We’ve arrived at my favourite 10 games of all time (as of March 2020). I did not anticipate how long this series would go when I started it over a year ago.
It’s been nice reflecting on my favorite games, verbalizing why I like each one so much. A few of the games descriptions were enough to peak my wife’s interest, which always makes me happy.
I’ve played a lot if games over the last two years, and while this list will have changed quite a bit, I know that these top 10 are firm in their spots. It would take something pretty special to come a dislodge any one of these from the pantheon of my top 10 games of all time.
10 – Glen More II: Chronicles
Glen More by Matthias Cramer was one of the few games that I lamented ‘missing’ out on when I first got into the board game hobby. Our local board game cafe had a copy and I loved it. I really enjoy how the scoring is all based on how well you’re doing in certain aspects compared to the other players, and I love the push and pull of selecting tiles to add to your tableau. Leaping ahead to grab the best tiles is tempting, but then players who take their time have a much better chance of growing a strong whiskey engine. Alas, by the time I became a Board Gamer™ Glen More was out of print
Glen More II: Chronicles takes everything that I enjoyed about the original game, adds some gorgeous art, and throws in a boat load of discovery. While the new clan board is not my favourite addition, I love that there are 8 expansion modules in the box that can be mix and matched for a unique game every time we play.
Glen More II is the game we play on Robbie Burns night after feasting on Haggis and drinking scotch. It plays well at 2 and 4, and is a very satisfying experience every time it hits my table. Because Glen More II is the game we play during a special event, it ends up holding a very special place in my heart.
9 – Scythe
If you’ve been paying attention to my list, you’ll notice that there aren’t very many games that offer direct player combat. Scythe by Jamey Stegmaier is one of the few board games where conflict is the main focus that I really enjoy.
I’ve often said that Scythe is a ‘cold war game’, meaning that the threat of combat is often more important than the combat itself. Military posturing and threats go a long way in this game about farmers and mechs.
While my friends enthuasim for Scythe is infectious, what really cemented Scythe for me was playing through the Rise of Fenris campaign. Playing Scythe over and over again each week and finding new statagies and discovering the emergent storytelling from the gameplay brought me so much joy. I look forward to every game I play of Scythe, and I’ll never forget one game where I managed to win the whole game, while losing every single combat levied against me!
8 – Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
It feels very odd to have a game that I adore so much and have so high on top games of all time list that I’ve never played in person.
That’s right, I’ve never actually played a physical copy of Vlaada Chvátil’s civilization building card game Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization. What I have done is played dozens of games on Board Game Arena, and even more on the excellently designed Android app.
While my win rate is absolutely abysmal (3 victories in 25 games), I enjoy every play. Each game has a feeling of progression and momentum that other games can only hope to emulate. Oddly enough there isn’t a whole lot of discovery in Through the Ages as you’ll see every single card in each game, but there is so much depth to mine. Given enough thought and smarts you absolutely can master this system and prove your superiority over all who dare oppose you.
7 – Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy by Thomas Lehmann is another Board Game Arena obsession that I’ve almost never played on the table (2 physical plays!). The BGA implementation is slick, fast, and with a very healthy player base it takes no time to find an opponent and games almost never last longer than 10 minutes.
Race for the Galaxy is a tableau building card game, laden with iconography not for the faint of heart. Of course, once you crack the code and understand the logic of the icons, you can ascertain what each card does at a glace, but this can Race for the Galaxy can be intimating for new players.
I find RtfG best at 2 players as it’s quick, exciting, and strategic. If you have a gaming partner who is near the same skill level and enthusaiam as you are, I’d highly recommend picking up Race for the Galaxy and playing a half dozen times in quick succession.
6 – Concordia
Concordia by Mac Gerdts is probably best known for it’s somewhat controversial (read, bad) cover art. While later editions updated the art (although some people still detest it), the game inside has always been a wonder to behold. Concordia was one of the first games to introduce positive player interactions to me. Whenever a player activates a province to produce resources, they activate every building within that province, which could land your opponents with a sudden windfall of goods.
I also really enjoy the action selection mechanic, where you have hand of cards, each one offering you a different action, and as you play the cards to take their action they just sit beside your player board, waiting for their chance to strike again. One of the cards in your hand will be to retreive all your cards, which is almost skipping a turn just to get access to all of your actions again!
