Last year we put together a Top 50 list to commemorate our 50th episode. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work, and because I was off attending the birth of my second child, I had minimal say in how that list turned out.
Fortunately, Chris and I are of similar minds and it looked pretty good, but there were a fair number of games I would have included in that list had I been there – so I figured why not create my own list. Furthermore, this year we’re going to be sitting down and each one of us putting together a Top 50 board games list – all of which have been compiled to create the BGA Top 100, releasing on March 27th as our Episode 100.
My Top 50 Board Games
Here we go. Keep in mind these are MY top 50 board games, quite literally culled from my list of played and ranked games. Do I think these are the best 50 ever made? Not necessarily (though some certainly are) – these are just the best 50 that I’ve played. Let’s get rolling.
Simple, succinct, almost always different, and so fast to play – this is a great game in a number of ways. Every time it hits the table I’m excited to play, though, it’s not as often as I would like.
49. Tragedy Looper
Mind-blowingly unique and incredibly hard to get to the table, but when it lands with a good group, the experience is unlike anything you’ve played before. Such a fun game – as either a player or the mastermind.
48. San Juan
There are a lot of games with the “one card, many purposes” mechanic and this is one of the simplest and most replayable. A perfect game for two people and a fantastic app on my iPad.
47. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Isle
I often feel like I’m trapped in an echo chamber when playing co-ops, taking directions from other players and arguing over the next move. That happens in Robinson Crusoe too, but it doesn’t matter – the story is so compelling and the player differences so tightly defined that it just plain works.
46. Onirim (Second Edition)
I love a good quick solo game, and there are few games that do it as well as Onirim. The second edition comes with eight expansions packaged in with the box. This spot could almost be shared with the designers other Oniverse games as well, though – Sylvion is a blast.
45. Lewis & Clark
Lewis & Clark is one of the most engaging engine building, race-style games I’ve ever played. While there’s some concern over the power of a handful of cards, this game is so tightly balanced in every other way that it rarely matters and it’s always fun.
I love dice and I love worker placement – so why wouldn’t I love Kingsburg. While it almost requires its expansion “To Forge a Realm” for a complete experience, it’s a brilliant game when the two are combined.
43. Mission: Red Planet
I don’t generally enjoy area control games because they are brutal. Spending 1-2 hours developing a hold on an area of the board only to have it wiped out by one small mistake or the lucky card draw/dice roll of an opponent is infuriating. Which is why I love Mission: Red Planet. Yes, it’s just as swingy and random as other games in the genre, but it’s quick, it’s cute, and it’s rewarding, even if you get stomped on a bit. The second edition clears up a lot of the problems of the first as well and makes it a lot more fun to look at.
42. Glen More
Woefully hard to find, Glen More is a tight, exciting little tile buying and laying game and one that I will pick up as soon as I find a copy. The roundel works perfectly for the tiles that slowly amp up in power and the way the scoring evolves over time keeps everyone in the game until the very end.
41. The Duke
This is easily one of my go to two player games – it’s a blast to get to the table, it plays in 15-20 minutes and it offers a real strategic alternative to Chess without the centuries of heavy thinking of the latter game.
40. Baseball Highlights: 2045
Mike Fitzgerald shows up on my list twice – this guy is a card game genius and Baseball Highlights is the only true baseball sim out there that I not only enjoy, but can play alone. The evolution of your deck between games is fantastic and the fact that a game only lasts 7 minutes makes it a super flexible filler game and perfect for tournaments.
39. Ascension: Deckbuilding Game
Ascension isn’t a particularly complicated deck building game but it nails the mechanics and makes for a fun, engaging experience in any of its many iterations. For a group interested in fantasy mechanics, it’s one of my go to teaching games and again, the iOS app is fantastic.
This was the first Stefan Feld game I played and still one of my favorites. The cube tower is a blast, but so too is the epic exploration of the board and the point salad scoring fest to determine the winner.
Simplicity at its best. Alhambra can get dull in its vanilla form but even so it works perfectly for engaging new players in the hobby. Add in one or two of the expansions and you have a game with limitless replayability – a real favorite in my house.
36. Arcadia Quest
This game is ridiculous. Just completely bonkers and hilarious, and so, so good. It’s got killer miniatures (which I love), and the kind of ‘so simple it’s brilliant’ gameplay that I can’t get enough of. Combined with campaign play, it’s fantastic.
