December 20, 2020 – Updated for 2020
For our 300th episode, we sat down and updated our top games of all time list, with Chris and Anthony both building their own personal Top 100 lists. You can view the entirety of both lists on this page.
Both of these lists were built independently of one another, so it’s a lot of fun to see where they match up and where they don’t. If you’re interested, you can also view the lists from 2015 when we did our original Top 50’s for episode 100. Anthony’s is here and Chris’s is here.
At once initially overwhelming and deeply fulfilling, Yokohama has grown on me substantially in the last two years, especially as digital implementations make what was long a difficult game to get to the table easier to play.
- 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.
This game of dice drafting and resource management first caught my attention thanks to its cover. Bright and beautiful artwork, unlike anything I’d seen on a euro before, Coimbra is a joy to look at and a fantastic experience. More interactive thanks to the dice and card auction/draft than most games in the genre, it allows several different paths to victory. With expansions and new card options, I can see it going even higher on my list.
- TEXAS SHOWDOWN
Who would have thought I’d be a trick taking guy? But here we are eight years after initial reviews of Chronicle and Poison, and I have multiple trick takers on my top 100. Texas Showdown is a brutal, clever game with a race to the bottom and I love it.
Mac Gerdts is famous for his rondels, and this is probably my favorite of them. Players sail across the 15th-century landscape to discover new lands, establish colonies and trade goods, all while manipulating and managing an active economy track. With several different building types, workers, and categories, players can all go in different paths and find victory.
- 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.
Lisboa takes everything I love about Lacerda’s designs and channels it into a sublime 2-3 hour experience of rebuilding a broken city. Complete with many of his trademark mechanics, including follow actions, and another beautiful board from Ian O’Toole, this is a prize in my collection.
- AT THE GATES OF LOYANG
This is one of the few Rosenberg games that doesn’t immediately feel like a Rosenberg. Players race to grow vegetables and use them to fulfill contracts and long term customers, while drafting cards in a central turn every round. Scores are low and money tight – making every decision impactful.
- LORENZO IL MAGNIFICO
I love dice placement as a mechanism, but it can be challenging to mitigate and manage the rolls…unless everyone has the same dice! Lorenzo is an almost punishingly tight tableau builder that offers endless permutations, made even more engaging by an expansion loaded with additional content.
- TEKHENU: OBELISK OF THE SUN
Tascini and Turczi’s most recent release is a mish mash of mechanics, and a thematic question mark, but the more I play it the more I’m intrigued by the puzzle machine they’ve built. It’s a hard one to get rolling with, but not quite as obtuse as Trismegistus and it’s quite fulfilling when played well.
- GLEN MORE II
Glen More is a long time favorite, so much so that I backed Lunarchitects when it was on Kickstarter specifically because of its similarities. Glen More II takes the original up several notches with Chronicles that add depth, replayability and new options in ways I’ve never seen before in a game this size.
- AZUL: SUMMER PAVILION
Azul is one of the hottest games of the last three years, an abstract with beautiful production values, clever scoring mechanisms, and a bit of a mean streak. This and its new edition, Stained Glass of Sintra, are well crafted, finely balanced puzzle-style games that I have a blast playing.
- CLINIC DELUXE
Alban Viard has vaulted into my top 3 designers in recent years, and games like Clinic Deluxe are a big reason why. I already knew he loved expansions and building on his designs with Tramways, but Clinic Deluxe now has more than twenty modules you can add and a strong core gameplay loop that I love.
I am a latecomer to the world of 18xx, but after my first several plays of 1846, I am fully on board. Interesting decisions at every turn, exceptional player interaction, and a surprising amount of asymmetry when it matters most make this an instant favorite.
- NEW FRONTIERS
I don’t know how many versions of Tom Lehman’s formula I want to own, but I’ll keep going if he keeps making them. Until the new version of Puerto Rico is released, this is the best way to play this mechanic in a board game format.
I now have several space-age simulations on this list – I’m detecting a pattern. But for good reason, because SpaceCorp is one of the best such simulations around, guiding players as they build up their capabilities and reach for the stars.
It might be the artwork, or the way the game works to integrate clever theming into the actor and artisan cards, or maybe I just like anything to do with Shakespeare – whatever the reason, this quick and yet relatively thinky Euro is a favorite that keeps hitting the table.
- RES ARCANA
Another Tom Lehman game! But this time shorter and much more limited, but in a good way. Lehman is one of the best at forcing gamers to make smart decisions with limited resources, and Res Arcana, another race for victory points does it brilliantly.
- FLEET: THE DICE GAME
Roll and writes had a moment a couple years ago. I bought into the hype, but have since cooled as the games don’t give the sense of satisfaction I’m used to in bigger euros. One exception is Fleet: The Dice Game, which works smoothly from start to finish as a strong, sub-1 hour euro.
Here’s my oddball of the list – one that you won’t find many places, but that I adore. Iki is a rondel-based game in which you move around the market of Iki attempting to level up and retire different artisans. It’s fairly simple at its core, and incredibly beautiful, evoking Ukiyo-e, woodblock style artwork of the time and one of my favorite board game covers of all time, and unfortunately relatively hard to find. If you see it, get this game.
- HEAVEN AND ALE
This game has grown on me like few recent releases have, a delight every time I’ve played. From the right nature of resources to the agonizing decision of where to place newly purchased tiles on my player board, brewing beer has never been more stressful (or fun!)
I liked London quite a bit in its original, hard-to-find form. Martin Wallace’s ability to take a handful of mechanics and a deck of cards and weave a satisfying game from it is legendary, and London is one of the best. The second edition somehow made the game even better. It’s prettier, it’s smoother, and it’s completely card-driven, cutting an unnecessary map element to make the game that much better.
This game looks and sounds bonkers – full of futuristic sci-fi factions, an ominous apocalypse and liberal doses of time travel. Under all that theme, though, is one of the best worker placement games I’ve experienced, and a brilliantly crafted solo game.
- 878 VIKINGS
I’ve been a fan of the birth of nations series since it began, owning 1775 and 1812, but 878 Vikings, the reimplementation of the system in Europe for the first time is by far the best. Asymmetrically balanced with a huge swing available as the Vikings and several upgrades and expansions to build the game out. 878 Vikings is my favorite two-player war game that isn’t based on an IP.
The original mechanics are solid, and the new production spectacular, but what really makes Santorini stand out as one of my all-time favorite abstract games is the integration of player powers that make every game just a little bit different.
- FIRST CLASS
Some call it Russian Railroads the card game. That’s fair, but it’s also so much more. This tableau-building race for points is loaded with clever decisions in a relatively short time frame and comes with several modules to keep it fresh.
- RAILROAD REVOLUTION
What’s Your Game? Has quietly produced half a dozen brilliant games in the last several years, and many of them are out of print and hard to find. It’s a shame because they are so good, but Railroad Revolution is one of the best. Better than Nippon and Madeira? Maybe. And it’s hard to find, so if you do, give it a go.
- MANHATTAN PROJECT: ENERGY EMPIRE
Energy Empire is a very different game from its namesake, tasking players with managing the pollution afflicting the world from energy production. A tableau builder in which you attempt to manage your workers enough to acquire and activate a range of powerful abilities, Energy Empire is a clever puzzle hidden behind an accessible euro.
One of the heaviest, most feature-rich games on my shelf, and at the same time, one with a singular focus that is unforgiving and at times brutally cutthroat – Arkwright is a heavy gamer’s game and one of the best long-form experiences I’ve had in recent years.
- CIVILIZATION: A NEW DAWN
I love civilization games – you’ll see that as you get further down the list. This is a lighter, faster, euro-style take on the Civilization format, and I love it, but it’s made all the better with the expansion, and with the solo rules released during COVID, it’s brilliant.
My favorite of Alban Viard’s small city series of games, Tramways isn’t much to look at but has a brilliant puzzle core and an auction-driven deck-building component I’ve still yet to see in other games that force careful consideration of what you play and what you buy.
- THE CASTLES OF BURGUNDY: THE CARD GAME
I’ll admit it. I scoffed when this was announced. Another card game version? Like Power Grid? Except, it wasn’t like Power Grid. It was more like San Juan, not just a good game, but almost as good as its big brother in cardboard. It’s fast, it’s compact, and while it takes up a lot of table space, it manages to feel like CoB.
- COUNCIL OF 4
This game has two very different looking versions, but CMON thankfully kept the core gameplay the same. One part ticket to ride, and another part engine building euro, players pay to place houses around the map and chain bonuses off one another in a quick 60-90 minute game. One of my favorites of the last few years, Council of 4 is a home run.
- FIELDS OF ARLE
Uwe Rosenberg has a lot of sandbox games, but this is one of the best. Broken into seasons that correspond to different action options, you must carefully plan and manage your actions over the course of several years against 1 or 2 other players. The Tea and Trade expansion makes it longer, but also much better.
- KING OF TOKYO
There are few games that I enjoy more for a quick, goofy play through than King of Tokyo. It’s a blast from start to finish and has become a regular rotation game here in the house with the kids.
- LORD OF THE RINGS: JOURNEYS IN MIDDLE EARTH
This mashup of Descent and Mansions of Madness, set in the intrigue-laden fields and caves of Middle Earth is immensely satisfying to play. A thrilling puzzle that works extremely well with the app, this has been a mainstay on my table since its release.
- TZOLK’IN: THE MAYAN CALENDAR
Corn? We got your corn. Tzolk’in jumps out most because of its massive, beautifully molded wheels. It’s a fantastic game of thinking ahead, building an engine, and making sure all those workers remain fed.
