There are so many board games in the world, and while I would like to say that I have a massive room dedicated only to board games where I can fit in lots of Kallax shelves from Ikea, I don’t. I was able to fit…
Normally, this would be another Halloween article, because I’ve been doing those every Wednesday, tomorrow, since it is actually Halloween will be my Halloween themed article. Instead, you are getting more of my top 100 board games, which will wrap up on Friday. ***Disclaimer***These rankings…
It’s getting so close to the end of this board game list. I’ve had a ton of fun writing it and I’m curious to see how much it’ll change next year, as I’m planning on doing this every October now that I’ve done it once. I had wondered at the beginning when I was doing the rankings if I’d really like my #100 game, it was fun to see that I’ve played enough games that I do like my #100.
These rankings are the opinion of yours truly, and if you don’t like them, that’s okay. We all have different tastes in games and that is great. There are some games that I’ve only played as a demo, and I felt like I got enough of a feel to put them on the list, thanks GenCon for all the demos. These are living rankings so next year I’m sure that things will change, so I’ll probably be doing another one next year. Thanks to Board Game Geek for letting me enter/rate my collection and games I’ve played. Thanks to Pub Meeple for creating a tool that pulls in those games that I’ve rated and creating a ranking tool. Again, the numbers and names will be linked to Cool Stuff Inc and Amazon if you’re interested in the games.
30 – Star Wars: Imperial Assault
We’re back into a bigger and heavier game. In Star Wars: Imperial Assault, you can either skirmish two sides against each other, but the more fun way to play it, in my opinion, is to play through the missions. In the game, you can play through missions either as a one against all game where one person controls the Empire who are trying to hunt down the Rebels, or you play as no name Rebels who are trying to survive. You can play through different missions, like a Jedi finding a lightsaber, maybe, or more. Either way, if the players win or lose, the story progresses in some way, because the Empire’s objective isn’t always to just kill off the rebels. Or, you can use an app and basically play the same thing, but instead of it being a situation where one person is the empire, the app takes care of that and directs their activations and the players move them on the board using a set-up that lets them know what actions to take based on distance. The game has a lot of little pieces to it, but the game feels like Star Wars, and feels like you’re part of a big story. If you’re a Star Wars fan, it would be a good one that is worth checking out.
29 – Village Attacks
There are a lot of games where you play the villagers or heroes who are going out to defeat the monsters. But do you ever really think about those poor monsters? Maybe they are just trying to live their lives and the villagers are just in the way, do they really deserve to be attacked by these villagers with their cruel intentions with pitchforks and torches? The answer is probably yes, but in this tower defense style game, you play as the monsters who are fending off hordes of villagers who are trying to complete some objective or attack the heart of the monsters lair, which would of course cause the whole building to crumble, bringing doom to the monster and all those around. This is a fun miniature, dice combat, tower defense game. I got to play a special scenario made at GenCon, and then I found out that it wasn’t available, which was annoying, because I really enjoyed it, and the cooperative play is always a good thing. Thankfully, it is back on kickstarter, so the pack that I got for the game with that scenario and some other goodies won’t go to waste and I’ll eventually be able to play the game. If you like playing as the bad guys, this game does a good job with that, but also without it feels too grim.
28 – Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is one of those aesthetically pleasing games, not to say the others on this section of the list aren’t, but with Photosynthesis, it jumps off the table as being pretty. In the game, you are growing trees, collecting light points to help your trees going more and hoping that you’ve set stuff up correctly so that you will be able to harvest your trees when they are old in order to get points and then start the process again. The game is really an abstract puzzle as you figure out where to place your trees and how to grow them, but it does have some thematic things as well. The sun travels around the forest, so that at some points in time, certain spots will get sunlight and spots won’t. That part is cool, and how you tell if an area doesn’t get sunlight is if there is a shadow being cast on it, which you can tell by where the sun is, and how tall various trees are on the board. This game can actually be a little bit mean, because you are probably going to be blocking other peoples trees at times from the sun and they doing that to your trees, so it’s possible to get no sun points if you are unlucky. But the game itself doesn’t feel that mean, because the theme of growing trees isn’t that confrontational. I really have enjoyed playing this game. I think that all the pieces look great and the concept of it works really well and even manages to feel thematic.
