So, this past weekend at Pax Unplugged, there was a big announcement, Frosthaven. This is a stand alone sequel to Gloomhaven, my favorite game of all time. In addition to having the well-known combat mechanisms of Gloomhaven, Frosthaven will feature much more to do outside of combat, such…
It’s that time of year, with Black Friday and Holiday Shopping nearly upon us. That means that people are starting to think about the gifts that they’ll be getting for others or what they might want to ask for themselves.
This list is basically the opposite of yesterday’s list which was focused on small games that are going to have a small footprint, small box, and generally a smaller price. Epic board games are going to generally be in a larger box and they are going to pack a lot into the game, so whether it’s in a fantasy world or a sci-fi setting, the game is going to feel big and epic. Also, stocking stuffers are going to be more apt to be games for a newer gamer, these, you are going to want to know the person likes board games.
Aeon’s End: War Eternal – This game actually doesn’t have a ton of pieces to it or a giant board at least. It’s a deck building game, but the game feels epic as you face off against an giant monster who is trying to destroy the town of Gravehold. You take on the roll of a breach mage who is casting spells to deal damage or out last the plans of the giant monster. To do this, you are building up a deck of cards, so it’s a pretty standard deck builder that way, but, in a twist, you never shuffle your deck, so if you are clever, you can pull off some interesting combos.
Betrayal at House on the Hill – This game is different from the first in that it has a sprawling footprint. You’re building out this massive haunted house, and eventually, there will be a twist when the haunt happens and someone is going to be a traitor. This game is a really thematic game that leans into the horror theme. The best way to describe it would be that you are playing through the movie Cabin in the Woods, if Cabin in the Woods was a mansion instead of a cabin. You never know what the haunt is going to be, because an omen card in a certain room is going to take you to a specific haunt. The game is a bit swingy in that someone can, with a bit of luck be very strong or the haunts can be a bit unbalanced, but it’s very thematic.
Blood Rage – With a name like that, how could it not be epic? In this game, you are taking your tribe of Viking warriors through combat and area control in order to get the most glory. However, beware where Ragnorak is happening, because that can knock your troops off the board. Blood Rage is, at it’s heart, a card drafting game where the cards you pick at the beginning of the age determine your strategy for that age. But it feels like it plays out on the table in a massive way, with big epic conflicts, monsters on the board, and the strategies are all based around different deities from Norse Mythology. The game looks cool on the table and the minis help give it it’s epic feel.
Cry Havoc – In what turns out to be a bit of a euro-style area control game, you really get to play through a giant cinematic game of different factions warring over the crystals. Humans are able to attack from different areas in support. The mechs can build up stronger technology and call in satellite support. The pilgrims are a peaceful alien race that just cares about growing as many crystals as possible. And the trogs are everywhere on the planet, because it’s their home world, and they’re trying to fight everyone off. In this game you’re getting points for crystals in the few rounds that you are playing and scoring. But it has a tricky bit of combat and interesting card play to be able to get to other areas, fight your battles, or in the case of the pilgrims, set-up your fortified areas. It looks cool and feels a bit like Avatar.
Dead of Winter – Dead of Winter is a survival zombie game where you are in charge of a group of survivors. You need to go out and find food, deal with zombies, get medicine to heal people, deal with crisis that are happening and complete a main objective. There is a ton to do in this game, plus, beyond that, you have your own goal you need to complete and there might be a traitor in your midst. All of that is great and epic feeling as you try and figure out who the traitor might be, but there are also crossroads cards which offer you tough decisions if the right conditions are met that makes this game feel even more epic.
Gloomhaven – This is, in my opinion, the ultimate big epic board game. It’s a massive box, massive footprint on the table, a ton of characters to play. Now, it comes with a large price tag, but the number of hours worth of play, it’s worth the price. Gloomhaven has a nice story to it, but it shines in the scenarios where you have to work with your teammates in your card play to get it really ticking, because the monsters hit back and they hit back hard. It’s a lot of strategy and it’s just fun to play, plus unlocking new characters keeps the game feeling fresh. It’s like a video game RPG, but on a board.
