As this year wraps up, many people find themselves….Reflecting…
On life, work, love, family, etc. I find myself doing the same — but as a board game hobbyist, that list includes reflecting on games. Last year, I made my first ever top 100 games list (early November 2018) and I feel like that will be a perfect time each year to revisit and update that list. Thus, for the next few Thursdays (during winter break, if you will), I will be sharing my most recent compilation of 100 favorite games.
When I made this list last year, I only had 115 games in total to sort out. So, there were a decent amount of games slipping into my top 100 that I don’t necessarily even like — such as The Game of Life, Star Wars: Eye Found It!, and Build or BOOM. They may be fun occasional plays with my kids, but that doesn’t mean they are ones I personally love.
Well, come early November 2019, that list of 115 games had grown to 314. And now, my top 100 is truly becoming a list of great games that I really enjoy. In fact, when I look just outside of the list (games 101-110), I find a very strong list that I would have a blast getting to the table for a game day. Of that original top 100 list, only 29 games survived to remain on my top 100 for the 2019 edition. I have played a ton of great games this year. My expectation is that this list will continue to fluctuate for the next few years until I develop a solid base of favorites.
Speaking of a solid-base — of my top 5 games from the 2018 list, all five have stuck around in my top 12 — and my #12 from a year ago actually moved up into the top 10 this year. But that’s just a little preview of games I will be revealing in a couple weeks.
One last thing before I start rattling off great games. I wanted to share my personal method for creating a top 100 list. One of the things that I didn’t want to have to do is start tossing games around and shuffling back and forth. I may like X game more than T or B game, so it moves up ahead of them on the list. But I like Y game better than X game, even though its ranked lower than T or B. Ugh. So, I turned those “which game is better” decisions into many micro-decisions. Every month, I would take my current ‘played games’ list and each game would randomly go through 20 “match-ups”. Over the course of the year, those monthly rankings would get averaged out to a single score. Each month, top games would get around 30 points and bottom-dwellers would get 11-12 points. On top of that, I added two small factors — a) for every month a game was in my played collection, it received a 0.2 point bump. The idea is to try and temper the excitement that can be given to newly-played games. They may do well on this list, but next year, if still a favorite…they should have the chance to move up higher. b) a game received a 0.1 point bump for every hour of play I had with that game during the past 12 months. The idea being that time spent with a game helps reflect my current level of enjoyment for that game.
Alright, enough math-talk, let’s get into the Top 100-61 list!!
#100 – Sentinels of the Multiverse (2011; Christopher Badell, Paul Bender, and Adam Rebottaro)
While not my go-to in cooperative, super hero games — this is one of my older son’s all-time favorites and thus I love getting the chance to play with him.
#99 – Bärenpark (2017; Phil Walker-Harding)
I enjoy tile-laying, puzzle games and this one has a fun and cute “bear park” theme to it. I feel like this one could move higher if I get the chance to play with the Bad News Bears expansion.
#98 – Troyes (2010; Sebastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges, and Alain Orban)
One thing I really appreciate about Troyes is its uniqueness. I haven’t played Black Angel, so I don’t feel like I’ve ever played a game quite like Troyes. That said, some of the dice-stealing costs and semi-coop nature left me a little confused.
#97 – 7th Continent (2017; Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter)
When this game came in I was so amazingly jazzed. I put in several hours of play and did in fact enjoy my time with the game, but I was uncertain about how long I would enjoy playing 7th Continent before getting burnt out. Because of its high cost, I decided to divest of the game and get my investment back – money that I could put into other titles. That said, a very cool adventure game.
#96 – Joshua’s Family Tournament Game (2018; Joshua Crocker)
So, this is an unpublished game and up to this point, nobody has played it outside of my immediate family. That’s because it is a game my oldest son created. He essentially took the various members of our extended family and created cards for each of us with a dice-rolling rule. One family member’s card might simply say, “X+1”. The x = 6-sided die roll. A more interesting family member’s card might say, “X + X + X + X – 9”. In that case, four six-sided die rolls added together, less 9. Each family member has a slightly different ruleset. Some impact opponents, some are dependent on being home or away, some even use different dice. There are a few fun ones that you can tell the ruleset matches with the “character” of the family member. We have fun mixing up the 32 cards, creating a tournament bracket and then rolling to see which family members will win gold, silver, and bronze.
