The Dice Tower Gaming Awards 2011

(NOTE: Awards now announced here)

While there are quite a few different annual gaming awards, The Dice Tower Awards could (and I would argue should) become one of the most prominent ones in the industry. So what makes them stand out?

Now in their fifth year, the previous ‘Game of the Year’ award winners have been 7 Wonders, Small Worlds, Dominion and Race for the Galaxy. If you know anything about board games, this represents four games that are very much considered classics already, showing that the main award has gone to a very worthy winner every year so far.

Three are in the Board Game Geek Top 20 list of all time games, while Small World is a very creditable 58th right now (to give it some perspective, there are more than 50,000 games listed on Board Game Geek (BGG)). They may not to be to everyone’s tastes (what is?), but they certainly represent the cream of the crop from recent years in a way many other awards fail to do.

I think the list of categories is good too. Alongside best game there are categories for family games, new designers, theme and production values. I’d like to see an accolade for best new gateway game, as the awards are meant to, “Promote board and card games to a larger audience”, but it’s a minor quibble.

All the nominees are listed below. Sorry, I’m not going to make them all links (life’s too short!) – instead, simply head over to The Dice Tower Awards page for links galore. I’m also not going to ramble on about all of the categories; there are a hell of a lot of games I haven’t played on the list and many I have no personal interest in either. But there are a couple of categories I’d like to make a few comments on (see below). I’ll put up a short extra post when the winners are announced.

Just before we continue, here are my top three games that didn’t make any of the lists that really probably should have:

  • Ora et Labora: In the BGG Top 20, but nowhere here
  • Airlines Europe: The great gateway game of the year
  • Friday: A highly rated and original solo deck building game

Best Game of the Year 2011

Listening to the latest Dice Tower podcast, it was said that this category was extended to games this year because of blah blah blah. Frankly it really wasn’t needed, as if this award follows form the winner will (and certainly should) come from a much shorter list of real contenders: Eclipse, Mage Knight The Board Game and Die Burgen von Burgund.

These three are all already right up in the BGG Top 50 (6th, 22nd and 38th respectively), while A Few Acres of Snow and The Lord of the Rings card game are also in the top 100 but perhaps a little too niche to take the top award. The others, while good games in their own rights, really aren’t ‘game of the year’ material.

Unfortunately I’m yet to have a chance to play Die Burgen, but I’d happily get behind a win for either Eclipse or Mage Knight. I’ve played them several times and while they’re both pretty long games, they’re wonderfully produced, thematic, streamlined and, most importantly, fun. I’d give it to Mage Knight, but I expect Eclipse will take the award.

Of the others, I really didn’t like A Few Acres (essentially a dry, dull and limited war game dressed in deck builder’s clothing), while I had fun with both Star Trek and Tokyo without being compelled to buy them. Both good games, but ones that wouldn’t replace something else in my collection. Here’s the full list:

  • Eclipse
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
  • Quarriors!
  • Risk Legacy
  • Star Trek: Fleet Captains
  • King of Tokyo
  • Die Burgen von Burgund
  • Mage Knight Board Game
  • A Few Acres of Snow
  • The Ares Project

Best Family Game Nominees

  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue
  • Kingdom Builder
  • King of Tokyo
  • Quarriors!
  • Say Anything Family Edition

Best New Game Designer Nominees

It’s great to see this award on the list, especially with funding sites such as Kickstarter giving a lot of new designers a viable route to market. Quite how good a thing that will be in the long run remains to be seen, but it’s nice to see a mix of traditionally published and kick-started games on the list.

All five have had mixed reviews but are ranking very well at BGG. They’re actually all on list of games I’d like to play too, so good luck to one and all.

  • Jason Little (Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game)
  • Kevin Lanzing (Flash Point: Fire Rescue)
  • Brian & Geoff Engelstein (Ares Project)
  • Christopher Badell, Paul Bender (Sentinels of the Multiverse)
  • David Gregg (Nightfall)

Best Game Reprint Nominees

  • Can’t Stop
  • Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War
  • Evo
  • A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition)
  • Puerto Rico: Anniversary Edition

Best Production Values Nominees

  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
  • Mansions of Madness
  • Risk Legacy
  • Super Dungeon Explore
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game

Best Small Publisher Nominees

  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue
  • Dungeon Run
  • Rallyman
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse
  • Bears!

Best Party Game Nominees

  • Crappy Birthday
  • Dixit Odyssey
  • Reverse Charades Junior Edition
  • Faux•Cabulary
  • Train of Thought

Best Game Expansion Nominees

For me, this should be an absolute walk over for Ticket to Ride. If it doesn’t win the award, it’ll be a travesty!

While it’s very popular, I don’t think 7 Wonders is much of a game and this expansion doesn’t change that. SW Underground and SW Master Set are little more than re-themes, while Dragonspire is simply putting a playable version of a poor game out (the original Thunderstone was so crap it was practically a beta test).

In comparison, Team Asia  adds an extra player and co-operative team play to one of the most popular and highly regarded board games in existence. Legendary Asia also adds a new way to think about carriage use, making this a fantastic expansion for Ticket to Ride. Seriously, how is this even a competition?

  • Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 1 – Team Asia & Legendary Asia
  • Thunderstone: Dragonspire
  • Small World Underground
  • 7 Wonders: Leaders
  • Summoner Wars: Master Set

Most Innovative Game Nominees

Again, this is a category that I can only see one winner in. No matter what you think of the original game, or the company that makes it, Hasbro has really come up with something original with Risk Legacy.

While for the most part you’re buying Risk, you’ll play a series of games (preferably with the same players each time) and the outcome of each game will have direct – and permanent – outcome on the board. You’ll be putting stickers actually onto the board, as well as writing on it, giving you  unique board with a different set of rules.

While it’s not an idea that appeals to everyone, and some see it simply as a great marketing ploy to shift more units, either way it’s an ingenious and original game design mechanism. It appeals to me – but it’s still Risk…

  • The Ares Project
  • Ascending Empires
  • Paperclip Railways
  • Quarriors!
  • Risk Legacy

Best Game Artwork Nominees

  • Dixit Odyssey
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
  • Mansions of Madness
  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue
  • A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition)

Best War Games Nominees

  • Sekigahara: Unification of Japan
  • Band of Brothers
  • A Few Acres of Snow
  • Julius Caesar
  • Sergeants Miniatures Game

Best Game Theme Nominees

  • Dungeon Petz
  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue
  • Last Will
  • Yggdrasil
  • Takenoko

Best Digital Boardgame Nominees

This is a slightly odd list of titles, but I guess that’s the nature of the app market. Ticket to Ride is the stand-out game on the list and has a very good app, but it all depends on what is really being judged. Unfortunately the Dice Tower Awards page doesn’t list the criteria for how this one will be judged.

I thought Ascension was a pretty poor deck building game, while reviews of Elder Sign were very mixed. However, I’ve heard good reports of both apps, which is interesting. Ghost Stories and Forbidden Island are pretty highly rated co-operative games that I haven’t played, but if these apps give a good solo experience I can see them being very popular. So what will be judged here? Improving on the original, a successful port, types of play available? It would be interesting to know.

  • Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Forbidden Island
  • Ghost Stories
  • Elder Sign

One thought on “The Dice Tower Gaming Awards 2011

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