This year was full of exciting new adventures at our gaming tables! But 2012 was also a year of two giant upsets. The first being the United States Presidential Election (depending on whom you were voting for) and the end of the world. Yeah, didn’t happen (again) and a good thing, too! Having a giant rogue planet collide with us or an alien invasion that enslaves what little is left of the human race would spoil my game nights and really put me out. Lucky for us, the sun keeps rising and dice keep rolling. With the end of the year coming close, it is time once again to reflect on our many accomplishments and defeats at the gaming table!
- Child Geek: games that promote the Geek Skills and are a lot of fun to play with the little geeks. Not necessarily the games that adults would seek out, but certainly the favorites for the next geek generation.
- Parent Geek: games that promote bonding, togetherness, and fun that can be played by a wide age range and mixed Geek Skill groups at the family gaming table.
- Gamer Geek: games that exemplify all things “gamer elitist” when it comes to board, card, and dice games. These Gamer Geek games provide depth, challenge, and a lot of table time.
Why have each staff member provide their own lists? Simply put, each of us have our own favorites, our little geeks are at different Geek Skill levels, and to be perfectly blunt, I couldn’t convince anyone that my list was the “one list to rule them all”…again…that’s three years in a row now. Not a good track record.
Note that the list of games is not limited to titles released in 2012 and is far from comprehensive. The “new hot games” get a lot of buzz, but the list of “great games to play” is a long one with no end in sight that keeps getting added to. I could play a new game every day and never catch up. Which is, as you can imagine, awesome. But making these lists is hard, people! Trying to suggest that one game is better than another can be an emotional tug-o-war at times. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I struggled, but I didn’t have an easy time of creating my list. There are so many wonderful games I have played and have yet to play, I think making a “top list” is more about “how I feel now” versus what is really the “best”. Take it with a grain of salt and a smirk.
Let’s get to it!
Brian’s Top 5
- Chaostle – It has a load of finicky rules that I have yet to read completely. None of that matters due to the top-notch component quality of this game. Essentially, Pachisi at its core, the 3-D look and cool sounding attacks make this a continued favorite for my boys.
- Candy Land – This continues to see play in our household. We still play with the “kid” rules where we do not go backwards. I think this is a mercy rule for the parents. Kids love colors…. and candy.
- Long Shot – Modified to remove reading, making it a pure roll-and-move game, but the kids love the horses. House rules are in place to speed it up.
- Angry Birds: The Card Game – My kids are caught up in the bird storm, and hence, they would love this game even if it took little bites out of their flesh. The game itself is forgettable, yet they are drawn to the theme.
- LCR – Argh!! Grandma!!! Curse you for buying this!! Trapped in a cabin for a weekend and Grandma pulls out this game. I thought I was in Hell. Kids liked it though, and with my #4 as the other choice, you can see why Angry Birds: The Card Game got much more play than it should have.
- Travel Bingo – My eldest is very goal oriented, and so when I suggest he go for the blackout on a long road trip, it will keep him well-behaved for a good chunk of a day while he looks for a school visible from the interstate.
- Triple Town – A table app that teaches some basic tactics with set recognition and placement in a colorful way. My oldest son loves it.
- Chaostle – I bought this game knowing I wouldn’t like it, but I do enjoy watching my boys get excited for a fire burp attack, or shooting a flaming array at a dragon, etc. This game is paving the way to much more epic dungeon crawls, I hope.
- Candy Land – So this is past the point of being useful to teach colors, but my youngest is so very competitive, and this game is still a tool I can use to teach him how to win or lose gracefully.
- Brain Quest: Know the States! Geography Game – This has worked well for fun facts about geography. Kids are learning and they don’t even know it 🙂
- Twilight Struggle – This has seen increased play this year when only 1 other shows up for game night. This is till one of my favorite games.
- War of the Ring – I purchased the new edition, but still play my friend’s collectors edition. Imagine that. Again, one of my favorite games.
- Shadow Era – I spent way too much time on this after hearing about it from a Dice Tower contributor. The artwork is top-notch, and the game is good enough to suck hours of my time.
- The Ares Project – I still love this game, and I do not really understand why it received so few accolades. Starcraft will always have a place in my heart, and although I know it’s technically not Starcraft, it scratches that same itch.
