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The IGA nominees and a return to form for Euros

After 2010's parade of ‘just above average’ the 2011 shortlist for the IGA is evidence of a return to form for Euro games. There are some genuinely strong contenders for the multiplayer award and a shoe in for the 2 player. I wrote a long piece on the 2011 nominees [link] bemoaning the quality or originality of the candidates - 2011 though is an impressive field. There are not many of the nominees that can be dismissed as also run but there are a couple of make weights; ‘Asara’ and ‘K2’ are the two that fail to make the cut. Both games are pleasant to play, and the closest to the family gamer end of the spectrum of the shortlist. In fact ‘K2’is a game I now only play with family, with gamers it falls flat as the congestion at the top of the mountain creates too many artificial situations. ‘Asara’ though is a most enjoyable 45 minutes, made entirely by the action selection mechanic. Despite the merits of both games they fall short of IGA winning pedigree. Last year I dismissed the eventual winner, ‘Age of Industry’, because it is an iteration of ‘Brass’. Despite that I am going to say that ‘Incan Empire’ is the next to miss the cut - it's almost the same game as Tahuantinsuyu, and Despites it's merits I doubt that that many of the jury have played this edition. I am delighted to see ‘Airlines Europe’ make the short cut - however I think it falls foul of both being part of a venerable chain of Alan Moon transport games. So that leaves seven. And I would not be suprised to see any of them as the eventual winner. ‘London‘is the weakest of the candidates, it's Wallace treading water - however its very widely played and could benefit from vote transfers ala St Petersburg. I wonder if the underwhelming critical reception for ‘London’ was because its card play seems slow and cumbersome in comparison with 2011 Kennerspiel winner 7 Wonders? Here is a game that is instantly appealing, not going to suffer from not being played multiple times by the jury panel. Moreover the drafting mechanic is a very fresh take on the Civilisation building game. A strong contender, though it would have the shortest play time of any IGA winner and I have a feeling that might count against the game in some people’s eyes – it would break the mould of previous winners. ‘Die Burgen von Burgen’ has last mover advantage; it was released in 2011 and is probably quite fresh in the mind of the jurists. It's a typical Feld game in that it has clever mechanics, is intricate and the first few games are a spent going up a steep learning curve. However, a little like ‘Macao’ the charm of the game wears off after repeated plays. The intricacies of the tile interactions are aimed inward, it's very much a solitaire experience. Moreover the combos start to feel like stutter steps without an overarching strategic arc to the game. Add in the wafer thin theme and the production values I would not be voting for this game - however like ‘London’ I can see this benefiting from the transferrable vote. I would love to see ‘Dominant Species’ win the IGA; it's the antithesis of ‘Die Burgen’, theme rich, interactive and with a real arc to the game. It might be too rich faire for some and I can’t quite see this as eventual winner. And then there were three. My own view of ‘Vinhos’ is skewed by having to teach the game in each of the four times I have played – there were so many rules questions throughout that I felt more like a moderator than a participant. It’s a game I admire more than like, and I feel there is too much of a wrestling match with the mechanics for this to be a truly great economic game – but its close and was obviously crafted with love for and fidelity with the subject matter. This could be the winner, but it does polarise opinion and that might just cause it to fall short. That leaves two – and it is a choice between the innovative ‘Troyes’ and the perfectly honed old school mechanics of ‘Navegador’. I like ‘Troyes’ but I love ‘Navegador’ – it’s the most elegant design of the rondel series. ‘Troyes’ feels a little rough around the edges in comparison. However, my personal opinion does not matter it the jury that counts – and I can see both of these picking up a lot of first or second place votes. My feeling? ‘Navegador’ by a nose for the multiplayer strategy 2011 IGA award Evidence of the strength of this year’s field is the omission of ‘Sid Meier’s ‘Civilization: The Board game’, ‘Pantheon’ and the superb ‘Key Market’ The two player award can be handed over now – ‘A Few Acres of Snow’ is a magnificent game, and regardless of the merits of the other games on the short list (none of which I have played – not I can I imagine many of the jurists will have played either). The two player nominees seem a bit lacking – no ‘Basilica’, ‘Yomi’, ‘Railroad Barons. If there were a market on boardgame awards I Would advise you to act on any of the above – I have a Zero percent record in predecition eventual winners