2011 has seen 72 new-to-me games cross my table. Everything from the 4000 year old game Go, including grandaddy of miniatures Warhammer: 40,000, and finishing out with the newest of new games Dungeon Petz. Here is how I break down these games as my top 11 in 2011:
Twilight Struggle - Currently the #1 game on boardgamegeek.com, this game is a very good game. I only got to play it one time, so I don't know how good, but from that single play it deserves a top 11. This isn't a sunny afternoon, let's play a quick game with the kids game. This is a two player, drag out fight, that takes plenty of time and brain power. Time will tell if it makes it to my top 25 like two other Matthews' titles (1960: the Making of the President and Founding Fathers).
Tikal II - I really like the original Tikal and so thought I'd like this one too, which I did. In this game you are archaeologists exploring one of the temples of Tikal. You have to set yourself up to have paths around the temple so you can get to the places you want to go. The best part of the game though is the action track around the edge of the map. If you want to take a specific action, you can jump way ahead, but you can never go back which makes for some great tension.
Quo Vadis? - I like negotiation games, even though more often than not I lose, because I'm always the first to talk up. I only got to play this once, but the one play was great fun. Basically, the game is the opposite of Lifeboats if you've ever played that. You are voting people into the Senate and thus giving them victory points. Once the Senate is full, the player with the most victory points is the winner. I liked that this one doesn't make everyone hate each other the way that Lifeboats does, but it still gives that feeling of pure negotiation and broken promises!
Dominant Species - Other than Eclipse later on the list, this is probably the deepest game here. It is a game about the evolution of species and is very good. You do have to go into it, knowing that the cards are very powerful, and will cause huge amounts of player made chaos. I've played it 3 times over the course of the year and would happily play it again. Also, for some strange reason, I really like the minimalist production design of the game.
Nexus Ops - I've always heard about how great this game is and now that I've played it a couple times, I agree. This is the game I'd use as a gateway game for those Risk players in your life. It's got plenty of dice rolling, a modular board, great figures (especially in the old Avalon Hill edition). The best part though, it plays in about 45-90 minutes. So it plays quickly. Fantasy Flight Games is coming out with a new edition soon, so be on the look out.
Ninjato - How can a game about Ninjas not be in the Top 11 from '11? This is basically a quick worker placement game where players only get 21 actions throughout the 7 rounds of the game. With these actions you are stealing treasures from various houses, then using these treasures to learn about rumors or buy the loyalty of family members. The reason I enjoy the game is the 'tweener mechanic, that is sometimes used in gambling, that is used for fighting with the ninjas. Also, I might be a bit bias, because I own the first copy that was ever in existence.
Haggis - I really enjoy Tichu, a ladder style card game, where the goal is to be the first to go out. Haggis does what Tichu does, but it does it for 2 or 3 players, which is a real treat since Tichu is exclusively a 4-player game in my opinion. I'm very disappointed that this one is out of print, because I'd like to pick it up if it ever does come back into print. If you are a traditional card game player, I suggest you buy this one if you happen to see it available.
Eclipse - This is really high on the list for only being played once. I don't own the game and probably won't, due to the price and having Civilization, which scratches a similar itch. However, I really liked this game. It gives the feel of an epic space game, but in 2 or 3 hours. A few years ago I played Twilight Imperium 3 and Eclipse gives me everything that game gave, but Eclipse does it in 3 hours instead of 8 hours.
Jaipur - This is another gem of a game. We picked it up at GenCon this year and have been playing it ever since. Two players, cat and mouse type play, that makes you want to play another round. Also, I love winning and claiming "my bearded friend!" I think we've sold 2 or 3 copies to people of this one after playing it or telling them about the game.
The Castles of Burgundy - This is the #14 game in the Alea Big Box series and while theme is lacking, innovative dice mechanics and cool combos make it a great game. I'm liking it best with 2 or 3 players, as 4 players makes it take quite awhile, but it is still good. Krista and I have played two different Best of 5 series of this game, so you know it's got to be good.
Warhammer: Invasion - This game is just great. I haven't been into a collectible card game like this since 2005 when I was still playing the LotR: TCG. The living card game, as this version of games is called, basically allows you to know exactly what cards you are getting when you buy a new battle pack and also gives you the full amount of a single copy of a card that you can have in your deck. The game play is great, especially how cards can be placed in three different zones or played face down as developments. This makes for some really tough decisions. I've played it over 90 times since March, two tournaments, and I'm looking forward to more!
Finally, I wanted to mention the Dust Award. I give this out to the WORST game of each year, in honor of the game Dust that I played a few years ago and was just horrible. Out of the 72 New-to-Me games this year, this not-so-much honor goes to Fossil. I played it once and really didn't like it at all. The thing was, I wasn't the only one, everyone else at the table also didn't like it. This one will be going on my trade list, perhaps it is an acquired taste, since Game Magazine did name it Game of the Year in 1999.
This was a tough list to make, specifically because other than Warhammer: Invasion, all the other games I rate an 8/10, so deciding which should be 4th instead of 6th was tough. There are several other games from 2011 that I rate 8/10 that didn't end up making the list, but probably easily could when I get a chance to play them more.