So, this was a question that I posed on The Dice Tower Facebook group, Board Game Geek forums, and Board Game Geek Facebook group, what are games that are campaign style that would play well through Zoom? The reason for this is that we’re about …
We’ve made it through another list this year. No spoilers as to what’s to come, what might have moved up, what might just be a new game on the list, so let’s get into this. 100 to 91 90 to 81 80 to 71 70 …
We’re back with the next ten, a bullet point of what I said in the first part (which you can find 100 through 91). If you aren’t caught up, you can find yesterdays 90 through 81 to see as well. But we’re back for the next 10 games.
- These are my favorite, you want what people consider best, see the Board Game Geek Top 100
- If a game you love isn’t on the list, it might be be coming, I might not have played it, and if I have, it’s 101
- If a game looks cool, I have links to buy it from CoolStuffInc or Amazon, or you can grab most at your FLGS
- There are a few games, Destiny 2 Player versus regular Destiny where if they are basically the same thing, I only do one of them
This game has the honor of being the first game that I backed on Kickstarter. When I backed it, I did so without really having the gaming collection that I have no or the experience gaming, I just thought that the game looked fun, and, well, I was right. This game is pretty simple, you move around aliens to get them off the planet, but there is some challenge, because you need the right stuff to get them off the planet, and you need the moon to be in the right phase to get them off the planet at certain locations. So while the game is simple and very cute, there is some strategy, there is some timing, because if you don’t have enough resources placed at the right time for the launch, you might have to wait for the moon to travel around again. The game looks great on the table, and while it’s not one that I pull out and play a ton, it is a fun one to play.
Last Year: Not Ranked
Now, you will not see Codenames on the list, I’ve come around on it a little bit, but I don’t enjoy Codenames that much. Linking the words can be done, but there are some issues with it, people need to know all the words and all the possible meanings/slang for the words to really make it work. With Codenames: Pictures, there are just a whole lot more interesting ways to connect the pictures. It makes the game faster, a bit easier, but also has more memorable moments and memorable clues where you can get a lot of answers. Codenames: Pictures just has more of the party feel to the game for the weight that it’s at and I like it for that.
Last Year: 75
I’m a big fan of cooperative games, and Dead Men Tell No Tales is a fun pirate themed one where you are going onto a cursed and burning pirate ship to try and grab all the treasure and leave before the ship burns and you get cut off from either the treasure or your escape. The game can get to you in a lot of ways with the fire, the guardians, the skeletal crew and just a nice challenging feel that has a bit more going on than base Pandemic, so is a bit less of a gateway game. But if you have someone in your life who likes games and pirates, and is even just familiar with modern gaming, this is a really enjoyable game. Not one of the cooperative games that gets played most often, but one I like quite well.
Last Year: 81
77. King of Tokyo
When we talk about gateway games, King of Tokyo has to be one of them that comes up. It uses a Yahtzee style dice rolling in a fun way as you all take on the roll of monsters who are battling it out over Tokyo. The game plays fast and you can either win by knocking out all the other monsters (the most fun way), or by getting points (also fun, but less punching). You can improve what you do by getting power and buying cards. And you can go into Tokyo where you can punch everyone, but the issue is everyone can then punch you. The game is fast, it’s pretty silly, and while there is player elimination, that rarely happens and then the game continues for a long time. Overall, just a fun gateway game that works best at the higher player counts.
Last Year: 37
76. Sword & Sorcery
I promise you this isn’t the only dungeon crawler on the list. It’s the first just because compared to some of the others on the list, the story isn’t as interesting. But there are some parts of the game that I really like. I like the leveling up mechanic and I like that you have two sides to each character. It makes the game feel like I could play it again with the same characters and it would play differently. And this is a true Amerithrash game where you have a big handful of dice for an attack or defense and you better roll well or you might be in trouble. And while the game has a massive rulebook and a few trickier rule things, like who a boss monster might target and how that changes, the game is actually pretty easy, you just move, explore, and fight basically, and fighting is done with the dice. I wish the story felt like it had more choices to it, but that’s about my only knock on it.
Last Year: 25
A very different type of game than most on my list, this is a push your luck bluffing game. Each player has a hand full of cards, a bunch of roses and a skull. Players take turns putting down a card in their own stack, face down, until someone bids on how many cards they can flip over without hitting a skull. The trick to it is that you have to flip over all of your own cards first. So if you’ve placed your skull in your stack, can you bid, just to push someone else’s bid higher so that they’ll hit yours and bust, or will you bust yourself because you’ll be stuck flipping over your own skull. There’s some interesting strategy in how you play and how you bid, but really it’s about reading the other players at the table to figure out what they’ve done.
