The 5 Best games since Essen 2012
Peter D
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Essen 2013 is fast approaching so now seems an appropriate moment to reflect on what were the Top 5 games released from Essen 2012 and beyond. I am interested to see others' views on this.

----------------------------------------
Thanks to everyone so far who has contributed. As of 16 October we have had 33 Top 5s. Here are some stats:

Games nominated: 57

I have given 5 points for a first place, 1 point for 5th place. And these are the rankings so far. The first figure is the score, second figure is the number of people who listed it)

Terra Mystica.......66 score and features in 16 people's lists
Tzolk'in..............40 score.......15 lists
Pax Porfiriana......37.........8
Love Letter.........30.........10
Snowdonia...........25.........8
Kemet...............22.........7
Suburbia............20........8
The Great Zimb......17.......5
Keyflower...........16.......5


Interestingly Pax P had the highest average score, with most people who nominated it ranking it first, implying that those who know it really love it. Surburbia has the lowest average score so it is broadly liked but perhaps not loved.

As more Top 5s come in I will revise these scores. Thanks all!
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1. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:168]
Peter D
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My Top 5...

1. Bora Bora (Feld at his very best. A true classic with interweaving strategies surrounding a wonderfully tense dice action mechanic)

2. Terra Mystica (A game I would say fully deserves its huge popularity)

3. Love Letter (If only for the joy it gives me and my kids when we all play a few rounds of this together)

4. Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (Even though it makes my head hurt)

5. Rialto (an under-rated Feld game from 2013. Almost gateway in its simplicity yet demanding in the strategies that need to be deployed)


Ruhrschifffahrt 1769-1890, Bruges (more Feld!), The Palaces of Carrara, Keyflower, Snowdonia and Pax Porfiriana all almost made the list.



It's been a very good year.
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2. Board Game: Strike [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1623]
Peter D
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And my Children's consensus is...
1. Strike(Entertaining dice game)
2. Love Letter
3. Kakerlakenpoker Royal (why do I always lose this against them?)
4. Qwixx
5. Dominion Guilds (it's an expansion I know, but a very good one)
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3. Board Game: Keyflower [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:46]
Paulo Soledade
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It was indeed an excellent year. I would go for Keyflower. Best game of 2012 in my opinion. Simple to learn hard to master, that's why.
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4. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:313]
Lloyd
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Camden
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Does Hanabi count? The German edition arrived at Spiel 2012 and the English edition from R&R Games seems to have only just arrived.

Assuming that is a legal selection, my votes are:

1. Hanabi - just absolutely brilliant, simple design. Playing this with people for the first time is a joy and I love that moment when someone gives a clue to a person half way around the table - they aren't sure why they've been given that clue until another player plays, and then it dawns on them. You can see the realisation. It's a beautiful moment. I honestly think I'll still be playing this in 20 years.

2. Card City - I love having to make difficult decisions and Card City is full of them; how do I arrange these cards so that the next player will take the cards I want him to - and leave me with the cards I want? How do I arrange these so that I can benefit as much as possible next turn? Do I play safe or hope for the best later?

3. Coup - Coup is all about reading your opponents and setting the game up so that the roles you have, or at least the roles every one thinks you have, benefit you. Playing with a group of experienced players is hilarious, as everyone is subtly jockeying for position without wanting to appear too much of a threat. Wonderful. I'm excited to see both what the expansion does to tweak the game (the Inquisitor is a joyous new addition that I've played with twice) and what the follow-up Coup: Rebellion G54 will do.

4. Western Town - this is my highest rated longer game from the last year. Again, it's a second edition, but the original was Print & Play and I suspect, wasn't widely known (it still isn't). Western Town looks like your standard Euro; you have the central board (which is tiny!) and your own player boards in front of you, where you're collecting resources (coloured cubes!) and turning them in to stuff. However, that isn't the game. The game is all about manipulating turn order and being able to benefit from the roles your neighbours have taken. Doing so gives you bonuses and causes your neighbour to lose income later on. The actions you take are limited to the buildings you've built, so if you're neighbour is doing well with his Snake Oil Salesman, well, build your own and start exploiting his straight away! It's a deliciously evil little game that packs in a huge amount in 90 minutes or so.

