I have played and rated 270 different board games at the time of writing this, and these are currently the ten that have risen to the very top! Check out
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#10 - Gaia Project (+0)
Gaia Project has narrowly hung onto a top 10 spot the past couple of years, despite not seeing much play at all. I was fortunate to get it to the table recently (after I finalized the stats for this list), and I was reminded of why it truly deserves to rank this highly. It is an excellent heavier strategy game, grounded in the proven system introduced by Terra Mystica, which I originally owned and played around 15 times. I loved Terra Mystica too, but, in my opinion, Gaia Project improves on it in a significant number of ways. The integrated technology track and variety in objectives really elevates the experience, and some of the other variable setup forces players to adapt each time they play; a trademark of many of my favorite games.
#9 - Troyes (-4)
I love big, long strategy games, but I also really appreciate games that deliver a lot in a shorter amount of time. Troyes plays closer to 90 minutes, and I just love the interesting decisions that it packs into that playtime. The central dice mechanism is fascinating, and everything is about finding combos among the activity cards that are randomly chosen each game. It is so fun to find a way to combo abilities in order to trigger an activity card several times, and the large number of possible activity cards (especially with the Ladies of Troyes expansion) makes every game play out completely differently. It wraps all of this with a number of other interesting mechanisms, and the result has me excited every time I am able to get it to the table.
#8 - Twilight Struggle (+0)
Wow, four straight years with Twilight Struggle landing at number 8! An impressive feat for one of the older games in my collection, and also one that is hard to get played regularly. While "long, two-player wargame" isn't usually what I'd be looking for with my gaming tastes, Twilight Struggle transcends gaming preferences as a near perfect design, in my opinion. My full review goes into detail about the respect I have for the inner workings of the game, but the tension and tough decisions that fill each session just put a stupid grin on my face. My favorite moment is when you enter the Mid War, which suddenly opens up the globe where any region on the board could score. What starts as a focused conflict in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia transforms into a global tug-of-war that always plays out differently due to the card play. I'm so glad Twilight Struggle held the #1 spot when I first found BoardGameGeek, because that is really the only reason I ever gave the masterpiece a try.
Read My Full Review:
Board Game Review: Twilight Struggle
Twilight Struggle is a deep and strategic tabletop simulation of the Cold War released in 2005 from designers Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews. Two players go head-to-head as they take on the roles of the US and the USSR during the tense historical period from 1945-1989, jockeying for influence across the globe and making tactical decisions to turn the momentum of the war in their favor.
#7 - Lorenzo il Magnifico (NEW)
A brand new game coming in at number 7! After only 3 plays, it feels a little bold to rank Lorenzo Il Magnifico this highly, but it has really hit the spot for me so far and the Houses of Renaissance is the perfect expansion to elevate it to a truly sublime experience. The game combines worker placement and engine-building, but still keeps a tight grip on players, which I much prefer to loose "sandbox-y" games. One advantage it has over a game like Troyes, despite filling a similar niche, is that Lorenzo Il Magnifico is much more intuitive to teach to new players. I will be really interested to see where it ends up on next year's list, but it is one of those games that after reading the rulebook (and the expansion rulebook), I just knew it was going to be a hit for me.
#6 - Eldritch Horror (+0)
Eldritch Horror has been a mainstay of my list since the beginning, now with an impressive 34 plays on top of my 53 plays of its predecessor, Arkham Horror. I love challenging cooperative games and I love variety in games, which are two areas that Eldritch Horror thrives, especially with the expansion content. It is the kind of game that can be very swingy in difficulty due to so many different points of randomness, which ends up being its biggest weakness and biggest strength. On one hand, the randomness can lead to a session being too hard or too easy (though too hard is often still enjoyable, or at least comical), but it also means that the game can have amazing moments that wouldn't be possible if it didn't leave the possibility space so wide open. There are some games that I rank so highly because of my individualized opinion of the game design, and then there are games like Eldritch that secure a high ranking largely because of how I have been able to share so many memorable experiences with my friends.
Read My Full Review:
Board Game Review: Eldritch Horror
Eldritch Horror is a cooperative board game of mystery and adventure where players work together in an effort to save the world from impending doom. Set in the universe of the Cthulhu Mythos, created by horror writer H.P.
