Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 10 Board Games of 2012

The end of the year means it is time for  the annual "Best of" list.   I am not sure if I got my count right, but I believe I played 32 games that were released in 2012.  When it comes to playing games, this was really big year for both Abigail and I because we undertook our project to play (and blog) through all of our games.  We then ended up trading for new games throughout the year, so it took 10 months and it meant that I played 302 and two unique games this year!

My most played game this year, was easily Warhammer: Invasion, as I played it 200 times just this year.  I ended up playing the game at least monthly.  This is also the first game that I have seriously competed in since high school.  I played in several tournaments, including a couple in Louisville and the North American Championship at Gen Con.  Here is a picture from the regional in Louisville:
At all of these events I was extremely competitive and always finishing near the top.

My favorite "new to me" game from this year, is not a game that was released this year, and that is Federation Commander

I absolutely LOVE this game, and I simply can not play it enough.

However, this post is about my favorite games from this year, so here they are in (of course) dramatic, descending order.

10.  Merchant of Venus

This one is cheating because I technically have not played it yet. Merchant of Venus is a game originally released back in the 80's, that has a large fan base.  Abigail and I both got to play it last year and we both really, really liked it.  A second edition of the game was announced and came out this year just in time for Christmas.  We made it a Christmas present to ourselves, so it is sitting on the shelf just screaming to be played.  I know we will like it, so it has be to be on this list.

9.  Snake Oil
I am assuming by this point most people have played Apples to Apples.  This game has a similar concept.  One player is "it", and picks the best answer from the other players.  However, this game adds a sales pitch. In this game "it" has a role (rock star, astronaut, teenager, etc) and the other players are going to take the random nouns and adjectives in their hands to create a new product this person needs and pitch it to them.  The created products are silly and the sale pitches are hilarious.  This game always leads to tons of laughing and is great fun to play.

8.  Guild of Thieves

This is a very unique deck building game that makes the cards into a board as well.  Each player begins with some thieves on a grid of cards, and each card played will move one of the thieves.  When a thief moves off of a card at the beginning of the turn, the player gets the card and adds it to their deck.  Several movement cards also have special abilities.  Players can not move through each other, so eventually the board gets divided into little "islands" and thieves get trapped.  Each card has a point value as well, and the player with the most cards wins.  This is a quick and simple little game that also makes it so that most turns are full of important feeling choices.  I think most times this year I played this game, I played it twice in a row because  it is a "do it again" type of game.  The fact that we are friends with the designer just makes it more awesome.

7.  Divided Republic

This is a historical game about the election of 1860.  In this game players play cards to gain votes in the various states.  Each card can be used for multiple purposes, so players have some important decisions each turn about how they can best use their cards. This game can be mean and extremely cut throat.  There are some design issues with the board, but they do not get in the way of playing the game.  This game also really captures the historical theme really well.

6.  Morels

This is a two player game about the unusual theme of mushroom hunting.  At it's core Morels is a hand management and set collection game, where players try to collect sets of mushrooms and then cook the mushrooms for points.  There is a good mix of long term strategy and turn by turn decisions to be made.   It can be a little fiddly to play, but the inconvenience of moving the cards along the forest path does not get in way of the excellent game play.

5.  Saint Malo

This is a dice game that uses the familiar roll three times, save dice you want mechanic of Yahtzee.  However, instead of trying to get number combinations the goal of this game is to build a city.  There are various symbols on the dice and the number of dice rolled of a particular symbol build certain things.  Players build their city by drawing on an empty city grid that is a dry erase board.  The physical component of making everything fit in the city really adds a lot to this simple dice game and makes for a fun and engaging game.

4.  Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
This is the only game on this list that I do not own, and that is a shame.  I played this game at Gen Con and I loved it.  This is a perfect Star Wars game.  It is tense, exciting, and feels like Star Wars.  On top of that it has a customization element that really appeals to me.  The reason why I do not have this game, and why I probably will not get it is twofold.  First, I think the game is to expensive for what it is and second I know that my wife will never, ever play this game with me.

3.  Village

Village is a worker placement euro game, but it brings several new ideas together. One of the neat things about this game is that the resouces players collect are tied to the actions they take.  This leads to players having to balance taking needed actions vs. getting needed resources. The big mechanic this game is best known for is death.  As time goes on, the older generation in the village dies.  There is a lot of strategy in planning how family members die so that they are recorded in the village chronicle and remembered.  This game offers multiple paths to vicotry and offers a fun euro game experience.

2.  Core Worlds

Core Worlds is a game I like, and I will admit a lot of that has to do with the theme.  Building a space empire will always be more fun than just about anything else that can be done in a game. Core Worlds is a deck building game, but it is more than that.  Players build a deck, but they also deploy units, and attack planets.  There is a multiplayer solitaire element, as the player interaction all comes from taking cards from a common pool, but every time I have played it the game has been fun.

1.  Empires of the Void

Again, building space empires is always fun, and Empires of the Void is one of the best games at doing this.  Empires of the Void is a light 4X game. The problem with most 4X games (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) is that they are big, ploding games that take hours upon hours to play.  A complete game of Empires of the Void takes less than 3 hours.  Players get to expand and create their space empire.  I also like this game because it has a strong emphasis on combat.  It is inevitable that by the half way point of the game players are going to be slogging it out.  However, this is not just Risk in space.  The game takes place over 11 rounds and players only have a base of 3 actions per turns.  This means that players are never able to do everything they want and tense choices have to be made.  For me this is the single best game of 2012, and I am really looking forward to playing it more in 2013.  


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