Nations makes the list for a couple of reasons – first it’s a great civilization game. More than that, though, it allows players to progress through the game in the way they feel best fits their needs and the replayability is incredibly high. Combine that with solid solo play mechanics and this is a strong favorite in my collection.
34. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
It’s Star Wars. It’s miniatures. It’s pre-painted X-Wings. This is the kind of thing that drags people into the hobby kicking and screaming.
33. Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Just when I thought Fantasy Flight couldn’t take any more of my money, they one up themselves with Imperial Assault. And of course, we have Rebellion coming in a few weeks (my wallet weeps…). Imperial Assault is one of the all time great dungeon-crawling style, one vs. many games out there. Descent but better and with Star Wars? Sign me up.
32. Sid Meier’s Civilization the Board Game
I’m a big fan of civilization games in general and Sid Meier’s Civilization is a staple from my childhood. The board game nails the feel of the computer game and with the right expansions, it becomes a near perfect tabletop experience building a civilization.
Epic. No other word describes this game and the experience it gives. It might take 4-6 hours to play the game, but you’ll enjoy every minute of it. There are few experiences as engrained in my gaming memory as the first 3-day play through of this game.
I have always loved word games. I actually got into the hobby when I accidentally stumbled across a local game group while looking for a Scrabble group. So a game like Paperback is right up my alley – and a good thing too because this is an exceptional combination of word placement and deck building that works wonders.
29. T.I.M.E Stories
No game has ever drawn me in as quickly and as thoroughly as T.I.M.E Stories. I was hooked the moment we first looped back in time and couldn’t stop until that first mystery was solved. The other modules vary in what they offer, but one thing is clear – this game is as addictive as any top tier cable show.
28. A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition)
I always loved the Game of Thrones Card Game and it likely would have made it to my list either way, but it gets this high up due to a superb second edition. The new edition clears up many issues that could drag out games and limit deck diversity.
Mike Fitzgerald is back and he made me like a trick taking game! Not only do I like it; it’s one of my favorite games…period. This is the best trick taking game I’ve ever played, hands down, but it’s also one of the best card games and a perfect filler for a small group.
It’s a classic. A gateway game that comes up time and again, and for good reason. With the variability offered by its many different versions and expansions, and the utterly brilliant legacy implementation of the game’s core mechanics, this game hits the table in my house at least once every week and frequently more.
25. Russian Railroads
I can’t help but salivate while playing Russian Railroads and seeing my score double then triple and balloon up into the 300s and 400s. A true snowball worker placement game, it’s so much fun. And German Railroads, the first expansion, fixes just about every problem the original had and makes it that much better.
24. King of New York
I actually own King of Tokyo instead of this one, but mostly because it’s a better fit for my children. King of New York is the better game and the one that I would rather play if given a choice between the two (not with my kids).
Take the best elements of route building, resource development, and hand management euros and combine them into a single beautiful game set in the trading ports of Ancient Rome and you have Concordia – this game is so good it makes me smile just thinking about it.
22. Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar is as clever as it is fun and it reimagines what a worker placement game can do. I love this genre and when a game does something this unique and this different in a way that works so well, I can’t help but love it.
21. The Princes of Florence
Inexpensive, accessible, and incredibly deep, this euro from the early 2000’s offers a range of gameplay decisions and works extremely well with varied player counts. Plus, you get to pretend it’s the Renaissance.
20. Lords of Waterdeep
There are a lot of worker placement games on this list, and many of them are objectively better than this one, but few are as immediately accessible and playable as Lords of Waterdeep. Especially with its expansion, this is an all time favorite.
19. Dominant Species
I’m not generally a fan of long, arduous area control games, but Dominant Species really works for me. The tight, near-cutthroat nature of this game, combined with the depth of strategy (one that changes for every species of creature), is addictive.
18. Glenn Drover’s Empires: Age of Discovery Deluxe Edition
I’m a recent adherent to this worker placement classic and the genre has clearly come a long way in the last decade, but it still works so well. The new deluxe edition adds some fun new flair and a shiny coat of paint, but the core mechanics are still tight, fast and very fun.
