Stven's Top Games of 2012
Stven Carlberg
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The 21 games I played most often during 2012.

At the beginning of the list are games I played 4 times each. At the end is a game I played 11 times. In between... well, figure it out.

I've produced a geeklist like this for every year since 2002. In the first one, my list started with games I'd played 10 times during the year and ended with Puerto Rico, which I'd played 49 times. In 2012 I didn't get to play games quite so often as that.

Back then the denizens of the BGG numbered in the hundreds rather than the thousands, and there were total strangers who actually cared about what games other people played! This year I anticipate being read by a few geekbuddies and a few friends on facebook who are bored enough to click on the link. Hello there!

In any case, I'm doing this primarily for my own amusement -- so on with the amusement!
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1. Board Game: Squiddler [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Stven Carlberg
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Angelika and I invented this word-spelling game one lazy July afternoon a couple of years ago when we found we didn't much care for the rules in the Quiddler box. So we made up a game where you draw 2, discard 1, and end the hand by spelling a word of at least 7 letters. In case you've been wondering what use you can get from those pretty cards, check out our rules for Squiddler at the Squiddler game page.
 
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2. Board Game: Jet Set [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1864]
Stven Carlberg
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Jet Set (2010) combines two of my favorite in-game challenges: route-planning and penny-pinching. You start by claiming short routes to establish some income. If things work out well your short routes contribute to the longer routes you want for bigger points as the game progresses. Then it's a race to the finish as everybody works on their secret "Final Flights." Jet Set has the virtue of playing well for every number from 2 to 6, and since 6 is the number of players at my regular Thursday night gaming, this is important!
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3. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:280]
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This might be a fairly simple suit-building game except that you don't get to look at your cards. All the other players do. The challenge is to get enough information to each other to get all the cards played in the right order. I and my cohort have not succeeded at Hanabi in 4 tries. I expect I'll get a few more tries next year.
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4. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:348]
Stven Carlberg
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Again with the route-planning! In this game we compete on a map of 16th century central Europe, sketching out the beginnings of the postal system which 500 years later still bears the "Thurn & Taxis" name. Clever selection and careful management of your hand of city cards are keys to success in this excellent game from 2006.
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5. Board Game: Take it Easy! [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1408]
Stven Carlberg
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Take It Easy, about to celebrate its 30th anniversary, is the handy any-number-of-players numbers game which is the gold standard in relaxed after-dinner play for casual and canny calculators. One hand takes about 23 minutes, and typically somebody who's just learned it asks to play it again "now that they've got it." This comes out also at the Oasis of Fun where 60 or more strive to best complete the lines... and in 10 years we've never had a tie for top score.
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6. Board Game: Marrakech [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1238]
Stven Carlberg
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Suleika is a cute, simple game of laying one's rectangle of carpet on each turn (after a die roll) in such a way as to maximize your own color being on top and to minimize the other players' colors. Suitable for children or for adults in a less than complex mood, it was a Spiel des Jahres nominee in 2007.
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7. Board Game: Notre Dame [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:218]
Stven Carlberg
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Also from 2007, Notre Dame has proven to have a certain resilience as a gaming choice. There are a finite number of things that can happen as people pick up cards, choose one and pass them on around the table -- an idea used later in Seven Wonders -- but you usually feel like you're making some kind of progress, and it's interesting skating the edge of disaster and watching what happens. A good 45 minutes for 2-5 players.
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8. Board Game: Boggle [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:2000]
Stven Carlberg
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A family classic since 1972, Boggle has gotten stuck in my brain like few other games. The 4 times I've played Boggle this year while sitting across the table demonstrating my prowess to a present human being are the merest tip of the iceberg of my time whiled away on the 5x5 version at wordsplay.com.
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9. Board Game: Blue Moon City [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:513]
Stven Carlberg
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When you first start playing Blue Moon City, a Reiner Knizia design from 2006, you feel like there are a dozen things going on and you've barely got a handle on them. By the time you've finished your first game, you realize there are a dozen things going on and the handle is really conveniently shaped. You get a hand of cards -- no hand limit -- and can play any number of them on your turn. Most of the cards can be used for two different things, and it's your choice which use they'll have. Deploy cubes to get in on a tile when it pops, collect the bonuses, work your way toward crystals (the ultimate currency of the game) and buying spots on the obelisk. A good, wide-open race that has a surprising tendency to end in a close finish.
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10. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:107]
Stven Carlberg
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A Spiel des Jahres nominee for 2009, Jaipur accomplishes the tricky feat of being an excellent trading game for just two players. Slickly packaged and slickly designed, the real stroke of brilliance here is the camel cards which are held openly, separately from the player's concealed hand of trading goods. Angelika and I played Jaipur 5 times during 2012.
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11. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:170]
Stven Carlberg
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Georgia
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We all liked Hamburgum, this designer's previous game-with-rondel, and we all like Navegador even better. The market is a little clunkier, but the fun of racing the ships more than makes up for it. This is some serious chewy game fun.
 
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12. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:242]
Stven Carlberg
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Macao is pretty chewy, too, and has its own round-and-round. You collect colored cubes based on the roll of dice, one die for each of the available colors. Pick the two colors you want, and you only get as many as the number on the pertinent die -- but the number also determines how *soon* you get the cubes. One red cube, right now? Or six green cubes, six turns from now? The choices are interesting and Macao is popular with a wide range of players.
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13. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:336] [Average Rating:7.24 Unranked]
Stven Carlberg
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Last Will is a game of seeing who can get rid of money fastest. There are rules to make this interesting. Real estate is an excellent way to lose money but has to be liquidated before you can declare bankruptcy, meaning a cash infusion just when you'd like to be ending it all. Lots of little detail-y rules, but something about this game caught my fancy and I managed to get it played half a dozen times after learning it in February.
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14. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:458]
Stven Carlberg
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I honestly don't care very much for Kingdom Builder, but it's a 30-minute game and people are often looking for something short. It's not usually painful, and there can even be chances to be clever, but sometimes you just get dealt a hand that is a dead fish and all you can do is try to play faster so that it'll be over soon. Unfortunately these tend to be the games where somebody else has an interesting hand and is taking a minute on every turn to make up his mind. This seems unduly punishing to the losers.
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15. Board Game: Union Pacific [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:485]
Stven Carlberg
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The perennial Alan Moon trains-and-stock-market game from 1999. Yes, there was an updated version of this system called Airlines Europe that came out a couple of years ago, but it does not have the intrinsic strength of Union Pacific. With its first-and-second-place rewards for stock holdings, Union Pacific has a lot in common with Acquire, and as we did with Acquire, we have run a lot of variations on Union Pacific with our Thursday night six. One we've gotten quite a bit of play out of is the partnership game (two against two against two) with the option of using Union Pacific stock as wild cards. I like to call this variant Union Pacific Royale.
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16. Board Game: Powerboats [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1363]
Stven Carlberg
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Powerboats is the best racing game that has come down the river in a long time. Three-sided (1/2/3) dice serve as the "gears" for your motorboat, which you may upshift or downshift by one die on each turn. You can also preserve one or more die rolls from the previous turn. Turns are 60 degrees (hex board) and you only get to make one of those before you send your boat on its way each turn. There's quite a bit of stratigery in these simple numbers -- plus which, the race only takes 20 minutes! This is the game I like to see played when we're looking for a short one, though it's fair to say it really is at its most interesting with 5 or the full boatload of 6 players.
 
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17. Board Game: Darjeeling [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1941]
Stven Carlberg
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More boats! But on this river they're keeping track of how much you get paid for your tea shipments -- more, the longer it's been since anybody else has made a shipment. Darjeeling has been one of my favorite economic games since first it made its appearance in 2007. It's 45 minutes (30 minutes is our record, but that was with 5 players who knew it very well) of frantic tea-crunching to 100 points, a matter of fine timing to get your final finish-line-crossing shipment onto the river at just the right moment for victory.
 
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18. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Stven Carlberg
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This is the game I played 49 times the year it was published, and it has stayed on my lists of most-played games ever since, an enduring favorite. One of the top 10 games of the 21st century, a game which needs no introduction if you wandered upon this list at BoardGameGeek, and a game which, if you wandered upon this list from my facebook feed, I would be most happy to introduce to you.
 
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19. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:18]
Stven Carlberg
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Agricola is the other poster child of 21st century boardgaming. Come and do a little farming with us, any number from 2 to 5 depending on how patient you can be while waiting your turn. I like most of the variant occupation and improvement decks, the complications of Farmers of the Moor and the simplifications of All Creatures Big and Small. A delightful and resilient game.
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20. Board Game: Power Grid: The First Sparks [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:896]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
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I've always liked Power Grid, even back when we called it Funkenschlag and drew the links on a crayon rails map. Some games get better when you make them more complicated, but this is one that has gotten better by being made more simple. First Sparks has distilled this system down to its brutal, unforgiving core. Really nice if you liked the game in the first place, and happily attracting even a few players who *didn't* like the game in the first place.
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21. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:343]
Stven Carlberg
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Georgia
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RoboRally is a perennial and has crossed our tables countless times since its introduction in 1995. We are old-school about this game: virtual robots, the whole nine yards. Choose carefully the cards you will play, and we will sing to you of conveyor belts and laser hits. This is the game I played most often in 2012.
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