It’s an interesting experience writing about these games as my favourite games of all time. I created this list in March 2021, and now almost a year later, I can see certain games that have fallen and where new games would be added into the list. As I approach the top of my list, the selection of games is fairly rock solid; I don’t foresee any of these games dropping out of my top games as any new games will have quite a challenge bumping these games from their top slots!
Also, 6 of the 10 games on this list have longer reviews available to read, so I won’t spend a ton of time rehashing my points. Click the links to read my full thoughts on these excellent games!
20 – Now Boarding
Now Boarding was the first time that I took my wife to a board game store and she had to talk me into buying a board game (admitly she didn’t have to try very hard).
Now Boarding is a real time cooperative game from designer Tim Fowers, and puts players into the role of airline pilots ferrying passengers across the United States. Players are limited by how far they can travel, how many passenger they can hold, and only knowing half the information during the planning phase.
If you enjoy real time and/or cooperative games, Now Boarding is a hit, but I don’t think it will do much to convert skeptics.
19 – Orléans
Orléans is a clever bag building game by Reiner Stockhausen. In Orléans players are pulling discs from their sac and placing them on their player boards, fulfilling recipes to acquire more discs and gain special benefits depending on the kind of disc they’ve acquired.
Orléans often feels like a race, you’ll nervously eye your opponents player boards trying to ascertain if they’ll be able to snag the bonus tile that you’re gunning for, or waiting for just the right moment to place discs into the central shared board, where they won’t ever come back to your sac, but a well timed placement could net you one of the coveted population tokens that will multiply your final score.
It’s hard to compare Orléans to anything else I’ve played, Becuase it feels so unique. I’ve played other bag builders (Quacks of Quedlingburg and Automobiles), but neither of those games comes close to offering the same feelings as Orléans.
18 – Vikings
Vikings by Michael Keisling is one of those examples of why publishers should have an implementation of their game online to try, because I don’t think I ever would have looked at Vikings twice if I hadn’t played it on yucata.de a dozen times.
In Vikings players take turn buying collections of tiles and Vikings to place in their personal tableus. Each viking has a colour, which indicates which row in can sit and what benefit it will bring to your clan. Associated with each viking is an island tile.
With large and small scorings, a spinning wheel, and raiding boats, Vikings is my favorite game by Michael Keisling, far eclipsing his most popular game, Azul. Vikings is a satisfying economic game that plays in 45 minutes, and seemes endlessly replayable. At the very least I’ve played my copy 16 times, and have logged 30+ more games online.
17 – Lost Cities
Lost Cities by Reiner Knizia is the oldest game on today’s list by nearly a decade. A two player card game with a masterful blend of skill and luck that makes it fun to play with nearly anyone.
My favourite story of Lost Cities is the time I introduced it to my wife. We played a single game, and she lost. Bitter from defeat we put the game back on the shelf, and I assumed it would just be a game I play with others, and not her. But a few days later she brought it up again, that the push your luck and hedging your bets elements had burrowed their way into her mind and she was raring to give Lost Cities another play. Now, it’s one of her favourite games.
Lost Cities is a game that I love playing asynchronously on Board Game Arena. I’ve played 34 games online (mostly against one specific person). If you have a gaming partner in your life, and two player games are something that you’re frequently in search of, don’t pass over Lost Cities!
16 – Super Motherload
I’ve always called Super Motherload a hidden gem, if only because I’ve yet to meet someone other than myself (and my cousin who introduced it to me) who has heard of it, much less played it. Which is a crying shame because Super Motherload is a phenomenal game.
Super Motherload was the first time I encountered a deck building game with a board element. The cards in your hand facilitate the players digging tunnels and acquiring ore, which allows you to buy more cards for your deck.
Super motherload is a charming game with an excellent production by roxley games. Its been in my collection nearly from my beginning in the hobby board game space, and I can’t imagine it leaving any time soon.
15 – The Castles of Burgundy
The Castles of Burgundy is easily Stephen Feld’s most popular game, and is my favourite product from the prolific designer. The Castles of Burgundy has players rolling dice influence which actions they can take per round. While luck is always a factor when dice are involved, there’s an impressive amount of luck mitigation employed.
I want to play The Castles of Burgundy much more than I actually get to play it. It’s much more taxing and I’m always surprised at just how long it can take to play. But I can’t understate how satisfying it is to play. I recently reviewed The Castles of Tuscany, which takes a lot of the ideas from The Castles of Burgundy and streamlines it down. I found that it lacked the opportunity for big combos that brings me so much joy when I play The Castles of Burgundy.
14 – Arboretum
Arboretum is the Sudowoodo of board games. At first glace, “oh, just some trees. No big deal” then WHAM, a rock throw has just ko’ed your pidgy.
What I’m trying to say is that Arboretum looks beautiful and plesent and the kind of game you’d play with your mother during afternoon tea, but the reality is that it’s hard and brings out a sharp side in your mother than you didn’t even know existed.
Players be warned, Arboretum is great, strategic, and deep, but may leave you with the feeling that someone needs to get cut.
13 – Sagrada
I’ve reviewed Sagrada twice! The solo mode and the multiplayer game. Long story made short, the solo mode is kinda boring, but the multiplayer game is a great time. I prefer playing the full compliment of 4 players best, so every single die comes out and you aren’t sitting there absolutely wrecked by the chance of none of the colours you needed coming out of the bag.
Sagrada is a quick and easy game, perfect for finishing off a game night or something to play while you wait for the rest of your guests to arrive. And the translucent die are beautiful to boot!
12 – Paperback
Paperback is the wonderful deck building take on Scrabble. Gone are the long turns, agonizing over where you can fit your perfect word, and instead you can stress over the decision of buying letter cards (that allow you to make bigger and better words), and buying wild cards (which don’t contribute to your ability to buy more letters, but offer end game points).
The point in which you pivot from buying letters to snagging the wild cards is all important
11 – Burgle Bros.
The third Tim Fowers game in todays post is brought to you by Burgle Bros, and one of the few that I haven’t already taken the time to post my full thoughts and opinions on. Honestly, the reason I haven’t is just because I didn’t want my blog to turn into a Tim Fowers love fest so early on.
Burgle Bros is the game my family asks to play the most. ‘did you bring that heist game?’ they ask. We make a special effort to play it at least once when I return to my homeland. Burgle Bros pairs well with friends who can embrace the heist movie tropes, a sense of humor at the absurdity of a chiuawawa locked away in a safe, and a thematic sound track to keep everyone in the mood.
Burgle Bros feels familiar to fans of the cooperative games that came before Burgle Bros, which can make it easy to teach. The complaint I often hear is that the guards are hard to manage, but I disagree. They follow some specific rules and as long as someone at the table knows how they work, they can guide the rest of the players through the experience.