This post has been a long time coming.
Sorry about that. Life has a way of getting away from you sometimes, doesn’t it?
Especially in these chaotic times.
I swear that 2020 has been…well, let’s say “challenging.”
However, I have made promises to people that I wouldn’t give up, and I’m not going to!
When will the next post in the series show up?
Hopefully not too far away.
In this post, a couple of games shifted or jumped into the top 200 since I did the previous post, so I’ll mention them here.
To prevent that from happening again, since I’m being slow at doing these posts, all future posts in the series will now be written using the list of games as of September 20, 2020. If a game has moved position, I may mention it. If something new jumps on, I won’t be mentioning it though.
Why it took Clio to actually show me that this is the best way to do it, I don’t know. But it did.
With that being said, and because you’re probably already turning blue from holding your breath, let’s get this thing started!
#188 – The Isle of Cats (Lucky Duck Games) – 2019
Designer: Frank West
Artists: Dragolisco, Frank West
Rest assured this won’t be happening any more after this post, as I won’t be revisiting previous rankings.
However, Isle of Cats is worth it, because it is a sublime game.
And I say that as somebody who is terrible at “Tetris-style” tile-laying games where the tiles are of different shapes.
But yet I didn’t hate it. In fact, I really did enjoy it!
It has cats and it has the “trying to fit different shaped tiles onto your board” mechanism, so now of course I have to try and get it to play with the wife.
Essentially, each player is the captain of a ship that has docked at an island is, for some reason, trying to fill their ship with cats.
I don’t judge.
Actually, you’re trying to rescue these cats, so I could never say no to that.
You have your ship and you have your island of cats. Each turn, there will be different cats available to buy with fish (because of course they want fish, it’s not like you’re trying to buy them from a pet store or something).
When you attract a cat to your ship, you will then have to place it on the deck. You are trying to connect the same type of cats, unless of course some of your goals want different kinds connected.
There are a lot of different goals that may make you choose one cat type over another, but one mainstay for everyone is that, at the end of the game, you lose points for squares that are not covered by cats (I guess because it’s sad you couldn’t rescue them all?).
I do really like the decision-making in this game, where what cards you decide to buy with your fish can also determine what cats you want to attract (I shouldn’t say “buy”, should I?). In the picture above I have a bunch of red cats all together, but that’s because one of my goal markers was to do that.
Maybe one of the other goals would have liked them all being different?
Like I said, I sucked at this game, but it was my first one. In addition to that, these types of games are just not good for me.
I usually don’t like them at all.
But I really did enjoy Isle of Cats.
In fact, if it hadn’t been constantly checked out of the Dice Tower Library while I was at the convention, I would have played it at least once more.
That’s the sign of a good game, when somebody who doesn’t like the main mechanism of your game actually enjoys your game.
This one I’m glad I played.
Designer: Tobey Ho
Artists: Marcin Adamski, Ben Carre, Tommy Ng, Ari Wong
This is a game that was originally in this group of 10 games but fell to #182 while I was being lazy not getting this post done.
So let’s talk about it here!
I played this game once with Suzanne Sheldon from the Dice Tower at Dragonflight convention in August 2016. She is, of course, an excellent teacher and it was cool to play some games with her (including winning Broom Service: the Card Game!)
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is a social deduction game where players are trying to solve a murder. The thing is, one of the investigators is the murderer!
There are also other specific roles that people can play (including an Accomplice to the murder), but the “game master” is actually a Forensic Scientist who knows all! But can’t talk.
Let’s blurb this since it’s been many years since I’ve played it.
“The Forensic Scientist has the solution but can express the clues only using special scene tiles while the investigators (and the murderer) attempt to interpret the evidence. In order to succeed, the investigators must not only deduce the truth from the clues of the Forensic Scientist, they must also see through the misdirection being injected into the equation by the Murderer and Accomplice!”
It’s an interesting puzzle because the Forensic Scientist can only indicate clues without really explaining what they mean. Then the investigators try to figure out what they all mean, with the murder themselves trying to (casually of course) lead the investigators astray.
As social deduction games go, this is a really interesting one that I wouldn’t have minded trying again. However, it’s not something that comes out in our game days so a convention was the only way I was going to play it.
Another cool thing is that, even if the investigators do successfully identify the murderer, if they don’t get the “key evidence” and the “means of murder” right.
I’d definitely play this one again. I enjoyed it (though maybe it was the company, as I think Beth Sobel was there too when we played).
Now let’s get to the next 10 games on the list!
Designer: Dirk Henn
Artist: Michael Menzel
Shogun is a cool-sounding game that uses the “cube tower” mechanism of combat resolution that I’ve always found intriguing but have never played (until I played Dead Reckoning, of course).
