Race for the Galaxy – 151 games
Race for the Galaxy is a tableau building game for 2-4 people designed by Thomas Lehmann. In Race for the Galaxy each player secretly chooses one of the actions they want to perform (2 actions if playing a 2 player game). The chosen actions are revealed simultaneously, and each player gets to perform each of the actions chosen by all players, with the person who chose the action getting a small benefit.
There is a interesting history of this game and how it relates to Puerto Rico, but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to tell you that Race for the Galaxy is a masterclass in engine building game design, and a 2 player game of Race for the Galaxy only takes 9 minutes on Boardgamearena.com. It’s amazing the quality of game design that has been achieved by Thoman Lehmann in such a small playtime. Factors such as tense decisions and satisfying resolutions contribute greatly to the game’s success. Most engine building or civilization building games take a lot of time to play (usually a couple of hours per game), so the fact that Race for the Galaxy can award its players with feelings of growth and achievement while boasting a shorter playtime is attractive to someone who doesn’t always have as much time to play games as he would like.
The BGA implementation of Race for the Galaxy also includes several expansions; The Gathering Storm, Alien Artifacts, and Xeno Invasion are some of the ones that I’ve tried, and the community is very healthy. I’ve never had to wait longer than a couple minutes for a game. I will say it is intimidating when playing against someone with over 3,000 plays, but when a game ends in 9 minutes, you can get crushed and just start again from scratch without any hard feelings.
Can’t Stop – 59 games
Can’t Stop is a push your luck game about rolling dice and moving up tracks. On your turn you roll 4 die, pair them up in any way you’d like, and progress on those tracks that match the numbers you have chosen. During your turn, you move black pieces that represent temporary progress. Once you’ve moved the black pieces up the track, you can choose to stop and save your progress, or you may roll again and continue moving up the tracks. Roller beware! If you happen to roll something that does not match your chosen numbers for that turn, all of your progress for that turn is lost and play passes to the next player. When you successfully reach the top of a column, you win that column (so long as you stop and save your progress), and no other players may continue climbing that number. The first player to win 3 columns is the winner!
Can’t Stop tends to be the game we play while we’re waiting for someone to join the group. It’s fast to play, and I enjoy chanting the name of the game as someone makes 12 rolls in a row, climbing higher and higher, only to bust and waste all of their progress. It creates some excellent moments.
Jaipur – 30 games
Jaipur, designed by Sébastien Pauchon, is a card drafting hand management game for 2 players. You each take turns collecting resources from the card row, either trading your existing cards or taking 1 card on its own. Eventually you sell your cards in sets, gaining tokens that represent victory points. The game ends when 3 of the 6 resources have been depleted.
I’ve always loved well-designed 2 player games, and Jaipur absolutely fits that bill. Jaipur is the kind of game where you and a friend can play dozens of games with each other and still find ways to upset the developing meta. There is plenty of luck in the game, so if a game doesn’t go your way you don’t feel too bad about the loss. Having said that, there is enough strategy that I have a 60% win rate (that sounded a lot more impressive in my head).
Through the Ages – 25 games (plus 8 games of through the ages: A new Story of Civilization)
Through the Ages is another one of those games that makes me question the distinction between board games and card games (although I also question whether the distinction is necessary). Through the Ages is a card drafting civilization game that takes you and up to 3 opponents from the age of antiquity all the way through to the modern ages. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization is a remake of the game that rebalances a lot of the cards, adjusts a few of the mechanics, and adds some nice new art.
I’ve only played a physical game of this once, and it took hours to play. There are 30 tiny wooden cylinders to represent your citizens and resources, and tracks that need to be managed for each player to represent culture (points), military strength, and knowledge. Also, some of the turns can be quite involved, with lots of things chaining off one another. It’s awful when you get to the end of a 7-action turn only to realize you’re one stone short and need to start over from the beginning. The BGA implementation has completely replaced the tabletop version of this game for me, as I find that not needing to deal with the fiddly little bits and counting up all the various places that you get resources from makes the game much more enjoyable. On BGA, Through the Ages takes about 45 minutes to play, although it does play asynchronously very well and I would highly recommend it.
7 Wonders – 29 games
7 Wonders is a card drafting civilization building game where each player is trying to make their civilization the best in the world. The game consists of three decks of cards, each representing its own age. Each deck is divided into the number of players present. During play, each player will choose a card from their hand, then pass the rest of the cards to the next player. Choose wisely! You may see the cards you pass away again, but only after everyone else has had the opportunity to pick through and take what they want.
BGA has an excellent implementation of 7 Wonders that I’ve been using to bring my family together over the last year. The interface is easy to navigate and all the necessary information is readily available. The real strength of BGA is that it manages all of the rules for you. There’s no worry of someone accidently cheating by building the same card twice or ‘forgetting’ to pass the necessary coins to their neighbour. And when an easy-to-play game supports up to 7 players, I can get my entire family involved!
7 Wonders Duel – 21 plays
I’ve already gushed about 7 Wonders Duel and how much I enjoy it. It’s a fantastic 2-player card drafting game where you’re building your civilization head-to-head against your opponent. This is another instance where playing on BGA is fast and easy. A very active game, you’ll have no problem finding players to face off against, and a entire game should only last 10 – 15 minutes, assuming neither player goes AFK for some reason.
This is one of the few games where I dabbled BGA’s Arena mode. Arena mode is a competitive mode where you can earn points on each game you play and achieve higher ranks, proudly displaying your achievement to the world. Having a higher rank does nothing tangible, other than letting you show off how big your dick hat is.
BGA has the Agora expansion available to play right now, and the Pantheon expansion (which is a must play for experienced players) is currently in Alpha.
Targi – 16 games
Oh look, another 2-player only game on my list. Can you tell that I have a type?
Targi, designed by Andreas Steiger, is a cut-throat worker placement/set collection game. On your turn you place your 3 workers on spaces along the outside of the board. When all 6 workers have been placed, you draw a line from each of your workers and place a wooden cylinder where those lines would intersect. You then take all 5 of those actions in the order of your choosing. As an added twist, the game has a robber piece that moves around the board, and players may not place a worker on the same card that the robber occupies.
In Targi you’re trying to collect resources and spend them on tribe cards to place them into 3 rows in front of you. At the end of the game you get bonus points if all the cards in a row are the same suit, or if they’re all different suits (some of the cards will give you bonus points based on the cards and their positions in your row).
The cut-throat aspect of the game comes from maneuvering your workers to block the spaces your opponent so desperately needs, as you can’t place a worker directly across from another worker (after all, how would those lines intersect?). You’re constantly weighing the costs and benefits of spending your precious few workers. Should you claim a card that you desperately want? Or should your first action be to deny your opponent their needs? Targi is finely crafted and a joy to play, especially if your friend is willing to engage in some light trash talk, and won’t take it personally when you ice them out from a specific card for three turns in a row.