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My top 182 games of all time... (Now with polls!)
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Every 2 years ago now, I've been looking to answer the question of what my favorite games of all time are. The 2005 edition, 2007 edition, and 2009 edition are still around, for those who want to see how the words for the games have changed. (I've tried not to recycle comments about the games from previous lists, so the comparison might even be vaguely interesting.)

As before, I have included every game I rate 8 or higher. This does not represent the addition of 12 games to the 2009 list, but in fact 20 new games and the removal of 8 games from the 2009 list. The number of games that have fallen off is much smaller than the last time I created such a list, and the number of additions is up significantly as well. Usually the additions are games that are new to me, but this year there are actually four games I'd played before, which simply moved up to an 8 rating for me, for various reasons. The games which have dropped off (position in 2009 in parenthesis):

1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire (59)
Keydom (115)
Industria (129)
10 Days in Africa (139)
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (160)
Pickomino (164)
New England (166)
Stunt Academy (168)

As always, I wouldn't necessarily recommend all these games to everyone; in particular, be aware of any game with the word "experience" in my notes, since those games seem to be particularly subject to wide ranging views.

I decided to add a new piece of data this year; the number of times I've played each game since 2006 (since the initial list was posted late in 2005). I've made a push to get each game I own to the table at least three times, so I've played all of these games at least three times, most far more than that, and always at least twice since I started this exercise six years back.

Note that, as always, I've developed this list independently; I didn't look over the previous year's list at all until I'd set the ordering for this year. As a result, there's a lot of variance, especially among the lower portions of this list. (Although, interestingly, there are two cases of the same two games remaining in the same order low enough down the list as to be interesting.) As a guideline, I suspect that this is half a result of true changes, half a result of random factors.

Finally - I've sprinkled a number of polls throughout this list, reflecting the thoughts I had about the games as I wrote them up. Your responses are most appreciated.
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1. Board Game: Kreta [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:890]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 182
Position in 2009: 136
Position in 2007: 117
Position in 2005: 72
Change: Down 46
Times played 2006-present: 3

I'm not sure just why, but I'm always questioning this game - but when I play it, it always plays well enough to stick around, and to keep an 8 rating from me. I wouldn't bet on this continuing to 2013 - but I wouldn't bet against it, either...
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2. Board Game: Was sticht? [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1324]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 181
Position in 2009: 127
Position in 2007: 85
Position in 2005: 86
Change: Down 54
Times played 2006-present: 2

The fact that the hands are known makes the play potentially solvable, but it's still a pleasant little half-deduction game.

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3. Board Game: Gloria Picktoria [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:1649]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 180
Position in 2009: 169
Position in 2007: 143
Position in 2005: 124
Change: Down 11
Times played 2006-present: 2

One thing you'll notice with this list is that there is a slight negative correlation between the number of times I've played the game in the past 5+ years and the rank.

There's also a strong correlation between my most recent experience with the game and the rank. And with neither of these factors working for it - my most recent play of Get the Goods was enjoyable, but not special - this game doesn't do particularly well.
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4. Board Game: Älpler-Stafette [Average Rating:5.40 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 179
Position in 2009: 151
Position in 2007: 160
Position in 2005: 147
Change: Down 28
Times played 2006-present: 3

An early Klaus Teuber game, entirely unlike most of his later work, save for the cleverness of the game.

Poll
Had you ever heard of Älpler-Stafette?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
Yes
4.1% 7
No
95.9% 164
Voters 171
This poll is now closed.   171 answers
Poll created by huber
Closes: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:00 am
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5. Board Game: Aton [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:555]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 178
Position in 2009: 148
Position in 2007: 105
Position in 2005: N/A
Change: Down 30
Times played 2006-present: 22

The lowest ranking game not on the original 2005 list. I enjoy Aton - if I didn't, it wouldn't be on this list - but the theme just doesn't work well enough for me to be enjoying it more.
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6. Board Game: That's Life! [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1150]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 177
Position in 2009: 158
Position in 2007: 106
Position in 2005: 76
Change: Down 19
Times played 2006-present: 7

Simple abstract die rolling brilliance from Kramer - but the brilliance keeps wearing off a bit more, with each passing play, moving it more into the realm of the enjoyable.

Poll
If you hear a game you haven't played has a roll-and-move mechanism, are you more or less interested in trying it?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
More Interested
10.3% 12
Less Interested
89.7% 104
Voters 116
This poll is now closed.   116 answers
Poll created by huber
Closes: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:00 am
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7. Board Game: Siesta [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:3254]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 176
Position in 2009: 156
Position in 2007: 174
Position in 2005: 165
Change: Down 20
Times played 2006-present: 2

What does it say that this game is always near the bottom of these lists for me - but never falls off? Mostly, it says that when I play it I enjoy it - the games I don't continue to enjoy, or even just enjoy less, disappear quickly. But more than 75% of the games I listed 6 years back are still on this list...
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8. Board Game: Anno 1503 [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:1833]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 175
Position in 2009: 144
Position in 2007: 138
Position in 2005: 121
Change: Down 31
Times played 2006-present: 3

