For a lot of people board gaming is a social activity, but 2020 has made that less likely and harder to do at least in bigger groups. For some people with serious medical concerns or just general concerns about Covid, that isn’t an option, or …
We’re onto the top half of my Top 100 games. We’ve seen a number of games drop out of the top 50 so far, that means we’re either going to have new games or games that have rise, you’ll have to find out. You can find links to the previous parts below:
Plus a few notes on how I’ve put together the list:
- 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
I think this is the purely solo game on the list and it’s dropped a little bit, but I’m still enjoying it a lot. The app is great for playing this game, but I do like the physical one as well. In this game you are trapped in a nightmare and trying to escape, to do this you are trying to find eight doors. This is done by playing down cards in a row where you are trying to get three cards of the same color in a row, when you do you find a door. But there are nightmares in the deck that are trying to stop you, you have a few different ways you can deal with them. I think that’s where the game really is interesting, because there are powerful key cards that can just get a door in without any hassle, but they are also be used to deal with a nightmare. Or you could discard cards off the top of the deck, but that might get rid of a key. Or you can discard your hand or put a door back into a deck. There’s a good amount of strategy in what seems like a small and random card game.
Last Year: 36
One of my top party games, this is one that I’m glad I backed on Kickstarter, but glad that I didn’t back the “adult” version of it. In this game a person picks from four different categories, you might have a superpower, an occupation, lifetime supply of something, or a fulfilled dream, but then, everyone writes a stipulation for it, and you pick your favorite. This game works really well because you can tailor it for your group. If it’s a bunch of college friends drinking, you can make it as adult or dirty as you want, if it’s Christmas with your great aunt and 10 year old cousin, you can make it clean. And it can just get silly, like most party games and eventually people end up writing down weird stuff or reoccurring jokes. It’s really the same concept as a Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples, but it’s much more replayable because you aren’t using cards to answer/fulfill the prompt, which means you can change up your answer for a stipulation for the superpower of flight from “But only when you fart” to “But never more than 6 inches off the ground.” and the prompt will feel different when you play.
Last Year: 42
This one wasn’t ranked last year because I hadn’t played it much, it was just one time at GenCon where I kind of got the rules. But I’ve played it a lot since, I’ve probably played the physical game 10-15 times this year, and Silver Bullet expansion 3 times, and the app who knows how many times, but a lot. I am really enjoying this game now and the standalone expansion(s) – I have two, but only played one. In this game you are trying to get your village of 5 cards down to the fewest points possible. The trick is your cards are face down and you only know at the start of a round what two of them are. Cards have values from 0 to 12 and each card has a special power. You can use them for a power, or you can swap out cards with what you’ve drawn or is on top of the deck. If you have two of the same number you can trade in those two for one card, which allows you to get down in cards and lower the number of points you can possibly have. There’s some luck with the game for sure, but overall it’s a very fast and fun game that is a bit mean with a bunch of take that cards, especially in the Silver Bullet expansion, but still a lot of fun.
Last Year: Not Ranked
47. Wits & Wagers
Another party game on the list, this time it’s Wits & Wagers which is a classic party game at this point. In Wits and Wagers you are putting down a best guess or a random number, so some trivia question, it might be something like “How many goals did Pele have in his professional career?” Everyone writes down a number, you sort the numbers and then you bet on who you think was the closest without going over. If you’re right you get more chips to bet or to save because however much money you have at the end is your score. This game works well because you don’t need to know anything about soccer. I know a fair amount, so if you’re playing with me and know that, you can bet on my guess even if you guessed either 10 or 10 million for your number. So you get to play the people and think about who might know an answer, or at least have a better clue than you. The answer, by the way, is over 1,000 for goals by Pele, just in case you get that question sometime.
Last Year: 68
This one has dropped a bit for me as you can see. I do really enjoy this game a lot, and I would gladly play it, the only reason I don’t play it more is because it’s a bit of a longer game. This is a game about surviving the zombie apocalypse, for a scenario, with everyone having their own goals, and potentially having a traitor in your midst. This is one of those semi-cooperative games where it tries to make everyone look guilty to help hide the traitor. That is one slightly issue that I have with the game, if you beat the scenario, and a lot of them are hard just purely cooperative, you still don’t win unless you get your secret objective. But the rest of the game works really well, and I consider it a half win if you beat the the scenario. This game also has a thing called Crossroads cards, which is why it has crossroads in the name. These cards offer you tough choices that you’ll have to make during the game and are one of the highlights of the game. We have a house rule for them where instead of drawing one and seeing if it happens on someone’s turn, you draw two and if one of them happens, you do the crossroads event. It just highlights that fun part of the game more. Overall, a really enjoyable game that is just tricky to get to the table all the time because of it’s length.