5. Spectaculum - Knizia's take on train games. Buy/sell shares and lay tracks across the region collecting dividends or affecting the prices of any of the companies. Oddly (and a little sadly) this is 'themed' around travelling circuses. The theme doesn't come through at all and is the main complaint of those that don't care for the game. Ignore the theme, it's a train game. That said, if it had been published as a straight train game, I don't know that I'd have ever sought it out. And I'm glad I did. Another vicious little knife fight in a phonebox of a game, that takes 30 minutes. Best played with the designer suggested variant of an extra draw token for that little bit more control.

Honorable mentions to:

Nautilus (from Charles Chevallier who is quickly becoming a designer I look out for. Nautilus is a little like Battle Line but you can only play 1 card in to each space, you can play in to your side or your opponent's, there are 4 cards that move cards around and special cards too. Wonderfully difficult to know what is best to do)

Blackrock City (which is an interesting take on a bidding game. From the designer of The Boss, this really hasn't found it's target and has a terrible rating. Look out for this in the bargain bins in the next year or so, it's a delightfully nasty, super fast, game)

Tammany Hall (the 2013 edition seems to be the first time it was widely available, so I'm including it!)

Dragon Valley (for more of the 'I cut, you choose' decisions in Card City, but this time with a tower defence game added)

Goblins Inc. (Work in teams and then screw your team mate over. What more could you ask for?)
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5. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:407]
Jonathan Harrison
United States
Fisher
Illinois
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Pax Porfiriana
Archipelago
Snowdonia
Kemet
Keyflower

Just missed
Yedo
Vampire Empire
R
Love Letter
Tokaido
Divided Republic

Own but haven't played
The Great Zimbabwe
Polis
Terra Mystica
Tammany Hall
Bora Bora
Clash of Cultures
Among the Stars
Tzolk'in
Antike Duellum

[edit]

Just played Kemet last night, and it pushed Yedo down to the nearly list.
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6. Board Game: Via Appia [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:2235]
James Sinden
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Chertsey,
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My own list.

Via Appia, a great little game, very much in the gateway bracket, with some unique mechanics... feels like this should get a lot more lvoe than it does and I think thats down to people seeing the 'shove' mechanic as a gimmick... I'd put this in the same bracket as Tzolkin where the 'gimmick' actaullly works really well within the theme and playability of the game.

Snowdonia

My favourite game from Essen, not sure why, but never played this and not enjoyed it. The game changes each time it hits the table, seems to change speeds throughout each game and provides a fun, and not too taxing, worker placement experience

Coup

Despite all the mini games from Japan, this is easily the best from this sub-category so far. 15 cards, 5 players and provides a similar amount of backstabbing, psychology and sneekiness than you get in any game of Resistance.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar

The best of the heavier games from Essen... it's great to play although always feels like the options are overwhelming at times. Im interesed to see what the expansion brings to the table this time round

La Boca

Was a close thing between this and Riff Raff for the dexterity award, but this is a really good co-op game and goes down a treat on the family table. I think this was robbed for the SdJ, but then again what do I know... !

... and wasn't Hanabi released about 5 years ago as part of a double act of cards games Hanabi & Ikebana) ... great game, but I'm not sure it counts as a 2012 release... despite what the SjD folks think.
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7. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:11]
Michael Schwerdtfeger
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Redondo Beach
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My top 5:

1. Terra Mystica
2. Core Worlds: Galactic Orders
3. Keyflower
4. Clash of Cultures
5. Edo

I think I've got the dates right on these, but let me know if I do not.
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8. Board Game: CO₂ [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:608]
Bruno Valerio
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Lisboa
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Great list:

1º - CO2

2º - Terra Mystica

3º - Archipelago

4º - Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar

5º - Suburbia
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9. Board Game: Yedo [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:511]
Thomas
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Michigan
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My list:

d10-1 Clash of Cultures

d10-2 Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

d10-3 Yedo

d10-4 Kemet

d10-5 Agents of SMERSH
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10. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:11]
Dave Eisen
United States
Redwood City
California
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1. Terra Mystica
2. The Great Zimbabwe
3. New Amsterdam
4. Continental Divide
5. Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar

Many other games which would make top 3 in most years.
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11. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:407]
Edward Uhler
United States
Commerce City
Colorado
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Tough call, but here is my Top 5:

Pax Porfiriana
Terra Mystica
T'zolkin: The Mayan Calendar
Yedo
Bora Bora


Also, I have a feeling that Polis: Fight for the Hegemony and Blocks in the East would be in that list if I had more experience with them.
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12. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:407]
Martin G
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Bristol
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There are two that are way out in front of everything else:

Pax Porfiriana - 40 magnificent plays
Love Letter - and getting on for a hundred of this, though they are somewhat shorter

Followed by the chasing pack:

The Palaces of Carrara - mainly because I still can't figure out how to play it well
The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet - looks cute but has a sting in the tail
Mascarade - chaotic and a lot of fun

Hanabi and Kakerlakenpoker Royal would have been in the top 5 but I don't think either is really a 2012 game.


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13. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:407]
Peter Jackson
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Oxford
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My top 5

d10-1 Pax Porfiriana

d10-2 Terra Mystica

d10-3 Kemet

d10-4 Love Letter

d10-5 Suburbia
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14. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:407]
Jorik
Netherlands
Utrecht
Utrecht
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If Jonathan and Martin post it I guess I should too

the game is a cauldron of backstabbing , extortion, threats and assorted skullduggery. if you don't like take that games don't play this.

runners up:

2. Great Zimbabwe, bought this around Christmas, and it's the kind of game where, after you finish you keep on talking about possibilities and chances that you missed.
3. New Amsterdam, got it in march but it was an Essen release and it is a very tight and unforgiving auction game. And contrary to other auction games it works with two as well. it put Jeffrey Allers on my definitely-look-into-for-his-releases-list.
4. Suburbia although I'm not sure about replayablility but if you don't overkill with your plays it is really nice
5. Core Worlds: Galactic Orders not a game but a neccesary expansion to a great game.
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15. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:11]
Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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1. Terra Mystica
2. Archipelago
3. CO2
4. The Great Zimbabwe
5. The Palaces of Carrara

I'm also willing to bet good money that my second-favorite five games from last year - Ginkgopolis,Robinson Crusoe, Tzolk'in, Bora Bora, Dahschur, and Keyflower - are better than my five favorite games from this year. It was a really good year.

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16. Board Game: Cinque Terre [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1440]
Mike DiLisio
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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It has, indeed, been a nice year for games. It's encouraging to have to struggle to limit my choices to only five. I'll start with:

Cinque Terre. A game with a deceptively simple rule set. It's certainly a "gateway" pickup and deliver game based on the simplicity of the action choices, but it can really be a mind melter in terms of wanting to do more than you have the ability to do every turn. I truly admire games that can be explained in minutes, but have remarkable depth. Actually, this property is one that can be seen in all of my top 5 now that I think on it.

Dominare. Man, do I love this game. It's one I anticipate playing for years, because there's so much replay ability with all of the agent cards available. This game, set in the Tempest world (home of Love Letter, a game which narrowly missed my list), is one where you have to set up a conspiracy of agents to work behind the scenes on your behalf. The idea of the most powerful agents causing your exposure to raise and thus putting you at a disadvantage is a wonderfully thematic element. You have to balance playing powerful agents versus becoming too visible. It's a delicate balance, and leads to some great decision points throughout.

Rialto. This seems like a very polarizing Feld title. I don't quite understand why. I actually like the fact that this game is "lighter" than some of his other titles. I appreciate the intricacies of some of the other titles, but this game is just so elegant and plays so quickly that it's become my favorite Feld title. I'm hoping that as more people play it, and maybe lose some of the snooty, "If it doesn't make my brain hurt, it isn't a true Feld" attitude, then people will come to appreciate the tight designs that make up this game.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar. This is a tough one for me. Like Cinque Terre, the actual rule set isn't very complicated. Place workers or remove workers and resolve the effects. That's it. Why then does it make my brain cry? There just seem to be so many choices, and not enough time to do them, that it is almost overwhelming. That being said, I have a feeling that this will be a game that rewards repeat plays, and I think I just need to get more games under my belt. The game is undoubtedly impressive, and once I can play without agonizing over every move, I think I'll appreciate it even more.

