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3dicebombers Games of 2011
Adam O'Brien
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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Looking back over the course of this year, I played an absolute shitload of new games in 2011. Of course, some were just "new to me" but an awful lot were new releases. For such a "small" hobby, there is certainly no lack of new games to play.

I wanted to keep this list with an overall positive vibe, so I did not focus on the disappointments very much. Although, as both a game pusher and addict, I do find that I tend to enjoy most games I play.

A quick note about who I am in terms of a gamer, I am predominantly a Euro player, and generally prefer games to be as low-luck as possible. I am also the main game whore/snob for my group, often showing up with a plastic tub full of games that aren't even for sale in the US yet. I would guess that I teach rules for at least 75-80% of the games I play.
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1. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:241]
Adam O'Brien
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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I think I may have first played this in 2010, but I got to play it a lot more in 2011 and have to say that I have fallen in love with it. I really enjoy the combination of different worker placements, the faux-auction for resources/craftsmen, and the engine-building to most efficiently score points. The theme is paper-thin, which I don't mind but could turn others off. But it seems very well balanced and I always have a good time with it.

I enjoy the game so much, that I sought out the book and read it. Let's just say that I enjoy the game a lot more than the book (which I felt was at least 500 pages too long. Their lives are miserable, I get it!).

Plays - a dozen or so
Rating - 9 (usually play with expansion)
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2. Board Game: Glen More [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:264]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
North Carolina
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This one is one that has been very well received by everyone I've taught it to. What I think I like best about it is the depth of strategy given the short length (usually even with teaching it is less than an hour). There seems to be a great mixture of strategies, and none seem dominant.

This is a great one to have in your game tub because the box is small, and it is great for filling an hour's space as you wait for someone to arrive, wait for other players to finish their game, etc.

Plays - well over 30
Rating - 9
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3. Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:240]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
North Carolina
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Okay, I am cheating a little on this one. I have a copy of the original Parker Brothers edition that I've had since I was maybe 6. It has been one of my favorite games for 25 years. However, the new edition has really made it easy for me to introduce the game to a whole new generation of fans. I think the fact that it is readily available makes people more prone to interest. Also, the original is a single fold board, in the old fashioned 1x3' box, which is a lot harder to lug around than the newer, square-er one. I am really glad this one is back in print (even if I prefer the artwork in the old version).

Plays - hundreds. More than any other game except M:tG, which I played for 15 years.
Rating - 10 (yes, nostalgia plays into that score, but it really is an excellent game)
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4. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:288]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
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This is one I really do not like. I am not sure what is my biggest problem with the game. I haven't played enough to be 100% sure, but it does seem like no attempt was made to balance the cards. Every time I've played, someone has played a card or combination of two cards that is just overpowering and they run away with the game. I also find that the splaying/following actions mechanisms to be clunky (especially with 4 players when it can take some time to count up everyone's symbols). I just don't see the appeal, although I may be in the minority.

Plays - ~5
Rating - 3-4 range
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5. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:177]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
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This is one that I rather enjoy, but for whatever reason was not very popular within the group, and thus it doesn't get played much. I am a fan of all of Mac Gerdt's games and the rondel mechanism in general. I am not sure if it is the theme or the game length that deters people from this one, but I was sad to see the lukewarm reception. I think it offers a nice mix of short and long term strategy decisions, and multiple paths to victory (which are the makings of an ideal game for me). Oh well, I guess I am more disappointed in my group than the game.

Plays - 7ish
Rating - 8
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6. Board Game: Nightfall [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1397] [Average Rating:6.52 Unranked]
Adam O'Brien
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Possibly my least favorite new game this year. Or at least the one I was most disappointed in. I liked the theme, I like the level of player interaction, and I am fine with deck-building games. I just really hate how the wounds system for scoring works. Essentially, it doesn't matter what you do, all that matters is other players' perception of who is winning, and pounding on that guy. It could have been something simple and enjoyable like multi-player magic, but really fell short in my eyes.

Plays - 3
Rating - 3
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7. Board Game: 20th Century [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1275]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
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One of two Vladimir Suchý games on the list. Another hit with the group, and I'd say this may be my favorite auction game, period. I really like the balancing act of keeping pollution low, production high, and the tension of tile selection/auction. When I teach new players, I like explaining the importance of the "pirate/hippy track". I also think this game does one of the best jobs I can think of using two different currencies without making things clunky or making one of them useless (yeah, I'm looking at you, Dominion: Alchemy).

Plays - more than a dozen
Rating - 8, could reasonably go higher.
 
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8. Board Game: Belfort [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:387]
Adam O'Brien
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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I pre-ordered this on a whim (and the fact that the Tasty Minstrel bundles were very reasonably priced), but of course due to their various printing delays, had to wait a while to get the bundle. And in fact, I got so impatient that despite awaiting a copy via pre-order, I went ahead and bought one of the Gencon copies from fungamescafe (assuming I'd be able to slog the pre-order copy off on a friend when it arrived, which I did).