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition – The only Lovecraftian game on this list, I considered Arkham Horror LCG, and while it does have a great story, it doesn’t feel quite as epic. Mansions of Madness though is an epic horror game in a box. You are using an app to drive the story and provide ambiance for the game. But that doesn’t take away from the board game piece, it just enhances it and can cause the game to be set-up differently each time you play a scenario. And there are tons of scenarios out there and expansions. You take on the role of an investigator who has been called in for something odd happening, but can you stop it in time or before you become too injured or insane to carry on?
Pandemic Legacy Season 1/Season 2 – I’m lumping both of them together, but both are pretty epic stories. As a Legacy game, it means that you have a limited number of plays through the story, but the story is good, and you feel like you get your value from them. You are playing what is basically Pandemic, a game where you are a member of the CDC going out to deal with diseases. The basic game is fairly epic, but when you add in an evolving story, it becomes more epic and challenging as you have to adapt to the strategies that the changes in the game is leading your towards. It’s fun to play through, even twice, like I’ve done, because there is a good story with it and a lot of story and interesting decisions.
Root – These are cute woodland creatures, they won’t be epic, will they? Yes, they will in this asymmetric game where players take on the roles of different factions of woodland creatures. Maybe you are the vagabond who is getting new items to be able to do more things or planning out your long term strategy as the Eyrie who need their orders to be carried out in a certain way and things will go poorly if they aren’t. Or maybe you are the Woodland Alliance who don’t start with much, but need to create a strong position on the board. And then there is the Marquise de Cat and his cat troops who are trying to keep control on the areas and expand their power. It’s big, it’s epic, and everyone feels really unique in the game.
Skulk Hollow – By far the smallest game on the list and only a two player game, it still feels epic. You have the foxen heroes who all of a sudden have to deal with a guardian. The guardian of the realm probably isn’t a bad guy, but with the foxen folk there now, they seem like one. One player plays as the guardian and the other as foxen folk, each with their own goals. The foxen folk always want to take down the guardian, but the guardian might be trying to get certain tokens out or maybe kill the leader of the foxen folk, or just kill as many foxen folk as they can. The game plays fast, but it packs a punch for what it does.
Star Wars: Rebellion – The original trilogy in a box, it’s going to be epic. Again a two player game where one person is the empire trying to find that darn rebel base. The other player, as the rebels is trying to complete missions in order to subvert the empires evil plans. It’s a good cat and mouse game with all the big players that you’d expect from a Star Wars game. It’s been close basically every time I’ve played it and while the rebels can be a bit trickier to play and this is a longer game, it is engaging the whole time and not too hard. The asymmetry is pretty limited and that makes teaching the game easier than the previous two ones, even with the different character goals.
Sword and Sorcery – Another big dungeon crawl with a lot of characters, Sword and Sorcery takes you on a tighter story than Gloomhaven does, but in what is more of a dice chucking game. The story is cool, and the monsters, while limited, offer a good variety of challenges. What makes this game especially unique is the death mechanic, where if you die, you aren’t out of the game, you have limited things you can do, but you can also respawn as long as you have enough soul gems. There are a ton of characters to play, and while the story is quite linear, I do feel like it’s a game that I could play through again with different characters and the game would feel different.
T.I.M.E. Stories – This game is basically time cops as you try and police the time stream, going to Earth in different eras as well as to completely different worlds. It’s an interesting game because you run through different stories, which are expansions for the game. T.I.M.E. Stories, for everything, is the most expensive game on the list, but it’s worth checking out. The story in the base game is interesting, and it only starts to show you the plug and play nature of the system. Each story, also, has it’s own epic feel, and you get to run through the story, making better decisions each time or maybe finally going down that rabbit trail that you probably shouldn’t have gone down.
