The 2011 Good Gift Games Guide

The Top Ten Eleven

My 2011 Good Gifts Game Guide (G4), in which I provide capsule reviews for my favorite easy-to-learn-and-teach games of the year, appeared in The Morning News last Friday. The listed games follow.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis! Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
King of Tokyo Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Summoner Wars Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Jab: Realtime Boxing Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Airlines Europe Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
7 Wonders Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Ascending Empires Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Skull & Roses Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Train of Thought Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Thundestone: Dragonspire Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain
Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War Boardgame Geek Amazon Funagain

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Honorable Mentions
Whittling the list down to 10 (actually 11 games, as Summoner Wars and Jab share an entry) was unusually difficult this year, as I started with 19 worthy of inclusion and amassed half a dozen more as I asked others for recommendation.

Here are some that didn’t make the cut but are worth looking into if they pique your interest.

Elder Sign (1-8 players, 90 minutes, dice): Arkham Horror–the dice game! If you are unfamiliar with Arkham Horror or uninterested in H. P Lovecraft, this is not the game for you. If you are a fan of the mythos, though, Elder Sign allows you to battle eldritch horrors in as short as an hour. I will be reviewing both Arkham Horror and Elder Sign soon as part of the H. P. Lovefest. Why it was left off the main list: Uses the same central mechanism as the more accessable King of Tokyo. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Letters from Whitechapel (2-6 players, 90 minutes, family strategy): One person assumes the role of Jack the Ripper, carrying out his dark business on the streets and in the alleys of London; the remaining players are detectives, trying to track the killer down and bring him to justice. Why it was left off the main list: It is currently out of print and the company that made it has gone belly-up, so there’s no guarentee that it will be available anytime soon. If you want a copy, call your local game store and see if they have any in stock. Otherwise check out the classic game Scotland Yard (which uses the same One Person Plays the Bad Guy, The Others Play the Detectives mechanism), or the two-player Mr. Jack (which has both the Ripper theme and the deduction element). [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Mondo (1-4 players, 20 minutes, puzzle): More multi-player jigsaw puzzle than board game, Mondo has players racing against the clock (and each other) to assemble a map of the world, striving to score points for completed environments and collected animals. Similar in feel to Carcassonne, with the timer injecting an element of urgency. Why it was left off the main list: It’s a fun game, but the dearth of player interaction ill-suits for the G4. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game (1-8 players, 90 minutes, adventure board game): Rated highly on Boardgame Geek and perhaps the board game with the most buzz at the 2011 Penny Arcade Expo, Fortune and Glory is a loving recreation of pulp-era yards, complete with lost treasure, abominable monsters, and boatloads of Nazis. Flying Frog‘s streak of producing well-received thematic games remains unbroken. Why it was left off the main list: List price of $100. Yikes. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

Quarriors! (2-4 players, 20 minutes, dice): As “deck building games” reach the saturation point (see my review of Thunderstone: Dragonspire on the main 2011 G4), designers need a unique take on the genre to stand out. WizKids has done so by eliminating the deck entirely, and replacing the cards with dice. The result is a game that plays fast and gives you the great satisfaction of rolling a huge handful of bones on each turn. Why it was left off the main list: Same reason as Elder Sign, essentially: too many dice games on the main list already. [Boardgame Geek | Amazon | Funagain ]

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Other Opinions

Don’t trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other “2011 best game of the year” lists.
German Game of the Year:

Deutscher Spiele Preis (the “other” German Game of the Year award):

International Gamers Awards:

GAMES Magazine Awards:

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Where to Buy

I dunno about your hometown, but board game stores have recently been cropping up in Seattle like toadstools after a rain. Plug “games” into Google Maps and see what you get.

As for online, Amazon now carries just about everything I recommend. Funagain Games is one of the oldest board game retailers and remains one of the best. Others that I’d recommend include:

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Need additional info, or want a more specific recommendation? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

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4 comments.

  1. Speaking of out of print, so is King of Tokyo, it looks like. At least funagain and amazon don’t have it and have no record if they ever will…

  2. Yes, Qwirkle only came last year to Germany.

  3. Nice list — I like how you focus on games that were published this last year. I’m never an early adopter, so this helps me narrow things down a bit.

    I’ve published my own board game gift guide for 2011 (http://boardgameforge.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/gaming-gift-guide-2011/), but I mostly have games from previous years. Still, that’s handy, too — especially for folks just getting into the hobby.

  4. 7 wonders board game is my favorite.

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