- FORBIDDEN STARS
Oh what could have been! This game is brilliant. An absolutely killer 4x style game based on Starcraft but with the 40K theming that unfortunately disappeared when FFG lost the license. I wish this was still available, because everyone should get a chance to play.
- MARVEL CHAMPIONS
The best LCG on the market right now, period. I love Arkham Horror and (for now) it’s still higher on this list, but I imagine not for long. Marvel continues to churn out clever, engaging, and quick paced games that scale from 1 to 4 players effectively.
- 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 ramp up even higher making this a top pick for me.
- 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.
It only takes 18 cards for Sprawlopolis to do what many city games cannot. With restrictive scoring requirements, mind-bending card laying mechanics, and the option for a two-player mode that makes it all that much harder, this one is always in my pocket when traveling.
- THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES
Promoted as a lighter, more tactical approach to the War of the Ring formula, this combat-heavy game of Orcs, Dwarves and Elves is nearly as satisfying, with a unique spin that makes for regular playthroughs.
- CARPE DIEM
Stefan Feld released two games in the same month when Carpe Diem came out, and I thought this was going to be the lighter of the two. It was, but it’s also much better than Forum Trajanum and one of his all time best games. Highly recommended for fans of Feld in general or for tableau puzzle building games.
- ROADS AND BOATS
The best kind of sandbox – a euro sandbox! Roads and Boats can be played out of the box without reading the rules. Just follow the sheet that tells you what trades for what and you know 90% of what you need to play the game.
This game is so new, you can’t even get it yet! A small Kickstarter last year, Obsession is a game of Victorian families trying to work their way up the social ladder. You’ll take actions from a tableau of tiles that require payment in family members and guests, combined with servants. The theme is deep in this game, and the gameplay options intricate.
I’ve been a fan of Concordia for years, but the recent implementation of so many new maps, the Venus mechanisms and team based play make this an all-time great and one of the best games from Mac Gerdts.
- 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.
- NEMO’S WAR
On my shelf for the better part of three years, I finally got Nemo’s War to the table during the pandemic and I had a blast. I don’t normally like dice heavy exploration/war type games, but this one manages to weave in so much of the story and the general feel of the novel that it overcomes all of that.
- STUFFED FABLES
We’re probably never getting the final piece of Mice and Mystics, but if we get more Stuffed Fables or adjacent content I’ll be more than happy. The storybook style approach to the game is so clever and scales wonderfully for children of all ages.
- CITY OF THE BIG SHOULDERS
Raymond Chandler III marries the core elements of 18xx gameplay (stock ownership and agnostic operation of the game’s companies) with worker placement for a big heavy euro that somehow feels fresh and new.
- FOOD CHAIN MAGNATE
Funny story about Food Chain Magnate. I hated it the first time I played. I got my but whooped so bad that I was checked out and angry by the second hour of the game…of four. But I spent the next two days thinking about nothing but this game. I had to play it again, and since then it has become one of the event games we turn to up there with TI4.
- 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.
- THE CASTLES OF BURGUNDY
Stefan Feld’s best game, and most popular. It’s a boring answer to that question, but remains the case after 20+ games for a reason. With new editions of the game, solo and cooperative play, and multiple digital versions, there are no excuses not to play The Castles of Burgundy.
- TERRA MYSTICA
This is the first “heavy” euro I ever played and remains one of my favorites. While Gaia Project pushed this one down the list a fair bit, there are several expansions now that make it well worth owning both games.
- SMARTPHONE INC
Quick, clever, and spacial in the best kind of puzzle-based gameplay way, I love Smartphone Inc. You don’t need all the extra stuff to really enjoy it, but I recommend it for the added variability and solo play options.
Take a small war-game card game and turn it into a game for kids? Why not. It works perfectly and with an expansion on the way, it’s one that will keep hitting the table with my family for years to come.
- 1960: THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT
This is how I always wanted to feel when playing Twilight Struggle. Highly asymmetrical, loaded with interesting historical points, and just the right amount of combative, this might just be the best board game about American Politics.
- ON MARS
Every new Vital Lacerda game is a near-instant chance for the Top 100 and On Mars made it quickly. Even with only a handful of plays because of the Pandemic, this is an all-time great and worth tracking down and playing however you can.
- SKULL KING
My new favorite trick taking game (that isn’t cooperative), Skull King is the kind of game you can sit back and play over and over again for hours with the right people. There are other games with similar mechanics, but this one still does it best.
- WELCOME TO…
Roll and write games are being released left right and sideways these days, but none are quite as good as Welcome To… This roll and write without dice offers a wealth of actions and card play options, deep enough to spin off several expansions and variants in a recent Kickstarter.
- CLANS OF CALEDONIA
Clans of Caledonia is a mash-up of several of my favorite things – farming euros, economic games, and Terra Mystica. It’s none of these things, and yet somehow all of them, and despite the derivative description, the combination works exceedingly well. For a compact, small-production euro, this one is a keeper.
- 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.