27 – Letter Jam
Letter Jam, when I saw it played, was going to be a game that I loved. I knew it. It’s a word game and a puzzle as you are getting clues about what letters you might have and trying to guess them as time goes on to figure out the word that you have. So I demoed it at GenCon, and the experience was bad. It was the first day at GenCon, one of the other people demoing didn’t want to be there, the person running the demo didn’t want to be there, and one of the people, because of the person running the demo didn’t realize the game was cooperative until half way through. So that was a poor experience, but then I tried it again with a different person running the demo, and it was a ton of fun to sit down and play the game, I was just sad that they were sold out at that point. In Letter Jam, you have a word made of between 4 and 6 letter cards (I believe), that are face down on the table. At the start of the game, everyone puts one upright away from themselves, and then people give clues as to what the letters are. So to do that, you spell out a word using tokens that are placed in front of peoples letters. But, of course, you can’t see your letter, only the other players, so you might get the word “F*IGHT”. If you got that word, and your letter is the asterisk, you can guess that your letter is probably an “L” or an “R”. Once you think you know what your letter is, you can flip it down and go to your next letter trying to figure out your word. But everyone is trying to do that, so everyone has to give clues. The game is a ton of fun, plays quickly, and I really love word puzzles.
26 – Hats
Another GenCon release, this one I did pick up. I wrote a TableTopTake on it a while ago. This is an Alice in Wonderland themed game that is a bit trippy, which is something that I am always looking for. In the game you are at the Madd Hatter’s tea party, and you are trying to get the best scoring collection of hats. To do that, you are playing down a hat from your hand and putting it in place of a hat on the Madd Hatter’s table. The trick is, to replace a hat, you need to either have a matching color or a higher number. And the scoring of the game is interesting as well. You only score the colors of hats on the Madd Hatter’s table, and it’s possible that certain colors won’t end up on the table at the end of the game. So the work that you did collecting them might be worth nothing if you can’t hold back a card so that you can make sure that color is being scored at the end of the game. The other trick to the game is that the cards in your hand are cards you might not use for scoring for yourself, in fact, your opponent(s) might get all of them. So how do you manipulate what is in your hand to end up with the scoring that you want and to use what is on the table to help drive your strategy. I feel like every game of this is different and a really good puzzle.
25 – Sword & Sorcery
And after a small game in Hats, we have Sword & Sorcery, a massive dungeon crawler with characters with cool powers who are heroes of old and brought from the past in order to stop something that is horrible that is happening now. There’s a lot going on in the game, and you can find information about that in my TableTopTakes post. But it’s a dungeon crawl game where you are rolling dice to fight monsters, looking for soul gems to level up your characters or to bring them back if they turn into ghosts. The game has a book of secrets as well that helps the story unfold without making it linear in each scenario because you have different things that you can do. And I’m not sure, maybe some of the choices you make in the earlier games can influence the future, we finally had something that felt like it might do that, or possible two things in this past scenario. The game, I wouldn’t say, is extremely difficult, or with a little bit of luck in terms of what treasure you get, it can make it easier. We’ve also done a good job rolling dice, so getting lucky, that has made them easier, but it’s still a lot of fun to play through the game, think about combat and go through the scenarios. If you want a big dungeon crawl where you are chucking dice, this one is good,.
24 – Small World
Small World, as I normally put it, is Risk, but fun. In Small World, you are trying to control areas with your fantasy race, collect coins, and at the end of the game, have the most coins. But, Small World is a ton of silly fun. In it, you are picking from various fantasy races, like Elves, Dwarves, Giants, Tritons, etc. and they are paired up with a power. So you might have something like Seafaring Elves or maybe you have Wealthy Dwarves or Flying Giants. These combos change up every time, which makes the game really diverse. You place your race tokens on the board taking over territories and once you’ve expanded or been attacked enough that you can’t go any further, you put them into decline and then pick a new race. The game is good silly fun, because, unlike Risk, if you get wiped off the board, you can always come back in. And if people are attacking you, you can put your race into decline and then come in with a new strong race and attack the people who attacked you, and that’s going to happen in every game. It’s fun to figure out all the different combos and which one might be the best from those available. This is another good gateway game and a gateway game for people who like Risk but maybe find it too long or too mean.