- Legacy: Gears of Time – The gem of Gen Con for me. It has intriguing mechanisms in a time travel setting. Check it out.
Nate’s Top 5
- Sorry! Sliders – Repeating this entry from previous years. It still gets massive play at my house.
- Headbanz – While we don’t use the timer, and are a little more free with the question/answer process, this is a great widely available game for teaching deductive reasoning.
- Leapin’ Lily Pads – A very fun and very quick memory game with a twist that really ups the challenge.
- Haunted Castle – A precursor to Spot It!, with a Halloween theme. Fun, simple, and fast.
- LEGO Heroica – A very simple roll-and-move dungeon crawl game with almost no choices. But the rules encourage the players to come up with new rules and make it their own game; just like the toys themselves. This has really given the game sustained life for us. Now, we are running rescue missions and coercing prisoners to help us fight evil. Next up: combat result tables (made from leftover LEGO bricks, of course).
- Catacombs – Dungeon crawling and flicking at its finest and most elegant. I do tweak the rules a little since they’re based on a full team of dungeon delivers, but we have a blast with this one.
- Dixit – A great game for the whole family. Gorgeous art, simple rules, and fun play. For younger kids, you might want to shorten the game play a little.
- Kingdoms – It’s great for teaching early addition and multiplication as well as basic strategy.
- Dragonland – Component-wise, this game has a lot of curb appeal. It comes with its own dice tower! Rules are slightly more advanced than other roll-and-move games, (it is a Knizia design, after all), but those rules can be tweaked for younger players. I would highly recommend including the special power tokens, however, as without them, the game can get a little long.
- HeroQuest – A classic dungeon crawl game. We don’t get to this one nearly as much as we should.
- Acquire – Every list like this should have at least one classic entry. Acquire is as great as any. Minimalist rules and deep game play, with a play time of about 2 hours (but could be a lot less if you take out the AP), this game has stood the test of time.
- Mage Knight Board Game – Epic, albeit mostly solitary, adventuring in a rich, evolving world. My only beef with the game is the lack of much chance in combat. But everything else is intriguing and enjoyable.
- Eclipse – Easily the best 4X game I’ve ever played.
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark (second edition) – A great update to a great game. Dense with content and theme, and mechanics that are more elegant than most games in its class, including its predecessor.
- The Resistance – A great streamlining of the hidden traitor gameplay from Werewolf and Mafia. It’s over quickly, and you actually have some information to work with right from the start. Highly recommended.
Meng’s Top 5
- Set – A lightning-fast pattern recognition card game , also available on your smartphone!
- Water Lily – A quick-playing, simple but strategic racing game with a memory element.
- King of Tokyo – Monsters attack each other by rolling lots of dice, what’s not to love?
- Hive – The insect theme and gorgeous components mask a highly tactical game that plays in 15 minutes.
- Sneeze – A chaotic card game from Cambridge Games Factory. Who knew hayfever could be so much fun?
- Carcassonne – An oldie but a goodie, great family entertainment which is also available for your tablet.
- Samarkand: Routes to Riches – A simple network-building (“railroad”) game with just enough complexity to keep it interesting.
- Small World – Appeals to my son’s love of conflict and tests his reading skills to boot.
- Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Cooperative games should be part of any healthy gaming diet, and playing as firemen is a child’s dream come true!
- Pandemic – Speaking of cooperative games, despite its age, and even without expansions, this game remains entertaining and challenging.
- The Castles of Burgundy – Another hit from my favorite designer, Stefan Feld. Die-rolling, tile drafting with placement, and set collection all combined in a fast-playing attractive package.
- Innovation – An easy-going yet “thinky” game, unfortunately prone to wild swings of fortune; the expansion adds more intrigue, but is too chaotic with 5 players.
- Dominant Species – More chaotic than the average worker placement game, still a brain-burner but can play quickly if all players are experienced; available for iPad although the AI is quite weak.
- Eclipse – Finally a decent 4X game that can be completed in an evening, a shame I’ve only played it once so far.
- 1989: Dawn of Freedom – A worthy addition to the Twilight Struggle lineage. Again, I’ve only played once so I need to get this to the table again.
Marty’s Top 5
- Smash Up – Fast paced card game where you can get to combine two genres of characters such as pirates, ninjas, robots, aliens, etc.
- Garden Dice – New game from an independent designer where the goal is to plant, water, and harvest vegetables quicker than your opponents.
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark (second edition) – Dungeon crawler/RPG-lite game that has an excellent story and players can develop their characters over time.
- Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre – Card game built around the sole purpose of creating the most outrageous and hilarious spells to cast on your opponents.
- Arkham Horror – A cooperative game played in the world created by H.P. Lovecraft. Deep gaming experience with rich themes. Only for older children.
- Lords of Waterdeep – The perfect game to introduce worker-placement to casual gamers. Easy to pick up, fun to play.
- Nuns on the Run – Board game where players try to sneak around a school hiding from the Abbess. Lots of laughs and creates a lot of tension.
- Quarriors! – The dice version of a deck building game. Plays fast and you get to roll tons of dice.
- Elder Sign – Arkham Horror-lite dice game that has a Lovecraftian feel with a hint of Yahtzee.
- The Resistance: Avalon – The new version of The Resistance that takes place during the time of King Arthur. New character cards expands the game play of the original making it a much more entertaining bluffing game.
- Eminent Domain – Streamlined, quick-moving space-themed deck building game. Very little downtime among players and heavy strategy.
- Puerto Rico – One of the Euro game gems that is about economics and city building. A must have for every gamer geek list.
- Android: Netrunner – Re-issued card game from the 90’s that is now a living card game (LCG). High strategy asynchronous type game that is rich with the Cyberpunk theme.
- Eclipse – One of the best 4x games to come along in while. Every hardcore game should try it at least once.
- Cosmic Encounter – The space themed negotiating and bluffing game that will quickly turn friends into enemies.
Frank’s Top 5
- 7 Wonders – Easy and fun!
- The Resistance – A bluffing game that anyone can play game.
- Hive – A very strategic game.
- Warrior Knights – Kids like it.
- Dominion – A classic that just keeps getting played.
- Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow – Again, a great experience on our DC trip back in May!
- Warrior Knights – Great with teenagers, but the gaming group didn’t like it.
- Hive – Excellent with Scouts
- 7 Wonders – Even the parents like this one.
- The Resistance – Also excellent (and loud!) with Scouts.
- Chess – Played about 100 games online, and a few in the Chess club. Probably an easy guess…
- Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow – Playing for 5 ½ hours on the way back from DC was amazing!
- Hive – Always a sure thing for the Gamer Geeks I know.
- Warrior Knights – New to me, and only played few times due to game length, but what a great game.
- Pandemic – Cooperative disease fighting. A classic and still a great game after all these years.
Karl’s Top 5
- Whoowasit? – Cooperative deduction game that also makes use of an electronic device to keep track of time and facilitates interaction with the characters on the board.
- Gulo Gulo – A game that is VERY challenging for adults and easy for kids. My kids love to see me struggle while they pick the “eggs” with ease.
- Loopin Louie – Still gets some play at our house. Fun dexterity game.
- The Kids of Carcassonne – Great translation of its older sibling. Fun for kids, tolerable for adults.
- Catan: Junior – Another great translation. Better than Kids of Catan in that there are some actual choices to be made in this game.
- Frag – What kid doesn’t feel empowered when they get to launch a portable nuke by rolling 10+ dice to frag their parent in a full-out death match?
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark (second edition) – Excellent dungeon crawl game that allows some level of character customization and can yield a great story.
- Whoowasit? – Teaches cooperation with excellent components.
- MotorChamp – Fun, easy-to-play racing game with components to drool over.
- Get Bit! – Easy to play with kids and teaches them to think ahead about what the other players may be planning to do.
- Zombicide – Great components, well supported, thematic, easy to play yet challenging depending on the scenario. Zombicide has provided ample stories among the folks I game with to reflect and laugh about.
- Android: Netrunner – Great theme and art. Asymmetric goals and well-placed mechanics make this a great two-player game. Personal deck customization adds greatly to the replay value.
- Cards Against Humanity – How can a game that is sure to offend someone in some way not a great game to finish the game night with? Watching the reactions of others takes this party game over the top.
- Eclipse – Straight-forward faction-building game that can be played in about two-hours. Incorporates military, diplomacy, exploration and resource building in a nice package.
- Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – Star Wars minis that allows for customization of your fleet and play battles at various scales? Count me in!
