Yesterday I talked about games that would work well for that just slightly too competitive person in your life. You still want to get them board games, but which ones, today I’m looking at smaller games. These are the games that are going to be …
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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So, I’ve been sitting on this topic for a while, because there was a popular game last year (I’ll review it this week) called The Mind. It was very popular but also got a bunch of dislike around it because people saw it not as a game but as an activity. I wanted to talk about the differences between the two and if that really matters in the long run.
Taking from the Oxford dictionary, the definition of a game is:
“a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck”Oxford Dictionary
According to that definition, is my example of The Mind, a game?
Basics of the Mind are that you are trying to play cards in numerical order without talking, you can see your cards but there is no communication, so you have to guess, based off of feel when to play them down, and you’re trying to get through a certain number of rounds.
By the definition of a game, it doesn’t really take skill or strength, but it is very much luck. And, I think that something that I’d say for a definition of a game, it needs to have a win condition of some sort, I think that competitive is trying to cover for that, but I think a win condition is clearer, because cooperative board games are definitely games even though you’re not competing against someone. So, the Mind, by the technical definition is a game. But, when looking at the definition, it feels like it’s lacking a little bit of what is normally a game because it is just luck based.
So, maybe it’s a combo of a game and activity. I think that you could say that all games are activities. And with the Mind, because you’re mainly just guessing when to play down a card or when to use a special ability, it feels more like an activity to me. And it is a fun group activity as you try and use body language or other non-verbal queues and non-spoiling clues to get other people to play or to have a rush of playing when the numbers are close together. For me, the Mind is more of [redacted – come back for the review].
Is it bad that it might be more of an activity than it is a game? No. I think that many party games, they are best when they are treated more as an activity than a game. When you are playing something like Stipulations and trying to come up with an answer, it’s better to put down something that you think is funny. Same with Balderdash or a game like Cards Against Humanity or Apple to Apples. Even if it isn’t the best answer or the answer most likely to win, it’s a lot of fun just to create moments where you can laugh. And you play until laughing is just starting to fade, and you’ve had a great activity without caring about who wins because you can just be goofy. If you treat them as a game, you won’t get the in-joke answers, you’ll get people trying really hard, and that’s less fun. Yes, you might be removing the game aspect from it or going against the spirit of the rules, but it’s a party game, and a party is supposed to be fun. That’s why I have issues with “party” style games that don’t led themselves to being an activity because they can’t have the same level of fun. I’ll talk about what makes a good party game later as well.
So, with the Mind or party games, they can border on an activity, and that’s fine. I think what’s not fine and some of the reason why I’m writing this article, is because there can be a sort of snooty thumbing of the nose towards these games and the people who play them. Yes, it’s not that complex a game or activity, but are the people having fun, yes. Can it be a gateway for getting people into the heavier and more complex games? Yes. Will it always do that? No, and that’s fine. We want to encourage as many diverse gamers to join the hobby as possible as that will keep the hobby growing and from becoming stale. It might not be a 4X game, an 18XX game, a euro game, or an Ameritrash game, but that’s fine depending on the group, and if they don’t want to move on to those sorts of games, it might be that game group isn’t the right one for you, but don’t disparage someone for having fun in their own way.
What is a light game that you think works better or is more of an activity? Have you tried The Mind, and do you like it? Let me know in the comments below.
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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 …
We’ve made it to the half way point and things will be looking up from there. Now we get to the actually good games. See, that’s a call back to a joke I made previously. I’ll have my disclaimer soon, but let me just say first, this really makes me want to play all of these games again. Some of them it’s been too long and some of them it hasn’t been long at all, but I still want to play all of them.
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.
50 – Pandemic
This game is just a good game, and one that’s been around for a little while, but still is a lot of fun. The cooperative nature of the game and the unique roles for each player in what they can do best works really well. In this game you are trying to cure four diseases from the board before you run out of cards, have too many outbreaks, or run out of one of the four diseases cubes. You do this by curing the diseases and trying to collect sets of cards of various colors that match up with the diseases. All the while the diseases are spreading and if you aren’t on top of it, they can get out of control in one part of the world. There’s just something nice about the standard version of Pandemic that makes it easy to get out to the table with people. Really enjoyable game, and you can play on hard mode where you try and eradicate all the diseases, which is what several people I’ve met thing the actual rules are.
