I’m continuing my annual countdown of my top 50 board games of all time! If you missed the previous post, you can find it here:
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#30 - Cosmic Encounter (+4)
Heavily boosted by a highly concentrated stretch when I was in college, Cosmic Encounter is one of my most-played games of all time. The dynamics of my gaming groups in recent years has led to fewer plays, or in the case of this last year, none. But I actually think that is why Cosmic managed to bump up four spots in my rankings this year; I have had a pretty nice break after kind of burning out on it, and thinking about it has me itching to get it to the table again. It is a polarizing game of controlled chaos with extreme variability, and the game can be a bit swingy as far as how fun a particular session is, but I can’t deny how many memorable experiences I have had playing Cosmic Encounter with a group of friends. Whether it is a throwback game with my college group or teaching a brand new group of players, I really should make sure Cosmic gets to the table this next year.
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.
#29 - Mechs vs. Minions (+1)
Mechs vs. Minions is a game that just exudes “fun factor” as you cooperate to program your mechs to defeat minions and complete each mission’s objective. I love that damage in this game takes the form of “malfunctions” that arguably make the game more fun than when you go undamaged. It is such a great design choice that elevates the hilarity and inverts how you would expect a negative result like damage to affect the player experience. Being made by Riot Games, who has more money than the know what to do with from League of Legends, the component quality is off the charts and you get amazing value for a big-box game. Despite 37 plays, I have yet to complete all 10 missions in the box, simply because I am so often playing with new players and each of the missions has such good replay value.
#28 - Twilight Imperium (-3)
Twilight Imperium is difficult to get to the table when there isn’t a global pandemic, so it isn’t surprising that it hasn’t seen any play the last couple of years. It is one of the few “plan a whole day around one play” games in my collection, but it is one of the best at delivering that epic experience for a full table of 6 players. I probably more often find myself wanting to play several games over 8 hours as opposed to a single game of TI4, but sometimes you just want that full epic experience, and Twilight Imperium lives in my collection for those moments. It is full of interesting mechanisms and strategy, but, ultimately, it is the epic shared player experience that is the game’s biggest selling point.
#27 - Ticket to Ride (-4)
Every year that I put this list together, it is kind of funny to see which game comes after Twilight Imperium because it usually feels like comparing apples to oranges — and this year is no exception. Ticket to Ride is a light, welcoming game that many people unfamiliar with modern board games have still played or heard of. I actually think that’s why it’s hard for me to get it to the table much; the people I play with probably think, “with all the games available in your collection, are we really going to play Ticket to Ride?” But I have been an unabashed Ticket to Ride lover for years, and it really hasn’t wavered much. When I do get the chance to play, it is like nice gaming comfort food. It is a light experience, but filled with great tension as players compete for routes, with building excitement as you pull more destinations and try to pull them off, and the varied expansion maps help to keep things fresh.
Read My Full Review:
Board Game Review: Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a classic, family strategy game about claiming routes between cities in an effort to form connections between the cities on their destination tickets. Players will need to balance collecting new cards with locking in routes on the board, all while adapting to the actions of other players and deciding how much to push their luck with additional destinations.
#26 - Res Arcana (NEW)
Res Arcana has lived on my wishlist for a long time, and I have always thought that I would enjoy it given my love for Lehmann’s classic Race for the Galaxy and an enjoyment for engine-building games in general. Finally, this year was the year, and I was absolutely right; I really really like Res Arcana. It is such a pure distillation of the card-combing, engine-building genre, and I love the creativity that the game system allows with just 8 cards in your deck. Drafting the cards at the beginning really elevates the fun with experienced players, and I like that the Places of Power and Monuments vary from game to game. Really glad it is finally in my collection!
#25 - Ghost Stories (-5)
Ghost Stories might be the cooperative game that has been in my collection the longest, and it is also one that has provided some of the most exciting finishes. It is brutally difficult, but allows a lot of room for players to creatively combat the waves of enemies to give themselves a chance in the end. While many strategic gamers balk at the use of dice to resolve checks during the game, I actually love dice in cooperative games as it creates exciting moments and uncertainty that you have to deal with in your strategy. It can be a hard game to play with new players since everything is open information and I have played so many times, but Ghost Stories is still a cooperative puzzle that I love trying to crack.
#24 - Crokinole (-7)
There are many people who claim that Crokinole is the best dexterity game of all time, and at this point I have no choice but to join the party. It is a game that I know I will be playing for the rest of my life, and I am glad that I finally have my own board (via one of the Mayday kickstarters; many have had issues, but mine has been great). Probably the best feature of Crokinole is how each round is zero-sum scoring, meaning that only the player who “wins” the round nets any points. This means that no matter how far you are behind, you always have a realistic chance of winning because all you have to do is edge out your opponent each round, and they won’t score any points. This keeps every game exciting (though often hard to predict how long it will take to finish) and keeps a nice rhythm between rounds. And even though it is best as a two-player game, the four-player variant is also great fun!
#23 - Marvel United (+1)
In Marvel United I finally found my “perfect” welcoming cooperative game, a quick and easy-to-teach game of teamwork that has a really appealing theme and also has enough interest and variability for me to continue enjoying it over many many plays. Now, granted, a lot of that replay value is due to the absurd amount of content that I now have from backing both seasons of the Marvel United kickstarters all-in. I don’t often use the word “absurd” for the amount of content I have for a game, but here it is definitely appropriate. But I have no regrets; we have already had so much fun playing with new heroes and villains, and I have a lifetime to continue playing through all of it. Besides being a game that works great with a lot of game groups, as well as two-player with my wife, I anticipate Marvel United being a game that I really enjoy playing with my kids someday when they are old enough.
#22- The Quacks of Quedlinburg (-7)
Sometimes you buy new games and they don’t meet expectations, and other times you find that they are a great new addition to your collection. And yet, other times, a game exceeds all expectations and becomes a staple of your collection. The Quacks of Quedlinburg has been one of those games. Perhaps more than any other game I own, it finds a way to be really appealing to players all along the strategic spectrum, from very casual gamers all the way to some of my friends that play my heaviest strategy games. I have played it a lot in the last three years, but the great variability of ingredients and addictive randomness of drawing from your bag keep me coming back. Additionally, the Herb Witches and Alchemists expansions have been nice optional modules for games with experienced players looking for more to chew on.
#21- Race for the Galaxy (+5)
Over a decade ago, I did my first “Top 10 Games of All Time” list, and Race for the Galaxy was #1. I no longer have all of that data (which is why it enters as #6 in the “Rank Over Time” here), but it is impressive that after so many years of new games, a sub-30-minute card game like Race for the Galaxy still holds strong in my top 25. It is just a great quick engine-builder and it packs so many interesting decisions into a short playtime, largely because of the mechanism that cards in your hand double as the “money” that you use to pay for cards. By raw plays, there is no game I have played more, and I am glad I was able to get it to the table several times in the last year to remind myself of how much I still enjoy it.
Read My Full Review:
Board Game Review: Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is a strategic card game first released in 2007 about building a galactic civilization by developing technologies and settling worlds that are represented by cards. Players will simultaneously select actions for everyone to perform, and work to play cards that enhance their engine and score the most victory points.
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