One of the podcasts I listen to is called The Dice Tower, it is basically a weekly variety show on board games and the board game industry. With the demise of my favorite podcast recently, the Dice Tower currently holds the #1 position for a good gaming cast to listen while working or relaxing. One of my favorite things the Dice Tower does is a yearly award for a different games in different categories with the goal of becoming the Spiel des Jahres for the United States. I think this is a very admiral goal and one that I would like to support, so when they asked for bloggers to mention the Dice Tower Awards on their blogs, I thought it would make a good blog post to give my thoughts on their 2011 nominees. Also, as an extra mention, I really like that they give the games 6 months before they announce the winners, so that those games coming out late in the year aren't missed and they can see what games have staying power. So here we go with my thoughts on each category and there are a lot of categories!:
Best Game of the Year: I've played 7 of these 10 games that were nominated and overall I think the crew did a good job of nominating a variety of Best Games from 2011. If you read my 2011 favorite game list, you'll know that Eclipse was on there with one play even, so you won't be surprised that I think it will be the winner and should win. However, I'd also give a vote for King of Tokyo, which is a great filler game! Between the two, I'll likely purchase King of Tokyo, just because of it's play time and number of players, but either one deserve the game of the year.
Best Family Game: I'm afraid, I'm again going with King of Tokyo here. Why? Because I haven't played any of the others, except for Quarriors, and I was sorely disappointed with it.
Best New Designer: Jay Little, for Blood Bowl: Team Manager, not because I like the game (it's okay), but because I've played games with Jay and he is a really great guy. We played some Ascension last year at Geekway to the West. Also, because even though I'm not personally a big fan of the game, it does have a lot of fans in our game group and seems to have drawn a few straight Euro players over to it.
Best Game Reprint: Well, since Puerto Rico is my #2 game of all time, of course I'm going to say it. I've seen all but the Can't Stop & Evo reprint in real life and I still think that the Puerto Rico is the best. It has metal coins! Metal coins! It is on my would like to buy list, despite owning a copy already, because it just looks that good!
Best Production Values: I've not played any of these, though I have seen a few at conventions and game days. I'll go with either one of the D&D games, simply because I know Mansions of Madness had a few problems with the cards and the writing of the rules, which I consider part of production.
Best Small Publisher: I've only played two of the five games here. One was Rallyman, which I absolutely despised. I'd only suggest it to a hardcore rally race fan, because personally as a gamer only, it just didn't do it for me. I've also played Bears and I've got to say, it reminds me of playing Spoons with dice. I liked it and I can see getting two sets and having a great party game time. Also, Travis who is the owner of Indie Boards & Cards is a great guy, IndyCon sponsor, and makes quality games so Flashpoint is on my list of games I want to play. This is a tough choice category for me.
Best Party Game: I'm not much of a party gamer, but if I was choosing here, I'd choose...Bears! Yeah, I know it isn't from this category, but it should be. These are all games I'm not interested in (besides Dixit Odyssey should almost be in the reprint category). I've never spelled Odyssey before, sorta tough.
Best Expansion: I'm going with Small World: Underground here. For a couple reasons, first it is an expansion and a stand-alone game! Second, it does everything Smallworld does and makes it just better by adding even more variety to an already ever changing game. I've not been a huge fan of the Leaders expansion for 7 Wonders, though it's one redeeming quality is to make money more valuable in the game.
Most Innovative Game: I've played 2 of these games (Ascending Empires & Quarriors). AE was in my hands to purchase at GenCon, but I didn't. Almost, just didn't. It is innovative, with movement of your spaceships happening by flicking them across the board! Quarriors, is slightly innovative but it is mostly just a deck building game and not a great one at that. However, my vote goes towards Risk: Legacy, a game I've not even played, because in this game you actually permanently change your copy of the game by writing on the board, tearing up cards, and generally altering the game forever! How cool is that? I'd absolutely love to get a dedicated group of 5 people to play this with me once a month, so we could see our world change.
Best Artwork: I was disappointed that the Lord of the Rings card game was co-op, thus I didn't enjoy it as much as I would've liked, but the art on it is absolutely great! In true Fantasy Flight fashion, they really get the feel of the theme to come through in the game, which because it is LotR gets my vote over the other 2 FFG games in the category.
Best War Game: I've only played one and that is the only one I'm ever likely to play, so A Few Acres of Snow gets my vote. It is a very solid game and honestly is a "wargame" that I think just about any gamer can get behind.
Best Theme: Dungeon Petz wins this for me. I already am a fan of the universe because of Dungeon Lords and I like how they've taken a cartoony, funny approach to exactly how those horrible monsters the dungeon lords hires come about, by being raised and sold at market.
Best Digital Game: Ascension wins this hands down for me. As of writing this I've played nearly 60 games of it on my phone and will continue to do so. As matter of fact, I liked the iPhone version so much, I traded my physical copy of the game. The app is just perfect and works just like it should. I need to buy the expansion.
So that is it, my thoughts on the 2011 Dice Tower Awards, which have a LOT of categories and thus made for huge post. We'll see how it turns out, but I think they did a pretty good job with the nominees this year and hope this continues to do well as an award and maybe someday it'll mean similar sales & success figures as the SdJ does in Germany.