We most often play Concordia with the Salsa expansion which includes player powers, one time benefit tiles, and the special wild ‘salt’ resource. There are many maps available as well for those who crave a little variety in their Mediterranean resource trading games.
5 – Istanbul
Istanbul by Rüdiger Dorn is my favourite game that I don’t own. And it’s a bit of a tragedy too because it’s a fast, light, excellent game where players are racing to collect 5 gems from various merchants around the turkish bazaar. Each player begins with their merchant disc and a stack of assistants. As you move around the board you deposit assistants and take actions. Should you return to that location again you can collect your assistant and take the action again. The catch is if you don’t have an assistant to drop off or pick up at a location, you don’t get to take the action!
It always feels odd when the goal of the game is to stop playing as soon as possible, but in the case of Istanbul, the potential for an incredibly short game exists. Filling your cart with 5 rubies first can be done in as little as 18 actions (depending on the tile layout and how much your opponents are getting in your way). I find Istanbul charming and incredibly replayable. I love shuffling the location cards, dealing them out at random, then try to find the most efficient route to claiming those precious rubies.
Two expansions exist for Istanbul, but I don’t find them necessary. Expanding the number of action spaces can make this game tedious to play. The only reason I haven’t priortised getting a copy of Istanbul into my collection is because two of my close friends already own it, and the last thing I want is for our collections to start overlapping. If I ever moved away from this game group however, this is would be one of my first purchases!
4 – Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
The eagle eyed observer may have noticed some glaring omissions. I don’t know why, but I seem to love when Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan work together. I really enjoyed Broom Service and I love Isle of Skye. There’s not many bidding games on my list, because I keep coming back to this one! I adore the variety in scoring objectives (especially after I got the expansions that included even more), I love how simple the base gameplay is, and I even enjoy cursing my friends when they pitch the perfect tile back into the bag.
3 – 7 Wonders Duel
7 Wonders Duel by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala is the game that my wife and I played together the most. we bought it early in our board game career, when we were coming off the high of discovering that board games could actually be fun and exciting! We had played the 2 player version of 7 Wonders and found it fell flat as we really didn’t enjoy managing a dummy player.
7 Wonders Duel was one of the first games I chose to review, mostly because I love it so much. It’s small enough that it can fit on a coffee table and deep enough that it can withstand dozens of repeated plays. There’s an android app available, and a wealth of players on BoardGameArena if you’re seeking a variety of opponents.
2 – Galaxy Trucker
Galaxy Trucker by Vlaada Chvatil is the game that divides my group. Myself and Bigfoot absolutely adore the chaos and insanity that Galaxy Trucker revels in. Otter is somewhat luke-warm on it and Bear detests this game. He’s proclaimed that he’d rather take up knitting than play Galaxy Trucker.
In Galaxy Trucker players are racing to build the best ship they can, full of guns, storage containers, engines, batteries, and crew cabins. Once constructed, ships are run through a gauntlet of asteroids, space pirates, epidemics, and wide open space. The players to manage to survive and deliver their goods earn credits and at the end of the game anyone with at least one credit is a winner! Of course, some players will win more than others!
The chaos and randomness will either draw players in, or chase them away. Personally, I find myself laughing uproariously when a single stray asteroid cleaves your ship in half, but for some, that pain is too much to bear. There is also a run-away leader problem where often the players who are struggling get punished for struggling. Even with those criticism in mind, Galaxy Trucker lands in the number 2 slot of my top 100 games of all time.
1 – Food Chain Magnate
Food Chain Magnate is the game that excites me the most. Almost the anthesis of Galaxy Trucker in that there is nearly no randomness. I’ve talked in depth about Food Chain Magnate recently, but it’s one that generates the most excitement when sitting down to play.
Every game of Food Chain Magnate feels unique. I can pursue the same strategy over and over and have wildly different results every time. Because Food Chain Magnate is highly interactive and so much of doing well in this game relies on anticipating what your opponents are planning and capitalizing on their actions, simply following the same pattern in every game will quickly lead your opponents to knowing exactly where your weaknesses lie.
I could literally talk about Food Chain Magnate for hours, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll just thank you for reading to the end of my top 100 games of all time as of March 2020! It’s been quite a journey actually sitting down and writing my impressions of each of these games. Some I haven’t actually played for a couple years but writing about them renewed my desire to get them back to the table! I hope you had as much fun as I did!
Soon I’ll make a post about some of the more radical changes that have happened in my top 100 list, like how Bullet<3 debuted at number 7!