7 Wonders: A strange game where you pass your hands around, only taking one card at a time before playing it to get resources or build stuff. It's apparently the hot new thing, having shot up the BoardGameGeek ranks. You play through three ages, and then tally up the points, so it only lasts half an hour. Cassie ended up beating the hell out of us by going for science buildings that increased her score exponentially.
Alien Frontiers: A game I wish we'd played more than once. You roll dice that represent your spaceships, and then, based on your rolls, you assign them to collect resources, acquire alien artifacts, or colonize the planet. And like all worker-placement games, you can't all do the same thing! I'm really not sure why I enjoyed it so much, but there was enough of a mix of luck and strategy to it that I didn't mind losing.
Arkham Horror: My brother and I played two characters each to make it a four-player game. This game has a MILLION CARDS, sheesh. The very first time monsters showed up, they were ridonkulously hard, so we redrew and got easy ones...and then for some weird reason the game was really easy for an hour or so. Until it got really hard. But we beat the monsters back and closed all the gates in town, and the Old One did not awaken! After like four hours or whatever, geez. It seriously didn't feel that long!
Back to the Future: The Card Game: It's Chrononauts, but with Back to the Future! This was one game I brought. You play as a descendant of one of the characters from the trilogy who is trying to preserve their existence by setting the timeline a certain way.
Bananagrams: It's Scrabble, but with bananas! Not really. It's more like Speed Scrabble, but with crosswords. I actually won one game of this!
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game: The last game we played before I left. Their friends Jeff and Elaine came over, which allowed us an optimal five-player game (although Jeff had to leave early, leaving Cassie and then Elaine to play him). It's an interesting mechanic, with "skill checks" being used to overcome obstacles. You play the cards you normally use to do things as their numerical values, but both Destiny and any Cylons can sabotage your efforts! Fucking Cylons! Even if you're not a Cylon, you may become one halfway through the game. And my fucking brother turned out to have been a Cylon the WHOLE FUCKING TIME and was giving us bad advice, which we didn't notice since we'd never played before. Cassie was the other Cylon from the start. They were the Admiral and President, respectively, so the humans were kind of fucked from the get-go.
Betrayal at House on the Hill: This game has shoddily made components that warp like hell and rules that aren't very clear, but it's so much fun, and every game is a new experience. You build the house as you explore, and once you trigger the Haunt, you read from one of fifty scenarios in which one of you becomes a traitor (except for at least one scenario where there is no traitor...and some where there's a hidden traitor [ME!]). It's a really cool setup because the heroes and the traitor sometimes don't know what the other side knows, what the goals are, what's going on with the house, how characters move, and so on. If only all the cardboard didn't warp and the game designers had actually taken the time to playtest their scenarios so they could clarify what were sure to be frequently asked questions.
Bohnanza: The fast-paced game of BEAN FARMING. It took me a few rounds to understand how this game worked, as it's not really about what you have in your hand but what you can trade with other players so that you can plant what you need to plant.
Carcassonne: The classic tile-placement game! And, you guys, I TOTALLY WON BOTH GAMES. I BEAT MY BROTHER. HE DID NOT WIN. BOO-YAH. And both times, I had the same strategy. I made one really long road until I got an inn on the lake that made it count double, and I also worked for most of the game on one ridonkulously huge city that gave me megapoints when I finally completed it. And then some clever farming. I really like a game I can win! I'm also really impressed with the tile design in that there are so many ways you can build, but there's almost always a tile that will fit in a given space, and any given space will generally accommodate a tile.
Citadels: A game in which you secretly choose roles in the beginning and then play in that order, always being wary of the Assassin and Thief, who go first and second. If you're able, you can build stuff with your gold...until the Warlord destroys it! It would be interesting to play with more than two players, though.
Claustrophobia: Kiran's Christmas present for Cassie was an elaborate two-player game in which one player controls the humans and one player controls the demons as the hapless humans explore underground tunnels and fight off cute little troglodytes. Like in Betrayal, you build the board as you explore, but the game tiles are HUGE. You roll dice to plan your moves and attacks. It's really fun!
Cyclades: A Greek mythology-themed game of bidding for the gods' favor! You have to outbid your opponents to win the favor of Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, or Athena, or you get shunted to Apollo, who doesn't ask for anything but doesn't give much in return either. And makes you go last. But you can still hire mythological creatures like Sirens and Medusa! You must conquer isles and build cities into metropolises (metropoli?). I totally won Poseidon's favor and basically conquered the seas, and then someone RELEASED THE KRAKEN. Cassie had amassed a small army one of her isles, but since I ruled the ocean, she couldn't really deploy them anywhere. And then out of nowhere Kiran suddenly won the game, the little bastard.
Dixit: The best new party game! It's like Apples to Apples, but better. You all get very interesting paintings as your cards, and the "storyteller" describes his painting with a word or phrase or sentence. Everyone else then puts down a card from their hand that matched the description...and then you all vote on which one you think was the storyteller's. The storyteller doesn't score any points if everyone guesses his or if no one guesses his, so you have to find a clue somewhere in the middle. And of course you get points if other people guess yours, but only if at least one person actually guessed the storyteller's correctly. It's really fun, and it lends itself to cleverness and random references. Cassie's grandmother gave my favorite clue, which was "Captains of Industry" to describe two ants swordfighting on a stack of gold coins.
Dominion: Prosperity: My love of Dominion is known far and wide, so I was excited to play the Prosperity expansion, which adds a new Treasure card (Platinum!) and a new Victory card (Colony!) and crazy new cards like a Treasure card that is worth as many Treasure cards as you have in play. You start getting shitloads of money in your hand, and now you can actually do something with all of it! Too bad we never got to play around with King's Court, which allows you to play an Action card three times.
Dungeon Lords: An adorable and fun game where you're on the opposite side of an adventure game! You construct a dungeon and set traps and hire monsters to ward off those pesky adventurers. And you have to be careful of the Evilometer, since the more Evil you are, the harder the adventurers your dungeon attracts! The basic mechanic is Kiran and Cassie's favorite: worker placement. In a three-player game, you have to have a phantom fourth player to take up spaces and get in your way, and I decided it was Jigna, who was in India with the rest of the family. There was a frequent refrain of "Dammit, Jigs!" as she foiled our plans from across the sea.
Fresco: More worker placement fun, this time as a master painter with apprentices who are sent out to buy paints at the market, restore the fresco at the cathedral, paint portraits at the studio, mix paints at the workshop, and...go to the theater? Yes, because you have to keep your mood up, since getting up early makes you grumpy and an apprentice will leave you. It's much more fun and interesting than it looks at first glance, especially because turn order keeps changing based on who's winning, and turn order only determines when you get to choose your wake-up time, with earlier wake-up times being most beneficial but requiring a high cost in mood and money. Amusingly enough, it's a family game that comes with "three free expansions," but the "expansions" really flesh out the game into its true form rather than a dumbed-down "family" version.
Gloom: The other game I brought. You play as one of four families determined to have as miserable a life as possible before dying and being rewarded with a wonderful afterlife. So you heap misfortunes upon your own family members and fortunes upon your opponents' families. The cards are transparent! So the modifiers cover each other up; it's very cool. And it's much more fun when you add in the storytelling component of describing what is really happening to everyone when they are Pursued by Poodles or Startled by Snakes or Taunted by Tigers or Ruined by Rum.
Hive: A simple two-player game where you have insect tiles with particular movement rules, and the object is to get the other player's queen surrounded. I actually beat my brother once!
Red November: The gnomish game of submarine survival! I got this for my brother for Christmas, as he had really been looking forward to playing it ever since I mentioned it to him, and we finally got to play it with a couple of Cassie's friends. We were actually doing fairly well because everything was going so terribly than it couldn't get much worse—Cassie almost died but then she managed to put out a fire by smothering it with her body or something, and we averted disaster after disaster—but then the reactor exploded and killed us all. We were SO FUCKING CLOSE, though, that we retconned it and skipped that card (much like we would later retcon the Arkham monsters), and so we ended up surviving until rescue! In an alternate universe.
Space Alert: It's a very stressful game that lasts ten minutes! You're space cadets being attacked by aliens, and you all have to work together and coordinate to defend the ship and siphon energy correctly as the CD plots out your mission. We totally died in our first mission because Kiran and Elaine tried to go down the lift at the same time, and we probably would have died in our second mission because I forgot to move the mouse on the computer to disable the screensaver (seriously), but Corinna accidentally knocked over a glass of water, and we couldn't remember how everything was set up after it was dried off.