Village Attacks – Maybe, as compared to the rest of the games, you want to play the bad guys. In Village Attacks, you and a team of other monsters has to deal with pesky villagers who are coming to your lair with their pitchforks and torches. You need to protect yourself, because that’s very rude of them to attack you. Can you survive the onslaught of monsters coming? It’s a fun cooperative game and very challenging as there are so many villagers. I had a blast playing it at GenCon, and I’m super excited to get my kickstarter copy. If you want to get this game, you need to check out the possibility of a late pledge from the kickstarter.
XenoShyft: Onslaught – Sometimes you just want to squish some bugs. XenoShyft is basically Starship Troopers where you have to defend this mining facility from all sorts of waves of bugs. This is another deck building game, and it’s a tough deck building game, but you always feel like you’re getting better and have a chance. The cool and unique part of the game is the fact that you can play your cards to help other people, because sometimes you might have a lot of weapons that you can’t use, but someone else might need them, so you have to balance it out to make sure that there isn’t a weak link. This is a tough game to win, but a ton of fun.
There are so many epic games out there. If you want a longer game that you can play a lot, there are a lot of good options out there. I’d recommend starting with some of the smaller ones on the list, XenoShyft: Onslaught, Pandemic Legacy, or Aeon’s End. But if they already like epic games, and you want to splurge, Gloomhaven is a game that you can’t go wrong with. Yes, it won’t be for everyone, but it is a massive epic game and unless you want a ton of dice rolling, which Gloomhaven doesn’t offer.
Is there an epic game out there that you really love? Or is there one that is really epic that you want to get?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!
What, more Gloomhaven, how is that possible. Well, before we’d just been playing scenarios and I was talking about what I liked, we’ve officially beat what seems to be the final story of the main quest. We have more side quest and an expansion that…
I’m back with the next round of the rankings. I’m going to run this basically straight through just because it would stretch out until the end of the year if I didn’t, so hopefully you are enjoying the board game content. I had fun putting this list together. And now the disclaimer.
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.
80 – 7 Wonders
One of the things that makes 7 Wonders such an enjoyable game is the fact that it scales well. You actually can play it up to 7 people and it works well like that, and the same with lower player counts. In this game you are building up your society and trying to build one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. To do this, you are drafting cards, building up your tableau, and scoring points in a lot of different ways at the end of the game. I have this lower than some other drafting games simply because the theme isn’t that exciting. Also, 7 Wonders encourages hate drafting, because if you don’t, science can be a run away strategy for a win.
79 – Risk Legacy
Regular Risk won’t be showing up on this list. That has player elimination and the game ends when someone controls the whole world. Risk Legacy, fixes some of that and gives you some fun stuff to open. In the game you play one of several factions who are trying to take over this new planet. But instead of wiping everyone off the board, you just need to get enough points. Generally, this is done by taking over a couple of the HQ’s that your opponents control, but there are other missions as well that can give you points. This keeps the game time much lower and when or if you are knocked off the board, you can come back on your following turn, probably won’t win, but you won’t just be sitting there. As compared to other legacy games, this doesn’t have story, but it doesn’t need it and it’s enjoyable to play without it.
78 – Dice Throne: Season 2 Cursed Pirate and Artificer
There will be more of this game higher on the list, and I could have maybe clumped it all together. But this is stand alone that you can play yourself. The reason that I have this one a bit lower is that while they are a ton of fun to play, they are also a bit more complex. So I don’t know that they would be the two that I’d pull out for beginners. Dice Throne, which will continue to show up throughout, is a Yahtzee style dice game, but instead of using those combos of dice to score points, you’re using them to defeat your opponent in 1 on 1 battles, 3 player free for alls, or you can team up. The game plays pretty fast and is generally easy to understand, though, as I said, these two characters are a bit more complex. I consistently have a good time when I get it to the table.
77 – Mysterium
There has been a murder in this deduction based game. In it, most of the people are playing investigators who are trying to determine who committed a murder, but to figure it out, they need clues. These clues as to who, how, and where are being given to you by another player, the ghost, who can only send you visions. This means that the ghost is giving you some cards that you are then comparing to, lets say early game, different possible murders, and you are trying to interpret these cards to determine who your murderer is, and each player is trying to find a different one. It’s a fun almost party game where there’s more going on than your traditional matching a word or image to another word or image. The spooky theme works, and we’ve house ruled a little bit with how the end of the game works, because it tries to keep it competitive to some extent, but those rules just slow down the game and don’t add to the enjoyment.
76 – Gloom
Not Gloomhaven. In Gloom you are telling the story of your family. But this isn’t a nice and happy family, this is a family that you want to die off. In fact, you want them to die off being as unhappy as they can be, because that’s how you win the game. On your turn you play a card either on one of your people, telling the story of how something bad happened to them or on someone else’s characters telling how something got better for them. While there is definitely scoring and a winner at the end of the game, the biggest part of the game is telling stories that twist together as to why your characters are getting more and more miserable, and just the humor that comes out of that. A cool part of the game is that as you are playing down the cards, you play them on top of the character, but you can still see the character since the cards you’re playing down are see through. So you can see how they have been made miserable before. It plays best when people are into the story telling, but most often people have been.
75 – Codenames: Pictures
I do not like Codenames, if you are expecting it to be the list, you won’t find it there. Codenames, with words, tends to be an anti-party game. People just sit around and look at the cards thinking, whereas with pictures, it encourages more discussion, because of the weird artwork. In Codenames Pictures, you are split into two teams, each team having a clue giver and guessers. The clue givers give a one word clue and a number. The number is the number of the pictures the clue relates to. Then the guessers are trying to figure out which ones match and make guesses on that. The first team to get all of their images guessed wins, but there’s more. If you guess the opposing teams, they get that as a correct guess. And if you guess the assassin, your team loses, so you have to think about that as the clue you’re going to give. It gives some clever moments for guessing, and some clever moments for giving a clue when you can tie a large number of the images together. The added discussion makes this game much more enjoyable than the original in my opinion, and you don’t run into a situation where someone might not know what a word means.
74 – Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancient
This is a game that I really need to play more. It was one of the first campaign games that I got and I’ve enjoyed the little play I have gotten of it. This game is a big box game with minis that need to be put together, but once you’ve done all that and learned the rules, which there are a lot, you start a dungeon crawl through the weird west. This wild west combined with monsters and other dimensions really gives this game a pretty unique theme that I’d love to see more of. What keeps this game from being at the table more is that it’s a beast to get to the table and at this point in time it’s been long enough that I’d have to spend the time to relearn the rules as well. But the unique t heme and the fact that I really like campaign style and dungeon crawl games, Shadows of Brimstone is a game that I’ve kept and that I’ll probably keep on my shelf for a long time, even if it isn’t played too often.
73 – Quoridor
This is a pretty straight forward abstract game that I really like at 4 players. In the game, you are racing from one side of the board to the other. Your opponents are doing the same thing from other sides of the boards. What makes this game interesting is that you can block off peoples routes with a few boards that you have. When doing that you can’t block them from the side of the board that they need to get to. What I like about this game is that I can see how it’s going to work fairly into the game. Now, I don’t win all that often because my wife tends to make it her mission to keep me from winning, but it’s still fun being able to see how you can up walls in such a way and cause other people to do the same thing so that your path stays clearer. It’s also a very fast game, even with some thinky decisions in there.
72 – First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet
This game I was super excited for because it was going to be like Robinson Crusoe, which I own but haven’t played, in space, with an app. And I feel like it fell a bit flat for me compared to what it could have been. I still really enjoy this game, but it was hyped up a ton, and it didn’t live up to that. In this game you are on Mars trying to keep your base up and running while also completing whatever missions you need to, plus the app causes things to happen and things to break down on your base. It works well, but the app part only works okay. It’s a bit clunky, and the game itself has a lot of bits to keep track of. There is a campaign aspect to the game that I haven’t played yet, but there are a lot of fun one off games you can play as well that seem challenging, though I have had pretty good luck on them. I think that with the house keeping in the game, just keeping track of everything working and how things break down, it might be a bit much for some people, but I enjoy it.
