It’s that time of year again for me to reevaluate my top board games of all time! Just like last year, I am only considering games that I currently own, as it greatly simplifies making this sort of list. Unlike last year, the list has grown from 25 to 30, and I plan to spread the countdown over three posts with ten games each. Each entry will specify whether it is new to the list, or how many spots it moved up or down since last year. Any additional introduction seems unnecessary, so I’ll kick it off with #30!
#30 – Wits & Wagers (NEW)
Wits & Wagers is not a new game to me, but expanding my list to 30 games enabled it to make the cut! I enjoy trying to answer random trivia, but it tends to not work well in a board game format because of the disparity among knowledge levels of players. Wits & Wagers fixes this problem in two ways. One, the trivia is all numerical and rewards getting close instead of requiring an exact answer; and two, you bet on players’ answers, meaning you can do well even if you don’t get the closest answers yourself! It moves quickly and is always an enjoyable time trying to estimate the answers to random trivia and then betting based on the spread of answers and what you think other players know.
#29 – Love Letter Premium (NEW)
Love Letter Premium is an amped up version of the original microgame Love Letter, substantially improving the components and also providing new cards and rules to play with up to 8 players. The game is nothing but simple deduction, but every time I play it, the whole group ends up laughing over the various situations that come up as everyone jockeys to try to win each round. There is no reason it should be as entertaining as it is, but I can’t deny that it consistently delivers a quick and fun experience.
#28 – Dixit (-4)
Dixit has been one of my favorite party games for a long time, and it has seen more play recently due to the fact that it is my wife Mary‘s favorite game. I love looking at and appreciating all of the creative illustrations, and each round is another opportunity to try to get inside the head of the clue-giver and link a semi-vague clue to a specific card. It certainly helps that my copy includes Dixit: Odyssey which expands the game to 12 players (I highly recommend starting with this set if possible), as well as several other card expansion packs. Simply an awesome creative party game.
#27 – Rampage (Terror in Meeple City) (-6)
Rampage (now sold as Terror in Meeple City) is a good example of a game that challenges the perceived restrictions of what a board game can be. Players are literally flicking discs, dropping their wooden monsters on the board, flicking vehicles from their monster’s head, and blowing with their chin on their monster in an effort to knock over the three-dimensional city on the board and eat up its inhabitants. All these silly activities are then packaged with structured rules that actually open up an interesting landscape of strategy and decision-making. Certainly the novelty wears off slightly once you’ve played it several times, but it is still a game I enjoy playing and have found it works really well with up to 8 players when pairing up into teams.
#26 – Dominion (-11)
No matter how many new deck-building games come out, Dominion will always be known as the game that invented a genre, and still holds its own years after its release and after my 100+ plays. Especially once you start mixing expansions in, the sheer variety possible with only ten kingdom cards selected for each game is kind of mind-blowing. I have played so many different modern board games since I first got Dominion, and while I often find myself gravitating towards new and shiny designs these days, I still really enjoy Dominion and give it a lot of credit for getting me sucked into the board gaming hobby.
#25 – Carcassonne (-2)
Of all the games currently in my collection, Carcassonne is the one that I played first. I would never have predicted that my enjoyment of the game would actually grow over time, and still hold its ground on lists like this after a decade! A lot of credit goes to the two expansions that I consider essential for the game, Inns and Cathedrals and Traders and Builders. With those mixed in, it is a really nice balance of being easy to learn, having interesting strategy, and still playing in under an hour. I definitely tend to prefer heavy strategy games (spoiler alert), but sometimes it is really nice to just relax and pick where I want to place a single tile each turn to expand the growing community board.
#24 – Codenames (-6)
Codenames is one of the freshest party game designs to come out in recent memory. The central concept of trying to come up with a clue that associates some cards while avoiding others works beautifully, and it can comfortably support up to 8 players while still providing very cerebral gameplay. At the low price point, I can’t really imagine a game collection not benefiting from picking it up, and it checks in my list as one of my very favorite party games.
#23 – Sushi Go Party! (-1)
Sushi Go Party! only moved down one spot from last year, and considering the burst of new games onto the list, it is really like it moved up relative to games from last year’s list. Card drafting tends to be a game mechanic that I enjoy, and Sushi Go Party! boils it down to its simplest form. I love that I can play this game with just about anyone, and still enjoy the bite-size strategic decisions that I get to make. The party edition is fantastic, as you can change the “menu” of available cards every game to really keep things fresh and interesting. This also allows you to use simpler cards when teaching new players, but mix in any of the slightly more complicated cards when playing with experienced players. There aren’t a lot of games that I think should be a staple in every game collection (also see Codenames above), but Sushi Go Party! is just perfect for so many different situations (and Tom Vasel seems to agree with me).
#22 – Suburbia (NEW)
Suburbia is the first game that is not only new to this list, but also entirely new to my collection since last year. Each player is drafting tiles to add to their own little suburb/city, trying to increase their income and population by strategically creating combos between all the different tiles. I love how all the different effects in the game make thematic sense. For example, I may place a freeway that increases my income for adjacent office buildings, but I will lose reputation if it is next to residential tiles. Or I may lose income for creating a city park, but my reputation will increase and help me boost population. As the game goes on, you start to come up with a little story for your city and how the residents are completely unaware of the slaughterhouse on the other side of the lake, or how the sports stadium is there to distract the residents from the landfills on the other side of their houses. The strategy and tactics in building up your little town is very satisfying, and each game feels a little different due to randomized public and secret objectives.
#21 – Dice Masters (NEW)
I am not normally one to be a proponent for collectible games. They tend to be a money pit as you pay for new randomized packs, unsure of whether the new content will actually provide any new value to your game. That said, I have always enjoyed the style of games where you “deck build” from a pool of cards, and then face off against another player’s deck. Ideally I’d like to have that kind of experience in a standalone board game, but it never really works well because building a 50+ card deck typically takes a full session without even getting to play. When I heard about Dice Masters, I was intrigued by the fact that a “deck” only consists of 8 cards with several corresponding dice, as well as how the game played out similar to Dominion or other deck/pool-building games where you start with basic elements and can buy additional specialized units over the course of the game. It looked like it could scratch that collectible, modular itch, so I went for it. After about ten plays, I definitely feel that it fits the niche that I hoped it might. It is much cheaper than other collectible games to get a sufficient collection to play from, and it is really quick to draft 8 card teams and get to playing. The game mechanics are solid and interesting, every game is different using decks of different characters, and the licensed superhero theme is a nice bonus. Now I just have to ignore the mountains of content that you theoretically could buy for the game…
I really enjoy all the games listed here, but my collection contains 20 games that I like even more! The countdown continues with #20-11.