In the game, you are Japanese warlords trying to expand your power during the “Sengoku” period of Japanese history (roughly 1467-1573). You have armies that you will deploy to expand your kingdom.
Combat, as mentioned, is done using a cube tower where you basically take a bunch of cubes and drop them through the tower. Where they land, or which cubes actually emerge, determines the outcome of the battle.
Let’s blurb this one because I have never even seen this one, much less played it.
“Japan during the Sengoku or “Warring States” Period: each player assumes the role of a great Daimyo with all his troops. Each Daimyo has the same 10 possible actions to develop his kingdom and secure points. To do so he must deploy his armies with great skill. Each round, the players decide which of the actions are to be played out and in which of their provinces. If battle ensues between opposing armies, the unique Cubetower plays the leading role. The troops from both sides are thrown in together and the cubes that fall out at the bottom show who has won immediately. Owning provinces, temples, theaters, and castles means points when scores are tallied. Whichever Daimyo has the highest number of points after the second tally becomes – SHOGUN!“
Obviously somebody hasn’t brushed up on the “use they instead of he” thing.
Anyway, it sounds like an interesting game, a lot of “take that” which may be another reason why it never makes it out to my game group.
You will definitely be attacking each other.
But then again, they like Root, so go figure.
I’d love to try it. Maybe at a convention?
You know, when we can go to one again in 2022 or later?
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Artists: Tomáš Kučerovský, Radim Pech
I’m of two minds on Galaxy Trucker.
It can be a lot of fun watching the space ship that you’ve spent the last 5-10 minutes creating get trashed by asteroids and pirates, trying to collect goods from planets but then reaching your destination with barely anything left of your ship.
However, we then hit the “trying to fit pieces together so that they fit and actually do what they are supposed to do, all in real time while other people are taking the same pieces you’re looking at” problem that Factory Fun has (sorry, I’m never going to stop ragging on that game just because of how much I hate it, no matter how good other people find it).
Basically, trying to use spatial reasoning in real-time just makes a game terrible for me.
I don’t think I’d ever play this game on the table again.
The app, however?
Wow, the app is so good, though I haven’t played it in a while. Not only does it have single player campaigns (which sometimes incorporate the real-time element so maybe that’s why I haven’t done much of it), but for multiplayer Czech Games Edition created a points system for taking tiles.
This allows players to basically take turns choosing tiles, with a limited number of points per turn able to be used to reveal tiles and decide whether you want to keep them or not.
That was a lot of talk, but what the hell am I talking about?
Each player is a space pilot who has to create their ship every time they make a journey to deliver cargo (or whatever it is these space jockeys do).
The first part of the round, you’re going to be making your ship out of a lot of disparate parts, tiles that are in a pile face down. On the table, you are choosing face-down tiles while the other players are too. You decide if you want them on your ship and then either place them or return them (face-up) to the pile for others to choose.
In the app, you can choose to use a point system instead. Choosing a tile uses an action point. Placing a tile does too.
Whoever is first to complete their ship to their satisfaction (or maybe just their “oh well, I might as well”) will be in the lead during the next phase, which is the journey.
Each journey has a number of encounter cards that can be everything from planets to get goods from to pirates that will steal stuff from you if you didn’t put enough guns on your ship.
You may even find abandoned ships or stations that you can loot too.
Of course, during your run your ship may be damaged, losing vital pieces of it. If a small asteroid hits you in a spot where you have an opening (the last ship in the image above has openings on both sides, because they have connections that are open to space), you will lose that piece.
If that’s the only piece holding some of your other pieces to the ship, those go too!
If it’s a large asteroid, then it has to be heading towards some of your guns or you will lose that piece even if there are no open connections.
There are other ways too that you may lose pieces of your ship.
Half the fun of the game is laughing and carrying on as players’ ships disintegrate around them.
At the end of the journey, total up the money you’ve earned from cargo taken, abandoned ships, etc, and subtract how many open connections you have.
Keep that total handy because there are two more rounds! Unless you’ve decided to play fewer rounds.
Later rounds have bigger ships but also a lot more danger on your runs.
This is an enjoyable game…on the app.
If you don’t mind the real-time aspect, then it’s probably a fun game on the table too.
For me, the app is awesome.
I probably will never play it on the table again.
#178 – Secret Hitler (Goat Wolf & Cabbage) – 2016
Designers: Mike Boxleiter, Tommy Maranges, Max Temkin
Artists: Mackenzie Schubert, Théo Richard
Another social deduction game!
