Saturday, May 07, 2011

Top Ten Board Games (2011 Edition)

For the past two years in May I have posted a list of my top ten favorite games.  Between 2009 and 2010, there were several changes because of different games I had played.  In 2011, there are once again several changes.  As I thought about my favorite games this year, I realized that most played does not equal favorite.  There are some games that I really love, but because of long play time or (more likely) long set up time, so as of May 2011, here are my top 10 favorite games, in descending order the more dramatic effect possible:

10.  A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Board Game
Last year at number seven, I had Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game.  Those two games are made by the same company, and both games are heavily thematic and require a little bit of luck.  Even though we play Last Night on Earth more and despite Last Night on Earth being about Zombies I like this game more.  I like this game more because the narrative in the game is stronger.  In Last Night on Earth it is humans vs. zombies so it feels more adversarial.  In this game, it is versus a game controlled villain.   The narrative of this game really comes through, and every time I play I feel like I am taking part in an interactive pulp horror story.  As the picture shows, the set up for this game can be a bit of a pain, but every time I have played it has been a satisfying experience.

9.  Yomi
Yomi is the newest game on the list, as it came out at the very beginning of 2011.  Yomi is a card game that simulates fighting video games.  At it's core, Yomi uses a rock-paper-scissors mechanics.  Both players decide on playing an attack, a throw, or a block/dodge.  The cards are then revealed at the same time.  Attack beats throw, throw beats block/dodge, and block/dodge beats attack.  It is possible to pull of combos and special moves in this game.  
Yomi also has a lot of trying to figure out your opponent.  There is a lot of "I know that they know that I want to attack, but since they know that  I know that they know . . . " type of thinking going on in this game.  I really like that. 

8.  The Resistance
Last year, I included Ca$h and Gun$ on the list, and said that if I was going to play a group with six players, then I wanted it to be that one.  The Resistance has become my large group game of choice.  There is a game, Mafia, that I have played with youth groups a lot.  Mafia is a fun game, but it has a fatal flaw in that players get eliminated and once a player is eliminated they do not come back.  The Resistance has all of the fun of Mafia without player elimination.
The idea of The Resistance is that everyone is part of a resistance movement against an evil government.  However, some people in the group are actually government spies.  The group will vote on people to send on missions.  If a spy goes on a mission, then they can cause the mission to fail.  If no one causes the mission to fail, then it succeeds.  If there are three successful missions, the resistance wins.  If there are three failed missions the spies win.  For the Resistance members, the game is all about figuring out the spies, and for the spies they try not to get caught.  This is a high social interaction game. 

7.  Agricola
This game dropped a couple of spots from last year, but it is still a game that I enjoy.  Agricola is a game about farming.  That may sound dreadfully boring, but this game is absolutely brutal and intense.  Agricola is a worker placement game, which means everyone has workers they can place on the board which enables certain actions.  However, there are NEVER enough workers to do everything that one feels like they need to do.  This problem is compounded by the fact that only one player can use any one action spot on a given turn.  So players are always competing (especially for wood!) for various spots on the board.
I have an odd relationship with this game.  Every time I play this game I get a little frustrated at it.  About a fourth of the way through the game I feel completely screwed, and like I have no chance of pulling anything off.  However, by the end of the game my farm has for the most part come together, I have a reliable way to feed my farming family, and everything is running well enough.  Even if I lose the game, there is a lot of satisfaction from feeling like I have a job well done.

6.  London 
At the beginning of this year, I listed Manouevere as my favorite game of 2010, and London has number two.  However, you will notice Manouevere is not on this list but London is.  I suppose that means along with being my 6th favorite game, London is also my best game from 2010.
In London, players are rebuilding the city after the great fire of 1666 and taking it all the way to 1900.   While there is a board component to London, it is a fairly small, yet important, part of the game.  For the most part London is a game of hand management and card interaction.  Players will build cards to their city by putting them in front of them.  They will then activate these cards for points and resources.   The game features a lot of tactical decision making, and interesting card interactions.  We have only had the game for a few months, but we have already played it several times, and we will be playing it a lot more. 

5.  Small World
Small World continues to be one of my favorite games.  This game is based around a light conflict theme, and the game is all about making the most of one's turn, each and every turn.
One of the complaints I had about Small World is that during the last few turns it can grind and become very mathematical as everyone begins calculating the optimal move to eek out the most points.  However, a fairly recent expansion, Tales and Legends, fixes that.  Tales and Legends adds a random event each turn.  Players know which event is coming, so they can plan ahead some, but the expansion reinforces the idea of making every turn count. 

4.  Warhammer: Invasion
Photobucket In middle school through high school, I was all about collectible card game.  I have played 8 different CCGs at various points.  I love the idea of making my own deck, but I dislike the money pit aspect.  Warhammer: Invasion gives me the best of deck building without the random, expensive booster packs.  Every month or so a battle pack comes out with 20 new cards, and I can get the battle pack and have all the cards.  I have really enjoyed building decks in this game, and I also really like the game play.  Warhammer: Invasion is a resource management game.  Along with managing resources the game offers a lot of potential for card interaction and neat card combos. 

3.  Race for the Galaxy
In 2009 and 2010 I listed Race for the Galaxy has my number one game.  This year, it has fallen two spots.  I still really like Race for the Galaxy.  I still like the clever use of the cards and the tactical decisions the game offers.  Race for the Galaxy is still our most played game, and I still really enjoy it.  However, if I am honest with myself I probably do enjoy the other two games a bit more.
One of the reasons for this is neither Abigail and I care a whole lot for the newest expansion for the game.  Mostly because it adds prestige.  Prestige is another form of points that comes from playing certain cards.  The problem with prestige is there is no guarantee a player will get prestige cards  in their hand.  There is a bonus for being the prestige leader, so if one player gets prestige by luck and the other player does not it gives an unfair advantage.  I suppose we could play without the expansion ,but neither one of us like that for reasons we are not sure. 

2.  Dominion
That is a picture of every card currently available in Dominion.  With each and every expansion, Dominion gets better because more options are available and new combos are revealed.  Most of the games I like are tactical, which means most of the important decisions are made turn by turn.  Dominion is a very strategic game.  At the beginning of the game, 10 cards are available for purchase and players need to figure out which cards they want to buy as the game progresses.  They will use the cards to enable them to more efficiently buy victory point cards.  Everyone starts with a small deck of cards, but as they buy cards their deck grows.   This game is always fun and seems to be infinity replayable.   

1.  Memoir '44
The picture is of everything that is currently available for Memoir '44.  We have all of that except for the bag to the right, and one of the paper maps that is in there somewhere.  Memoir '44 has a really long set up time, which is why it does not play as much as some of the other games.  However, Abigail and I both really like this game.   The game simulates WWII battles.  Players have a hand of cards that they use to command units, and to battle players role custom dice.  The game system is very simple but it is very flexible.  Terrain tiles are placed on a blank board to create a wide variety of battles.  The game has 173 published scenarios right now.
The most recent expansion for the game adds a new board that is bigger, and deeper than the normal board.
These breakthrough maps  are very unique to play, and are just yet another way to enjoy this game.  Even though we do not always play it, when we do I really enjoy it every time we play.  For now anyway, Memoir '44 is my favorite game.   


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