It’s been almost 4 weeks since the last post in this series looking at the Top 100 Games ranked on Boardgame Geek.
I was riding high, feeling all the love the series was creating and posting something almost every week day.
And then I hit a wall.
Call it a bit of depression, just a bit of the blahs, I don’t know what it was.
I really hit a point where I was wondering what the hell I was doing.
What’s the point of it all? When it comes right down to it, I don’t really know that much about games. I don’t play them nearly as much as most people who write about them.
Even less so now.
Who really cares what I think?
Am I just putting this crap out there because I want to hear myself talk?
Maybe those two posts about the Terraforming Mars: Big Box causing my blog traffic to increase almost 1000x over a week or so period and then watching everything plummet back to where it was before just kind of got me down.
Whatever it was, I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write this post.
Every time I did, I couldn’t think of anything that even interested me to say, much less interest all of you.
So I went back to playing Griftlands.
(side note: you must try this game. It is sooooooooo good!)
You know what it took to get me back to blogging? To actually sit down and write something?
A combination of a friend of mine who had asked my blogging advice about using WordPress actually starting his blog (and me finding it when he tweeted a link to it) and getting the notification that a former student of mine is now following the blog (I hope she actually reads this, and if so, thank you!).
At that point I realized that I needed to get out of this funk and actually start doing what I enjoy doing: writing about games.
Who cares if only a few people see it?
Even if only a few people really notice what I’m doing, that’s still better than nobody noticing.
And I like doing it, so why should I stop?
Anyway, I know this isn’t the “funny” intro that you’re used to in this series, but I thought you deserved to know why you’ve been having to hold your breath for four weeks for the next entry.
And really, you shouldn’t hold your breath that long.
Your face might freeze that way!
On that note, let’s start the Top 10!
Designer: Alexander Pfister
Artists: Alexander Pfister, Andreas Resch
Great Western Trail easily earns its place in the Top 10 as a really interesting type of rondel game where players are raising cattle and sending them to the West (?).
Yes, you’re moving your worker on the board to get to Kansas City so you can ship your cattle, but all of the cities that you’re sending your cattle to are west of Kansas City, which doesn’t really track with the way things actually worked back then.
But that’s not important.
What’s important is the rondel mechanic combined with a sort of deck-building as you are trying to make your deck of cow cards worth as many points (and money when you ship them) as possible.
You can hire cowboys to be able to buy better cows, or engineers that will help the quality of your railroad track, or maybe builders that will make building your buildings to place on the board (and which are worth more victory points the more expensive they are) even that much better.
On your turn, you’re going to be moving your piece along the path on the board up to 3 spaces, with each building (either neutral or your own, or somebody else’s) counting as a space. As more buildings are built, the paths become slower and slower but you get more things to do (assuming they’re your buildings as you can’t use your opponents’).
You are building your deck with more and more valuable cows, and trying to get as many victory points as you can by doing a bunch of different things. There really are a lot of ways to get victory points in this game but you have to really plan well in order to get the most points (as it should be).
This game is so intricate and I love it to death, even though I haven’t played it nearly enough (only 3 times). It made my Top 20 games played of all time back in 2019. The rondel mechanic of you moving your piece along paths on the board, skipping buildings to move faster or perhaps you want to use all of those buildings and move slower, the decisions are really interesting.
There’s also all those cute cows.
The game rewards multiple strategies. You could do the Cowboy strategy, hiring lots of cowboys and getting cool new cows. You could do Engineers which will let you extend your rail network to ship your cows further and further (and also let you place pieces in multiple stations to get multiple victory points).
Maybe builders, which will let you put a lot of your buildings out on the board. This gives you more options to do things but can also inhibit your opponents (some buildings make them pay you to go across them, but even if they don’t your building creates an extra “space” that they have to move over).
I’m not very good at Great Western Trail (the only game I won, I started the game playing as a partner with somebody who’s good at it who had to leave soon and so left me on my own but gave me a good start).
The Great Western Trail: Rails to the North expansion is really interesting and adds lot of cool stuff, but I’ve only played it once so I can’t really comment too much.
It added so much stuff that my brain fried trying to come up with a coherent strategy (Editor: Some would say that’s most times you play a game).
This is a great way to start the Top 10, with a game I’ve actually played!
Designers: Ananda Gupta, Jason Matthews
Artists: Viktor Csete, Rodger B. MacGowan, Chechu Nieto, Guillaume Ries, Mark Simonitch
This game was #1 on the BGG rankings for a long time when I first joined it a number of years ago.