49 – Cosmic Encounter
This game is a weird one on the list. You are one of various alien races, but what race you are can change, you are trying to get onto enough different planets before other people do, but you can share a victory. I think the best way to put it is that Cosmic Encounter is a silly negotiating game where you are vying to spread across planets, with the weirdest aliens out there. What is cool about this game is that everyone can be engaged in what is going on every turn. When someone else is going for a planet, they can ask for help, and you can piggy back along with them, and the same for defense. So it’s easily possible to be involved in every turn. In the end, the strongest force wins, but you can play cards to modify that, and some of those cards allow you to negotiate. But if both sides don’t negotiate, the one side will lose, but they get something from the other person. There’s give and take as you try and guess what the other person is going to play and talk through what sort of deals you can work out. Cosmic Encounter is a space game that doesn’t feel huge and doesn’t take itself seriously, but is a lot of fun. I can see this as a game that would fall flat for some groups, though, if they aren’t into the negotiating.
48 – Titan Race
In a land where there are fantastical monsters, known as titans, what do you do, you race them. Each player is a team of a lava and a rider who are trying to race across the same board three times faster than everyone else, dropping traps, pushing the other titans into lava, going over jumps, sliding on ice or whatever else the board might have on it. Last game was silly, this one is silly and light and just fun to play. You can get special powers that you can use, in fact your titan and rider will have their own special power to start the game, and you are drafting dice to determine how far and in what direction you go. This is meant as a light game, this is actually a pretty little game, I wish it was larger, because it would make a good kids game if it weren’t for all the small pieces. The fun thing is that while you can just do laps on the one board, you can also do the “grand prix” where you put three of the boards together and race through all of them. That makes the game even a bit more variable. Simple game but a ton of fun.
47 – Five Tribes
This game is a point salad game where everyone gets a point for everything that they do. But with that, there is some strategy as well. You can’t just take any move, because while it might give you points, which are coins in the game, there might be better scoring options out there. In Five Tribes, you bid for turn order, and then, using a mancala like mechanism of moving pieces around the board, you pick up meeples off of a square, and placing one at a time, drop them off on other squares and whatever one you are left with, you take it and all matching, which there have to be, meeples from the square and do that action. But then, each square has other actions you can take as well on it, and are they worth it to get more points, maybe shopping in the market, or will that cost be higher than the return. And then there are Djinn which can change up how you score and give you more points, if you buy them. Plus, there are other meeples that just give you points at the end of the game, some give you money during the game, and some can be used to kill other meeples. So picking the right move becomes important, and if there is one great move out there, do you bid higher when picking your potential starting spot, or do you hope other players haven’t seen the move. For a bunch of randomness in the set-up, once you get into the game, there is a ton of strategy as you try and find those best scoring moves.
46 – Ascension: Deckbuilding Game
Ascension is my generic deck builder on the list. A lot of people would pick Dominion, but I like Ascension a ton better. In this game, you are still just building your deck, but the mechanics of how many cards you can buy and how many cards you can play are much simpler, because you can spend all your money to buy as much as you want and you can play all of your cards if you want. Plus, there are monsters to attack as this is a fantasy theme, versus a “trading in the Mediterranean” theme. But the theme doesn’t really matter. There are four factions in the game that you can buy from, plus generic other cards like a mystic that gives you more buying power, or heavy infantry that gives you more attack power. You also have cards that you can get which are constructs that stay in play and give you a bonus each turn, but a monster might destroy them. Overall, this feels like it plays as fast as Dominion, there isn’t just a single puzzle to solve, because you don’t know how cards will come up, Ascension is just more enjoyable for me, and the expansions seem to add more interesting things into the game. Some people will like the static market of Dominion, but Ascension, I think, offers more interesting choices than Dominion.
45 – Homebrewers
This is one of the games that I demoed at GenCon, but don’t worry, I own it as well. Homebrewers is a game about a homebrewing club and brewing beer. In the game, you are working on brewing the best beer possible in four different styles of beer. You can get ingredients to improve your beer, but you can’t just brew all the time, like in real homebrewing, you have to clean stuff up, you have to get the grains before you can add in the weird stuff. The big reason you’re doing this is to have the best beers in the different types to win the summer beer dabbler and Oktoberfest. At it’s heart, Homebrewers is an engine building game where you are trying to get beers to brew that will help you be able to brew more beer, get more money, and get more points throughout the game. Each character is quite hipster, but they also have their hipster powers which give them something unique that they can do on their turn. I played a character that could get an extra die, which meant an extra thing I could do, each turn if I paid in $1. This is a fun game, and it’s a very fast engine building game. And you can make some extremely weird beers.
