December 22, 2011

My Favorite Games for the year 2011

Like most nerd inclined folk, I write a post most years about my favorite games that I played. Typically, these are video games, and typically, they are mostly in line with common sentiment, with the exception of Red Dead Redemption, which was and is total garbage.

Interestingly enough, I didn't really play that many video games this year. Instead, my focus and interests shifted 200% (that's not possible!) to mobile games and my new love, board games. Below is my list of my favorite games for 2011. Note that not all of the games I mention came out in 2011. Board gaming is a fairly new hobby of mine, so I had some catching up to do.

Read on to see my favorite mobile, board, and electronic games of the year.

Mobile Gems
Mobile games are the bread and butter of my play time. They are always with me in my pocket and provide a moment's satisfaction when I have precisely a moment to waste. Here are my favorites for the year! It was very difficult to narrow it down to just three.

This is a side scrolling tower defense game where you control Ash from Army of Darkness. The controls are incredibly elegant -- tap the left side of the screen to move left, tap the right side to move right. Ash automatically attacks with his weapons when he comes into range of the enemies. The game is all about mastering Ash's positioning and timing the use of special abilities. The game is chock full of fantastic player progression and has a lot of levels. This is a great game...and FREE.

This game is poetry. You tap to drop your bird to the ground so that he can slide and build momentum. Then, at exactly the right moment, you release your finger to send him soaring. This game is absolutely fantastic and is the perfect example of "just one more."

I love this silly freemium sim game. I've quite the game several times, only to see a new update that adds more things I want to build and accomplish. I find the art style incredibly charming and the game incredibly easy to play. The new Frontier expansion is fantastic and has completely re-engaged me. Well done, Z2 Live.

Board Game Beauties
Board games are my favorite thing to do this year, aside from hugging Peaches and food related things with Beth. We like to eat! It was incredibly difficult to pare down my list, but I was able to get it to just five. These are the five games I loved the most this year. Bah, I just remembered another. Six.

Dixit is an absurdly brilliant game. One player tells a story based on the absurd, magnificently illustrated cards in their hand. The other players also play a card they think matches the story. This game is perfect for any group or player and has never failed to be a crowd favorite at social gatherings.

Alien Frontiers is a poster child for what I love in a board game. It's satisfying to collect and roll your dice. Assigning them is a relatively simple, but compelling choice. Trying to beat your opponents to the planet and rare nodes while using your tech cards is a thrill. Best of all, you can play it in an hour. I love Alien Frontiers and I cannot wait to receive my copy of the expansion.

Dragonheart is a game I bought on someone else's recommendation for Fantasy Flight Games' Holiday Sale. What a purchase! The game has nothing to do with its theme, but the gameplay is incredibly quick, clever, and fun. Every time I play this game I have a great time, perhaps because I've only lost once?

I've only had the chance to play this game a few times, but what a treat! Mr. Jack in New York is stylish and incredibly elegant. It's the perfect cat and mouse game for two players. Get some coffee and a roommate, it's time to catch Jack the Ripper.

This game is a bit of a hybrid. Yes, it's a board game, but the 185 games of it that I've played have been on my iPhone with distant competitors. I know for some this is the dirty uneducated cousin of Dominion, and they may be right. But, I'd rather play Ascension. I love how the deck is the same, but the distribution changes. I love how you play cards to build currency, then you spend it on monsters, heroes, or constructs. I  don't really care for using my fingers to track my Actions, Buys, and Currency in Dominion. I love denying opponents the cards in the center and there are several ways to do this. As long as I have opponents, I'll be playing Ascension.

This is an incredibly fun game that's relatively easy to explain and quick to play. Every time I play I either refine an existing strategy or try something new. And you know what? I get noticeably better every game! That's really satisfying and if you ask me, a sign of good game design. The game has a stronger timing aspect than other deckbuilders and some really subtle player interaction mechanics. I'm a big fan of Eminent Domain.

Electronic Excellence
I don't really play electronic games on my consoles or PC much anymore. I find that there's too much repetition in the line up, too much investment required for highly repetitive tasks, and not as many things that excite me anymore. I've been playing console and PC games nigh religiously for a decade now, so the fact that it took ten years for me to grow tired of things isn't a bad sign. And chances are, I'll be back. It'll just take the right game.

That doesn't mean all is sadness and woe. I still played a few games that warmed my jagged, cold cockles in 2011.

Note that the image is of one of my favorite Champions, not the game in general. League of Legends is a spectacular, highly polished, FREE, competitive PC multiplayer game. Ten players, five on each team, each player with a unique Champion. Perfecting a Champion is at times a chore, but also one of the most satisfying feats in gaming when you pull it off. What really made League of Legends a killer game this year is the addition of Dominion mode, which expedites the experience and turns a 45 - 60 minute game into a 20 minute game. You still have the original variant, but the bite sized Dominion fits my life much better. It fully brought me back into the game.

I love Team Fortress 2 for many of the same reasons I love League of Legends. It's highly polished, incredibly well supported, full of charm and personality, and tons of fun. I love class-based, competitive games on the PC and Team Fortress 2 pretty much does it better than anyone else. The game is free now, so it's obscenely foolish of you to not try it.

Note: I haven't had a chance to play Skyrim or Uncharted 3 yet, which is most likely why they aren't on this list. They are sitting in shrink wrap, waiting for my warm embrace.

That sums up my year of gaming quite nicely! What do you agree or disagree with? Did I make any gross misstatements? What are your favorites? Have a great holiday! I hope you get a chance to play some great games.

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