The Day in Gaming, September 29, 2019: Pipeline

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

I’m now up to a half-dozen plays of Pipeline and it’s on my short list of best games of 2019. For a game that can be downright punishing I still find it enjoyable. The first time I played a few months ago with my friend Jose, I immediately asked for a rematch. It’s a game where you always feel like you can do better, no matter if you’ve won or lost.

After today’s game with Nick, I felt the same way. It was a particularly rough game for both of us; neither of us could get much going based on the valuation cards for the game (orders and contracts, all of which were tough to complete). We both wanted to play it again right away, but decided to play the relatively mild The Castles of Burgundy instead.

One of the criticisms I’ve read about the game is how it’s not very exciting during the last few turns since you’re just running your machine and pumping out that Black Gold. It actually reminds me of one of my other favorite (so far) games of 2019, Wingspan. Both give players fewer actions each round, with your final turns feeling semi-scripted.

I actually like this about Pipeline. The puzzle of the first half of the game is brutal and brain burny, as you attempt to figure out a way to get your oil refined and make that money. Once you get your engine humming you can just sit back and collect your dough.

The criticisms of the upgrades are fair; I’m not a fan of how you get to lock not only the stack of upgrades you chose that turn, but also another stack. It just feels punitive for the sake of being punitive.

Still, for a game that plays under in an hour for two players, it’s a remarkably deep and thinky experience that’s one of my favorites of the year.