Sometimes going to visit family can be a lot around the holidays. If you want to find something you can do together, board games are often a fun option, though not for every family. If you think your family would like board games, here are…
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.
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.
20 – Sagrada
Sagrada is a very pretty game in which you are drafting dice in order to create the most beautiful stained glass window out there. However, you have certain rules as to how you can place those dice, such as certain colors being required in spots or certain numbers being required. To make it even trickier, you can’t have the same number or the same color orthogonally adjacent to one another. So, your stained glass window soon becomes a puzzle. To add to that, you are also looking at scoring in four different areas. Each player has a private objective that they are trying to score, but there are also three more public objectives that players are trying to get as many points from. That seems like a lot of things to stay on top of, and it is, thankfully, the game gives you ways to move or manipulate dice, so hopefully you can fill in your whole stained glass window. Sagrada is a pretty game on the table with the translucent dice, and a fun game to play. it is definitely lighter, but there is enough going on that I feel engaged throughout the game, and I’m always hoping people won’t draft that one die that I really need. They normally do, but I’m hoping that they won’t. The game also scales up well, so it’s fun with two players and it’s fun with four players. There is an expansion that takes it up to six, but I haven’t tried that yet.
19 – Dice Throne: Season One
Alright, here it is, the first season of Dice Throne. As compared to the other ones, which in the future might just be Dice Throne Season Two when I finish getting all the characters, Dice Throne: Season One comes with six different characters that all play in fun and different ways. The game is still a yahtzee style dice rolling battle where you are trying to knock down your opponent before they can take you down. But characters like the Paladin can heal more and has buff abilities, whereas the Pyromancer is just about doing damage and doesn’t really do defense. This is fun, because it makes you adjust how you are going to play the game. The Shadow Thief for example, is all about getting combat points to put cards into play, but the more combat points they have, the more damage that they can do on some attacks. I think technically you could play this as a three versus three game with each team facing off against the other, but I prefer the game as a one versus one game. All the characters feel pretty balanced and it seems to be a luck of the roll as to who wins but there is enough dice manipulation that you feel like you can go for your ultimate ability if possible. I haven’t done this yet, but this game seems like ti would be amazing in a tournament format, so I’m hoping to get one of those done this winter. I really love all the Dice Throne stuff, and some of the Season Two characters are more interesting, but with what I got for Season One, I got more characters, so that’s why it’s higher.
18 – Dead of Winter
It’s zombie time, and Christmas. You and your group of survivors are huddled in your base in the town VFW (not part of the game, but I gave it a location), you’ve barricaded the doors off but the zombies keep coming, and you’re going to need to get food eventually. Dead of Winter is a zombie survival game where each player has their own objective as to what they want to do, or have in their hand, by the end of the scenario in order to win the game. However, the scenario has things you need to do as well, and there keep on being crisis that happen. And then you need to feed the colony as well. So life is tough for you as players as you run around to various locations, searching for what you need, and hoping not to get bitten by a zombie or get frost bite (bitten by a cold zombie). To make matters worse, you’re beginning to suspect that there might be a traitor in your midst. That’s Dead of Winter in a nutshell, a semi-cooperative game where each player has a secret objective that they need to complete, and there might be a traitor in the game. The odds of their being one are fairly low, because you mix it into 2 x [The Number of Players] cards, but most of the time there is one. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else, and then there are crossroads cards. These are cards that have you make tough decisions in the zombie filled world, like, do you let in some strangers to your group, you get more actions, but more mouths to feed as well. This is a big game with a lot of decisions to make in it, and if the scenarios weren’t hard enough, the daily crisis and personal objectives make the whole game even harder.
17 – Deranged
This game isn’t even out yet, how do I have it on my list so high? Because that’s how awesome the long demo at GenCon was. In Deranged you are stuck in a small town, because you are cursed, and you only have a limited amount of time before you can escape. But in order to escape you have to get rid of your curses. And if that wasn’t hard enough, there are monsters floating about down there that want to try and kill you. And then, if you die, you come back, because you know you’re in a cursed town that never wants you to leave, and you are cursed again. Plus, it’s possible at night time that you are going to become a deranged monster who has lost their humanity and then you can’t escape, but don’t worry, you can get your humanity back, you just have to kill another character, which will cause them to come back with another curse. This game is a ton of fun as you play cards that might advance time to the point where you hit night and become deranged. This game feels like a lighter horror game that offers a lot of decisions and plays pretty quickly with teaching the game and playing through it. The demo I played wasn’t the full game, but I got a really good taste of it going through a day. The aesthetic on this game is great as it has not a Lovecraftian feel, but definitely an early 1900’s feel. The game play is slick as you use cards for their abilities, but you have to weigh the choice of a good power or keeping back a card to play on defense if a monster is going to attack you or maybe a deranged is in your area. It’s coming to the US in Quarter One of 2020, I believe, and I’m waiting excitedly to be able to get my hands on it.