Last Year: 18
For a lot of people Dominion is their gateway or introduction to deckbuilding, but I don’t like Dominion, so for me, Ascension is the one that I’d use. This is a pure deck building game where you are getting cards and adding them to your deck to buy more cards and fight monsters. Why I like this one so much better than Dominion is that Dominion has a fixed Market, so if someone can spot the ideal combo before the game starts, they’ve probably already won. Whereas Ascension has an ever changing market. Whenever a card is bought or a monster is killed in the market row, a new card is flipped out, and it might be the perfect card for you, or it might be another monster, or who knows what. So you have to be able to adjust a bit more on the fly and you can pick some really good strategies and just stick with them, but depending on how the cards come out, you might have to still adjust even if you have you ideal strategy started. For me, that’s what I like in a game and why I am less of a Euro gamer and more of a Amerithrash gamer, which Ascension feels like compared to Dominion.
Last Year: 46
44. Cry Havoc
Cry Havoc is an asymmetrical game where the players have different ways of building up their point totals. And it’s also a unique game with a bit of deck building and some really interesting combat. I like this game as it has some area control, some diceless combat, and really different strategies for the different factions. In this game you’re trying to control crystals which will give you points at the end of a round, to do that you need to take over areas, battling for the crystals there. The combat is diceless as I said, but it has an interesting flow to it, first the attacker will place their troops on the area majority, kill, or capture spots. Then the defender will, and it basically goes along the lines of, check majority, check kills, check captures, and if you kill someone who would capture one of your pieces that won’t happen. But you have cards in your hand that you use both to do actions, but that can influence combat as well. So maybe it’s a close fight and we’re tied for majority in area control, I could play a card to move someone up there if I’m the attacker so I can take the area, but maybe my opponent will do something to change that. The combat is different but really enjoyable.
Last Year: 52
This, for me, is a Splendor killer, though, I still have both in my collection. Century: Golem Edition, is a fun hand building game where you are trying to create an engine of cards that is going to get your gems, and trade gems in such a way that you can score golem cards. The first person to five golems triggers end game. But where the game works, besides the amazing components and artwork, is the card play. You can build up a combo that might start by giving you three yellows, which you can turn into two greens, which maybe you can turn into a pink, which can be turned into a blue and two greens, and you can really find interesting ways to manipulate the gems that you have. The game plays extremely fast with either playing a card and doing it’s action, getting a golem, or picking back up your hand of cards being all that you do on a turn. It really does have a good amount of strategy to it, but it’s still easy to teach and to score so it might be just slightly too much for a complete game novice, but someone who has something like Ticket to Ride or Catan under their belt will be able to learn it.
Last Year: 33
42. Not Alone
There have been a number of party games on the list thus far, and while Not Alone isn’t a party game, it is one that can play a larger player count. This is a one versus all game where the all are playing crew of a spaceship who have crashed onto a planet and are waiting rescue. However, the planet and the monster on the planet are not happy that they are there. So the planet is trying to take everyone out before the rescue ship can get there. It’s an interesting game of cat and mouse, because the crew can strategize amongst themselves as much as they want, but they have to do it so that the monster can listen. So do they try and send him down a false path, or can they split things up in such a way to be able to do most of what they want. This is another hand management style game for the crew as they have various locations that they can go to, but they discard it to their own, visible, discard pile and the monster has powers that it can use throughout the game. The game has basically always been close when we play it, and it’s a pretty easy game to play, but one that has a nice tension. Probably, actually, a pretty good Halloween game as it has some horror elements to it.
Last Year: 41
41. Cross Clues
This apparently was the party game section. Not ranked last year because it came out this year, Cross Clues is a fun and challenging party game where people are giving clues so that other players can determine the intersection point between two things. To put this better, you have a spread sheet that is 5 by 5, each row and column has a header of a word, so A might be stick and 1 might be wind. If I have the card that has A1 denoted on it, I have to give a clue that will get the other players to guess A1, maybe I go with something like Kite. But maybe C is tail, now kites have tails as well as sticks as structure on them, so which do I mean. So maybe that’s not the best clue, maybe for rustle, but maybe D is cattle, so wind and cattle might make sense for that. So you have to be clever with your clues, and you are trying to get as many done in five minutes as you can, or since we’ve played it across Zoom, just seeing how many out of the 25 on a 5 by 5 grid or 16 for a medium challenge, we can get and score that. It’s a clever game that works really well, and I’m not sure how many word cards there are, but depending on how they intersect the game has a ton of replayability. Definitely a party game that everyone should checkout, in my opinion, and probably one that’d be really popular now, if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
Last Year: Not Ranked
So what from this part of the list, the beginning of the Top 50, looks most interesting to you? Any you’d put higher in your own Top 100?
