As a relatively new board game blogger (less than 2 years, and just hitting 200 posts), I sometimes don’t feel right making “Top 10” lists. The number of games I’ve played, in relative terms, would probably not even fit in Tom Vasel’s pinky finger tip (and you’re welcome for that image).
That’s why I go for top games played by me, rather than just top games. I can’t speak with any definitive voice about the entire genre at all.
I realize that I’ve never played many of the games that some people would consider top tier. I’ve only played 46 of the BGG Top 100, for example (that number actually surprised me, as I thought it was less).
So consider these posts a bit of an inside look at how my brain works in regards to games (Editor – Oh God, you don’t want to do that to them!). Hopefully this gives you a little insight into my tastes and lets you reflect on just what you would put on this list.
So how about we move into the Top 20 with #20-16?
20) Eldritch Horror (2013 – Fantasy Flight Games)
Designers: Corey Konieczka, Nikki Valens
Artists: Anders Finér, David Griffith, Ed Mattinian, Patrick McEvoy, Dallas Mehlhoff, Emilio Rodriguez, Magali Villeneuve, Drew Whitmore
Players: 1-8 (8? Good lord, talk about downtime…)
I was late to the Eldritch Horror bandwagon, as it just seemed too big and we didn’t have a lot of room at our game days. Plus, while it’s not exactly complicated, there is a lot going on with the set up. It’s very fiddly.
Essentially, this is an adventure game where you and your fellow investigators are traveling the world, researching clues and trying to prevent one of a wide variety of Old Ones from coming through a portal from another malevolent universe. To do so, you need to solve three (usually) mysteries tied directly to the Old One before the Doom counter reaches zero.
If the vile creature does come through the gate, you can still beat it. There’s just one more (extremely tough) mystery to solve, which is often “kill the Old One”.
While doing so, you’ll be doing research to improve your investigator’s stats, trying to close otherworldly gates that keep appearing in various cities, and killing monsters that show up out of the blue.
I’ve since played Eldritch Horror three times and I find that the story keeps getting better each time (even though we only have a 1-2 win/loss record in it). I actually like putting together the Mystery deck for the chosen Old One, the Mythos deck that will give your team horrible surprises at the end of each turn, and things like that.
There are a lot of cards and decks to shuffle, but the same could be said of many games that I truly enjoy.
When playing Eldritch Horror, I just feel like I’m in a pulp movie, a cross between Indiana Jones and Cthulhu. I love how the investigators work together, I love the “what will my next card bring me and how will it make me insane?” feeling I get during each Encounter Phase.
To get the best out of the game, each player has to read the text on their own Encounter cards. Doing it in a dramatic voice makes it even better.
Yeah, that can make the game go on for a while, but if you’re playing Eldritch Horror, you should budget at least three if not four hours anyway.
I love this game and will play it at any time (as long as there’s enough time to fit it in, of course, since setup is a bear as well).
19) World’s Fair 1893 (2016 – Renegade Games)
Designer: J. Alex Kevern
Artist: Jason D. Kingsley, Adam P. McIver, Beth Sobel
When I first heard about World’s Fair 1893, I had to buy it. It just looked so cool with gorgeous artwork and a fine mix of area control and set collection.
Players are organizers for the fair, trying to get the most prestigious exhibits on display during the big event.
On your turn, you’ll be placing a supporter in one of the five coloured areas and collecting cards from that area.
You’ll keep the cards in your hand (except the personality cards which you’ll play next turn to move supporter around and the Midway tickets which advance the Ferris Wheel timer and will get you points if you have the most at the end of the round). These colour-coded exhibit cards will get played as sets at the end of the round, if you qualify.
A full description of how to play can be found in my review of the game.
This game is almost the definition of the thinky filler, lunchtime game where some interesting decisions have to be made. The game takes about 45 minutes to play, but yet it really makes you think.
I have a bunch of blue Transportation cards, so I really need to play them. However, putting my supporter in the Transportation area will get me cards that I have no use for. Do I get better cards, or do I go for the area control in blue? Wait, will that personality let me move a cube or two into the blue area?
What? The round’s over? Damn it, I don’t even have second place in blue. Where did the time go?
I’ve played this game a lot and it never wears out its welcome. It’s always a good go-to game at lunch if you have four players or less.
Yeah, the cards are kind of flimsy and the Ferris Wheel board is a bit thin, but the artwork is gorgeous, and the exhibits on the cards are really interesting. You can spend a bit of time just catching up on your history by reading the cards.
This is an excellent game.
