Podcasters' Top 5s of the Top 10 games: Reviewing the reviewers
Chris Marling
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As a regular listener to a number of board game podcasts, and a journalist myself, I'm aware of the fact listeners often don't have much of a starting reference point when it comes to a reviewer's opinions - especially new fans, who are arguably the ones who most need one.

As with most things that are regularly reviewed (films, music etc), personal taste in board games is a huge differentiator - one podcaster may slam a game another thinks is the finest thing to hit the table since, well, that all depends doesn't it?

To try and shed a little light, I started to send mails to podcasters I regularly listen in on, to ask for their top 5 games out of the BGG Top 10 (as of September 5, 2011) - what do they think shines from the best of the best? In addition, I asked for one game they would add to the top 10 if they had the power.

I've had just over 10 replies so far, so thought that was a good enough list to get started with. I'm going to continue adding podcasters here and I'm happy to take suggestions for more names to get in contact with. If it's popular, I could extend it to video reviewers, written reviewers, famous rock stars etc. We'll see.

I'm listing the games on a very basic points system (5 for a 1st, 4 for a 2nd etc), while each reviewer's full list (and any comments they may have made in their email to me) will be added on their 'add to the top 10' game choice below the actual top 10.

Thumbs appreciated, as is constructive criticism and comment, but please don't take this too seriously - it is a bit of fun/labour of love that I'm thoroughly enjoying fiddling about with but am not taking in any way 'seriously'.

Podcasters included from (all linked below): Board Games With Scott, Father Geek, Game On!, How To Play, Ludology, Not Just Another Gaming Podcast, On Board Games, The Dice Tower, The Little Metal Dog Show and The Spiel.

The participants so far are, in alphabetical order: David Coleson, Stephen Conway, Donald Dennis, Erik Dewey, Geoff Engelstein, Michael Fox, Scott Nicholson, John Richard, Ryan Sturm, Eric Summerer & Tom Vasel.

EDIT: Added Karl Fritz, Nate Jones, Cody Jones, Cyrus Kirby, Brian Lucier, Jim Reed and Meng Tan.
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1. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:34]
Chris Marling
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41 points

Power Grid has been listed in 14 of the 18 replies so far, with just Jim Reed, Cyrus Kirby and the Ludology team (Geoff Engelstein and Ryan Sturm) not listing it in their top 5s.

Four podcasters have listed it as their number one game in the top 10 - Donald Dennis, Karl Fritz, Michael Fox and Eric Summerer.
 
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2. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:76] [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked]
Chris Marling
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41 points

With 12 backers out of 18, Dominion has benefited greatly from being in the top two on seven of those lists. This has put it way higher in this list than its actual place - the only game to achieve this.

Dominion was listed in top spot by both Cyrus Kirby and Jim Reed, while it was left out by Spielers David Coleson and Stephen Conway, plus Brian Lucier, Scott Nicholson, Ryan Sturm and Meng Tan.
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3. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.32 Overall Rank:5]
Chris Marling
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39 points

Listed on 13 out of 18 podcaster lists, Twilight Struggle is another popular top 5 choice. It has just lost out on points to the two big guns because it only just scraped onto five of those lists in fourth or fifth place.

However, it was number one of the top 10 for two podcasters - Stephen Conway and Erik Dewey - and second for four more. On the flip side, Michael Fox, Nate Jones, Scott Nicholson, Ryan Sturm and Eric Summerer turned their noses up.
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4. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:25]
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39 points

While listed in just 12 of the 18 lists so far, Agricola placed in the top three of all but two those who chose it in their top 5. It seems that people that like it really like it.

That said, only David Coleson from The Spiel and Father Geek contributor Meng Tan have it at number one, while it was left out altogether by Donald Dennis, Geoff Engelstein, Michael Fox, Cody Jones, Brian Lucier and John Richard.
 
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5. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:20]
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29 points

Puerto Rico is the last game in the top 5 and the last backed by more than half of the podcasters so far (10).

This was listed at number one by Scott Nicholson and number two by Stephen Conway, with a further eight podcasters putting it either third or fourth. The ultimate mid-table choice!
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6. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:36]
Chris Marling
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24 points

Despite being top of three podcaster top 5s, Through The Ages could only muster a mid table position. This was a big surprise for me.

Rated number one by both Geoff Engelstein, cody Jones and John Richard, and second by Nate Jones and Eric Summerer, it only made one other top 5 - a fifth place from Scott Nicholson, who hardly gave a glowing report (see below).
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7. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:40]
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Le Havre actually made 8 of the 18 lists, but only scored one first place (Tom Vasel) and a second (Cyrus Kirby).

