Top 100 Board Games I Have Played (So Far): #40 to #31
My introduction to board gaming as a full-fledged hobby started with two college friends and a game called Settlers of Catan. Since then, I have played at least 200+ board games. Inspired by my desire to improve my writing skills and ability to express myself, I decided to come up with a list ranking my top 100 board games I have played throughout my years. I used PubMeeple to rank them based off my personal enjoyment, that’s it!
Thank you for reading!
#40: Hardback (2018)
Hardback is the pre-quill to Tim Fowers’ word-based deck-builder, Paperback. Board game sequels and prequels sound ludicrous to me unless those games are story-driven which in this case, they’re not. The difference between the two is the prequel has you spelling words in the 19th century instead of the 21st century.
I enjoyed playing Paperback on my phone but my biggest gripe with it was the inability to salvage crappy hands which led to stalling. Some hands, I drew too little vowels or too many wild cards to where I couldn’t do or gain anything substantial. These would happen frequently in a single game unless I was one of the lucky few to get a letter with the “draw X cards next hand” ability.
Hardback alleviates this removing the blank wild cards from the game and letting us turn any card in our hands into wild cards themselves creating a more flexible system. In addition, you can acquire ink tokens which are used to draw more cards. The catch is you must use those cards in your next word or you can’t buy anything for that turn. Then, there’s the ability to reset the market if half of the cards are expensive or of one genre which is a genius mechanic I would love to see incorporated in future deck-builders that utilize the Ascension-style market.
Spelling has less importance in Hardback compared to Paperback due to genre card combos but I find this to be a worthy successor (or predecessor?). It takes everything the original did and smooths out the rough edges while implementing clever mechanics for a more fluid and exciting word-based deck-builder.
#39: Champions of Midgard (2015) + Valhalla (2017)
The worker placement is tight with plenty of spaces worth fighting over and being blamed because someone failed to kill the troll never gets old. But I find the combat too random for my liking which is a huge part of Midgard. I can spend an entire round preparing to fight an epic monster that ends in a disaster only because my dice rolls sucked. It feels infuriating as I have to spend the next round recuperating my losses as my chances of winning drastically goes down.
The Valhalla expansion saved Champions of Midgard for me. It mitigates that terrible feeling and encourages you to go ham on these mythological freaks and geeks. Whenever your warriors are killed in combat, you’re compensated with tokens used to exchange for powerful Valhalla cards and special warriors. Plus, you start the game with a blue dice representing your character which is neat because that’s one more dice I can bring to the fray.
This is one of the few board games where an expansion is essential.
#38: 7 Wonders (2010)
Whenever I teach 7 Wonders, I make it a challenge to explain its rules and iconography in under 7 minutes. It’s why I prefer teaching board games at an allegro tempo. Many would claim this to be a gateway game but I digress. Your turns are straightforward but the strategy is complex especially with fewer players.
What makes 7 Wonders a superb drafting game is how each card feels important. Not only do they provide victory points or resources, they can play off other cards in different ages. For example, the Scriptorium you built in the first age would compliment future green science cards but this card would give you the benefit of building a Courthouse or Library in the next age at no cost (if you come across them).
Player interaction is interesting. It’s limited to your neighbors directly to your left and right. They act as your opponents for military at the end of each age but also, your vending machines should you need to “borrow” their resources to advance your civilization. Hate-drafting isn’t self-determinantal as you can discard drafted cards to gain money or build one of your wonders.
What I love about 7 Wonders is how it fills the niche of a meatier game that’s somewhat accessible and can play up to 7 people in roughly 30–45 minutes.
#37: BattleCON (2010)
As someone who grew up playing lots of fighting games, I can attest that BattleCON does a fantastic job translating the spirit of fighting games into tabletop format. The anime aesthetic gives off the impression of an Arc System Works game but the gameplay is more akin to Street Fighter IV or any of the Samurai Shodown games. Instead of memorizing complex inputs to execute special maneuvers or 20-hit combos, BattleCON emphasizes constant positioning and mind games as you try to land clean hits to whittle your opponent’s health down to zero.
There is no randomness or hidden information. You always know what your opponent has in their hand and their character’s potential. Victory depends on how you utilize the information alongside your character’s kit. Speaking of characters, each fighter offers something unique to distinguish themselves from the rest of the roster. Magdelina, for example, is defense-oriented and starts the bout weaker than a Magikarp. But as a ticking time bomb, she grows stronger and stronger after each round. Another example is Khadath who can place traps to be elusive while hindering his opponent’s capabilities.
BattleCON would be ranked much higher if I was able to find someone I could constantly play this with. Hindsight, Exceed Fighting System would have been a better fit for me because it’s more streamlined and features IPs like BlazBlue and Shovel Knight!
#36: Puerto Rico (2002)
An oldie yet still a goodie. There’s a good reason why it’s been ranked #1 on BoardGameGeek for a long time. The “follow the leader” role selection mechanic remains to be one of my favorite board game mechanics. In Puerto Rico, your actions are represented by different roles (ex: mayor gives you “colonists” for your plantations, craftsman lets you produce goods). When you select a role, everyone will get to perform the corresponding action however you get a bonus for choosing that role. In the case of the craftsman, your special privilege is to produce one additional good.
You have to consider how much each role would benefit yourself versus everyone else. Some rounds, you need to defer your first choice to someone else whose been eyeing it in order to be more efficient in those rounds. This mechanic lends itself to creating tough decisions and is what makes Puerto Rico a great eurogame especially if everyone is at the same skill level.
