Best and Worst of the Best of 2011


My own personal 2011 hobby wrap up was somewhat underwhelming this year.  I purchased many games and got some good play time hours in, but at the end of the year I noticed I had not really purchased and experienced a lot of the hip and the new that came out in 2011– instead I was picking up backlist titles at a greatly reduced cost, mostly from Tanga.com massive dumping of Z-man titles and a couple of sales and P500 offerings.  The sudden appearance of backlist titles in online discount outlets was an important trend to me personally, but I can understand that it wasn’t exactly significant to a hobby that worships the cult of the new. And boy, if 2011 was about ANYthing, it was about new things.

New games abounded in 2011. I have not the slightest idea of how many game titles (of all kinds) were released at the Essen Game Fair in Germany this year. It appears that the number of games published last year was very high indeed. Predictably, the hobby cognoscenti were hard at it this year, processing this vast influx of data– new games released at Origins, new games released at GenCon, new games released at Essen. New games available from the explosive growth of crowd-funded projects like Kickstarter. The abundance of titles may be a blessing, or it may be a curse. I don’t purport to be in the same crowd of gaming hipsters as some of the folks who regularly write and podcast about games, but I try to get a few new ones in a year.  I felt overwhelmed in 2011, just with the sheer number of new titles that I picked up (new to me, that is, not necessarily A dog with two bonespublished in 2011).  One starts to experience the classic Dog with Two Bones syndrome– a plethora of choices, not enough time to engage any single one of them to the extent required to enjoy a new game.  In essence, we’re starving in the midst of gluttony.  I am normally very tuned in to the board gaming blogs, podcasts and YouTube series this time of year.   More so than normal, I mean, because I enjoy reading and listening and watching what people regard as the best and worst of the previous year.  There was a lot to write about in 2011.  I have made my own modest contribution, which appeared in Games magazine Games 100 2011 special, and I don’t reprint it here for obvious reasons.   There were a lot of people writing and podcasting about the end of the year this month, and I’ve waited until the end of the month to post this retrospective of retrospectives because I acknowledge it is a mighty undertaking in a year of plenty to capture it all.  Also, I suspect most reviewers aren’t done playing 2011 games yet, and need to catch up.

Here then, is a compendium of Year’s End, Best and Worst.  This is a list of the better and worse year end wrap ups, and is strictly an opinion piece.

The Best and Worst of the “Best of 2011″ Posts

These people did good things:

Overall Best: The best wrap up of the year definitely goes to the DICE TOWER Network.  The Dice Tower podcast expanded into a “network” of individual podcasts in 2011, so they, too, are providing more content than I can keep up with suddenly.  Year end coverage was particularly good, featuring two podcasts (so far), 239 and 240

239 (part 1)


240 (part 2)


240 features the regular top ten list associated with this program, recounting the best of 2011. In addition to all the audio fun there’s a series of YouTube videos supporting it all, all on the Dice Tower Channel. Coverage was extensive, rambling sometimes, but very enjoyable and referenced well by having a single website to tie it all together. The Dice Tower is the closest thing we have to professional electronic media coverage of the boardgaming industry (not counting boardgamegeek), and the quality is obvious.

2011 Retrospective Blog Posts

(this doesn’t count all the myriad lists and blogs on Boardgamegeek, it’s too much to cover)

Wired magazine’s GeekDad published a Best of list on January 2nd that is interesting reading.  I can’t comment on many of his choices as I didn’t play the same games he did last year.  What makes his list worthy of mention is backing up his selections with review links and contributions from multiple individuals.  Some of the selections weren’t published in 2011, which is a little confusing and others just had me puzzled.  Regardless, it’s an easy list to read and well supported with reference information.

Paste Magazine’s Best of 2011 post was simple, choosing five standout designs of 2011 (Quarriors, Kingdom Builder, A Few Acres of Snow, Blood Bowl Team manager, and Risk Legacy).  I can’t agree with every one of those titles (certainly not Risk Legacy), but these games were a big hit with many people, so they definitely score on coverage and simplicity.

Trent of The Board Game Family wrote a comprehensive post comparing his site’s choices with the Dice Tower network’s choices.  Many of the same games people are heralding the best of 2011 are mentioned here, thought the Board Game family’s choices are (obviously) more geared toward families than regular gaming geeks, so there wasn’t a lot of overlap.  The introductory paragraph is quite good, mirroring some of the points I made above– too many games, who has the time to play them all, etc.