It lost its hallowed position a while back and has fallen a bit, but being in the Top 10 is still cool!
I’m torn about this one and how to present it in this post, though.
I distinctly remember playing this game once and having my ass handed to me, with my opponent helpfully pointing out things that I could have done instead of what I did do (or what I should have done instead). He wasn’t being an asshole; he was being helpful.
The game didn’t last very long, though.
I also, for some reason, never counted it as “played” and it doesn’t show up in my Boardgame Stats app.
So should I count it as played?
I’ve played the app tons of times, as Clio can attest (and I still pretty much suck at it).
Anyway, Twilight Struggle is a card-driven game about the Cold War, with the Soviet Union and the United States vying for influence and control all over the world in the great face-off between Communism and Democracy.
(This is obviously from the app version)
The game goes 10 rounds though it can be ended sooner than that. Scoring is done over a 40-point range, going from +20 US to +20 Soviets, starting at 0. If the score ever reaches +20 on a side, the game ends with that side’s victory.
Performing coups in “Battleground” countries (those with names on a red banner) will bring the Defcon level down one level. This is basically how close the world is to nuclear war. If Defcon ever reaches 1, the game ends with the loser being whoever’s turn it was when it hit 1.
Yes, that is a very important distinction.
Twilight Struggle is also the first card-driven game I ever played where cards can have events that are either one side’s or the others, or some of them are for either side.
You can play the card for the event or for the Operations Points (which will let you add influence in countries).
However, if you play an opponent’s event card, you can only use the OPs and the event will always trigger (either before or after you use the OPs, your decision).
Thus, if you play a card that will allow your opponent to lower Defcon to 1, even though your opponent did that, it happened on your turn so you still lose.
The game has regional scoring cards that must be played sometime during the round that you have them in your hand. It doesn’t matter if your opponent will score more than you.
If you don’t play it and the round ends, you lose.
These scoring cards are based on how many countries in that region you control with your influence.
Sometimes, the game actually does go 10 rounds. You then do final scoring for each region as if the scoring card was played, and then whoever has the point marker on their side of the track wins the game!
This games is a push and pull struggle where a lot of times you just have to make the best of a bad situation (like if your entire hand is your opponent’s event cards).
There is a die that will determine things like coup results and a few other things, but it’s mostly the cards.
It can be a bit luck-driven but the game is about managing that luck.
I really enjoy this game, though I did play so many games of the app that I’m a bit tired of it now.
But one day I’ll play more of it.
Designer: Corey Konieczka
Artists: A lot!
This is a game I desperately want to play, but the price tag of the game just makes me balk at buying it when I’m not sure how often it would get played.
The game is basically the Star Wars movies in a box, with one player being the Empire and one player being the stalwart Rebellion. The Rebel Base (the capital letters are very important) is hidden on a planet somewhere on the board and the Empire is trying to destroy it.
As the Imperial player you’re trying to subjugate whole worlds and even use the Death Star to obliterate them, all in your quest to find the Rebel Base.
The rebels are trying to rally the galaxy to their cause, committing small and surgical strikes to hamper the Imperial mission, because if you go toe-to-toe with the Imperial forces, you’re going to lose.
I think the blurb says it best:
“Featuring more than 150 plastic miniatures and two game boards that account for thirty-two of the Star Wars galaxy’s most notable systems, Rebellion features a scope that is as large and sweeping as any Star Wars game before it.
Yet for all its grandiosity, Rebellion remains intensely personal, cinematic, and heroic. As much as your success depends upon the strength of your starships, vehicles, and troops, it depends upon the individual efforts of such notable characters as Leia Organa, Mon Mothma, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Emperor Palpatine. As civil war spreads throughout the galaxy, these leaders are invaluable to your efforts, and the secret missions they attempt will evoke many of the most inspiring moments from the classic trilogy. You might send Luke Skywalker to receive Jedi training on Dagobah or have Darth Vader spring a trap that freezes Han Solo in carbonite!”
I really want to play this game, but because I’m not sure how much it will get played, I’m really reluctant to spend almost $100 for it (Canadian, that is).
I saw it being played at CascadeCon in January while I was playing something else and I almost cried.
Oh, the main reason it probably wouldn’t get played here and even at a convention I’m kind of leery?
The 3-4 hour play time.
But if it’s fun, it would be worth it.
If we can ever go out again.
Designers: Jens Drögemüller, Helge Ostertag
Artist: Dennis Lohausen
This is kind of an updated and modified version of Terra Mystica, a game I’ve also played a couple of times.
This one I’ve only played once.
