Box for Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition
Buy It (Amazon) | Rules (PDF) | Play Online (Fantasy Strike)

Every game site and its mom gives out year-end awards. We’re no trend-buckers, so welcome to the first ever Board Game Strategies year-end award thread.

If this site manages to thrive, no doubt the awards will become more baroque, year-by-year, until we’re awarding Most Ergonomic Meeple and Best Use of Mauve, but for our first award we’re sticking to the basics:

Strategy Game of the Year

This being the only board game site in the universe dedicated solely to board game strategies (for multiple games anyway – there are several sites dedicated to individual games), our selection criteria are different than for other other awards.

There are different kinds of pleasure to be had from games: the laughter of party games, the aesthetic wonder of amazing components, etc., but here at Board Game Strategies we’re most interested in the pleasure that comes from… strategy.

In selecting a game for this award, we consider two factors: quantity and quality of strategy. What game published in 2012 has demonstrated the most layers of strategy to peel back, and how enjoyable/stimulating is it to peel back those layers? These aren’t easy questions, because we can’t play every  game enough to see all those layers. In fact no halfway-decent strategy game will allow us to see everything inside it without great dedication. It takes hundreds or thousands of games for a person to master a good strategy game, so the committee of one can’t just rely on his own experience to select a game for this award.

So how do we decide? We look to what other players have found. We look for games around which communities of players have formed, and which have inspired lots thinking and writing about strategy.

By that standard, one game this year stands out well above the others. Our 2012 Strategy Game of the Year:

Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition

Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition Components

What is Puzzle Strike? It’s a deck-building game, which means each player builds his deck of cards at the same time he employs that deck to pursue victory. For those new to this type of game: the genre was born a few years ago with the publication of the seminal game Dominion, and since then dozens of games have been published in the form.

In our view, Puzzle Strike is the apex of that form. Its designer, David Sirlin, took to heart the design lessons of other deck-builders, along with lessons learned from earlier versions of Puzzle Strike itself, to create something of true and lasting value.

In fact, the reason there are already three editions of Puzzle Strike in just two years is that Sirlin is hell-bent on creating games which can be played at a high, competitive level, and as Puzzle Strike players have gotten smarter and badass-er, they’ve uncovered flaws, as often happens in games, and Sirlin has published new versions to fix those flaws. In our view this is a pretty cool thing, as he’s one of the only working designers who goes out of his way to ensure his games are tournament-worthy.

Sirlin has taken flak from some customers who think the multiple editions are just a way to fleece customers, but in studying the matter we don’t think that’s the case. Even if it were, it wouldn’t matter, because Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition has inspired a cult following and a whole lotta strategy stuff. Besides the many strategy posts at the Puzzle Strike forum, there’s already a whole published book about strategy, which is surprising for such a young game.

If you go looking for commentary about the game, you come across stuff like this:

Over 100 games in, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. This game has a tremendous amount of depth. It lives up to the goal of being the best deck builder to play at a high competitive level.

That’s pretty typical of what players have to say about it.

We confess that we never expected a deck-builder to achieve serious depth, but Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition seems to have done it with bells on. It’s a lifetime game, and that’s why it’s our 2012 Strategy Game of the Year.

Finally, if you want to see exactly how this sucker’s played, you can do no better than to watch this series of videos:

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14 Responses to Board Game Strategies’ 2012 Strategy Game of the Year: Puzzle Strike 3rd Edition

  1. Father Geek says:

    I’m not one for lists, but the blog-o-sphere demands it. Welcome to the “trend”.

    Excellent write-up on a game that continues to see table time across the world.

    On a side note, I do not care for this game.

    There…I’ve said it…

  2. Nick Bentley says:

    Why thank you, Father Geek.

  3. Joe A says:

    It is refreshing when a designer sticks with a game instead of just moving on to the next one. Kind of like how it’s refreshing when a player sticks with a game instead of just moving on to the next one.

    I agree that this game has depth, but I rarely want to play deck builders. This seems like a game that would be more fun online than in person.

  4. Nick Bentley says:

    Yeah. one problem with deep(ish) games is that they don’t reveal themselves so much at first, so you kind of have to commit on faith. Puzzle Strike has some of that.

    One problem with playing deck-builders in person is that they tend to be fiddly and require lots of shuffling. Puzzle Strike is the only deck-builder I don’t mind playing in person, since the use of chips instead of cards allows the game to proceed way faster.

  5. rabid_schnauzer says:

    Always happy to see my postings having an influence :)

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