- ANTIKE II
One of my favorite area control games and a Mac Gerdts rondel classic, Antike II streamlines and improves on almost every aspect of the original game. It plays quickly, with almost no downtime for players, and offers a wealth of choices each time I play.
- THE FOX IN THE FOREST DUET
Two players working together to complete tricks and clear the forest. It’s so simple it’s almost hard to believe no one thought of it earlier. But here it is, at number 36 on my list because it’s both one of the best two players games I’ve ever played and one of the best trick takers.
- THE CREW
Only slightly better is The Crew, which introduces 50 missions that escalate in difficulty for 2-4 players. It hits the table almost every game night and will never not be fun, even when we lose five or six times in a row on a mission.
Keyforge exploded on the scene last year as the world’s first “unique deck game”. After a somewhat lackluster expansion over the summer, November’s World’s Collide is a home run, introducing new houses, new mechanics, and much better decks. This is now one of my favorite two-player card games ever and my most played game of 2019.
Stefan Risthaus makes a second appearance on my list with a clever spin on civilization building that is both elegant and incredibly deep in strategic decision making.
- PAX PAMIR SECOND EDITION
Cole Wehrle revisits an earlier design and produces a beautiful, intricately crafted asymmetrical tableau builder about an important but rarely discussed moment in history. This is a tight, low scoring scramble for dominance that is immensely satisfying to playing out.
- THE KING’S DILEMMA
The pandemic messed up a lot of things, but not being able to finish The King’s Dilemma is one of the most frustrating game-related outcomes. This game is a blast, a brilliantly fun negotiation (read: arguing) game that is constantly evolving.
- UNDERWATER CITIES
Distilling the core tableau-building of Terraforming Mars with a worker placement twist, Underwater Cities is an immensely satisfying puzzle of a game with much more depth than most games in the genre.
- KANBAN: DRIVER’S EDITION
I’m updating this later in 2021, so swap this for Kanban EV, which has almost no rule changes, and you’ve got the same result. One of Lacerda’s best games and a great economic simulation that manages to stay streamlined throughout.
- TWILIGHT IMPERIUM IV
I didn’t have a chance to play the previous iterations, but a fateful spot in the FFG line at Gen Con and a chance to get it and play it early introduced me to one of the best games ever made. Sweeping, epic, and full of interesting decisions and things to do, I have never had more fun than the six to ten hours I have spent playing this game.
- LEAVING EARTH
Ever want to build a rocket and go to space? Leaving Earth is the kind of seamless integration of simulation and game experience that you rarely find in the hobby, and its hand made by one guy. Hard to find and harder to beat, Leaving Earth is the hidden gem I’ve long loved that’s finally reaching the masses.
- ARKHAM HORROR: THE CARD GAME
Lord of the Rings still holds a special place in my heart and on this list, but Arkham Horror is likely the better game, fine-tuning and streamlining both narrative and mechanics into a beautiful single-player and two-player experience.
- A FEAST FOR ODIN
Uwe Rosenberg is the master of worker placement games, one of my favorite genres of games, and A Feast for Odin is the biggest, most audacious, and most puzzley of the bunch. Hence it’s spot here on the list. It’s big, it’s long, and it’s loaded with so many decisions that I still find new things to do in it to this date.
- DETECTIVE: A MODERN CRIME BOARD GAME
I have several detective case-solving games on this list, but Detective: Modern Crime Board Game is the most impressive of the bunch. By leveraging technology in an online database and including real-world events and people, Detective becomes a truly immersive, almost RPG-like experience of trying to solve a case. Players will argue, take notes, research, and spend hours on each of the box’s five cases, and it’s an experience like few others.
- THROUGH THE AGES: A NEW STORY OF CIVILIZATION
Probably the only game on this list to get a spot because of its app, Through the Ages is the best civilization game I own and has by far the best digital implementation I’ve ever experienced. Clever mechanics, a brilliant tutorial, and so much content in the box, this is the game to get if you want a long, involved civ-builder.
- MAGE KNIGHT
Built for 1-2 players, Mage Knight is the pinnacle of solo gaming. This is a brilliant, tactically rich, adventure-driven puzzle of a game full of crunchy mechanics and thematically-rich gameplay. I love Mage Knight, Star Trek Frontiers for re-envisioning it in a slightly easier box, and everything in between.
- LEGENDS OF ANDOR
Adventure gaming for euro players! The intricate puzzles of each of this game’s chapters are immensely satisfying, from beginning to end. With a full trilogy of content and more than 40 adventures to complete, the game has replayability almost on par with Gloomhaven, and a fun story to draw you through it all.
- STAR WARS REBELLION
It’s big, it’s epic and it’s Star Wars. What more do I need? Turns out, a bit of time as well. I haven’t gotten nearly as much time with this game as I would like, otherwise, I’m sure it would be higher on the list, but even still, nothing quite compares to Star Wars in a box.
- 7 WONDERS DUEL
Quite possibly the perfect two-player game. Quick, accessible, easy to teach, and a perfect distillation of everything that 7 Wonders does so well, Duel is a game I always have in my game bag for the two-player droughts we all run into.
- LOST RUINS OF ARNAK
Talk about a shooting star! I played Arnak a mere three weeks before writing my last top 100 l ist and it shot directly into the top 20. A perfect combination of worker placement and deck building that has hit my table nearly 50 times in the last year and will continue to for years to come.
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.
- GAIA PROJECT
Everything I loved about Terra Mystica but better. Gaia Project has the same tight, finely tuned euro gameplay of the original, but with more variability, better balance, and a cool space theme. The only way this gets bumped is if they somehow bring the same to Terra Mystica.
- 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.
Sitting at #1 on BGG and probably not going anywhere for a while, this game is a beast. Big, long, loaded with content, and none too cheap, it’s also the single best dungeon-crawl experience you’ll ever have, and while I have come nowhere near beating it all, it’s got a place of honor on my shelves.
- THE GALLERIST
Vital Lacerda is one of my favorite designers for how he injects theme and aesthetic into his games, taking what would otherwise be heavy, mechanically-charged games and making them into works of art. The Gallerist remains my favorite for its ability to weave the three together in such a precise, engaging way.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- TERRAFORMING MARS
It’s ugly to look at, can drag on for far too long, and the deck of cards is a little large with all the extra stuff, and yet I love it. Terraforming Mars has immense, constantly growing depth – the kind that has made it my most played game of both 2016 and 2017, and not too far behind in 2018.
- SUBURBIA: COLLECTOR’S EDITION
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.
- BRASS: BIRMINGHAM
One of the many blemishes on my list of games played for years, I finally experienced Brass this year, which instantly shot into my top 10, until I played Birmingham, the revised edition from Roxley Games, which is sleeker and offers a slew of new interesting decisions in the same compact, tightly designed package.
- THE GREAT ZIMBABWE
Move over Food Chain Magnate, this classic Splotter game has taken the spot for me, representing simple but emergent gameplay that offers nearly limitless opportunities and high levels of player engagement.
And the newcomer of the year is Watergate. This asymmetrical two player tug of war between Nixon and the press was one of the best games I found and played at Gen Con in 2019 and has been a staple of my table ever since.
- SPIRIT ISLAND
Like a lightning bolt, this game crashed into my top 10 last year, instantly blowing my preconceptions about cooperative games out of the water. At once an engaging social commentary and a blisteringly difficult cooperative game wrapped in a shell of euro-driven mechanics, there are few games as well-conceived and executed as Spirit Island.
This might be the newest game on the list, but it rocketed up the charts fast. A beautiful production, loaded with interesting decisions, and a clever rondel-driven worker upgrade system, Teotihuacan jumped right into the upper tiers of mid-weight euros for me.
I liked Vast, but never played it due to how hard it was to teach and how long it could take. Root does all of what Vast did, but repackages it as a COIN-style war game and does it faster and cuter. I love Root more than I ever thought possible for such a game and with more content on the way, it has a spot in my regular rotation for years to come.
- 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.
Revolution! Bring together blind bidding and all the thematic elements of blackmail, bribes and downright force to push your control. The expansions really open up the game and replayability.
99. Dixit: Journey
Party games almost by their definition are a one time throw away event, and yet, Dixit with its fantastic art and opportunity to conjure up endless clues is worthy of being in a museum.
Dixit + Clue=A dark and stormy night of Mysterium!
97. Shadow Hunters
When I think social deductions, I often want something more, and Shadow Hunters provides the real hard gameplay decisions I look for in my games. You must play with the highest player count to get all those wonderful neutrals in the game.
96. Russian Railroads
Russian Railroads is a fantastic game, BUT only with its expansion, German Railroads. Otherwise, the gameplay always comes down to who is the first player that round giving them always the best choice with the other players forced to take an objectively less and less valuable choice. Add German Railroads and you got yourself a big hit.
Co-ops often suffer from alpha players, but here in Yggdrasil you make your own choices and have enough diversity and challenge to keeps it at the table.
94. Mission: Red Planet (Second Edition)
The recent reprint of Mission: Red Planet (Second Edition) comes with upgraded components, artwork, and truly necessary rule changes. The role selection and area majority mechanics work really well together and it’s a great deal of thematic fun.
93. Memoir ’44
Heavy enough for wargamers and yet approachable enough with gateway gamers. Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system is in full glory here with numerous expansions that make this a worth lifestyle game. Play with 2 or go full Overlord and play with an epic 8 player session.
92. Rivet Wars: Eastern Front
Rivet Wars: Eastern Front is a fantastic two-player tactical war game that with its enormous Kickstarter expansions offers a ton of options for gameplay including planes that hover above the battlegrounds. It’s a quick-playing objective-based game that even when you lose, you smile at the fun gameplay and miniatures.