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Now, let me set a few ground rules. The game must have an official solo version, it can’t be something like Pandemic Legacy Season 1, which I played solo, but officially, by the rules, isn’t a solo game. I will say though, I haven’t played all of the games on this solo, but it is an official option, and I’ll call out when I haven’t done it, might be for one of several reasons including I started it not solo, so for a game on the list, that’s the only reason I haven’t played it solo. But as we’re in a time when for some people solo gaming might be their only option, here are 10 games from my favorites that can be played solo, officially.
10 – Onirim
Technically you can play the game with two players, but it’s a solo game through and through. It’s a fun puzzle type of game as you are trying to escape or sort a dream before the nightmares can get you. But to do that, you need to play down colored cards in pairs of three of the same color, you just can’t have the same symbol back to back. And beware the pesky nightmares, that can ruin a good hand or will you push your luck in other ways to deal with the nightmare? The game plays fast, and app for it is great, but I like playing it with the physical game, even though there can be a lot of shuffling. There are also a lot of expansions/variations that you can play out of the box as well, so it gives you good variety in the game.
9 – Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
The name is a mouthful, but the game offers a lot of interesting fun solo. In it you play as Harry Dresden and two other characters when solo and you build out a hand for each of them. So really it’s a multihanded game at that point, but compared to the normal three player game, I believe that you end up with less cards to work with, and in a game where cards are at a premium, it makes is very tough still even with perfect information. The game is definitely a puzzle to be solved at that point in time, and with a few lucky die rolls maybe it’ll be an easy solve, but you never know. If you’re a Dresden Files fan, I’d say that it matches the books well, if you’re not, I think the game is interesting, but probably not as strong.
8 – Welcome To…
This flip and write offers you an interesting game that you can do solo as you build up your perfect Stepford, I mean perfect town. It does one thing that isn’t my favorite in a solo game, it’s a beat your best score sort of game, but it works well as a solo game. You have a lot of choices to make as you have to use two cards from a combination of three. Now, this is the solo mode that comes out of the base box, I do believe that they created another solo variant for the game at a later time that might be even better or give you another challenge for winning besides just trying to beat your best score. It’s a good solo filler game.
7 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
This is the game that a future game on the list is loosely based off of, but this one holds up well on it’s own. In this game you construct a deck for your investigator and then you send them off to investigate some weird goings on and solve the mystery that is happening. I like it solo because as compared to some where you are just trying to beat a point total, in this one, you have a clear objective and with only one player, the game moves along really nicely. I have played this one player and two player, and while two player is fun because you can share the story, at one player you have no downtime. And there’s a ton of content for this, so you’re not likely to ever run out of material to play in the game.
6 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
One of a few deck builders or deck constructions games, Aeon’s End: War Eternal is a really fun game and works really well solo. On Malts and Meeples, I played through a game of it solo and it worked well to play it two handed. You can play up to 4 breach mages, but I think that two works fine and is easy to keep track of. But because you aren’t shuffling the decks that are being built ever, it keeps the downtime of not playing the game to a minimum because you’re always just flipping for the next turn. The game has a lot of cool mechanics, and I think that the not shuffling the deck is one of the coolest, and I really like the turn order mechanic as well where you’re just flipping from a deck so you never know who is going to go next.
5 – Xenoshyft: Onslaught
I’ve played this one solo, kind of, I’ve played it solo in the app, and while the game worked well solo, the app is horrible and I’d strongly recommend not playing it that way. It definitely doesn’t work on a phone and maybe would on a tablet. But it’s a game that you can find and have a variety of how you play it depending on which character you pick. I expect that it’d be more challenging solo, though, you only have to make it through 3 rounds at each difficulty level. The downside is that the health of your base is way lower. The game offers good challenge and I like the somewhat silly nature of the game because it reminds me of Starship Troopers and a bit of Ender’s Game as you’re defending a base against bug monsters.
4 – Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon
The downside to putting this one on the list is that it’s going to be extremely hard to find. It was a Kickstarter at the end of 2018 that delivered at the end of 2019. There are going to be some copies on eBay, but I’d expect them to be expensive, but I really like this game solo. It’s a massive story driven survival game where you are sent out from your little farming village after the real heroes of the town have gone out and not come back. Can you fend off the Wyrdness that is creeping across the lands of Avalon and solve the mysteries that the game presents to you. The game is done in chapters, and I find the chapters to be a solid bite of the game that you can play in a sitting or two and get interesting and good story. It’s going to be spendy, but it’s really good.
3 – Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
When you want a mystery to try and solve, Mansions of Madness: Second Edition gives you that. I have played this solo once I believe, and I thought it worked pretty well. Board Game Geek users don’t think it’s bad at one, they just like it at higher player counts, and I think the most heavily story driven games I find that to be true, but it works well in a pinch. As you’re playing against the app which is laying out the mystery, you might find that you’re not having enough time to do everything, and that’s even the case with multiplayer. The app lays out the board and mysteries as well, so even if you’ve played a scenario once and lost, you can play it again and you’ll notice little things that are different about it. I really like this game, and because of the app integration, it’d be a really good solo game.
2 – Marvel Champions: The Card Game
I’ve played this one solo a few times and while I’ve only beat it multiplayer, that is because I was learning it more so playing it solo. The game is a lot of fun, you feel like the superhero that you’re supposed to be playing with the actions that they have and equipment. The deck building aspect is interesting as well because you can really change up the character with the aspect that you give them, maybe you want Iron Man to be defensive or a leader or aggressive, by swapping out some of the generic cards, you’re able to build the character so that they focus in a unique way. If you’re a Marvel fan and a board game fan, I’d say that this game is a really good choice, and the solo mode for this time works extremely well.
1 – Gloomhaven
This is one of them that I haven’t played solo, but you can, even though you need to play it two handed solo. I can see the solo working really well and I know it’s very popular solo, because you can really work on synergies and strategies that you might not be able to do in a multiplayer game. They recommend in the rule book for solo that you play up a level of difficulty for that reason because you’ll know precisely how fast both the characters are going. Now, with Gloomhaven , playing is solo, I’d say that the Gloomhaven Helper app is a must, and I’d even think the Foreteller app with the 51 base Gloomhaven scenarios and coming soon the side scenarios being read to you, it’d offer more feeling of discovery and immersion. Now, Gloomhaven is, of course, massive, so I’d recommend getting an organizer and even leaving it set out if you can.
What are some games that you like to play solo? I know that I have more on my list, such as Aeon’s End Legacy, Folklore The Affliction and 7th Continent that I need to play. Plus there are games like Sword & Sorcery and Legends of Andor that’d work well solo but didn’t make the list for me. Now is really the time if you can dig into a bigger adventure game to tackle one of those solo as we probably won’t be able to have many in person gaming experiences for a while.
Are there any games that I should checkout for solo play? Do you think that any listed don’t work well solo?
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Alright, this whole week and probably for a little bit longer, but let’s talk about those things you can get for the nerdy people you have in your life. Or things that you can suggest that people get for you, since you’re the nerdy person in their lives.
Stocking Stuffers are going to be small games, though a few of them might be slightly too large for a small stocking, but they are going to be smaller games and hopefully slightly cheaper options for you as well. These games are not going to be big and grandiose, but hopefully you’ll find a good range of games for the people in your lives. This list isn’t in a best to worst or vice-a-versa order, just alphabetical
Age of War – This game will easily fit into a stocking. It is a simple little dice game where you are trying to collect fortresses by rolling combinations on the dice. If you get a set, you can lock them in, but if not, someone can try and steal it from you, though it’s a little bit trickier. This game is very simple and small. It’s a good game for people who like a bit of dice rolling, but don’t want anything too thinky.
Boss Monster – A game that’s a bit bigger than Age of War, but it’s still easy to play. Each person is a monster in a 8-bit video game and you are trying to set-up your dungeon and lair so that you can defeat all the heroes who are coming from the town. But you also have to be able to attract them. But if they don’t die in your dungeon, you don’t want to take too much damage. This is for someone who likes a lot of nerdy things and retro video games being one of them. There are good nods to other nerdy things on the cards.
Cat Cafe – Your crazy cat lady aunt will love you for this game, though you’ll probably have to teach it to her. It’s a bit more complex than some roll and writes, but in the game, you are creating your own cat towers to attract cats to you. You score in various ways by placing mice toys together or by getting food dishes or other things your cats would love. This is a good game for the whole family.
Criss Cross – Another roll and write, you might see a third on the list, but Criss Cross is a little game, but a good one for people who like to puzzle out the best score. In Criss Cross you are rolling dice and everyone is placing the symbols rolled onto their own board, but you have to remember that you are scoring both columns and rows, so you don’t want to have too many of them that score zero. It’s a very small game and easy to play multiple times.
