Welcome to part two in my Top 100 games series, going through the next 10 games in my list! I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes time to pick a game, the games listed here aren’t necessarily at the forefront of my mind (almost as if there were at least 80 other games ahead of them), but I can tell you that if any of these games get suggested, I am down to play and know that I’ll have a great time doing so.
90 – Colt Express
Colt Express designed by Christophe Raimbault is a hand management, action programming game about being the best thief amongst a colourful cast of scoundrels. In Colt Express everyone plays cards one at a time that represent the actions they will perform and the order they will be performed. Each round is dictated by a round-card that tells all players how many actions can be queued up, and whether those actions are public or secret. If the actions are public, the card is placed face-up, while secret actions are denoted by face-down cards.
Your goal is to accrue the most wealth by scooping it up from the floor, shooting your opponents, and swinging fists in hopes to make people drop their hastily gathered loot. Other actions include shooting at your opponents (or getting shot by stray bullets), leaping up and down the train cars, and controlling the Marshall, who also shoots at anyone who gets too close.
What makes Colt Express fun is the chaos that ensues from needing to pre-plan and program all of your moves for the round, then having something unexpected throw all of your hopes and desires out the damn window. The whole table hoots with laughter they watch characters bumble about the train. You will hold your head in your hands with disbelief as your character moves unexpectedly to an empty train car, then punches the air, tries to pick up loot that isn’t there, and finally shoots their gun at nothing.
You can play Colt Express on Board Game Arena
89 – Broom Service
Broom Service by Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister is a pick up and deliver game about witches delivering potions. In Broom Service, everyone has a handful of cards that dictate the actions that are available to them. Each card has a stronger “Brave” action and a weaker “Cowardly” action. The actions on a card are usually very similar, but the brave action is much stronger.
So why would anyone ever choose the cowardly action? Excellent question reader! At the beginning of a round, each player picks 4 of their 10 cards and that forms their ‘hand’. The first player will play one of their action cards and choose to play either the “Brave” or “Cowardly” action. Then, every other player in turn order will either pass, or play the same action card from their hand and also choose to play the “Brave” or “Cowardly” action. Anyone who chooses the cowardly action can simply perform that weaker action. Any players who chose to be brave need to wait until everyone has had a chance to play or pass. If any subsequent players choose to be brave, then all previous brave players don’t get to do anything for this action!
The tension of desiring to do the brave action, but fearing the following players snatching it away from you is genius. I love the theme of witches trying to deliver their potions around the world, and the art evokes memories of classic fairytale story books.
88 – Seasons
I’ve often tried to sell Seasons to my friends as a light version of Magic: The Gathering. In Seasons you play as sorcerers competing in the legendary tournament of 12 seasons with the winner being crowned archmage of the kingdom of Xidit. The game begins with a draft phase, where you swap hands with your opponent picking a card to keep and passing the rest until you have 9 cards in your hand. You then must separate those 9 cards into 3 stacks of 3. You’ll draw these cards into your hand at the start of each year.
On every turn, the die that correspond with the current season are rolled and each player gets to take one into their play area, gaining the benefits shown on the face. The remaining die progresses the time track forward, perhaps hurtling you into a new season.
I’ll be upfront; while I’ve played this game 16 times, every single play has been on Board Game Arena. The system takes care of all the bookkeeping like tracking your energy intake, your tableau limits, and your crystal counts. I could see how playing this game on the table would be a little onerous, but damn is this game worth playing, and worth playing repeatedly. The art is cute and charming, and players are constantly forced to make decisions on how best to play their cards. Each season has their own set of dice that dictate the types and amount of resources that will be available to players. for example, If the game is currently in the summer season, water energy may be in short supply, but fire will be plentiful. Of course, there are ways to mitigate the luck and restrictions, but they are not without their own penalties.
Seasons is best played with 2 players, and only gets better and better as you and your opponent reply it, learning how best to manipulate the system to amass the most crystals, and claim your crown as Archduke.
87 – Underwater Cities
Underwater Cities by Vladimir Suchy takes players into the depths of the ocean and tasks them with creating the best underwater metropolis possible. Kind of. The theme here has a tendency to melt away as your brain spins, trying to maximize your actions to maximize your productions and end game victory points.
Underwater Cities utilizes a unique worker placement system that uses cards from the players hands. On your turn you can take any of the open colour-coded actions along the edge of the game board. At the same time you play a card from your hand. If the colour of the action and the card match, you can do both actions. If they don’t, you only get to do the action on the board.
This game is an exercise in loss aversion. I’ve found myself delaying taking a critical action simply because I didn’t have a properly coloured card to play along side it and refused to do something that felt inefficient. Underwater Cities also has an excellent arc to its gameplay, with the first few rounds making players feel starved for resources, then growing their engines until suddenly you find yourself placing several costly building on a single turn.
I recall when this game was released a few people compared it to extremely highly rated (by other people) Terraforming Mars. Personally, I don’t see the comparison, Underwater Cities is much more complex (and the better game in my opinion), but the games play significantly differently and don’t evoke the same feelings in players.
