The past year has been a great one for new games, with a combination of exciting new releases and great updates of classic games hitting the shelves. We've compiled our favorites from the past 12 months here for you.
Eclipse is the hottest release we’ve seen in years, with two print-runs selling out before they managed to make our shelves, and a third printing scheduled for late this Fall that is already selling at blockbuster levels (not to mention an expansion that's hot in its heels).
Eclipse is a full 4x (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) science fiction board game that can be played in only 2-3 hours (roughly 30 minutes/player). It packs fun gameplay and lots of choices with an intuitive player board that makes development and resource management easy, as well as a unique ship-upgrade system that functions as a mini-game of its own. Eclipse's insane buzz is backed up by great mechanics to create what is sure to be a classic board game.
Mage Knight is a fantasy adventure board game that allows up to 4 players to take on the role of a powerful Mage Knight and explore and conquer the old Atlantean Empire. Players will need to build their army, fill their deck with powerful spells and actions and level their character. Mage Knight provides rules for co-operative and competitive games as well as solo play, and a truly epic fantasy setting for players to immerse themselves in.
Mage Knight isn’t a game for beginning strategy gamers or players who don't like complex set-up and rules, but for fantasy RPG fans and those willing to spend the time, it offers a truly rewarding gaming experience. Its first expansion, The Lost Legion is due for release in late 2012.
Last Will takes a stab at the too-serious themes of most Eurogames by having players vie to bankrupt themselves in the most extravagant way possible. Each player is a potential beneficiary of a rich uncle – but to win his fortune, they must first squander all their money. In Last Will, you’ll do your best to buy property and let it go to waste, spend lavishly on events and companions, and find time to recuperate as well. This is a fun, tight Euro game that brings a compelling and different theme together with great mechanics.
It's quick to play and easy to learn, which also makes it a great introduction to challenging worker-placement games for players who are used to more thematic fare.
The Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game brings to life the spectacular dogfights of the iconic movies. Players get to participate in the action of the original trilogy by strapping into the cockpits of TIE Fighters and Interceptors, X-Wings, Y-Wings and other classic ships (including the soon-to-be-released Millennium Falcon) and fighting to the last ship.
Publisher Fantasy Flight Games has put together a stripped-down and easy to learn rule set that works for both small dogfights to full-out scrums in space, while maintaining the unique piloting characteristics of each ship.
Leviathans is set in an alternate history universe where flying turn-of-the-century battleships have taken to the skies. Players command the British and French navies in a titanic battle for control of the sky. Leviathans' ruleset brings to life large-scale naval combat while keeping in mind the intricacies of flight. A well thought out combat system keeps players engaged, and a gradated rulebook slowly introduces more complex rules, allowing players of all levels to enjoy to the game.
Publisher Catalyst Game Labs (of BattleTech and Shadowrun fame) do a great job of rounding out the experience with beautiful pre-painted miniatures and loads of world-building content to create an immersive gaming experience that will delight miniatures gamers and Steampunk/alt history fans alike.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small is a stripped down, 2-player version of the award winning board game Agricola. Players in All Creatures Big and Small are animal breeders who must make the most of their pastures, expanding them as needed to raise the most of the 4 animal breeds. The game carries all of the tension of the previous game through to this smaller, faster version, where you only have 3 workers, 8 turns and 16 possible actions each turn -- forcing each player to make the most of every turn. All Creatures Big and Small maintains the high quality components of the original, including the coveted (and cute) animeeples.
This is a great addition to the category of strategic 2-player games, and works well as both a tight, fast challenge for experienced Euro gamers and as an introduction to pure worker-placement mechanics for newcomers to the genre.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark is a revamping of the original Descent board game released by Fantasy Flight Games. The streamlined ruleset allows for faster setup, shorter games, less bookkeeping, and a great campaign mode, all while keeping the dungeon-delving flavor of the original board game. This version also keeps the original's great artwork, sculpts and design, and can include all of its rich cast of characters with the Conversion Kit.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark serves as a great introduction to GM-driven adventure games with easy-to-learn rules and an expansive scope. The campaign mode is a great alternative to pen-and-paper RPGs, and really pays off for groups that make time for regular gaming nights.
Android: Netrunner is a re-theming and re-launch of the classic Netrunner card game. With the Limited Card Game model, players no longer have to search for cards to build their decks, instead purchasing expansions with the cards they want, and no guesswork, while the original's tight, asymmetric gameplay has been kept intact. In Netrunner, one player is the Corporation, fighting to stall and defeat the other player’s Hacker while attempting to achieve their own goals. It's a purely one-on-one race to the finish where every move counts and the tension stays high.
Ora & Labora is the latest game by Uwe Rosenberg and, in our view, his best full board game since Agricola. It combines the tight mechanics and resource management of the original game with the complex resource choices and building development of Le Havre. It’s a heavy strategic game that takes 3 to 4 hours to play, but manages to keep downtime low and tension high throughout the entire game.
Ora & Labora is a great choice for fans of Rosenberg's game design, or for those looking to sink their teeth into a deep, complex Euro game for the first or thousandth time.
Castles of Burgundy has players as aristocrats competing to develop their estates and advance their station in life. Each turn, they roll a pair of dice that allow them to collect or place new tiles on their estate. These tiles let players build settlements and powerful castles, practice trade along the river, exploit silver mines, and interact with travelers moving through the area. Each tile's special action is triggered once it's played, and some of them can be quite powerful, so it's important to maximize the development of your estate with each roll.
With a relatively simple rule set and a dice element that can level out differences in player experience and keep the game fresh, Castles of Burgundy makes a good gateway game for players looking for a next step beyond Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne.