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On our last podcast we revealed our top picks for our games of the year here at TGG. It was important to point out that it was simply impossible to play everything that came out during the year and some of the games that would make other people’s lists just weren’t of interest to us and, no doubt, vice versa..

So here we have our listing of what we felt were the best of 2011!

Elliott’s Top Five

Bloodsuckers from Fireside Games and designed by Justin De Witt

Mansions of Madness from Fantasy Flight Games and designed by Corey Konetzia

NightFall from AEG and designed by David Gregg

Omen: A Reign of War from Small Box Games and designed by John Clowdus

Small World Underground from Days of Wonder and designed by Philippe Keyaerts

Jeff’s Top Five

Dawn of the Zeds from Victory Point Games and designed by Hermann Luttman

Field Commander Napoleon from Dan Verssen Games and designed by Dan Verssen

That Scorpion of the Sea: Malta Besieged 1940-1942 from Victory Point Games and designed by Steve Carey

Urban Sprawl from GMT and designed by Chad Jensen

War of Honor from AEG and designed by Bryan Reese


Our Number Threes…

Elliott: Small World Underground from Days of Wonder

I actually played SWU before I ever had a chance to play the original Small World. Small World Underground was designed by Philippe Keyaerts and what attracted me to this game was both the simplicity in game play and the number of possible races and tiles which add a lot of replayability to the game. The best is the nice storage system included, as there are hundreds of tiles and tokens in the game, but the storage system makes it fairly easy to set up and put away.  A great family game for two to five players.

Jeff: War of Honor from AEG

I really like what AEG did with this title as you can use any card from their L5R CCG and toss it into the mix with War of Honor. War of Honor is loads of fun once you get the hang of it. So I feel AEG has smashingly pulled off what I think was the main intent of the design – easily introduce a form of L5R to new players. I got a good feel of what the core CCG is all about and I’d love to sit down with a veteran L5R player to introduce me to the full experience. For other gamers it’s nice to see that they now have the opportunity to enjoy a self-contained Legend of the Five Rings card game experience without ever having to purchase another single card.

Our Number Twos…

Elliott: Nightfall from AEG

Nightfall was the new horror themed deckbuilding game from Alderac Entertainment Group. Designed by David Gregg, Nightfall puts players in control of minions of the night, fighting one another for control of an Earth shrouded in eternal night. Werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and those who fight them see no need to hide from the public, waging their war in the streets. Featuring direct head-to-head game play, card drafting, and the unique “chain” mechanic, Nightfall is unlike any other deckbuilding game on the market.

Nightfall for me was the best new deck building game published in 2011. It featured some all new mechanics like personal archives and card chaining allowing you to be involved even when it was another player’s turn. This has been one of the biggest problems I’ve faced with most deck building games, as when it comes down to it you would basically be playing a solitaire game that happens to have multiple players. Nightfall is different and it takes time to develop your own personal winning strategies. Add to this the horror theme and you get a game that deserves a spot near the top of my list.

Jeff: Urban Sprawl from GMT

Overall all, Chad Jensen has hit yet another design out of the park with Urban Sprawl. It’s a good meaty game that keeps players involved throughout. Downtime is minimal because, once players understand the rules, each player’s turn is only a couple of minutes or so. You’ll be watching their moves and planning your own anyway so the time will quickly pass. Urban Sprawl is a longer game that will take around an hour and a half with two players and probably three hours or so with a full compliment of four players. Obviously add time to that estimate the first time or two playing.

GMT might want to look at signing Chad Jensen to an exclusive contract (if they haven’t already) because with all of his great designs he’s really becoming the thinking gamer’s Reiner Knizia…

Our Number One Games…

Elliott: Mansions of Madness from FFG

Designed by Corey Konieczka, Mansions of Madness is a macabre game of horror, insanity, and mystery for two to five players. Each game takes place within a pre-designed story that provides players with a unique map and several combinations of plot threads. These threads affect the monsters that investigators may encounter, the clues they need to find, and which climactic story ending they will ultimately experience. One player takes on the role of the keeper, controlling the monsters and other malicious powers within the story. The other players take on the role of investigators, searching for answers while struggling to survive with their minds intact.

Mansions of madness attempts to tell a story, a story set in the Cthulhu Mythos realm of HP Lovecraft. This was one of the most thematic games published in 2011, in a genre near and dear to my heart. FFG has been attempting to raise the bar in their attempts to add a full storytelling, almost RPGesque feel to some of their games, and while not perfect, Mansions of Madness is an excellent game.

Despite any problems we’ve had with some of the scenarios for the game, Mansions of Madness itself is a great time. The components are superior, and with my new painted miniatures I’m really looking forward to getting to take a crack at the new forbidden alchemy expansion to be re-released sometime soon. Players get involved in the game, and so does the keeper, because he is not only the Game Master, but an actual player as well who can win by defeating all of the adventurers. The theme is the best part of the game and some of my favorite gaming experiences of the year came from playing Mansions of Madness.  There is some fiddlyness to the rules and card interactions, and setup can be a chore with the hundreds of pieces and parts, so it isn’t for everyone. But for the fun I’ve had playing Mansions of Madness, It deserves the title of game of the year from me.

Jeff: Dawn of the Zeds from Victory Point Games

DotZ is unlike any other States of Siege game out there on the market and features loads of tense action! Every game plays differently with plenty of twists and turns to be found in the randomly drawn cards that drive the action. Just about every heart pounding moment from a great many zombie movies is crammed into the Event and Fate cards and you never know if the game will end even after you’ve revealed the arrival of the National Guard.

As far as those well loved (or dreaded) zombie moments I pointed out in my original review, “Look! A new Hero has arrived! Hooray! And that same said Hero later snaps and runs off to be eaten by the zombies… Boo!” There are so many random factors involved – strength of the starting Zed and Civilian units, Heroes you begin the game with, the Events that are and aren’t in the deck, and so on – that no two games will ever play out the same and this is a real credit to designer Hermann Luttmann as he really pushed the States of Siege system to a higher level of narrative.

Dawn of the Zeds is my choice for game of 2011 because each time you bring DotZ to the table you’ll have a lot to … wait for it… chew on!

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