Last time around, we rounded up games #10-6 on our list of the top 10 board games of 2011. With the new year upon us, it's time to look at what other top-of-the-class titles from last year should be hitting your table in 2012. Hopefully you've got a reliable gaming partner, as the one most noticeable trend in this top 5 is that 2011 was a fantastic year for 2-player games.

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Admit it, board games and pen-and-paper RPGs are niche hobbies, yet this slight obscurity causes the ranks of their fandom to be filled with passionate people. So what's a player to do when the larger geek community fails to recognize the analog side of gaming? The only option is to take matters into their own hands.

The board game evangelist is a common sight, turning friends and family members into card-carrying, dice-toting gaming geeks. No time is he more active than during the holiday season, where a well thought out gift can easily spread the love of hobby gaming. However, a dud can solidify a permanent distaste for the hobby, so follow me and I'll provide the perfect gift ideas for the future gaming converts in your life.

The Potential Roleplayer: Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game Box Set

The Mouse Guard RPG may be a simplified version of the Burning Wheel system, applied to a setting filled with small furry creatures, but don't call it a kid's game. Based on the comic series of the same name, the Mouse Guard RPG is a game that bucks the trend of most roleplaying games where success is typically measured in levels and loot.

Instead, Mouse Guard has meaningful character creation (where even the slightest background details directly tie into your character's stats) and you will be rewarded for playing your character according to a list of their beliefs and instincts.

This deluxe boxed set includes plenty of newbie-friendly tools, such as a rule book that coaches the player through running a game, and equipment and status cards that simplify the process of character management. This is the only game where I would feel comfortable telling a player who had absolutely zero roleplaying experience that they could run the game, making it the perfect gift for groups with no veteran guide.

Runners-up: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box, Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: The Essential Starter (Red Box)

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Fresh from the printer, we've got our hands on an early copy of the Puzzle Strike Upgrade Pack. After Puzzle Strike, the Super Puzzle Fighter-inspired board game, garnered praise in its review here on MTV Geek, the anticipation for this expansion has been high. It aims to fix each and every flaw of the base game, so we tore through the shrink wrap to bring you some first-hand impressions and photos of the actual components.

Included in the upgrade pack are:

  • 4 player mats
  • 4 chip screens
  • 3 new puzzle chips
  • Re-balanced versions of all 30 character chips
  • 15 blank chips

According to designer David Sirlin, there are two major reasons why this upgrade pack was created. The first was the imbalanced abilities of the ten different characters. Since Puzzle Strike was inspired by a video game with a thriving tournament scene (which Sirlin also hails from), it was a no-brainer to tweak Puzzle Strike so that it could be a host to such high-level competition. The second reason was due to requests from players, particularly those who wanted to have a player mat similar to the mat included in Sirlin's other hit game, Yomi. Read More...

If you've ever attempted to play Street Fighter but just didn't have the joystick wielding skills necessary to pull off a victory, then I've got the perfect game for you. Yomi is a 1-vs-1 card game that aims to bottle up all of the mental strategy used by professional Street Fighter players while leaving out all of the finger-twisting dexterity.

You may recognize the game's creator, David Sirlin, as the designer of the recent Street Fighter HD Remix video game and Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips which we reviewed here on MTV Geek a few weeks back, so he's definitely got the right resume for the job. The big question here is whether a fighting game can still be fun without the controller, or if it simply feels like half of a game. Read on for the full review to find out:

Just the Facts:

Players: 2
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Age: 10 to Adult
Publisher: Sirlin Games
MSRP: $25 (2 decks) / $100 (10-deck Complete First Edition)
Release: January 2011

The Gameplay:

At it's core, Yomi uses a rock-paper-scissors mechanic to represent the various types fighting game moves and the different strengths they hold over each other. These attacks, dodges, throws, and blocks are each assigned to the cards of a standard poker deck, and just like a true fighting game, player must begin by selecting a character. There are ten to choose from in Yomi, and each comes with its own unique abilities.

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Last week, I posted my review of Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips from Sirlin Games and promised to follow up with a special announcement about the future of the game. Well, today is the day, so it's time to lift the curtain on the upcoming Puzzle Strike Upgrade Pack.

The only major complaint I was able to levy against Puzzle Strike was that the ten characters which players can choose from were significantly unbalanced. Thankfully, this issue is addressed completely in the upgrade pack.

The most notable changes were to the characters Val and Lum Lum, although almost every character had their power adjusted. Val's Chromatic Orb chip is toned down to revoke her status as a one-sided powerhouse, while Lum Lum's new abilities finally allow him to be the gambling panda he was supposed to be.

Also worth mentioning here is that only 21 of the 30 character chips have actually been changed in order to balance the game. Rather than cut corners though, Sirlin Games will be including a fresh set of all 30 chips in the upgrade pack. The added bonus here is that now players can have mirror matches where one character faces off against a slightly modified version of itself, another aspect of this game that invokes its video game fighter roots.
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Take one part puzzle video game and mix it with one part card game, and you've got a recipe for Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips. Designed by Street Fighter veteran and overall game theory guru David Sirlin, Puzzle Strike is a fast-paced puzzle combat game that draws inspiration from one of Sirlin's past projects, Super Puzzle Fighter HD Remix for XBLA and PSN. It's not often that video games get adapted into tabletop games, and even rarer when they are worth your time. Puzzle Strike most definitely is, so read on for the full review:

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Age: 8 to adult
Publisher: Sirlin Games
MSRP: $59.99 ($9.99 for downloadable print-and-play set)
Release: June 2011 (2nd Edition)

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