Cyrus’s Top 5
- Micro Monsters – According to my little geeks, this is the “BEST GAME EVER!” It’s a lot of fun and I have never had a game session with them that didn’t start with excitement and end in total satisfaction.
- Architecto and Equilibrio – Two solitaire puzzle building games that get the same amount of table time. Which is to say, “a lot”. My little geeks are always tinkering with it, building architectural marvels that I hope to one day live in.
- Farmageddon – A “take that” fast farming themed card game that my two oldest little geeks love to play with each other. It’s an easy game to teach, to play, and to enjoy. Especially when the little geeks start to talk smack about your melons. Oh, the hilarity!
- Paper Route – A late addition to the gaming collection but one that has quickly found much love with my little geeks and all who have played it. A very fast two-player pattern matching game that is just as challenging for the adults as it is for the kids. Wear a sweatband when you play this game, as you will get overheated and perspire.
- ZombieZone – A two-player game where one side champions the zombies and the other side champions the humans attempting to put them down. A strange mix of Chess and Checkers that compliments each other well as each player attempts to control the board and win with their faction’s special victory condition.
- Masons – A game I received from my family as a Christmas gift that was completely bought at random. Turned out to be an incredibly entertaining game. Wonderful for the family and a great introduction to games that use area control, resource management, and strategic thinking that anyone can learn and play.
- Garden Dice – Another late game addition that has quickly thrilled and entertained all who have played it, from Child Geeks to Gamer Geeks. Easy to learn, surprisingly strategic, and a lot of fun to play with the family.
- Dominion – The classic deck building game keeps getting played and enjoyed by all. Newbie and veteran players always find something they enjoy.
- Alhambra – One of the first games I taught my wife and still a great game to play after all these years. The easy game play, lack of reading, and simple turn sequence make this a game you can teach to non-gamers and Child Geeks with ease.
- Fauna – A wonderful family game that teaches as you play! Players bid on a track that represents different characteristics of randomly drawn animals. Correctly bid on the facts, and win or lose, have a good time while learning a great deal about our world’s rich and highly diverse animal population. This is one of those knowledge-based games I don’t mind feeling dumb while playing. Each time I learn something new, I am overwhelmed with a sense of awe at how miraculous life is.
- Merchants & Marauders – Still my favorite game and one I will never hesitate to get to the table and play, despite always forgetting how to play it. I love the theme and the different ways to achieve victory. The game has it all. Exploration, trade, and sea battles. I loved the video game, Pirates!, by Sid Meier and this game captures that video game’s feel but does it better. Much, much better. Although, I do miss the sword play and wooing of the Governors’ daughters.
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark (second edition) – I loved the first edition but hated the set up time. The second edition still takes some time to set up, but the game play has been changed to make everything faster, more exciting, and less downtime. The second edition kept all that was great with the first edition and chucks all that was quirky to the side. Yes, there were new quirks introduced with the second edition, but the game is a vast improvement and a joy to play.
- Android: Netrunner – I’ve tried other living card games (LCGs) before and wasn’t that impressed. I was surprised how quickly I fell in love with Netrunner, despite not being a fan of the Cyberpunk theme. I love how the game feels and plays, and there is always something for the player to do, with multiple paths to get to your opponent and stick it to them. I’m looking forward to playing this game against Karl more and hearing him complain.
- Mage Wars – This game came out of nowhere for me, even though Brian kept telling me about it. While I appreciated his enthusiasm, it didn’t sound like a game I would be interested in. After a brief demo at Gen Con 2012, I was still unconvinced but liked what the game was about. After getting a copy and learning how to play it with my little geeks and friends, I was stupidly in love. The game allows for outstanding customization, intriguing strategies, and enough tactics to make a dragon choke. A great game that allows for personal spellbook creation and tactical board movement that I’ll never get tired of.
- Eclipse – This is known as my “Munchkin game” among my weekly gaming group. A bit of an inside joke, but for the life of me, I can’t wrap my head around this game enough to come up with what I think is a winning strategy. The game’s not complex, but I lose about 100 IQ points when I am put in front of it. Despite the game constantly making me feel like an idiot and having to asking other players each round what I can do on my turn, I really do enjoy it. The game humbles me and that kind of ticks me off.