It’s that time of year again. Time to think about all the board and cards games I have played and which ones are my favorites. While I played a lot of new games this year, there does not seem to be that many changes in my top 25 games. This is part one of a two part series. This post will include five honorable mentions, plus the first ten on my list.
Diamonds designed by Mike Fitzgerald
This card game is trick-taking at its finest. I love trick-taking and I used to play Hearts all the time when I was younger. Diamonds takes a similar approach but adds special powers for each suit of card when players win tricks or play off-suit. A great game and one that I will always bring with me.
King of New York designed by Richard Garfield
The next in the series game, succeeding the very poplar King of Tokyo. I really enjoy this fast dice rolling, monster smashing game! But what has kept King of Tokyo in the forefront of my mind is the new Power Up! expansion which gives all the monsters special evolution abilities. This is one that will stay in my collection for a long time.
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival designed by Christopher Chung
I discovered this clever and beautiful tile laying and set collection game through a friend. Players are building together a small lake/pond full with colorful lanterns! Once a player has put out enough lanterns, they can turn in their hard work for prestige. And don’t forget favor – favor can help a player more easily gain prestige if the right lanterns are not available at the moment. A fantastic 40 minute game and one that I would recommend to almost anyone.
Biblios designed by Steve Finn
Biblios is a clever card drafting and auction game where players are trying to gain control of certain types of knowledge by collection different tomes and gold. The first half of the game is a push-your-luck card draft which builds player’s hands and also building the auction pile. The second half of the game is an auction, spending gold collected to get the rest of the tomes. I really enjoy Biblios because of the fast play time and the pressure to manage my hand to do well in the auction.
Mottainai designed by Carl Chudyk
Carl Chudyk is the master at creating complex card games where one card can be used in a trillion different ways. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but… he is well known for games like Glory to Rome and Innovation which uses clever multi-use card play. Mottainai is no exception as Carl Chudyk is back with one of his most elegant games ever designed. Mottainai is all about generating resources and building works which will give players unique abilities and score points. That is an extremely simplified explanation… You will need to go explore this one for yourself!
#25 – Ticket to Ride designed by Alan R. Moon
We start off the list with the first modern board game I purchased and after playing Ticket to Ride, I really fell in love with modern board games. Even after playing o hundreds of other games, Ticket to Ride still remains an absolute gem of a game. The simplicity of a turn, mixed with rummy-like set collection in a beautiful package makes for a fantastic game pretty much everyone will enjoy. Plus with the many expansion maps, Ticket to Ride seems like it will be a timeless classic.
#24 – Power Grid designed by Friedemann Friese
I played Power Grid for the first and second time this year and wow, I was blown away of the brilliance of this auction, network building game. Players are power plant companies vying to power the most cities first. Each round, players will bid to get power plants, buy fuel (coal, uranium, oil, trash), build stations in different cities, and then power those cities for money. There are so many expansion maps that bring different twists to this superb game. On the wishlist for me!
#23 – Abyss designed by Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier
This was nominated and won most of the awards for best artwork when Abyss first came out. And yes, the artwork is PHENOMENAL! But Abyss also packs a punch as a game, focusing on set collection and special powers. Players are fighting for influence over different underwater factions. I really like the simple decisions to collect more supporters or to influence one of the leaders. Plus, the special abilities puts a nice twist into the game.
#22 – 7 Wonders: Duel designed by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala
I really enjoy 7 Wonders, but the 2-player variant in the original game was not as compelling as I wanted it to be. When I heard the announcement of Duel, a two player version of 7 Wonders, I was very intrigued! This new 2-player only game puts a great twist on traditional card drafting and uses a pyramid structure to facilitate it. The other minor rule changes as well as tweaking the cards really makes this a engaging game. If you are looking for a solid 2-player game, I would recommend this one!
#21 – Freedom: The Underground Railroad designed by Brian Mayer
Freedom is the first cooperative game on my list. This game is all about the underground railroad and players take on the role of abolitionists helping slaves escape plantations to the north and ultimately to Canada. Now, I have strong feelings about the theme for many reasons. This is the only game I know of that deals with a slavery in America and can have a profound educational impact if played with the right person to facilitate it. However, there could be a huge downfall because it puts the players in the shoes of abolitionists, which can take the focus off of the historical impacts or slavery and strengthen the White savior complex. But back to the gameplay, this cooperative game is a very thinky puzzle, making players balance income (to gain support and movement) and actually moving slaves from the plantations through the cities.
#20 – Small World designed by Philippe Keyaerts
The game of fantastical colonialism. Yes, basically players pick fantastical creatures (elves, dwarfs, tritons, etc.) and attempted to take over different parts of the world by conquering other people’s land. Players get points for the amount of territory they control at the end of their turn. The awesome part of this game is twofold: first, the creatures come with special ability (e.g., the wealthy kobolds). Second, during the game, a player can announce their civilization is going into decline and pick new creatures to start over with.
#19 – Hansa Teutonica designed by Andreas Steding
This game is still one of the cleanest designed game I have ever played. Now the cover looks super boring and the components inside (cubes and a bland map) do not really make anyone want to play it… however, Hansa Teutonica is a lot of fun! This is a mixture of route building and area control with ways to personally improve what a payer can do on their turn. For example, a player can up the number of actions per turn or increase their multiplier for end game scoring. An excellent game and one you should check out despite the artwork.
#18 – Viceroy designed by Yuri Zhuravlev
Another game with very beautiful artwork! Unfortunately, the theme on Viceroy does not really matter. Players are trying to build a pyramid of power or something like that. BUT Viceroy makes up with stellar gameplay. Players draft cards using a low key bidding mechanic and then play the cards in a pyramid structure. Players gain rewards based on the level the card is built on. Like a real pyramid structure, a card cannot be played unless there is a base below it. Based on how cards are played there are multiple ways to score depending on sets of tokens players collect. The game was on Kickstarter last year and I am not sure if a reprint is in the pipeline from Mayday Games.
#17 – Neue Heimat designed by Klaus Zoch
Do you like brutal and mean auctions games? Then this is the game for you. Neue Heimat is a very abstract auction game which features a once around auction for blocks, roofs, or special blocks. Depending on what color blocks players win in the auction will determine what color of block they will score at the end of the round. Since this is public knowledge, auctions can get very mean depending on who wins the blocks and where they are placed. The economy is closed which makes it a challenge in the auction to accurately assess the value of certain blocks and roofs. It is impossible for me to fully describe this game but it is one, if given the change, you should try. Neue Heimat is very hard to acquire, with limited print runs. But there are copies floating around.
#16 – Codenames designed by Vlaada Chvátil
One of the hottest games from 2015 and one of my favorite word games of all time. I remember playing a game called Password when I was growing up. Codenames is similar to Password but takes the idea and makes it incredibly more interesting! Two teams are pitted against each other, trying to guess their words before the other team. They accomplish this by giving a one word clue followed by a number to tell their team how many words the clue is associated with. This game is accessible and easily taught to anyone. I have never had a game of Codenames that did not go over well with everyone. This game can be found easily at Target. Check out my post about Codenames!
What are some of your favorite games of all time?