Welcome to MTV Geek's picks for the best board games of 2010!
The biggest surprise of the year, with what started as a fundraising project on Kickstarter.com, Alien Frontiers turned out to be a gem of a game. Similarly to other board games in our top 10, this game mixes area control with a worker placement mechanic. Think of it like this: where you move determines what actions you perform on that turn, but if you control a certain area, other players can’t perform that space’s associated action.
#9 – Dominion: Prosperity
The only expansion to an existing game on this list, Prosperity can be thought of as “epic level Dominion”. The new cards include higher victory point and money cards than have ever existed, so the stakes are raised in every game in which they are incorporated. While not recommended for a first-time Dominion player, if you and your gaming group are addicted to Dominion and just need more, then this expansion is for you.
#8 – Civilization
Civilization the computer game has always felt like an elaborate board game, so it’s a natural fit for Sid Meier put his name on one. Everything that is great about the video game series is in the board game: you will take your civilization from 4000 BC to modern times, while deciding between multiple paths to victory (technological, military, cultural, etc.). Add a top-notch production from Fantasy Flight Games, and you’ve got a winner on your hands.
#7 – Dungeons & Dragons Adventures: Castle Ravenloft
Why didn’t this sort of game exist before?! Castle Ravenloft takes me back to the days of Heroquest, A hole previously filled with dungeon crawlers such as Tomb and Descent, Castle Ravenloft now has top honors of the genre simply because you can play a game in an hour, with very little setup time (a rarity for such games). In addition, Castle Ravenloft borrows many of its rules from the Dungeons & Dragons RPG, so it has added utility as an introductory tool for the full tabletop game, where its pieces can be used as well.
#6 – Forbidden Island
One of the best games of 2009 was Matt Leacock’s Pandemic, which created extremely tense players-versus-the-game scenarios. It raised the bar for co-operative games. Playing off of this success, Leacock took his concept to Gamewright, one of the leaders in family games. The result was Forbidden Island, a simplified version of Pandemic that has become one of the best possible titles used to introduce strategy board gaming to new players. What’s more, the game is only fifteen dollars! This small package packs more fun than some of its fifty dollar cousins.
#5 – Fresco
Fresco has impressed with its incorporation of a really interesting risk/reward mechanic that fits beautifully with the game’s theme. Players each take on the role of artisans working to complete a massive fresco, and each turn must decide how early they will wake up and head to work. The earlier workers get first pick at paint colors, and a better chance at completing all-important pieces of the fresco this turn, but the later workers get the remaining paints at low prices.
#4 – War of the Ring: Collector’s Edition
A remake of the original 2004 printing, this edition is more a piece of art than a board game. Weighing in at a wallet-busting $400, this game comes in a beautifully painted wooden box built to resemble The Red Book of Westmarch, from J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This large Middle-Earth war game is a known quantity in terms of gameplay, so this remake is all about the components. Inside that big box are armies of painted miniatures tucked away in velvet-lined compartments. Unfortunately, the last copies recently sold, and the game will never be reprinted, so you won’t be getting your hands on this version anytime soon.
#3 – 7 Wonders
This game uses card drafting as its main mechanic, which has been seen elsewhere, but the buzz surrounding 7 Wonders has to do with the fact that it couples complex strategy with a brisk 30-minute play time. It also works very well with its full complement of 7 players, which is not something many games allow. Those that do will often take several hours to complete due to rules that don’t scale well, so 7 Wonders will find a home in many game collections.
#2 – Dominant Species
This initially looks like a war game (and GMT makes them the best) but it is actually hugely dependent on area control and worker placement. Mix in variable player powers and you’ve got a gem on your hand. The theme is incredibly well-implemented as well, as the unique powers granted to these species actually make sense. An abstract game on the outside is actually a very deep and engrossing thematic experience.
#1 – Runewars
Runewars is set in the same fantasy universe as other Fantasy Flight board games Runebound and Descent: Journeys in the Dark, this game has the key characteristic of a Fantasy Flight release: nearly 200 highly-detailed plastic miniatures. It’s not all glitz and components, though, Runewars is a fantastic game! It has a modular board setup, which is an interesting wrinkle for a large war game, but also adds in a lot of subtle strategy. Players can control powerful heroes and go on side-quests and collect resources to build up your armies. It’s a board game that plays like a computer real-time strategy game! Ultimately, this game wins top honors this year because play sessions culminate in a series of epic yet elegantly-resolved battles that will make you keep your other big-box war games on the shelf.