Only Donald Dennis and Brian Lucier listed Le Havre in their top 5 but not Agricola (both games are by designer Uwe Rosenberg), while David Coleson left it out despite having Agricola at number one.
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8. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:51]
Chris Marling
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It won't surprise anyone who listens to him online that Ryan Sturm voted Caylus number one. However, only Father Geek's Brian Lucier agreed.

David Colseon gave it a second place, but in total it only made seven of the 18 lists. I feel a Ryan rantcast coming...
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9. Board Game: Dominion: Intrigue [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:63] [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked]
Chris Marling
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In hindsight, I maybe should've left Intrigue off of the list and let in number 11 in the list. However, it is a stand alone game and clearly in the BGG top 10 on merit.

That said, only four podcasters from 18 had it in their top 5, all of whom also included the original Dominion as well. Both Cody Jones and Karl Fritz voted Intrigue a place higher in their top 5s than the original.
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10. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:22]
Chris Marling
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4 points

Brass has only made four of the 18 top 5 lists so far and all in fifth, meaning it has only managed four points. This was a real surprise for me.

Stephen Conway, Donald Dennis, Michael fox and Ryan Sturm put it down in fifth - the rest of the podcasters clearly aren't that keen.
 
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11. Board Game: War of the Ring (First Edition) [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:93]
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Brian Lucier

Father Geek

As you may well know based on submissions, We have 5 actual father geeks that work on the blog and contribute to tDT podcast. That being said, here is my entry for your list. Excellent idea btw.

Here are my top 5:

1. Caylus
2. Twilight Struggle
3. Puerto Rico
4. Le Havre
5. Power Grid

I am going to toss up War of the Ring as the game that should be in the top 5. I have played many games of this and without fail the game system almost always drives this to an exciting conclusion with both sides having a shot at victory up until the end. Alongside this, it represents the themes of Lord of the Rings so well that it will always hold a special place in my heart. As a father geek, I can't wait until my little geeks get old enough to play this with me on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. I sure wish I would have plunked down the cash for that collectors version. Its simply amazing.
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12. Board Game: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:66]
Chris Marling
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Erik Dewey

On Board Games

Top 5 of the Top 10:

1. Twilight Struggle
2. Dominion
3. Agricola
4. Power Grid
5. Le Havre

As for the game that deserves to be in the top 10, that's easy. Battlestar Galactica.

Thanks for asking.

Erik
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13. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:52]
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Michael Fox

The Little Metal Dog Show

Hey Chris - delighted to help out! My top 5 is... [drumroll]

1. Power Grid - it's just so good. I love how it's put together, one of my favourite games of all time.
2. Dominion - started a genre all on its own, and still gets played far too much round here.
3. Puerto Rico - I hate how it looks but love how it plays.
4. Caylus - Not played it so much, but the few times it's been out have been mean and nasty. Just what I like
5. Brass - "Elegant" is such a meh word to describe such a fantastic game, but that's what it is.

Nominee - Dominant Species. Should be in the Top Ten because it's got everything. A mean strike a mile wide, loads of interaction, piles of fun. A good meaty choice!

Hope those are OK, mate!

Michael
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14. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:128]
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Ryan Sturm

Ludology
How to Play
The Dice Tower

Ugg... This is really hard. There are Six Games of this Top 10 that I absolutely love and which one I reach for is more just a matter of mood than anything. The number one thing I look for in a game is Strategic Depth and my favorites on this list have enough depth that if your shorts slip off while you are swimming around in these games you will never get them back. I suspect that I hold dear some of these Top 10 a bit more than some of my podcasting brethren as I adore the Heavy Strategy Euro Genre whereas some of my compatriots enjoy a wider variety of games many of which are not present on this Top 10.

At the end of 2010 I made a top 50 list and at that time the order would go Caylus (#2), Le Havre (#4), Brass (#6), Puerto Rico (#9), Agricola (#10). With of course my top spot going to Age of Steam (#1). Since then I have cooled off a bit on Le Havre and Brass, and reawakened my enjoyment of Agricola especially in incorporating one of the best expansions ever created in "The Farmers of the Moor." I also have dove into Through the Ages since making that list and really enjoy it so that goes somewhere in there as well.

Assuming some hypothetical situation where I have to list the last 6 games I can ever play again 5 of which have to be from the Top 10 as of right now September 6th, 2011 5:41 PM EST I would go with....