This is a really solid one, and one that a lot of people have found appealing. I don't know if it is the blend of Fantasy tropes into a the worker placement mechanics, or the goargeous artwork and colors, but it seems to be a very approachable game for people. But don't play it with 5.

Plays - ten, maybe 12
rating - a solid 8, perhaps higher depending on playgroup
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9. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:11]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
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I got to play this one at TBGT, the local boardgame convention, in September and really enjoyed it. Hunted down a copy from levalet and although it was pricey, I have really enjoyed it (and would have had to wait an extra 4 months or so to get it otherwise). Worth it.

Everyone who has played it really enjoyed it, but something about it seems to intimidate people from trying it. I don't know if maybe the bland artwork and colors make people think it will be boring or dry? I haven't gotten as many plays of this as I'd like, just because of this (and concerns about playtime with new people). But really good. It's hard to say if it is my favorite Feld game or not, but certainly in the running.

I recently picked up the extra player boards, but haven't gotten to try them yet.

Plays - maybe 10
Rating - 9
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10. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:237]
Adam O'Brien
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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Also first played at TBGT in September. There was only one copy at the convention, and I don't know that it sat still for a full hour without someone pulling it out to play. KoT is a dicefest, make no mistake; but it is so fun and fast-paced that no one seems to mind the luck-iness of it. There is just something about clawing a giant monkey's face off with a cybernetic bunny that gets everyone laughing and cheering. The painted chintzy dice are a definite let-down, but maybe Iello will wise up and sell engraved replacement dice as an accessory?

Plays - 20, maybe 30
Rating - 8
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11. Board Game: Five Fingered Severance [Average Rating:5.71 Overall Rank:11797]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
North Carolina
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This one was an impulse purchase based on the theme. I really don't know where I first heard of it, but I am really glad I did. I was expecting a somewhat simplistic goofy party game, but got a very interesting amer-euro (or is it euro-trash?) blend of action and hand management, press your luck strategy. There is definitely luck involved, which may turn off those looking for a deeper, no-luck experience. But I don't think that would have fit nearly as well into the theme anyway.

I really like the detail and thought put into this one, both to integrate the theme and provide lots of laughs (close examination of the art throughout is an entertaining easter egg hunt). It's quick, it's fun, there are tons of ways to win, and interactivity is as high as you make it. A great game, and I look forward to Patrick's next project(s)!

Plays - 10 or so
Rating - 8
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12. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:415]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
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I am pretty much a Martin Wallace devotee. There are going to be very few games he designs that I won't actively seek out. So when I saw this one, it was an auto-order, despite never having read a Discworld book. Luckily, I was rewarded with a very entertaining game of light-hearted backstabbing and screw-your-neighbor. It is definitely off the beaten path for Mr. Wallace in terms of depth and player interactivity, but still bears his mark in terms of interesting card-driven play (a la London, another favorite of mine).

The best thing about it, however, is that it has driven me to start reading Sir Terry's books, which has been very rewarding thus far (as of this posting, I have read Guards! Guards! through Jingo in The Watch series).

Plays - maybe 20
Rating - 8 (although this can widely fluctuate based on who you are playing with)
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13. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:355] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
Adam O'Brien
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Raleigh
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This is a late-in-the-year addition to the list, as I got mine mid-November (funagain Essen pre-order). Man am I glad I picked this one up. I would say that this is probably my favorite new game of the year. I like pretty much everything about this game; the artwork, the game length, the level of depth; this is another one that has been very well received in the group. I think what I like most about it is the fact that building an engine to get rid of money is so simple, yet so different than any game I've played. I love watching new players when the lightbulb turns on when they process the fact that they need to do the opposite of what they do in every other game. Buy high, sell low!

Plays - at least a dozen
Rating - 9
 
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Adam O'Brien
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There are several other new games out of this year's Spiel that I haven't gotten to play enough to give a fully formed opinion on, but these are ones I have enjoyed so far, and look forward to playing into the new year:

Vanuatu (2 plays) - This is a really good, really tense one. The action selection can be absolutely brutal. Great artwork (except the stupid CGI fish), lots of player interaction, lots of tough decisions.

Drum Roll (2 plays) - Another fun one. Although there really isn't much luck in the game, there is a definite press-your-luck feel to how big you can grow your troupe while still making salary. Enough color to make your eyes bleed, in a good way.

Star Trek DBG (2 plays) - I am a ST:NG nut, and feel that the DBG does a nice job conveying the feel of the show. Not quite as good as the 2nd edition CCG, but a hell of a lot cheaper, so...

MIL (1049) (haven't played yet) - Looks really good, interesting theme and mechanics, just haven't digested the rules well enough to introduce it yet.

Trajan (1 play) - Really interesting combination of mechanisms and action choices. I am not sure if the Mancala system is ultimately worth it, as I kind of felt like I was playing Antike, but way harder to plan ahead.
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