The Frantic Ferret Awards: IngredientX's personal Best-Of list, 2000-2010
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I'm not normally a fan of awards. I find that they usually don't line up with what I think of my personal favorites. I know that applies to everyone, but it doesn't seem to bug others. I mean, lots of people are into SdJ games, and let's not even get into events of entertainment industry self-pleasure like the Oscars and the Grammys.

But an award that's all about me? Where I am the sole member of the jury? Now we're talking!

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be playing catch-up, listing my personal best-ofs over the past few years. By the end of the month, if I don't get overwhelmed by work and personal projects, I'll have separate GeekLists showing my Frantic Ferret award winners for 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Why now and not the end of the year? Because all the games I'm interested in come out in October for Essen. Why give myself only three months to play all these games? In order to be eligible for an award for a given year, a game must have come out no sooner than October of the previous year and no later than September of the given year.

Also, as much as it pains me to write this: games I have designed are not eligible for a Frantic Ferret.

I will also show other major winners for that year, although keep in mind that my definition of "year" may not line up with theirs. Still, it's a very interesting comparison.

Here are the categories of awards I'm offering for the Frantic Ferret:

Feature game: The best "serious strategy" game of the year. 90+ minutes.
Family game: The best "light strategy" game of the year. No longer than 60 minutes. Must be explainable to my dear gamer friends with short attention spans.
Lightweight game: Games for non-gamers, including party games. No longer than 30 minutes.
2-Player game: Must be a game specifically designed as a 2-player game, not a 3+ player game that can be played 2-player, regardless of how good it is.

I am the final judge of which category a game falls into. After all, it is my award.

I reserve the right to withhold any award for any given year, if nothing really impresses me.
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1. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:136]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2000

I didn't play this game until about a few years later. But it is incredible. It's one of the first heavy Euros where there is a serious scarcity of actions. It forces you to plan a few turns ahead, and rewards serious infrastructure building. The restrictive auction feels a bit dated today, but it's still a tremendous game of strategy and planning.

Runner-up:
Lord of the Rings

Other significant feature game award winners for 2000:
Deutscher Spiele Preis: Taj Majal
Meeples' Choice Award: Carcassonne, Citadels, Princes of Florence
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2. Board Game: Web of Power [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:583]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FAMILY GAME OF 2000

This sort of game was so popular in 2000; a tense euro with a light theme. All focus is on a weird but ingenious and strangely elegant scoring mechanism. And yet, it's pretty easy to explain and play.

Playing this game feels creative, somehow, like a series of a-ha moments. You don't see too many games like this these days (Ginkoopolis is probably the best recent example I can think of), but man, do I like this sort of thing.

Other significant family game award winners for 2000:
Spiel des Jahres: Torres
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3. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:151] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FAMILY GAME OF 2001

It's tough to picture the board gaming landscape without this game, itself a game of building landscapes. One of its biggest contribution had nothing to do with its rules or gameplay, but its components: this was the game that featured wooden pawns with a cool, rounded, stylized design. One gamer called them "meeples", and the name stuck.

The game also contributed a little gamer contentiousness with three separate rulings for farmer scoring. I'm not sure a game could overcome that nowadays.

Note that there are no other Frantic Ferret awards for 2001.

Other significant game award winners for 2001:
SDJ: Carcassonne
DSP: Carcassonne
Meeples' Choice Award: San Marco, Wyatt Earp, Royal Turf
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4. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:20]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2002

This was the game that, personally speaking, got me into strategy board gaming. I suspect that applied for a lot of other folks as well. I never conceived that a game could engage me like this, but I'd never played a game like this before.

It's also pretty amazing that when the game came out, people complained for a few years that it was broken in favor of a single strategy, but no one seemed to be able to agree on what that strategy actually was.

Other significant feature game award winners for 2002:
DSP: Puerto Rico
Meeples' Choice Award: Puerto Rico, Age of Steam, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
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5. Board Game: TransAmerica [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:958]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST LIGHTWEIGHT GAME OF 2002

I have no game taking hardware home for Frantic Ferret Best Family Game of 2002, but we have our first lightweight game winner. TransAmerica set an incredible bar for a game that had fun decisions within a tiny, simple ruleset. It plays quick enough for a lunch break, and is approachable enough that you can play it at work with your otherwise impatient co-workers.

