Here we go again! It’s my 9th year of doing a ‘favourite games of all time’ list. And while little changes at the top end, I still find it an interesting process. It’s a time to reflect on whether some old favourites are losing their shine. And to see if any recent acquisitions have really made the grade.
As usual, the bottom 10 were the hardest. The top 25 pretty much chose themselves. But I then had around 30 to narrow down to 15. So honourable mentions go to Bad Company, Rokoko and Finca (numbers 41-43), which were last to fall from the list and the hardest choices I had to make.
Links in the game titles go to full reviews elsewhere on the site, which is why the entries are quite short. I’ve reviewed pretty much all of these games. And these are just some of the 200 reviews you’ll find here (there’s a link to all the reviews at the top of the page). I’ve played thousands of games over the years, so anything that has made my Top 40 is – for me – pretty special.
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My Top 40: Numbers 31-40 (alphabetical)
(2021, 2-5 players, 56-60 mins)
A simple tile/tableau building game that gets just about everything right. It’s a properly thinky puzzle experience with lots of interesting decisions to make. Plus some really satisfying moments when you chain things together, or complete a tricky challenge. There’s not a huge amount of interaction, but you are competing to complete a limited number of bonus tiles. This can swing the game, so certainly makes a difference.
Archaeology: The Card Game
(2007, 2-4 players, 30 mins)
This small box card game is an impressive take on simple set collection mechanisms. You’re basically trying to collect colour sets to score points. There is no hand limit. So it should be easy, right? Well. Some cards let you steal from opponents. While others create sandstorms, making all players put half their current cards into a shared central area. This push-your-luck element really makes it shine.
Basari: Das Kartenspiel
(2014, 3-5 players, 30 mins)
A fabulous negotiation and bluffing game in a small box. It plays fast and, with the right people, is such good fun. You each play a card each turn, trying to collect gems and points. There are only three card types and if you’re the only one to choose an option, you do it. If more than two choose the same one, you all do nothing. But if two choose, you negotiate with gems. And with all info visible, its a great game of bluff and counter bluff.
(2013, 2-4 players, 2-3 hours)
The Caverna vs Agricola debate will roll on forever. I like both, but prefer the openness of Caverna to the front-loaded experience of Agricola. What you get is a long and involved worker placement game with multiple paths to victory.
Caverna rewards long term strategy, but the competition for worker spots means you often have to pivot tactically to get what you need. For me, one of the best games in the genre and my favourite Rosenberg design.
RE! Just One
(2018, 4-7 players, 20-60 mins)
I love a good word game and this is just that. The game is incredibly simple – One player chooses a word blind from several on a card (they’re numbered), and the other players write down just one word that gives a clue to it. They then compare their words, and any duplicates are removed. Leaving the guessing player to deduct their own word from those that are left. Families, gamers, anyone can play and enjoy this one.
(2014, 2-4 players, 2-3 hours)
Online: Boite a Jeux
After playing this online, I had to pick up a copy. I’d presumed it would be too heavy for me, but the theme makes sense – which really helps you get your head around the gameplay. Yes, there’s a lot going on. And while it is probably one of the heavier euro games I never find it gets overwhelming. Its largely an action selection game, but timing your moves well is crucial. Generally, you really have to keep an eye on your fellow players.
(2019, 2-4 players, 1-2 hours)
This card drafting euro went largely under the radar on release. But it found some life during covid thanks to its online implementation on Yucata. There’s a solid element of engine building, as you build up your rockets and launch pad to complete missions. And the drafting is competitive enough to keep you on your toes. And I love the artwork, although some think it should be a smaller box game. I disagree, as it looks great on the table.
NEW! Sobek 2 Player
(2021, 2 players, 20-30 mins)
The original Sobek suffered from odd scoring and lacklustre card selection, but the set collection part was really nice. Sobek 2 Players replaces and improves the crappy bits and keeps the good one, making for an excellent game. You take tiles from a grid, but your opponent is limited in what they can take afterwards by direction arrows on the tile you choose. This makes every decision important.
Tales of Glory
(2018, 2-5 players, 60 mins)
Tile laying with a fantast theme and cute artwork. You’re building the legend of your hero, showing where they’ve been and what they’ve gathered by matching tiles to gain rewards. It’s fast, simple and elegant. With enough personality to keep me coming back for more. It really sings with more players, as the competition for tiles is more fierce. This is done with a clever take on bidding/drafting which makes it stand out from the pack.
That’s Pretty Clever
(2018, 2-4 players, 45 mins)
I could have put any one of the series here, as I only wanted one on the list. And my favourite changes depending on my mood or the group playing. It’s a roll-and-write game where clever choices can lead to hugely satisfying combos. Better still, your dice choices affect your opponents. Which means sometimes its better to take something slightly worse to leave others with even worse ones. Quick, clever and thinky.
My Top 40: Numbers 21-30 (alphabetical)
(2017, 2-3, 20 mins)
A wonderfully clever little two-player abstract game (or three-player with an expansion). The gorgeous ‘day of the dead’ artwork sold me on it, but it has gameplay to match. You’re simply trying to get all your pieces across the board. But you play at right angles, and your opponent’s pieces also count when working out movement speed. So one player is counting rows, the other columns. Ad special powers and you have loads of replayability.
(2003, 2-5, 60 mins)
Online: BGA, Yucata
Another tile-layer, with players building their own tableaus. Walls and having to keep the tiles oriented the correct way creates a great solo puzzle. As do having to buy tiles with multiple currencies. But the majorities scoring by tile colour makes it hugely interactive, as you vie to both accumulate and deny. A raft of mini expansions really help replayability and it looks great on the table.
RE! Castles of Burgundy
(2011, 2-4 players, 60-120 mins)
Online: BGA & Yucata
The first in an unlikely run of three Stefan Feld-designed euro games. This is perhaps his most popular ‘point salad’ game and one of the lighter ones. But don’t be fooled. There’s a lot to think about here as you first but and then place small tiles on your player board by using dice for actions. But the tiles available are limited each turn. So while there’s no direct interaction, you have to quick to get the ones you need. A very satisfying game.
(2009, 2-4 players, 90-120 mins)
One of Feld’s more frustrating euros, but also one of my favourites. You draft cards with various abilities, which need to be activated by collecting cubes. Weaker cards need single colours, but ones needing combos are much more powerful – but you need great planning and some luck to trigger them. I think it gets the risk/reward about right and triggering some of the cooler cards is very satisfying if you pull it off.
(2007, 2-5 players, 60 mins)
This is light and fast euro, which seems to be strangely marmitey. There’s a small card drafting element leading to a really tight worker placement mechanism. You always feel as if you don’t have enough of anything, while the constant threat of disease needs to be kept on top of. I love the dread of doom this creates, as you pivot to deal with a surprisingly tough round. But I guess it’s not for everyone!
(2018, 2-4 players, 60 mins)
Yet another tile-laying game, this time with a space station theme. You’re trying to balance your mix of accommodation, recycling, power and farms. Which isn’t made easy by some very strange tile shapes (made up of long diamonds) and an incredibly tight economy in which to buy them. Taking big tiles can be a big help. But if you run out of money, you also run out of choices – which can finish you.
The Rose King
(1992, 2 players, 30 mins)
The only pre-2000 design on the list has certainly stood the test of time. This excellent abstract is still in print after 30 years, and rightly so. You’re trying to group your pieces on a tight board. But are restricted by a small number of cards that let you do so. Worse still, your opponent can see all your cards too. So while the card draw is random, shaping play tactically, you are working with perfect information.
(2012, 1-5 players, 90 mins)
A fantastic worker placement game that continues to offer something a little different, even 10 years on from release. The ‘building the railway up Snowdon’ theme is wonderfully leftfield, while the weather mechanism remain one of my favourite unique euro ideas. It sets the speed your workers go at, while a second mechanism sees the game itself finishing part of the endgame requirements for you – which really keeps you on you toes.
(2012, 2 players, 60 mins)
Online: BGA & Yucata
The third two-player only game on the list and the second from the excellent Kosmos small box series. Targi sees players claiming cards from a 4×4 grid by placing workers around the edges of the grid to claim actions on those spots and the cards at your workers’ intersections. Which in turn creates plenty of opportunities to get in each other’s way while trying to get the cards you need, making for an excellent two-player experience.
(2004, 2-4 players, 45 mins)
What do you get if you cross the idea of darts with dice? Something much like this. Tumblin’ Dice has a lovely wooden board which is separated into increasingly tricky scoring areas. Players flick their dice trying to land in good spots or knocking opponent dice off the board – or preferably both. The fact the dice numbers are multipliers makes it super random, which is a great leveller in a game which is clearly just a bit of fun.
You’ll see a lot of the games above are listed as having online versions. These are all browser based and mostly available for free. Here are the links:
Tune in next week for the Top 20. And please post any comments below.