Amazingly, almost a year has passed since I posted my “Other Game Awards” for 2010. Let’s do it again for the games that were new to me in 2011!
Dominion Hinterlands takes the prize – despite mounting expansion-fatigue, Donald X has managed to release an installment that bumps up the complexity and breaks long-established rules. I enjoy blitzing a game of Dominion, but with Hinterlands I find myself pausing to think a lot more. Hinterlands also increases the tactical considerations in playing your hand.
Merchants & Marauders has a pretty map of the Caribbean, little ship miniatures, treasure chests for each player, nice character art, and fancy custom dice.
Most Wanted to Play:
Mage Knight has been praised to high heaven by heavy Eurogamers, but I haven’t had a chance to play this lengthy game.
Earth Reborn is also on my list as a tight, well-designed theme-heavy game.
Most Innovative Mechanics:
Ascending Empires marries the 4X sci-fi genre with… flicking?
Most Innovative Theme:
Last Will pops up again with its rush to bankruptcy.
I really enjoyed the survival exploration of Lost Valley.
The Horned Rat came close to greatness, much improving the base game. However there were fatal balance issues – Nurgle was significantly weaker that the other Chaos Gods, and Tzeentch was a lot easier to play.
Bohnanza also failed to take off as I had hoped for.
Caylus Magna Carta jumped into my Top 10 after a single game – hugely unexpected given my ambivalence for its older brother Caylus. I felt the streamlining was cleverly done, paring the game down to its core and even enhancing it (with the more varied building secondary effects).
The Horned Rat inspired over 20 plays and an upgrade to my AI implementation; however when I found that Nurgle was almost impossible to win with, my enthusiasm quickly ebbed.
I can never seem to do this category right. I played Ticket to Ride for the first time in 2011 and was so-so; in February 2012 the iOS version made me revise my opinion of the game upwards. I played Power Grid for the first time in 2009 and didn’t really want to play it again; however a game in January 2012 made me reconsider.
Perhaps the real winner of this category is the poorly named Eminent Domain – I was unimpressed with the game when I first tried the prototype version, but my opinion improved after playing the final release. Best when played fairly quickly.
Best Thematic Integration:
Merchants & Marauders wins for modelling life as either a pirate or merchant, with supply/demand, missions, NPC opponents, and special characters.
Best Monstrous Game:
Merchants & Marauders is a pretty big game in terms of rules, length and components, but a good one.
Best Mindless Fun:
Most Looking Forward To:
After a year, Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts still isn’t out!
I never got to play Catacombs but Ascending Empires gave me sufficient flicking within a completely unexpected genre.
Mansions of Madness worked okay but was a tonne of wasted potential. Poor playtesting and production led to a huge forum blow-up that crystalised dissatisfaction with FFG and forced a dramatic statement by the CEO.
I played Black Friday a lot on Yucata but it never became popular face-to-face due to awful rules.
Dominion: Cornucopia was fine. The small box releases can’t seem to provoke the kind of adoration that the big box releases do. In its favour, Cornucopia led to more tactical decision-making and a new style of deck: the varied deck that newbies like to build. In fact one of my friends dislikes Cornucopia because he doesn’t like seeing newbie-style decks winning!
I lost interest in The Ares Project due to the 2p focus, awful graphic design, and complexity. It’s also pretty hard to find in these parts.