2012 was a pretty good year for board gaming. We saw a lot of new releases and some great re-releases. So I decided a good way to start off 2013 was to take one last look back at 2012 and see what really stood out as in the board gaming world. So I present to you my 5 favorite games to get released in 2012.
Let me preference this by saying this lists is going to be highly subjective. I am only including games that I actually got to play (see the noteworthy games section below for some board games I’ve heard are great, but not personally tried). The list also will only be full games that got released last year, no expansions, no games from 2011 or older.
Without further ado, here are my top 5 board games from 2012 (with one that just missed the cut):
Top 5 Board Games of 2012:
Honorable Mention: City of Horror
City of Horror is actually a bit of a remake of an old game called Mall of Horror. City of Horror is the most recent game to take advantage of the current “Zombie Game” craze. However, where it differences itself from the competition is that while most zombie-themed games are about gearing up and shooting some zombies (read: tactical game), City of Horror is all about survival through your wits and diplomacy skills. In this game, you must negotiate with your fellow players to keep your team of 3 humans alive. Just about every round, somebody is going to be fed to the zombie horde. Keep your people alive the longest and you’ll be the winner.
I liked City of Horror because it was different then most of the current crop of zombie games. It’s about negotiation, betrayal, diplomacy, and survival. The rules are easy, the play is quick and with the right group, it’s an absolute blast.
Infiltration isn’t an entirely new concept. It’s more or less a press-your-luck style of game. Set in the Android universe (Android, Netrunner), you are tasked to infiltrate a corporate building and attempt to steal their data. You want to get in, download the data and get out before security arrives to arrest you. You have to decide when enough is enough vs exploring just 1 more floor.
I liked it because the rules are simple, game play is quick and the theme fit really well. There are other press-your-luck types of games out there, but Infiltration gives a good amount of variety with your turn actions, has some very well done artwork and will to keep you on your toes throughout the game. More than once we were regretting exploring that “1 last floor”.
#4 Dungeon Command
I must admit, I did not expect to like Dungeon Command as much as I did. I don’t play very many tactical miniatures games, but Wizards of the Coast did a lot of things right with Dungeon Command. Dungeon Command is a 2 player skirmish game where you build an army and attempt to reduce your opponents morale to zero. They took a risk by making the game completely diceless, but in my opinion, it paid off. It almost feels like a mixture between Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures. You have a hand of tactical cards that you play for your offense and defense rather that rolling dice. This was a great idea. For a tactical game, it adds a whole new level of strategy.
The miniatures look nice and all the cards and components are high quality. The rules were fairly intuitive and it plays quickly. Dungeon Command is a fresh and new spin on an old genre that I’m very much looking forward to playing again.
#3 Descent: Journeys in the Dark (second edition)
Fantasy Flight came out with a great game many years ago called Descent: Journeys in the Dark. It was one of the top dungeon crawler board games for many years. Yet the game was not without its flaws. Chief of which, in my opinion, was the play length. With 5 people, you were looking at about 3-4 hours of play time. It was just too much for a dungeon crawler. There were other issues I had with the game, but this was my main gripe.
Well Descent: Second Edition fixed a lot of that. You can now get in 2-3 games in the same amount of time. The heroes have been improved to be more powerful and more unique. The game is also now more tailored to campaign and quest play. No longer are you just doing a generic dungeon crawl where your main objective is to kill things and find conquest tokens. In 2nd edition, each game will have the player embarking on a quest with its own unique objective. While 2nd edition is also not without its flaws, I think the improvements went far enough to crown Descent king of the dungeon crawlers again.
#2 Android: Netrunner
Since its quick sellout at Gen Con 2012, Netrunner has been the talk of the gaming community.The third game set in the Android universe, Netrunner is actually a remake of an old collectible card game (CCG) originally produced by Wizards of the Coast. Netrunner is a 2-player living card game (LCG) in which one person plays the corporation and another plays the runner. It’s the job of the corporation to try and advance its own agendas while the runner must steal those agendas from the corporation. The most notable thing about Netrunner is its asynchronous game play. In almost every other game out there, each player is tying to accomplish the same tasks to try to win. However, in Netrunner, both players play the game very differently. They coportaiton will build up its servers and defenses, while the runner plays program and hardware cards to try and hack its way into the corporation’s servers. It’s a unique game decision that helps Netrunner to stand out from the many other card games available.
The game itself is actually a lot of fun. Fantasy Flight did a good job of making sure both sides were quite balanced. Despite the difference in play, both sides have an equal chance to win. The rules for the game are somewhat deep, which may turn off the more causal gamers. However, once you get a solid understanding of them, the game flows pretty smoothly and takes under an hour.
Fantasy Flight also successfully avoided turning the game into a CCG, which can turn off many players (myself included) as CCGs can become a huge money pit. There is a lot to love about Netrunner, and it will be getting its own full review quite soon. Netrunner was a very close choice for my top game of 2012, and I think if I had played it more, it might have even taken that spot.
#1 Lords of Waterdeep
My top game of 2012 is Lords of Waterdeep. It was a really hard choice between this game and Netrunner. In the end, I thought about which game I’m more excited to play on any given day, and also, which game I’m most excited to buy an upcoming expansion for. In the end, Lords of Waterdeep was the winner, but only by a nose. I think, given enough time, Netrunner may have moved into the top spot, but as of right now, Lords of Waterdeep was my favorite.
Lords of Waterdeep was reviewed fully on this site a while ago (you can read the full board game review here). But to summarize, Lords of Waterdeep is a eurogame with a light fantasy theme skinned on top of it. Everyone plays a Lord in the City of Waterdeep. You send out your agents to carry out various orders (recruit adventurers, find quests, construct buildings, etc…). You are competing with your fellow players to get the most influence over the city. You can attempt to hinder your opponents via the influence cards that can be played. The game has a great mix of resource management and worker placement.
Even though the theme is clearly not ingrained into the game, it’s still a very enjoyable game. The rules are easy and accessible (your non-gamer friends can enjoy this game as well), there is a good amount of player interaction and the play time is under an hour. The game also scales very well from 2-5 players.
Lords of Waterdeep was a great offering from Wizards of the Coast. I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking for a new, light eurogame to try out. Plus, there is an expansion planned for later in 2013!
There are plenty of other games that got released in 2012, and unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or money to play them all. I felt I should include some of the games that I’ve heard many positive things about. They may have made the list had I gotten the chance to play them.
- Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game
- Eclipse Board Game
- Escape The Curse of the Temple Game
- Dungeon Fighter
- Dungeon! Board Game
- Tzolk’in – the Mayan Calendar
Disagree? Think I missed something? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.