My Personal Top 10 - 2012 Edition - With Halfway Decent Explanations!
Matthew Cordeiro
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Okay, to be perfectly honest, I created this list to take part in the GeekGold Contest run by...

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But while I'm at it, I figured I'd put some real effort into this and explain why these 10 games are my favorites after a lifetime of gaming and 9 years of "serious" (read: non-Monopoly) gaming.

Note: My view of any game on this list is biased by its expansions, and I have many of them.

Feel free to comment on any or all selections!

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1. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Matthew Cordeiro
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First Play: 2011

Expansions Played: Pacific Theater, Winter Wars, Winter/Desert Board

M'44 made it to my top 10 after just a few plays and just kept rising in the ranks the more I played. It has so many things going for it:

1. A WWII theme. I love WWII stuff. I grew up on the History Channel. Both of my grandfathers were in the war.

2. A war game that doesn't take all day (or days) to play. I appreciate the fact that I can set up, play, and put away in about an hour.

3. Replayability. Lots of additional scenarios available online for free, plus every new expansion adds more scenarios and unique elements.

4. Production quality. The plastic figures go a long way in making this game fun. The tiles are colorful and sturdy.

5. A good balance of skill and luck. Yeah, it has dice and drawing cards, but it also takes some planning and knowing when to make your move. The better player usually wins, but not always.
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2. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
Matthew Cordeiro
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First Play: 2010

Expansions Played: everything released through 2012.

I had my doubts about Dominion, but heard so many good things, I thought I'd take a chance. It paid off, and Dominion has been in my top 10 after just a few plays. It was even my #1 game for a little while. What I like:

1. Easy to learn and play. I've taught many people how to play, and almost all of them liked it immediately. It helps that the rules are very straightforward and that it plays quickly.

2. Endless possibilities. I think we're up to something like a bazillion kajillion card combinations, so it's highly unlikely you'll see the exact same setup twice. A strategy that works well in one game may not work so well in another. And even in the same game, there are often competing strategies.

3. Works well with 2-8 players. If you have the right cards, you can play up to 6 in one game or 2 games of 4. This is really helpful as I often have a large number of people at my game nights.

4. It's fast. Even with 4 players, I can get in 4 games in a couple hours.

5. The more you play, the better you play. I feel like I'm getting better even after hundreds of plays, but that there's still room for improvement.
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3. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:79]
Matthew Cordeiro
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First Play: 2011

Expansions Played: New Huts

It's my favorite worker placement game. Some may say that it gets old, but I still think every game is a unique challenge. I like all the calculations going on in my head every turn. It plays well with 2-4 but offers a different experience depending on the number of players. The board and components are top notch. Say what you will about the dice cup, I use it every game.
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4. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:43]
Matthew Cordeiro
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First Play: 2011

The more I play it, the more I appreciate it. It's now the go-to game for 6-7 players in my house. Knowing all the symbols, how the cards interact, how to maximize your score, etc. takes a few plays, but the investment is worth it. It plays fast even with 7 players, and there's no downtime. I love the draft-and-pass mechanic and how every card can be used 3 different ways. The theme and artwork are superb.
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5. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:284] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
Matthew Cordeiro
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First Play: 2003

Expansions Played: Seafarers, Cities & Knights, Traders & Barbarians, Das Buch, 5-6 player extensions

Settlers was my first Euro game, and it was an instant hit. It was my #1 game for years. Over time, I've discovered better games, but this classic still has so much to enjoy.

1. Custom board. Every game requires an evaluation of where to place those initial settlements, as well as the best path to victory.

2. Multiple ways to get points. You can win with different strategies and choices. What worked well last game may not work so well this game.

3. Little downtime. You're either building, planning or negotiating. Very little sitting around just waiting for the dice.

4. Accessible to new gamers. I've taught plenty of people how to play, and it was often their first time playing a Euro.

5. Little aggression or player elimination. It's a rather friendly game, and even if you're not a frontrunner, you can still keep playing your part.

6. A balance of luck and skill. If the dice are against you, chances are you won't win. Some favorable rolls can greatly improve your chances. Still, a good strategy and execution makes you a contender every time.
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6. Board Game: Harry Potter Trading Card Game [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:3466]
Matthew Cordeiro
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First Play: 2002

Expansions Played: all sets

The theme goes a long way in getting this one into my top 10 (See: my avatar). That being said, it's a great variant of Magic: the Gathering, which itself is a game I've always admired but had the foresight to know that I would go broke playing it. Instead, I spent an absurd amount of money on this game. Luckily, it went out of print, and I acquired all the cards I could possibly want.

Buildng decks is half the fun. I'm always on the hunt for that killer combo that can actually get played on a regular basis. Finding that right mix of cards that works well against all opposing decks is always a fun challenge. I've even taken it a step further with theming my decks so that the cards not only play well together but also "go together" if you're familiar with the Harry Potter universe. It's only 2-player, but my wife has been a gracious opponent through the years. It plays quick enough so that a bad game only stings for a few minutes.
 
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7. Board Game: Star Wars: Epic Duels [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:913]
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First Play: 2002

Okay, if this wasn't a Star Wars game, it probably wouldn't be in the top 10. That being said, it's exactly what I want in a Star Wars game - familar characters, lots of theme, and battles!

I love how every character has their own deck of cards, strategy, and strengths and weaknesses. Some luck, some hand management, and some serious fighting. The more characters you add to the battle, the better it gets. Works well 1-on-1 or with teams.
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8. Board Game: Zooloretto [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:618] [Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Matthew Cordeiro
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First Play: 2008

Expansions Played: Exotic, Expansion Pack 1

Just an all-around great family game. Everyone is doing their own thing, but you still have to pay attention to what the other players are doing. Lots of choices to make throughout the game, with a dash of push-your-luck. A great theme and quality components as well. It plays fast and works well with 2-5 players.
 
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9. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:396]
Matthew Cordeiro
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First Play: 2005

Expansions Played: The City Gates

A good base game, but exponentially better with one or more expansions. I like the build-your-own-tile-city mechanic. It's better with 3-4 players but still works with 2-6. It's easy to learn and play, and it's quick. You have several options each turn. Again, I can't say enough good things about the expansions. They add tremendous depth and variety to the game.
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10. Board Game: Kingsburg [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:268]
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First Play: 2009

Expansions Played: To Forge a Realm

Similar to Alhambra, Kingsburg is a good game on its own merit but really shines with the expansion. Some luck of the dice, but even "bad" dice rolls can work out well. Several different paths to victory, and some risk-taking opportunities that can really make or break your game. Lots of resource management and planning several turns ahead. Plays great with 2-5. Play time is just right.
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