Thursday, May 02, 2013

Top 30 Board Games of All Time (2013 Edition)

Yay!  It is May which means I can make one of my favorite annual post, my top board games.  Since 2009 I have posted this list annually.  It started off as a top 10.  Last year, I expanded it to top 20, and this year I am going to top 30.  Currently, I have played a little over 650 board games.  That means that the top 30 is still less than the top 5% of all the games I have played.  These are all games that I really like, and that I am always willing to play some more.  Another reason to expand to 30 is that my game preferences are really starting to solidify, and there is not as much variance as there have been in past years.  For instance, there is only one new game in the top 10 and two new games in the top 20 (though the positions have switched some). Since I know everyone reading this may not be as familiar with board games, I have tried to post a picture that gives some idea what the game looks like being played.  All pictures come from  The number in parentheses is where the game is in relation to last year's list.  As always, the list is descending order for dramatic effect.

30.  Ca$h n Gun$
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This made my list back in 2010, but slipped off of it since.  Cash n Guns is not a very deep game.  It is essentially Mexican Stand-off the game.  Often personal vendettas have more to do with what happens than making the best move.  The game involves pointing a foam gun at people.  That is fun, involves a lot of laughter, and makes for a good experience.  This is a game that can not be played repeatedly because the gameplay does wear a little thin, but this is a fantastic game to bring out every now and then.

29.  Frontline: D-Day
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I have had this game for a couple of years now, but it is a new addition to the list because every time I play it, I think "wow! I like this game."   This game is a WWII skirmish game that is played entirely with cards.  This game has two major things going for it.  First, it is a card game that captures the feel of a miniatures game.  Players customize their squad with a points system, deploy them units, and the whole game set up is a skirmish like most miniatures game.  However, the game plays  nothing like a miniatures game.  Second, it is a good card game that just happens to be a war game.  This means this game is the closest Abigail will ever get to playing a miniatures game with me AND it is a war game that she legitimately enjoys.

28. Homesteaders
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Homesteaders makes the list because this game has a lot going for it.  I am not the biggest fan of auction games, but this is clearly my favorite.  I like the auctions in this game because the amount is controlled by the game, so it is a lot easier to determine the value of a tile being auctioned since I have a limited number of possibilities.  This game also involves managing workers to collect resources, which are used to build buildings, which provide more options.  This game provides a lot of options and it is very satisfying to build something that works well in this game.

27.  Agricola (-15)
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This game had the biggest plunge of any game, but it is also the only game on the list that we do not own.  We traded the game, because after many plays Abigail decided she really did not like the game because it was just too stressful.  This game is stressful, and it feels like it is always kicking me when I am down.  However, what I like about this game is no matter how stressful it is, no matter how badly things go, at the end of the game my farm is working.  I may not win the game, but I always feel happy because I accomplished something.   That keeps the game on the list, but the fact that my options to play it are far and few between has dropped it quite a bit.

26.  Citadels  (-6)
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I have played this game a good deal, I just have not played it for a little over a year.  That lack of playing is probably the biggest reason for the drop, because I still like the game.  Citadels is a hidden role game.  Players are using money to build buildings, and to help accomplish this they take turns picking a secret role that grants special abilities.  I really enjoy the mind games that go with this as everyone tries to figure out what role people took.  This is one of the older games on the list, and at game groups usually new games are more likely to be played  That means it might be hard to get this one played, but I would like to soon.

25.  Village
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This is one of the newer games on the list.  This can be considered a "cube pusher" where players use resource cubes and turn them in for something else, and then some how turn that something else into points.  One of the reasons why I like this game is that it adds several new elements to the standard mix of euro game mechanisms.  First, the action a player takes is tied to the resource they take.  Often player take an action to get a resource, but in this one it is switched.  Sometimes players will take a resource they do not need because they want the action.  Second, this game does involve placing worker and workers die during the game.  The fact that workers have a lifespan makes for some very interesting decisions.

24.  Hammer of the Scots
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This is a fantastic war game that covers the Scottish rebellion led by William Wallace.  I really enjoy the asymmetrical play of the game.  England and Scotland play completely differently.  I also really like the block game mechanisms.  Units are represented by blocks.  This introduces a fog of war aspect, and the way the blocks and game mechanisms work together is very intuitive.

23.  Crayon Rails Games  
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This one might be cheating a bit, as it is a whole series of games.  However, each game is mostly the same (a few we do not have add new elements) but is just played on a different map.  The picture is of British Rails, which is the one we have played the most.  However, we also have Australian Rails and Nippon Rails.  Empire builder, which is the US map, is on our shortlist of games we want.  This is a pure pick up and deliver game where players build track connecting cities.  They then move on their tracks to make money by delivering goods between the various cities.  This game has a bit of a race aspect to it, as the winner is the first one to reach a certain profit level.  This game also has a a good sense of progress to it.  At the end of the game it is fun to look back and see how my railway developed.

22.  King of Tokyo 
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This is a dice game where Godzilla style monsters play king of the hill.  It is probably the simplest game on the list, but it is so much fun to play.  Players bash each other and try to earn the most points by staying in Tokyo.  There is a lot of luck pushing, and optional power cards that can be purchased really add a lot of variability.  The game is been out awhile, but we just acquired it in January and it is one of our most played games this year.

21.  Settlers of America
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Settlers of Catan made my first list back in 2009, but as I played more game it slid back.  This version of Catan is probably my favorite.  It has a lot of the same elements of Catan such as rolling dice to collect resources, trading resources with other players, and using those resources to build on a board.  However, it adds a pick up and deliver aspect as well.  Players have to build train track to connect to other people's cities and then deliver goods to them with their trains.  This added aspect to the classic Catan formula really makes an old classic something new and awesome for me.  We still have and play the original game, but this is really my Catan game of choice.

20.  Havana (-6)
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Two years ago this was in my top ten, so it has fallen back some.  However, this is still a game I greatly enjoy.  Like Citadels this is a role selection game where players choose rolls to gain resources and build buildings.  Unlike Citadels, everyone has their own set of role cards and has two rolls each turn.  This creates a lot of trying to out guess and out maneuver other players.   I also feel like this is kind of a hidden gem game, because it seems that unless I have played it with them most people I play games with have never heard of this one.

19.  Empires of the Void
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From last year, there are two games that are new additions to my top 20.  This is one of them.  This is a big space opera game where players build fleets of ships and fight for control of a dying space empire.  It is epic in scale, but plays in three hours or less.  The rules are fairly straight forward so this is an easy game to get into.  A lot of gamers prefer Eclipse for this sort of thing, and it is a good game.  Empires of the Void has a stronger emphasis on fighting and that suits me much better.

18.  Manoeuvre 
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This game stayed in the same place it was at last year, and I feel about the same as I did last year.  I still find this to be a fun game that offers a lot of replayability.  I really enjoy the use of cards to control the units an dice for combat.  It may be very abstract, but it still feels like a wargame.  Plus, this is another game on the elite list of wargames that Abigail acutally enjoys.

17.  Glen More (-4)
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I feel like this is a very clever game.  In Glen More players build their own little area of Scotland one tile at a time.  Players have to be very clever in how they place and activate their tiles.  Plus, players have a lot of control over which tiles they get.  However, taking a tile further around the line means waiting longer for the next turn.  This means every turn players face a decision where they have to measure their long term goals with the short term gain.  I really like the mixture of strategy and tactics this game presents.

16.  Kingdom of Solomon 
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In a lot of ways this is just "another euro."  This game really does not offer anything new.  What it does though is take elements from a lot of different euro games and packages them into something new.  This game is a worker placement game, but it is more than a worker placement game.  It is an area control game, but it is more than an area control game.  It is a resource management/building game but it is more than that.  This game is a lot more than the sum of its parts and makes for a very enjoyable game.  

15.  Yomi
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Yomi is a Street Fighter style fighting game played with cards.  The game makes great use of a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic, and simultaneous turns.  It really does capture the heart and soul of a fighting game.  This is a game that I would like to invest more time in, but I do not get to play it is as often as I like.  I know there is a popular online implementation, but I am a little intimidated by it to be honest.

14.  Last Night on Earth  (+2)
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Last Night on Earth rises two spots, because Zombies shamble on.  I like Zombies and this is the best zombie game I have played.   The game has potential for a bad session when luck stacks up in a way so that one side has a super easy win, but usually this is a great zombie filled adventure with a strong narrative and a lot of dice throwing.

13.  Ninjato (+6)
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I had only played this game a few times when it made the list last year at #19.  I have played the game multiple times since then, and it has climbed even higher in my liking.  This game offers a lot of interesting choices as players have very few actions throughout the course of the game.  It also has an exciting "push your luck" component that can make or break a turn if players are not careful.   The ninja theme is also a big plus, and it is implemented extremely well.  Mechanically, this is a pure euro game, and I wish all euro games had theme come out so well.

12.  Core Worlds (-1)
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Core Worlds is a deck building game, but it is different than most deck builders available.  In this game players will build their space Empire by recruiting forces and invading worlds.  Players have to be smart about managing resources, and since cards are drafted from a common pool it is important to pay attention to what other players are doing.  This game has a fun sense of progression.  It is neat to go from having grunts and fighters to battle cruisers.  All the while the number of planets under my banner slowly grows.  I already like the game, but we have read multiple places that the expansion really makes the game better.  We recently got it, but we have not had a chance to play with it yet.