#5 - Mage Knight (-1)
Ever since we decided to try Mage Knight as a cooperative game instead of competitive, it has shot up to the upper tiers of my favorite games. It is such a big, messy design that has many "flaws" when I look at it from a game design perspective. But all of that is forgiven by the epic and hugely fun experience that it provides. Every hand is an engaging puzzle, and the arc of leveling up your powers throughout the game is so satisfying. I play it pretty much exclusively as a 2-3 player cooperative game (and on blitz mode to speed it up a bit), but every session has us talking about what an amazing experience it is. I wish there weren't so many little quirky rules to remember, but for my taste, it is a small price to pay in exchange for the epic overall experience.
#4 - Great Western Trail (NEW)
Wait... Great Western Trail is new to the list, despite 5 plays before this year? This is due to it being a game that I first played because my brother owned it, but that I finally decided I needed to add to my collection. Few games have impressed me on a first play as much as Great Western Trail, as it felt like such a fresh design where so many unique elements come together so well. The core gameplay loop that has you balancing speed with building up the best hand of cattle is simply brilliant, and I love how the spaces evolve over time as players add buildings to the board. It has less setup variability than I tend to prefer, but the experience is just too good for that to hold it back. The Rails to the North expansion adds some fun new options, and I hope to play Great Western Trail much more often now that I own it.
#3 - A Feast for Odin (+0)
Uwe Rosenberg is known for his big strategy games that tend to emphasize resource management and some kind of farming or farming-adjacent theme. And I can't deny that I just love those kinds of games. A Feast for Odin is one of his more over-the-top games as it wraps a spatial puzzle with a massive worker placement game; complete with tons of options and card abilities that nudge you towards different strategies. But it is just so satisfying to play, and the excellent Norwegians expansion just makes it that much better. If I had one complaint, it would be that I wish there was more variable direction given at the beginning of the game, and the steady flow of cards throughout the game can be prone to lucky draws. But in practice, I don't find myself really caring that much, as I am too absorbed in the puzzle of how to acquire the right pieces and use them to fill my board. A bit of an intimidating game for new players, but it's not as complicated as it seems once you get into the flow of things. I anticipate it will see steady play in my gaming groups for many years to come.
#2 - Terraforming Mars (+0)
I mentioned Great Western Trail being a game that impressed me a lot from my very first play, and that is also very true of Terraforming Mars. It was so quickly evident that I was going to love this game, and 20+ plays later I haven't cooled on it at all. The Prelude expansion is a must-have, and I love the variety provided by the Hellas & Elysium boards. If playing with experienced players, my absolute favorite way to play is also throwing in Colonies (I actually prefer to leave out Venus Next other than some of the more generic cards) and also drafting cards during the research phase. Drafting adds a bit to the playing time, but to me, it is worth it for the added interesting decisions and ability to mitigate some of the luck of the cards. For my tastes, Terraforming Mars is the best board game to be released in the last decade.
#1- Agricola (+0)
Agricola: a game that has held my #1 spot for nearly a decade, except for one year when the fresh excitement of Terraforming Mars managed to surpass it. It is the kind of resource management game that I tend to really enjoy, and one where you get the satisfaction of building up something unique each game. It is specifically the Farmers of the Moor expansion that really elevates Agricola to these heights, as it leads to more diverse farms and opens up new strategies by adding some flexibility with the bonus actions that don't require a worker. The core systems of the game are so good, and then it layers on my favorite thing in games: extreme variability via tons of cards with special abilities. Every game is a unique puzzle as you try to figure out how to best use your cards, and you constantly have to adapt as the tight system forces you to make tradeoffs and reevaluate your priorities. I can see why many people wouldn't enjoy Agricola, but for me, it still reigns as king.
Read My Full Review:
Board Game Review: Agricola
Note that all the pictures here are from my copy of the game, which is an older edition. Newer editions may have upgraded components (such as thematically shaped resource tokens) and other aesthetic differences, but should functionally remain the same.
Thanks for reading! I always enjoy reflecting on games that I really enjoy, and maybe you found some new games to try from reading my thoughts. We'll see how things move around next year!