In the style of The Dice Tower, I thought I’d list my picks for various other 2010 game categories, in terms of the games I played (rather than that were published) last year.
I don’t care too much about components, but the now-disregarded Tobago had a fancy map, palm trees, Easter Island heads, and little land rovers.
On my shortlist was the overproduced Campaign Manager 2008 and the Dominion expansions Seaside and Prosperity.
Most Wanted to Play:
I still haven’t played Catacombs, the dungeon-crawling dexterity game, and I still want to!
7 Wonders was on my shortlist; and I managed to play it online early in 2011.
Most Innovative Mechanics:
Space Alert, the real-time co-op wins this hands down.
Most Innovative Theme:
In a market saturated with sucking up to sovereigns in the Middle Ages and trading in the Mediterranean, killing orcs and shooting aliens, Funny Friends wins for its foundation in human relationships and foibles.
Sadly this award went to Perry Rhodan; the game is flat, simple to play but complex to explain. Doses of luck and screwage alienate competitive and non-aggressive players; the economic focus is too drab for those seeking drama. The technology cards aren’t reliable or varied enough to base strategy upon, and the tactics are too straightforward to sustain my interest.
On my shortlist were Innovation (presenting nice turn-to-turn puzzles, but random and tactical, with lots of counting; ultimately overshadowed by Race for the Galaxy and Glory to Rome), Dixit (a fine party game that didn’t blow me away), and Traders of Carthage (too tactical, and excruciating to explain).
It’s cheating, as I played this game on and off towards the end of 2009, but this award goes to Go. I thought I was sworn off abstracts, but Go gave me the pleasure of immeasurable depth, made me think a lot about the concept of lookahead, scripting, pattern recognition, artificial intelligence, strategy versus tactics, resulted in a minor interest in combinatorial game theory, reawakened an interest in Chess, and opened me up to abstract games. I’ve read a dozen books on Go by now, and think that will continue.
On my shortlist were I’m the Boss (what I expected to be silly turned out to be sharp and nasty, far superior to other negotiation games), Werewolf (amazingly addictive and very well-received by non-gamers), and Amun-Re (somehow the tiny economic engine of the farmers allowed me to enjoy what looked like a tactical game).
Ys went from a fun game to something I avoid; repeated losses probably has something to do with it.
On my shortlist is Campaign Manager 2008 (I’m completely unable to play it, and the game is becoming increasingly dated).
Go mentioned above most rightly wins here. As it has already won an award, I’ll say that the infamous Vasco de Gama was a much more pleasant experience the second time through; winning probably has something to do with it.
On my shortlist is Medici, which I started to comprehend.
Best Thematic Integration:
This goes to Greed, Incorporated: you play as corrupt executives and spend the game dreaming up cunning and complex deals to manage earnings and rip off the companies you run.
On my shortlist is Adaptoid (an abstract with a wonderful evolutionary theme).
Best Monstrous Game:
Arkham Horror rightly wins here: it’s an Ameritrash classic about Lovecraftian monsters, has far more rules fiddliness than is good for it, takes forever, but somehow turned into a fantastic experience.
Best Mindless Fun:
Saint Petersburg takes the award here; it’s a fairly straightforward game that I’ve played it many times against the AI.
On my shortlist were Lost Cities, Powerboats and Shadow Hunters.
Most Looking Forward To:
It’s hardly worth saying, but I’m looking forward to Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, which I’m hoping will bring the series in a new direction.
I’m hoping that the recently released Earth Reborn, Mansions of Madness and Black Friday will prove their worth, but among the unreleased titles I’m looking forward to Dominion: Cornucopia and The Ares Project.