91. Star Trek: Attack Wing
90. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game Star Wars Armada, Star Wars Miniatures Game, Star Trek Attack Wing, or any of the other FlightPath system games deserves a test flight, despite the often wonky and often problematic meta.
89. Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit
One of the last grail games and it earns its reputation. A big box game that has multiple battlefields going at the same time with fantastic production. It almost makes me want to forgive Episode 1, almost.
88. High Heavens
87. Shadows over Camelot
86. 878 Vikings: Invasions of England
Two to four players can enjoy the fantastic realism of strategic decisions that make 878: Vikings – Invasions of England so dynamic. Dudes on the map have never been this intense or this fun.
85. BattleLore (Second Edition)
Memoir ’44 + the fantasy realm of Terrinoth= Two-Player BattleLore (Second Edition) Fun!
84. Small City
Building your Small City is going to take careful economic planning, employing the government officials and a complete disregard for polluting your opponent’s city. Challenging and complex, but welcoming all the way through, it’s a fantastic game.
83. Tokaido Collector’s Edition
Join me on the gentle Tokaido road in which we will visit the temples, eat great foods, purchase local crafts and paint the great vistas. The game works even better with the expansions and is great for a relaxed night at home or with the family.
81. At the Gates of Loyang
Just when you thought you were a heavy gamer, Splotter comes along and drops you do in the most intense resource management /area control game in tabletop gaming. If you do not get buried under the endless chits, you will adore this AP breaking masterwork.
Everdell could be easily discounted for its fantastic and fantastical looking production, but at its root, it is a solid city building game with some fun and thematic combos.
78. Dynasties: Heirate & Herrsche
77. A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Second Edition)
76. Guilds of Cadwallon
75. Terraforming Mars
Despite its poor production, Terraforming Mars has brought efficient card playing action to the forefront. Endless paths to victory and expansions that correct some of the initial problems of the core gameplay make this dynamic game a must-play for everyone.
Obsession allows you to take the role of a family seeking to rise in the social structure through the use of elegant deck and tableau building with a dash of worker placement. It seems all very complex but somehow works so simply that this newcomer is sure to rise in its reputation.
Quantum is a streamlined 4X in space game that utilizes dice to represent the ever-changing power of your fleet. Modular game tiles and numerous technologies allow for a vastly different gameplay each and every time.
72. San Juan (Second Edition)
San Juan provides the most streamlined gameplay from any of the multi-use card games and yet it retains the complexity and competitive that you see in more complex fare.
Scoville has the color and flavor of a powerful and dynamic set collection game that makes we want to bring this out to new euro players.
69. Orleans: Deluxe Edition
Orléans is a fine bag build game, but what really makes it shine is its expansions that give the game real depth with additional technology and new boards that make dismissing your workers truly valuable.
68. Madeira Collector’s Edition
Macao is Stefan Feld’s little engine builder of a game that once again brings in card combos and dice to run its economic engine to success. Colorful and of course with multiple paths to victory, this engaging game is sadly out of print.
66. Smartphone Inc.
Stark in its look and application, but complex and engaging in its interaction with other players, Smartphone Inc. makes all other economic games seem disconnected and cluttered. It’s a rare and brilliant gem in 2018.
65. The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Press your luck games are typically left to lighter game fair, but The Quacks of Quedlinburg offers a new way on an old mechanic but bringing in bag building and dynamic combos with a colorful palette.
63. Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan
62. Lorenzo il Magnifico
61. Fresco: The Mega Box
Amongst all the Queen Big Box games, Fresco is above them all. Not only does it offer interesting worker placement and resource management, but the multiple “queenie” expansions add several more drops of complexity and thematic color.
60. Gentes: Deluxified Edition
I never thought I would love this artistically sparse look, but the Deluxified version makes this interesting worker placement game a must-play.
Calimala is an impressive economic game that utilizes an innovative action selection grid for resources as you try to overwhelm your opponents by placing influences in guilds and with the church.
58. On Mars
57. Last Will
After years of building complex euro game engines, Last Will comes in and forces you to deconstruct it. It is a simple idea but a truly mind frying experience that has you laughing all the way to the poor house and victory.
56. The Prodigals Club
If destroying your financial future wasn’t enough in Last Will, The Prodigals Club comes by and does you one better by destroying your social standing as well. What is strangely beautiful about this game is that it can, in fact, play with Last Will, so you can have your cake and lose it too!
55. Dinosaur Island
Dinosaur Island should be just a collection of ridiculous miniature dinosaurs and Jurassic Park references and yet, with its streamlined gameplay and endless replayability, this is a game that has earned a worthy place at the table.
The battle of the Greek isles has never been more fun than with this bidding style war game that allows you to employ the blessing of the Greek gods. The expansions that followed the base game really open the game and literally transform the landscape of the battles on the isles.
Cuba allows players to build out a flush landscape and dynamic economic engine that is beautiful and complex in its application. Sadly this gem is out of print but still holds a highly relevant place with gamers.
52. Food Chain Magnate
A painfully tense and yet highly enjoyable game about cornering the fast-food market. A dynamic and impressive card play system allows for multiple paths to victory. Everything but the art for the board has a real thematic flare.
51. Brass: Birmingham
Brass: Birmingham has surpassed its predecessor with a more expansive market and higher replayability. Not to mention a great new look and feel if you get the new money.
50. The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game
Fast, fun and innovative, The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game brings together the best card game for its size in price in board game history.
49. Saint Petersburg (Second Edition)
One of my first and meaningful euro engine builders was Saint Petersburg. It’s a classic for its “simple to learn, lifetime to master” quality, but it has stood the test of time with its numerous paths to victory. A must play.
48. Roll for the Galaxy
Stellar production and engaging dice resource placement make Roll for the Galaxy one of the greatest civilization games in space ever.
47. Love Letter Premium
Love Letter gets a lot of hate because of its success and numerous versions, but Love Letter Premium with its large cards, additional roles, and brilliant production gives it elite status.
Who thought the Catalan tradition of building human towers who make such a great game? But, it does! You choose and build your tower of castellers to meet the goals of the city that is requesting the performance all the while trying to hit specific public goals and managing a special ability wheel. Great production.
Auctions and resource management games are often one-trick pony, and yet, in Goa that is only the beginning. It is a well balanced economic game that never feels too abstracted.
Pure and straight forward dice placement and resource management keep Kingsburg a perennial classic. The new reprint includes the expansion that is out of print and it fills out a good game to a great time for all gateway gamers.
43. Agricola (Revised Edition)
I never thought I would like a farming game, and yet, here I am singing the praises of Agricola. It is simply the most thematic euro game that you will ever find.
42. Bora Bora
Colorful and vibrant in its gameplay, Bora Bora shrinks down and makes sleek the build of a civilization with a bit of help from the gods and your best men and women.
41. Rising Sun
Massive and beautiful in every way, Rising Sun has dominated 2018 and every table in its wake. And yet, it’s gameplay is well thought out and simple to follow. Numerous paths to victory and expansions make this game a rising hit.
40. Blood Rage
Blood Rage was and continues to be a game like no other. It expertly provides a dynamic Ameritrash/Euro experience with multiple paths to victory that embodies the “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master” goal.
From its elegant art and design to its innovative dice usage, Coimbra offers the greatest use of dice in gaming today.
38. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
If you are looking for a serious and meaningful civilization game then Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization is the game for you. I would argue that this is the civ game more than any other that crafts a deep and meaningful story while bringing satisfying gameplay.
37. Spirit Island
Dreamlike in its presentation and yet, pragmatic in its strategy, Spirit Island has you taking up arms against the colonists that are corrupting your lands. Having the NPC of the native people join your cause, as well as your fellow spirits, makes this co-op game a joy to behold. Spirit Island can be complex and take a good long time to finish, but if you have a quiet space and a good team, you are going to love this game.
36. Carson City: Big Box
Carson City does something remarkable in that it brings thematic realism and meaningful player interaction in a worker placement game. I have chosen the Big Box version here because the game really shines with the high-quality components and numerous player roles.
35. Empires: Age of Discovery
While I am not a fan of the theme, the mechanics bring this game back to the table again and again. Empires: Age of Discovery is a lighter weight Dominant Species.
34. Clinic: Deluxe Edition
33. Small World
Stellar production and slick design make this area control game sing with endless combos or race and special powers. Small World scales perfectly to any player count and is a joy to play whether you are a hardcore gamer or new to the hobby. Wonderful expansions that are all “Must Buy.”
32. Rococo: Deluxe Edition
Rococo doesn’t get the love it deserves and it’s a terrible shame. The opulence of the time it depicts has turned off many from what is a card management area majority game.
31. Glory to Rome
The champion of the multi-use cards has to be Glory to Rome. A brilliant and engaging experience of building up technologies to an often surprising victory. The only downfall to the game is that it is out of print.
Citadels are the best secret role game in tabletop. How can I say that? Well, because the selection and target of a role are chosen based upon on your direct build success and not that another player seems to have a thing for full moons.
29. Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Uwe Rosenberg could have easily let be Agricola be his magnum opus of tabletop farming, but he went back to the farm and allowed for the cards to now be open information tiles and feeding your people to be reasonable. Multiple paths to victory and specialization are just two of the fantastic reasons to play this game.
28. 7 Wonders Duel
7 Wonders Duel simply does the impossible by taking a modern-day classic and make it far better and streamlined. Add the expansion for more player interaction and special abilities.
27. 7 Wonders
Elegant in design and accessibility for all gamer levels. 7 Wonders brings civilization-building to life with brilliant card drafting and tableau building. The expansions open the game up to deeper direct player interaction.
26. Suburbia: Collector’s Edition
Tableau building and resource management really hit home in this thematic interpretation of building up a Suburbia. At the game’s end, I often wonder if the real-life suburbia that followed my success or failure in the real world.
