Friday, January 6, 2012

Taylors Top Ten Board Games of 2011

2011 was  crazy year for me, and somewhere along the way I rediscovered that I love playing board games. Like my fellow poster J Tagmire, I too have bought way too many games. This was not helped by working at a game store for the first 6 months of the year, though it did help me truly refine my tastes in games very quickly. I'll have some honorable mentions in the mix as well, but ultimately, sticking to the same criteria as J, this is my top 10 for games that not only did I enjoy, but made it back to the table after the first play.

10. Mansions of Madness

Look, this game is by no means perfect, but it does something that most games do not, which is present Cthulhu mythos in a fun engaging way that can be played in less than a fortnight. Theres quite a bit of errata out on this game already, but in the end you get to play the gritty noir detective going up against the supernatural in an adventure game. FFG is not my favorite company mostly because I don't find that an excessively complicated rule set makes for a fun and engaging game, but they did well here, and you can't really go wrong with the theme.

9. Letters From Whitechapel

Lets take everything that worked from Scotland Yard and Mister X and pair it with the Jack the Ripper murders at the turn of the century in Victorian England, and you have Letters from Whitechapel. a semi-cooperative "find the killer" math-hunt that is sure to frustrate at least one player, while at the same time blow all whistles of another player for its perfect balance of math meets terror.

8. Rallyman

Dice based racing on an off-road track. Every time we play this I have visions of the Stig racing through my head, and the theme song from Top Gear playing too. Good solid fun that does a good job at the auto racing board game genre that doesn't involve flicking things.

7. The Road to Canterbury

Straight out of Chaucer, you play a pardoner looking to make the most money from pilgrims on their way to Canterbury by forcefully making them sin repeatedly and then forgiving them for their sins before they inevitably die. Really at its core its a terrible game (morally speaking) but its so fun to force sin upon sin on the knight, only to cash in on it before you accidentally kill him by drawing a death card. Beautiful artwork, and a very unique theme with a fun gameplay. Something that doesn't come around too often.

6. Pergamon

Check it - your an archeologist digging up treasures to put on display in the museum. Players bid on artifacts, the polish them up, and show them off. pretty much a solid and simple Euro that can easily be played in an hour, provided you don't play with someone who overthinks what they should be doing.

5. 7 Wonders: Leaders

The only expansion to make the list, this adds a whole new level of play to the game by introducing an entirely new card type, allowing for a huge variety of scoring tactics. Sometimes playing just the base game you're playing cards because you have to and you don't have a lot of strategy in your first few turns. But with this expansion, you have a better understanding of how you should be playing based on what leaders you choose and when you play them.

4. Ascending Empires

There is not enough good things I can say about this game. It involves conquest, area control, resource management, flicking mechanics, space, it has it all. Takes close to an hour an a half to play, but its gameplay is so quick that you don't even notice it. This was the sleeper hit of the year for me.

3. Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War

This game caused so much hate in the world because I couldn't get it until September its not even funny. I missed the pre-sale by a day and my guy fell through for getting it for me at GenCon. In the end, it was very much worth the wait. While its 2-players, its essentially chess meets reverse stratego set in the Cold War. The first game teaching someone will be relatively quick, but every game after that is a paranoid to the death bout of awesomeness.

2. Belfort

So much going on here I don't even know where to begin. You're vying for control of Belfort by having the most buildings within all 5 districts of the city, while also trying to have the most elves, dwarves, and gnomes in your control, making sure to pay taxes the whole way. A very simple to learn Euro that will take multiple plays to truly master. Very deep and rich in its theme and complexity, it surprised the hell out of me as to just how good it really is.

1. Survive: Escape From Atlantis

Nothing says fun like fucking your friends over by sicking a sea serpent on them. While this technically is a rerelease from a game made in the early 80s, I never played it until this year. The perfect way to play it is to screw everyone over and hope that they do the same to you as you try to get all your atlanteans off the sinking island. More of a guilty pleasure than anything, this game saw a lot of table time this past year.

Honorable mentions

Battlelore (FFG)

This game technically came out in 2006 from Days of Wonder, but FFG made it happen by releaseing repurposed french copies of the game. For people like myself, this was the only way I was going to get to play the game, and had it been original in 2011, this would easily have made the #1 spot on my list.

Alien Frontier

Another one that I didn't get to play until this year despite its release in 2010, such a fun game with a lot going on all at once. Dice rolling and resource management in a crazy sci-fi thematic setting, I'm super looking forward to the expansion coming out this year for some full-blown awesomeness.


We didn't get this to the table until New Years Eve, and a lot of folks are just now getting theirs in the mail, but its a fun fast paced romp of dice rolling and stealing from friends. Rules are written a bit wonky but the gameplay is solid, fast and fun.


  1. I need to play a LOT of games on your list. Either my local game store doesn't carry them, or they're sold out when I get there. I need to stop being such an impulse buyer in 2012 and buy the games that I really want online.

  2. I've only played one of the games on your list - Mansions of Madness - and it was excellent. One of my top games of the year for sure.

    We won a copy of Belfort, we just haven't had a chance to play it yet.

  3. Grug - leave work now and call your wife out sick and play it now. This game is what you want your children to be.