Special Selection: Age of Steam. My #1 Game, its not just a game its a system, you can play it endlessly and not get bored. Great for competitive play. The most fun I have had playing board games has been in Games of Age of Steam. (Okay maybe some of the most painful games as well, but that's all part of the experience )

My Top 5 of the Top 10

#1 Caylus - I have been an advocate of this one for a while, lest us not forget the game that spurred the worker placement craze is one of the best. (In my humble opinion, the best) This is not a game for the Monoplayistic crowd, or even the Triplayistic crowd, this is a game you really have to sink you teeth in to truly appreciate.

#2 Agricola - These others are really tight I will go with Agricola for sheer variety of ways to play the game, including the different decks, drafting or using the expansion. There are a lot of variations to twist up the agonizingly fun journey that is Agricola

#3 Le Havre - This initially beat out Agricola for me as I love the different paths you can take within the game, but I have found less of a drive to play this one after ten plays or so, I think because the game just isn't different enough from game to game. I know you say but "Caylus is the same darn game everytime!" The difference is more of a real sense of interaction, I'm nitpicking here as its probably still one of my top ten games but I have to split hairs.

#4 Puerto Rico - I love the elegance in the flow and play of this game. It is perfect. So Why #4? I have just played it over a hundred times or so and so am less interested in playing it, though the game is still a masterpiece.

#5 Brass - Wow. This game is incredible. It does what I hope for most games when I sit down to play it. I feel a part of the story of the game AND I have a competitive strategic game experience. This is a feat to accomplish and this game is one of the most shining examples of incorporating theme and game play into a great game. Why lower than the others? I love playing this game, but I just don't feel like playing it all the time.

Just Missed - Through the Ages - Why? I don't think I ever want to play this game in in real life again. Its far superior to play it by email. Hmm a computer game made into a board game that is better as a computer game... Ironic eh? I think it is telling about the sort of experience Through the Ages offers, its too much of a solitaire computer game type experience. A great one granted, but I typically like my games with a bit more of a social element and/or less downtime.

Was that enough? Well you asked...

-Ryan
 
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15. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:74]
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Jim Reed

NOT Just Another Gaming Guild!

Hey Chris!

Thanks for finding and including us. There is only one on there I have not played, and that is the number one game. All that said, here is my top 5 (from the top 10)

1. Dominion
Although I have not updated my Top 10 in a while, Dominion is the only BGG top ten game that would fall into my list. (although it would not be in the top 5) So that game gets the nod here.

2. Agricola
The theme of this game helps out. (especially when pitted up against Le Havre) Also, using the vegiemeeples and animeeples is cool.

3. Puerto Rico
Still one of the best role-selection games. Loved this game since my first play when I was the only newb at the table and I wipped the floor with a few guys who were PR tournament players. Not sure if I've won since though

4. Twilight Struggle
The funny thing here is this ... I have never played TS! But...If given the choice to play any of these 10 games right now, TS would be my first choice. I've been dying to play this for years and have never had an oppertunity and I don't think it would ever see the table if I purchased it myself.

5. Caylus
Personally, I would rather play Stone Age over Caylus. That said, It is a fantastic game and I do love me some worker placement! So thanks Caylus.

The game that I feel should be in the top 5

Pandemic
This game would not fall into my personal top 10, but I can easily seperate the diffence in why a game should be at the top of a great game list as opposed to being on a list based on the games I like playing the most.
This game springboarded the rise of co-op games we've had over the past 3 years. It is the quintessential gateway co-op. And yeah, it's pretty darn fun.
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16. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:138]
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Geoff Engelstein

Ludology
The Dice Tower

Here's my top 5 in the top 10:

Through The Ages
Twilight Struggle
PR
Caylus
Dominion

I'll have to give some thought to the game that should be in the top 10 - My gut says Cosmic Encounter, but let me give it some thought.

EDIT: After careful consideration I have to name GO as the game that should be in the top 10. It is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of game design in its combination of simplicity and complexity and depth, and the fact that it was designed thousands of years ago only adds to that lustre.

Interesting idea! Thanks for including me.

Geoff
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17. Board Game: Die Macher [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:233]
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Meng Tan

Father Geek

Hi, my top 5 are:

1. Agricola
2. Power Grid
3. Twilight Struggle
4. Caylus
5. Le Havre

The game that should be in the top 10 is Die Macher, a classic that has never been superseded by more recent designs. It takes up to five players, there's little down-time, just enough player interaction, a nice ebb and flow to the game without catch-the-leader or kingmaker issues: what's not to like? Well, perhaps the game duration, but real gamers don't mind spending a few hours with this beauty.

Meng - another Father Geek
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18. Board Game: Troyes [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:68]
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David Coleson

The Spiel

We like you question so much that we are going to use it as a double 'Sommelier' in the next episode. After we record in a few days, we'll send you our answers so you don't have to wait for the episode to come out.

