The Gaming Year 2011

Transcript of the podcast published January 2nd, 2012.

Thoughts on the year as a whole
I think this was a solid year for games – there was lots of meaty stuff for gamers to enjoy and there were surprisingly few duds and annoying games. The quality publishers kept their quality and didn’t disappoint, and the publishers of Munchkin or Fluxx?, well, they published Munchkin and Fluxx!…. My feeling is that the scene is in waiting mode regarding the development and increasing success of iOS and android board games, hybrids and conversions. I suspect that the most innovative things will happen there the next year.

Best game
That would be a very close race between three different games in three different genres: “Strasbourg” would win in the Euro category, “Mansions of Madness” in the Ameritrash category, and “Olympos” in the civilization building category.

Best reprint
Of course one should mention the new version of “Puerto Rico”, but as a fan of the game I also would especially recommend the “Game of Thrones” board game, which still ranks among the best franchise themed board games ever made. We shouldn’t also forget “Airlines Europe”, a loving reprint of a gaming classic.

Biggest disappointment
The biggest disappointment as a game this year was “Sid Meier’s Civilization” by Fantasy Flight Games. It didn’t work at all for me – a dull civ building game with all the known problems of the genre amplified by take that cards and imbalanced player powers.

Biggest surprise
My biggest good surprise this year was the sudden emergence of Pegasus games as a serious Euro game publishing contender, and of excellent Euro games to boot. This is as surprising as if Fantasy Flight Games would suddenly publish “Agricola”.

Biggest news
Rich Sommer from my most beloved show “Mad Men” on the Dice Tower? That’s frakkin’ unbelievable! Next thing you probably want to tell me that internationally known games expert Tom Vasel and famous voice actor Eric Summerer are on the show as well. They are? Aaaaahhhh!!!!!!

Best card game
Apart of “Game of Thrones CCG” I also like “Lord of The Rings The Card Game” for its bold innovative idea of making solitaire or group play the basic mechanic of the game, something that had not been done that well yet in the expandable card game genre. Perhaps anybody remembers “Ruins World”, which went into that direction? It was an excellent idea, but awfully handled, FFG did it right.

Best expansion
I have only played it on the iPad yet, but “Ascension: Return of the Fallen” is a good expansion to an already great game.

Best children’s game
It’s a strange choice as it isn’t marketed as a kid’s game, but Polish game “Drako” is simple enough to be played with kids and actually teaches them concepts like hand management very well. It also plays very quick, in 10-20 minutes, so it is really an excellent introduction to meatier games, like their game K2 a year back was as well.

Strangest game
I haven’t played it yet, but “011” looks extremely strange and interesting, a little like my beloved “City of Chaos”. But is it a good game? I haven’t tried it yet, but some say it’s like a bad “Cluedo” variant, we will see.

Worst game
I don’t know if you heard about the three Nazi terrorists in Germany who were recently discovered by the police. In their backyard they produced a game with which they hoped to finance their terrorist activities – it was called “Progomly”, a miserable monopoly variant that actually sold a handful of copies in terrorist circles. I don’t know what’s worse – the idea of such a game or the notion to be able to make money of it.

Biggest brainburner
Ok, at some point in ambitious online Carcassonne play the realization sets in, that from a certain level of play on luck will play a huge role in determining the winner. But how on earth can people get to an ELO of nearly 2000 then, whereas I seem to get stuck between 1700 and 1800? Why????????

Most innovative game
It was a late discovery for me, but “Olympos”, the new game by the designer of “Small World”, has many extremely interesting concepts, like the handling of resources possession and the way civilization advance is handled. It also plays really quick, for me it was the surprise hit of 2011.

Favorite gaming event of 2011
My favorite gaming event continues to be our summer visit at Alea gaming apartments on Paros, Greece, and the time spent there with Dimitris Varrias and his family.

Wish I had played
“Warriors and Traders” is a game that created quite a buzz in Essen and which I have sitting on my shelf. I love the idea of an empire building and conquest game that gives you the option to win peacefully and solves the typical problem of whoever battles or is battled first loses.

Best components
Ok, I just live “Mansions of Madness” and its many bits, a lot of attention to detail has gone into the creation of this monster haunted house game, and it shows.

Best art
I have to say that Fantasy Flight Games “Game of Thrones” card game holds a continuous standard of excellent illustrations, even though recently a slight resemblance to the TV version actors shows through in recent illustrations. But that is not the worst thing, as the TV series is excellent too!

Special Award
The best inside joke award in game design goes to Geoff Engelstein and his son for their inclusion of the Eggert reactor in their excellent game “Ares Project”. Actually I wish I own that reactor and have endless power!

All the best for our friends in 2012, the year of the where the creepy Mayo prophecy will finally come through. Yes: French fries actually DO taste better with Mayo, I don’t care what Quentin Tarantino says.