16 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
I’m a big fan of deck building games that have theme, aka. not Dominion. And though I did have Ascension on the list that doesn’t have theme, the ones higher than it definitely do. In Aeon’s End: War Eternal, the standalone expansion to Aeon’s End a game I haven’t played, you are taking on the role of various breach mages who are trying to stop the town of Gravehold from being destroyed by one of several monsters that might be after it. You have the power, and you can acquire and gain more power to deal damage, cast more spells, and get more powerful spells throughout the game. Aeon’s End: War Eternal at it’s heart is like most deck building games where you have a market of cards where you can spend your money to buy either attack spells, artifacts that do something, or buy better and more money. But the way you cast your attack spells is unique because you have breaches that you have to cast your spells through, and depending on your character, you might have more breaches available to start than another player. However, the biggest difference from this game as compared to other deck building games is that you don’t shuffle your deck. When you play your cards on your turn, you play as many of them as you want at and then you sort how they go into the discard pile. So if I want, I can clump a group of money together in hopes that when I draw my hand after going through the deck, I’ll be able to get a hand with a lot of money in it. So you there is another area to strategize in this game as compared to a normal deck building game. The theme comes through well, and I like that the different giant monsters you are fighting have different goals. One of them is trying not to do direct damage to the player or the town of Gravehold, but is trying to dig under the city so that it collapses. This is a game that feels like it has a ton of replayability, and it has a legacy version that I really need to play.
15 – Second Chance
Another flip and write (roll and write) game, they are so popular right now, and I do like them quite well for a relaxing game to sit back and play. In Second Chance, you are flipping two shape cards every turn, and players pick one of the shapes and can rotate it, flip it, mirror it, whatever they want to put that shape somewhere on their board as long as it touches another shape they’ve put in play. The goal of the game is to fill in as many of the squares in as possible in this Tetris like puzzle. But sometimes you really need a specific shape and you get two shapes that you can’t use. In that case, you get a, you guessed it, second chance. A single card flip that has a shape that only you can use. If you can use it, you are still in the game, if you can’t, you are out and you can start counting up your open spaces. Second Chance is a fun game and a very relaxing game to play. I like to doodle as I fill in the shapes so that each section looks different than other ones do. Kristen likes to do specific patterns in how she fills in her shapes. The game plays fast, and because everyone is using the shapes, though with a unique starting shape, there is no downtime for anyone in the game. Like Criss Cross before, Second Chance is a game that people will play once and then want to play again. If you’re looking for a very accessible roll and write (flip and write) game, Second Chance is definitely that.
14 – The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
When I started ranking everything, I thought that this game was going to be higher on my list. But it dropped, I like this game a lot as 14 is really good. I think the reason is that while this game offers a lot of interesting choices, it doesn’t have the same weight of decision making that some of the other games do. In this game you take on the roll of Harry Dresden and other characters from The Dresden File books as you work through a book to try and solve the mystery that is going on. You can focus on two areas, the first is solving cases with your investigation cards. These cards have a cost and then they put clues on a case according to various rules on the card. The other is attack, which works like the investigate cards, but goes on the bad guys instead of the cases. Your goal, at the end of the game is to have more cases solved than there are bad guys left on the board. It’s tricky though, because everything costs something, and you have a limited amount of fate points (as they are called) to spend. But you can get them back by discarding a card and getting back the cards cost in fate points. That works well as a mechanic, but can lead to someone having to discard several turns in a row, which can be boring. Thankfully, discarding does a bit more than that, it also has another action that it triggers for the players. For someone characters it might be adding in damage to a certain bad guy, either the nearest or farthest, or do the same thing with a case. Plus, each character has a one time ability that feels like them. This game, while being a big puzzle, is very thematic and a lot of fun as you try and recreate the book on the table.
13 – Hanamikoji
This is the first of two two player games on the list. Technically the other can be played with four, but it’s a two player game. Hanamikoji is, however, only a two player game. In this game you are trying to win favor of various Geisha by giving them gifts. Each Geisha is worth a certain number of points and wants a certain type of gift. If you have more gifts in front of that Geisha at the end of the round, you win their favor. How you get gifts in front of them is where the meat of this game is, though. It is actually only just cards, but you have four different ways you can play down cards. You can discard two that won’t be used for winning a Geisha’s favor, you can play one face down that will be used, you can play down three cards, your opponent picks one that they get and you get the other two to use for winning favor, and finally, you can put down two groups of two, and your opponent picks one of them. The trick of this game is that you want to keep everything and often times you are helping your opponent. Can you manipulate things to where you’ve gotten enough favor points from the Geisha or have won the favor of enough Geisha? I feel like most of the time the game is over in two rounds of the four actions, but it’s always a struggle. And you really want your opponent making the hard decisions for you. This is a fast game that is abstract, but it looks good on the table, and because of it’s speed, you generally want to play multiple times. There is also enough hidden information that you can never fully solve the puzzle of how to play it.
12 – Welcome To…
The last roll (flip) and write on the list. This is my favorite of that genre because there is a bit more to sink your teeth into. In the game you are building your perfect 1950’s neighborhood so that people come to your development over that Stepford neighborhood over there. And of course, to do that, you need to set-up your neighborhood correctly. Do you go for a lot of parks, do you try and build swimming pools, are you advertising your neighborhood? But most importantly, are you building those white picket fences, because a neighborhood isn’t a neighborhood without them. This is another one of these roll (flip) and write games that everyone is using the same resources. Everyone gets to pick which one of three combinations of an action and a house number to use each turn, so the game can play up to 100 out of the box, since there are 100 sheets with the game. This game still plays fast, but I like it since it gives you more options as to what you can do and how you want to try and get your scoring as compared to games like Second Chance and Criss Cross. I also like it, because I can quickly tell people what the game is about with that 1950’s neighborhood reference, and everyone gets an idea. There are also expansions that I haven’t played yet, but I have the spring one and a fallout, I mean, bomb shelter, one ready to try. I’m excited to get those to the table soon as they add in a few new things to the game which seem fun.
11 – Star Wars: Rebellion
This is the other two player game, though technically it can be played with four people, basically just splitting up the two sides of the Empire and Rebels. I wouldn’t do that. In this game if you are the Empire, you are trying to build up enough troops and search the galaxy for the rebel base. You get some help from that with your probe droids, plus you are trying to mess over the rebels in whatever ways you can. The Rebels are trying to create unrest in the empire and complete missions to undermine the empire. If they can complete a certain number of them for points before the empire can find them and wipe them out, they win the game. Of course, you can also build Death Stars and blow up planets if you want as well. This game is described by the Dice Tower as Star Wars in a box. And I have to agree with them, it is only the original trilogy, but that’s all I want to play. I don’t need to have mechanics for a romance subplot between Hayden Christenson and Natalie Portman. It’s a game of cat and mouse as both sides try and disrupt the other, but both sides ultimately have bigger goals that they are working towards. Plus, you can customize the characters you are playing with as you go along. Maybe you get Chewie but not Han, or who needs the Emperor when you have Grand Moff Tarkin? But each of them brings an ability that they are better at, so you have to balance that. Along with that, you get to have epic space battles and ground battles that take place on and around these planets which can swing who is leading. Star Wars: Rebellion is a big, long, and thematic game that I’d recommend to Star Wars fans who like to board game. I’ve enjoyed playing both sides as well, though I’ve had better luck as the Empire, just made one mistake as the Rebels, though, and I could have won.
Man, there is so much to say about these games. I really do love them all and I want to sit down and play them all. I’m excited to do my top 10, because I had a game in there that surprised me after I had done all of the sorting. But you’ll have to wait for Friday for that game.
If you have a game that you like out of this section of the list, let me know what it is. Or what game do you want to try?
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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…
On to another list for my top 5 drafting games. Now, Board Game Geek only has card drafting for me to sort through, but I will be including a dice drafting game in my list as well (or two). So without any more clarification:
5. Roll Player
Do you just like making an over powered D&D character? That’s the feeling that you get in Roll Player as you are drafting dice to make the ideal stats for your character. You are also trying to line up certain colored dice in certain spots, depending on what card you’ve gotten. It’s a fun game as you try and equip and build your character, and there is a Monsters expansion that I’ve heard adds more to the game. The reason I have it this low on my list is because I haven’t playing with that expansion, and once you’ve built your character, the game just ends, so it feels like it’s a little bit lacking in terms of being a full game. It is still a lot of fun to roll up your character though.
4. 7 Wonders
This is very similar to a game that is further down on the list, actually sitting at #2. But 7 Wonders has a heavier theme to it, though, like most pure drafting games the theme is fairly pasted on. You are leading your ancient civilization through three ages as you try and build up your ancient wonder. Except, you don’t actually need to, to win the game. Instead you might focus in on building up other players that give you victory points or getting the strongest military or winning with a combination of science cards. It has some interesting mechanics as well where you can purchase resources that you might need to build something, but only from the people to your left or right, so there is some strategy with that as well.
