Below you’ll find my Top 10 board games of 2013. It was another great year, having praised 2012 last time out. You’ll find four games that were in my last Top 40, three of which were in the Top 20. Three more were in previous Top 50s, while the others easily could’ve been. The top eight are all currently in my collection, while the 10th was until recently (I’ve never owned number nine, but still play it). And despite my thinking this a strong list, many other players will be surprised at some of the household favourites that didn’t make the cut.
Related: My 2013 Essen wishlist
In terms of board gaming, 2013 holds a special place in my heart. It was the year Empire Engine was released, and so was my first year at Essen Spiel as a ‘proper’ designer. It was incredibly exciting, despite it being a small release. And at least one of my other games was signed at the show too, making it a brilliant year all around. Sadly it feels as if that part of my life is behind me at least for now, but there are certainly still some great memories.
My Top 10 board games of 2013
(Note: Links on the game names below go to full-length reviews on this website)
CV is clever little Yahtzee-style game with a theme that really pops and artwork that compliments proceedings beautifully. Build your life through cards you buy with dice, giving you more symbols to pick up better cards. Will you be rich, decadent, and famous, or super healthy and green? Either may win you the game.
9. Eldritch Horror
There’s a lot to be said for this simplified Arkham experience, but it is still pretty stupid, long, and luck dependent. Then there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as Eldrich Horror is played in good humour and with the right people. I don’t get to play that often, but always enjoy what is certainly an experience. We even win on occasion…
Rococo is a gorgeous euro game with an unusual theme. Put together your perfect tailoring team, make dresses and suits for a fine occasion, then sponsor fireworks and artists to promote your business. Clever area majority and action selection mechanisms keep things competitive, while every decision feels important.
This two-player ‘knife fight in an innocent-looking phone booth’ has you making decisions you don’t want to make every single turn. At its heart, Hanamikoji is a set collection game, but it is so tightly balanced a single error can see you lose the game. Every time you do one thing you’re giving up another, without ever having quite enough information as you’d like.
6. Handler der Karibik
The original version of Port Royal, Handler der Karibik initially released as a charity fundraising game before becoming a huge hit the following year. It’s almost identical, with the reprint having a few tweaks to the end game. But it wasn’t enough for me to give up my original, which still gets to the table on a pretty regular basis.
Board game Top 10 of 2013: The top five
Blueprints is a sadly overlooked dice placement game that should’ve been a hit. Four colours of dice score differently. You’re placing them on a blueprint that also scores points if you follow a pattern. While you’re competing with each other for round-end bonuses. The trick is, you’re building your blueprint behind a screen, keeping everyone guessing.
4. Bruxelles 1893
I’m not sure another euro game packs in as many elements that affect other players as Bruxelles 1893. Everything you do will have a knock-on effect on some sort of scoring or engine-building mechanism, making a mechanically simple game into a really fun and thoughtful head-scratcher. A unique look too, which works beautifully.
For me, Caverna is a more expansive and enjoyable take on the excellent Agricola mechanisms, where the decisions on how to score points aren’t as front-loaded. Sure, it is a little more forgiving. But the best player, who makes the best decisions, is still going to come out as the winner. So what’s the problem?
2. Bora Bora
This brilliant Feld-designed euro would’ve topped the list if it had been released in most years, but in 2013 Bora Bora has to settle for the number two slot. It’s a bright and colourful take on the ‘dice for actions’ idea that perfectly solves the ‘small numbers bad, high ones good’ dilemma. Not seen as one of his best by many, but it is by me.
Concordia is generally, and rightly considered one of the truly great euro games. Mac Gerdts was then the master of the short, snappy euro game turn and his rondel idea was great in earlier games. But he moved away from it here, adopting a take on the deck-building card system but keeping the pace quick. Along with a clever scoring system, it works perfectly.
The two games just below my Top 10 board games of 2013 would probably be Tash-Kalar and Amerigo. Both are great, and I owned Tash-Kalar for a long time. But neither would come off the shelf often enough now to hold a place in my collection, despite being top games. Nations may well have made the list, but I’ve only played once or twice.
I also enjoyed multiple plays of other euros including Coal Baron, Rialto, and Lewis & Clarke. In family games, Forbidden Desert is a solid classic and I had a lot of fun with The Little Prince: Maske Me A Planet for a good 20 plays. At the other end of the scale, stinky wooden spoons go to Luchador (not a game) and Firefly (utter and complete nonsense, which is such a shame as I so wanted to love it).
You should be able to find most of these games still available via Board Game Prices. And of course, let me know if I missed your favorite in the comments below.