Underwater Cities is available to play on Yucata.de
86 – Calico
Calico by Kevin Russ is a tile placement game about matching patterns and colours to satisfy the whims and desires of cats. Each player takes turns placing a tile from their hand, then pulling one from an offer. Each player has their own board with 3 objectives that can be satisfied by patterns, colours, or both. You also get additional points if you can connect three tiles of the same colour you also get a button that’s worth points. Everyone knows kittens love quilts with buttons
Don’t be fooled by Calico’s adorable aesthetic. The actual game contains an intense cerebral workout. You only have two tiles in your hand and 3 in the supply that you can take from to refill your hand after you place one tile. Within these limitations, you’re tasked with trying to place tiles that contain 6 different patterns and 6 different colours in ways that connect like patterns and colours, while also satisfying the objectives on the board which require multiple different sets of colours and patterns. It does not take long before everyone at the table has their head in their hands and the only thing keeping the table from being flipped is the adorable kitten artwork dotting this game.
85 – Automobiles
Automobiles by David Short is one of my favourite racing games (being so far down the list is pretty telling on how I feel about racing games in general (But if you break it down, aren’t all games a race in the end? (No, shut up))).
I’ve written in depth about Automobiles before, so I won’t rehash words I’ve already written. For those who don’t know, Automobiles begins with two trays of cubes. One tray hold white, black, and various shades of grey cubes, representing the various gears of your car, which correspond to spots on the game board. The coloured cubes have special abilities that are set at the beginning of the game when you draw a card for each colour (the game has 4 cards of each colour, offering a wide variety of powers to choose from). From those trays of cubes each player seeds their own bag with a standard set of white and grey cubes, and a chosen selection of coloured cubes. Then they’re off to the races!
There aren’t a lot of bag building games, and theoretically, this could also work as a deck builder; the bag and cubes don’t do anything that cards couldn’t do also. Having the bag of cubes click and clatter as your swish your knuckles around, searching for a cube is satisfying. When you and your opponents are pulling around the final turn and you desperately need a specific cube THAT YOU KNOW YOU HAVE IN THE BAG SOMEWHERE really gets your heart pounding in your chest.
84 – When I Dream
I love when a party game makes me question if my friends are insane or not. When I Dream by Chris Darsaklis has one player close their eyes and everyone else offer one word clues to try and lead them toward a word as dictated by a card. The guesser gets one guess, then the word card gets moved to either the correct or incorrect pile, then the game presses on with a new word card drawn.
After a couple of minutes the guesser is then asked to recount their dream, trying to name all the elements they can remember. If they’re able to name all the words that were in the ‘correct’ pile, they get a bonus two points.
What makes this game excellent is each of the players also have a role. Some are encouraged to try to get as many words correct as possible, while others are trying to lead the guesser astray. Others yet are trying to achieve a balance between the correct and incorrect cards. The inclusion of asking the guesser to recount their dream is a fun exercise that looks easy until you find yourself in the hot seat and the only word you can remember for the life of you is “spaghetti”.
83 – Evolution
Evolution, designed by Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitry Knorre and Sergey Machin, is a hand management game about survival of the fittest. In Evolution you are tasked with growing creatures’ populations and body sizes, and assigning traits that will help them not only survive, but thrive.
The gameplay loop begins with a bunch of small herbivores, happily eating from a well stocked feeding hole. As a turn or two passes, the herbivores grow larger and get more efficient at eating. Eventually one creature gets a taste for blood and turns into a carnivore, feasting upon its neighbours. Very quickly defenses are raised; some animals learn to climb, other have defensive herding, and other develop a hard shell.
Evolution Is a brilliant game that has each player double guessing what their neighbours will do. With every creature you control having access to different traits, and some traits working off neighbouring creatures, you can have fun building an impenetrable wall, or you can have fun trying to tear down the other players’ walls. Only the fittest will survive.
82 – Everdell
Everdell is so hot right now. Released in 2018 and with 3 successful Kickstarters funding a myriad of expansions, Everdell has climbed the Boardgamegeek ranking and at the time of writing this, sits as the 31st best board game of all time.
Everdell is a light worker placement tableau building game set in a fantasy forest. As you play your workers and bring cards into your tableau, you’ll slowly start to see an engine form. It’s easy to play, has absolutely gorgeous artwork, and a family friendly andromorphic animal theme. It’s easy enough to play with your family, while maintaining enough complexity to keep adults involved. I don’t really want to use the term “gateway game”, but this gorgeous game is a perfect ambassador to show people how beautiful and interesting board games can be.
I’ve enjoyed my plays of this game a lot, and if the opportunity to play it more arose, I have no doubts that Everdell could climb higher in my rankings. As of this moment, it has settled at #82.
81 – Century: Spice Road
It seems for every game that has new and interesting mechanics, another one is just about trading cubes for other cubes to trade into points. Century: Spice Road is in the latter, but does so in a fast and satisfying way. In Century: Spice Road you take action cards into your hand, then play the cards to manipulate your cubes. Some cards will simply gain you more cubes, others will let you trade in specific recipes, while other others will allow you to upgrade some cubes higher along the value chain. The other action you can take is to sell a specific combination of spice cubes to acquire a point card, which are necessary to win the game.
Century: Spice Road does restrict players to only being able to hold 10 cubes at a time, so you feel an ebb and flow of resources as you build your wealth, then drain your coffers to nab a particularly high scoring card. The game often begins with people taking card after card from the row, but soon enough each player should have a small engine they can exploit to increase the number and value of their spice cubes until, finally, one person is labeled “The Spiciest Trader”
The Century series of games have the added benefit of being able to be combined with the other games in the series to enhance each other. I’ve played each of the games in the Century series, and while each one stands on it’s own as a good game, I firmly believe that Century: Spice Road stands taller than the rest.