With the decade coming to a close, I wanted to look at my top games of the past ten years. As someone who got into the hobby in 2011, this seemed like a perfect reflection of not just the hobby, but of my decade of playing as well.
Without further ado, lets look at 2011.
My top five games are The Castles of Burgundy, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, Letters from Whitechapel, Mage Knight, and Risk Legacy.
Honorable mention include: Kingdom Builder and Skull.
The Castles of Burgundy is clearly the game of 2011 and is one the best games to ever hit the market. I could gush about CoB for several thousand words but I’ve already done that, so I’ll defer you to my original review.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game is an epic game that has players depicting the famous houses from the novel/show and trying to claim Westeros as their own. I think the game has some flaws (unbalanced at lower player counts, not as back-stabbing as you’d think) but it’s included because it was an accurate portrayal of the fictional kingdom in board game form. If you were a fan of the series, you got to feel like you were pushing your troops around on the large map like depicted in the show. I think what hurts the game is that it’s portrayed as a war game (similar to Scythe) whereas it’s really anything but.
Letters from Whitechapel takes one of the most notorious serial killers and creates a hidden movement/deduction game that has one player controlling Jack the Ripper and the others acting as the constables trying to apprehend him. This is a great two-player game that works well for larger player counts (sometimes) but the reason it endears is that the rules are relatively simple and the tension is palpable. Letters from Whitechapel creates a mood between the players that is part uneasy and part frustration but when it all comes to a head and you either escape or apprehend the killer, the wave of emotion is incredible and very few games can create such an atmosphere.
Mage Knight, in my opinion, really solidified the desire for the hobby to have heavy solo games. There are so many aspects of Mage Knight that can be off-putting, such as the record keeping, the rulebook, the time commitment, the downtime, and more but what it offers is a complex adventure game that I feel made similar heavier solo games more approachable (such as Robinson Crusoe, Scythe and Gloomhaven). While the game(s) were designed to accommodate other player counts, it’s the solo mode that allows people of the hobby the opportunity to play games they normally wouldn’t be able to.
Risk Legacy might very well be the most influential game of 2011. It took an older game and concept that most were aware of but few enjoyed and recreated it to have the decisions matter over the course of games as opposed to hours. Risk Legacy paved the way for the entire Legacy genre of campaign games that filled the decade and while their were campaign games prior to this edition, Risk Legacy made them accessible to the masses. This wasn’t HeroQuest or Space Hulk where there were intricate rules and systems to learn; it was Risk, a game most had played at some point in their lives.
Kingdom Builder is a perfect “new’ gateway game, bridging the gap from when Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan were first introduced. While those two games are still standard gateway games, Kingdom Builder was part of the next generation (including other standouts such as Kingdomino and Codenames). It’s an easy game with a small amount of depth that can be played quickly by players. Is it perfect? Not really. Your entire hand is one card and your choices are fairly restricted so it almost feels like the game is playing you but as a way to get people introduced to the hobby, it has its merits.
Skull is a simple bluffing game that can be played quickly. I think the game of Skull is light and that the fun of the game comes from the psychological aspect of watching your opponents body language than from the actual action of playing the game. It’s a fine filler game that allows players to play off one another as opposed to just what’s on the table.