View from the Stars: Ranking the Past Decade
Wystan Benbow
United States
Stoneham
Massachusetts
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A big chunk of the 2013 games are on their way over from Essen. I have already had the good fortune of playing several of these and am beginning to formulate an informed opinion of how these games will stand up in my collection. Of course, that got me thinking about how each of the past 10 years worth of game releases stand up.

This geek list attempts to quantify this. I took the average rating of the top 10 games in my collection for each year since 2013 and calculated the mean for the top 3 & the top 10, so attempt to quantify the best games for the year and the depth (number of solid games) for the year. This will bias things in favor of the most recent releases (since average ratings drop with time & more quickly in the first years), but on balance should be an indicator. I then ranked each of the years, and came up with a figure of merit (2x Top 3 Rank + Top 10 Rank) to determine the best years.

Here are the results, using my favorite game for the year as the place holder & some personal notes to make it interesting.

Please note, I considered the Puerto Rico Anniversary edition a 2002 release (as Puerto Rico).

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1. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:11]
Wystan Benbow
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2012: So far, seems to be a banner year for board games; It had the highest average for the top-3 and top-10 games in my collection. I attended Lobster Trap (best con ever) for the first time, actually made friends at a Con (Unity games) & for the first time really had more opportunities to play games than I could even think of managing. My second child was born that year, but sadly I had to spend ~30 calendar weeks on the road for work (I will probably be upset / terrified about that forever -- who has to travel for a week, 2 weeks before their wife is due). Sorry for the downer -- At least Liz & the boys got to live in DC with me -- Eoin was only 3 weeks old when we left.

Top-3 Rank: 1
Top-10 Rank: 1
Figure of Merit: 3

My 3 favorites: Terra Mystica, Nieuw Amsterdam, Tzolkin
Geek Top-3: Terra Mystica, Tzolkin, Keyflower

I do believe that after the dust has more time to settle, 2012 will be remembered more for its best games than any depth (i.e. sheer number of very good games).
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2. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:25]
Wystan Benbow
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2007: While I have been collecting games since 2003, it is safe to say that I truly became a Board-Game Geek in 2007. It is when joined my first game clubs, found my first FLGS, became aware of the Spiel fair in Essen & registered on BGG. Perhaps coincidentally, it seems to be a strong year for games. I also got my Harvard professorship & moved back to the US, proposed to my wife & managed to quit smoking. You can tell I wasn't quite a geek yet, as my first purchase with my first real (meaning sizeable) paycheck was an Adrian Peterson premium NFL jersey (his rookie year & before anyone knew). The FLGS was next door, but lower priority (stop #2).

Top-3 Rank: 2
Top-10 Rank: 2
Figure of Merit: 6

My 3 Favorites: Agricola, Chicago Express, In the Year of the Dragon
Geek Top-3: Agricola, Brass, Race for the Galaxy

I do believe that when the dust settles, this will be ranked the best year for games spanning at a few decades. Just so many good games, the real arrival of Winsome Games as a force & the beginning of the Feld / Alea partnership.
 
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3. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:13]
Wystan Benbow
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2011 was really the first year where I started to realize I needed to really curb my game purchasing. My number of purchased, but still not played, games exploded, as I finished up my various collections (Spiel des Jahres, Alea, Winsome, Historical Train Games, 2-player games). I also used to grab any game with mechanisms that I liked (or rather, did not have mechanisms I did not like) and more than 300 votes with an average rating of >7.3. That would evolve to >7.5, with anything less requiring at least one play beforehand. It also marked my one & only trip to BGG.con

Top-3 Rank: 4
Top-10 Rank: 3
Figure of Merit: 11

My 3 favorites: Castles of Burgundy, Lancaster, Hawaii
Geek Top-3: Castles of Burgundy, Ora et Labora, Trajan

The dust is probably still settling on 2011; In the end, I think this year was more about depth (lots of good games), but not many great games. It does get bonus points for the anniversary edition of Puerto Rico, a game that truly defines 10 on the BGG scale for me.
 
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4. Board Game: Railways of the World [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:102] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Wystan Benbow
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2005: The first surprise on this list. I don't really think of it as a great year for games. I was mostly collecting Spiel des Jahres games at this time & Niagara wasn't very good. The failure of Niagara & Torres (for me) is perhaps what put me onto the track of BGG, since I realized not all SdJ winners were awesome and would need another resource. At least Caylus came out this year & I do enjoy my worker placement. The result is a bit biased by Twilight Struggle, which I still have not played, despite owning since 2007 & paying full MSRP at an FLGS (lesson = BGG ranking is not everything).

Top-3 Rank: 3
Top-10 Rank: 6

My 3 favorites: Railroad Tycoon, Louis XIV, Caylus
Geek Top-3: Twilight Struggle, Caylus, 1889

I think 2005 is a year marked by a few very good games & not much else of note.
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5. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:84] [Average Rating:7.60 Unranked]
Wystan Benbow
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2008: The year I got married, my first full year with a permanent job, my first game convention, and the year I discovered BrettSpielWelt. I will never forget ordering Agricola (in English) from our tiny apartment in Paris & being so excited, that I accidentally hit express ship (despite not being back in the US for a few more days), then having to call Gate Play at ~2 am from the bathroom to (successfully) fix, while failing not to wake my wife. Liz got so used to falling asleep to the BSW sounds for Stone Age that summer, that for a while she asked me to play BSW in our Tucson bedroom so she could fall asleep (despite our usual ban on electronics in the area).

