We’re here! It’s almost Christmas and we have arrived at the top 10 of my Top 50 Favourite Games. Forty great games passed by and today we arrive at the ten games that I think are the most fun. At least, at this moment. Have fun reading my number ten to one.
But first a story, a story to explain my choices. Not only the next ten games concerned, but the choices I made throughout the entire list.
Well, I thought it would be easy. Making a list, what’s difficult about that. Just sum up your favourite games and put them in order, you know which game you like better than the others. Do you?
Turns out I didn’t. It was hard to determine my favourite games. Some games I like better in different settings. I will turn down to play some games that are on this list, even games in my top ten. I have done that, more than once this year. Why? I’m just very curious about other games I haven’t played, new and shiny ones, older classics or just a game that somebody else brings to the table.
My Merchant of Venus
I don’t have an all-time favourite or a game that I want to play all the time. Is it a bad thing that I don’t have a game like Tom Vassel’s Cosmic Encounter or Eric Summerer’s Merchant of Venus? You know, the guys from the Dice Tower.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but it is a fact. From the day I considered myself a gamer, my collection expanded quickly from none to a lot, so playing one game over and over was just not something I did. Add to it the fact that other people I play games with have an equal or even bigger collection of games that all need some attention and you have created a habit of playing a lot of games a few times. For my regular gaming group it’s pretty special if a game gets played more than two times. Most of the times I play a game enough to review them, but I don’t go any deeper. The only time to get a single game more than five times to the table is when I play games with my girlfriend (she’s going to post her Top 10 Favourite Games later this month, by the way). She often even demands to play a game she already knows, which can be frustrating when I want to play that shiny, new game, but in the end it’s great, because we can immediately start playing and have a good time, instead of wrestling through the rules first.
Sometimes I think I am , or we are, doing it all wrong and I have to play games more often, I have to really dive into the strategy, the mechanisms, the story. Have fewer games and play them more. But I think the reason I, or we, don’t is curiosity. We’re excited when we see a new game, with exciting new mechanisms or new ways of looking at existing ones. And that’s not bad, right?
I’m going to have less and less time to play games next year, with a new job, a new home and a kid on the way. I’m really looking forward to this next stage of my life and you cannot deny that these things are far more important than gaming.
Maybe these changes will also change my gaming behavior. Maybe I will be drawn more to games I know and like. Maybe I will only play short games, or maybe I won’t have the time to play at all. Will the website change because of these changes? Maybe. I can’t really tell right now. We’ll have to see.
Back to the list itself. I got distracted. I took into account how I rate the game in terms of fun, how much I played it in total, how much I played it in 2015 and how much I want it to play right now. Some games I really like, but because of lack of time, or lack of players who like it just as much, I don’t play it very often or, sometimes, at all. I gave the games that I haven’t played in a while, but rate really high, the benefit of the doubt when I made this list, because it’s my first top 50, but these games probably will drop many places if I don’t play them in the upcoming year.
This top 50 is basically a snapshot of the games I love and am still excited about today. And with today I mean the day I made the list. If you would ask me to make another list today, literally today, there will be small changes.
I’m done talking. Let’s go to the list.
This is the best party game out there, or at least the best party game that I have played. It’s game that doesn’t have fancy mechanisms and you don’t have to make hard choices, it’s about drawing and laughing about what is drawn. Not especially about how bad someone has drawn, but how a group of people have gone from ‘a helicopter’ to ‘Frosty The Snowman’.
Everybody receives a card with a word on it, you write it down in your drawing book, you draw a picture of it on the next page and then you pass it on to your neighbour. She looks at the drawing and writes down what she thinks it represents and passes it on to her neighbour and he makes a drawing of that description and so on. Everybody has a book with a unique word that he or she passes on. In the end everybody can show the result. Fun and laughter assured.
9: Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
Robinson Crusoe is a game I really enjoy. It’s a cooperative game where you try to survive on an island. You can hunt animals, you can gather resources, but not before you explored the island first. Everything you do in this game has an impact on the course and storyline of the game. The things you do or don’t can bite you in the behind later. It’s a hard game, very challenging, and for me it’s also a game that’s very hard to get on the table.