Last Year: 99
74. Risk Legacy
First Legacy game on the list and just first overall legacy game in the hobby. While this game doesn’t have the story that the more modern ones do or try to have, the game play is still a lot of fun. It’s risk, but there’s more, you aren’t just fighting over the world, you’re fighting over bases and you’re trying to complete missions and if you can pull them off, you get victory points and the first person to hit the victory point threshold wins. Plus, all of the factions are different. And you get to decide how they are different as you add stickers to them, so you can make them better at attacking or better at defending, or maybe you get more troops to start. There’s all sorts of different strategies that you can take, but it still feels like classic Risk for the most part, it just goes much faster. Overall a fun time especially if you like Risk but can’t play it too often because it lasts too long.
Last Year: 79
Back to back legacy games, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 is a bit further down on my list than Pandemic Legacy Season 1. I think that it tries to do a lot of new and different things, and while I think it does most of them well, it bogs down a little bit with all the new things you need to learn. That said, for being quite different than Season 1 and base Pandemic in what you’re trying to do, the mechanics seem really familiar and can get going on the base game quickly, there’s just a twist on to everything. So if you haven’t just gone from one type of Pandemic to the other, you’ll probably be able to pick up on those changes quickly. The story is very interesting, and there is a lot of legacy content in the game.
Last Year: 84
I like all of the Betrayal games, this one is just a bit further down on the list, because while I like the D&D theme to the game, it just doesn’t seem as epic and as good a thematic fit as horror does. This one does have some cool features though, class powers are awesome. I like that about 1/5 of the scenarios have no betrayer, there is just some monster or something that you have to do as a group, that makes it easier to keep track off since some of the haunts (betrayals) can be a bit tricky to understand and if you’re the betrayer you don’t have anyone to ask. They also fix an issue that can arise in the regular game where the haunt happens too fast. It’s still swingy and tricky to understand all the haunts, but I like it a lot and I like the silly random moments that you can have in the game, and the great rolls or the horrible rolls you can have.
Last Year: 35
By far the biggest game on the list, and actually a game that I have sold most of what I have for it, because I don’t have a consistent group to play with for the past few years. But I still really like the game. I especially like playing EDH (Commander). I never got into the competitive magic scene, but for more casual play and people not busting the bank buying stuff, I think it’s a lot of fun. I really can get into the deck building because you can come up with all sorts of odd and interesting combos and for me coming up with something odd and seeing if it can work is a blast. I like to try strange strategies and see if they’ll work or build a whole deck off of the concept of flipping and coin and see what happens with that and how well that’ll work. A few years ago this would have been higher, it’s just not one that I’m sure I’ll get to play that often anymore.
Last Year: 60
A whole lot of moving and shaking on my list. I think some of that is because, or the ones that are dropping, I like another game that does something similar that much better so it takes a bit of a hit. At least that is what I’m guessing. Still, I was a bit surprised to see a few of the games having dropped as far as they did from the 20’s and 30’s. Still really enjoy those games, just might not be the ones I pull off the shelf to scratch that game playing itch.
What is your favorite from this part of the list?
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It’s that time of year again, and I’m going to talk a little bit about what I’m doing and when I’m going to try and consistently do it from here on out. We’re doing my Top 100 Board Games of ALL TIME! Now, this is …
This is one of my favorite mechanics in games, it adds a lot of variety to games and to the strategy of games. However, it can be one of the trickier, though there are trickier mechanics, to teach in a game.
The idea of variable player power is that each player can do something different in the game. Now, that might mean that you’re the only player who can do something, or you can do something better than anyone else. And this isn’t because of the skill that the player possesses themselves, it is instead something that the game grants the player the ability to do.
A kind of silly but obvious example of this is in the game Magic Maze. In that game you are trying to, without verbal communication, move a group of heroes through a mall so that they can pick up what they need and then get out before time runs out. In this game each player has a certain power, you might be able to move the heroes down while I can move them up, someone else can move them left, right, and so on and so forth. While all the powers do basically the same thing, move the heroes, each of them moves it in a unique way. And now I wouldn’t really consider this a great example of how variable player powers can be used in a game, it is obvious, because you are doing something different than anyone else, in fact, you are only doing things different than everyone else.
In most variable player power games, your power isn’t the only thing that you can do. Most of the time there will be a set of common actions that you can take, but you’ll have some added thing that you can do in the game. Pandemic is a good example of this. In Pandemic everyone has the same abilities, you can travel, treat a disease, trade a card, or cure a disease. However, if you are the Dispatcher, you can move other character pawns, not just your own. If you are the Medic, you can treat a disease better. And the same goes for the likes of the Researcher and Scientist and all the other characters. They can all do the basic actions the game, but they can improve upon a basic action or add in a whole action or affect that is specific to them.
