My Top 40 board games of all time 2020: From 40-21

Welcome to my 7th annual ‘top board games’ list. Today’s post will cover the lower half of the list, with the top games listed here. But please remember I’ve played more than 1,000 different games, have owned around 400, and currently own about 150. So, all these games have beaten back a lot of competition to make it into my Top 40.

My usual 50 was cut to reflect my shrinking game collection and to keep these posts a little shorter (and due to nostalgia for Top of the Pops). Plus, it always seemed the 41-50 section took longest to work out: a bit silly, as they’re the lowliest titles (I’ve listed 41-50 one last time for the sake of my own nerdy stats). Also, I’ve not agonised on giving these games a specific number, instead batching them alphabetically in groups of 10.

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Just missing out (numbers 41-50)

  • La Cour Des Miracles: Fast playing and interactive action selection game (above).
  • Doppelt so Clever: Thinky roll-and-write.
  • Junk Art: Balancing dexterity game with loads of variety.
  • Just One: Super simple and fun family/party word game.
  • Manhattan Project: Thematic worker placement with some unique elements.
  • Maori: Subtle, colourful and thinky tile-layer.
  • Patchwork: Fast playing and gorgeous Tetris-style puzzle game.
  • Reiner Knizia’s Decathlon: Free push-your-luck dice game (download here).
  • Targi: Fast and interactive two-player set collection/worker placement game.
  • Yspahan: Classic sub-hour euro with dice used for action selection.

Numbers 31-40

  • 6 Nimmt/X Nimmt
    (1994/2016, 4-10/2-4 players, 20-40 mins). Despite its advancing years, 6 Nimmt is still one of the best traditional card games out there. It covers up to 10 players, plays in about 30 minutes, and comes in a small box. And you can teach it in five minutes.
  • Adios Calavera
    (2017, 2-3, 20 mins). One of my favourite two-player abstract games. It has simple rules, but also plenty of variety if you want to switch things up. It’s fast and interactive in a traditional way. But the quirky art and clever movement make it stand out.
  • Archaeology: The Card Game
    (2007, 2-4, 30 mins). This is a great go-to small box card game to introduce to newer gamers. It has traditional set collection rules and an accessible theme. But just enough extra bells and whistles to show what modern hobby games bring to the party.
  • NEW! Fertility
    (2018, 2-4, 45 mins). Sadly falling below the radar on its release, Fertility (pictured above) has become one of my favourite tile-laying games. What it lacks in interaction it makes up for in puzzley point salad scoring and clever resource collection.
  • Kingdomino
    (2016, 2-4, 45 mins). A great take on dominoes. Bright, colourful, fast, simple and accessible. It’s fair to say this absolutely nails all the gateway game criteria. The importance of turn order makes it tactical, while the area scoring adds the strategy.
  • Navegador
    (2010, 2-5, 90 mins). My favourite of the Mac Gerdts rondel games. It’s a gorgeous German style euro game (pictured above) with snappy turns but deep game play. Every decision feels agonising, as you want to do so much all the time.
  • Snowdonia
    (2012, 1-5, 90 mins). Snowdonia’s clever weather system makes it one of the most unpredictable euro game of them all. But the challenge that brings also makes it one of the best, as you roll with the punches and change your strategy on the fly.
  • Thebes
    (2007, 2-4, 60 mins). A fun and thematic family game. Some baulk at the level of luck on show as you pick points tokens from the dig site bags. But for me the fun of playing easily outweighs this, while the underlying mechanisms are little found elsewhere.
  • Tzolk’in
    (2012, 2-4, 90 mins). Don’t let the gorgeous components fool you. This is a complex and unforgiving euro game packed with clever mechanisms and tough decisions. A game you need regular plays to master, bur that rewards that perseverance.
  • Yokohama
    (2016, 2-4, 90 mins). Yokohama makes a great mid-weight euro game from the interesting central mechanism of (the rather tedious) Istanbul. There’s a bit more to think about. And even the route-building aspect feels fresher and tighter here.

Numbers 21-30

  • Alhambra
    (2003, 2-5, 60 mins). A simple combination of well implemented mechanisms makes Alhambra a real gateway winner. Clever yet simple tile laying and set collection, plus fiercely competitive majority scoring. Plus loads of expansions for extra replayability.
  • Basari: The Card Game
    (2014, 3-5, 30 mins). A wonderfully simple and interactive card game where you try to read and then haggle with your opponents. The full board game (Basari) is just as fun, but the small box version loses nothing while being smaller and cheaper.
  • Crown of Emara
    (2018, 1-4, 90 mins). While a recent release, Crown of Emara shines with all the best traits of classic German euro games. Every decision feels tense and vital, as you agonise over what to do within a seemingly tight decision space.
  • For Sale
    (1997, 3-6, 30 mins). Every gamer should own a copy of For Sale. The cute art, simple rules and fast play – all in a small box – make it a great filler game for any occasion. But it’s clever and interesting enough to appeal to ‘proper’ gamers too.
  • Notre Dame
    (2007, 2-5, 60 mins). While drafting may seem a small part of this fast-playing euro game, it makes for some tough decisions. And there’s a tough balancing act throughout, as you fight off potential negatives while trying to amass points.
  • NEW! Pharaon
    (2019, 2-4, 60 mins). Pharaon is the only 2019 new release to my Top 40 this year. It looks great on the table and has a nice fresh take on action selection and set collection. But also simple to teach, fast to play and deep enough to hold the attention.
  • Pizza Box Football
    (2005, 2, 90 mins). This may well be a rather primitive dice-chucking sports simulation. But it does a great job of giving the feeling of coach versus coach, as you make your play calls and move up and down the field. Still my favourite sports board game.
  • Tales of Glory
    (2018, 2-5, 60 mins). An interesting take on tile-laying, while doing a good job of incorporating its fantasy theme. Create your character’s ‘tale’ by building up your tableau, symbol matching and strengthening your stats to pick up better tiles.
  • Tumblin’ Dice
    (2004, 2-4, 45 mins). Darts with dice – so less dangerous, more random, but just as fun. A lovely wooden dexterity game which can play up to six with a few extra sets if dice (or more as teams). Flick your dice to take out opponents and score most points.
  • Twilight Struggle
    (2005, 2, 2-3 hours). One of the all-time great war games. Both the main mechanism (card playing, rather than dice rolling) and the cold war theme elevate it for me. But it still has that war game feeling of luck being tempered by clever build up play.

Wondering what made the Top 20? Wonder no more…

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