44 – Hanabi
I feel like Hanabi is a polarizing game, because it’s not an easy game to master, in my opinion. In Hanabi, you are making fireworks, but there is a twist, you have a hand of cards, or tiles in the deluxe version of the game, but they are facing away from you. You, and your fellow players are trying to create stacks from 1 to 5 of each color of firework before a fuse runs low because of mistakes that you’ve made. But how do you know what to play if you can’t see your cards, just guess? Nope, there are tokens that people can use on their turn to give clues about what you have in your hand. The trick is, they can only point at the cards, not tell you what they are completely. So you can give a clue like, these two cards are red, because one of them is a red 1 and you need to play that, but you can’t just point to that red card, you need to point to both. The same with numbers, something might be the 4 that you need to play, but if there are two 4’s in the person’s hand, you have to point at both of them. So giving good clues can be tricky, but you also don’t want to guess at what card to play. The game has a good puzzle feel to it, and there are some clues that are better than others that you can give. A really fun game and very challenging, but not for people who want to know completely what they need to do.
43 – Say Bye to the Villains
This is the hardest game to win on the list. By that, I mean I’ve never won this game. It’s a cooperative game, so that’s fine, because that means that everyone who has played with me has never won as well (at least in games I’ve played with them). In this game you are Samurai who are going to defeat villains, and you have 10 days to prepare, which means 10 points that you can spend. Each character needs to prepare in a different way, but the villains are also prepared with things that can hurt you and henchmen that can beef them up, but you don’t know what those cards are. So, do you spend time making yourself stronger, do you spend time looking to see how strong the villains are? There are more things to do in this game than you’ll ever be able to do. And that’s fine, that’s the fun of the challenge, hoping that you’ve looked at all the right things in order to defeat the villains as each Samurai matches up against one villain. As I said, I have yet to win this game. But that’s cool because I love the challenge and getting close and falling just short pushes me to want to try again and do better. One of these days I’ll beat the game.
42 – Stipulations
This is the party game for this section of the list. Stipulations for me kills off games like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity where you are matching up something to what the person who is it picked. This time you are writing it yourself. The advantage of that is it can be as clean or as dirty as you want, and you can tailor it to your group. The person who is it picks from one of four categories on the card, super power, lifetime supply, dream job, and a fourth category that I’m completely blanking on right now, but 50% of the time it’ll be super power anyways. Then everyone else writes a stipulation for it. Maybe you have the super power of flying, but…
You can only fly two feet off the ground.
You can only fly when farting.
You can only fly up, when you want to come down you just free fall.
You can only fly when naked.
This game is just goofy fun and while there is a weird scoring set-up for the game, we generally play with Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity rules where the person who wrote the best answer gets it and then at the end of two or maybe three times around the table, the person with the most wins. This game is more creative and just works so much better than those other two.
41 – Not Alone
Not Alone is an interesting big group game of one versus all. The all are the crew of a spaceship that has crashed onto an alien planet and are now exploring and trying to find their way off of the planet. There is one problem, the player who is by themselves, they are a monster on the planet who doesn’t like the fact that there are people around. And they are trying to track down and eat the crew members or have the planet do that for them. It’s a game of cat and mouse as the crew tries to go to places where the monster won’t go and to do this they play cards. They can even discuss strategy, but they have to do it so that the monster can here them, because, just maybe, the monster is part of the planet itself. This game, the monster races to take out the crew enough times to eat them all and stop them from being able to escape before the rescue ship gets there. There’s a real puzzle to playing the crew, and the monster has some interesting choices to make guessing where the crew will go next and hoping to get as many of them as possible as they split up. It’s a challenging game, but a lot of fun to play both sides of it.
That’s the next ten done. I think this is the longest and most detailed post I’ve done on my top 100 games thus far. I expect that trend to continue as I get into games that I really know and love and I want to play all the time.
Is there a game on the list that stands out to you as one that you really want to play? Or is there a game on the list that you really love, or really hate?
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This is a different complexity of game than I normally review. Even when I talk about party style games, I normally don’t bring up the games that kind of play themselves. I’m talking about games like Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples. Bring Your …