Best Card and Board Games of 2012

I have a secret, but I’m terrible at keeping secrets.  Do you want to know what it is?  We really like board games here at Gamezebo.  So much so that when we’re not writing about video games – when we decide to unplug from the computer and unwind – it’s often around the kitchen table with cards, dice and friends.

Sometimes our love of video games and our love of board games collides.  I won’t lie; when it happens, those are pretty awesome days for us.  Today we look back at some of those awesome days, and the awesome games that came with them.  In today’s Best of 2012 feature, we make our picks for Best Card and Board Games of 2012.


#5 – Dominion (browser)

Hobbyist gamers have been clamoring for a great digital port of Dominion ever since its 2008 release.  It may have taken nearly 5 years for their wishes to come true, but considering the polish and perfection of this port, it was well worth the wait.

The first in a slew of “deck-building” games to hit the hobby market, spawning more than its fair share of imitators, Dominion offers up gameplay that’s simple in theory. You’ll use the cards in your hand to buy more cards, each of which will let change the way you shop when played (extra currency, more options to buy, etc.)  But what’s simple in theory becomes delightfully challenging to master – especially when you square off against live opponents.  With tight multiplayer, a unique solo campaign, and a price point of zero dollars, there’s absolutely nothing that should stop you from giving Dominion a try.


#4 – Legacy of Heroes (browser)

Like Dominion, Legacy of Heroes is played with cards.  Like Dominion, it’s free.  And like Dominion, it was one of our picks for Best Browser Games of 2012.  But that’s where the similarities end.

Think a Magic: The Gathering-style card combat game, but with original gameplay elements and a unique comic book theme.  That’s Legacy of Heroes in a nutshell.  Players will square off against one another in an attempt to deplete their opponent’s deck to zero cards.  Doesn’t sound superhuman enough? Just wait until you see the art.


#3 – Lost Cities (iPhone)

While it might not have the same cachet as a Rovio or a PikPok, TheCodingMonkeys are just as valuable a name in the mobile gaming industry.  Their iOS adaptation of Carcassonne has long been considered the industry standard in “how to adapt a board game to a digital platform.”  And while it may have taken them years to concoct a follow-up, they’ve finally done it with their adaptation of Reiner Knizia’s two-player classic, Lost Cities.

Playing is as simple as knowing numerical order, but there’s a fair amount of risk involved in the cards you play.  Can you win if you start playing with the 4 card?  Or should you hold out until you can get 2 and 3 first?  And what cards does your cunning AI (or real life) opponent have in their hand?


#2 – Magic: The Gathering – Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 (PC, iPad)

Magic is a really great name for Richard Garfield’s long-running CCG series, because honestly, that’s what playing it feels like.  It’s magic.

Despite this, last year’s Duel of the Planeswalkers 2012 was the first time anyone would ever dare to call a digital adaptation of the card game magical.  But it was more than that – it was accessible, it was a great teacher, and it looked fantastic.  This year’s follow-up was even better, adding in a new multiplayer mode and plenty of little refinements.  The biggest change, though, was that Magic made its touch screen debut on the iPad – and it looked and played just as phenomenally as its desktop counterpart.

Sure Magic: The Gathering is a daunting game to learn, but there’s never been a better teacher than this.


#1 – Summoner Wars (iPhone, iPad)

Plaid Hat Games has made some exceptional board games.  Playdek has been behind some exceptional iOS ports.  So what happens when you put the two together?  You get our digital board game of the year for 2012!

Summoner Wars plays a bit like the unholy offspring of chess and Magic, yet manages to be easier to approach than either of these.  Players will select a faction and be given a deck of cards, and they’ll then draw these cards and use them as figures on the board.  Each type of combatant has its own unique skill, but since they’re printed on the card, remembering them is as easy as glancing.  The object of the game? To destroy your opponents mighty summoner card before they destroy yours.

Not only was the adaptation here flawless, but the game features smart pricing and even smarter multiplayer.  Initial access is free, but if you’re enjoying the game (and you will) you can buy additional factions as in-app purchases. And unlike most multiplayer games that suffer from game abandonment issues, players can set a timer at the start of a game to make sure their opponents return.  If they don’t, it’s a forfeit and you win.

And again – we can’t stress this enough – it’s free to download.  So what are you waiting for?  Find out why Summoner Wars managed to conjure up our vote for the best board game of 2012!

With another year come and gone, Gamezebo is looking back at the best games that 2012 had to offer. Our month-long retrospective will touch on just about every type of game you can imagine – so be sure not to miss any of it! Check out our full collection of Best of 2012 articles, and vote for your favorite games in our 2012 Reader’s Choice awards.

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