Stven's Top Games of 2013
Stven Carlberg
United States
Decatur
Georgia
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These are the games I played most often in 2013.

I have a regular Thursday night games group of six guys. I also made it to three or four games weekends in the course of the year. Angelika likes to play two-player games with me, and occasionally we got together with friends for a game or two.

The list begins with the games I played four times each and winds up with the one I played 13 times.

There's a "Stven's Top Games" Geeklist for every year back to 2002 you can look up in case you feel like delving into a decade of my boardgaming history.

Game on!
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1. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:71]
Stven Carlberg
United States
Decatur
Georgia
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Trajan is not merely a big complicated game but is a big complicated game with so many different things you can do that you have to decide which ones you're going to focus on and which ones you're just never going to get around to. The engine at the center of the action is each player's mancala-like circle of six bowls that you move twelve colored pegs around in. Anticipation is key. You need an hour and a half and three or four players prepared to dig in.
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2. Board Game: Power Grid: The First Sparks [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:877]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
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Returning to the list from last year, First Sparks is the bare-knuckles primitive version of Power Grid. It tends to run a little quicker than a regular Power Grid game, partly because of the simplification of the auction process. I do wish the rules for set-up were clearer; it seems like we spend at least 10 minutes before every First Sparks game making sure we're getting the initial resource allotment correct.
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3. Board Game: Jet Set [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1811]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
Georgia
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I've been a big fan of this routes-and-rates game since the first time I played it in 2008. It's got a huge board connecting cities in Europe, six big handfuls of colorful plastic airplanes, and an intriguing quick timing to the ending.
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4. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:106]
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A terrific two-player trading game. How can a two-player trading game work, you might wonder? Well, you've got six suits of goods to trade, a central display of cards that the players take turns trading from, a hand limit of seven, and camel cards that make things very interesting.
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5. Board Game: Around the World in 80 Days [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1313]
Stven Carlberg
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Around the World in 80 Days is the game that deserved the Spiel des Jahres award in 2004. (I've said it before. I'll be saying it again.) It's an excellent racing game with a twist. You want five or six players circumnavigating the globe, taking ships, trains, elephants, balloons à la Phileas Fogg. You keep track of how many days each step in the journey takes, and winner is the one who gets back to London in the fewest days. This is often not the player who got back to London in the fewest number of turns -- sometimes you need to be patient enough to wait for a faster train. So it's tricky, but good gamerly fun.
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6. Board Game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:176]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
Georgia
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This is a simplified, quicker version of Agricola in which the players raise animals only and not crops. Of course, Agricola is a complicated, longish game, so All Creatures is still a challenging 30-45 minutes. It's very well done and a fine choice if you're sitting there wishing you could play Agricola but don't quite want to put in the 90 minutes for a full game.
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7. Board Game: Take it Easy! [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1381]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
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Whenever we get invited to games by Angelika's sister Lilian, Take It Easy is the first game to go into the bag. Any number can play and there's no waiting for your turn as everybody plops the announced tile onto their boards at the same time. Also Angelika got the Take It Easy app on her iPhone (although I don't count those games in my annual totals -- maybe I should). The app is a little exasperating because the tiles have a tendency to drop into the wrong places when you're moving them around with your finger on the tiny board. You'd think there'd be a way to correct the fumblefinger, but no. Otherwise a good app and a good game for any number of players. The image here is from another edition of the game called "Hextension."
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8. Board Game: Qwixx [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:682]
Stven Carlberg
United States
Decatur
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I don't actually like Qwixx. It was one of the Spiel des Jahres nominees last year, and I guess about one in five of the people who tried it thought it was a clever and fun dice game. I was one of the other four people and thought it was merely a clever and boring dice game. It only lasts about 15 minutes, but that's good news and bad news. The good news is you're only bored for about 15 minutes, but the bad news is the people who like it want it to be played any time there's a spare 15 minutes at the end of the night.
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9. Board Game: Qin [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:1259]
Stven Carlberg
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Here on the other hand is a clever new game I do like. In Qin (I'm told it should be pronounced "Chin") you place tiles on the board, little rectangles made of two squares, and each square is either red, yellow or blue. When you make an area on the board of at least two squares of the same color, you claim it with one of your pagoda markers. There are a couple of other ways to get pagodas on the board, and you can take over areas controlled by other players when you outnumber them in certain ways. The object of the game is to get all your pagodas onto the board before anybody else does. Qin is by Reiner Knizia, so as you might guess, there are opportunities for cleverness but sometimes luck of the draw will frustrate you. A nice 20-30 minutes.
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10. Board Game: Darjeeling [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1895]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
Georgia
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I've been a big fan of this one since it came out in 2007 and it's still getting some play. A nice 45-minute economic game for 2-5 players in which timing is of the essence. I'll use a picture of the tea monkeys on the warehouse floor 'cause I know Dave Leach will want to see them!
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11. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:37]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
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For a lot of people Tzolk'in was THE game of the year -- some of us are just trying to learn to spell it -- as the interlocking gears of the gameboard were a fascinating new gimmick and actually worked. Sure, the instructions could have just said "and before the next turn, all the player tokens on the board move one space to the right," but it wouldn't have been as much fun and it wouldn't have been nearly as foolproof. A whole cottage industry, by the way, has arisen around the people who take strange delight in hand-painting the cogwheels distinctive colors.