23 – Criss Cross
The smallest game on the list, Criss Cross is a little roll and write. However, it is one of my favorite roll and write games. In Criss Cross you are placing different shapes onto a five by five grid based off of what comes up on the dice. There are two tricks to this game. The first being that you are scoring symbols that are next to each other in both the columns and the rows. So if you pay too much attention to the columns, you won’t score well in the rows or vice-a-verse. The other thing is that when the dice are rolled, and everyone uses the same die rolls, you have to place the two symbols next to each other. So you might end up with two symbols that work perfectly or you might end up with one symbol that you really want and one that you really don’t. So you have to figure out where to put them to give you the most scoring chances and also make sure that you don’t accidentally end up with a space by itself, because if you do that, on the last roll, you won’t be able to place the dice symbols since they need to be next to each other. The game goes by really quickly and I rarely play less than two games in a single sitting. I would say that this game is a bit tricky too teach, because you can place the dice symbols anywhere, but the two symbols need to be next to each other, and people either think that you have to always put the symbols next to another symbol you’ve written, making their game harder, or they try and split up the dice, or they forget that symbols score when they are next too each other. It’s not a complicated game once you get it down, teaching this simple game, for some reason, is just tricky.
22 – Just One
This should be the highest party game on my list, and the newest party game on my list. In Just One, it’s cooperative and you are all working together but separately to get the guesser to guess their one word answer. Maybe they picked, unknown to them, the word “Emergency”. All the players, separately, have to write down a one word clue. So everyone does that and then, without the guesser looking, the players compare their clues, and any of them that are duplicated are hidden, so say, for “Emergency” that two people wrote down “Hospital”, the guesser won’t see either clue of “Hospital” and will be left with whatever other clues might have been given. The game plays fast, but it’s a fun challenge. in many ways, it has a bit of a Scattergories feel where you are trying to be clever with your clue, but not too clever so that no one can guess the word from it, or too clever that you match up with someone else with went that clever route. And you don’t want it so that, in the case of the word “Emergency” that no one puts down the helpful clue of “Hospital”. It leads to some great moments where people guess a word based off of way fewer clues than you would think that they could. I remember the first time that we played it, a friend guessed the the word “Karate” based only off of the clues “Discipline” and “Style”. Those moments make this game work well, and with the limit set on how long the game is, 13 word cards total, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
21 – Ice Cool
I had Ice Cool 2 lower on the list, but Ice Cool is almost a top 20 game for me, and I would play it anytime. I love how silly this game as you are flicking around penguins trying to either catch those silly penguins who are skipping class or the class skipping penguins trying to get their fish snacks. I’m waiting until my son is old enough to play this, probably 3 years from now, where we can just flick the penguins around and have fun with it. But the game is also a blast with adults. I’ve had it out at several board game nights and it’s always a success. I love that you can now combine it with Ice Cool 2 and play a massive eight player game. Since I’ve talked about this before I don’t have as much to say, but if you want a game that is just a lot of silly fun, Ice Cool is amazing for that, and the fact that you can get the penguins to jump over walls, if you do it right, or you can put spin on them and get them to go through multiple doors or a spin towards a penguin who is skipping class who thought they were safe, it’s just a blast. I know this game won’t work for more serious gamers, but if you have a group that is up for a fun time, I highly highly recommend this game.
I get to play one of these games tonight as my bi-weekly Sword & Sorcery game will happen. I’m excited to get it to the table, and now I want to play some of these games again. Maybe I can make a way to work them into the next board game night coming up in a few weeks. I really love all of these games and hopefully you can find some on here that you want to try as well.
Thank you for keeping up with this list with me. Let me know in the comments below if there any of these games that you love or that you really want to try.
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So, recently there’s been a trend in board games where apps or other pieces or technology are starting to get integrated into gaming. Then CMON announced Teburu a digital board set-up that allows the system to track where your characters are, have your player sheet…
I am not always a huge word game fan. I’m not going to lie, I generally do pretty well at them, but a lot of word games aren’t about the words you know, it’s about recognizing patterns. So you can often end up with someone who has a much larger vocabulary not doing nearly as well in a word game. Letter Jam takes some of that away as it’s a cooperative word game where you are trying to figure out your own word.
