Continuing my annual countdown of my favorite board games of all time with #20-#11! Check out
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#20 - Ghost Stories (+0)
Ghost Stories has been one of the most consistent games in my rankings for the longest time. It hasn't seen a lot of plays in recent years, but each time I do play it, I am reminded of what a fun cooperative experience it is. The White Moon expansion, while making the game a little bit longer, has also breathed some welcome life into a game that I have played 50+ times. It is the kind of brutally difficult coop where everything slowly becomes more and more hopeless, but often we find a way to give ourselves a chance, against all odds. There is definitely a lot of luck involved, but Ghost Stories may be responsible for more "stand up in excitement" moments than any other game I own.
#19 - War of the Ring (-6)
It is hard to rank a game that I have only played once and not within the the past year. But my one play of War of the Ring was a hugely entertaining experience, providing an epic alternate storyline in one of my favorite fictional worlds. The game is full of rich strategic options, but I think its greatest strength is how the narrative unfolds in a way that tells a different story each time you play. It's a hard one for me to get to the table often, but I am definitely going to make it happen this next year.
#18 - KeyForge (-1)
When KeyForge was released a few years ago, it perfectly filled a specific niche that I was looking for: a quick CCG-style game that would work well in a casual tournament with friends. Twice I have hosted an 8-player KeyForge tournament, complete with pool play that determined the seeding for a double-elimination bracket, which has been a blast. But beyond it working in that scenario, I simply love the mechanics in play here. The "pick one house and only play/activate cards of that house" mechanism is brilliant, and leads to some really compelling gameplay. I also love that you can just buy a deck and play, without needing to get into all the deck-building prep work. It's lack of recent plays is mostly due to the pandemic and a general lack of two-player opportunities, but I anticipate I will be playing KeyForge casually for many years to come.
#17 - Crokinole (NEW)
I have known for a decade that I wanted to own a Crokinole board, but was always waiting until I was settled in a house where I could potentially hang it up on the wall. It turned out that moving into our new house lined up with Mayday Games doing a new Kickstarter for their budget line of Crokinole boards, and I finally placed the order. Given my enjoyment of dexterity games, I knew I would probably love it, and indeed I will echo the popular opinion that Crokinole is the best tabletop dexterity game. The simple rule that requires you to hit opponent's pieces creates interesting situations and fun shots, and the cancellation in scoring makes it so that you always can come back, no matter how far behind you are. I wouldn't be surprised if Crokinole ends up being my most played game of all time someday, and I am glad I finally have the chance to own it.
#16 - KeyFlower (-5)
One factor that helps my enjoyment of a game is simply how much the "game designer" in me appreciates the mechanisms and design. Keyflower is one of those games that just has some really unique mechanisms, playing so differently than other games of its ilk, that I can't help but enjoy the experience it provides. It blends auctioning, worker placement, and resource management into a very dynamic and cutthroat game with tons of player interaction. I have to warn new players about how direct the interaction is in Keyflower, because on the surface it is easy to expect a typical Eurogame where your plans aren't often ruined by your opponents. I'd really like to try some of the expansions, and hope that I can find a way to get this strange beast to the table more often.
#15 - The Quacks of Quedlinburg (+10)
With a massive leap of 10 spots, The Quacks of Quedlinburg takes the cake as the biggest riser on my list. Probably one of the most pleasant surprises in recent years, Quacks has been a massive hit with a variety of groups (even working well as a large party game with people playing in pairs!). With the addition of the Herb Witches and Alchemists expansions, it gives me the options to tune the game to work well with non-gamers as well as some of my more strategically inclined friends. The bag-building, push-your-luck mechanisms are hugely addicting, there is almost no downtime due to simultaneous play. On top of that, the large number of ingredient books (and expansion options) keep the game from ever getting stale. The BoardGameGeek tokens may be the single best component upgrade to any game, and should hold up to the many many plays that I know my copy is going to see over the years.
#14 - Tichu (-2)
Every year I acquire great new board games, and every year Tichu manages to hold its position inside of my top 15 games. As far as traditional-style card games go, Tichu is the cream of the crop, and has given me so many great sessions over the years. Much like Crokinole, it has the kind of scoring where a team could come back, even if they are down a significant amount of points, which keeps the game exciting to the end. The team dynamic adds a ton of interest, and figuring out the right time to call "Tichu" is always a tricky decision. Life has made it harder for Tichu to get played compared to when I was in college (which accounts for the bulk of my 100+ plays), but I'm never disappointed when I have the opportunity to play it.
Read My Full Review:
Board Game Review: Tichu
Tichu is a strategic partnership card game, played with an almost standard deck of cards, released in 1991 by designer Urs Hostettler. While variants exist, it is primarily a four-player game where each partnership works together trying to play all the cards in their hands before their opponents, while also trying to capture tricks that will score at the end of the round.
#13 - Brass: Birmingham (NEW)
Brass: Birmingham is probably the best example of an old classic that was given new life by a publisher, really giving it the visual makeover that the design deserves. I'm grateful for the refresh, because it led me to trying a game that I might not have otherwise, and there is no denying that Brass is a brilliant design. It is a game largely about figuring out how to build and then upgrade your buildings, but the shared use of infrastructure and resources adds a ton of interaction and tactical interest. I love that you need to build out a plan based on the cards you were dealt, but also need to constantly be aware of emergent opportunities afforded by the other players. It is fascinating to watch it unfold, and is so engaging that players are surprised to hear how long we've been playing. Really looking forward to exploring this one in more plays.
#12 - Underwater Cities (+2)
Underwater Cities ends up being one of only a few games that moved up on my list, and that rise can be largely attributed to the addition of the New Discoveries expansion. In a lot of ways, it isn't a game that strikes me with standout mechanisms or innovations, but it just all comes together really well as you build out your little underwater network. The core decision of picking worker placement spots that match the colors of cards in your hand really carries the game, and it keeps you on your toes as you add a new card to your small 3-card hand each turn. New Discoveries adds some much-appreciated variety to the game, and gives me more confidence that it is a game I am unlikely to grow tired of.
#11- Yellow & Yangtze (-4)
Yellow & Yangtze is another game that falls squarely into the category of "game designs that inspire and fascinate me." It can sometimes be hard to get to the table since it is fairly abstract, but every game I've played has been a great experience as players jockey for position on the board. Your options for the two actions on your turn are so broad, that it leaves a lot of room for creative plays and moments where you think, "I'd never thought of that before!" I won't be surprised if I cool on Yellow & Yangtze over time simply because it doesn't have the kind of variable setup and content variety that a lot of my favorite games tend to have, but it has held an impressive spot toward the top of my list and is an experience unlike anything else in my collection.
Only my 10 favorite games are left! Check them out here: