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Overrated and Underrated 2010-11
RANDOM MUSINGS on the fin-de-millénaire games scene . . .
2 January 2012

Taking a look at which 2011 board games were the most over- and underrated. Because of the nature of the industry in which a very large percentage of the new appear late in the year, titles from 2010 are also included. The concepts of over- and underrated imply existing ratings. In this case they are derived from the average rating numbers at boardgamegeek.com.

MOST UNDERRATED
It's difficult to decide whether or not to include game expansion kits as their ratings tend to be somewhat skewed by playing to an already appreciative audience. In this case, expansions will be included, but for each expansion, another game is added to the original list of five.

8. Gold!
While it's true that this maxes out at three players, that's not an uncommon situation, especially as the industry seems to be moving to fewer players anyway. How many times are there two or three waiting for the fourth to show up? This short affair is the perfect solution. The rules are so accessible, but the different ways to approach it so intriguing. Shop
7. Armorica
Another fast card game with delicious decisions, it takes four and even has a smaller package, great for taking along when going out. Maybe players have become too used to the card set? Perhaps an expansion kit is in order offering cards with new abilities? Or a variant that adds new abilities to some of the existing cards? Shop
6. Rails of New England
In contrast to the above, this is a big, long experience game, misleadingly titled so that someone might think it's just another in Mayfair's Empire Builder series. Far from it. This provides a great experience feeling and was obviously a labor of love and research for its inventor. If you don't like the "take that!" cards just leave them out. Shop
5. Carcassonne: The Plague
In the first of the expansion kits in the list, can there really be anything new in a Carcassonne expansion at this point? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is yes. Now you can kill those darn meeples using the gradually spreading plague-carrying flea pieces. More seriously, it gives an impetus to actually move meeples around on the map, meaning that you'll look at and build into the map in a whole new way, and that's cool. General Carcassonne-fatigue is probably the explanation on this one. Shop
4. Dominion: Prosperity
The second of the expansions, adding a larger green card (the Colony) and the larger money card (Platinum) really re-opened all the usual calculations in really challenging ways, not least because now there's a third way to end the game. This is probably the most indispensable Dominion of them all. Shop
3. Major Four of Heizei
This clever and quick Japanese card game on the politics of the year 714 – how many games do we have on that? – is based on a novel, elegant mechanism in which understanding and dealing with the groupthink is paramount. Unfortunately, the English translation it came with was well nigh unusable so probably many raters have not even played the game as intended. Shop
2. Dominion: Alchemy
The third of the expansions in the list is just a half-sized box, but has a lot of good stuff inside. In particular, adding potions as a new type of currency, makes everything go a bit unusually. Then there is the love-it-or-hate-it Possession card which lets you play the next player's hand. Not sure why it's hated. Ever trash a province? Really it can be quite fun. Apparently a lot of the raters are haters. Shop
Most: Stich-Meister
Figuring out the consequences of the almost limitless rule combinations in this trick-taker is endlessly fascinating. Maybe it's not having English text for this German-only product that's the problem, or the strange appearance of the cards. Or maybe some find it too difficult? It shouldn't be. Maybe some need to give it another chance; it has been a great hit hereabouts. Shop

MOST OVERRATED
Of course these are based only on games played and in that sense can be misleading. Had sufficient number of Warhammer and zombie games been played, the list would probably have consisted of nothing but those.

5. Alien Frontiers
Can we get over the worker placement mechanism already? Okay, this one did something innovative by turning the workers into dice, but here a good starting concept was inadequately finished. Being able to steal vital materials or a card from an opponent by virtue of just a three-dice straight is far too unbalancing. In addition more should have been done to ensure that each turn the decisions are not so obvious as well as to avoid kingmaker situations.
4. Age of Industry
Brass II has a lot of good ideas, but unfortunately collapses under its own weight and length.
3. Troyes
Again with the worker placing, and again with the making them dice. This one made it all rather long and complicated and threw in the petty diplomacy problems of dice theft as well. It's purely a bonus that players get abused for no other reason than that they happen to be late in the turn order.
2. The Castles of Burgundy/Die Burgen von Burgund
There are some interesting ideas here, but it really goes at least one round too long, but in terms of time and interest. It's too bad the runaway leader can be difficult to identify; players could otherwise just quit early. Presentation and downtime issues just made it worse.
Most: Ascension
The deck-building game that removes most of what makes a deck-building game: planning. On top of that it added things like turning up a card in the middle of the turn which really slows things down and exacerbated that by making so few targets available that it's pointless to plan's one turn: anything you might go for will be gone. Presentation problems round out the issues here; why it's even being played is quite mysterious.

Other titles considered for this list which are both less underrated and less overrated:
Adlungland, Airlines Europe, Anomia, Antics!, Asara, Asteroyds, Cargo Noir, Catacombs, Charon Inc., Chocolatl, Color Stix, Colorado Midland, Core Worlds, Crows, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Dixit 2, Dominion: Cornucopia, Dominion: Hinterlands, Don Quixote, Dragonheart, 11 Nimmt, Eminent Domain, Evolution, Felinia, Fiese 15, Firenze, First Train to Nuremberg, Florenza, Forbidden Island, Founding Fathers, Fresco, Geizen, Glen More, Grand Cru, Grimoire, Haggis, Hanabi, Hansa Teutonica: East Expansion, Inca Empire, Jäger und Sammler, Jarjais, K2, Kaiten Sushi, Key Market, Key West, Kingdom Builder, Lancaster, Last Will, Letters from Whitechapel, London, Luna, Merchants and Marauders, Merkator, Mines of Zavandor, Mord im Arosa, Mundus Novus, Navegador, Olympos, Palenque, Pantheon, Paris Connection, Der Pate, Penny Arcade, Pergamon, Poseidon's Kingdom, Principato, Puzzle Strike, Quarriors, Quebec, R-Eco Recycle, Railways of the World: The Card Game, Rapa Nui, Rattus, Rising Sun Railroads, Ristorante Italia, Road to Canterbury, Safranito, The Secret of Monte Cristo, 7 Wonders, Singapore, The Speicherstadt String Railway, Sun, Sea & Sand, Take It or Leave It, Texas & Pacific, Tori, Toscana, Totemo, Trajan, 20th Century, The 2010 Election, 23, Uluru, Viable, Vinhos, Walnut Grove, War of the Roses, Way of the Dragon, West Riding Revisited, and Wits & Wagers Family.

   


by Rick Heli