18) Great Western Trail (2016 – Stronghold Games)
Designer: Alexander Pfister
Artist: Andreas Resch
Great Western Trail is a game of buying cattle and getting it to market (or maybe you can just trade one in for another cow…they do that too, right?)
There is a kind of deck-building mechanic in that you will always have a hand of
cows cards that you are trying to get to Kansas City so you can send them on the train to market.
The board will have some buildings on it (and players will place more buildings on it as the game progresses). You move your piece along a path up to as far as your step limit (which can be improved) allows, counting each building or hazard marker as a step. You must move at least one step.
Each time you reach Kansas City, you have to sell the cow cards in your hand. You get the breeding value of your hand in income, but that could be adjusted depending on how far along the railroad that you end up sending them. Your profits may all be taken up by transportation costs!
That’s where improving your railroad track becomes a good thing to do.
I’m not going to go into detail on everything (it is quite intricate), but suffice to say that you have a lot to think about in this game. In many games, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin. There are multiple approaches to victory, but if you dabble in each one, you’re going nowhere.
Great Western Trail ramps that up to 11.
Wow, there are so many decisions to make. Do you go for a cow/cowboy strategy? Those cows in your deck get you victory points at the end of the game. Cowboys are how you get cows, so you might want to get a lot of cowboys so you can really improve your deck. Unlocking the ability to trash low-value cows (poor Bessie!) will help with this too.
Or maybe you improve your railroad and send it far along the market track? There are lots of victory points down that way too.
I’ve played this game twice, and both times I ended up splitting my attention and thus doing terribly. I really want to play it again.
That’s the sign of a great game.
Sadly, I haven’t played it in over a year, but that must change soon.
In the meantime, it’s still at #18
17) Blood Bowl: Team Manager (2011 – Fantasy Flight Games)
Designer: Jason Little
Artists: Too many to name (seriously, there’s over 30 listed on BGG!)
Wow, now this is a blast from the past. I haven’t been able to get it to the table in 2 years, but that will have to change.
Because I still love this game.
Blood Bowl is, of course, football set in the Warhammer universe where teams consist of players of various races, such as Humans, Dark Elves, regular Elves, Dwarves, Undead, Chaos creatures, etc.
The thing about this is that not only are you trying to score touchdowns, but you’re also trying to maim or even kill players on the other team. Who needs a concussion protocol?
Anyway, Blood Bowl: Team Manager is a deck-building (sort of) card game where you are managing a team week to week instead of game by game. You’re trying to accumulate the most “fans” (a rather unique word for “victory points.”)
There are 5 weeks in the “season,” culminating in the famous “Blood Bowl” tournament. Each week, you’ll have a hand of 6 cards from your deck consisting of players on your team. There will be a series of “matchups” placed out on the table (the picture includes stadiums and the referee from the Foul Play expansion, but those don’t come with the base game).
In turn order, you’ll be placing one of your players on one or the other side of a matchup (or a tournament, which is on the left). Matchups have a limit of two teams that can be there, but a tournament can have players from all teams. Once a side of a matchup is chosen, the other team can only play on the other side.
Each player card has an ability that will happen when you play them (or maybe it’s an ability that’s ongoing). Once all cards have been played, the week ends and each matchup is scored. Each player receives the rewards on their side of the matchup, but whoever has the most total Star power at the matchup will win the rewards on the center of the matchup. If there’s a tie, whoever has the ball wins. If nobody has the ball, neither side wins.
At a tournament, though, the first player (which rotates every week) chooses who has the highest star power.
Once five weeks are up, whoever has the most fans is the winner.
That is a really simplified description of what happens, of course.
Why do I love this game, so much so that I have extremely fond memories of it and want to get it to the table again?
I love the interplay of the cards, the abilities of the players (many of the Undead faction from the Sudden Death expansion have “regeneration” so that when they’re tackled (something I didn’t describe) they may be able to get back up again. Orcs just like to pound the other team into submission. Elves are all about Sprinting (cycling through your deck) and ball control.
Each team is unique and they’re all fun (ok, the regular Dwarves are really hard to play well, but otherwise…).
It’s not Blood Bowl, so just because you like the one doesn’t mean you’ll like this one. But there’s a decent chance you will.
It’s all about managing the team, gaining Star Players that will improve your deck (and they go to the top of your deck when you recruit them, so you’ll have them next week!), getting team improvements that will let you affect how matches turn out, etc.
It is a huge table hog (one reason it hasn’t come out recently), but the game play is just so fun that it’s worth it.
I can’t think of a more enjoyable experience than having an opponent try to tackle your player with more star power than yours (meaning that they roll two dice and apply the result that they want to) and then having both dice come up “X” (meaning that the attempted tackle actually downs the tackler).
Sadly, FFG lost the license for games in the Warhammer universe, so no more expansions will be coming out for this fantastic game.
Wow, writing these posts are really making me want to get these games to the table again.
16) Space Base (2018 – Alderac Entertainment Group)
Designer: John D. Clair
Artist: Chris Walton
As mentioned in my First Impressions post about this, Machi Koro is now dead to me. Space Base provides everything that I enjoyed about the former game and eliminated almost everything I hated about it.
You start the game with a tableau of 12 ship cards, numbered (duh) 1-12. Each player draws one random card from the Level 1 deck and pays for it, adding it to their base and flipping the ship that’s currently there to its “deployed” state.
The first player than rolls the dice. You use the numbers rolled to activate ships of the same number. You can use each die individually (activating, say, Ship #4 and Ship #5) or you can combine them (activate Ship #9). The other players can activate any deployed ships using the same process.
That’s the neat thing about this game. Unlike Machi Koro, you’re not starting from scratch (ok, you do get a couple of buildings). In this game, you can use any dice result you roll right from the start.
Even better, other players get a chance to use your roll too. Maybe not as much at first, with only one deployed ship. But as they purchase ships and deploy others, they can use pretty much anything.
There is never any downtime on your turn because of that (unless you make a quick decision while everybody else is agonizing over it).
I love that there are different levels of ships to purchase based on how much money you have on your turn, and that there are three levels (rather than two). This makes it more likely that you’ll be able to buy something good for yourself.
The game is pretty fast-paced as long as you don’t spend an hour deciding what ship you want to buy. It lasts around an hour, which makes it perfect for lunch. It does go on just a tad too long sometimes (I think 45 minutes would be even better, and maybe we’ll actually reach that with more plays) but overall, I fell in love with this game on my first play.
My second was just as good.
(Edit: I have neglected to post the link to the review of Space Base for a while now, so here it is!)
So there you have it.
The second five of my Top 25 Games Ever Played (by me).
What do you think of these? What would you rank there instead?
Let me know in the comments.
Stay tuned for the next five sometime next week!
Top 25 Games Played of All Time (25-21)
Top 25 Games Played of All Time (20-16) – You’re here!
Top 25 Games Played of All Time (15-11)
Top 25 Games Played of All Time (10-6)
Top 25 Games Played of All time (5-1)
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Thanks for another post on your top 25 games. I played extensively Arkham Horror so I understand your appreciation for that game (although more then 4-5 players is hard to survive…) As for the rest – it is still in front of me 🙂
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Did you play Arkham or Eldritch?
I’ve heard Arkham is a beast and I’ll probably never play that one. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!
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I played Alrkham, did not have chance to play Eldriht. I know there is like 2nd and 3rd edition (pl;us card game) but I still have the original version 🙂
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Yep, there’s a 3rd edition of Arkham now. Supposed to be a bit more streamlined, but who knows?
So you’re an original guy, eh? I’ve heard so much about the 2nd edition I don’t even know what changed.
Very apt description of Eldritch Horror! It would rank a bit higher in my book, but then again, I’m pretty sure I haven’t played 300 games
Personally, I like it when another player (dramatically) reads out the encounter card – so that the player whose character is involved has a feeling of dread and uncertainty for a bit longer 😉
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Yeah, that would be fun too. 🙂 I’m not sure if you’re supposed to know what your options are or not. I know in Dead of Winter, you’re not supposed to.
I think “quite intricate” is a plus for some a minus for others : ) For my part, I recently traded Great Western Trail in a BBG math trade (for the long-OoP Mystery of the Abbey) because it was much too intricate for anyone in our group. The ideas behind how the mechanics should intermingle are interesting, but it was too much effort for too little enjoyment (to us).
I have not played Eldritch, but I did try Arkham 2E, and it was beautiful, but too fiddly. If 3E is as streamlined as some say, I’d try it again, as I liked the role-playing aspects and setting a lot.
Space Base has never been on my radar, but I like the looks of it after reading your assessment, so I’m adding that to my want list : )
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Yeah, I can understand that. 🙂 I have friends who also don’t really like GWT either, so you’re not alone.
If you ever do manage to get AH 3rd Edition to the table, let me know how it goes. I’ve seen the 2nd edition in play it just looked like too much.
And Space Base is great! (Obviously, since it’s on this list 🙂 ). It definitely is worth a try at the very least.
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