Borrowing from Hanabi, Letter Jam has you give a fellow player a word while someone else creates and scrambles up a word for you. You place your word face down on the table in front of you, and then carefully, so you don’t see it, you put it so that everyone else can see your first letter. Players then pitch their ideas for words that they can make. For example, in a six player game, someone might be able to make a five letter word that uses four people and a wild card letter. Whereas someone else might be about to make a four letter word that just uses four people and no wild card. As a group you then decide what makes more sense to give as a clue. When you decide on what clue to use, the person who is giving the clue places numbered tokens in front of the players and on the wild card, if it’s used, and you separately write down what you can see if the word if your letter was used. When you think you know your letter, you can lay down your first letter and then go onto your next letter, but if you feel like you made a mistake later, you can’t go back. After a defined number of turns, with each person giving at least one clue, you try and have everyone arrange their letters into a word, might not be the word they were given, but as long as it’s a word, you get those points.
Letter Jam is a clever game because it’s a cooperative game that has little to no troubles with an alpha player running a game. Yes, a person might give more clues, but they are going to need to get clues at some point in time so that they can guess their own letters. As long as you have a couple of people who are confident in giving clues, you can really have them give more of the clues, but because Letter Jam makes everyone give a clue so you can unlock an extra turn, that means that everyone is going to be involved in every part of the game.
Letter Jam also works well because you don’t feel like you have enough time. You have that limited number of clues, and you might be coming up with really good clues, but that means that you are going to be rushing through your letters later in the game. So, you rarely ever know for sure what a letter is, but you have a good guess, and if you have a five letter word in front of you and you can nail down a couple of them for sure and have the others down to two letters, you are doing pretty well. The game has ways to allow you to “cheat” by allowing one person to use the wild card letter, but that is only for one person.
For me, though, the highlight of this game is the strategy for giving out clues. If you watch the No Pun Included review on Youtube, he gives an example where the four letters he can see are “M”, “A”, “L”, and “E”, and while you can spot a lot of words in that combination, if you are a player who can only see “M”, “A”, and “E”, because you have the “L”, you have a ton of different options if the word given as the clue is “MA?E”. It could be “made” or “make” or “male” or “mace” for all that you know, plus even more options. So there is strategy in giving clues so that you cane give good clues. In the example they gave in No Pun Included, there aren’t many great clues that they could give for that combination of letters. So instead of saying that you have a four letter clue, maybe you want to sit back and let someone else give a clue to hopefully get more unique letters later on when you can give a clue. And the Wild Card, while it sounds great, is often a trap. Let’s say that you’re giving a clue with the same letters as before and you really want that person to guess their “L”. So you come up with the word “earl” for your clue, but it is going to use the wild card. That means, when you give the clue for the person trying to guess their letter, the word looks like “EA??”, they are going to be more likely to assume that their word is “ears” or something that is plural than they would that their word is “earl”. The clues are always a struggle and it isn’t until you’ve played it multiple times that you really start to figure out how to give good clues, and this is where your vocabulary could get you into trouble. If you are spelling a word that I don’t know what it is because it’s not in my vocabulary, it might have been the perfect clue to get me my letter, but I’ll never figure it out, so you can’t go too far in that direction.
The letter game really does hit that great balance between being a pattern game as you try and recognize the missing letters or understand how the letters you have might make a word and what word that might be, but it’s also a spelling and vocabulary game because you have to be able to come up with those clues that narrow down the letter for the people who are getting the clues. And because it’s cooperative, you either win together or you do poorly together. In fact, there is no real “lose” condition, there are just rankings for how many points you got. In a lot of ways that is like Just One which is another great light game that you can play with everyone. And while I think that Letter Jam is a trickier game and not going to be as easy for everyone, it’s going to be a game that you can pull out with most people.
As you can tell, I love this game. I think the concept of it is extremely clever, and it’s a word game that works for most people. I can see pulling this out with parents or with friends, and it would go over well. It’s a game that I wish I had picked up at GenCon, and I would have, but the first time we demoed it there, we unfortunately had a very bad experience because of the person giving the demo. I was excited for the game, so we wanted to give it another chance, and when we did, that was a great experience, but by then it was sold out. I’ll be waiting to see this hit the shelves of my FLGS (friendly local game store) so that I can pick it up.
Overall Grade: A-
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: A
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