11.  ElfBall  (-3)
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This game dropped out of my top 10 this year.  The biggest reason is that ElfBall is the type of game that really rewards a lot of repeated plays.  There are rules for team progression and upgrades (and some would argue they are  the real meat of the game) that I have not even played with.   Despite that, I still really like this game of Fantasy Football (or Rugby really).  I like that this game is fairly easy to play while not feeling shallow and that it has a lot of back and forth.

10.  London  (-1)
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Sadly, due to all of game playing/blog project it has been a year since I last played this game.  Despite that long of an absence this is still one of my favorite games.  While there is an area control element present on the board, this is primarily a card game.  The game requires careful planning and allows for some really clever combos as cards interact together.   It is a shame that it has been so long since we last played, and that needs to be fixed soon.

9.  Blood Bowl: Team Manager (-3)
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Last year, this was still a fairly new game and I think the new game shine had not quite worn off yet, which is why it jumped so high up in my rankings.  Now that I have had it for another year, it drops a bit but it still one of my top ten favorite games.   I really like the the fantasy football theme, and I like the tactical duels that take place every round.  The game has multiple teams, and each team plays a little differently .  This is a fairly light and quick game, but it is always a very fun game.

8.  A Touch of Evil (+2)
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This continues to be a game that I thoroughly enjoy.  Last year, a new expansion came out making the board even bigger (as pictured).  Despite the fact that there games that are objectively better and less clunky I love this game because it always has such a strong narrative.  This game tells a story, and it is a story of high adventure and thrilling horror.  I like playing role playing games, but Abigail hates them.  Playing a Touch of Evil is probably the closest I will get to playing a RPG with her.

7.  Small World
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This game is one of four games that has been every single one of these lists that I have made.  There is a good reason for this, because the game is so much fun.  This is an in your face conflict game, but the lack of player elimination softens the fighting a bit.  This game has a perfect mix of long term strategy and short term tactics.  It also has a lot of variability in the way the races and powers combine.

6. Resistance/Resistance: Avalon  (-1)
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The Resistance and The Resistance Avalon are essentially the same game with a couple of variant rules built into the different boxes.  This game is all about social interaction.  Some people are bad, some people are good.  The good people are trying to complete missions and the bad are trying to prevent it.  This game has a lot of arguing, a lot of lying, a little back stabbing.  This is one of the favorite's of our game group, so I have played it quite a bit.  Every time it is a lot of fun.

5.  Dominion (-2)
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This is another game that has been on the list every year.  This is the classic deck building game, where players start off with a small starter deck, buy cards from a random set of available cards to improve their deck and get the most points.  This is a classic design that has proven to be something special based on the large number of games it has inspired.  We have all of the expansions so we are guaranteed to have a different experience every time we play.

4.  Race for the Galaxy
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Race for the Galaxy moved back ahead of Dominion for me, which kept it at the same spot as last year.  Dominion does have a lot more variation and options, but that is only because of the expansions.  Race for the Galaxy, even with just the base set, is always fun and never feels played out for me.  The game has a perfect mix of strategy and tactics, luck and skill, player interaction and doing my own thing.  For me this is one of the best designed games there is, even if the learning curve is high.

3.  Federation Commander (+14)
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Last year I had only played this game a couple of times, and put in my #17 spot.  I have played it a good deal since then and I absolutely LOVE this game.  I could gush and gush about how good this game is.  To put it in a nutshell, this game transcends the counters and hexes, it rises above the mechanics, and really makes me feel like I am in the captain's chair on a starship.   The only reason why this is not my #1 game is because Abigail HATES this game, and how much I can play the game with her really influences my opinion on a game.

2.  Warhammer: Invasion 
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This game continues to be my second favorite game ever.  It also continues to be my most played game.  Chances are that by the time Gen Con is over in August, I will have played this game over 500 times.  I really like that it is easy to keep up with the Living Card Game model and get all of the cards.  I like building my decks, and I really like the interesting decisions in resource management this game provides.

1.  Memoir '44 
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For the third year in a row, this continues to be my favorite game.  I really like how much this game offers.  At this point this game is really more of a system for simulating WWII battles than a game.  The rabbit hole goes fairly deep.  For example, in December my wife and I played this game and in order to play the scenarios we played required five different expansions.  This game offers a whole lot, and every time I play it I find myself liking the game a little bit more.  Memoir '44 continues to be my absolute favorite game of all time (for another year anyway).