Gloom – This is completely different than the other games, because Gloom is a story telling game. In it you are taking turns playing down cards to either make your opponents characters lives go better, or to make yours go worst until you can kill off your whole family. You are telling the horrible things that are happening to them as you play card. This has a nice dark humor to the game, and it just ends up being silly fun for a potentially dark theme. Plus, the cards are clear plastic, so that they stack on top of previous cards and you can see through.
Hanabi – A card driven game, Hanabi is unique because the cards aren’t facing you. Your hand of cards is facing your opponents and they are giving clues to help you play down your cards. You are all trying to work together to get stacks of fireworks from 1 to 5 of their colors, but if you play down the wrong number or the wrong color, you lose a fuse, and you don’t want it to blow up in your face. It’s a unique idea and it works well for a small box game.
Hanamikoji – This is a great game to get for your significant other, if they enjoy gaming. It’s a two player only abstract game where you are trying to win favors of various Geisha. But to do so, you must give them gifts using four actions that you can take. And your opponent has the same four actions. When you use them and the choices you make are what work well in this thinky game. It plays fast, though, and generally I’ve found that people want to play again after the first game.
Just One – Okay, you’ll need a large stocking for this one. The game isn’t that huge, but it’s larger than most. A cooperative word based party game, this one is great for your family if you are sick and tired of playing the same party games over and over again from the 90’s or you’ve read every single Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity card. In Just One, one person is it, and you are all trying to get them to guess a word, but you can only write down a one word clue. If you match with someone, though, both clues are hidden. It’s a super fun game that takes the place of a lot of other party games.
Onirim – Maybe you have a family member who likes to play solitaire games, probably including solitaire, but they haven’t jumped into modern board games. Onirim is a great game for a solitaire player with simple rules in the base game, and a lot of challenge as you are playing cards, it’s one of the best purely solo games out there. The artwork is unique, but I like it, and the game is small, just a bunch of cards, so it won’t feel like too much.
Parade – This game can be a bit hard to find, but if you can get your hands on it, it’s an interesting card collection game where you are trying to get as few cards and as few points as possible. But, in a twist, if you get the most of a certain color/suit, those cards only count as a single point. It’s an abstract little game, but the Alice in Wonderland artwork will draw people in.
Say Bye to the Villains – If the person likes hard games, this will be a good option. Say Bye to the Villains is a very hard game, I haven’t beaten it, but a ton of fun. You are all Samurai who have 10 days to prepare to fight a group of villains at the end of that time each of you will face off against one. You can prepare by improving your stats or scouting out the villains. This game works well, because it’s cooperative and you feel like you can’t get everything done that you need to. Extremely tough, good variety in the game, and if you are looking for a challenge it’ll be a good choice.
Second Chance – We’re back to roll and writes, but Second Chance is a great one for it, and a simpler one. In this game, two cards are flipped and you have to draw in the shape shown of one of them on your board. The person who has the fewest spaces left at the end of the game wins. However, to keep it from being the same, each person has a unique starting shape, and if you use larger shapes, you might run out of room faster, but you get a bonus spot. If you can’t fill in one of the shapes, you get a second chance, and if you can use that new shape, that is just for you, you can keep playing. The game has a nice art feel to it and works well in large groups. Another game that you will play multiple times in a single sitting.
Stipulations – Another party game is making the list, and this one will easily fit in a stocking. Too many party games either need to have a ton of cards, Apples to Apples/Cards Against Humanity, because you go through them quickly, or they have large pieces like Catch Phrase, but Stipulations is a fun game in a small package. In the game the person who is it picks a dream job, super power, life time supply or fulfilled dream that then other players write a stipulation for. It’s a good creative game, and one that you can make as dirty or as clean as you want, so you can always play with anyone.
Unlock! – Any of the Unlock games, or the Exit games, would work in this spot, but if you have someone who loves escape rooms, give them an escape room in a box. Unlock puts you into a situation that you have to combine cards, solve riddles and other puzzles and figure out the solution before time runs out. And then when it does, you can still finish, you just get fewer points, but you can watch the clock count down and get stressed out. If you are looking for that escape room experience but on a budget, it works well with groups too, probably up to 6 players maximum, though I think 4 is the ideal number.
Alright, I don’t know how many that was, but it’s a good variety of games that you can stick in people stockings. If you want, you can probably find one for everyone in your family. Board games are fun to give and get over the holidays because you can then turn them into a family activity if you want.
Which game would you want to get in your stocking? Which one would you be most apt to give?
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