Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Alan Moon

The best games of designer Alan Moon...

Just missed the cut:

Also nominated:
For comparison, the top five games from 2002:
Alan Moon has re-released a number of his games in multiple editions...
  • The Apple Pickers preferred Elfenland over Elfenroads or Elfenland w/the Elfengold expansion (both of which are OOP).
  • The responses were closer on the various editions of Ticket To Ride, but the newest, Marklin, is the most popular with this group of hardcore gamers.
  • There was a slight preference for Santa Fe Rails over Santa Fe. A couple of folks mentioned Clippers as their favorite game in this "family".
  • The picks in the 10 Days series were scattered between Europe, Europa Tour (the original German game) and USA.



Blogger David Fair said...

I can't believe my fellow apple-pickers voted in New England over Capitol. New England is a fine game, but Capitol is a real treasure. What were you guys thinking?

Oh well, at least San Marco also made it in.

10:21 AM  
Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

And, I, your humble Apples Project Guru, think you (and a number of the Apple Pickers) have flipped their lids to even nominate New England, San Marco and/or Capitol. All three games "work" - I just don't have any fun playing them.

OTOH, Mush & Andromeda were unfairly left out in the cold... at least Get the Goods & Freight Train got nominated.


Of course, the last Moon game I played was Immer Oben Auf.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Tery N said...

While I don't always mind a random element in my game, it really bothers me in Andromeda. I don't think Andromeda can hold a candle to Capitol, which seems to generally be unappreciated, or San Marco.

I think my favorite Alan Moon game is probably Union Pacific.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Shannon Appelcline said...

I'm sure there's an increasing number of people, myself included, who have never got to play Capitol because it is and has been Out of Print.

And the result is just. It makes much more sense to me to have a winner that people can actually play than one that isn't available.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

I'm with you, Mark (well, maybe not on Mush, but otherwise). I knew this was going to be one category that I was seriously out of sync with the rest of the voters. New England? San Marco? Oasis? These are at best average games, in my opinion. I wouldn't have voted for Andromeda myself, but I would have voted for it ahead of any of these games.

I'm also surprised to see Get the Goods/Reibach dropped to being only a "nominee". I would have thought this older, more elegant game would have done better with the voters. I expected it to be a shoo-in.

I voted for Union Pacific, Sante Fe, and Get the Goods. I nominated Mammoth Hunters, but I fully expected to be throwing my vote away on that one.

I'd also comment that Elfenland vs. Elfenroads is a tough one as to whether to split or group. Ultimately I think Elfenland and Elfenroads (perhaps grouped with Elfengold) should have gotten a different grouping, if only beause while I find Elfenland to be decent, I would never, ever, ever play Elfenroads again. It's just far, far too long for what it is, in my opinion.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Kurt Adam said...

I'd easily drop New England for the inclusion of Reibach/Get the Goods. As Chris says, it's an elegant game. Majorities stripped of everything but the competition itself. I'm happy to play Elfenland when time restrictions come into play, but I'd rather break out Elfenroads. I enjoy Capitol as well.

Andromeda, on the other hand, Herr Fluff Daddy, is not something that comes back on the table when I'm there without some serious arm twisting and favors to be named later. Tery is on target with her assessment.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Kurt Adam said...

I am with you, though, on the merits of Mush. At some point it would be nice to pry the details of Alan's original design out of him as it seemed that it would have made it a more interesting game and would have addressed the concerns of some of its detractors.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Patrick Korner said...

I'd play Capitol over New England just about any day. I'm very surprised by that one.

I'd question your comment about it making more sense to have winners that are available, Shannon - I disagree. The mandate here was not to have to give in-print titles more weight over OOP ones - the picks are based on what is good, period.

Of the top five, only New England and Ticket to Ride are currently in-print, unless my memory is even shoddier than I think...


11:09 AM  
Blogger Kevin_Whitmore said...

With no disrespect intended, Alan Moon's games never seem to get much table-time at my home.

We played a fair bit of U.P. and Elfenland a few years ago, but they seem to get skipped over unless we have the awkward 6 player scenario. But while both games handle 6, they drag - so I often don't really want to play either game with 6 players either.

As for the rest, they grade in a scale of "pretty good, but mostly don't get played" (New England, TtR, Get the Goods) down to "actively avoid" (San Marco).