I played it solo, which is great, but this year I mostly played shorter solo games. The long ones hardly get any play time (more on that later).
However, I think it deserves a spot in the top 10 of my fifty favourite games, because it’s so well made and is so much fun to play.
8: Ticket to Ride
Well known, and much played by many people, and rightly so. Ticket to Ride is a wonderful game that can pull anyone into the hobby or, if you don’t want anything to do with ‘the hobby’, make you have a good time. It was my number one gateway game and, you know, I’m not a newbie and still like it a lot. The rules are straightforward, but the game can be very tense when the routes start to get build and the map clogs up. You might not be able to finish what you started. But that’s OK, you just have to take a detour.
The game has lots of expansion or standalone versions, so you can pick and choose the version you like. I, in addition to the Europe version, have the Switzerland expansion that is specially made for two to three players. I like that expansion a lot as a two-player game.
7: Mage Knight: the Board Game
Another game that I really, really enjoy, but rarely play anymore. I just don’t have the time, or I just rather play two or three shorter games than this three hour brain cruncher. It’s a bad excuse, I know.
Like Robinson Crusoe, Mage Knight has to get some serious playtime in 2016 or otherwise it might drop out of the top ten.
Like I already said, I think a game needs to get played for it to be in my top fifty. For my first top fifty I will turn a blind eye. You have to forgive me for that.
Mage Knight is an excellent game. It is puzzely at some points. You have to manage your cards, manage your mana, build the right deck to fight monsters, battle wizards and conquer cities. I mostly played it as a solo game, because it’s pretty hard to learn and it looks quite daunting for new players. The Lost Legion expansion is a must-have for the solo Mage Knight player. It adds a moving opponent, General Volkare, which makes the game even more interesting, dynamic and exciting.
It’s a very fun, very tense, very thinky game and I hope to get it on the table soon. I have to make that happen myself, of course.
You move around the Mediterranean with you colonists, build houses in cities, cities can produce goods and you are trying to make this happen, because you need these goods to build in more cities, to get money or to acquire cards. You start with a couple of ‘standard’ action cards, but you can buy better ones later on. Every turn, you will play one and execute its action. In a later turn you can get all your played cards back by playing the tribune card. That’s not all, cards also belong to a Roman deity. Every god has its own endgame scoring condition. For instance, Jupiter cards give you a point for every city you have built in. This means that if you collected four Jupiter cards, every city where you’re in is worth four points.
Everything is mechanically interesting and very fun to do. The rules are pretty simple, but there’s so much to think about during the game. The mechanism that you have to play action cards and you can’t get them back until you played the Tribune is so much fun. You really have to think about when you play which card, because you will hit yourself if you want to do an action and can’t, because you already played that card. There’s also a card that allows you to copy a card that another player has on top of their discard pile. Isn’t that nice. I sure do think so.
A lovely Euro, one of the best that came out lately. Concordia, my number six.
5: Race for the Galaxy
Now it gets difficult, because the next five games are almost interchangeable. They are all just as fun and all very good.
But, I have to choose and my number five is Race for the Galaxy. A card game with a space theme, cards that are used for as planets, as developments, as goods and as money. You draw from a deck of cards that contains planets and developments. Some planets have to be conquered by force, others do not. Some planets produce goods, other planets consume goods. To build them you have to discard cards from your hand, cards that might be good, cards you might want to build. Hard choices. And choices are fun.
Another fun element of this game is the way you choose your actions. Every player has a set of action cards, or phase cards. Every player, at the start of a round, plays one of his or her action cards, face-down. All cards are revealed and only the phases that are shown are executed this round. That means that when you’ve played the build phase card, you get a small bonus, but every other player can build that round. When nobody played a development phase card, nobody can build a development that round. This mechanism is so much fun,. You really try to read your opponents. ‘What is he going to play? So that I don’t have to play that card’. Sometimes it works for you, other times you both read each other wrongly and can’t do everything you wanted.
Race for the Galaxy is my most played game of all time and that’s says something. It’s an excellent two-player game and, although it hasn’t been played much lately, it deserves a spot in the top five. For how long it will stay there? Who knows?
4: Alien Frontiers
I like worker placement games a lot and it brings something extra when your workers are dice. The base game has pretty simple rules. The Faction expansion adds a bit more to game, which is fun, but it’s just as good without it.