Runner-up:
Attribut

Other significant family game award winners for 2002:
SDJ: Villa Paletti
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6. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:127]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2003

I'm personally not a big fan of heavier train games, but this game is an exception. Its simple rules and brutal economy made it the first "masochistic" game I enjoyed (to be followed later by Agricola and In the Year of the Dragon).

Strangely enough, I have no real fondness for any of this game's successors, like Steam or Railroad Tycoon.

Runners-up:
Amun-Re
Monkeys on the Moon
One False Step for Mankind

Other significant feature game award winners for 2003:
DSP: Amun Re
Meeples' Choice Award: Santiago, Attika, Amun-Re
 
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7. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:427]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FAMILY GAME OF 2003

Alhambra is a re-working of an older Dirk Henn game, but it somehow gloms together a bunch of disparate rules into a smooth, fun game. And even though it seems to come down to who is able to pay with exact change at the right time, it's still a cracker. Its expansions have proved surprisingly fun, too.

Other significant family game award winners for 2003:
SDJ: Alhambra
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8. Board Game: Coloretto [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:501]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST LIGHTWEIGHT GAME OF 2003

Things are starting to heat up now, as we get another cracker. Coloretto has proved to be a lasting lightweight, providing a quick but fascinating gaming experience.

Runner-up:
Smarty Party
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9. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:126]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2004

I have to admit that 2004 is one of my favorite years in gaming. So many phenomenal games came out this year. This one, recently re-released with rules tweaks (some better than others), is still a tremendous game of planning and strategy. Like Princes of Florence, it leaves you always wishing you had one more action.

Runners-up:
Power Grid
Tahuantinsuyu (Later re-released as Inca Empire)

Other significant feature game award winners for 2004:
DSP: St. Petersburg
Meeples' Choice Award: Ticket to Ride, Power Grid, Goa
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10. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:256]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FAMILY GAME OF 2004

St. Petersburg is another themeless spreadsheet game, and there are no real multiple paths to victory. But what a good game! There are oodles of tactics and opportunities for skillful play. While the game is best played with the "fixed" cards from the New Society expansion, this is a rare example of an economic game light enough for most gamers to enjoy.

Runner-up:
Industria

Other significant family game award winners for 2004:
SDJ: Ticket to Ride
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11. Board Game: Hey, That's My Fish! [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:727]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST LIGHTWEIGHT GAME OF 2004

Another reason 2004 was a great year in gaming was this wonderful lightweight. It takes only a few minutes to play, and its rules are forehead-slappingly obvious, but it's such a tremendous design. Totally approachable and fun to play, even with most non-gamers.
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12. Board Game: The Scepter of Zavandor [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:954]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2005

This game, a reworking of the legendary strategy game Outpost, came out in late 2004 to awesome reviews. Its theme is not much to speak of, but it addresses Outpost's notorious weakenesses in fine ways.

Other significant feature game award winners for 2005:
DSP: Louis XIV
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13. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:100] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FAMILY GAME OF 2005

I didn't give any props to the original Ticket to Ride. I think it's a good game, but I found the ticket mechanism a little risky for my blood, especially with overly aggressive players. This version addresses that beautifully with the station mechanism.

Runners-up:
Oltre Mare
The Nacho Incident
Havoc: The Hundred Years War

Other significant family game award winners for 2005:
SDJ: Niagara
 
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14. Board Game: Diamant [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:652]
 
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST LIGHTWEIGHT GAME OF 2005

Probably one of the best lightweight games, period. Ever. Re-released in the US as Incan Gold, but the bits in this version are so much nicer.
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15. Board Game: Blokus Duo [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:856]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST 2-PLAYER GAME OF 2005

A rare 2-player award winner, Travel Blokus is my favorite version of the Blokus games. It's surprisingly nasty and ruthless, rewarding ingenious play and cold-blooded calculation.
 
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16. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:162]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2006

Love at first sight. I knew that I loved this game only a couple of rounds into it, despite artwork that made me feel like I was bleeding from the eyeballs. And while drama always seems to surround its releases, I feel like it's always worthwhile.

Note that the game that swept everyone's imagination this year, Caylus, continues to be one of my least favorite games ever released. It just pushes my buttons.