11:10 AM  
Blogger Shannon Appelcline said...

They're mostly in print, in particular Elfenland, Santa Fe Rails, Clippers, and San Marco are all available from funagain this very moment. (The San Marco may be a limited supply they have.)

As for the general OOP issue: whether something should be on the list or not is less relevent. If it's OOP, fewer people will have played it, and thus it's less likely to be honored here.

I'll agree that there are a few Moon games that get play specifically due to player numbers: San Marco (3) and Union Pacific (6). However Ticket to Ride, New England, Oasis, and 10 Days are all much more open, accessible & interesting games in my view, each for their own demographic.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Nick Sauer said...

I guess I really don't have to say anything to defend New England as a game since it made the list but, I feel it is a good game that has withstood the test of time, so far, in our group. I have never played Capitol myself as all the gamers in the groups I was involved with at the time it was released universally panned it. I own Andromeda and haven't played it in years due to randomness element that Tery mentioned. I also agree with Chris and Kurt on Get the Goods which I had voted for as well. My other three votes where for 10 days in Europe (I think Africa might be stronger but would have to play it more and, hated USA), Elfenland/gold and Ticket to Ride Marklin which I feel is easily the strongest entry in the series to date. I couldn't vote for Union Pacific because the only way we play it these days is without the UP stock.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Mark Wilder said...

How the BGG community as a whole ranks 'em (raw average):

Ticket to Ride
Märklin - 7.87677
Europe - 7.77023
Original - 7.7061
Union Pacific - 7.55352 Elfenroads - 7.46406
Elfengold - 7.18566
Elfenland - 6.92865
San Marco - 7.39525
Santa Fe - 7.24028
SF Rails - 7.05158
Capitol - 7.2148
Oasis - 6.99331
Diamant - 6.91126
New England - 6.89822
Get the Goods - 6.86274
(Airlines - 6.83765)
(Das Amulett - 6.82123)
(Clippers - 6.79041)
10 Days
Africa - 6.71596
USA - 6.63206
Europe - 6.55854
Freight Train - 6.56749

Pretty close to the Apple Pickers in general, with the noticible switch between Capitol and New England.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan Degann said...

Well, this hardcore gamer finds it to be heretical that the preferred way to play Elfenland would be *without* the gold rules. Wimps!

Now, FWIW, the gold expansion is unfortunately hard to come by, but if you're determined you'll find the rules posted on the Geek, and you can incorporate 90% of the game with virtually no new components. You'll just need to create another pig chit, you'll need to label the board with gold values, and you'll want to create some gold cards. You can play without the magic chits - which I find to be a little chaotic anyway.

Also, I'm saddened but not at all surprised to see Das Amulett (being reissued as Wizard's Brew) left off. It was released at the same time as San Marco and Capitol, and was always the game that got ignored. But I think it's teriffic, and my own favorite of the three. It has always been a hit when I introduce it at SoCal Games Day.

Mark the Insane Pastor Guy doesn't understand why Andromeda missed the cut. Andromeda. Andromeda. Ahhh. I actually like the mechanisms, but it's got more mechanisms than game. The trading system ends up accomplishing too little, and the game ends up being determined by how you shake the cosmic ashtray.

On the Ticket to Ride version question - I "voted" for Maerklin, but the fact is: it's a terrific game and all three versions are fun. Few games are better than Ticket to Ride for pure pleasure. See my appreciation at: http://jbdgames.blogspot.com/2006/01/ticket-to-ride.html

12:15 PM  
Anonymous josh miller said...

I'm also flummoxed by New England making the final list. I thought that game flamed out years ago. It was fun the first time I played, a little less fun the second, and then got progressively duller. I would have thought that Santiago's release was the nail in the coffin for New England, since Santiago uses the same bidding system much more effectively.

I would gladly play any of the games on the nomination list without any arm-twisting - except New England (I've never tried Oasis due to bad word-of-mouth).

I used to share Chris Farrell's opinion regarding Get the Goods and its bare-bones, focused appeal. Then I played the game again recently. Totally bored me. The whole time, I wished I were playing Freight Train instead. Freight Train has the same basic structure as Get the Goods with none of the elegance. Elegance has its place, but I'll take the nuance and tactical maneuvering of Freight Train over the boiled-down simplicity of Get the Goods every day of the week.