Tokaido. Another seemingly polarizing title. This is unlike any game I've ever played. In some ways, it's very traditional and almost from an earlier generation...very linear, simple rule set, point-to-point movement. But in other ways, it feels like a revolution. I can't play this game without feeling like I'm participating in an interactive art exhibit. To me, the art design and integration of theme is stunning. It truly evokes a traveller's journey. Everyone I've played this with has left the table talking about it. I appreciate games that become experiences. This one does.

Just missed:
All of the other Tempest games (Love Letter, Courtier, and Mercante).
Via Appia
Lords of Waterdeep (if the timing is right...not sure)
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17. Board Game: Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:41]
Jason (sans nation)
Germany
Holzhausen
March
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1 Robinson Crusoe. So pleased to grab one of the last UK copies of the original print. Just a stunning well realised game.
2 Pax Porfiriana. I think it's been adequately covered above.
3 Terra Mystica. A paucity of plays shouldn't reflect on this title; gorgeous and well put together.
4 Archipelago. Delighted to see it remembered by others.
5 Love Letter. Immense fun from so few components.
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18. Board Game: Western Town [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:2915]
Fabrice Dubois
France
La Garenne Colombes
Hauts de Seine
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1. Western Town
2. CO₂
3. The Great Zimbabwe
4. Ginkgopolis
5. Keyflower

Own but haven't played :
Archipelago
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19. Board Game: Kemet [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:80]
Shane Larsen
United States
Salt Lake City
UT
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1. Kemet - Finally, a conflict game that suits my fancy.
2. Terra Mystica - Finally, a Euro as grueling as Agricola with no need to feed my family.
3. Snowdonia - Finally, a train game that has no stock manipulation.
4. Tzolk'in - Finally, gears on a board.
5. Suburbia - Finally, something that teaches the card-row mechanic to my wife so she can be one step closer to liking TtA some day.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Keyflower - even though I've yet to figure out to even come close to winning. wow
Planet Steam (FFG Reprint) - Making the list with my first play just last night.
Pax Porfiriana - There's a great game in here. I've only played solo. Hopefully when I head back home, I can get the N.U.G.G. to play it with me. I think it would be a bit much for the fam.
Archipelago - still figuring this one out; but it's definitely unique.


NEED TO PLAY

・Yedo
・Vampire Empire
・Clash of Cultures
・Antike Duellum
・Naúfragos/Castaways
・Robinson Crusoe
・Trains (Reissue)
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20. Board Game: The Palaces of Carrara [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:598]
Brian Boyle
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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In no particular order (I find it difficult to separate great games)

The Palaces of Carrara: Simple yet surprisingly deep. Loved the scoring mechanism
Suburbia: Best city builder out there.
Love Letter: Great game in a small package - widespread appeal
Indigo: One of the best connection games out there. Brilliantly semi-cooperative but cutthroat
Rialto: A wonderfully subtle auction/area majority game

All share a few common characteristics. Simple rules yet good gameplay, short yet satisfying. Non-gamers will play all of them. Rialto being the hardest to teach. Quite a roll call of designers...

Palaces get the marquee as the game that best exemplifies the "less is more" school of game design that increasingly appeals to me.

In contrast, the complexity of Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar and Terra Mystica just did my head in. I didn't even go near Bora Bora. [It's not you, Steven, it's me...]

Pax Porfiriana would likely have got in (but not on the criteria above, I suspect) had it not sat on my shelf unplayed for 9 months.

Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant would also had made it easily, but it missed out a month.

Honorable mention to The Duke, Kings of Air and Steam, P.I., Snowdonia and The Great Heartland Hauling Co. too. All of these would have been in at least one family member's top 5.

It has been a good year. Thanks for taking me on a trip down a short memory lane...


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21. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:407]
Cole Wehrle
United States
St. Paul
Minnesota
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Okay I'll add my voice to the choir.