To some extent, my ratings are as much an indication of my enthusiasm for games when I do get them to the table as they show my interest in playing a particular game. To some extent, I've played out Anno 1503 - but I keep enjoying it so much when I do get it out that it sticks around.
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9. Board Game: Frank's Zoo [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:898]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 174
Position in 2009: 167
Position in 2007: 167
Position in 2005: 151
Change: Down 7
Times played 2006-present: 3

Once, this was threatening to take over the place of Great Dalmuti for us, at least with 4-6. But now neither hit the table so often.
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10. Board Game: The Prestel New York Architecture Game [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:7349]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 173
Position in 2009: 145
Position in 2007: 118
Position in 2005: 96
Change: Down 28
Times played 2006-present: 2

For some reason, memory games get a bad rap. And on BGG the idea of a memory game for adults always strays to - well, you know.

But this is a fine example of a game with a memory element where that is simply one of the mechanisms in play. The thick cards showing architectural wonders - I've switched to playing the New York set, primarily for the familiarity - make for a very enjoyable gaming experience.
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11. Board Game: Steel Driver [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:605]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 172
Position in 2009: 118
Position in 2007: N/A
Position in 2005: N/A
Change: Down 54
Times played 2006-present: 9

Steel Driver is definitely slipping for me. It's still enjoyable enough, certainly, but it's got less and less pull on me with each play.
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12. Board Game: Rat Hot [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:1933]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 171
Position in 2009: 135
Position in 2007: 129
Position in 2005: 110
Change: Down 36
Times played 2006-present: 4

As my sons become teenagers, it becomes more and more difficult to get them to play games, most of the time. Which means that it's even more difficult to get to the two player games I own - particularly since they've never been favorites of mine anyway. With 55 exclusively two-player games and a few more which I only ever play with two (in a collection of just over 300), I suspect my next purge will be of two player games. And I'm not certain Rat Hot will be above the bar - though looking through the list, I think it's got a fighting chance.

Poll
What percentage of the games in your collection are 2-player only?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
0-5%
20.6% 27
5-10%
23.7% 31
10-15%
19.1% 25
15-20%
13.7% 18
20-25%
6.9% 9
25-30%
6.9% 9
30-40%
4.6% 6
40-50%
2.3% 3
More than 50%
2.3% 3
Voters 131
This poll is now closed.   131 answers
Poll created by huber
Closes: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:00 am
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13. Board Game: Stich-Meister [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:2226]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 170
Position in 2009: N/A
Position in 2007: N/A
Position in 2005: N/A
Change: N/A
Times played 2006-present: 5

The first new entry to the list. It's rather chaotic - but the chaos is in the rules; there is usually a fair amount a player can do to best play the hand they're dealt.
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14. Board Game: Banditos [Average Rating:5.12 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 169
Position in 2009: 155
Position in 2007: 149
Position in 2005: 120
Change: Down 14
Times played 2006-present: 2

Banditos is a game of manipulating timing - to some extent, the set of things that will happen is largely fixed, so the best you can do is to make the timing of events work in your favor, and earn a few bucks in the process. There are a few such games I've run across, but this is my favorite of the genre.
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15. Board Game: Bounce It-In Game [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:4204]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 168
Position in 2009: 150
Position in 2007: 148
Position in 2005: 137
Change: Down 18
Times played 2006-present: 18

Proof that dexterity games don't have to take up a table and a half to be fun.
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16. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:137]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 167
Position in 2009: 132
Position in 2007: 120
Position in 2005: N/A
Change: Down 35
Times played 2006-present: 9

Kind of a bizarre game, in that it seems to be better at convinced you _not_ to play it, than it is at drawing players in. I still find it enjoyable, but it's been strongly surpassed by Feld's more recent Alea designs.
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17. Board Game: Nodwick: The Card Game [Average Rating:5.49 Overall Rank:9130]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 166
Position in 2009: 165
Position in 2007: 158
Position in 2005: 146
Change: Down 1
Times played 2006-present: 2

Still likely the most bizarre game in the Pit family. And still very enjoyable to play, being enough more involved than Pit as to stand out _and_ to work with a single hand.
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18. Board Game: Eden [Average Rating:5.64 Overall Rank:7935]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 167
Position in 2009: 145
Position in 2007: 152
Position in 2005: 165
Change: Down 13
Times played 2006-present: 3

This was the very last game I listed back in 2005, and has never risen far from the bottom, but continues to get to the table now and again. Essentially an Acquire variant, Eden stands out for the opportunity to further develop property, and for partial-takeovers.
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19. Board Game: Founding Fathers [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:692]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 164
Position in 2009: N/A
Position in 2007: N/A
Position in 2005: N/A
Change: N/A
Times played 2006-present: 8

I really need to play this game again. Soon.

Among Jason Matthew's games, this one stands out to me for the theme (which is fantastic) and for the fact that it's multiplayer (though I'm not fond of the game with 5, and prefer 3).

Poll
What is your favorite game by Jason Matthews?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
1960: The Making of the President
22.9% 24
1989: Dawn of Freedom
1.0% 1
Campaign Manager 2008
6.7% 7
Founding Fathers
10.5% 11
Twilight Struggle
59.0% 62
Voters 105
This poll is now closed.   105 answers
Poll created by huber
Closes: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:00 am
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20. Board Game: The major four of Heizei [Average Rating:6.32 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 163
Position in 2009: N/A
Position in 2007: N/A
Position in 2005: N/A
Change: N/A
Times played 2006-present: 13

Thanks to Lorna, I discovered Kenichi Tanabe in 2010. And while not all of his games are hits with me, three have stood out. One, Deeku, falls just shy of making this list. This game - a unique filler - didn't have the exposure of Tanabe's big hit from last year, but is also well deserving of recognition.
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21. Board Game: Bucket Brigade [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:3040]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 162
Position in 2009: 161
Position in 2007: 108
Position in 2005: 92
Change: Down 1
Times played 2006-present: 2

Go Red Bear!
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22. Board Game: Alhambra: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:2172]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 161
Position in 2009: 153
Position in 2007: 147
Position in 2005: 126
Change: Down 8
Times played 2006-present: 2

One thing that annoys me about BGG - the name will be auto-corrected to Alhambra: The Card Game. But the game I really mean is Stimmt So!, Tante Emma and all. (And an earlier version of this list even uses a picture from A:tCG, since I didn't specify a picture.) While this game is more of a lesser favorite of mine than an all-time great, I still think it's much more interesting than Alhambra, where the wall-building detracts from the simplicity of the original.
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23. Board Game: Hamstern [Average Rating:5.73 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 160
Position in 2009: 109
Position in 2007: 99
Position in 2005: 91
Change: Down 51
Times played 2006-present: 2

My geeklists including Hamstern constitute 92% of the geeklists mentioning the game - and 100% of the geeklists actually focused on the game.

Hamstern is a classic Rudi Hoffman child-friendly game. First, it's tile laying; that's a hallmark of Hoffman's games, though certainly not always present. Second, the rules are simple enough to get through in about two minutes. Third, there's cute artwork; Hoffman did the art for most of his games, and did a great job with it. Behind that there's a nasty little game, albeit one that depends heavily upon the players to keep it balanced. Which is why it doesn't rank higher for me...

Poll
How many games designed by Rudi Hoffmann have you played?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
0
62.5% 55
1-5
31.8% 28
6-10
4.5% 4
11-15
1.1% 1
16-20
0.0% 0
21-25
0.0% 0
More than 25
0.0% 0
Voters 88
This poll is now closed.   88 answers
Poll created by huber
Closes: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:00 am
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24. Board Game: Schwarzarbeit [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:8103]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 159
Position in 2009: 154
Position in 2007: 126
Position in 2005: 107
Change: Down 5
Times played 2006-present: 2

Another game with a memory element, here applied to a deduction game. But - and this is what really makes the game for me - a deduction game in which you are almost required to guess in order to play well. That's an impressive accomplishment - particularly in a relatively straight-forward card game.
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25. Board Game: Indus [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:7660]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Position in 2011: 158
Position in 2009: 133
Position in 2007: 113
Position in 2005: 100
Change: Down 25
Times played 2006-present: 3

One thing you'll notice, as you go through this list - there are a lot of games on this list that BGG doesn't think much of. I think it's important to have some context for this list:

* I have rated 1987 published games, not including expansions (which I prefer not to rate). So this list represents less than 10% of the published games I've played.

* There are a number of highly rated games which I have played, but which won't appear on this list. From the current top ten, for instance, you won't see Twilight Struggle, Through the Ages, Agricola, Power Grid, Dominion, or Caylus. You won't see Dominion: Intrigue either, but that's because I haven't played it. (Of course, I haven't played it because I don't believe I would much care for it.)

In turn, what this means is simple - I would rather play Indus (and other games here) than Twilight Stuggle, etc. I'm in an exceptionally small minority in saying this - I suspect that the number of folks who prefer Indus to half of the current top 10 is in the single digits, if not smaller.

But it makes for a more interesting list than the current top 182 of BGG, no?

Poll
Would you rather play Twilight Struggle or Indus?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
I have played both, and prefer Twilight Struggle
6.5% 7
I have played both, and prefer Indus
3.7% 4
I have played both, and enjoy them equally
1.9% 2
I have only played Twilight Struggle, and believe I would prefer it
27.1% 29
I have only played Twilight Struggle, and believe I would prefer Indus
6.5% 7
I have only played Indus, and believe I would prefer it
0.9% 1
I have only played Indus, and believe I would prefer Twilight Struggle
0.9% 1
I have played neither, but Twilight Struggle appeals more
28.0% 30
I have played neither, but Indus appeals more
7.5% 8
I have played neither, and neither appeals
16.8% 18
Voters 107
This poll is now closed.   108 answers
Poll created by huber
Closes: Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:00 am
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