For better or worse:

1 - Agricola
2 - Caylus
3 - Power Grid
4- Puerto Rico
5 - Twilight Struggle

Would add Troyes (and Alien Frontiers)
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19. Board Game: Merchants & Marauders [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:216]
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Cyrus Kirby

Father Geek

The games listed in the top 10 are great games and they should all be played at least once by game enthusiasts. The problem is, I've played all of these games too many times and they simply do not interest me anymore (except for Dominion which still sees the game table on a regular basis). That being said, here is my top 5 of the top 10 games!

1. Dominion
2. Le Havre
3. Twilight Struggle
4. Puerto Rico
5. Agricola

Not in the Top 10 or Top 5 is Merchants & Marauders, which is a real shame. Every game session has been enjoyable and exceedingly rewarding! A beautiful game with high quality components, excellent game play, and PIRATES! I highly recommend it!

I now spend a good deal of my "game time" with my three little geeks (ages 2, 4, and 7) playing lighter games that all strengthen cognitive, emotional, and social skills, as well as being a great deal of fun. I can honestly say that my children have completely revitalized my interest in playing games and the industry as a whole. In the past, I looked at games as nothing more than a source of amusement, but I have found that games are perhaps the greatest medium to teach and connect with our children, family, friends, strangers, and neighbors. Games breakdown barriers, create friendships, and challenge the way we think and act.

Roll high and duck low!

Cyrus Kirby
(a.k.a. Father Geek)
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20. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:117]
Chris Marling
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Tom Vasel

The Dice Tower

Games in the top ten? Well, that's narrow. But I'll say Le Havre, Dominion, Agricola, Twilight Struggle, and Power Grid.

Outside the top ten that should be there? Cosmic Encounter.

Tom

(Edited to re-order as in Tom's message below)
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21. Board Game: A Game of Thrones (First Edition) [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:365]
Chris Marling
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Nate Jones

Father Geek

Hello,

For starters, I've never played Brass, Twilight Struggle, or Le Havre. I have a feeling that two of those would make my top 5. And of the 7 others, the only ones I've played more than handful of times are Dominion and Puerto Rico. In general, the top 10 are a little too dry and heavy for my tastes. There aren't any that I actively avoid, but there also aren't any that I will seek out.

Now that the disclaimer's out of the way:
1. Dominion (vanilla)
2. Through the Ages
3. Agricola
4. Puerto Rico
5. Power Grid

If Dominion wasn't on there twice, 7 Wonders would be in the top 10, and on my list it would take the #2 spot from TtA.

But all that said, my +1 would be A Game of Thrones.

btw: Neat list! Thanks for including me.
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22. Board Game: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:295] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Chris Marling
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John Richard

Game On! with Cody and John

Sure, I'd be happy to participate. Here's my Top 5 of games that are in the BGG Top 10:

1) Through the Ages (without a doubt)
2)Dominion
3) Dominion: Intrigue (even though I don't like the fact that they're listed separately - not much you can do when it's a standalone expansion, I guess)
4) Power Grid
5) Twilight Struggle

And, for a game that's not in the Top 10 that should be, I have to go with Heroscape. I realize that it's not a "BGG-Style" game, but I've had more fun with that game in the past 5 years than probably any other. And, it's a great crossover from miniatures wargames, which helps to promote the well-rounded gamer (a virtue we always extoll at Game On!).

Thanks for including me!

--John
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23. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:549]
Chris Marling
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Donald Dennis

On Board Games

Interesting concept, how many podasts are you talking to? Did you get Erik and Scott in on this also?

I remember when I really liked more of the top 10 a lot more than I do today. Three of the current top 10 I rate only a 5, and I find it criminal that Dominion takes up two slots.

The ones I've played:
Puerto Rico, Agricola, Power Grid, Le Havre, Brass, Dominion & Caylus.

Here is my top 5 of the top 10.

Power Grid
Twilight Struggle
Le Havre
Dominion
Brass

+ your top 10 nominee! Diplomacy
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24. Board Game: Merchant of Venus [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:804]
Chris Marling
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Eric Summerer

The Dice Tower

This is a little tricky, as two of these are essentially the same game, and there are a couple I've never played fully, but here goes...

1. Power Grid
2. Through the Ages
3. Agricola
4. Dominion
5. Dominion Intrigue
...and my addition, of course, Merchant of Venus

Thanks!
Eric
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25. Board Game: Cribbage [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:594]
Chris Marling
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Stephen Conway

The Spiel

1 - Twilight Struggle
2 - Puerto Rico
3 - Agricola
4 - Power Grid
5 - Brass

Would add Cribbage (and Scopa)

(For the rest of the email, see the David Conway (Troyes) entry above.)
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