We are back with my top 25 games as of 2016! This was extremely challenging to put together because of all the fantastic games that exist. So how exactly do I go about creating these lists? I get a list of all the games I have played, rated over a 7 out of 10. I then pick one at random, then go through the rest of the games and decide if I like it better than the first one I selected. I repeated this process a couple of times, then eliminate every game past 35. From there to get the exact numbers, it is simply about asking the question, which game would I rather play? Enough of explaining my process… back to the list!
#15 – Patchwork designed by Uwe Rosenberg
This two player gem has one of the most unique themes of any game I have played: quilting. Players have an empty 9×9 grid and they are collecting fabric pieces, which are oddly shaped, to put on their board. These pieces cost a combination of the game’s two currencies: time and buttons. Throughout the game, players will get more buttons based on what pieces of cloth are on their board. The player who has the most buttons at the end of the game wins; however, players get -2 buttons for every empty space on their board. A super clever, spatial terms like game with a cool button engine generating mechanic.
#14 – Alien Frontiers designed by Tory Niemann
I played this game one of the first times I went to a board game cafe. The rules were pretty simplistic and the use of dice was revolutionary for me. On a turn, players roll their dice and use them as workers on the board – the value of the dice determines what a player can do and how strong the action is. Players are essentially racing to be the first to colonize an alien planet and do so through resource management and special powers. A super neat game but it can feel similar after many plays, but the expansions throw in enough variation to keep it engaging and compelling. Oh and space, love the theme!
#13 – Dice Masters designed by Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang
In 2015, I played Dice Masters over 50 times. This year I have played this game dramatically less; however, I still think this is a stellar game. The only collectible game I play (as of now), Dice Masters is a two player game similar the Magic: The Gathering but with dice. The game uses different intellectual properties such as Marvel, DC, Dungeons and Dragons, TMNT, and Yu Gi O. I primarily play with the Marvel and DC sets, but I do own certain cards from the other sets. Players start off with basic dice and over the course of the game, players are building up their dice bag by buying advanced dice. Advanced dice are usually super heroes or special items from the set (e.g., She Hulk or Green Lantern’s Ring). Players attack and defend with these heroes and items until one player loses their 20 life points. I fell out of it mainly because the collectibility aspect but I would love to jump back in with the cards/dice I have.
#12 – Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar designed by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini
Mechanically, this is one of my favorite games ever designed by thematically I have many problems with it. This game falls in that hard spot of a problematic favorite and it falls in a #12 because of it. With another theme, this would easily be my #1 or #2 game. So let’s talk about the theme… The theme misappropriates Mayan culture in many regards past the calendar. From the artwork to different actions in the game (collecting crystal skulls, going up in favor in different temples), the theme does not have the best or most authentic representation. I plan to write a longer post about the issues in the game with the theme as a “crit you fav” type thing. I do want to be transparent to my readers that I do own this game and I still think the game has merits as mechanics but not in theme.
Now let’s talk about the gameplay. This is a worker placement game with a twist. All the work placement spots are on wheels which are attached to the center wheel. Players can either place workers or pull workers on a turn, and by pulling a worker, the player gets to take the associated action. Each round the center wheel rotates, in turn rotating the other five wheels. Workers placed on the wheels will move up, landing on different worker placement spots. The longer a worker stays on a wheel, the better (most of the time) the action becomes. This pushes players to think many turns ahead and challenges players to time their moves with all of the wheels. Despite the theme, Tzolk’in is a fantastic and very difficult strategy and resource management game.
#11 – Imperial Settlers designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek
This wonderful card game was built on the mechanics of 51st State, which actually recently was updated with a second edition. Players take on a civilization and uses cards to build buildings, collect resources, attack their opponents, make fast deals, and gain the most victory points. This is an engine building game at it’s finest, as players create combinations of buildings in order to convert what they have into what they need very efficiently. The civilizations that come with the base game are Romans, Barbarians, (ancient) Japanese, and (ancient) Egyptians. One of my only quibbles with the base game is the Barbarian faction… They are not a ‘real’ ancient civilization and the designer could have done a bit better with the theming.
#10 – Automania designed by Kenneth Minde and Kristian Amundsen Østby
Manufacturing cars is a very cool theme and it is very underused. I was excited to hear about Automania, which is a medium strategy game all about building cars and selling them on the US or European Market. This game did not get as much buzz as I think it should. Players will place workers on the edge of a grid of tiles and selects one of the tile in the row or column. That tile will upgrade their personal car factory. Then the player takes the action on the space where their work was placed (make a car, take a contract, etc.). The awesome part of this game is I can build a car on turn number one.
#9 – Deception: Murder in Hong Kong designed by Tobey Ho
This is the only “social deduction” game on my list. While I do like games such as The Resistance and Spyfall, they have dropped considerably in lieu of Deception. In this game, a group of investigators are trying to solve a murder with one player (the forensic scientist) giving the investigators limited clues based on boards the player draws. I really like this social deduction game because you really do not have to persuade anyone of your thought process. You have an individual guess (once per game) and can use it whenever. A nice twist on social deduction and one I will always bring to game night.