Sadly, I sold my copy because it hasn’t hit the table as much as I’d like. We came across similar games utilizing the role selection mechanic while taking less time to finish on top of having a theme that’s not offensive…ly dry.
#35: Terraforming Mars (2016)
Money is king when you’re terraforming a planet. I love how circular the engine building is. You spend money to play cards that increases bits and pieces of your engine which generates resources used to raise the red planet’s global parameters which increases your rating which increases your income for the next round.
The research phase is my favorite phase. The tough part is deciding which cards I drafted are worth spending money to keep in my hand. If I buy too many cards, then I won’t have enough money to be productive for that round. Oh for the longest time, I wasn’t aware that drafting during the research phase was a variant to the game’s rules. I always played it that way since that’s how I first played Terraforming Mars. I can’t imagine myself playing this otherwise. Drafting allows you to build your engine in different ways and hate-draft without completely screwing yourself over.
Many would say the art is horrible in Terraforming Mars but I strongly disagree. I think the stock photos on the cards gives them charm like they’re made by NASA. If anything, whoever approved the player boards should get a good smack in the back of the head. Each game, someone would slightly move the table and those cubes would scatter all over the place. I swear someone would cheat (or sincerely forget where they were before) and put them in the wrong place. A plastic player tray is necessary. Anyway, Terraforming Mars is a fun engine builder / money management game. I just wish it didn’t take three hours to finish when playing with five.
#34: Villages of Valeria (2017)
The other Valeria games feel like cover bands reimplementing popular board games with their signature look and voice. In this case, Quests of Valeria and Valeria: Card Kingdom to Splendor and Machi Koro respectively. Villages of Valeria, on the other hand, feels like a compilation album featuring great mechanics from various board games like Puerto Rico’s “follow the leader” role selection, Race for the Galaxy’s tight hand management, and 7 Wonder’s tableau building. It combines all of those elements together to create a compact engine builder that feels familiar yet different and most importantly, enjoyable with its nuances including player conflict and gold management. And of course, you can’t ignore the awesome artwork from Mihajlo Dimitrievski. He has a distinct style I can easily recognize in other games.
#33: Gloomhaven (2017)
If I was stranded on a deserted island and only had one board game with me, then I pray to the heavens it’s Gloomhaven. Inside the behemoth they call a box lies 20 pounds of content for 95 scenarios and at least 100 hours worth of gameplay. It has your basic elements in a role-playing game: an overarching story, character progression, and tactical combat. But all of that takes a backseat to the real star of this show: the hand management.
How Gloomhaven works during a scenario is each turn, you and your allies choose two cards to play from their hand. Each card has a number that represents your initiative (in other words, they decide turn order) and two different actions, top and bottom. The catch is you’re only allowed to use the top action of one card and the bottom action of another. Occasionally you will need to rest and recover your cards from the discard pile, losing one of them during the process. If you take too long, you’ll run out of tools and must take your walk of shame out of the dungeon. Ultimately, tackling a scenario becomes an elaborate puzzle where you need to decide which cards to play now to do anything and which cards to save for stronger enemies or emergencies. Sometimes, you may have to trash a card earlier than expected to use a powerful ability or prevent lethal damage.
The large scale and ambition of Gloomhaven is its own double-edge sword. With three players, each scenario can last around two hours and that doesn’t include setup or cleanup. It’s painful to play for that long and end up failing due to bad RNG from the damage modifiers. Although you retain the exp. and gold accrued from that session, having to start over from the beginning discourages me from wanting to continue playing for the night.
The campaign definitely gives you more bang for your buck compared to any large scale Kickstarter games on the market (see CMON games). But with so many great games to play out there, I don’t want to commit half a year’s worth of game nights to finishing Gloomhaven. However, I am willing to tackle its bite-size iteration: Jaws of the Lion.
#32: Dominion (2008)
THE deck-builder that started it all. While there are currently hundreds of deck-builders out in the market, arguably a few can hold a candle to the godfather. I think the reason why Dominion still holds up to this day is because of its static market being geared towards skilled players.
Most deck-builders utilize Ascension’s dynamic market which brings excitement and encourages tactical play at the expense of limiting a deck’s potential through randomness. It sucks to have a good card appear on the market only for someone else to buy it before you have the chance or worse, you can’t buy it because luck didn’t allow you to draw enough currency for that turn. In Contrast, Dominion’s market reveals everything you can buy from the start allowing you to immediately form strategies and be flexible depending on the market’s current state.
There are times I don’t find Dominion exciting to play and that’s because it lacks a coherent theme. The back of the box says you’re a ruler who wants to expand your kingdom with unclaimed land but I don’t get that feeling at all. But if you’re looking for a pure deck-builder, then you won’t find anything better than this. Once you grab one or two expansions (I recommend Seaside and Prosperity), you won’t ever need to worry about the game feeling stale.
#31: Sagrada (2017)
Sagrada reminds me of Sudoku. Instead of an empty 9x9 grid, you have a 4x5 board representing your unfinished stained glass window. Each round, everyone drafts two colorful, translucent dice in snake order (meaning first to last player choose their first die, then last to first player choose their second die) and place them on their board. There are spatial constraints like no two orthogonally adjacent dice may share the same color or number. But there are special tools that help you break the rules as long as you have favor to spend.
I love the challenge of figuring out how to complete my board while worrying about what’s available to draft, the spatial constraints, and the multiple objective cards that make up the majority of your score. As your board fills up, the decision making becomes trickier. Actions you made in previous rounds might come back to haunt you. But man, when you manage to fill every space of your window at the end of the game, it feels damn good.