This one I’ve never played, though a friend of mine does have it (hi, Ian!). The thing is, Ian is a co-worker and it’s not really a game for lunch time at work (though time-wise it would work wonders!).
The game takes place in 1930s Germany (of course) and one player is the “secret Hitler.” That player is trying to rise to power above everyone else.
In the game, each player is secretly assigned to be either a Liberal or a Fascist.
The Fascists know who the secret Hitler is, but Hitler him (or her) self doesn’t know who the Fascists are. That could be intriguing!
Let’s blurb this since I’ve never even seen this game played.
“Each round, players elect a President and a Chancellor who will work together to enact a law from a random deck. If the government passes a fascist law, players must try to figure out if they were betrayed or simply unlucky. Secret Hitler also features government powers that come into play as fascism advances. The fascists will use those powers to create chaos unless liberals can pull the nation back from the brink of war.
The objective of the liberal team is to pass five liberal policies or assassinate Secret Hitler. The objective of the fascist team is to pass six fascist policies or elect Secret Hitler chancellor after three fascist policies have passed.”
Thus, the Fascists (and secret Hitler) can win, or the Liberals can win.
It’s an interesting-sounding game, and it can also kind of open your eyes to the subtle ways that Fascism can gain ground when people aren’t paying as close attention as they should be (cue a bunch of political talk that I’m not going to get into).
Overall, if we can ever get back to the office instead of working from home, I’d love to play this game and see how well it works. I’m not sure how well social deduction games go over in our office group, but this one sounds intriguing for at least a couple of plays.
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone
Artists: Jacqui Davis, David Montgomery, Beth Sobel
Viticulture is a really cool game. One of my favourites, actually.
But I haven’t played it since 2016, when I played it 5 times that year.
Five times! That’s almost unheard for a non-filler game for me.
I have played it more now digitally, though, as there is a great app for it.
In the game, players are running vineyards, making wine, hosting visitors and trying to be the first to get to 20 victory points and thus trigger the end of the game (though the actual winning score will be higher than 20).
Many people decide they don’t like the game because they feel that the visitor cards that you play are more important than, you know, selling wine. They don’t seem to realize that vineyards do a lot of stuff besides just selling wine.
Each round has all four seasons in it. In Spring, each player chooses their place in that year’s turn order, also getting whatever bonus that place comes with.
In the Summer, players place their workers in spaces to do things like plant vines, buy vines, play a Summer visitor card, take the general public on a tour of your vineyard, or build buildings. You can also buy/sell one of your fields if you need some money.
Autumn let’s every person choose either a Summer or Winter visitor card (maybe two if you have the right buildings).
In the Winter, players place their remaining workers (you only get so many each year!) in order to get wine orders, fulfill wine orders, harvest their fields, play a Winter visitor card, make wine if you have harvested grapes, and maybe hire a new worker.
I really enjoy the game play in this one, maybe because it’s a game I actually feel like I have a chance to win. I’m actually not too bad at it, at least comparatively. However, it’s also the fact that there are a few different ways to win and you have to really manage your card play.
I like games where you have to do that.
If you do feel that the Visitors have too much prominence and take away from the wine-making aspect of the game, you can always get the Rhine Visitors expansion. This one has visitors that are more focused on wine-making and grape harvesting.
This is a great game to check out, either digitally or on the table.
Designer: Jordy Adan
Artists: Luis Francisco, Lucas Ribeiro
This was actually talked about in the last post when it was in the 180s.
Check it out there!
Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Artists: Doris Matthäus, Anne Pätzke, Chris Quilliams, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Carcassonne is the classic tile-laying game, probably one of the first to hit the big time.
And I’ve never played it.
Unless you count digitally, in which case I’ve played it dozens of times, with and without most of the expansions.
In the game, you and the other players are laying tiles that will form cities, fields and roads. Some tiles will have monasteries on them too. When you place a tile, you can put one of your meeples on it and then you may get points for it.
Once a city is completed, you get points if you have the most meeples on it (or multiple people get the points if there is a tie) and you get your meeple back. Same with roads.
Putting a meeple on a field will lose the meeple forever, but has the potential to score you big points depending on how many complete cities are adjacent to that field.
As the game progresses it may look like this:
This is not a complicated game, but scoring (especially the fields) can be a bit confusing. At least it always has been for me.
It’s fun, though!
I wouldn’t turn it down if it were offered on the table, but it just never has been.
That being said, the app is so gorgeous (even though this is the app that was discontinued from the App Store so Asmodee could do their own app, and we’re paying about $2/month to keep the servers open so we can keep playing the much-better version) and it does all the math for you that I’m not sure how eager I am to play it on the table.
I would, though!
Designers: Ludovic Roudy, