2012 - The top twenty
meepleonboard
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Board gaming is my main hobby these days, my playing being done almost exclusively with my other half as a suitable and hugely enjoyable end to the day. As my work varies in intensity throughout the year some months are full of fun, while in others we make do with what we can, but there is rarely too long a break before something gets to the table.

I have a convoluted and needlessly complicated way of ranking games, based on their length, player count and number of plays. Here, then, are this couple's top 20 of 2012.
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1. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:79]
meepleonboard
United Kingdom
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Rank: 20
Plays: 5

It has been a while since I played this one, and I need to get it to the table before too long. I may be committing heresy by stating that I prefer the same designer's Pantheon, up there in 12th place, but that is the way I feel about these two games. Stone Age just seems to be less fun and more repetitive, although maybe it will spread its wings with more plays.

My partner also announced during a game of this that she has a photographic memory, while I struggle at times to remember my name, thus I tend to get trounced on the green cards.
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2. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 19
Plays: 7

A quick and easy play which means that once it is on the table we can normally get through three or four games It took a while for us to realise just how cutthroat and confrontational this can be, but it appears to be guaranteed a permanent place in our collection.

I acquired Canal Mania last year, which is in many ways the deeper game, I think, but it is just not as much fun as this, even though it opens up goods routes and other niceties. For now at least TTR rules the route-building roost.
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3. Board Game: Backpacker [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:13107]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 18
Plays: 8

Not my favourite game, but my significant other likes it. Thankfully (for me, at least) the number of plays has declined significantly this year and I find this too random and frustrating for my taste, although I would say that, of course, as I can't seem to win.

I wrote a review of this which pretty much sums up my thoughts, and I would not see it as an essential part of anybody's collection, but it is easy to play pretty much anywhere, so it stays for now.
 
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4. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:204]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 17
Plays: 14

We are not great fans of abstracts, but Hive is just involving enough not to be a chore. Since we mixed in both expansions at the end of last year the game has gained a new dimension, and it remains the game I am most likely to pull out with people who mention in passing that they have enjoy the occasional game of chess. It is lighter and quicker, yes, but also a lot of fun.

Hive also picks up my "Game Experience Of The Year" award for when I introduced it to a former backgammon professional on a tour of Italy. After an introductory game to cover the rules we duked it out for over an hour under the Tuscan sun. I won, but he was hooked!
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5. Board Game: Blue Moon City [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:513]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 16
Plays: 7

Rapidly rising through the ranks to become one of my favourite games. I bought this at the tail end of 2011, but it did not get played until 2012, and I have managed to secure all four of the expansion tiles which, coupled with the alternative layouts in the files page, are going to keep this in my collection for years to come.

This is one of our favourite games and seems to manage the whole business of raising the tension to the finish really well, and usually ends in a close result. A combination of various different ideas, but one with a charm all of its own. Plastic dragons too!
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6. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:336] [Average Rating:7.24 Unranked]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 15
Plays: 8

Bought as something of an afterthought in March, but once played never regretted. I refer to this as a backwards Euro, as the aim is to speculate and end up bankrupt rather than accumulate. BGG, as so often, cleared up some issues with the rule book, but, after the first couple of plays, we are able to get through it cleanly and relatively quickly. This appears to have staying power for other people as well, and, while it might lose its lustre at some point, for now it is secure in the collection.
 
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7. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:137] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 14
Plays: 11

A quiter year for Carc, what with all the new games in my collection, but it still claims a place as the game which got me into proper gaming, and I used it to entice my other half into it as well. We always play with Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, The River and The School, which means a broader arc and more choices about scoring. I still harbour a soft spot for the vanilla version, though.

What has become apparent over the year is how confrontational this game can be with two, and new ideas reveal themselves (to me, at least) every time we play it. Elicited probably the remark of the year when I linked my city to my other half's, splitting the points but gaining the trader tokens - "I didn't know you were that clever!".
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8. Board Game: Dungeon Petz [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:141]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 13
Plays: 5

Lovely game once the rule book is digested, something we are still getting through with its older brother, and the only game to make us both laugh out loud this year. Watching my pets wallow in their filth while a succession of buyers walk on by is galling in the extreme, while having them mutate and then disappear into another dimension has me on the edge of tears.

Took a couple of tries to get everything running smoothly, but now inhabits the light-and-meaty end of our gaming spectrum, if that makes any sense. Recently secured the New Petz as well.
 
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9. Board Game: Pantheon [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1376]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 12
Plays: 5

Surprise hit of the year, and preferred by me to the same designer's Stone Age. Too open and random for some in two, but what some people see as randomness I see as opening up alternative paths to victory. It sat on the shelf for a while, but when I read the rulebook I thought that this would be a hit, and such it was. Has not been on the gaming table for a while, but I suspect it will notch up multiple plays when it is unboxed again.
 
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10. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:70]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 11
Plays 5

One of my favourite games, even though my other half dislikes it despite her romping to multiple wins. I love the simplicity or the rules (once they are digested, of course) and the depth they create, also the way empires rise and fall on the board. In two it can be as confrontational or as solitairy as you like, and I don't really feel any need to adopt an alternative board, especially given that we are still on the "basic" layout. Yet to use the expansions, as no real need.
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11. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:581]
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Rank: 10
Plays: 15

Our plane game of choice, also handy for those waits in the departure lounge. This rarely gets played at home but will often get taken on trips, with another couple of goodies tucked in the box. An enjoyable empire-building romp, not too deep but fun none the less, and quick and portable enough to enable easy plays, which explains its place in our 2012 top ten.
 
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12. Board Game: Mr. Jack [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:416]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 9
Plays 12

Like Blue Moon City, bought in 2011 but first played in 2012. It took a couple of attempts to sort out one or two rules questions, but is now secure in our collection as a tense two player head-to-head. As confrontation sometimes goes down badly in this house, it fills a slot of us playing against each other without destroying what the other has built.

We got this out again recently and had forgotten just how tense it can get as players go into the eighth and final turn. Strongly recommended for anybody who does most of their gaming face-to-face.
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13. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:18]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 8
Plays: 5

One of my favourite games, whether in Family or Full Version, and I am surprised it only notched up 5 plays in 2012, but that is probably due to the number of new games I bought - there's a moral in there somewhere. I am still unconvinced about the random card draw in the Full Version, and think that I might test out a couple of the variants this year, and I think that I just about prefer the Family Version for a quick play, although it is a shame to let all those cards go to waste.

I don't feel the need to expand this as yet, and feel that All Creatures Great And Small might diminish the experience, but I have recently acquired the Pi-Deck, and have had fun matching some of the cards to some of the users here.
 
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14. Board Game: Troyes [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:68]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 7
Plays: 6

Six plays for this, and a solid top ten position, but we are both still undecided about it. Undoubtedly it is a great game, but one that feels a little too much like hard work rather than fun, and we have both found it difficult to engage with the theme - are the barbarians really marauding, or am I just moving my dice around?

Maybe it is too open to be played as a two-player experience, or maybe it is just too dry for us, but, even so, it will be played again, after which we will decide whether it will stay in our collection.
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15. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:150]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 6
Plays: 11

We own Race For The Galaxy and San Juan, so buying this was a little bit of a gamble, but, as can be seen from its ranking here, it has usurped the latter and given the former a half decent run for its money. What is more, the 11 plays all came from a single spell on the "to play" pile, so it could well have been higher.

We own the "silly artwork" edition, which I like, and, as I have written elsewhere, I really enjoy the way that individual games can turn out to be radically different one from the other, while the different victory conditions mean that there is always an escape route if you feel you are behind.

A keeper, and one that needs to come out again soon.
 
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16. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:73]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 5
Plays: 13

Its smaller sibling, Forbidden Island, nearly squeaked into the top 20, but the extra plays of this, acquired earlier in the year, cemented its place in the top five. This was my first cooperative game, having been somewhat reluctant to grasp the concept of how players could unite against the game, but it has been a winner, even if it can trigger some lively discussions as to what the best move might be.

Am thinking of buying On The Brink at some time during 2013, but will need to wait for this one to get stale first.
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17. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:48]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 4
Plays: 18

Now that we both understand the iconography this has become our deepish filler of choice, and we normally run several games back to back. 2012 was the year of the "running out of VP chits" victory condition, as I swept to the win a few times by dint of this tactic, but, now that my savvy opponent is aware, 2013 could well be a completely different matter.

At the moment there is no driving need to acquire any of the expansions, and, having recently bought Core Worlds, this might not change this year.
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18. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:297]
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Rank: 3
Plays: 26

Quick and easy and still fun despite multiple plays. We are getting to the stage with this where we are more adept at descerning and blocking each other's plans, which means that games of this are no longer the carefree stroll of yore. Instead this is getting marginally nastier as it grows in our collection.
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19. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 2
Plays: 41

Adored by my other half, liked a lot by me, this is only just beaten to number one position despite its greater number of plays by dint of its shorter time. We are still playing with just the base set, and, to be honest, I am a little surprised that it did not edge out the number one slot, which it would easily have gained on number of plays alone.

A definite keeper, and one I am looking to expand in 2013, although I have not yet decided on Intrigue (which might be a tad confrontational for us) and Seaside (which might suit better).
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20. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:288] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
meepleonboard
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Rank: 1
Plays 14

I am a little surprised to see this at the top of the list, but, given that we have not played it since June and a further visit to the "to play" pile would have made its position unassailable, fair's fair, I guess.

Before the great wailing and gnashing of teeth begins, let me explain that we always now play this using our own version of the official two-player variant, and using one of the scenarios from Seafarers, our favourite of which is probably Wonder of Catan. We also like to throw in a couple of wrinkles from Das Buch to keep things fresh, so this is very much an expanded and modified version of the game.

Had we not expanded Catan I do not think it would have risen up this high in the rankings, but we are now able to play a different game every time and, with our own variant, it feels fresh and competitive. There's life in the old dog yet.
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