Continuing my annual countdown of my favorite board games of all time with #40-#31! Check out #50-41 if you missed it.
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#40 - Spirit Island (-12)
Spirit Island is a weird game for me because, on paper, it looks like it should be much higher in my rankings. I love cooperative games, and the idea of a more strategic coop that incorporates clever card play and combos with variable player powers sounds perfect. And while I do enjoy Spirit Island, there are things that have kept it from being a complete hit for me. Some reasons include the opposition feeling same-y and unsurprising, a complex board state where one realization can cause all players to rethink their entire turns, and a game arc where the finishes aren't as satisfying as I would like in a cooperative game. It still places above a lot of games in my collection, but it does make me wonder how secure its place is if I find another cooperative game of similar weight and length that fits my tastes even better.
#39 - Decrypto (-15)
I had some great games of Decrypto over the past year, and I would have expected it to go up in my rankings, and in reality it dropped 15 spots! I think that is just a result of a lot of new strategic games winning out over a party game, but Decrypto has truly emerged as one of my all-time favorite party games. It can be a bit of a tricky game to teach, but the concept of trying to continually clue the same words to your team in ways that keep the other team from deducing the connection between your clues is great fun. And the best part is that the longer the game goes on, the more exciting it gets. It has a game arc that only gets more fun with every round, which makes for a very memorable experience. Maybe not as accessible as other party games in my collection, but with the right group (especially a group of 6 players), Decrypto has the potential to be a sublime experience.
#38 - Lovecraft Letter (-1)
I have played Lovecraft Letter 19 times, but you can add another 54 plays between the original Love Letter and Love Letter Premium. The Love Letter game system has proven to be a perfect way to end game nights with a quick game that gets everyone talking and laughing. And while I have great memories of the original game, Lovecraft Letter is the perfect variant for players that want something to spice up the game again. It does a great job of scaling up to 6 players (way better than Love Letter Premium), and the new mechanisms with insanity and different types of wins do a great job of expanding the fun situations that can arise. It is a lighter game, but it fills its niche so perfectly that I can't help but rank it this highly.
#37 - KLASK (-3)
KLASK is one of the hardest games to rank, and probably the game that pushes the definition of "tabletop game" the most. I would basically describe it as air hockey, but actually fun! 😉 The fast-paced back and forth is exciting, and the simple rules with the magnetic "biscuits" and different methods of scoring gives it more depth than other similar dexterity games. Every time it gets pulled out, our groups have had a great time taking turns and playing many matches in a row. And plus, unlike an air hockey table, I can easily bring this along to enjoy in other people's homes.
#36 - That's Pretty Clever (NEW)
Yes, the roll-and-write genre of games is very crowded these days, and yes That's Pretty Clever is one that doesn't even try to have a theme. But that doesn't prevent it from being one of the best, and I (and nearly everyone I have played it with) have really enjoyed my plays of it so far. The core mechanism of needing to choose a die but lose all dice of a lower value anchors the game in great tough decisions, and the ways you use those dice are also interesting and lead to tons of satisfying combos. I recently picked up Twice As Clever to essentially provide an "expansion" board to keep the game fresh, and I am confident both versions will see a lot of table time over the next year.
#35 - Roll for the Galaxy (-8)
Roll for the Galaxy, much like its older sibling Race for the Galaxy, is a game that packs a lot of interesting decisions into a really short time frame. It is satisfying to roll lots of tiny dice and then evaluate the tactical puzzle of how to use the results, and there is almost no downtime since play is simultaneous. I picked up the Ambition expansion this year which adds some cool new content (though I was a little disappointed by the goal system), and I look forward to playing it more.
#34 - Cosmic Encounter (-11)
Oh Cosmic Encounter... a game that I have played for more hours than just about any other game, but also one that has slipped down my rankings in recent years. It is such a unique experience, and one that has given me so many memorable sessions over the past decade. That said, my enjoyment of it has definitely cooled in recent years, but it still fills such a unique place in my collection and I really enjoy introducing it to new players. And while it doesn't happen often, when I can my "old" group together that was responsible for so many of those plays, it is awesome to play in the cosmic sandbox with players that know the system so well.
Read My Full Review:
Board Game Review: Cosmic Encounter
Cosmic Encounter is a classic game of space combat and negotiation where players take on the role of a unique alien race as they attempt to spread their influence throughout the galaxy. Players must navigate shifting alliances, making the most of their resources as they position themselves to be the first to reach five foreign colonies.
#33 - PitchCar (-3)
I really need to get PitchCar to the table sometime. It's been over 2 years now, and while a lot of that can be attributed to a global pandemic, I think it has caused me to forget how fun it is to build a custom track and play a big race with a full 8 players. It is a game that is dead simple to teach, but has plenty of room for skillful play and amazing shots. Of all my dexterity games, PitchCar is the one that feels the most like an "event," and my positive memories continue to be strong enough to anchor its spot on this list despite the lack of recent play.
#32 - Cartographers (+0)
At #32, Cartographers comes in as my favorite game in the roll-and-write genre. It leans into another saturated mechanism in filling a board with polyomino shapes, but the end result is just so satisfying to play. I love the variety in the goals from game to game, and the puzzle of filling out your board is just fun every time. I backed the Kickstarter for the new Heroes expansion, so I am excited to get some fresh content for the game here soon. Say what you want about the roll-and-write genre, but the fact that Cartographers is a fun strategy game that plays well with anywhere from 2 to 12+ players makes it one of the most versatile games in my collection.
#31- Bunny Kingdom (-5)
Bunny Kingdom is a game that hangs in the balance between a really accessible, welcoming strategy game and a "next step" game that has a little too much for someone new to modern board games. It isn't overly complex, but the tedious scoring makes it hard for me to recommend to anyone like I might with other go-to welcoming games. That said, I really enjoy playing it, as it combines card drafting with a unique take on area control that is just good fun. The In the Sky expansion adds some really fun and interesting new concepts, though tips the game's balance even more away from "welcoming" and makes it hard to get to the table. It will need to find times to get played to warrant staying in my collection, but right now I have a lot of fun every time it sees the table.
Check out the next 10 games here!