MightyGodKing’s end of the year post was tantalizing and interesting, selecting many picks mentioned by others — Olympos, Blood Bowl Team Manager, Eclipse, King of Tokyo, and Airlines Europe.  I liked it for simplicity and good writing– he explains what he liked and why he liked it in no uncertain terms.

2D6.org went another direction and published a rather terse, and snarky list of Top Ten Disappointing Games of 2011.  I found myself agreeing with some of his choices, particularly JAB, STAR TREK EXPEDITIONS and even MANSIONS OF MADNESS, which the reviewer didn’t even play once.  This post could have been better– the author had a good idea but the tone of the writing was more quarrelsome than clever, and he probably shouldn’t have admitted he hadn’t played one of his list items, it sort of takes away from the impact of the list as a  whole.

One of my favorite Podcast/Vidcast discoveries of 2011, the Shut Up and Sit Down podcast/blog/whatever, did not wax nostalgic for 2011, but did discuss the games they are excited about scheduled to be published in 2012.   I can hardly argue with many of their selections– I’ve been jonesing for the Fantasy Flight Games version of Dune, called REX, since it was announced, and would love to see Wiz-War republished again.  Oh, and that Merchants of Venus kerfluffle, but that’s another blog post.  Excellent job, fellows.  SU&SD will probably hit my end of the year podcast review post this December, I really am enjoying them.

Podcasting

(Top Honors already to The Dice Tower for their comprehensive multipart Best of the Year 2011 episodes)

The D6 Generation doesn’t do anything by halves.  They brought Raef Granger back for an end of the year wrap up, of sorts.  It really wasn’t their “best of 2011″ podcast but more about what they predicted for 2011 last year and what they are predicting for 2012.  If you want to skip over the multiple adverts and such the crunchy bits start about midway through.  Worth a listen, as always!

(Audio)


FATCAST did a two parter best of podcast that was an end of the year 2011.  I am trying to like this cast more.. despite the lapses into profanity from time to time.  They sort of wander all over the place, and that’s not a bad thing– I like chaos.  And they can be funny… it’s growing on me.

(Part 1)


(Part 2)


Ludology didn’t really indulge of a best of podcast as far as I can tell.  Unless I missed one.  They did a pretty good State of the Hobby podcast 2012 post which was quite interesting and thought provoking, but don’t expect a “Gee, look what we have to look forward to”.. it was more about the prevailing trends in the gaming industry from an economic perspective. Ludology is one of the more thoughtful podcasts on gaming, and seeks to (in their words) explain the “why” of games.

(Audio)


Garrett’s Games and Geekiness published a best of 2011 list, which I admit I didn’t catch for two reasons– they are way more into that Euro/Family game niche than I will ever be, and also I listen to gaming podcasts when driving, and this one is a bit subdued, let’s say.  It could cause accidents.

(Audio)


The Bob and Angus show is very cute.  Imagine a couple of muppets talking about boardgames.  The end of the year/Christmas vidcast was posted in December as “LED Angus”  This show is quite Mayfair-centric but I love the format and venue.  Worth a watch!

GAME ON! With Cody and Jeff is not a regular listen for me, nor do they do a “Year end wrap up” in the formal sense, but they do a great Christmas Gift Guide show in December every year, and that really is a sort of informal end of the year guide…

(Audio)


I’ve Been Diced is rapidly becoming one of my favorite shows.  It’s the perfect formula for me.  They did a very reasonable and thoughtful Best and Worst of the year 2011 podcast midway through January.  This would be my second favorite wrap up of the year.

(Audio)


The Gaming Gang also weighed in with a gigantic End of the Year Round up in Episode 33.  I haven’t listened to it all the way through but I’m not disagreeing with anything so far.

Lastly, Point to Point published a 2011 Gift Guide on Christmas Day, 2011, which probably didn’t support the notion of it being a gift guide very much.  No worries, it’s still a good survey of 2011.

(Audio)


So there you go, a summary of most of the annual boardgaming prognostication and bloviation for another year.  There weren’t a lot of new products from 2011 I personally wanted or needed all that much– most of what I liked this past year ends up on lists mentioned in this post already.  I predict we’re going to see maybe twice as many topics to cover this time next year.

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