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12. Board Game: Snowdonia [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:344]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
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I'm not sure why this complicated, detail-heavy, exceptions-to-exceptions, novice-punishing sprawl of a game has caught on with my Thursday night crew. But it has. I don't dislike it, but it ain't elegant. Here's a picture of the Snowdonia board and cards and various bits set up ready to play. And here's a hint for everybody: You have to have DIFFERENT sets of materials to complete EACH endgame bonus card.
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13. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
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Puerto Rico is the one single game that has been on my Top Games list every year since 2002. An enduring favorite, best with the full 5 players.
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14. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:243]
Stven Carlberg
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Stefan Feld has given us a lot of good games, including the perennial favorite Notre Dame, the new card-chaser Bruges, and as mentioned at the top of the list, Trajan. Macao might be the game of his that has the widest appeal. I do have a big crush on that whole dice wheel business at the heart of it, but there's something about it that catches Angelika's fancy, and it's become a favorite of some of the friends we play with as well, and that's why it's been played often enough to appear this deep in my list of top games.
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15. Board Game: Rondo [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:3004]
Stven Carlberg
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Here's another Reiner Knizia confection. Numbers are printed on the board in different colors, and you have random tiles in those colors. Score for the numbers you can cover with the matching colors in a straight line -- it's not a lot more complicated than that. Easily learned by young and old, you can have a family of four playing in under ten minutes. Also I find the luminous blue of the board itself strikingly appealing -- and wait until you turn it over to the other side! A nice light game to have handy.
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16. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:162]
Stven Carlberg
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Decatur
Georgia
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We jumped on this Mac Gerdts game as soon as it came out because we liked its predecessor Hamburgum so much. Navegador has just about completely replaced Hamburgum as our "choose your next move on the rondel" game. The story of the game involves sending exploration ships from Portugal around the horn to Japan, or at least about making money while somebody's ships are moving east.
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17. Board Game: Indian Chief [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:8460]
Stven Carlberg
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Indian Chief is this card game I came up with a few years ago. From an 8-card hand, you make a series of 7 melds, in any order, called Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, each one requiring a different number of cards, and refreshing to 8 after each meld. While you're in the process of doing this, so are the other players. The game has a little bit of a following and Angelika printed up some of the player aids that have been posted on BGG by fans, so now we enjoy some visual prompts while we play.
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18. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:17]
Stven Carlberg
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Agricola continues to be one of my favorite games. I like the basic hard-knuckles game without cards, I like the Farmers of the Moor variant, and I'm happy to play most of the available decks of Occupation and Minor Improvement cards. It's pretty amazing how many cards have been generated for this game. A couple of years ago I ran through the solo game challenge (a series of ten games with progressively harder goals) a couple of times, so that took care of that. Quite happy to play this with any number from 2 to 5 any time the hat drops.
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19. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:336]
Stven Carlberg
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Another continuing classic, this "race to tag the flag" game where each player programs his robot from a hand of cards to navigate a complicated "factory floor" is often played as the opener at our Thursday night table of six. We still play the 1994 rules with laser fire at the end of each register phase and virtual bots starting from the same square (as we have since 1994). Because they're best.
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20. Board Game: Rise of Augustus [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:773]
Stven Carlberg
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When this one was named a Spiel des Jahres finalist, I rushed to get a copy. Personally, if it had been up to me to choose, Augustus would have won SdJ. It's an easy game to play, the only really crunchy decisions being which cards to select that you'll try to build. It accommodates six players and takes 20-30 minutes, and it's fun to try to get your plan to work. I have, by the way, never yet won this game in multiple tries, while Angelika won it both times she played.
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21. Board Game: Sushi Go! [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:340]
Stven Carlberg
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Sushi Go! is another game I rushed to get, but only after I learned it had become so popular so quickly that its first print run was about to sell out. Once I started playing Sushi Go!, I found its popularity easily understandable. It's very tidily constructed and fun and quick to play. You're passing hands of cards around the table and selecting one card to keep each time a hand comes to you, with the object of making sets and such as the round progresses. I got the game at the beginning of December and played it 10 times in 2013. It's that catchy.
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22. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:315]
Stven Carlberg
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Ginkgopolis was a midyear discovery which I liked immediately and wound up teaching to several different groups. Interestingly, it is another game where you choose one card to play and then pass the rest to your neighbor, but your range of choices with that card is oddly complicated and confusing to remember, all relating to a construction in square tiles which not only covers more area but gets taller as the game progresses. I think our interest in the game has tapered off a little now that we've gritted through the work of figuring out how to run the game, but I think Ginkgopolis will prove to be more than just a novelty, just the same. Check with me in six months and see if we're still getting it played.
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23. Board Game: Cinque Terre [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1296]
Stven Carlberg
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Finally, the game I played most often in 2013 -- appropriately enough, I played it 13 times! I'm a big fan of games where you pick up stuff at one location and deliver it to another. Cinque Terre simplifies this to three pickup spots and five delivery spots, all in sequence on a circle which your vehicle can travel in one direction only. At the same time it complicates things with eight different goods, different prices for goods at the different delivery points, and a slightly unconventional system of contract cards with bonuses for having delivered certain goods to certain locations. There are some big swings of luck with the cards that can jump in and determine a winner even in the very last stage of the game, but since the whole process is fun, Cinque Terre is enjoyable win or lose. Just expect some opportunities to bless or curse your luck. One of my favorite games of the new year.
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