Other Game Awards for 2011

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!

Best Expansion:

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.

Best Components:

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?

Last Will has an unusual premise: like in Brewster’s Millions, players are trying to spend all their money and go bankrupt.

Most Innovative Theme:

Last Will pops up again with its rush to bankruptcy.

I really enjoyed the survival exploration of Lost Valley.

Biggest Disappointment:

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.

Biggest Surprise:

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).

Biggest Falls:

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.

Biggest Rise:

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:

In many ways 7 Wonders defines mindless fun (just see the gushing early reviews for what is a pretty light game). I also played a lot of Egizia online.

Most Looking Forward To:

After a year, Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts still isn’t out!

Looking Back…

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.

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