still enjoy. The map variants tweak each game in small but interesting ways. The reason this game is so good is that it is both accessible to new players and still has interesting decisions for experienced gamers. And by still, I mean that I will still play this game anytime someone suggests it. It is good regardless of the number of players and honestly, I have enjoyed every single map I've played. It is just a good game...
And there were my picks. There were a number of matchups I didn't do (obviously since I only talked about 5 of the 8) - Gloomhaven vs Scythe (GH is currently leading), 7 Wonders vs Terraforming Mars (TM is winning), and Terra Mystica vs Pandemic Legacy (PL leading). I may have to vote for what I know in the coming rounds - we'll see how I feel.
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