Why I like this mechanic so much is that it makes each role in the game feel different. And it means that each time you play the game it feels different as well. In the Pandemic example, if I play the Dispatcher, I’m doing actions that are helping us win the game but that are consistently different than those of the Medic. I care about getting people to where they need to be versus healing a disease. So next time when I’m the researcher and my actions are all about getting people the cards they need, I can coordinate and plan with the Dispatcher to get me to where I need to go so that I’m not using the cards I need to help someone else cure a disease. Sure, you can repeat or find a favorite character for playing or team that you like for winning, but some of the fun is trying out new things. And that’s even more interesting, in my opinion, in a competitive game, because generally that means you are changing how you target a win, I’ll talk about on of my favorites with that coming up here.
Homebrewers – Now, I’m sure people have a bunch of different games that I could have put here, but this newer game is one that I really like that plays fast. In this game you are brewing and improving your homebrewed beer. You do this by adding ingredients to your beer, this improves your beer so it makes it more likely you’ll play in the Summer Beer Fest and Oktober Fest. Where the player powers come in is that each character can do something unique. One of the homebrewers is better at cleaning their equipment, another is efficient so they get an extra action die in a month. All of things that are done are simple, and at the end, you end up with a lot of crazy sounding beer that might be good or might just be weird. If that theme doesnt work for you, Pandemic is also a great opion.
Xenoshyft: Onslaught – Again an area that could have a lot of different games, but I really like this one because it combines two or my favorite mechanics, player powers with deck building. You even get to blow up some bugs in this cooperative game. In Xenoshyft: Onslaught, you are fighting back wave after wave of bugs who are trying to get into your mining base on an alien planet. To do this, you create a line of defense, but what’s fun is that you can help other people with their defenses as well, so it’s very cooperative in nature. The player powers come in with what group of the security defending the base you are. If you are a medic, that means you start with a special card to start in your deck and it means that you get a few special abilities that unlock over the various waves of bugs. It can be a discount when it comes to buying weapons, armor, more troops, medical supplies, and then they start to build from there. It’s a very tough cooperative game, but I like it a lot.
Lords of Hellas – Now, this one is my most controversial pick because there are a lot of good ones out there, and some people don’t like Lords of Hellas all that well. I really like it, though, because of the variable player powers and multiple win conditions. In this game you are either trying to control two groups of land areas, a completed statue, defeated three monsters, or control areas with five temples. At the beginning of the game you pick a hero, and that hero has a unique power. This can help you decide what you want to go after in terms of winning the game. It can be as simple as just starting the game with a priestess but that means you can start going down the path of getting temples faster. But it leads you a bit in a way to win, though, when I got the extra priestess and was going for temples, I actually got closer to winning with two areas controlled. But I like the different options that it gave you and there were a ton of different heroes, so you could really tailor it to how you wanted.
Those are just some of them that I like, there are so many out there, even something like Gloomhaven falls into that category but I skipped dungeon crawler games because while it is a variable power, it feels and plays different, and I’ll talk about dungeon crawler and what that means coming up anyways. What are some of your favorite games with variable player powers? Does it sound interesting to you if you haven’t played a game like that?
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There are a lot of videos and thoughts on how to teach a board game well as it can be a hard thing to do. Especially for bigger games, it can take a long time or it can be a lot of information dumped on someone at once to fully understand what’s happening in the game. But you want to run a board game night and you’re the person with all of the games, how do you teach a game well?
First, teach games often. As long as you’re paying attention to what you’re doing and you’re trying to improve upon it, you will get better. The adage practice makes perfect is true, the more you teach games, the better you get at it. You’ll know which things to highlight and which things to skip and bring up in the game.
Second, don’t read from the rule book. If you need it to help you remember, that’s fine, but try to read as little word for word from the rule book. Rule books are not always well written and not always are they meant to teach rules directly from. Fantasy Flight does a good job with a rule book of what you need to know to start playing and then a rules reference that you can dig into for more information, but most rules have all that information in them.
Three, highlight only the important things. I’m going to, after this point, write out how I go try to go through teaching a board game, but this one is pretty easy. There are going to be things that are exceptions to the rule, and unless that exception is important to a strategy, you can gloss over it, for a first game, try and teach the big points and the objectives clearly, smaller details can be filled in as time goes on.
So, what does this look like in practice? When I teach games, I generally try and go about it this way.
- Theme/story of the game
- Win condition
- How a Turn Works
- Actions You can Do On A Turn
- Exceptions/Special Rules
- Any Rules that Depend on Set-up
1 – Why do I start off with theme?
“In Welcome To… you can build your perfect stepford neighborhood.”
That’s basically the pitch that I always use for Welcome To… It works well because it gives people an idea of the white picket fence neighborhood, and even if they don’t know precisely what The Stepford Wives was about, it gives them a vague idea. This line or quick paragraph is how you sell a game and the mood for the game.