71 – Near and Far
This game is interesting because it balances some tough mechanics with an interesting world building and story element to the game. In it, you play through a campaign on maps where you are finding out the story of the world, but also building up your engine so that you’re able to go out and exploring and find more story. The game looks amazing with great art work. The game, though, because it has the more game mechanics and the story aspect, can seem like there is almost too much to do. I enjoy the complexity of the mechanics and planning ahead, but it won’t be for everyone in a story game and there is a lot to teach for that. I’ve played through a few different scenarios and I’ve always enjoyed it and the fact that a decision in a story at one point can lead you down a different branch at another point is a lot of fun and makes the world seem much more like it is living.
There’s another 10 done, still a lot to go, but thank you for staying around with my list. I hope that you’re enjoying it, are there any standout games on it thus far that you love or that you really want to play?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!
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…
So, I thought that with my Dominion review, and Dominion being an extremely popular game, I thought I should write a bit about what sort of games I like, what I don’t like, and what I’m looking for.
To start out with, there is one thing that I really look for in a game, though not every game, but Theme is extremely important to me. Theme helps me get immersed in the game, and while I really can lean into tactics of the game and the strategy, without a good theme, though, I’m less likely to pick up again, and if the theme doesn’t come through, I’m not that likely to continue playing a game. If it’s just a puzzle, once I’ve figured out the puzzle, even if that puzzle is variable, I’m less interested in playing it again. That’s a lot of the reason that I don’t like Dominion. You are just finding the puzzle in the collection of random cards you’re going with, and that’s it. The theme could be about trading coins and it wouldn’t make a difference for the game.
And within theme, there are certain things that I’m apt to be more interested in. I’m a huge fan of Fantasy, Horror, and Sci-Fi. Thankfully, there are a ton of games with those themes. Now, let me say, I’m not a fan of Medieval games with a light fantasy sprinkling on it, but really you’re trading cubes. I want fantasy, and I like a slightly darker fantasy. Things like Gloomhaven and Sword and Sorcery, yes, they are epic fantasy, but they have some odd things going on that don’t just make it the standard heroes rushing in and smashing everything. I’m excited to get games like Apocrypha to the table, because it’s a dark urban fantasy setting. And with horror, while I don’t mind something like zombie horror, I prefer that Lovecraftian style of horror or campy horror. Which, isn’t always the best, because Kristen claims I don’t need 8 different Lovecraft horror games, I suspect that’s wrong, but I also don’t get all of them to the table that often. With Sci-Fi, I don’t know that I have any subset that I love more than others, I think that I have a harder time finding Sci-Fi games that really excite me because a lot of them can end up being cube pushers, and I’m really looking for that theme or that continuing story.
That’s another big thing that I really like, I like Story Based games. Now, that can fall into a few different categories. There are games where you are playing a one off story/scenario where you have an objective that you’re trying to complete. I find that sort of game okay. It’s definitely not my preferred type, but if the scenario is strong, I’m cool with that. I prefer campaign or legacy style games. Now, not all legacy games are story based but they often still keep the pretense. Charterstone which is a fun game theoretically has a story, but in reality, it’s the loosest of threads holding it together. And I’m going to say that I prefer campaign games where you don’t end up destroying stuff, because I have a couple of copies of Pandemic Legacy Season 1 that I had a blast playing and I’m not sure I want to get rid of, but what am I going to do with them? I should just harvest them for parts. Thankfully, there are a ton of campaign games out there, and now there are more legacy games that once you’re done with them, you can continue playing them. Charterstone is a great example of this, but there’s also games like Betrayal Legacy, Aeon’s End Legacy, and Clank! Legacy that allow you to continue playing them. And while I’m less likely to play them once the main story is done, it’s nice that it’s not just a one time investment.
