It is once again that time of year where I rank my all-time favorite board games! While I often get rid of games that aren't getting played or have been replaced by games I enjoy more, my collection has still steadily grown to 75+ games. I'll be counting down my top 50 games that I own, and giving some thoughts on why I enjoy them and why they continue to stay in my collection. Let's start with #50!
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#50 - Codenames (-10)
Codenames became a monster hit when it came out over 5 years ago, and many party games have since tried to put their own twist on the "word association" formula. But I still think Codenames does it the best, with a perfect tension between stretching to find a connection among more words, while also avoiding words that belong to the other team (or even worse, the assassin card). It hasn't seen the table much lately, but I still enjoy the quick but thinky experience it provides.
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Board Game Review: Codenames
Codenames is a party word game from designer Vlaada Chvátil released in 2015. It quickly gained popularity and climbed the ranks to become the highest rated party game on Board Game Geek.
#49 - Codenames: Duet (-11)
It is very natural for Codenames and Codenames: Duet to appear next to each other on this list as the experience of playing them is very similar. Duet is the two-player cooperative variant, and the one thing that elevates it a little higher than the original for me is that you get to play both roles. While Codenames has you playing either the spymaster or one of the guessers, Duet has you alternating, allowing you to enjoy an even balance of what the game has to offer. A great option for couples, especially if they enjoy the original Codenames.
#48 - Dixit (-7)
Dixit is one of the older games in my collection, and probably one of the only games that I have played consistently every year over the past decade. It is a go-to party game that I haven't tired of, largely due to expansion cards that we have added in over time. It is a fun game to introduce to non-gamers as the whimsical artwork and creative concept is often unlike anything they've played before, and you never have the same experience twice with the variety in the cards and different interpretations among the players.
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Board Game Review: Dixit
Note that all the pictures here are from my copy of the game, which includes several expansions. Namely, the Dixit: Odyssey set that expands the game to support up to 12 players. Dixit is a creative party game filled with imaginative illustrations and designed by Jean-Louis Roubira.
#47 - Ethnos (-8)
Of any game I've played, Ethnos is probably the one that has the biggest disconnect between what the box cover conveys and the actual gameplay. What looks like an intense and serious fantasy battle ends up actually being a really accessible and light-hearted area control game, not all that different from something like Ticket to Ride. It is a game that is simple but enjoyable, with some nice variety as you only use six of the twelve fantasy races in each game. I think it could hugely benefit from a second edition with more cartoony artwork, but it still holds a spot in my collection as a light strategy game that can support up to six players.
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Board Game Review: Ethnos
Ethnos is a light strategy game of set collection and area control, released in 2017 by designer Paolo Mori. Players will collect cards depicting different fantasy races, and play bands from their hand in order to score points and jockey for area majority in each of the regions on the board.
#46 - Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (-11)
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective continues to drop, mostly because it has been a long time since I've played it. I have great memories of trying to solve the cases with my wife, and the excitement that comes when you make a connection that leads to an important clue. It is a game that mostly involves reading and discussion, but there really isn't an experience quite like it. I think the novelty wearing off will keep it from rising again on this list (even once I get it played again), but it still provides a unique experience that at one point almost broke into my top ten games.
#45 - Biblios (NEW)
The first new game to the list is Biblios! A brilliant little set-collection filler, and one that I finally acquired after many many years on my wishlist. The game has a great flow, as the first "gift" phase uses a push-your-luck mechanism and imperfect information to set the stage for the final act. In the auction phase, players try to figure out which colors to double-down on, while giving up in other areas, as only the player with the highest total in a suit will score any points. Despite being almost 15 years old, Biblios feels very fresh and is one of my new favorite 3-4 player games that can play in about 20 minutes.
#44 - Escape: The Curse of the Temple (-13)
Escape: The Curse of the Temple hasn't seen the table much in recent years, but there are few games I own that offer quite the same value-per-minute. The soundtrack ensures that each game of Escape will only last 10 minutes, but it will be filled with frantic cooperation and dice-rolling. It is really the Illusions and Quest expansions that have kept the game interesting over so many plays, and I should really try to get it to the table again soon.
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Board Game Review: Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a cooperative game of frantic dice-rolling as players work together in an attempt to explore and escape the temple before it collapses, trapping them inside. The game is played in real-time with a 10-minute soundtrack, and players will all be moving simultaneously to try and overcome the time constraints.
#43 - Dungeon Fighter (-7)
Dungeon Fighter is a goofy game, but one that has gone over so well with a variety of different groups. It fits the rare niche of a cooperative, dexterity party game, and it has enough tricks up its sleeve (at least with all of the expansions) to keep each playthrough interesting. I am definitely eyeing the new edition that was kickstarted this past year, but I would definitely want all the sets to match the amount of content I have now, which is kind of a big financial commitment. Perhaps I will make the dive when it hits retail (as the new edition does seem to make some great changes), but my very loved copy of the original continues to be a hit when it gets played.
#42- Paperback (NEW)
As my collection grows, I find myself thinking a lot more about missing niches that could be filled. One that has long been missing from my collection is a solid word game. Paperback now fills that role, and does a great job. I know it is a small subset of my gaming circle that enjoys word games, but for those of us that do, Paperback is a highly enjoyable experience of anagramming letters into words and building up a deck with new cards that layer special effects onto that basic word-building formula. I know it won't get played a ton, but it's nice to have the option with the right group. Plus, my mom likes it. :)
#41- Super Skill Pinball: 4-Cade (NEW)
The roll-and-write genre with all of its variants is very saturated at this point, but I was pleasantly surprised to find how different Super Skill Pinball: 4-Cade felt compared to other seemingly similar games. It really does a great job of capturing the feeling of pinball, and the clever base formula can be applied to a variety of themed pinball tables that add their own unique spin. It is a bit of a tricky one to get played as there is zero player interaction (you basically are each playing your own pinball machine), which means that players can finish at different times, and it also can run too long with more players. It is one of few games I own that might actually be best solo, simply because you can play so quickly without needing to wait for other players. Looking forward to playing it more, and happy to own it as the experience is so unique.
All good games listed here, but check out the next 10 HERE.