#8 – Among the Stars designed by Vangelis Bagiartakis
Among the Stars is a card drafting game where players are trying to construct their very own and best space station! What sets this one a part from other card drafting game is the spatial element of placing space station locations. Each card has scoring potential or placement restrictions based on where it is placed within the system (e.g., close to the main reactor versus at least three spaces away from the main reactor). It is fast, fun, and I really like science fiction themes. It is pretty cool to see how the station is constructed at the end (“You put our defense turrets next to the mess hall?! What were you thinking?!!!”).
#7 – 7 Wonders designed by Antoine Bauza
Funny enough, 7 Wonders ended up as #7 on my top 25 list! Similar to Among the Stars, 7 Wonders is a drafting game; however, players are building their ancient civilization around one of the wonders of the world. I like this one slightly better than Among the Stars because it is a bit more complex in how the cards work with each other and I also have a couple of great expansions to add in the spice up our games. 7 Wonders can also play up to seven players without adding really any time to the game length because everyone plays simultaneously. The one down side is the amount of symbols in the game when it comes to guild cards and certain wonder powers.
#6 – Smash Up designed by Paul Peterson
When I first bought Smash Up, my partner made fun of me because of the ridiculous premise and cover on the box. This is one of my favorite card games of all time! You take two factions (dinosaurs, zombies, aliens, robots, wizards, ninjas, pirates, or tricksters) and shuffles the two decks together. So you can make cool decks like the zombie dinosaurs or the robot wizards! Then, players fight for control over various bases with their minions and action cards. Minions and actions have fun and sometimes chaotic affects. BUT this game is surprisingly tactical. Smash Up looks decently silly and sounds pretty silly, but you will not be disappointed – it is super fun and with all the expansions, it brings the faction count up to 50 which creates endless combinations.
#5 – Innovation designed by Carl Chudyk
I did not think I was going to like Innovation when I first played it. Players are creating a civilization through 10 different ages, creating different inventions to help propel them through the ages and dominate them with their different inventions. This game is really chaotic and really interactive. I do not necessarily like “take-that” style gameplay where players can mess with each other’s inventions; however, in Innovation, I do not mind all the chaos. We recently got the Echoes expansion, which adds a new layer into the game allowing players to have echo effects when they trigger their inventions. A fantastic game in a small deck of cards.
#4 – Brew Crafters designed by Ben Rosset
When I first heard the theme of Brew Crafters, I knew I had to try it. In Brew Crafters, players are running their own breweries, creating new craft beers and selling them for prestige. This is one of those games where players have very limited actions but have so many options on what to do. Rounds are split into two phases -> going to the market to get supplies and then wither brewing beer, researching new technology, or upgrading the brewery. The game components and art looks kind of drab, but I really enjoy this game. I am happy I was able to pick it up when it was reprinted this year.
#3 – Ghost Stories designed by Antoine Bauza
Ghost stories is a brutal cooperative game about defending a small village from an onslaught of ghosts. In this cooperative game, players must move around the town, getting help from the villagers and eliminate ghosts. Then when all seems hopeless… the big bad ghost shows up and reeks havoc! This is the hardest cooperative game I have ever played! But I LOVE it! I think I have won this game once, over ~20 or so plays on ‘normal’ mode. There is a hard mode and a super hard mode, which I do not even know why folks would try those… normal is hard enough! I will be keeping Ghost Stories in my collection forever and I am looking forward to picking up the expansions.
#2 – Robinson Crusoe designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek
Robinson Crusoe is my favorite cooperative game as of now, barely edging out Ghost Stories. In this sweeping story-driven survival game, players are placed on an island in a variety of scenarios with different goals: first and foremost, not dying. This is a worker placement game, with too much to do, with a lot of risk and not enough time. The very cool mechanic in Robinson Crusoe is the event cards that come back later in the game. When doing a task, sometimes an event will happen (mostly negative0 and after the event, they players shuffle the card into the main deck. When then event card comes up again, they players must resolve the lasting affects of the event. A second edition just released, but as a forewarning, this game is definitely an investment, buying the game and learning the rules. But the payoff is fantastic with the thematic gameplay.
#1 – Glass Road designed by Uwe Rosenberg
My number one game is one of Uwe Rosenberg’s less popular game: Glass Road. The reason why this is my favorite game is I think this is the cleanest and one of the hardest resource management exercises in a game. Uwe Rosenberg create these resource wheels where gaining certain resources will impact other resources. This is hard to describe through written word, but getting a handle on how the resource wheels work is the best part of the game. From there, players are using these resources to purchase buildings to put on their own plots of land to score points. The other interesting part of the game is the card play. All players get the same 15 cards and have to pick 5 cards to play each round (4 rounds total) where each player will play 3 out of their 5 cards. Depending on the cards picked, players can collect resources, build buildings, and do other actions. If a player chooses to play a card in your hand, you can follow them in the action, each doing a less powerful version of that action. This creates a neat guessing game of what your opponent needs or wants to do. I will always be up for this game. Any time, any day.
There you have it! My top 25 board and cards games as of the end of 2016. I hope you enjoyed reading through my lists and why I love these games so much! I would love to hear from all of you: What have you been playing this year? What has been your favorite games up to this point?