Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top 50 Board Games of All Time - 2014 Edition (Part 1)

This is my 4th year in giving you my top games of all time. This is of course completely subjective and whimsical list as was last year's list. This year I've decided to expand out to the Top 50 games of all time. I'm doing this for a couple reasons. First, I like to write about games. Second, I feel there are at least that many more awesome games to tell you about. As of writing this I've played 642 unique board games at least 1 time. So even doing the top 50 games for me is only the top 7.78% of the games. So they are all great games. The number in the parenthesis represents the highest that game has made it on my annual list. Without further ado, here you go!

50. Mission: Red Planet (N/A)
Basically combining El Grande (see lower down on the list) and Citadels this game hits a home run. You are sending steampunk astronauts to Mars to colonize the red planet, but you only play one character card a turn to do so. You only have 9 character cards total and cannot play one from a previous round until you spend a whole round getting them all back. Usually plays in 45-60 minutes and plays very well with 4 or 5 players.

49. Cyclades (N/A)
I have painted monster miniatures! This is a great blend of Ameritrash and Euro gaming. There is dice rolling and army confrontation, but at the same time auctions. The auctions are possibly my favorite part, because once you bid on the services of a specific god, if you get overbid you must choose a different god. This makes that decision of what to bid initially a very tough and fun decision.

48. Notre Dame (N/A)
The first of five Stefan Feld games you'll be reading about on this list. That is right. He designed 10% of my top 50 games. I'm a Feld fan. Notre Dame allows players to draft cards in order to gain influence in the burroughs around Notre Dame while at the same time making sure to avoid the rat plague that is constantly happening around them. The board is unique looking, which is what first drew me to the game, but the game play is what keeps bringing me back.

47. Pillars of the Earth (#19)
Down below you'll find a game that does a good job with implementing the book. This isn't that game, but it still makes for a great game. The expansion really is what put this one up here for me. Players are working on getting great craftsmen to turn resources into victory points, but it got a bit samey and predictable without the extra craftsmen in the expansion. That expansion adds the extra bit that makes the game very competitive and even more replayable.

46. Mascarade (New)
A surprise hit for me at GenCon 2013. You really need 8 or more players for this game. I'd suggest at least 10 to get the absolute best experience. For that reason, I consider this a gamer's party game, and one that I'll pull out when I have that many people and we'd rather not split into two groups. The bewilderment that appears on players faces as they try to figure out who really is the King or the Fool makes for a fun evening!

45. Dune (New)
I play this game once a year at Geekway to the West. It is a game that needs 6 players at least. It is a game that really does a great job of giving the feeling of the book Dune. This can be a very long game, it can provide all kinds of crazy surprises, but my favorite part of the game is the alliances. Alliances, you see, are actually binding for players. At least for a time. Then a game trigger happens (the Sand Worm comes) and you can get out of it. It makes it very fun to be stuck in an alliance with someone you don't want to be allied with and both of you realizing this thing isn't going to last!

44. Ninjato (New)
Ninjas in the night! Each player sends their bands of ninjas into various houses to steal precious goods. You then use those goods to buy off influential people or learn rumors to gain victory points. Ninjato is a game with such great art, game play that "fits" exactly the right expectations, and has such huge throwing stars that it is tough to go wrong with this one.

43. Patrician (New)
One of the most ugly games in existence. There really isn't a theme either, but the fun game play provided in a 20 minute game pushes this game to one of the best. Players simply are trying to get the most pieces in towers they are building in different cities, while at the same time collecting cards. The twist is though that you only get the card from the city you just played in. So many times you might play in a city that you aren't trying to win, because you want the card that it provides for another city. This game shines with 3 players.

42. Smash Up (New)
There is no way this would've made my list after my first play. Probably not after my second play, but the more I've played this game, the more I've realized how fun I have playing it. Players take two factions such as Zombies and Aliens, mix their cards together, and attempt to capture basis by taking one action and playing one card. Very simple game play, but lots of combos that can come out of the game. The art is exactly the kind of art that I like too.

41. El Grande (#6)
This game is just a classic. Players are trying to gain influence in Spain by putting their guys in various regions. On your turn you simply take an action card, place your guys, and use the action. That is it. Extremely elegant game. Smooth playing and very nice looking for the simplicity of the game. It is now pushing 20 years old and still gets played on a regular basis in my house.

40. High Society (#15)
At one time this would've been in my Top 10. It is probably one of my top 10 most played games of all time still to this point. I just played it twice this past month. Players are trying to purchase the biggest and best stuff, while avoiding the bad things, but can't win the game if they finish with the least amount of money. Such quick and tough decisions!

39. Trajan (New)
Stefan Feld hits again. Mancala is an ancient game of moving stones from one cup to another. In Trajan, Feld took that mechanism, and implemented it wonderfully in a deep game. The theme really isn't there, but the strategy sure is available. You can plan your turns way ahead and attempt to get what you want such as sending military out, building in the city, or getting Senate votes in order to win rewards. Trajan plays very well with 2-4 players and so sees plenty of play.

38. Last Will (New)
The game where instead of getting money, you are doing all you can to get rid of your money. Once players wrap their minds around that then the game gets really fun. Players are going on ship rides, getting fancy dinners, buying and degrading houses, and generally living it up. Plays really well 2-5 players too.

37. Tikal (#18)
I've owned this game since 1999 or 2000 and I'll be owning it until 2099 or 2100. It is a beautiful game of exploring Mayan temples. The biggest problem is there is so much a player can do on their turn that you have a difficult time making a decision. That is why I started calling this game a light and breezy Euro game in order to encourage fast play. This is a classic.

36. Taktika (New)
The only dexterity game on the list. Taktika has players flicking wooden disks on the table, trying to block and destroy the other disks. I made my own copy a couple years ago, after playing it, but not being able to find an official version of the game. Mine isn't perfect, but it is fun!

35. Goa (New)
Combine some auction and actions and you got Goa. I really enjoy the flow of this game. If there is a downside, I think the action path is perhaps too powerful. Players, in my opinion, must at least do that path and others in order to win. Eventually though you trade your spices and boats to move further down on the paths and get the win. Pure euro goodness.

34. Imperial (New)
I traded this game away, for a game that isn't even on the list. I've played that other game more than I would've got this played, but I still would like to get this one back. Imperial is based in the pre-WWI world. Players control these world powers, raise their value, get the money, and burn them to the ground. I would compare this to Risk and Acquire mixed together, though it is better than both of those games. If you have 5 or 6 people willing to invest 3 hours in, then you should pull one out.

33. Keythedral (#17)
This game is where you build the board first, then play the game. Because of that it makes it really tough for first time players. If you can get past that though, this game is a really great gem. This is a Euro with direct interaction where you can really screw people over. I think it is good fun though and that is why it makes the list. Several years ago this game might've been in my top 10, with just too many games having come out, it has fallen here. Still a great game though!

32. In the Year of the Dragon (#11)
This game is really mean. Which is why I really like it. The one downside to this game, which might be group think, is that a first turn Double Dragon seems too powerful. I've thought about playing with a variant, but haven't done so yet. Players do everything they can to keep their people alive, but as you've played more and more, you realize that you'll lose those workers to the various disasters that happen throughout the year. When you finally come to this realization you can become a great player.

31. Gheos (#17)
Ten might seem a big drop, but remember, this is the best of the best. Gheos is basically a stock game with a ancient gods theme pasted on it. I really enjoy how the civilizations grow and wane as players take them over and pound their opponents into the ground. New players have a really hard time with this game, which might be one of the reasons that it dropped slightly for me.

30. Hive (New)
The only pure abstract game you'll find on this list. It makes me sad that my wife doesn't like it because it has bugs as the pieces. If it was something like knights or bishops then I think she'd play. Hive is a game like Chess, just with out the board, and way more fun and enjoyable to play in my mind. I own the first edition with wooden pieces, but would really like the bakelite version some day.

29. Dungeon Lords (#14)
The biggest problem with this game is that it pretty much is a four player only game. However, I like it so much when I do get to play it. Some really tough decisions, your dungeon crashing around you as the heroes just break it down, and chaos ensues. I really like this game so much, that it comes with extra advance options, and I haven't even broken those out yet. This is a game that makes me feel like I could do better, every time I play, which is a good sign.

28. Fairy Tale (#16)
Each player takes a card from 5 and passes the rest. Then you do it again. Then you do it again. Then you do it again. Then you are done. You play three cards of those you've kept. That's it. That is how you play Fairy Tale, but there are such interlacing of card ability and trying to make sure your opponents don't get the card they need. This game is one of those ultimate fillers that plays so fast, plays up to five, and is great to play while waiting on a bigger game.

27. Twilight Struggle (New)
Since I expanded this list to 50 games, I decided that I could include all games, even those games I hadn't played at least 5 times. Twilight is the best of those games. It is a two player, knock out, drag out fight in the Cold War. I love how much you hate having to play a card, knowing full well your opponent will capitalize greatly on it, but thinking they'll capitalize (ha, I just got it) less than on another card. This is basically a war game, so those who want the light fluffy stuff should look elsewhere.

26. Bruges (New)
Stephen Feld is one of the hottest designers out there. Not only is he a great designer, but he is also prolific. He came out with 4 new games alone in 2013! Bruges, of his games, in my opinion is the (second) best. It plays with good decisions, has fun and interconnected card play, and seems to have a wide variety of strategic options to win. It is one that if our good friends didn't own it and live 6 minutes away, that I'd being buying instantly. I still might buy it at some point this year, just because you never know when someone will move away and the game goes out of print.

Thanks for reading this far. I've already got my Top 25 ready to go, but have to actually write about them. While you are waiting you should go play one of these games I just told you about that are so good!


  1. Reading this list reminds me of how much you influenced the early stages of my game collection, Adam. Thanks for pointing me towards the good stuff!

  2. Great list so far! I'll be interested to see how consistent your top 25 is now that you have opened it up a little more. Sometimes I find myself sticking some token entries near the bottom of a list but if I expand the scope then those entries can fall quite a bit. Did you find yourself finally willing to let some games drop down (Pillars, El Grande, High Society) now that you have more room or was it just a matter of changing taste and new games pushing them down?

    Looking forward to the rest of the list. As long as RRT is still at #1 then I'll be happy.

  3. I've found that yes new games take their place. I've also found that the games I really really like tend to be a more card driven and combo driven than a lot of the other games that I just really (only one time) like. Really though I think there are probably 10-20 other games that I would seriously consider putting on this list that wouldn't make me think the list is any less good.

  4. love this list! i own many of these games as well. Hope to see the following count down.