Beyond just being a fun game for us to play, I have been very impressed with the game-creation skills that my son has showed off in his creation of these cards and their different “powers”, plus the effort he has put into trying to maintain balance. If he decides to take creating games more seriously, I think he’ll have a bright future.
#95 – Werewords (2017; Ted Alspach)
I really enjoy One Night Ultimate Werewolf, but when playing with a group that is less confrontational — or doesn’t enjoy bluffing as much — Werewords really hits a sweet spot. We have had fun with this one and I expect it to continue getting to the table.
#94 – Roll in One (2019; Steven Bergren)
This is the other game on my top 100 that is actually designed by a family member. My brother-in-law created Roll in One for the 2019 Gencant contest. It is a roll-and-write game that comes with an 18-hole golf course design. In the game, you use a variety of polyhedral dice, rolling them each turn to try and score a hole. The total score of the hole is what needs achieved when adding the dice. Some holes are straight-forward, but some have water traps and dog legs, requiring certain totals to be stopped at before adding new dice. If you can complete a hole by using your dice in descending order (without skipping a die), you will earn a bonus power.
I think this is a really cool creation. I have really enjoyed my plays of it and would easily rank it amongst some of my other favorite Roll-and-Write genre games.
#93 – BOO (2017; Chris Handy)
So far, BOO is my favorite of Chris Handy’s super-small card games. This is a wonderful, abstract strategy game of trying to lay ghosts down so that they will scare your opponents’ ghosts and flip over to showing more of your ghosts.
#92 – Welcome to DinoWorld (2017; James O’Connor, Nick Shaw, and David Turczi)
Some reviewers consider this to be one of the heavier roll-and-write games. It does have a good bit of meat to it and I find the dino-park creation theme to be enjoyable. And of course, watch out for a horrible combo of dinosaur escapes.
#91 – Magic Maze (2017; Kasper Lapp)
Some of my family does not enjoy the hectic nature of this game, but my oldest son and I love it. We work well together when trying to complete missions and have fun puzzling out the best paths under tight, real-time conditions.
#90 – Flip City: Wilderness (2017; Chih-Fan Chen)
Wilderness managed to beat out regular Flip City (ranked #103) this year. Flip City has the right amount of push-your-luck in it along with a unique take on deck-building. The Wilderness version is a nice variant on the original game.
#89 – Patchwork (2014; Uwe Rosenberg)
In Patchwork, I love the circular, tile selection mechanism along with the management of both your hourglass resources and board movement. On top of that, it is satisfying to figure how to place your tiles so as to fill up as much of your board as possible.
#88 – FUSE (2015; Kane Klenko)
This is one of those games that the more I have played it, the greater my liking of it. Every play is 10 minutes and those minutes are jam-packed for sure! For me, there is something very satisfying about rolling dice and figuring out where to best use them to complete quick, short missions. I have also enjoyed FUSE as a solo game.
#87 – Fantastic Factories (2019; Joseph Z Chen and Justin Faulkner)
I received my Kickstarter copy of Fantastic Factories in October, so have only had a few plays of it so far, but I love the quick engine-building that this game provides. I love dice-rolling, especially in a game where any die number could be useful, depending on the particular engine you are building. There are some cool combos in Fantastic Factories and so far I have received great feedback from my fellow gamers.
#86 – Smash Up (2012; Paul Peterson)
I haven’t had much table time with Smash Up of late, but I still love the basic concept of smashing together two crazy decks of characters and seeing how well you can get them to work.
#85 – Cube Quest (2013; Oliver Sibthorpe and Gary Sibthorpe)
I believe this is my favorite of the “flicking” games. This is a PvP dice-flicker. Use your points to place your characters on your half of the board — flick down the countryside to get close to the opposing king and try to get in position for the knockout flick. Plenty of times, flicks go wrong and that’s part of the joy of this fun, but thrilling game.
#84 – Catan (1995; Klaus Teuber)
This was my #13 game last year, but greater exposure to Euro games in 2019 has seen it fall. That said, after almost 25 years, Catan is still fun and has created some great gaming moments for my family.