2 – Next comes explaining how you win the game, whether it’s cooperative or not and whether I go into every detail or not at this point in time, I explain how you win the game. In Welcome To… I basically as saying that you are trying to build the best most marketable neighborhood to get points by building pools, parks, fencing off neighborhoods and more. Or in Pandemic, the goal is to clear all the diseases before you run out of player cards, disease cubes or have too many outbreaks.
The win condition is just important to talk about up front because it again helps inform the type of game that you’re getting into. If it’s a big point salad sort of game versus a combat focused game. I think that Scythe is a good example of why you do this, Scythe looks like it should be a big area control, dudes on a map, alternate timelines, but it’s a Euro game. So setting that up through talking about how you win is important for expectation setting.
3 – The turn, I’m talking about the big structure of it here. In Welcome To… that is basically that there are going to be three pairs of card options to choose from and you’ll do what the pair you chose to use tells you to do. In Pandemic it’s trickier, you have your turn, you have the drawing of player cards, the infection step and discard step. Now it lays that out nice and clearly on the player aides, but there are still more steps. And it might not just be the turn proper, it could be the round. Sagrada is an example of where a turn is just taking and placing a die, but you need to explain how the draft works in terms of order. We’re not talking about the fine details yet, we’re just looking at the bigger picture.
4 – The actions step is where we get into the details and the longest part of teaching the game. The theme/pitch of the game, and win conditions should be fast, the turn or round information should pretty fast, but this is where it slows down a little bit. Go through all the different actions that people can take, that means explaining the backside of the cards in Welcome To…, walking through the actions in Pandemic, or how to place the dice and how to use special abilities in Sagrada.
With the actions, however, we’re still just going to teach the basic actions. If there’s going to be an exception to one, call out that there will be and come back to it during the exceptions section of your teach. These are going to be the things that everyone is able to do on every turn across the board. This is made much harder by asymmetrical games, but those are unfortunately always going to be a beast to teach.
5 – In the exceptions step, we’re looking to teach the important exceptions in a situation. For Pandemic, that might how the medic cures versus how everyone else does. How the Dispatcher moves people versus the rest of the game. We’re talking about the exceptions or special rules that are big. This is also the point in time where you have already talked that there are special actions in Sagrada, now you can go over what they do.
There are going to be some exceptions that you aren’t going to teach. These are going to be the positive exceptions, not the negative ones. They are going to be the ones that you teach when they happen in the game. So we’re talking about the ones where you get a bonus or get to do something special because of a situation in the game, and as the teacher you’re looking to teach those in the moment in the game instead of getting it bogged down now. However, if it’s a really bad consequence to an exception or special rule, teach that before the moment so it doesn’t feel like a “gotcha” or trap.
6 – Finally, set-up the game, now, for something like Pandemic, you can do this while you go. For something like Welcome To… or Sagrada, probably wait. This is going to allow you to do a few things, in both of them, now you’re teaching the specific scoring for that game. What extra things do you want to consider when drafting or placing dice in Sagrada. What are the three building permits that you’re working to complete in Welcome To…? Now, all the set-up shouldn’t happen now and for some games, Lords of Hellas, for example, you’ll want to have most of the game set-up before people get there. We’re just talking about finishing off those final touches for getting ready to play in that case, so you can explain the specific things for the start of your game.
Now, I know that sounds like a lot. But besides teaching the actions, the main meat of the game, you aren’t going to be spending a ton of time on the other parts. Exceptions and special rules, especially if the game has a long teach in the action part, should go by quickly. Same with set-up, if it’s a big game, Lords of Hellas or even something like Blood Rage, do set-up while you teach. That’s going to give people a really obvious visual example.
That is one thing that I didn’t talk about much, when you are teaching, we are showing as well. When you talk about a phase in a turn or a round, demonstrate it, if you can. When you explain an action, demonstrate it on the board if you can. These are contrived examples, but seeing while hearing is going to help people’s retention of the information and have less questions further down the line. Also, putting things in people’s hands can be helpful as well. If you’ve explained a deck and it needs to be shuffled and placed, hand it off to someone else to shuffle and place it. This might seem like it distracts, but it mainly gives that player a feeling of ownership of helping getting the game up and running smoothly.
With all of this said, finally, remember, you’ll probably never teach a game perfectly for everyone at the table. We’re just trying to present the information as easily or as usefully as possible for the greatest number of people. There are people who need to muddle their way through two turns before they get a game no matter if you’re the best teacher in the world. There are going to be people who think after hearing how the rounds go that they know how to play the game and will checkout at that point no matter what. As the teacher, it’s not about being able to teach it so that everyone is 100% engaged all the time, but to teach it so that most of the people at the table understand most of the game and then you go from there and play and teach in the game.
What tips or tricks have you found for teaching games? Are there anythings that have made teaching some games easier than others?
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It might be kind of the wrong time to talk about this, we’re in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, however, I think with that, for some, comes more time to delve into more story, including that of the Apocalypse/Post-Apocalyptic in nature. This is one …