The goal of the game is to colonize a planet. You do that by getting resources and technologies, so you can place your colonies in different regions on the board. If you have the majority in a region, you will get a bonus.
The way you do the actions is very interesting. To activate the action spaces you have to assign a die or dice to them. Some actions require two or three dice with the same number, some need a die that has a higher value than the one already there. You get the idea.
Plus, there are only so much action spaces available. This ensures that you can actively ‘bully’ you opponents, like many other worker-placement games. You occupy spaces they laid their eyes on.
I like the theme in this game, I like the look of it and the game plays incredibly smooth. There’s area majority, so the amount of points players have change according to the majorities they have and there are also technology cards that let you do special actions that are beneficial for you, but can also be bad for other.
Such a great game and my number four.
I love Alchemists from Matúš Kotry. It’s a deduction game where you, an alchemist, try to figure out the molecular structure of your ingredients. Boring? No, not at all!
You do that by secretly testing, or mixing, two different ingredients. You scan the ingredients with your phone and the app shows you which color a molecule (or something like that) has and which sign. By trying out many different combinations you can figure out what the ingredients look like chemically. You can publish your findings for points. You assign these points yourself, by placing a token face-down next to your publication. It can be a five, three points or a coloured pointless token. A coloured token means that you’re not quite sure about one part of the molecule, but your opponents don’t know that and might support that publication. Or she does know your wrong and tries to debunk you.
Is such a clever game. Deduction combined with worker-placement. It can be a thinky game, but it has some funny elements too. Like the fact that you can test on yourself and act like a crazy person when an ingredient turns out to be something bad. Or that you can test on a student for free, but once a student tasted a bad potion he wants money for his efforts.
Alchemists is incredibly fun, it was my number one game of 2014 and it’s in my top 10 for my all-time favourite games.
2: 7 Wonders
Although I find Ticket to Ride a better gateway game, I do find 7 Wonders better and more fun overall. Drafting is one of my favourite mechanisms and this one has it.
You draft cards to build one of the wonders of the world, to collect sets of cards that give you resources, straight up points, end game scoring-conditions, bonuses throughout the game, military power to attack your neighbors for points, or points depending on the sets of technology cards you’ve collected.
You only interact with your neighbours and that works perfectly. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay attention to other players, because you don’t want them to win either, so you have to choose your cards wisely.
Drafting is exciting, it makes the game tense. You want certain cards, but you also want your opponents not to have certain cards. ‘What to do?’
The fun thing is that this game takes about the same time to play when you play with three as it does with seven players, because you do everything simultaneously.
7 Wonders is a fantastic game for everyone and my number two.
1: Roll for the Galaxy
Deciding which game should be my number one game was quite difficult, because I could not choose between all the games in my top five. The games lower on the list weren’t real candidates, but I really like all game in my top five a lot.
After much thought I chose Roll for the Galaxy as my number one. It has the same ideas as Race for the Galaxy, as in you have to conquer planets, develop technologies, produce goods and ship goods for consumption or for trade.
The major difference is that it does it all with dice. The game has dice in many colours and every colour has its own configuration. With some dice you have a bigger chance to roll ‘Explore’ and some dice have more ‘Settle’ icons on them. When you’ve rolled them, you assign one die to the phase you want to execute and the rest to the phase they indicate. As in Race for the Galaxy, if nobody picks a phase, it will not be executed.
Roll for the Galaxy is not better than Race for the Galaxy. It’s just different. The dice add a little randomness to the game and I feel that Roll is more tactical, while Race is more strategic. However that might lie in the fact that I’ve played Race much more than Roll.
Roll is quicker and feels tense, which may be caused by the franticness of a die roll. You can create cool combinations with the planets and the developments you’ve build and the dice you get with it.
I think the newest expansion will add more goodness to the game, like goals, which I really enjoyed in Race for the Galaxy. However I haven’t got it yet, so I first have to play it to be sure.
So this is it, the end of the Top 50, with Roll for the Galaxy as my number one. What’s your favourite game? Do you have games that people can wake you up for? Leave a comment if you want to tell me about it.
Have a great Christmas and I will see you later.