It’s the time of year where I rank my favorite board games! I have been doing this annually for a while now, and I always find it interesting to see how games move around. At the time of this list, I own 96 unique board games (excluding children’s games) and have played/rated a total of 404 unique board games. That means this “Top 50” accounts for the top half of games I have kept in my collection and the top ~12% of games I have ever played. Maybe you’ll find some new favorites; on to the list!
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Outside the Top 50
In case you are curious, here are my rankings for games I own that missed my top 50: #96 - Hues and Cues (NEW) #95 - Illusion (-21) #94 - No Thanks! (NEW) #93 - When I Dream (-17) #92 - Take 5 (a.k.a. 6 Nimmt!) (NEW) #91 - Rampage (-18) #90 - Morels (-24) #89 - Muse (NEW) #88 - Circle the Wagons (NEW) #87 - Beasts of Balance (NEW) #86 - PUSH (NEW) #85 - Concept (-10) #84 - L.L.A.M.A. (NEW) #83 - Cribbage (-21) #82 - Super Mega Lucky Box (NEW) #81 - Deception: Murder in Hong Kong (-11) #80 - Chronicles of Crime (NEW) #79 - Hive (-21) #78 - Sprawlopolis (-13) #77 - Just One (-6) #76 - Telestrations (-8) #75 - Can’t Stop (-6) #74 - Kingdomino (-17) #73 - Mysterium (-12) #72 - Wavelength (-9) #71 - Dragon Castle (-15) #70 - Dixit (-22) #69 - 7 Wonders: Architects (NEW) #68 - Point Salad (-15) #67 - Sushi Go Party! (-8) #66 - Wits & Wagers (-2) #65 - Ransom Notes (NEW) #64 - Camel Up (-4) #63 - Santorini (-9) #62 - Las Vegas Royale (NEW) #61 - Paperback (-19) #60 - Awkward Guests (NEW) #59 - Canvas (-5) #58 - Lost Cities (-3) #57 - Fantasy Realms (NEW) #56 - Meadow (NEW) #55 - Codenames (-5) #54 - Codenames: Duet (-5) #53 - Cascadia (NEW) #52 - My City (NEW) #51 - KLASK (-14) Games that left my collection this year:
- Junk Art
- Project ELITE
- Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
- Spirit Island
- Welcome To…
#50 - Super Skill Pinball: 4-Cade (-9)
We live in a world of more roll/flip-and-write games than anyone could possibly need, and most of them share a variety of elements that are very common to the genre. Super Skill Pinball certainly contains some of those elements, but it manages to feel more fresh and unique than any other <blank>-and-write I’ve played. This is mainly due to the ball that moves around your sheet, and its location determining which options are available to you. This would have been a cool concept to explore in general, but it is perfect for the pinball theme, and it ends up being one of the most thematic games in the genre as well. A lot of my plays of this have actually been solo (and if there is one knock, it is that it can take a little long with more players), but I have really enjoyed my plays so far.
#49 - Biblios (-4)
It isn’t easy for small filler games to make this list, but Biblios finds a way with its clever two-act auctioning and card-driven area control. The first “gift” phase has a great push-your-luck element of allocating cards among yourself, the second-act deck, and the other players, but requiring you to only view one card at a time. I love how such simple decisions are made tricky simply because you don’t know exactly which cards will come up next. All of this feeds into the more traditional auction in the second act, which is made more interesting by the auction occasionally being reversed with “money” being auctioned off in exchange for discarded goods. It all comes down to having majorities in a few of the five categories, and it is just a really rich experience for a 20-minute filler.
#48 - Lovecraft Letter (-10)
The “Love Letter” game system has been one of my most played shorter games over the past 8 years as it is perfect to wind down the end of a game day. While the original Love Letter (and Premium edition) accounted for 50+ plays, it is Lovecraft Letter that now holds a place in my collection and a spot on this list. For experienced Love Letter players, I believe Lovecraft Letter is the most fun version (though plagued by a frustratingly ambiguous rulebook). The twist of players going insane works great, as insane players are more likely to get eliminated, but also get access to the game’s most powerful cards. Victory can be achieved by 2 “sane” wins or 3 “insane” wins, so it always feels like everyone has a chance. It also scales up to 6 players while not bogging down the length of individual rounds. It’s a light game, but the many hours spent laughing around the table with my friends really elevates Lovecraft Letter on my list.