Here's how I'd rank Moon's games:

Top Tier (classics)
(1) Ticket to Ride (original, others lower)
(2) Freight Train
(3) Union Pacific, played with no track cards (otherwise lower - too little payoff for their fuss), and with 4-5 players
(4) Elfenland w/ expansion (basic Elfenland bores me and Elfenroads is too long)

Second Tier (very good)
Wongar (yes, Wongar)
Ticket to Ride Märklin
10 Days in Africa (others lower)
Santa Fe/Santa Fe Rails (but not Clippers)

Third Tier (solid, nothing special)
Ticket to Ride Europe
San Marco

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take Where's Bob's Hat? over almost this entire list. I'd rather play just about any Hearts or Spades variant than play New England or Oasis. San Marco and Capitol have stood the test of time for me, but only because they don't descend in my esteem with repeated plays--although they were not ever games that thrilled me. Union Pacific and its predecessors are all more fun than almost any other Alan Moon game that I've played, and TtR is sufficiently peppered with mass appeal so as to immediately not appeal to me. Of course I'm regarded as an Alan Moon stalker, so who cares what I think, it's all going to end in injunctive relief anyway.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Erik Arneson said...

Immer Oben Auf is a fun memory game, Mr. Jackson -- did you enjoy it?

I agree that Capitol is a great game, but I did not vote for it (at least I don't think I did -- I'm doing this from memory right now) because it's not available very easily. I don't know if anyone else used that as a criteria, but it's definitely one that I'm using. When people find a list of great games, I want them to be able to buy those games. So if an OOP game is only marginally better than another choice, it loses my vote to that other choice.

I do think that Diamant should have been on the final list in place of Santa Fe (it will be widely available soon!), but that's OK because I agree with everything else on the list.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Dave Arnott said...

Hmmm... I didn't vote for New England, either. I sense a conspiracy! I'm pretty sure the numbers in both Ohio and Florida were very low for Capitol, Oasis, and New England.

I think I had 3 "no votes" in this category last time. A lot of Alan's good games are *just* that for me. Good, but not vote-worthy.

This time around, though, I had both Ticket to Ride and Diamant to add. And I got in a game of Freight Train this year, and was reminded how much I like it. So... no "no votes" needed.

Union Pacific & Elfengames, if you were wondering.

I agree with Josh, by the way. I like the extra stuff going on in Freight Train. Even if it is hard to see everything... and find a table big enough to play it on.

The streamlining in Get the Goods not only reduces the "management" aspect of this system for me, but also creates a more pronounced runaway leader problem than I don’t think exists in Freight Train. Or fall away trailer. Either way, Freight Train feels like the better game to me.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Womzilla (Kevin J. Maroney) said...

My favorite Moon game is still his Hearts variant Black Spy, and I'm very disappointed it didn't even make the long list. But what really surprises me is that a group of dedicated gamers would vote for New England ahead of . . . Oasis, since they're basically the same game except that Oasis is better in every way.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

I do like Freight Train. Pushing around those little railroad cars, trying to get everything in the right order and all, is just plain fun. It takes a little longer than you expect in these days when designers pack more complications than an opera into a 45-minute game, but I still have the patience for it. (What I'm not sure I have is a table big enough for it.)

I also like Union Pacific. I've played Get the Goods and Airlines, but it's Union Pacific where there are enough complications to make it interesting and a nice clean ending to make it incisive. Our group has played this one steadily since it first appeared, enjoying all the rules -- the UP stock, the track limitations, the whole locomotive. But it's worth mentioning that our intrepid Mr. Moon posted a "fix" for Union Pacific to the internet games groups practically the same week the game was published, telling us all that the UP stock should only be acquired by trading a regular piece of stock for it. That's one of several rules that are played different ways by different groups, and any time you sit down at a convention to play this one, you have to conference first on which rules you're going to play. Where to put the dividend cards is another big fork in the road. I think the original rules say to shuffle one into the first quarter of the deck and the other three into the rest of the deck. Our group played for years where we were dividing the deck into four parts and putting one dividend card into each fourth -- but recently, having imprinted the game so thoroughly in our ancestral memory, have taken to the original, more unpredictable method just to throw some extra SURPRISE! into an extremely familiar game. Another thing we've been doing lately is playing the six-handed game in three partnerships. (Each player follows the usual rules about melding, but the partnership's holdings are kept together.) Years ago when we had learned Acquire backwards and forwards, partnership was one of many variations we used to spice it up (for Acquire each partner's holdings are kept separate), and we've found it a very entertaining approach with Union Pacific, too.

Now, on the one hand, you might say it's too bad that the game doesn't have a single agreed-upon form that everybody understands and plays. On the other hand, you can observe that Union Pacific certainly stands up to an awful lot of small variations by a lot of different players fine-tuning it to their personal preferences and still works well, which speaks to the underlying strength of the design.

Elfenland is another one that has more than one "standard" form, with the rulebook actually having been changed subsequent to the first edition. Our group learned the rules in the first edition and became very fond of the rule that you get eight new cards for each round, after having saved no more than four from the previous round. The later edition rulebook says you only get to refill your hand to eight cards, so if you use all eight cards, you get eight more cards -- if you only use four cards, you only get four more cards. So obviously, most of the time you use as many of your cards as you can. We shudder at the barbarity of this method. What of those lovely, juicy decisions about saving a card in hopes it will be more valuable in the subsequent round? So we stick with the original rule -- but, and this was a problem for many a moon, it does make the game tend to end in a multi-way tie for all 20 cities and come down to the tiebreaker of how many cards you've got left. And it did tend to make the game for six (which is the number we'll most likely have playing) run for more than two hours, which was... well, a little more fun than we really wanted to have with it. Finally we cut the game down from four rounds to three, which brings it in under an hour and a half, makes the winning score more like 17, and gives us new and interesting problems to solve in the route-efficiency side of the game.

So this speaks to the strength of the Elfenland design, too.

Ticket to Ride, which I felt from the start was a wonderful game, is proving by going through a series of different rules sets being released in different editions not only the strength of its underlying design but the strength of its marketing plan. The elegance of the original edition has made it my favorite so far, but maybe there's an edition yet to come which I'll like even better.

Das Amulett is probably my favorite of all the other Alan Moon games, but it's difficult to say for sure since I've only ever gotten to play it once. Hopefully the new edition in English translation will help get me more chances to play.

Stven Carlberg

7:18 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Mostly good news here for one of my favorite designers. I'm pleasantly surprised that New England made the final cut--it isn't the most exciting game and the play is pretty subtle, so it is often overlooked. I'm also delighted that both Get the Goods and Oasis were nominated. Unlike some others, I never expected either game to make the final five, so garnering a nomination is plenty good enough for me.

Not all the news is good, though, as Capitol misses out after making the grade last time around. With six nominees and Diamant just missing (really?), that means Capitol finished no higher than eighth, which is quite a tumble. It's a shame, as this and San Marco are clearly Alan & Aaron's best designs and these two are easily my favorite Moonies. Being OOP for three years probably doomed it and that tells me that it's high time some publisher picked this up for a reprint (minus the scoring columns, please!).

My votes went for the sublime San Marco, Capitol, Get the Goods, New England, and UP. Get the Goods really is brilliant, but to many it's "just a card game". It also suffers from Elfenland disease, as there are just about as many variants out there as there are players (I, naturally, have my own). It's too bad the game doesn't get more respect. BTW, I definitely prefer it to Freight Train, as I think it accomplishes the same thing in a quarter of the time. Had I been given two more votes, I would have happily cast them for TtR (as long as it was for Marklin) and Oasis, another unappreciated gem (I prefer it to the original TtR).

As for those that did make it, Elfenland has never gone beyond "good" for me. I'm not sure why; it has all the elements of a game I should love. I really do want to try out the Elfengold expansion some day--maybe that would make me love it, as long as the downtime isn't too bad. SFR continues to be well regarded, which surprises me just a little. I find the basic design very appealing, but the luck factor knocks it down a good deal. I much prefer Clippers, in spite of its awful physical design and nonengaging theme. Still, I wouldn't bitch about playing any of the finalists, another indication of my fondness of Moon designs.

There are exceptions, though. Andromeda, Mark? Ya sniffin' too many candles there, Preacher Man? Again, this is a design I REALLY wanted to like, as the basic sets-for-actions idea is great (Wallace used it quite effectively in Tyrus), but oh my god, the luck factor! I still have nightmares about that damn ashtray!

7:28 PM  

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