Taboo: Look, you guys know how Taboo works. It was boys vs. girls on Christmas Eve, and I was kind of awesome at it! Especially because my brother and I have a psychic bond, and all I have to say is "The company that makes World of Warcraft" for him to say, "Blizzard." Fuck you, snow.
Talisman: The Magical Quest Game: It's a board game version of D&D! Kind of. You pick your character and then go around the board upping your stats and fighting monsters until you're ready to go underground and claim the Crown that makes you the Ultimate Overlord of Everything or whatever. It kind of took forever, but it was still pretty fun, and I was actually hot on my brother's tail before he inevitably won.
BioShock: So I'm a few years late on this train, but holy crap, this game is great. You explore a creepy, Art Deco-inspired, underwater city populated with maniacs that you fight not only with weapons but special powers you gain through genetic modification. As you discover more and more about Rapture, you think you have it all figured out until suddenly WHAM I CAN'T EVEN SAY ANYTHING BECAUSE IT WOULD BE A SPOILER. Rah rah Objectivism? It's fun and addictive and reminded me a bit of Dead Space, which came later but I think is more awesome. Although the upcoming BioShock Infinite could just be AMAZING.
Heavy Rain: Unlike any game I've ever played, Heavy Rain is more like an interactive movie. You play four different characters all connected by the Origami Killer, a serial killer who kidnaps sons and drowns them in the rain. The gameplay is a mix of pressing buttons and moving the analog stick to do rote things like opening doors and to execute quick-time moves like avoiding a punch to the face. It's the sort of game where one minute you're fighting for your life and the next minute you're making scrambled eggs. No, seriously. You make scrambled eggs. You even get an Achievement for it. But what's amazing about the game is you truly begin to feel for the characters you're controlling. The focus on the mundane activities actually makes the more intense and exciting sections that much more exciting and intense because you, you are responsible for this character's fate, for everything they do, for the choices they make, and the story can go in any number of different directions (although they will eventually dovetail back to the main thread). One of your characters can die and it's not game over for you, just that character. It's a unique gaming experience, albeit a short one (I beat it in a night and a day, since it's like watching an eight- or nine-hour movie).
Assassin's Creed II: Holy shit, this is SO MUCH BETTER than the first Assassin's Creed. They kept everything good about the first one, fixed everything that was bad, and then added more good stuff. This is what the first game should have been like. It actually feels like a real game! With a story you are a part of! Not just the same three missions over and over and over. There was at least one day where I spent basically the entire day playing this game. And when I finally beat it, I got very excited for the third game. Video games are awesome these days, you guys. Great gameplay plus great stories equals AWESOME. Also, you get to be pals with Leonardo da Vinci.
Red Dead Redemption: I mostly just watched my brother play this, but I played a little bit, and it's pretty fun! You get to ride horses and shoot outlaws! And...gather herbs. And shoot armadillos! And look for OMG WHAT THE FUCK A FUCKING COUGAR RAAGH FUCKING SHIT GET OFF ME HOLY SHIT OH GOD A BEAR GODDAMMIT AAAAHH. The Wild West was a dangerous place, yo.
Spaceballs: Cassie had never seen Spaceballs, can you believe it?? So that was fun. I hadn't seen it since college, and, as I had thought in college, it has some strangely glaring flaws, but it's full of classic lines and moments, and it's still pretty hilarious.
Black Swan: I really liked the way it was shot, and of course Natalie Portman was fab, and the visual effects were subtle and creepy, but it played like a fairly typical character-fights-with-her-dark-side piece. There's nothing wrong with that, but it wasn't as ~*amazing*~ as I was hoping.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: I got Cassie the BluRay for Christmas, and we spent a couple hours watching the extras one night, and I hearted everyone involved. Then we watched the movie with the trivia track on, and it was my third time seeing it, and I still love the crap out of it. It's such a fantastic film, and I really wish it had done better at the box office. More people need to see this movie. That Edgar Wright was able to get this movie made—and made like this—inside the Hollywood system is astounding.
We now return me to my regularly scheduled life. *sadface*