Other significant feature game award winners for 2006:
DSP: Caylus
Golden Geek: Caylus
Meeples' Choice Award: Carcassonne, Citadels, Princes of Florence
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17. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:374]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FAMILY GAME OF 2006

This game was supposed to be Andreas Seyfarth's big return to the spotlight after his stellar success with Puerto Rico. It seems strange to say that Thurn and Taxis didn't attain Puerto Rico's legacy, considering that it won a SdJ award, but Puerto Rico was such a landmark game, one can hardly fault Thurn and Taxis from attaining that lofty height. Many designers, myself included, would love to have a game reach this kind of success.

Runners-up:
Um Krone und Kragen (aka To Court the King)
Vegas Showdown

Other significant family game awards for 2006:
SDJ: Thurn and Taxis
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18. Board Game: You Must Be an Idiot! [Average Rating:5.75 Overall Rank:10297]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST LIGHTWEIGHT GAME OF 2006

You know how you explain the plot of a movie like The Producers or Being John Malkovich, and it's such a beautiful premise, it's just a matter of the makers just not messing it up? That's kind of how I feel about this game. A trivia game with this name is 50% of the fun.

Of course, being a game designer myself, I'm sure the other 50% of the fun took 99% of the work. But one of the signs of a good work, regardless of the medium, is making it look easy. This game plays as well as its promise.
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19. Board Game: Space Dealer [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1842]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2007

Probably one of the most bizarrely innovative games in my collection, Space Dealer ruled my life for a couple of years. The multithreaded thinking this game forces players into is ridiculously fun, although its learning curve puts it into the "Feature" game category, despite its short playing time.

This game was recently re-released with supposedly "streamlined" rules as Time 'n' Space, but I find this version of the game a million times better.

Runner-up:
Notre Dame

Other significant feature game award winners for 2007:
DSP: Pillars of the Earth
Golden Geek: Shogun
Meeples' Choice Award: Race for the Galaxy, Agricola, Brass
 
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20. Board Game: Zooloretto [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:659] [Average Rating:6.85 Unranked]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FAMILY GAME OF 2007

An extension of 2003's Frantic Ferret award winner for Best Lightweight Game, this game provides some really meaty decisions. I'm sure the cute panda on the cover helps.

Runner-up:
Vikings

Other significant family game award winners for 2007:
SDJ: Zooloretto
 
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21. Board Game: BattleLore [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:285]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST 2-PLAYER GAME OF 2007

My personal favorite of the Command and Colors system, this game shows the C&C's simplicity, modularity, and flexibility beautifully. Approachable enough for most to play, and forgiving enough that most gamers will love it.
 
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22. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:25]
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2008

2008 was another ridiculously good year for board gaming. Agricola narrowly beat out Galaxy Trucker as best feature game, and any of the runners-up would be winners most other years. But Agricola, with its replayability and its tight, brutal economy, gets the nod.

Runners-up:
Brass
In the Year of the Dragon
Race for the Galaxy

Other significant feature game award winners for 2008:
DSP: Agricola
Golden Geek: Agricola
Meeples' Choice Award: Dominion, Pandemic, Le Havre
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23. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:75]
Gil Hova
United States
Jersey City
New Jersey
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FAMILY GAME OF 2008

Another game that seems indispensable now. Pandemic was a fairly light cooperative game that provided another way into the hobby for many, many gamers. It narrowly beat out another deserving family game, Stone Age.

Runner-up:
Stone Age

Other significant family game award winners for 2008:
SDJ: Keltis
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24. Board Game: Say Anything [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:895]
Gil Hova
United States
Jersey City
New Jersey
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST LIGHTWEIGHT GAME OF 2008

North Star Games has a couple of outstanding lightweight games, but this one deserves its best-of-class nod. Say Anything is a simple, fun party game that I've successfully shown many a non-gamer.
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25. Board Game: Planet Steam [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:765]
Gil Hova
United States
Jersey City
New Jersey
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FRANTIC FERRET BEST FEATURE GAME OF 2009

There are some gaming holy grails that may never see the light of day, like a true Civ Lite game, or a multi-season baseball GM sim. For awhile, I thought a board game using the economic system from the legendary video game M.U.L.E. would be on that list. While Planet Steam streamlines the system heavily, one look at the board confirms that this is the most solid adapatation of M.U.L.E. to date eclipsing Wealth of Nations, released the previous year.

Runner-up:
Space Alert

Other significant feature game award winners for 2009:
DSP: Dominion
Golden Geek: Dominion
Meeples' Choice Award: Endeavor, Hansa Teutonica, Small World
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