I have to say that I do like it a little better than its predecessor, mainly because it’s a bit more streamlined and forgiving.
Though that could be just the way it felt to me during my first play.
The energy mechanism just seems a bit better to my extremely limited experience. I didn’t find myself strapped so often and not able to do anything.
That still doesn’t mean I did well at all.
This is another game where if you know what you’re doing, you can bide your time and then just move ahead in leaps and bounds like Cal did in the game I played.
Here’s the publisher’s description of the game, because it will do much more justice than I can.
“Gaia Project is a new game in the line of Terra Mystica. As in the original Terra Mystica, fourteen different factions live on seven different kinds of planets, and each faction is bound to their own home planets, so to develop and grow, they must terraform neighboring planets into their home environments in competition with the other groups. In addition, Gaia planets can be used by all factions for colonization, and Transdimensional planets can be changed into Gaia planets.
All factions can improve their skills in six different areas of development — Terraforming, Navigation, Artificial Intelligence, Gaiaforming, Economy, Research — leading to advanced technology and special bonuses. To do all of that, each group has special skills and abilities.
The playing area is made of ten sectors, allowing a variable set-up and thus an even bigger replay value than its predecessor Terra Mystica. A two-player game is hosted on seven sectors.”
I do like the variable board, definitely.
Playing Gaia Project and its predecessor, I do kind of feel like Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, though.
Yes, Otto, I feel like an ape playing this game.
Designers: Dane Beltrami, Corey Konieczka, Christian T. Petersen
Artist: Scott Schomburg
And now the 4th Edition shows up!
I can’t really say much more about the 4th Edition of Twilight Imperium than I could about the 3rd edition when it showed up earlier on this list.
It’s just too long and contains too much of what I’m not looking for in a game.
I would never get it to the table, and it doesn’t sound that fun to me.
It looks cool. It looks EPIC!
But just not for me.
Maybe I could be talked into it by a friend at a convention (I think it was Tom who said something about that on Twitter when the 3rd Edition showed up?)
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Artists: Filip Murmak, Radim Pech, Jakub Politzer, Milan Vavroň
From epic space to epic history (which is more my cup of tea anyway), I’ve never actually played the “new story” Through the Ages on the table and I’m not sure how much I would (though I could probably easily be talked into it).
However, I have played the app so often that I feel like I know the game pretty well.
Not good enough to, you know, beat really good players at it, but still enough to win my fair share and enjoy it even when I lose (even if I am getting pummeled so badly by aggressions and wars that I end up resigning, which is actually a legitimate part of the game).
I love the app so much that I’ve even reviewed it!
This is a great civilization-building game that’s done all through cards. There isn’t actually a board and players aren’t vying for territory or anything like that.
I like this version a lot more than the original (#40 on this list). It’s a bit more streamlined and I like how much a simple change like when you have to discard military cards can really affect the game.
Or how you can actually use your military cards to defend against aggressions (not just the defense cards, but any of them).
Plus I love the expansion with the new leaders and wonders, which really adds to the replayability of the game.
The rules for the game are actually fairly straightforward, though knowing how they all interact in order to be able to do well can be quite intimidating.
Sometimes you find yourself behind the 8-ball and just can’t get anything going. You need resources to rebuild your devastated infrastructure but other players keep attacking you because your military is weak. And you don’t have the resources to build your military.
That’s when it’s time to resign.
It’s a tricky balance between military and glory and working to make sure your engine kicks in at the right time.
Sometimes you can pull ahead with end-game scoring and sometimes you left it too long and fall short.
I really do love this game.
Though looking at pictures of it out on the table, I’m still not sure about playing it on the table.
Wow that’s a lot of stuff to keep track of.
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Artist: Isaac Fryxelius
And now we get to one of my favourite games of all time.
That’s not something I would have said after my first game of it.
This tableau-builder (kind of) just didn’t look that interesting when my friends were going gaga over it when it first came out and I kind of snootily raised my nose in the air and said “that doesn’t look good.”
Even after my first play, I just thought it was ok.
20 plays later and I’m singing a different tune.
There’s just something about Terraforming Mars that hooks you.
Sure, the card art goes from kind of interesting to “you’ve got to be kidding me.”
But the game play just really speaks to me.
I love the interplay of the different corporations and their effects. I love what the Prelude expansion does to not only speed things up a bit but also add a bunch of variability to the start of the game.
I love most of the expansions (though I could take or leave the Venus one)
I love the ground game as you place tiles on Mars, but maybe you’re going for a card-engine and don’t actually plan on putting much down on Mars.
