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2012 In Review: Part 3 (BGG's Top Games of 2012)

Jesse Dean
United States
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As 2012 comes to a close I find myself fairly interested in how the most-well regarded games of 2011 reflect on the year as a whole. Since 2012’s Essen games are only just now making an impact on the board game world, I’ve gone ahead and included two charts reflecting BGG’s consensus on 2012 games, the Top 10 of 2012 by Ranking and the Significant games of 2012 by Average Rating.

From gallery of doubtofbuddha

From gallery of doubtofbuddha

I went ahead and included more than the Top 10 (or so) games of 2012 in the average rating chart, because of what I consider to be the defining feature of gaming in 2012: The sheer quantity of reprints that are on these lists. The Top 10 has 3 or 4 (depending on where you categorize Android: Netrunner) and the Significant Games list has 4 or 5 (once again depending on where you categorize Android: Netrunner). I consider this to be mildly corrosive from an idealized perspective, as it kind of disrupts the ideal of having a list of the hobby, as seen through BoardGameGeek, games viewed with the most respect, but I understand that other people perceive it differently. Regardless, the sheer quantity of them compelled me to go a bit deeper into the highest average rating list in order to get a better idea of the significant new games of 2012.

Something else that differentiates 2012 from 2011 at least, I do not have sufficient data for previous years, is the sheer quantity of games with an average rating of 8.00 or higher. Granted, I looked at the average ratings on the 19th last year, but I would be rather startled if a large number of these games had a significant drop in average rating over the course of a week. I suspect that a lot of these games will not end up making a bit impact on the rankings, simply due to a lack of ability to accumulate a large number of ratings, but it does seem that that the average board gamer thinks that 2012 was a high-quality year.

2012 is distinct from the sheer diversity of games styles that are doing well. Where in years past there was usually one type of game that dominated with others having a few spots here and there, in 2012 there seemed to be a selection of games across types. Even games that periodically have weak years, such as cooperative games, are well-represented. Whether this is indicative of a change in the quality of different types of games being produced or a change in the BGG rating electorate is something I am less certain of, but on the whole I think it is positive as it does allow a large variety of people to be able to find games that might interest them.

Personally, I have only played about half of the games that made it on these two lists, and of the ones that remain, there are none that I am actually interested in playing. In fact, at this point in time there are only two games left that were published in 2012 that I have a strong interest in playing (Myrmes and Polis: Fight For the Hegemony) meaning that I have either become much more adept at finding the games I am more likely to like and ignoring the rest, that there are less games of the sort that I am interested in playing released this year, or that I am missing out on some fantastic games that would suit me well.

A Look Back At 2011
Since I wrote an article like this last year too, I can go back and see how games released last year ended up doing. Based on last year’s average rating list, the expected game rank list should have looked something like this:
Mage Knight
Ora et Labora
A Few Acres of Snow
Star Trek: Fleet Captains
Gears of War: The Board Game
The Castles of Burgundy
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Dungeon Petz

This is how it ended up:
Mage Knight
Puerto Rico: Limited Edition
Ora et Labora
The Castles of Burgundy
Summoner Wars: Master Set
A Game of Thrones Board Game: Second Edition
Lords of the Rings: The Card Game
A Few Acres of Snow
Risk Legacy
Dixit Odyessy
Dungeon Petz

There are a few surprises here. The first is that for some reason I decided it would be a good idea to leave out games I considered being expansions or reprints. That was obviously silly of me and I will avoid doing that in the future. I expected both Star Trek Fleet Captains and Gear of War to still be on this list, but apparently they followed the typical trends and were not able to maintain their previous averages, though Fleet Captains was able to do much better than Gears of War and mostly suffers due to the low number of total ratings. Yomi, A Few Acres of Snow, and the Lord of the Rings Card Game all lost average rating and rankings, with AFAoS’s decline being both the most noticeable and the most satisfying. Village is the most notable in the opposite direction. Apparently it winning a major German award was sufficient to give it a new wave of attention as its average rating increased and its ranking increased significantly. I remain somewhat tempted to try it out. I trashed it pretty heavily in my pre-release prediction article, and it would be nice to know if I was actually wrong.

Of the past five years 2011 makes up the second largest share of the overall games in the Top 150 (and the Top 100), with 19 total games. 2010 has 16, and further years feature an increasingly smaller amount of games, as only the most popular and/or successful are able to maintain their position in the face of relentless pressure from new games. The exception seems to be 2009, which currently holds the most total games in the Top 150, despite the fact that I, and many other people I discuss game with, consider it one of the less interesting years in recent memory.

So that is where we currently stand. I look forward to seeing what the rankings do for next year and, now that I am collecting this data, seeing how the shares of particular years in the Top 100 and Top 150 shifts over the course of time.
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