My Top 100 Board Games – 10 to 1
We’re down to the top 10 of My Top 100 Board Games, it’s been quite a ride. If you want to see them all in order, I will be posting an article that links to each of these other articles so you can run through them faster and not have to try and find them all. Just in case you are jumping in now at 10 to 1.
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.
10 – Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
I am not that much of a fan of hidden role games like Werewolf, Mafia, Secret Hitler. I don’t mind playing them, but for the most part, it feels like randomly guessing with no real information to go on. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is not like that. What makes this game seem different is that you have way more information to go on because of the role of the forensic scientist. They are handing up reports from the basement where they have their lab, unfortunately their reports are a bit generic. So you are having to guess a clue and murder weapon by the end of the game that the killer has in front of them. However, the murder has a an accomplice who is trying to help throw everyone off the trail, but without making it too obvious. Then there was a witness to the crime who wants to get people on the right track, they know who the murder is but not the clue and murder weapon, but not too obviously, because if the murder and accomplice can pin point the witness at the end of the game, they still win. The game is a ton of fun and it comes with a ton of different content. There is always a “How” and “Where” report that the forensic scientist sends up, but the rest of the reports can be the state of dress of the murder victim to being if there was noise made during the murder. It’s a really fun deduction game that has a ton of talking to it and people declaring that they couldn’t possibly be the murder. It’s a game that you generally sit down and play two or more times in a game night because it goes over so well, and it plays a large group.
9 – Clank! In! Space!
This one surprised me a little by being so high, but I do really enjoy the game. In Clank! In! Space!, you are racing around the spaceship of an evil alien overlord who has a ton of trophies in his compartments on the ship. And, as an adventurer, you want to liberate a trophy so that you can become famous. Now, you do this by building up a deck of cards that allows you to purchase better cards for the deck and move and fight things. Plus, you have to get a key code from the ship to be able to get into the trophy room. So there is a bunch going on in this game, but it’s basically a deck building game. What works well for me is that it has more going than that, and the clank mechanic. The clank mechanic is basically you making noise as you stumble around the ship trying to find your way to the treasures and this evil alien is paying attention to that. So you want to make as little noise as possible, because you make too much, he’ll get you and you’ll be out of the game. But if you don’t make much clank, you can possibly get in to the good treasure, but it also might take a lot longer and then there is a higher chance that your clank (cubes) will be drawn from a bag, the few that are put in there. The game has a nice push your luck element to go with the deck building aspect, and I basically always want to push my luck. The game also isn’t a serious game, the cards riff off of various sci-fi films, TV shows, and stories. I don’t know that this game would work with a more serious theme. It’s a bit longer of a game than some deck builders, but the rest of the game play doesn’t cause it to overstay it’s welcome.
8 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Yes, 2nd Edition is important here as that is the game with the app that allows you to play through the scenario without someone having to run the scenario. This is a Lovecraftian themed game where you take on the role of investigators in the 1920’s. You’re called to a mansion or some location to investigate something strange that is going on. And whatever it is, it’s strange. Maybe it’s a town that is controlled by deep ones, maybe it’s a ritual that is meant to summon an elder god, or maybe it’s time travel plus probably everything else mentioned. With the app, there are a lot of scenarios that you can play through, and because the app knows what expansions you have for the game, it can change up how the mansion you are exploring or whatever the location is, looks and move rooms around. In the game, you are fighting monsters, investigating the case, solving puzzle, and probably going insane. It’s like a lot of Fantasy Flight Games Lovecraftian games that way, but this game has so much to it that you feel like you can play a scenario a couple of times, and even if the overall story doesn’t change, your experience with it will. And with the app, there are a lot of scenarios, some that require expansions, and some that don’t. This game really gives you a nice feeling of tension as you have to balance investigating with fighting. The game is also nice, because it offers different scenarios of differing length, so if you want to play for an hour and a half, you can do that, but if you want to play a longer game, you can do that as well. I believe that the app even lets you save, though, I haven’t used that feature yet, because we’ve always played through a scenario. This game uses the app well in that it doesn’t take over the game, but it makes the game easier to play.
7 – XenoShyft: Onslaught
The highest deck building game on the list, XenoShyft is a deck building game that has more than just the deck building aspect. It is Starship Troopers the board game where you are on a mining planet dealing with a bug infestation. But the bugs aren’t little or medium sized cockroaches, these are giant bugs who are going to destroy your base. The base has more health with more players, but with more players, you are going to be dealing with more monsters in each wave. Each player has their own side of the base to defend. However, you can aid other people. So if I am in charge of the med bay, I can heal your troops, but I only have a limited number of cards, and each player can have up to four characters to defend their base per round, and there are four bugs coming to get them each round. While this game has a deck building aspect to it, I feel like it’s also just as much a tower defense game as you watch the bugs slowly whittle away the bases hit points. This game has a good amount of pressure to it, and while it feels like it shouldn’t be impossibly hard, I don’t have a high win percentage. In whatever player count you’re playing at, you feel like you never have enough things to deal with each players side of the base. And I really like challenging cooperative games. This game as a lot of things going for it, and the cooperative nature of the deck building and being able to build up your deck and what you are getting, but then being able to sh are that with others makes this game feel unique compared to most others.
6 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
I really like my Lovecraft board games, and this one really has a lot of story to it. You take one or two characters on an adventure as you try and solve the weird things that are happening in your town. This game, I guess, could technically be consider a deck builder, but you build the deck prior to the actual game. But each investigator has a unique deck of items. So the waitress, she might have a knife or something like that, but she’s not going to be as well armed as the FBI agent. In this game, which is a living card game, you are playing as a character or two and using resources to get cards and abilities into play, discarding cards to help you make checks to fight a monster or to investigate and gather clues while you are watching the bad guys schemes also count up until the point where you might have lost the game. One of the cool things about this game is that you have the ability to upgrade your deck in between games. You get experience points that you can spend, so maybe you have a decent revolver that has four bullets, you can get a six shooter that has six bullets now to replace it, so you can use it longer (that is a made up example). Along with that, this is a living card game, what that means is that there are more scenarios that can be made, and it is just more cards that are added to your game. You can play the game multiple times, though, through a story because you have different choices you can make as a group, and you have to decide which one is better. I like this game solo and I like it two players as well. I think that the living card game aspect could be a barrier of entry for some people, but the games aren’t long and you don’t have to play more than the base game if you don’t want to. And I realized I forgot one thing, in this game, you are trying to defeat challenges with various skills, pretty normal stuff for all the Fantasy Flight Arkham games, but in this one, instead of rolling dice, you are pulling tokens from a bag that can modify your result. It’s a fun twist that works like a die roll, but if you want to play a story focused game, you can make the bag easier, less negative numbers, or if you want to change yourself, you can make it harder. That ability to scale difficulty is really fun and make plays seem different.
5 – T.I.M.E. Stories
And now for something completely different, though still story driven. In T.I.M.E. Stories you are from an agency that is worried about the time stream and what might be happening and how people can use it for evil (I suspect I’m actually a bad guy or at least my boss is). You play through different scenarios that challenge you to explore locations, find clues, and solve the mystery that is happening. To do that, your consciousness is sent back into a vessel which can and probably will die or you’ll run out of time. But the good thing is, you can be sent back again and your boss will only be somewhat mad at you. T.I.M.E. Stories is a really cool game where you get little hints, from time to time, of a story that is going on that’s larger. And all the scenarios I’ve played thus far have felt different. The first one we were trying to stop something from happening in an Asylum. The next one we were trying to rescue someone during a zombie outbreak, and the final one we were in an alternate dimension in a fantasy world. And there was way more stories and locations than that, that I haven’t played yet. This game, is so much fun, the downside is that you can’t replay it once you’ve solved it, at least not for a while. You’ll probably always generally remember the puzzles, but the scenarios aren’t too expensive, you can play with up to four people, and you get more playing time out of each scenario than you would watching a movie, or at least we have. There are red herrings in there too that make the game harder as you are racing against a clock, time track, to be able to get everything solved before time runs out, and generally you have to reset at least once. I love this game, and I have the next scenario waiting for me, just need to schedule a time to play it.
4 – Betrayal at House on the Hill
I’m going to have this game higher than a lot of people, because there are some issues with the game. Mainly, when reading through a scenario for the haunting, which is the second half of the game, the betrayer or the other group, might have some issues clearly understanding their goal. Or their goal might be super easy. But that’s just part of the game and actually feels fairly thematic when it’s easy or when it’s hard. In this game, you are a rag tag group of ghost hunters, or thrill seekers, or just there because some dared you to, or a creepy child, who are investigating a creepy haunted house. You are finding rooms, finding items in rooms, and dealing with the creepy things that are going on. Eventually, you’ll have found a number of omen cards and a roll will happen and you might have a haunt happen. If it doesn’t, you continue until the haunt does happen because someone has found an omen card and failed their roll. Then you look up a scenario based on the omen and the room it was found in, and you play through that as the second half of the game, each side with a semi secret way to win. This game just drips theme for me and while it can be a bit stressful being the betrayer figuring out what you need to do by yourself, the game generally works. Each haunt feels different, and that’s some of the reason it doesn’t always feel balanced. The fact that a haunt can happen early in the game as only a little bit of the house has been explore or late in the game after almost everything is found is fun as well. This is a really good horror themed game for me, though I know it won’t be for everyone. I’d recommend you give it a try and try to get immersed in the story and feeling of the game, versus seeing if everything is fair and balanced.
3 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
It was going to be on the list, and I’ve loved my experience with the game. I won’t go into too much on how it works, but as a legacy game, you are finding out new bits of story, new mechanics, and tearing up things as you go along. Pandemic is a game where you are part of a team trying to cure diseases and uncover what is going on in the world because there are those diseases spreading. The game is a ton of fun, and I’ve played it through twice. The story is linear and simple, but there is enough to it that it’s compelling. It’s also compelling, because Pandemic isn’t that easy a game as a the base game, and Pandemic Legacy Season 1 isn’t that easy a game either, plus you soon have to start balancing new things against the normal win condition which is just curing all four diseases. When I played through it a second time, a few years later, I played it solo on Malts and Meeples and I certainly didn’t remember everything for the game, though, I remembered the big plot points fairly well, just not when they would come up in the game. Each character that is played has their own abilities and you can improve them as time goes on, but you can also lose them if they get stuck in too many bad situations. The game really works well, and now it’s come down in price some. If you haven’t played this game, I’d highly recommend it, because there was a reason it was #1 on Board Game Geek for a while.
2 – Blood Rage
Most of the games in my top 10 have some story driven aspect to it. This game does not. However, this game has so many cool things about it. It has a great Norse theme to it as you are a Viking clan who are fighting for control over Yggdrasil and other sections of the nine realms. You start out in each age by drafting cards that help you with your strategy. Maybe you look to upgrade your clan leader so that they are more powerful. Or maybe you make it so that you get more glory if your clan members die in battle. Maybe you focus on being strong in battle or recruiting monsters. The drafting part of the game, while quick, really helps shape how you play the game. Then you try and take over areas of the map in order to improve your abilities, such as action points so you can take more actions, how many points you get for winning a battle or how many troops you can have on the board. Once everyone is out of action points, one of the realms is lost and you start again. Blood Rage plays fairly quickly for a game with a lot of minis and a lot going on in it. And the game feels different each time you play, because the cards that you draft are going to change up your strategy, and if you go too much into one strategy in an early age, players can block you from that strategy in later ages. And if you can focus on a single strategy, it might allow you to win the game, but there isn’t a strategy that seems too much stronger, whether your are fighting or peaceful. This game is just a ton of fun to play, and I finally got a copy, because right now it’s hard to find.
1 – Gloomhaven
My #1 game matches up with Board Game Geeks #1 game overall. Gloomhaven is a massive dungeon crawl game where you and a group of adventurers go through and fight monsters trying to figure out what is happening in the city of Gloomhaven and the lands surrounding it. This game is so much fun, because it’s a massive campaign game that has some legacy style aspects to it, mainly putting stickers on cards to improve them, but you can play it again completely. The combat and movement in this game are fun as well, as you play cards, picking them based on abilities, but also number at the top of one of them, because that determines how fast you act, and possibly if you are ahead of the monsters. Plus, with that, you get experience points which allows you to put in better cards, but the higher level you get and the better cards you have in there, the harder that the monsters get as well. You also have a goal that your character is going for, both overall and in each scenario. The scenario ones help you improve your character even more, but the overall one, that one causes you to retire and unlock a new character. Then you get to pick from all the unlocked characters and join the party again as a new character. There are a ton of scenarios in the game, as I’ve been playing it with a group of three of us and it’s taken us playing almost every other week for three hours in an evening, and it’s almost been two years. The game is amazing, it’s massive, and I think it’s going to scratch the itch for ameritrash players because it is so story driven, but the combat actually has a bit of a more strategic feel because you are playing cards and modifying with more cards, so it’s less random than rolling dice. I also think that, even though Gloomhaven is a massive game, it’s pretty straight forward once you have a few core concepts down, so while it might be intimidating to start, if you have someone who knows the game well, I think that more casual gamers would be able to join in the game and have a blast. This was an easy #1 game for me and as I was sorting I knew there wasn’t a chance anything would be higher.
So there it is, my top 100 games. I know that I’ve played a game since this started or since they were ranked that would probably be on the list. So this is definitely a living list. Thanks for coming along on this ride with me.
Let me know what games in the top 10 and top 100 look cool to you. Are there any that you love as well or love more than I do? Are there any that you really want to try?
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