17. Blood Rage
It’s a testament to just how good this game is that it has climbed so high in such a short time. Since my first play at GenCon last year until now, I’ve yet to have a bad session with this one (and I’ve only won once). It’s fast, it’s combative, and it rewards actions of all types. Yes, you can get stomped out of a region you spent time building up, but you can be right back in there the next age, and if one game goes poorly, the next will be completely different. From gorgeous miniatures, to carefully balanced card drafting, there’s nothing about this one I don’t like.
This was the first solo-only game I played and it’s still a favorite. It’s the kind of game you can play hundreds of times and work to explore in-depth just to see what options are available. Friedmann Friese really killed it with this one.
15. Roll for the Galaxy
I’m in the camp of people who feels that Race and Roll for the Galaxy fill a similar void in the collection and I lean toward Roll for the Galaxy. It’s faster, more flexible, and a lot more fun with new players. With the Ambition expansion, it is even more open as well.
13. 7 Wonders
I actually disliked 7 Wonders for the first several plays. It’s hard to know what to do for a long time with all those icons, but once it clicks, the beauty of the game becomes immediately apparent. It’s so elegant, and with the expansions, the tension and strategy ramps up even higher making this a top pick for me.
12. Power Grid
Power Grid looks and at first feels a bit dry, but the game holds up incredibly well to other more complex and advanced economics games. Throw in the big deluxe edition board, upgraded components from Stonemaier Games, and one of the dozen expansion boards, and you have a game that I could play on end for days.
11. Mice and Mystics
Of all the story-telling, dungeon-crawling miniatures games out there, Mice and Mystics is still one of my favorites. It’s not necessarily the best, but it offers the most universal mechanics, the cutest miniatures, and the most engaging story out there.
10. The Voyages of Marco Polo
From the guys who brought us Tzolk’in, The Voyages of Marco Polo is a brilliant refinement of several familiar euro mechanics. It’s a testament to how good this game is that it makes my list at such a high spot less than a year after release.
9. Battlelore Second Edition
Rather than buying starter sets and overpriced miniatures for a tabletop war game, I’ve been more than pleased with Battlelore Second Edition. The perfect refinement of Richard Borgs’ Command & Colors system, this one shines. It just needs more factions.
8. The Castles of Burgundy
Another Stefan Feld game and in my opinion still his best. I love a good euro that uses dice effectively without forcing the players to rely heavily on luck. This game does just that, allowing exciting, tight games that are always different but never too random.
We talked about this on Episode 94 and I just can’t help but love the city-building mechanics in Suburbia. They’re clean, they’re strategy-laden, and the game is infinitely replayable. Castles of Mad King Ludwig drags too much for me to switch teams at this point – love this game.
Spyrium is an underrated gem, and a perfect middle-ground euro for smaller groups. It’s inexpensive, quick (an hour or so), and flexible with up to 4 players. It’s also a great little engine builder with a unique worker placement and retrieval mechanic that makes for frequently exciting games.
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
I have more than 1,000 cards for this game right now and still love sitting down to spend hours digging through them to build decks. It’s a perfect one player game that works just as well with two in co-op and tells a great story from a familiar universe.
4. Imperial Settlers
If you’ve listened to the podcast the last year or so, you know this is one of my favorites. Imperial Settlers now has five factions, deck building options, and completely asymmetrical play that allows you to really build a civilization in a fun, borderline campy world of your choice – it’s really good.
3. Terra Mystica
Another euro with the right mix of asymmetry and tight mechanics over the span of several game boards. Every game I’ve played is different and there’s enough in the box to keep you coming back multiple times. It’s a bit long, not every faction is perfectly balanced, and there are some component issues, but it’s still just that good of a game.
2. Caverna: The Cave Farmers
The ultimate farming-based worker placement euro, Caverna takes what makes Agricola a success (even if I don’t like it) and refines it into a brilliant game that scales from 1-7, has awesome components, and allows you to stay underground if you’re truly tired of sheep and pumpkins.
1. War of the Ring
This is the ultimate gaming experience in my books. There have been few games that I’ve sat down to play for the entire day, let alone explore on this level. I’ve painted the miniatures, I’ve played through it alone to pick up on strategies, and there’s still nothing like going against another player. It’s also the perfect example of asymmetry in a board game. Battle of Five Armies is great, but this is the best (though I am holding out hopes for Star Wars: Rebellion working in a similar way).
What do you think? Would you have moved anything higher? Lower? Out of the top 50 board games list completely? Sign off in the comments below and let me know what I haven’t played that I should have!