Here we are at last, the cream of the crop so to speak. It has been a really fun and exciting thing to come up with, and share, this Top 100 list and hopefully you’ve found at least a game or two to place on your radar. Come back next June when I’ll try to do this again…
And stay tuned for a follow-up to this coming perhaps this weekend…
#10 – Great Western Trail
This game is a mish-mash of mechanisms that, somehow, works really well. I love that the tempo is controlled by the players, and that you are collectively adding spaces along the routes to potentially extend the game. There is so much to explore in here for strategies that I am only beginning to scratch the surface and, from everything I hear, the expansion takes a great game and makes it even better overall (which means I’ll be getting it eventually). Pfister is one of those few designers who have my full attention every time a game comes out with their name on it, and with good reason. His games are always incredibly fun, have layers of strategic depth that may not always be apparent on the surface, and they provide a rich experience that leaves me thinking about what I’ll do differently on the next play.
#9 – Race for the Galaxy
The fact that this game is still so high on my list speaks volumes about its staying power, as this has been among my favorite games for about 5 years now. My plays are solely reduced to the app at the moment, as I parted with my worn-down copy last year when needing to trim things down and, well, now I need to reacquire the game. But it works since there is now a 2nd Edition of the game, which should be nice to get onto my shelf and back into my solo – and occasionally with my wife – rotation of games to play. This is one of the best engine-building games I’ve ever played and, after well over a hundred plays of the game, I’m still not through turning back to this game for my enjoyment.
#8 – Rococo
I distinctly remember being at a game day a few years ago and seeing this one played at a nearby table and thinking I would never play a game about making dresses. Color me a fool, for this is one heck of a game. There is not one thing I can point to about this game that makes it stand out, but rather it is a combination of all of those into the overall package – much like Great Western Trail – that makes this a game I enjoy playing and one I crave the next play for. Had the younger me been wiser and played this game years ago it might have entered my collection before going out of print. As it stands now, this is the only game in my Top 15 that eludes my collection and eventually I’m going to have to just own up and buy it for crazy aftermarket prices because it is that good of a game.
#7 – Hanamikoji
When it comes to a 2-player only experience this remains the Holy Grail of games in that category. This game has everything I want in the box: small, portable, fast-playing, incredible tension on what to play, simple ruleset, gorgeous components and cards. I don’t get this one to the table nearly enough, and even if it hit the table every week I would probably still make that claim about the game. This is one that I would gladly play anytime and anywhere with someone, as this is a brilliant game for two players. It takes the best parts of Battle Line, which I enjoy, and adds the struggle of only using four actions per round and trying to figure out what action to take next, and what cards to use, provides some of the most agonizing decisions I’ve ever had in a game.
#6 – Oh My Goods
Pfister strikes twice in the Top 10, which definitely says a lot about this designer and his games. There is so much brilliance in such a small package of cards. They are multi-use cards, meaning you need to decide how to employ them effectively. This game has elements of worker placement in that you assign your workers to the buildings you want to activate that round. There’s press your luck which, in most games, I’m not a big fan of but it works beautifully here. But best of all, and probably the reason why I can’t find people to play this with me, is the chaining ability on buildings. I absolutely love building chains of production goods, and delight when that final turn allows me to mega-chain my way to victory. This is a small, clever game that I will never grow tired of – and I need to get back to exploring those expansions soon to enjoy the solo game they provide.
#5 – Lisboa
This game is many things, but simple is not one of them no matter how you slice it. It is burdensome to teach and a slog to play – until it isn’t. When things finally click, the sheer genius inside of this game is amazing. It is so thematically rich, as every Lacerda game I have played manages to be, to where the actions and sequences you follow begin to make sense. The solo mode is no slouch, either, providing a challenge that I haven’t been able to overcome even once. I tend to lose this game and to lose horribly, yet it keeps me coming back every time as I try to find ways to do better and become more efficient in a game that is anything but easy. It works my brain in the best sort of way, and if I could only own one Lacerda game (which I do), this is the one I would choose to purchase every time.
Worker placement games are a dime a dozen and so many of them are forgettable because they share so much in common. And perhaps that is what I really enjoy about Argent: The Consortium, because it breaks the mold of traditional worker placement to provide a game that can be cruelly cutthroat, that has a scoring method that follows the beat of its own drum, and provides a modular experience that gives it fresh life every time it hits the table. This is a long game with endless variety and player interaction in spades, and I love it to pieces because of all of those things. I wish my wife, like several other games in my Top 20, loved this game as much as I do as I would gladly play this any time she wanted a worker placement game. As it stands, she does enjoy this one when it hits the table more than she “remembers” every time, which is perfectly fine for me. I simply cannot wait to try out the Mancers expansion – at least some of the new modular content from that box – to see how that reshapes and breathes more life and variety into a game I already cherish.
#3 – Mystic Vale
Speaking of games I wish my wife liked more, and games that break the traditional mold of their mechanic…Mystic Vale is an awesome game that made the card crafting mechanic a thing in board games. While I hope the upcoming Edge of Darkness ends up being just as great (and more up my wife’s alley), this one remains at the pinnacle of what a great game experience should be. The gameplay is fast, there is a ton of variety from expansions, and each expansion adds minimal alterations to the core experience. Even when using them all it still feels like base game Mystic Vale – which is why I continue to collect them all and integrate them as desired when it hits the table.
This is the game that has consumed more of my money than any other game, and I’m not unhappy about it. This game is a perfect experience, providing a ton of cards to build decks from and over a hundred quests now available to challenge – and many of them are really unique. This game is almost always a good challenge, regardless of whether playing alone or with friends, and even in its most frustrating moments it is a game I’ve never regretted playing when I lose. This is easily my most-played game of all time, and it will continue to hold that honor probably forever. Even if the game didn’t release another card or quest there is enough available to keep me playing this for decades without it getting tiresome. I cannot wait to attend the Con of the Rings this October, stationing myself in Roseville, MN for a weekend full of playing this game with other fans of the game. And maybe Caleb Grace will grant me a rematch from last year’s Gen Con…
This game is perfection. It has been my #1 game probably since the first time I ever played the game, and even though it only gets played a handful of times each year (at most) I don’t see any reason for it to officially relinquish that crown. It is the one game to rule them all, and the experience is almost always down-to-the-wire to where the outcome was balanced on the edge of a knife. The only way this game ever leaves my collection is if I get the Anniversary/Collector’s Edition of the game to replace it, and even then I’d probably keep this as a backup for the game. Even the base game experience alone is more than enough game to keep up coming back for more play after play, although I enjoy both expansions and am excited for the coming 3rd expansion that was announced.