25. Star Trek: Ascendancy
Star Trek Ascendancy boldly goes for a three-player base game of galactic stakes that reflects the core attributes of each species. And yet, the game only really opens up with the expansion races that allow for different gameplay options and effects.
A wildly unique supply chain management game that fits in a tiny box. The wooden coins and the expansions are a must for every game.
23. Arcadia Quest
With endless cute chibi fantasy characters and a rock-solid design and gameplay, Arcadia Quest dominates dungeon-crawling campaign player vs player games.
22. The Voyages of Marco Polo
The Voyages of Marco Polo accomplishes what few games ever do, asymmetrical powers that always feel balanced in the game. Dice placement is tight but fun and the expansion really opens the game up.
Amerigo is one of Stefan Feld’s most ambitious exploration games that utilize a cube tower to determine the strength of each action with a bit of surprise for later. Epic looking on the table and as always, many paths to victory.
Never has there been a more wondrous and inspired thematic area control game that with one simple pull of the guild, starts a fantastical chain of events that will lead you to rule or whimper away. Feudum is a deep and complex experience.
Trading in the Mediterranean has never been so fun or innovative. Instead of a rondel Mac Gerdts brings us an expanding hand of cards that allow us our own path to victory.
18. The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire brings us the hard fact that the actions that are quick and easy, often bring the longest-lasting damage to our success. Power up your empire with dice, but be careful as power has a price. Multiple technologies offer endless replayability and fun to the table. Out of all its many iterations, this is the best of the “Projects”.
Still not a fan of the theme, but again the mechanics and card play is undeniably brilliant. Mombasa offers complexity and diversity of gameplay.
When I think of epic fantasy battles, there is no better than Runewars. The opportunity to expand with a race, build troops and utilize your heroes special abilities makes this feel like an old school real-time strategy game.
Scythe is (as I predicted) a game-changer for the industry. It incorporates stellar artwork and a mashup of great euro and Ameritrash gameplay. And yet, it only truly shines with the Rise of Fenris expansion that makes Scythe a fully realized gameplay experience.
Rondales for days and I could not be happier! I love the way you select your end bonuses and how you are actually putting together pieces of a ship make Shipyard everything you could ask for in a heavy euro.
12. Mare Nostrum: Empires
Mare Nostrum: Empires is what happens when wargamers, euro gamers and a splash of Ameritrash hits the world of Mediterranean mythology. Epic in every way, with multiple paths to victory that have nothing to do with conquest, makes this a truly unique and dynamic game.
Dominaire is an often overlooked game in the Tempest story, but it is simply the best of all of its chapters. Card drafting and tableau building with the additional challenge of timing their triggering events in this area control game is fantastic.
10. Trickerion: Collector’s Edition
Presto Chango! Trickerion: Legends of Illusion makes worker placement fun and fantastically complex! Wondrous art and graphic design allow for deep and meaningful gameplay that deserves numerous gameplay.
9. Dominant Species
When critics of euro games scoff at the hobby, they often point to the cubes and cones of Dominant Species. And yet, on closer observation, you will find one of the most thoughtful and interactive games ever crafted.
8. Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition)
If there was ever a grail game experience it has to certainly be Twilight Imperium. Epic in gameplay and in gametime, this action selection game makes 4X conquest of the universe engaging on all levels.
7. War of the Ring: Second Edition
If Lord of the RIngs was told in cardboard, it would be in War of the Ring (Second Edition). Hidden movement, epic battles, and engaging card play make this game the classic grail game that everyone must play.
6. Star Wars: Rebellion
Star Wars: Rebellion is simply the best and greatest Star Wars in a box that board gaming has ever had. Period. Along with a worthy expansion, even non-Star Wars fan will enjoy the hidden movement, battles, and fantastic production.
5. Defenders of the Realm
There have been very few game experiences that have WOWed me like Defenders of the Realm. It’s old school high fantasy D&D with an epic narrative and wonderful expansions. I have yet to meet a gamer that has not loved the experience. It has a deep bench of great expansions.
4. First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!
What a sincerely delightful and innovative train building game that offer the most diverse number of opportunities for replayability right down to a murder mystery. The wonderful building of your train that expands across your table is a sight to be seen.
Stefan Feld has many wonderful designs, but Bruges with its multi-use cards and multiple point salads to victory can’t be overstated. A “Must Have” expansion fills out the dice rolls in a very satisfying way.
Lisboa is an elegantly crafted game about the rebuilding of this famous Portugal city after an earthquake, fire, and flood. Beautiful artwork and intense card play make this a heavy game every gamer should play.
1. Underwater Cities
Underwater Cities seemingly takes everything great and not so great from the popular Terraforming Mars game and makes it better in almost every way. Personal boards in which you build up your plans and technologies that follow a logical progression that makes this game a refined gem that will certainly be a modern-day classic.