I’ve been wanting to do a rundown of my favorite games, but it’s always a bit odd as the list is ever changing as I play new things. I recently came across a wonderful blog entry by Jamey Stegmaier embracing that change and periodically updating his personal list. So I’m adopting his great idea and will likely be checking in every so often with updates to the below.
- This reflects my favorite things to play right now. I love everything on this list. Order is pure personal preference and whole list HIGHLY subject to change, as ten is a small number to cover all the great games I’ve played and something’s bound to be missing.
- I need to have played something at least twice for it to be eligible. I think something has to hold up to at least a second play to be considered a favorite. So Imperial Assault, Suburbia, Tragedy Looper, and Impulse (and several others) all get automatic honorable mentions. I expect these the first two, at the very least, to jump into the list next time. I also have several interesting looking games I’ve never played in the waiting pile. Should be fun. 🙂
- Expansions I have are considered with the base game and won’t be listed separately.
A point that will pop up several times in this list is that I love games that are both accessible and deep. Alhambra shines in these respects. The basic mechanics of purchasing tiles and placing them in your own area with the player with the most of each type scoring points is easy to grasp, but the differing distributions and changing costs of tiles keeps things varied and challenging. There are numerous expansions containing several modules that can be swapped in and out to customize things even more exactly to your group’s particular preferences. This is one of my go-to gateway games.
9. Castles of Burgundy
Castles of Burgundy is unlike any other game I’ve played, and it shines in the unusual way uses dice to determine both which tiles a player can buy and which purchased tiles can be placed on their personal player boards. There are a lot of “moving parts” and things to keep track of, but it’s all logically laid out and intuitive once you get the hang of it. There’s tons of replayability and different viable strategies, even before considering the numerous different player boards available.
8. Pillars of the Earth
Pillars of the Earth is one of those games that looks VASTLY more complicated than it is. There are a lot of components and mechanics, but it all fits together seamlessly and makes sense. The use of worker cards and execution of resource management is perfectly balanced and well constructed within the theme. Pillars also has the best expansion I’ve ever seen for any game. It adds depth and challenge to the game without losing anything and makes every aspect it touches better. This is always a big hit with my groups and one of the first “heavier” board games we introduce people to.
Stonemaier Games’ second offering, a fantastic dice-as-workers game with an incredibly unique theme of trying to achieve prestige and status in a dystopian world. Little touches like artifact cards depicting objects from today’s world and trying to keep your workers happy and stupid bring the theme to life and it’s very well intertwined with gameplay. Also, the production quality is absolutely unreal, with realistic resources, wooden commodity pieces, wonderful art, etc all making this as great to look at as it is to play.
It can be hard to capture the feeling of exploration and combat in a card game without getting too bogged down or complicated. Anima and its expansions walk the line perfectly, creating a framework where you’re leveling up your team, gradually facing tougher monsters and opponents, and preparing to defeat the great evil and win the game in a natural progression without needing 100+ page rulebooks. This is the best “simplified” role playing experience I’ve found, and I continue to adore this game years and years after my first play.
5. La Citta
La Citta is fifteen years old and feels so timeless and classic I’m actually surprised it’s not older. Wonderfully thematic game that combines tile laying and resource management as players try to build the most attractive cities and lure the greatest population (the game’s victory points) to them. Details like needing water sources to grow beyond a certain point, having to produce enough food to feed your population, and a changing priority system signifying what people value most in their cities each round make this a fantastically deep, balanced game.
The debut game from Stonemaier, which instantly made them one of my favorite publishers. Beautifully realized worker placement game that is just completely infused with the unlikely theme of winemaking. The Tuscany expansion adds several great aspects that make it even more amazing, and the game scales incredibly well and feels like the same game no matter the player count. As usual with Stonemaier the production quality is absolutely unreal, with individually shaped building pieces and gorgeous art elevating the immersion.
3. Ghost Stories
Fantastic co-op game that’s fairly easy to teach but has a lot of variation and depth. Best on its own or with Ghost Moon (Black Secret has fallen flat with my group so far). Notorious for its difficulty, but we’ve found it challenging rather than frustrating. The changing board, player powers and enemy cards make every game significantly different, which greatly aids its longevity. It’s also great to have a go to co-op game on hand, as many of my “non-gamer” friends have really enjoyed trying something that has them working with, rather than against, the rest of the group.
2. The Duke
I amazed how quick this skyrocketed up my list. The Duke is an incredible two player game with elements of chess reworked into a much more accessible and variable experience. The vast number of movement patterns allows for deep gameplay, yet the smaller board and limited starting pieces keeps things manageable. The combination of each piece having its movement grid printed on it and the fact that the pattern is different on each side is just fantastic, and makes this both incredibly new player friendly and deep.
1. Princes of Florence
Despite tough competition, Princes of Florence is still my favorite game of all time. It incorporates what’s usually one of my least favorite mechanics (the auction) in a quick and enjoyable way that enhances the balance of differing strategies greatly. The combination of resource management, strategic choices and maximizing opportunities is just perfect and I could (and probably will) play this a million times.
And that’s a wrap. Will be interesting to track how this list changes in the future. What are everyone else’s favorites?