Top-3 Rank: 5
Top-10 Rank: 7
Figure of Merit: 17

My 3 favorites: Stone Age, Diamonds Club, Age of Scheme
Geek Top-3: Le Havre, Dominion, Stone Age

Really a strong, if not top-heavy, year for games; So many new mechanisms (deck building, coops), the rise of Tree Frog / Wallace & yes, Agricola in English.
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6. Board Game: Paris Connection [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1338]
Wystan Benbow
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2010: My first child, buying my first house, moving to Boston, leaving all my Tucson gaming friends; Seriously, What are games? At least I befriended Terry Egan, who introduced my to much of the local (Boston) gaming scene. BTW, Boston rocks & sometimes it is a really good idea to make a local trade (even with the results not being in your favor).

Top-3 Rank: 7
Top-10 Rank: 4
Figure of Merit: 18

My 3 favorites: Paris Connection, Troyes, Navegador
Geek Top-3: 7 Wonders, Troyes, Navegador

While 2010 is certainly a blur, I mostly remember it for having a ton of very good, but no great, games.
 
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7. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:126]
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2004: The year I met my wife, the year I became very successful in my field, and my first year where games became a true passion. Living in Germany at the time was amazing & my only regret is that I never knew about the Essen fair during my 5-year stay. I also cut off my pony tail, after nearly a decade of being a "hair farmer".

Top-3 Rank: 6
Top-10 Rank: 8
Figure of Merit: 20

My 3 favorites: Goa, Power Grid, Ticket to Ride
Geek Top-3: Goa, Power Grid, 1825 Unit 3

Overall, I think some amazing games came out in 2004, but there was little depth outside of the top 5 or 6.
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8. Board Game: Hansa Teutonica [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:121]
Wystan Benbow
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2009: My first full year as director of a major experiment & one that had frankly been struggling. Lots & Lots of stress, while we got things turned around. The Saturday morning headache, when I could finally relax, became a fixture. Fortunately, we had my son Conor to look forward to (the spherical miracle kept me going). Kids certainly cut down on the gaming, but they are the best thing ever....

Top-3 Rank: 8
Top-10 Rank: 5
Figure of Merit: 21

My 3 favorites: Hansa Teutonica, Steam, Egizia
Geek Top-3: Steam, American Rails, Hansa Teutonica

Just not a very good year for games, although plenty of reasonably good ones. I think this one is most memorable for the solid mid-weight designs that fare poorly on the Geek (e.g. Valdora, Golden City, Finca). Steam got bonus points in my top-3, since Age of Steam is my all-time favorite, even if the former isn't nearly as nice a design.
 
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9. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Märklin [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:259] [Average Rating:7.41 Unranked]
Wystan Benbow
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2006: My last full year in Germany & the last year I smoked a cigarette. We were still playing Catan & Ticket to Ride all the time. However, we did get Puerto Rico (#1 on BGG) & El Grande (#5 or so) that year, and that slowly began the migration to heavy games. One could feel the days in Germany coming to an end as I got my first professorship interviews & watched all my ex-pat friends in academia start to leave with new opportunities.

Top-3 Rank: 9
Top-10 Rank: 9
Figure of Merit: 27

My 3 favorites: Ticket to Ride: Maerklin, Thurn & Taxis, On the Underground
Geek Top-3: Through the Ages, Ticket to Ride: Maerklin, Pillars of the Earth

Really a poor year for games. TtA is just too long & fiddly & there really isn't much else of note. Even the Alea / Winsome games were poor. TtR Maerklin gets the nod here, as the system is frankly brilliant & could not be recognized in 2004.
 
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10. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:427]
Wystan Benbow
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2003: A terrible year for games, but it is the year I started playing games again (plenty of D&D, Axis & Allies, Risk, Chess, Backgammon, Scotland Yard & Monopoly as a kid mind you). Alhambra started it all. I'll never forget purchasing it (10 Euro on sale; also Hotels), thinking the SdJ badge was a gimmick to steal my money, but needing something to pass the time while my sister & I minded her jet-lagged toddler. It took me ~2 hours to translate the rules for what seemed like an impossibly complex game. However, we played it & played it again, & again & again. Eventually we went back & bought more copies for the family. Every year from then I had to ferry back SdJ winners to the US for X-mas & the Geek was born. It was also my first full year in Germany, my grandfather passed leaving me as the eldest male & I quit regularly going to bars (plenty of cafe's though) - noting that I was once a bouncer.

Top-3 Rank: 10
Top-10 Rank: 10
Figure of Merit: 30

My 3 favorites: Alhambra, Balloon Cup, Amun-Re
Geek Top-3: Yinsh, Amun-Re, Alhambra

In short, a very poor year for games. I only like my 3 favorites a lot (they are 8's) & have remarkably few games in general from this year.
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11. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:127]
Wystan Benbow
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2002: If one tosses 2012 because it is still too new, and adds in 2002 the rankings don't really change. My two favorite games were released in 2002 (Age of Steam & Puerto Rico), but nothing else from that year is really very good & that pulls the metrics way, way down.

All in all, though a great year: My two favorite games, I earned my PhD, I moved to Germany for 5 years & began my transformation into an adult...
 
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12. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:71]
Wystan Benbow
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2013: It is hard to tell how 2013 is going to stand up; It is only a week or so after Essen & cult-of-the-new is very much in effect. Looking very much to be in the middle of the pack following my metrics, but with a few outstanding games. Definitely the year of Feld. A rough year personally, but Liz & I are doing well & the boys are so happy / healthy, so what is truly important is all fine.

My 3 favorites: Russian Railroads, Continental Divide & Bora Bora -- noting that Caverna is a near certainty to replace Bora Bora

Geek Top-3: Patchhistory, Caverna, Russian Railroads

I can't say enough how much I enjoyed Russian Railroads (perhaps a new entry in my top 10) Continental Divide is the best Winsome in years. I know I will love Caverna. BTW: four Feld games is simply awesome to experience. Patchistory is a wild card as all the lads seemed to enjoy it.
 
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