Ameritrash Badge-holders Ratings: 2013

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At-stackAnd so we come, without due ceremony, to the last of my yearly writing traditions: the top-rated games of people who hold the “Ameritrash fan” badge on boardgamegeek. The rules, as ever, are that a game must have at least 30 ratings from amongst the 814 people that own the badge, only base games count, only the highest entry from a series or multiple editions of a game count, and the results are ordered by average rating first, number of raters second.

You may recall that last year, the fifth anniversary of the list, I inaugurated a new tradition: silver and gold awards, given to games that had spent five years on the list and five years in the top 25 respectively. It seemed a good way of identifying games that had been earmarked as genuine must-play classics in the whirling flux of ratings that the list has turned out to be.

But there was another reason. It also allows us to remember popular games once they’re been obscured by the maelstrom of new material. And now, some have sadly disappeared from view, brave casualties in the endless war against the cult of the new. Remember them now, good gamers, and perhaps take one to your next game night to remind your comrades of their glory. They are: Starcraft, Railways of the World and - perhaps saddest of all - The Fury of Dracula. Gone, but not forgotten.

On with the list. A few shocks to come, I suspect. It certainly took me by surprise.

50 Friedrich  Avg rating : 7.72 No. raters : 65 Re-entry

Indeed we start with quite a surprise: a re-entry for this innovative multiplayer wargame. Likely trailing in the wake of its more recent and more popular sibling Maria, which missed the list with 26 votes at average of 8.02.

49 Nexus Ops SILVER  Avg rating : 7.72 No. raters : 330 down 7

This classic is the first of our surviving award winners, but plummeting precipitously.

48 High Frontier  Avg rating : 7.73 No. raters : 41 New Entry

Another surprise entry for this mind-boggling Phil Eklund space-exploration simulator. So .. people actually do play his games rather than just stare at the pieces in confusion?

47 Hammer of the Scots SILVER Avg rating : 7.73 No. raters : 114 up 1

I keep thinking this is going to drop off the list, but its gradual descent down the ranks has actually reversed this year.

46 Antiquity  Avg rating : 7.75 No. raters : 37 New Entry

So here’s another oddity straight in out of nowhere, a long civilisation style game focussed on strategy in late medieval Italy. Could well be a short term visitor to the list.

45 Tichu  Avg rating : 7.75 No. raters : 137 down 3

Everyone’s favourite cocaine substitute continues to haunt the lower reaches of the scale.

44 Star Trek: Fleet Captains  Avg rating : 7.77 No. raters : 71 New Entry

I hadn’t taken much notice of this newest Star Trek game on the block, but it’s proving fairly popular in spite of complaints around some of the components.

43 LotR: The Confrontation (Deluxe) SILVER Avg rating : 7.77 No. raters : 122 down 8

Not a personal favourite but most of you disagree - this has been a fixture since its inception, but is dropping sharply now.

42 Wings of War: Miniatures  Avg rating : 7.78 No. raters : 41 down 9

A flash in the pan entry for this flash miniatures game of world war 1 combat, likely superceded by a newer title you’re waiting to see further up the list.

41 Napoleon's Triumph  Avg rating : 7.84 No. raters : 54 down 2

Probably the most innovative game I’ve ever played, as well as the best-looking, and deserving of the gracefully slow speed of its descent. I hope it sticks around to win a silver rating: it certainly deserves it.

40 Advanced Civilization SILVER Avg rating : 7.84 No. raters : 67 down 4

There's another game higher on this list directly inspired by this. The lower rating here is thanks to its age and high entry barrier, but it's still a silver-grade classic.

39 Seasons  Avg rating : 7.85 No. raters : 51 New Entry

What the? I don’t even ...

38 Washington's War  Avg rating : 7.85 No. raters : 54 down 14

What I thought was a superb re-working of wilderness war and one of the few guaranteed one-session card driven wargames on the market is proving not to have long-term appeal in the wider market, having been in the top ten only two years past. This is the joint second-biggest ratings drop on the list.

37 Gears of War  Avg rating : 7.85 No. raters : 80 New Entry

And here’s our first co-operative game, FFGs conversion of the popular video game franchise. Didn’t make the list on release year which suggests a slow initial take up, but those initial figures are pretty solid now.