#47 - Welcome to the Moon (NEW)
This entry ends up replacing Welcome To… on my list, which I have played 20+ times. Despite enjoying the original, I had a few complaints that led to my interest being piqued by Welcome to the Moon as a potential replacement. Unlike the original, the new lunar version contains eight unique maps, each with their own rules, as well as a mini-campaign that can link them all together. At this point, I have only played the first two missions, but I can already tell that it has improved on some things that bothered me with the original (namely, the game often ending before the most fun part because someone achieved all 3 objectives). I am excited to explore this one more and see how the map variety affects it’s placement in my rankings.
#46 - Dungeon Fighter (-3)
I think there are probably very few people on this planet that have played Dungeon Fighter more than I have. It has seen the table a lot less in recent years, but it still delivers such a great party, dexterity, cooperative experience as the team attempts assorted dice-bouncing shots to defeat enemies as we progress through the dungeon. I’ve had my eye on the new second edition that was kickstarted, and I am excited about some of the changes, though it is hard to pull the trigger on replacing my complete version of the game with a complete (a.k.a. expensive) version of the new edition. That said, I think deep down I know that eventually I will want to upgrade… But either way, Dungeon Fighter is a game that fills a specific niche in my collection perfectly.
#45 - Decrypto (-6)
As far as party games go, Decrypto is a little harder to get to the table because it really needs a specific type of group to thrive. I believe it is best with 6 players, as you always end up having two teammates that can discuss each round of clues. I love how the game asks you to keep thinking of new angles to clue the same words, all while trying to throw the other team off your scent and keep your words unknown. The best sessions of Decrypto might be the best of any word-based game I’ve ever played, but I’ve also had a handful of anticlimactic sessions that end prematurely. But those great plays are still enough to carry it into my top 50.
#44 - Tournament at Avalon (NEW)
If you enjoy trick-taking games and comical semi-controlled chaos, then Tournament at Avalon is the game for you. The base formula is a twist on traditional trick-taking where the loser of each trick takes the cards as “damage,” along with a few special cards and a wild suit. But what really makes the game is the variable character abilities and the “godsend” cards that add additional (and often drastic) benefits to losing players in the new round. The result is a bunch of crazy powers and effects interacting and players trying to navigate the rounds of trick-taking to stay alive. You can’t take winning and losing too seriously here, but I have had great fun laughing with friends and trying to decipher how to play strategically within the wacky complexities of the effects in play.
#43 - Watergate (NEW)
There are a lot of great two-player games that are based off of historical events, but often they are deep pseudo-simulations that take hours to play. Watergate is kind of breath of fresh air in the way that it provides a similar experience, but in a compact 20-30 minute package. At its heart, Watergate is a game of simultaneous tug-of-wars, where you are constantly asking yourself, “what is most important to me right now?” It uses a tried-and-true card mechanism of deciding between “action points” or the card’s event effect, and it works great here. Especially since events are removed from your deck, reshaping your options when you end up cycling your cards in the back-half of the game. A recent acquisition, but one that I am really looking forward to playing more.
#42- Ethnos (+5)
Sometimes when making a list like this, a game will move up for, really, no apparent reason. This year that award goes to Ethnos, moving up 5 spots despite not a single play in the past year. Perhaps taking a break has helped me remember the things I enjoy about it? Or perhaps I’m just forgetting the flaws that had it dropping in previous years. Either way, I am fond of the simple multi-round area control in Ethnos that is driven by set-collection with special abilities. Selecting a “leader” for each set that determines both the region you play in, as well as which special ability you trigger, is such an excellent simple decision point. Add in some nice push-your-luck touch points with not being able to keep your excess cards and the exact end-of-round being unknown, and it is just a nice game in the family-weight strategy niche.
Read My Full Review:
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.
#41- That’s Pretty Clever (-5)
There are some roll/flip-and-writes like Super Skill Pinball where the theme is implemented in a really clever way, and then there are games like That’s Pretty Clever! where the “cleverness” is 100% in the mechanisms without even pretending to implement a theme. But in the case of That’s Pretty Clever!, it really pulls it off and is just a satisfying “combo-tastic” puzzle. The four-player limit is much more restrictive than most games in the genre, but it is also what allows the core dice-drafting mechanism to work so effectively. I’ve enjoyed expanding the game with Twice As Clever as an alternate board, and it continues to get selected by my game groups which is evidence of the addictive fun it provides.
Continue the countdown here: