Best board games 2022: My Top 20 games of all time

To make it clear from the start, this is my best board games 2022 list – not the best games that have been released this year. In fact, none of them were released in 2022. Because part of what makes a game worthy of this list is longevity – even if that is only beyond five plays. These are my absolute favourites of all time, as of May 2022.

The top six picked itself, while the rest of the Top 20 is pretty interchangeable. There were only three new entries to the list compared to last year’s. And all three of those were in last year’s Top 40. The big changes and new entries tend to come in my annual Top 21-40 list (which I published a couple of weeks ago). Links in the game titles go to my full-length reviews on this site. And if any interest you, please start your search at Board Game Prices.

Best board games 2022: Numbers 20-16

20: Maori

(Günter Burkhardt, 2-5 players, 30 minutes, ages 8+, 2009) A beautiful puzzley abstract tile-laying game with simple rules that plays fast. But somehow never gets old. It’s helped by having a clever set of difficulty levels built in, meaning you can really up the challenge. While it also perfectly works-in loads of passive interaction, and a bit of actual interaction too. As well as a push-your-luck element, if you’re feeling risqué.

19: Remember Our Trip

(Daryl Chow & Saashi, 2-4 players, 30 minutes, ages 10+, 2019) My favourite of Saashi’s games – a designer I have a large and growing respect for. It beautifully realises a theme of shared holiday memories. Players try to form patterns (memories of locations) on their board first (by laying tiles) to then place them on a central shared memory board to get bonus points. Everyone has the same board in the same orientation, making it a gentle yet interactive experience. Simple and elegant, abstract yet thematic.

18: Lost Ruins of Arnak

(Min & Elwen, 1-4 players, 90-120 mins, ages 10+, 2020) If a board game made by an AI could actually be good, it would be like this. From one angle, Arnak has been pieced together with clinical precision. The production is first rate. Everything mechanically fits perfectly into place, as you deck-build and worker-place/action-select yourself through five rounds of engine building, resource conversion and point-scoring. But it also oozes theme and personality, as you Indy your way through the wilderness.

17: Fertility

(Cyrille Leroy, 2-4 players, 30-45 mins, ages 8+, 2018) While Kingdomino became the big domino-style hit a few years back, Fertility has emerged as my favourite of the mini-genre. It has a bit more going on, but not too much. Here you’re matching tiles to gain resources, which you then use to accrue points. But the placement is still important, as you try to deny good opportunities while still getting what you need.

16: Ingenious

(Reiner Knizia, 2-4 players, 30-45 mins, ages 8+, 2004) The game that has been in my collection the longest, but it’s here on merit. A wonderfully elegant abstract game you can teach in three minutes. But its clever tipping point half way through, where you must switch from straight point scoring to either protecting your position or recovering, keeps you coming back for more.

Best board games 2022: Numbers 15-11

15: The Downfall of Pompeii

(Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, 2-4 players, 45-60 mins, ages 8+, 2004) Another game with a tipping point, but this time you completely change the mechanics. In the first half, you populate Pompeii via card play. While in the second you bathe it it in lava (with tiles) while trying to get your citizens out – and cutting off those of your opponents. An oddly grizzly yet hilarious theme and one of my absolute favourite family games.

14: Deus

(Sébastien Dujardin, 2-4 players, 60-90 mins, ages 12+, 2014) An excellent tableau-building card game where cards of the same colour trigger when you play another one, giving excellent combo/engine building opportunities. The addition of a modular board adds a solid spatial element, as well as a second way for the game to end, keeping players on their toes.

13: Can’t Stop

(Sid Sackson, 2-4 players, 30 mins, ages 8+, 1980) Maths made fun by the sadly departed but never forgotten Sid Sackson. It’s simplicity itself, as you roll dice to claim numbered columns. Roll four dice, and make two numbers. If one matches one of your columns, you’re OK – but you only have three columns per turn. You keep going until you choose to stop, either letting probability guide you – or not. But miss your numbers and you lose all progress.

12: Concordia

(Mac Gerdts, 2-5 players, 90-120 mins, ages 12+, 2013) For me, still the best example of taking the deck-building mechanism and sliding it into a bigger, more complex board game. Gerdts kept the simple, snappy turn mechanisms he was known for but replaced the rondel with a small deck of cards. It works beautifully, as you expand your territory across a beautiful board while trying to keep the tight economy in check.

11: Bora Bora

(Stefan Feld, 2-4 players, 90-120 mins, ages 12+, 2013) My second favourite game (spoiler alert!) from Feld’s brilliant ‘point salad’ heyday. At first it may look like a mess of mechanisms on a slightly garish board. But for me its the perfect blend of tactics and strategy, with a little bit of luck and interaction delivered via a dice-as-actions mechanism. And personally I think it looks brilliantly vibrant on the table.

Best board games 2022: The Top 10

10: Ra

(Reina Knizia, 2-5 players, 60 mins, ages 10+, 1999) What Knizia does best – takes a mathsy mechanism – this time, bidding – and gives it a clever twist. One of the few bidding games that players who don’t normally like it can fall in love with. As you have just a few bidding chips, making the bidding part snappy. There are various forms of set collection, plus push your luck, in a lovely looking and fast playing gem.

9: Bruxelles 1873

(Etienne Espreman, 2-5 players, 1-2 hours, ages 12+, 2013) A brilliant euro game with a unique art style. All the constituent parts interact beautifully, while there’s very strong passive interaction in practically all the elements – which range from worker placement to constantly shifting area majorities. This creates a surprisingly aggressive tactical experience that also needs a strong strategic mind to play well.

8: Azul

(Michael Kiesling, 2-4 players,45-60 mins, ages 8+, 2017) A quite simply brilliant abstract game. The colourful Bakelite pieces make it beautiful to look at. But don’t let its pretty façade fool you. This is a knife fight in a phone booth, where your best laid plans can crumble before your eyes in a single round. Very simple tile laying, pattern building and scoring made special by a simple yet genius tile claiming mechanism.

7: Kingdom Builder

(Donald X Vaccarino, 2-4 players, 45-60 mins, ages 8+, 2011) The first of two controversial Spiel de Jahres winners in my Top 10. This fast-playing area influence game turns things on their head, forcing you to play on a particular colour of hex on the board each turn. A variety of randomly selected bonuses and ways to score keep it interesting, while a raft of strong expansions take it to the next level.

6: Terra Mystica

(Jens Drögemüller & Helge Ostertag, 2-5 players, 2-3 hours, ages 12+, 2012) Still my favourite ‘heavy’ euro game after a decade of play. Its an action selection game and territory building game, with a passive euro-style area control element. But the asymmetric powers make it sing, as players try to change the land to their preferred type to build – then use their unique abilities to get the edge over their opponents.

Best board games 2022: The Top 5

5: Ticket to Ride

(Alan R Moon, 2-5 players, 1-2 hours, ages 8+, 2004) The gateway game I’ve most successfully used to introduce people to our brilliant hobby. Simple board game route building meets simple card set collection. Tension is built by limited ways to get between locations, as well as knowing you’ll lose points for the (secret) routes you don’t complete. A game you can teach anyone, nicely married to a neutral theme, makes it a real winner.

4: Terraforming Mars

(Jacob Fryxelius, 1-5 players, 2-3 hours, ages 12+, 2016) A brilliantly sprawling card combos sci-fi experience. There are definitely elements of Race for the Galaxy, with its engine building and having to keep a close eye on your opponents to see how and when the game may end. But it turns this into a longer, more involved experience that works as the perfect long experience to compliment the much snappier Race.

3: Thurn and Taxis

(Andreas & Karen Seyfarth, 2-4 players, 60-90 mins, ages 8+, 2006) controversial SdJ winner number two. Although I think it gets more love nowadays, and deservedly so. As with Ticket to Road, you’re set collecting and route building. But here the jeopardy is moved to the card collection element, with failed push-your-luck having potentially game-changing consequences. And there are two routes to end the game, keeping everyone on their toes.

2: Oracle of Delphi

(Stefan Feld, 2-4 players, 90-120 mins, ages 12+, 2016) Not a common choice for a ‘favourite Feld’, but I love Delphi. It has all the multi mechanism mayhem you’d expect. But the point salad is replaced with a race element that’s perfectly executed via its pick-up-and-deliver mechanisms. There’s some super risky push-your-luck if you want it too. And it looks magnificent on the table, while the modular board makes it eminently replayable.

Best board game 2022: Race for the Galaxy

(Thomas Lehmann, 2-4 players, 30-60 mins, ages 12+, 2007) I’m closing in on 300 plays of Race. And that doesn’t include online plays. And I’m nowhere near bored of it. It’s an engine-building card game with the perfect blend of tactics and strategy. Sure, have a plan. But you have to play the cards you’re dealt, as this can genuinely be a race. A brilliant iteration of the Puerto Rico action selection idea, even if the mass (mess?) of icons make it hard to learn.

Playing online

If you’re looking to play anything from my best board games 2022 list, many of them are available to play online, usually for free. Check out the following websites:

  • Board Game Arena: Kingdom Builder, Lost Ruins of Arnak, Race for the Galaxy
  • Boite a Jeux: Bruxelles 1893, Concordia, Deus
  • Yucata: Downfall of Pompeii, Maori, Oracle of Delphi, Terra Mystica, Thurn and Taxis

Terraforming Mars and Ticket to Ride have their own apps on Steam, Apple and Android.

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