36 Commands & Colors: Ancients SILVER Avg rating : 7.86 No. raters : 162 down 2

On paper, according to my rules, this remains the most popular of the now rather bloated range of Commands & Colors games. But here’s a thing: the new Napoleonics iteration matched it for rating, only losing out on the number of raters, and could possibly take its place next year. This is also the first game on our list with a highly-rated expansion, Rome & the Barbarians, with an impressive 8.35 rating. Currently out of print, but I see it’s on GMTs p500 programme.

35 Legend of Drizzt  Avg rating : 7.87 No. raters : 49 New Entry

Glad to see a representative of what I thought was one of the best new game systems of recent years on the list. Disappointed that it’s the one in the series that I liked the least.

34 Paths of Glory  Avg rating : 7.87 No. raters : 66 up 12

Here’s a thing. I found Paths of Glory entirely incomprehensible, as well as impossible to find the time for. I know it’s popular with a lot of gamers, but I’m at a complete loss to explain it’s sudden and quite drastic push up the chart (the third biggest upward move on the whole list) after years of gradual decline. Anyone?

33 Star Wars : Queen's Gambit SILVER Avg rating : 7.9 No. raters : 108 down 4

One of the few silver/gold award-winning games I’ve never played. Where are you all finding copies of this to try out?

32 Merchants & Marauders  Avg rating : 7.9 No. raters : 168 down 4

This game of piracy and nautical adventure is proving to have solid sea-legs.

31 Space Empires: 4X  Avg rating : 7.91 No. raters : 38 New Entry

A small surprise, this. But perhaps not so much upon reflection. The subject matter is entirely suited to the tone of the ratings list, and the publisher is well known amongst the target audience too. But it’s rarely talked about: perhaps it’s time that changed.

30 Up Front  Avg rating : 7.92 No. raters : 45 up 2

Yet another round of reprint rumours seem to have the fan base stirred up again. But will it ever emerge from development hell?

29 Chaos in the Old World  Avg rating : 7.97 No. raters : 226 down 15

Now, here’s a shock. The once-mighty Chaos in the Old World, king of area control games, beloved of the Games Workshop fanbase and all-round cross-genre crowd pleaser takes the biggest ratings tumble of all the entries. Why, I cannot tell. I once thought it was a shoo-in for an eventual gold award and it remains a favourite of mine. The Horned Rat expansion clocks in a respectable 8.35 rating.

28 Cosmic Encounter SILVER Avg rating : 7.97 No. raters : 247 down 10

The ever popular Cosmic takes a bit of a tumble too, but its classic status is already sealed. Most popular expansion of the current crop is Cosmic Incursion with a big 8.51 score.

27 Arkham Horror SILVER Avg rating : 7.97 No. raters : 464 down 1

After all these years I’ve come to believe that one of the most central and important purposes of this list is to highlight the most popular Arkham Horror expansions out of the absurd quantity available. And the answer is that for big-box aficionados it’s Innsmouth Horror with a whopping 8.62 and for small-box fans it’s Lurker at the Threshold with a still-impressive 8.49. Dunwich raises a respectable 8.32. And three is enough for anyone, frankly.

26 Combat Commander: Europe GOLD Avg rating : 7.99 No. raters : 108 down 3

The first of our gold recipients, none of which have yet actually dropped off the list. And it’ll be a good while before this does, because next year either the Pacific iteration will have gathered enough votes to make the cut, and its score is such as to make them rank very highly indeed. The only gold-standard game I've never played - could do with fixing that omission this year. Does it play via email?

25 Dune GOLD Avg rating : 8.00 No. raters : 166 down 10

First CitOW, then Cosmic, now this. The mighty are falling in this years list, with Dune being a former number one. The modern reprint Rex is unlikely to ever trouble this list with a current average of 7.57, although I feel it has some advantages over this original.

24 Through the Ages  Avg rating : 8.01 No. raters : 173 down 5

As the list solidified from its roots and took on a definite flavour of thematic games, only two Euros stood and took the battering. One was Railways of the World which has now dropped off. The other was this, and it’s still going strong. One more year in the top 25 and it’ll make gold status, although that seems unlikely.