Now, I mention that Charterstone doesn’t have much story to it, and I don’t think it really has much theme to it, but if the theme is light, there are ways to make it feel like more than it actually is. The biggest way to do that, and another thing that makes me interested in a game is Great Artwork/Bits and Charterstone has both of these. The art is consistent and nice and you feel the lightness of the world that Stonemaier Games created through the artwork is great. And the coins in there are amazing, and the little tuck boxes and magnetic boxes are nice in the game. So those aesthetic pieces are very important. Or there are games like Clank! In! Space! where there are some nice pieces, but the cards don’t have the best artwork, but I like it because the art references something and sometimes you just want to figure out what the joke is that is on the card. Another example of a game that has great pieces but not a great story/theme is Century: Golem Edition where it’s a good engine building game, but there’s no theme. The art is just amazing and the pieces, the coins and gems and gem cases are great. That game just looks good on the table.
When a game is that more abstract style, I can enjoy heavy strategy games, but I tend not to be great at thinking five turns ahead or twenty to the end of the game, so I don’t always do the best, I might think two turns ahead, So for those more abstract games, I prefer Family Weight games. And I have a lot of family weight games in my collection, some that are more introductory games like Catan, Ticket to Ride and Carcassone, but there are some very abstracted ones like Photosynthesis and Century: Golem Edition that I have as well. Now, Photosynthesis is probably heavier than family weight, but go back to that aesthetic paragraph, that’s where it belongs. But Century: Golem Edition is a great example of a game that is a family weight strategy game that looks amazing and is very abstracted away from the looks. Like, why does it matter that you’re getting gems to trade gems, but the strategy is still simple enough that it’s fun and I can pull it out with any group. Sagrada is another game like that. And there are reasons why I have Azul over Sagrada and that’s because the theme, while not there, is easier to sell than Azul, even to myself.
I haven’t even touched on mechanics, and really I’m cool with a lot of mechanics. I like Area Control, Cooperative, Deck Building, Action Points, Engine Building, Drafting and so many more I’m sure. But if I were to pick one that stands out above the others that I love, that would be Variable Player Powers. I love it when I have a character that does something slightly different than other people. Some of the reason that I like it so much is that it allows me to be slightly different and unique than everyone else in the game. And it means that I have to think about my strategy in a slightly different way than everyone else. That means that every time that I play the game the game is going to feel different or could feel different. I enjoy it when it’s fully asymmetric like Root or Cry Havoc, but those are harder to teach because they can be completely different as to how you play. So games like Small World where you have different races and powers that get put together, that’s great because you feel unique multiple times during the game. Though, that makes the game very light in Small World, so games where you have one that you’re playing with throughout the game is great, that’s one thing I love in Xenoshyft: Onslaught, because I have a unique starting deck and unique powers throughout the game.
Now, that’s a lot of information, but I wanted to write this because of my TableTopTakes for Dominion yesterday and just thinking about some of the responses from Board Game Geek that I got when posting it there. Some very good ones and some that basically just said, “You’re wrong in every sentence” without providing any reasoning for saying that. When I do a review and give my ratings, I try and think about the game as to why someone might like it as well, and while a grade will suffer if I don’t like it, I try to base it on more than just that. And really, I do like most games, there are just some that I’m going to gravitate towards and overlook flaws in the game because it’s my type of game. Plus, there are some games that I’ll read a 30 page rule book for because it’s my type of game and if it’s not my type of game, I’m less apt to get it.
Hopefully that helps clear up some of why I don’t like Dominion or why I love some games that might be less popular, Xenoshyft: Onslaught for example. Obviously, everyone is going to have their preferences and I hope that I can somewhat divorce myself from mine when I look at a game, but that’s certainly not possible to fully do. But beyond that, I’m curious to know what other people look for when they look to buy a game or what intrigues you about a game to get you to pick it up?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!
I’m on the road to GenCon! So I’m writing this ahead of time, and I’m excited to be getting there. So disclaimer like before, I don’t know anything that Fantasy Flight might be talking about on their In Flight report. But what are the expansions…