The other day I brought this to one of the game nights around Austin and, in what seemed like minutes later, I suddenly found myself playing my 3rd game straight with a group that was clamoring for more. It's a great game, all the more because the theme is so dense that it doesn't seem to wear off even after 20-30+ plays and the game is interesting enough to demand attention.

As for the rest...

2. The Great Zimbabwe. God what a good game. Put simply, it's Splotter's critique of the engine building Euro done by way of Container and a brutal blocking game that seems to take notes from Winsome.

3. Speaking of which...I gotta give the next slot to Winsome's Continental Divide. That's a bit of a cheat since folks in the US have had their copies for awhile now and it won't make its official appearance till Essen this year. But, it's a great, chewy game with a devilish map and lots of interesting decisions. It's clear that a lot of good work and development went into this game--you can almost see the elbow grease!

4. Duel of Ages II. Okay, maybe this should be higher. I was totally surprised by this game and it stunned my summer playing plans. I think so far this year I've learned on thing about myself: I like anything that is done well, and Duel of Ages takes a genre that I have no interest in (out of control fan fiction?) and carries it so far into zaniness while managing a clear head. It's clearly a labor of love and one that I was happy to find.

5. This one is a bit of a toss up. I've had the pleasure of playing quite a bit of 18xx this year, including 8 plays of 1889 which I have come to really love. It's not a new game but it's one of my "games of the year" for sure.

If I had to choose another game for the list it would probably be Love Letter, which remains ever-requested and ever-played. It has come with us through many a road trip and camping marathon and has held up well (though I think I'm starting to prefer Coup).


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22. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:11]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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1. Terra Mystica

Just a great game. I must admit I initially choose to buy Mercurius over it as I thought it looked a bit boring.

2. Suburbia

For a month or so, my favourite game from Essen 2012, then I played TM.

3. Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar

Yes you could play it without the wheel, but it would not be so easy to play.

4. Snowdonia

Not fair, a worker placement game where the game plays as well.

5. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

I initially rated the DC game higher. But I have to admit, there is a little too much luck in the DC game. This is just a much better deeper game.
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23. Board Game: Copycat [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1342]
Chris Marling
United Kingdom
Cambridge
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Writing this on my phone after a tense and rainy win for St Ives Town over the mighty Potters Bar, so please excuse typos etc

My big 2 of the year have been Tzolkin and Snowdonia, in no particular order. I loved Tera Mystics and Rialto and despite only having played each once, they would also make my top 5.

The one people haven't mentioned is Copycat. The people I mostly play with aren't really massive gamers but we've all really enjoyed this. I actually think its bigger and cleverer than its given credit for, probably as its been hoist by its own petard.

I've also enjoyed Love Letter, while the fact my own The Empire Engine has so far been ignored must surely be an oversight

The only game others have mentioned here that I've played and didn't enjoy was Suburbia. Despite playing in good spirits and in good company, I found it excruciatingly dull.

EDIT: The 5 in order, so I don't break the Duckworth scoring method

1) Snowdonia
2) Tzolkin
3) Rialto
4) Copycat
5) Terra Mystica
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24. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:241]
Patrick Reynolds
United States
Vermontville
Michigan
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d10-1 Love Letter. We play this at every game session whenever there are four players and about a half an hour left to go. Lover Letter is an amazing game; I'm still learning new strategies and with four experienced players it can become an amazingly tense game. Plus, it's always awesome to take a complete shot in a dark with a Guard and knock someone out early on a lucky guess.

d10-2 Kemet. Absolutely amazing conflict game.

d10-3 Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar. Still my favorite worker placement game, but it's a very close race with Village. The reason that Terra Mystica isn't on my list is because it shares some mechanics with this game (like the temple track race), and it's in a similar weight category, but I like Tzolk'in better.

d10-4 Hanabi. A great co-op. Easy to "win" but tough to win really well. Teaches players how to communicate intent with well-timed clues.

d10-5 Augustus. Nice fast lightweight near-filler with some decent strategy. Might be my new gateway game for non-gamers.
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25. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:351]
Steph Hodge
United States
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I would say my top 5 to be
Terra Mystica
Ginkgopolis
Clash of Cultures
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
Keyflower

I do love me some ginkgopolis though!!!
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