#83 – Kingsburg, Second Edition (2017; Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco)
Particularly, I really enjoy the dice-rolling –> action selection mechanism in Kingsburg. Add up dice and take the big reward? Break up my dice and get a few smaller rewards….but watch out for what other players will grab….potentially mess up their plans by taking a space they really need. I love how “unique” this game felt to me.
#82 – The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (2011; Nate French)
I haven’t been playing this game much and my expectation is that it will get set aside for Marvel Champions LCG. That said, I love the Lord of the Rings franchise and enjoy the play of this game. I feel like I would have to put more time and effort into deck creation to really get the most out of this one, though.
#81 – Survive: Escape from Atlantis! (1982; Julian Courtland-Smith)
To be fair, Survive is not the most ‘advanced’ gameplay. Events that happen from turn to turn are pretty random and the game seems to be much higher on the luck-scale than strategy. That said, it is a very FUN game to play. Watching sea creatures decimate the fleeing castaways…blocking your opponents’ path….so much Take That goodness in this game. A great game to pull out for silly, family fun time.
#80 – Pandemic (2008; Matt Leacock)
I have only had one play of Pandemic, but it was a thrilling (yet, heartbreaking) down-to-the-wire loss. I can understand why this game is well-loved. If I enjoyed cooperative games more, Pandemic would undoubtedly climb higher on my list.
#79 – Potion Explosion (2015; Stefano Castelli, Andrea Crespi, and Lorenzo Silva)
Potion Explosion is very high on Tactile-Enjoyment. It is so rewarding to pull a marble and manage to create a couple combo-tastic explosions out of it. This one falls nicely in that middle-ground of “fun enough to play with younger kids” but also “thinky enough to play with strategic adults.”
#78 – One Night Ultimate Super Villains (2019; Ted Alspach and Akihisa Okui)
One of the newest One Night Ultimate titles — and I love the super hero / villain theme. Plus, there is something very satisfying about being Annoying Lad and getting to incessantly tap my wife’s shoulder for five seconds. My family has had some great moments from this title — the One Night Ultimate series continues to impress me!
#77 – Machi Koro (2012; Masao Suganuma)
Last year, Machi Koro was my #9 game overall (my largest fall for any top 10 game). Why’s that? Two words –> Space Base. I have really loved Machi Koro, but it is losing its time at the table. That said, I’m hopeful that the new Machi Koro Legacy will revitalize my enjoyment and interest in this franchise.
#76 – Spell Smashers (2018; Christopher Chung)
I for one enjoy most word games and love that a cool, fantasy game with RPG-like mechanisms was wrapped around the word-game concept. In games where I am really struggling to create strong words, I have found that regaling tavern-folk with my tales has been quite rewarding.
#75 – Tiny Towns (2019; Peter McPherson)
It wasn’t until October that I finally had a chance to play Tiny Towns. Prediction: the 75 slot is just a jumping off point for this game. Tiny Towns hits my abstract strategy wheelhouse, plus I love the variable game setup that comes with having a variety of town cards. Plus, the game components are outstanding!
#74 – Forbidden Island (2010; Matt Leacock)
My #7 title last year, Forbidden Island has taken a dramatic drop. I still really love this cooperative game — the biggest reason for the decline relates to its replayability. So many new games are coming with variable setups, something that this 9-year old title could use after several plays.
#73 – Dream Home (2016; Klemens Kalicki)
This is a game that several members in my family enjoy playing, so it has gotten some decent table time this year. I also just really enjoy the theme — getting to design your own home. Sure, your goal is to earn victory points, but it is still fun to try and do so in a way that is also personally-aesthetically-pleasing.
#72 – Sprawlopolis (2018; Steven Aramani, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka)
I have tried a few different “18-card” micro-games. I have garnered varying levels of enjoyment from them. Most of the time, they feel either too forced or too small. Sprawlopolis is the real deal, though. It is a simple, Honshu-style card-laying, city-building game. The beauty is that all 18 cards not only have a city side, but an objective side. Each game, you play with 15 city cards, while three cards get flipped over to be your scoring objectives. This creates a wonderful variety of Goals from game-to-game — thus while every game follows the same mechanisms, the strategy involved has to be adjusted to fit that games’ objectives. Top-notch!
#71 – Vs System 2PCG: The Marvel Battles (2015; Ben Cichoski and Daniel Mandel)
This game should probably fall even lower based on the amount of time I’ve spent with it, but I love the Marvel theme and I really like the gameplay. Unfortunately, there are a lot of great PvP games and only so many can get attention. Had I gravitated towards this one earlier on, it might be a top 50 for me.
#70 – Qwixx (2012; Steffen Benndorf)
Qwixx is a roll-and-write game that creates some great push-your-luck tension. Everybody would love to achieve perfectly descending or ascending rows, but that’s probably not what the dice will always give you. Deciding when to hold off for a better number and when to jump at a die that skips a few numbers so that you can keep moving forward….so much fun! Lots of grunts, gasps, and fist-pounding from this simple, yet satisfying title.
#69 – The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth (2019; Nathan I. Hajek and Grace Holdinghaus)
I haven’t explored too much of this game yet, but the exploration aspect is great and I appreciate the speed of leveling up and adding gear to your characters. The app integration is neat — essentially a DM that can help run your card-driven RPG, allowing all players to be part of the fun.
#68 – Innovation (2010; Carl Chudyk)
Something about this multi-use card game really speaks to me. It feels like there are so many possibilities when it comes to combinations and abilities that could be performed from game-to-game. It is essentially a race-to-a-point-total game and so there is a nice balance of advancing your own score, while trying to control what your opponent is doing. I love a game that feels like you are being ‘rewarded’ on each turn.
#67 – Dixit (2008; Jean-Louis Roubira)
In the realm of party games, I have found that I easily get tired of titles that require players to put down a card (or set of cards) and then try to persuade a group or an individual as to why yours is the best. I don’t like trying to convince people to think a certain way and don’t want to have to do it in a game setting. Thus, a game like Dixit is very refreshing. You’re still placing down a card hoping it “gets picked” but the persuasion element is gone. And when it is your turn, I really enjoy the task of trying to pick a word or phrase or sound that reflects your card, without being TOO obvious.
#66 – Unfair (2017; Joel Finch)
Unfair is a game that is definitely not perfect, yet I still really like the theme of this game. I enjoy story-telling in games and the process of building up your park, adding employees, dealing with events…all allow for some great story-telling moments.
#65 – Shards of Infinity (2018; Gary Arant and Justin Gary)
After many losses to my oldest son, I finally managed to get my first victory thsi summer. Whew!! This is a very quick PvP deck-building game. Each play requires players to create their deck based on what the market provides. The player who can do so most efficiently should find victory in the end. Unfortunately, the generic sci-fi theme of this game leaves a bit to desire, otherwise it would probably rank higher on my list.
#64 – City of Iron, Second Edition (2016; Ryan Laukat)
I have played some crunchy games that require a lot of brainpower, but none have left me as mentally drained as City of Iron. There’s only 7 rounds in this game — and you only perform 3 actions each round. That’s not much time to try and build your deck, gain control of the resource tracks, and do lots of exploring. Yet, somehow, its possible — especially if you plan wisely between rounds. And man-oh-man, those between-the-round moments can get Analysis Paralysis-heavy.
That said, I won my first play of this game and it is one of the most personally-rewarding wins I’ve ever had.
#63 – Awkward Guests (2016; Ron Gonzalo Garcia)
I loved Clue as a kid, but these days, it has lost its appeal. Enter: Awkward Guests. That same Clue-like deduction, but without roll-to-move and more player interaction. I highly recommend this game for any gamer looking for a deduction fix that doesn’t require a Sherlock Holmes style of play.
#62 – Sagrada (2017; Adrian Adamescu and Daryl Andrews)
A beautiful, abstract strategy game. Dice-drafting is a great mechanism and the puzzle of building your 4 x 5 dice grid (stained glass window) can get perplexing. Trying to maximize your points (based on a secret objective and shared objectives) can force players into some fun, push-your-luck moments.
#61 – Roll Player (2016; Keith Matejka)
Interesting that the two games in my top 100 that require drafting dice and getting them properly placed in a grid — wound up right next to each other in ranking. While I prefer the simplicity of Sagrada, Roll Player has a better theme and more depth, related to trying to build out your character. It is also satisfying that dice placement triggers immediate abilities, which are very useful in getting your rows to all score as well as needed.
And that’s it for this week’s installment of my top 100 games. Any titles in my 100 through 61 that you would consider a personal favorite?
Come back next week for 60 – 21 and again the week after that for my top 20 games.