Now that 2011 has come to a close, we can safely look back at all the games we played and loved. We love to hand out kudos to those who deserve it, and the new year is our chance to point out the games that stood above the crowd, at least to us. We’re only picking games that we played, and games that released in or around 2011, so if you think a different game deserves the top spot… well, go ahead and let us know in the comments. Now, without further ado…
There are a lot of great games out there. We only choose one for our official “game of the year” but there are definitely other games worth mentioning. These are our “frontrunners” – awesome games that deserve attention, and we love playing them just about as much as the winner. They also get a nifty little “ISlaytheDragon Game of the Year Frontrunner” logo of their own. Slap this baby on your game box and you’re almost guaranteed to move a few copies off the shelf*.
*We don’t actually guarantee this…
A nice fast-paced game that’s fun for the whole family, Eruption keeps it light despite the inherently spiteful gameplay. Clever mechanics give special powers to players who fall behind, keeping everyone in the running the whole game. Top that off with a colorful, fun-looking package and you’ve got a quality game.
Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Conflict
It’s no secret that I love Cosmic Encounter. Cosmic Conflict, the second expansion from Fantasy Flight Games, adds a slew of new races, some sweet-looking black tokens (allowing up to seven players with all the expansions), and game-changing hazard cards. This little box packs a big punch, with delightful new powers such as the Lunatic, the Claw, the Filth, and my favorite, the Changeling. All packaged with the high-quality FFG art and design, this is definitely my favorite expansion pack of the year.
This little game is so good it had to be mentioned somewhere. Though it takes a few rounds to grasp exactly how to play—especially since most of the gameplay is centered around discussion and argument between players, rather than actually playing cards—this game has wide appeal. It’s done away with the player elimination that plagues other secret-loyalty games while still maintaining a level of tense anticipation. You can play while seated comfortably on the couch, and there aren’t a lot of intricate rules to remember. The biggest downside: you’ll have trouble trusting any of your fellow players for a long time after a few rounds of this.
Since 2011 was the beginning of a board game renaissance and I had a lot of catching up to do, most of my special mentions are pre-2011 (though played for the first time in 2011). I do, however, wholeheartedly support our pick for 2011 Game of the Year. Here are my special mentions:
It’s hard to beat the level of fun packed into this one box, and this game really has it all. Secrecy, strategy, chaos, lots of little cubes, and player interaction out the wazoo: yes, El Grande is a true jewel. I’m surprised this one isn’t talked about more. This game had me at Castillo, and I haven’t turned back.
Okay, this game was probably overhyped. But it really is awesome. What makes it so great is that my gamer friends will play and enjoy it, I can take it to my games-loving family and they will enjoy it, I can take it to nongaming folks and they enjoy it. It’s just so versatile, and I love the tension of “What do I keep? What do I pass?” Players always have meaningful choices to make, and the artwork is fantastic.
Despite my counterpart’s distaste for Dr. Knizia, I think Ra is a fantastic game, and I just can’t get enough of it. The variable value for the tiles, the tension of the auctions, the different strategies and paths to victory: every game is different, and every game is a delight.
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for.
It was not love at first sight, but it didn’t take very long to fall head-over-heels in love with this game. This brilliant space empire building game incorporates a delightful dexterity mechanic (read: you flick your ships around) without feeling gimmicky. Oh yeah, and that’s on top of a deep system that shines even more in its simplicity. Single-action turns keep the pace moving and level out analysis paralysis. Technology trees offer different paths to victory, and a simple one-for-one building system ties it all together without becoming overcomplicated or outstaying its welcome. This game is simply amazing, and it holds up every time we play. Despite our usual disagreements and bickering, Ascending Empires is our unanimous pick for 2011 Game of the Year.
What about you? What was your favorite game, new or old, played in 2011?