Another dice drafting game on the list. I really like this game for the look on the table. In the game you’re drafting translucent dice to create a stained glass window. There are rules where you can place dice, sometimes you must use a certain color and other times a certain number. That part of the game adds in the strategy, also the fact you can’t have the same number next to another orthogonally or the same with the colors. The game goes fast, and when you are done you have a nice looking window in front of you. The game is very much a puzzle game, but not one that is too tricky.
2. Sushi Go! Party
This one is on the list as my favorite pure drafting game. The theme is fun, building out your meal and the scoring mechanics are pretty straight forward, though there are a few specials that I would consider to be more advanced. The artwork also makes it an easy sell as it leans into the cute anthropomorphized food items. The game also plays extremely fast and is easy for new players to pick up. I prefer the Party version to the regular version because you’re able to create a variety of set-ups so that the game doesn’t play the same every time.
1. Blood Rage
Hey, it’s on back to back lists. But Blood Rage does a really good job with the drafting in the game. That’s what really sets apart the strategies for people in the game. Do you load up on cards for battle, on quests to complete, do you spend your points playing monsters? It is a very big part of the strategy and depending on what cards you see, you might have to adjust your strategy on the fly as you draft cards at the beginning of each age. It’s also where a lot of the theme comes into the game, because Loki cards do really feel like Loki, same with Odin, Thor, and other players in Norse mythology.
I don’t have any honorable mentions this time. Board Game Geek has a lot of games that I wouldn’t call card drafting or drafting games on their list, such as Dominion, where you do get to choose what cards you add to your deck, but it is a deck builder, and I already did a post on that a few days ago.
So this is going to be a short post, what are some drafting games that you like? Are there any on my list that you want to play?
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Maybe instead of gifting for a gamer, you are gifting to someone who is just getting into the board game industry. They’ve played a few of your games and are looking to start getting a few games of their own. What games should you look at for someone like that?
Ticket to Ride
This should be the first game on basically any intro to modern board gaming list. It’s a smart simple game where you are trying to collect sets of train cards of various colors and connect routes across the board. That’s what the game is, but there is some strategy to it as to when you complete a section of your route, when you take train cards, and when you might want to get more routes. Not all that complex, but enough so to keep more serious gamers engaged well enough and so that people can pick it up quickly. There are also a ton of different versions of the game. The United States map, just called Ticket to Ride, is the most straight forward, but anything that’s added in the other boxes can just be skipped and you can play it as the normal Ticket to Ride.
This tableau building game as you competing for the favor of nobles and building up your supply of jewels. The game is simple as you start out building out your tableau by taking one time use jewels but soon you’ll have built up a good jewel collection so you have permanent jewels. The game is another pretty straight forward game with a limited number of actions in the game. That makes it a lot easier to teach. Now, this game is pretty themeless actually, but the components and artwork are nice, so it gets to the table pretty easily that way.
Sushi Go! Party
Card drafting games aren’t always the easiest to teach, but with the very cute artwork of Sushi Go! Party, it’s definitely an exception. I will add in one caveat for this game, there are a few of the specials that I would avoid at the start because they are a bit more confusing, but the game itself is pretty simple. You take one card from your hand and pass the hand to the next person and repeat the process until you’ve done that with all the cards. The game plays fast and while the first couple of decisions might be a bit trickier or explaining the rules the first time might be a bit trickier, the game is easy to play multiple times in one sitting.
Or as it used to be known, Settlers of Catan. This game is one of the games that started the modern board gaming trend. While it still has some of the classic board gaming issues, mainly there isn’t a way to mitigate just rolling poorly, it’s going to be one that a lot of people are familiar with. The game is pretty straight forward but it’s still enjoyable and it’s something that people will recognize as compared to a game like Splendor that people might not have heard of.
This is probably the trickiest game on the list because there’s more strategy in this game than some of the others, but because of the presence on the table. In this game you are drafting dice to create a stained glass window, and you just have to follow certain die placement rules about colors and numbers being next to each other and while filling in certain colors or numbers based on the window that you are creating. The game play is fast and there is an expansion that allows it to play up to 6 which might make it easier to get to the table and keep everyone involved at a family holiday party.
I’ve managed to get Pandemic Legacy on to two other lists (too big for a stocking), but for this one, I suggest the base Pandemic. This is a really good cooperative game and a game that lays out what is done on turns and peoples actions really nicely. It’s also not that tough a cooperative game so for a new player, they aren’t going to feel like they’re being beat down over and over again. It’s also not that long a game for everything that is going on in the game. If you haven’t played it yourself, I’d recommend it for someone who is even a gamer or the Legacy version as it’s a really good game.
There are a ton of introductory games, and I might give out some suggestions next week for what to give people if they like a certain classic game already, but that will be later.
What are some other games that you’ve used to introduce people to modern board gaming?
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