One of my recent games, I was about 20 points behind when it came to card-scoring (which is calculated last).
I ended up coming in 2nd place by 3 points.
Other times you can dominate on Mars and not get a lot of points from your cards (which the winner of that game actually did).
(This is not the game I’m speaking of)
There are just so many ways this game can turn out, and that’s what I love about it: it’s different every time.
A card that you play early that really benefits you may arrive late in the game next time and be useless.
There’s just so much to love about the game.
And that’s why I’m sure it will be in my Top 10 games played this year (if I even do one since I won’t have played too many games in 2020) or next year (more likely).
And hopefully my friend bought the Big Box so I can see it when it comes.
And we can, you know, leave our homes and stuff.
Designer: Gavan Brown, Matt Tolman, Martin Wallace
Artists: Lina Cossette, David Forest, Damien Mammoliti
This game really moved into the Top 10 fast, and I have to agree that while the original Brass (Lancashire, which is #18 on this list) is a great game, this one really tops it even though I’ve only played it a couple of times.
I can’t think of a change to the game where I don’t like the new one better.
I love how shipping goods to markets requires beer (either beer at the market city or your own beer factories.)
I love that you can actually trade in cards to get a wild card that will let you play basically anywhere on your next turn.
I love that you can’t just ship your goods willy-nilly. The city you’re shipping to has to actually want that product. (In Lancashire, the only good is cotton so everybody wants it).
Thus you have to plan things even more than in the original.
There are also different goods that you can produce and sell, and each one is distinctive in how it gets you points and income.
The game is still intensely economic and you will find yourself taking loans like in any other Martin Wallace game. Money is very tight and you will often not have enough money to do what you really want to do.
But you can’t always do what you want.
Where would be the fun in that?
While I do love Terraforming Mars and only really like and respect Brass: Birmingham, it definitely deserves its spot in the Top 10.
Designers: Rob Daviau, Matt Leacock
Artist: Chris Quilliams
Not a lot I can say about Season 1 Pandemic: Legacy that I didn’t say about Season 2.
I do think it’s funny that Season 1 is #2 but Season 2 is all the way back at #33. I guess they couldn’t top themselves?
Anyway, it’s a legacy game that you have to play 12 times (because it’s 12 months) and I don’t think I could get our game group to play this game 12 times. I’m not a huge fan of the original Pandemic anyway, though I do understand that the legacy aspect does add a bunch of stuff that you may not see in vanilla Pandemic.
From everything I’ve heard, this game does earn its rating, though, so don’t let my reluctance to play it sour you on it!
Designer: Isaac Childres
Artists: Alexandr Elichev, Josh T. McDowell, Alvaro Nebot
And finally…Numberrrrrrrr One!!!!!!!!!!
And yes, it’s Gloomhaven and what an anti-climactic ending to this series as I’ve never played it (though I have done a scenario in the Early Access Steam version…I didn’t really get it there either).
Gloomhaven is another campaign game, which is already a strike against it for me to play it. Not because it doesn’t sound cool, but just everything I’ve already said about campaign games and me playing them.
The mechanics of the game do sound neat, though:
“Each turn, a player chooses two cards to play out of their hand. The number on the top card determines their initiative for the round. Each card also has a top and bottom power, and when it is a player’s turn in the initiative order, they determine whether to use the top power of one card and the bottom power of the other, or vice-versa. Players must be careful, though, because over time they will permanently lose cards from their hands. If they take too long to clear a dungeon, they may end up exhausted and be forced to retreat.”
I wouldn’t mind trying a scenario just to see how it plays.
Maybe it would grip me enough to play it more often? I know some of the people in my game group have played campaigns in other settings (i.e. not our Sunday game group).
Really, it’s the #1 game on BGG. Maybe I should try this one?
Maybe one day.
So that’s four games played this week (maybe five, but I’m only counting “official” plays so I’m not counting Twilight Struggle) with two “digital-only” plays (again counting TS).
That makes 51 out of 100. I made it half-way!!
I’ve officially played half of the BGG Top 100.
I wouldn’t have expected that.
So we’ve come to the end of our journey. We’ve talked about 100 games, and we did it over a span of…well, more than 10 weeks. I’m sorry for that.
It’s been an interesting experience, talking about some games that never get talked about on here, and more importantly finding out what you think of all these games.
I’ve had a noted game designer chime in (which honoured me greatly) and some old friends as well.
What’s next on the blog?
I don’t know…maybe talking about #200-101?
It’s a thought.
What do you think of these games? Have you played any of them? Are they all trash?
Let me know in the comments.
Posts in this Series: