Almost there. First we’ll have to plow through the fourth part of the As a Board Gamer Top 50 Games of ‘All Time’ or my Top 50 Favourite Games. Fifty games that I love, divided into five chunks, with the last chunk, the top 10, coming to you around the weekend before Christmas. Have fun reading my number twenty to eleven.
20: Castles of Burgundy
I believe Stefan Feld is the most occurring designer in this list (I don’t know, I haven’t checked). I like his designs a lot and Castles of Burgundy is no exception. Players roll dice to take tiles from the board and place tiles on their personal board to do special actions. Sometimes you ship goods, sometimes you get points for cattle and other times you build buildings that give you end-game scoring conditions. Every type of tile has its own section on your board and by completing sections you can get a lot of points as well. However, to place a tile, you have to roll the right number.
I like rolling the dice and using them for the different actions. There are many ways to score points. You can interfere with each other’s plans, although it’s not a major part of the game, so don’t worry if you don’t like direct confrontation in your games. Castles of Burgundy is a great game, it plays very well with two players as a matter of fact, and it’s my number twenty.
19: Five Tribes
Five Tribes is a nice thinky Euro. The board is composed of multiple tiles that have a colour, a value and an action icon. On these tiles you find meeples in many colours. Every colour belongs to a tribe and every tribe has its own special action. Your goal is to get points, but the points are also your money, money you need to bid on player order. This is the first fun part of the game.
In your turn you may execute an action. You do that by taking all meeples from one tile and move them to another tile. You have to drop one meeple on every tile you pass until you arrive at your destiny. On that tile you must drop the last meeple in your hand and that meeple must have the same colour as a meeple on the target tile. Then you take all meeples of that colour from the last tile and you may execute the meeple action (kill other meeples, take commodity cards, get money, etc) and, if you want to, do the tile action. When you clear a tile you must claim it, place your camel on it, and you will get points for owning it.
This is a thinky game. Firstly, because there are so many ways you can move over the board and you don’t want to give your opponents a chance to score a lot of points because you dropped the wrong meeple on the wrong tile. Secondly, because the board changes a lot from turn to turn. For some it’s a turnoff, for me it’s not. I love the way this game makes me use my brain.
18: Lords of Waterdeep
This is a gateway plus game. You can use it as an introductory game, but it has a theme, Dungeons and Dragons, that might scare some non-gamers away. That doesn’t matter to me, because I like it. Placing workers to get resources, or adventurers, to fulfil mission objectives. You can also open up new opportunities by building new buildings with new action spots.
The Scoundrels of Skullport expansion is very good too. It adds just enough. It adds more of the same, but with a twist. It adds Corruption, for instance. You get it when you do certain actions and it gives you negative points in the end, but it depends on the players how bad it gets.
Lords of Waterdeep is a game that can be quickly explained, but offers a lot of fun.
Seasons is a card game where you have to manage the elements. You are a wizard and you use these elements for your spells, magic items or to summon creatures. Every round you roll the season dice, players choose one die and get what’s on it. With the resources you get you can play cards. The fun thing is that you assigned these cards to one of the three years at the beginning of the game. At the beginning players get a stack of cards and by drafting they make their own collection. They assign cards to every year and at the start of the new year they get a fresh set of cards. This means that you can plan ahead, which is fun.
This game can be quite brutal sometimes. There are enough cards that help you at the cost of your opponents. The creatures that you can summon are not particularly friendly towards other wizards.
Seasons, although you can really have a long terms plan, feels quite chaotic, but that’s part of the game’s charm. It also looks very good. Chunky dice, bright colours and beautiful illustrations. Number seventeen, Seasons.
16: Among the Stars
Another drafting game. I just like that mechanism a lot. This time it’s drafting in space. You draft parts of a space station and the different cards, the different part of your station, interact with each other. Some give you an immediate benefit, other cards give you end game scoring conditions. Great fun.
The Ambassadors expansion adds more cards, which is fun by itself, but it also adds the Ambassadors. You can hire them and they will give you temporary benefits. More possibilities, more ways of scoring points, more fun.
For some reason I haven’t played this one at all this year. Hopefully AtS: Revival also revives my love for the game. So many games to play…
15: Pandemic LEGACY
I like Pandemic. It’s a good game. I don’t know where it would be in my top 50, or if it would be in it at all, but Pandemic LEGACY is a game that definitely should be. I haven’t finished the whole campaign, so why would I say that?
Well, it’s easy. It’s been a while since I was so excited to play a game. If my girlfriend hadn’t persuaded me to spread out the plays of this game, I would played it within a week . ‘What is going to happen next? I want to know. Now!‘
For those who don’t know what kind of game Pandemic is; it is a cooperative game where several diseases infect the world. You have to prevent that by creating cures and treating the diseases before the world is totally infected.
The same happens in LEGACY, the same mechanisms, the same starting point. However, every (fictive) month something happens, every month the game changes, so your next game will be different from the last. You open packages to add new stuff to the game, add rules, or destroy cards. It’s great. Maybe the game will rise, maybe it will drop once I finished the campaign, but you’ll have to wait for the review or next year’s top 50 to see. For now, it’s my number fifteen.
This is the last Feld and my current favorite. It’s basically a card game with a big score track. You can use every card for several different actions, so you have to make some tough choices. ‘Do I use this card to build canals? But I also need money.. ‘
You can create some cool combinations with the different character powers that the cards offer, but you have to be able to adjust, because every round you will get new cards that might open up new paths to victory.
Targi is my highest two-player only game on this list and it’s great one. It’s my number thirteen, so it must be great, right?
It’s a worker placement game with a theme that might not appeal to everyone, nomads collecting goods in the desert, but the gameplay is solid and fun.
You first create a square with cards, the outer rim of the board, and within this square you alternately place tribe and good cards. Every player has three workers and in a turn a player must place a worker on a card, or action spot, on the outer rim. After that, when you place another worker, you can place a marker on the intersection between the row and column of your workers. When you placed your workers correctly, you have three workers and two markers on the board, which means five actions.
This mechanism is very cool. You have to make up your mind; ‘Which row or column is important for your strategy. What row or column do you want to protect’. You can actively mess up your opponent’s plans by blocking a whole row or column.
You can get goods or you can get tribal cards and add them to your tableau. Every tribal card has a special ability that can help you throughout the game or in the end.
This is one of the cleverest two-player games I have ever played and heavily underrated, or maybe it just needs a bit more attention.
12: Tzolk’in: the Mayan Calendar
Rotating gears. Offerings to the gods. Crystal skulls and corn. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
The gears work brilliantly. Your goal is to get points. You do that by pleasing the gods in many ways. In your turn you can either place one or more workers on the gears, or take one or more workers off. After every round the big gear rotates and all smaller gears rotate with it, moving every worker on it to another action spot. Timing in this game is crucial. If you can’t place workers you must take one or more of, so you really have to think ahead, or otherwise you have to remove workers from a gear before it reaches the desired action spot.
Planning everything is incredibly interesting and so much fun. It is a heavy euro, but it’s one of the best.
11: Airlines Europe
Airlines Europe is a fantastic game from the designer of Ticket to Ride, Alan R. Moon, about stocks. There are several airlines in various colours and all players can invest in them and while these airlines expand, get more routes, they get more valuable. This is interesting, because as a reward for expanding an airline you can take a share from the market. It doesn’t have to be a share of the company you just expanded. You then add the share you took to your hand and later, as another action, you can play one or more shares in front of you, giving you money that you can use for further expansion.
Scoring cards are shuffled into the shares deck and at (sort of) random moments in the game a scoring phase happens and the player who has the most shares of an airline gets a certain amount of points, the second player gets a little less and so on. The more valuable the company gets the more points the players get for having shares displayed in front of them.
This game is excellent. The fact that the scoring cards are shuffled into the shares deck makes the game tense. You don’t want to play your shares immediately, because otherwise other players instantly see what you are doing and then you might have to expand your favourite airlines all by yourself. It’s better for you if other player do a little work for you. On the other hand, you don’t want to keep the cards in our hand too long, because they are worthless unless they are on the table when a scoring card comes up.
It’s a great gateway game, because you can just do one of the four actions in your turn. Pretty simple, but still loads of fun.
Next week the final part of the top 50! The part we’ve all been waiting for.