Card/Board Game of the Year 2012

The human chess machine.

Capablanca playing asynchronously.

This was perhaps the most competitive of the categories we laid out for this year – 2012 has been the year of the digital board game conversion, with properties as diverse as Phantom Leader, Stone Age, San Juan, Levee En Masse and many others all making the jump from dead trees and petroleum to digital.

A philosophical divide has emerged that separates digital board game conversions into two distinct camps – those that attempt to recreate the experience of physically playing the game as closely as possible, and those that take advantage of the new medium of touchscreen computing to make something bigger and more dynamic than the source material.

While we’ve spent a lot of time in these pages praising games that take the latter approach, the best board game of the year is arguably in the former camp – a straitjacketed translation of its cardboard equivalent. Be that as it may, the game is so finely crafted that there was little to compete with it for much of the year.

After the jump, the Pocket Tactics Card/Board Game of the Year for 2012.

The Card/Board Game of the Year is Summoner Wars.

I hate Grognack.

A splendid little war.

Playdek’s iOS conversion of Plaid Hat’s celebrated card/wargame hybrid was so keenly anticipated that some launch hiccups around release caused more fan hand-wringing than almost any other event in mobile gaming this year. But it was worth the wait – Summoner Wars has been a multiplayer staple on these forums and elsewhere since its release.

Playdek gets a lot of praise (quite rightly) for their consistency – you can buy Playdek games sight unseen and that’s money well-spent. This is not a team that drops a lot of balls.

But Playdek’s consistency arises from their caution. When Ascension – their first release – proved to be a hit, they took that successful game engine and recycled it. Nightfall and its expansions, the Storm of Souls expansion to Ascension and (very recently) Penny Arcade: Gamers vs Evil were all built off the back of it.

So Summoner Wars wasn’t merely an excellent game with a smart UI and beautifully integrated multiplayer – it was also Playdek’s first gamble, making something that wasn’t assembled on the scaffolding of Ascension. And it paid off in spades. With Agricola and Tank on Tank en route, Playdek’s portfolio will only get more diverse – and I’d buy those games now if I could.

To see all the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2012 Awards, visit the awards index page.