23 Descent SILVER Avg rating : 8.02 No. raters : 81 up 24

This is the biggest climber this year, but no prizes for guessing why with a shiny and heavily overhauled new edition on the shelves. Since there’s been some complaint over how much replay value the game has, it’ll be interesting to see where this goes next year.

22 Crokinole SILVER  Avg rating : 8.02 No. raters : 117 down 1

A brand new silver-status for everyone’s favourite dexterity game. Well, not mine, since I’ve never played it. We have small houses over here in Europe, and nowhere to store such a monster! It missed making gold by one single ranking, having been at #26 in 2011 before moving back up the chart again. Might make it next year though.

21 Claustrophobia  Avg rating : 8.02 No. raters : 140 down 14

This was the biggest riser in last year's’ chart: now it’s one of the biggest fallers. Not a game with longevity perhaps? Personally I’m bitter enough to blame the expansion, which was released without any guidance on back-compatibility with old scenarios, a bit of a bind for latecomers like me who bought both together and dislike having to remove expansion material between games. None is forthcoming as yet, either.

20 Successors  Avg rating : 8.03 No. raters : 34 New Entry

Well, look at this. Old game, new entry. It’s always been a peculiar feature of this list that because of the minority of very active historical wargames amongst the AT community, classic wargames could suddenly pop out of nowhere thanks to the 30 rating threshold. But a deserved spot on the list for this classic multi-player CDG.

19 Star Wars : X-Wing  Avg rating : 8.03 No. raters : 86 New Entry

Were you expecting to see the Cracked LCD game of the year, and my #3 pick, higher? I was. I reckon the price could be putting people off, and we haven’t even got to the financial pain of the wave 2 double-size releases yet.

18 A Game of Thrones  Avg rating : 8.03 No. raters : 87 Re-entry

Here’s another crazy thing. A Game of Thrones scraped into the list just once in 2010 and then vanished off into the mists of time again. Until now, when after a two year absence, it’s back thanks to a spanking new edition. Which, interestingly, didn’t make all that many changes to the game play. Unlike, say, Descent, which it’s comfortably managed to beat.

17 Labyrinth  Avg rating : 8.04 No. raters : 63 down 6

Didn’t think this would have the legs to stick around after I decided it was more interesting for its thought-provoking politics than its game play. But I’m clearly in a minority.

16 Runewars  Avg rating : 8.07 No. raters : 169 down 1

This has pretty much proved its longevity, settling comfortably into the top twenty. I suspect the upcoming tweaked small-box reprint will help it stay there for next year at least. Not actually played this one yet: it was released at a time when I couldn’t do longer games. Now I’m waiting on that re-issue myself to give it a try and very much looking forward to it.

15 Hannibal GOLD Avg rating : 8.1 No. raters : 124 up 1

After missing the list in the very first year, Hannibal has been in the top twenty every year thereafter and has earned its gold badge. Deservedly too: while I have my reservations about it being a true great, it’s a game everyone should try, and the Valley Games reprint means everyone can.

14 Risk Legacy  Avg rating : 8.11 No. raters : 57 New Entry

An unsurprising entry, given its rock-solid trash pedigree and astonishing level of innovation. I suspect it’ll fall rapidly since it’s something of an “event” game that may shed interest once the board is properly personalised. Not played my copy yet: I’m saving it for the next gathering of my old University Risk-playing society.

13 Summoner Wars  Avg rating : 8.14 No. raters : 79 up 17

The second-highest climber after Descent. Again no prizes for guessing the reason: the acclaimed iOS conversion by PlayDek bought the title to a whole new audience previously unaware of its delights. Including me,

12 Blood Bowl SILVER Avg rating : 8.15 No. raters : 84 Non-mover

Of all the games I’ve catalogued over the years, this has perhaps the oddest profile having bounced up and down the lists like a yo-yo. I think that’s down to a combination of the various editions available and the marketing boosts provided by franchise releases like the ill-fated computer version and the Team Manager card game. The latter, out of interest, having been heavily feted after release and winning several year-end awards, has actually plummeted off the list from 25th spot last year, now coming in a few spots below 50 with a score of 7.71. Seems the critics (me included) were wrong about it. It’s parent game, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength, being only one year off the gold standard.

11 Here I Stand  Avg rating : 8.16 No. raters : 76 down 1

In spite of its monstrous play time this remains extremely popular and widely admired. Helped no doubt by its suitability for long-term PBEM play it too is only a year off gold.

10 Eclipse  Avg rating : 8.16 No. raters : 165 down 1

The naysayers on this are in the minority, and it continue to hold its own. With an iOS conversion and an expansion in the works, I can’t see that changing much. But, you’ll notice, it still hasn’t “killed” TI3. A consequence, in part, of the fact that Eclipse is every bit as complex and takes a bit longer to play than the advertised 30 minutes per player.

9 Mage Knight  Avg rating : 8.18 No. raters : 143 down 3

Another upstart entry from last year that seems likely to be here to stay. It appears that glacial pace and long play time are a small price to pay for the wealth of strategy, variety and narrative that this game provides.

8 Twilight Imperium GOLD Avg rating : 8.19 No. raters : 275 Non-mover

Here’s the old monster, staying stubbornly ahead of its rival Eclipse. But it’s finally showing some signs of vulnerability. For the first time ever, a TI3 expansion does not have the highest score when I compiled the ratings. For all that Shattered Empires and Shards of the Throne still bag enormous averages and the #2 and #3 slots with 8.98 and 8.84 respectively, the latter demonstrating there’s a lot of value in a frequently-ignored release.

7 Earth Reborn  Avg rating : 8.25 No. raters : 99 down 5

Last year’s big surprise package is still surprising this year, although it’s fallen off its perch a little from the dizzy heights of a number two new entry. And still probably the least-discussed game in the top ten. iOS version of this would sell a treat, I reckon.

6 Battlestar Galactica GOLD Avg rating : 8.29 No. raters : 341 down 1

Our second de-throned number one game is still enormously popular. Interestingly, although people have been a bit sniffy about the expansions the highest scoring one, Exodus, has a very respectable 8.28 rating.

5 Space Hulk GOLD Avg rating : 8.32 No. raters : 249 down 2

Much of the board gaming community may have walked away from Games Workshop in disgust after their heavy-handed IP grab, but we still love them. And with an iOS version in the pipe, we’ll likely continue to do so. And when that hits the app store, I suspect many of the haters may find sudden forgiveness in their hearts.

4 Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel  Avg rating : 8.42 No. raters : 34 Re-entry

Not as surprising as it may first seem, the sudden blazing re-appearance of a CoH game into the top five is largely a consequence of the rules of this list. It’s predecessor, Awakening the Bear, was a solid fixture in the lower reaches, and now its improved stablemate has gathered the votes to make a berth for itself. And wholly deserved too I might add, a superb game.

3 Twilight Struggle GOLD Avg rating : 8.52 No. raters : 303 down 2

So! Here’s the big surprise. Our apparently unassailable number one game for three of the past six years has dropped not one but two places! Remains my favourite title but age and over-familiarity are finally starting to weary this stupendous game.

2 Android: Netrunner  Avg rating : 8.63 No. raters : 81 New Entry

And of all the games to de-throne it, this is a big shock. Not that it isn’t an excellent game - made my top five for the year - but to place so highly was most unexpected. Especially when a lot of people are complaining about its old-school feel while praising its qualities. Seems that perhaps old-school is what we’re secretly craving a bit more of. Be very interesting to see if the regular data pack releases through the year for this maintain interest and high ratings.

1 War of the Ring GOLD Avg rating : 9.01 No. raters : 41 up 3

The new community favourite is an old favourite in shiny new packaging. The second edition of War of the Ring improved balance and playability, as well as re-enthusing the fan base and allowing a new generation of gamers to sample its considerable delights. Look at that score: this is the first time any stand alone-game has gathered and average greater than nine, and the gap to the number two spot is huge, boding well for it keeping the spot for a year at least.

So there we have it. Not much to add really: the ratings speak for themselves and the long-term trend we’ve been seeing toward more and more historical games and two-player titles are continuing.

There Will Be Games

Matt ThrowerFollow Matt Thrower Follow Matt Thrower Message Matt Thrower

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Matt has been writing about tabletop games professional since 2012, blogging since 2006 and playing them since he could talk.


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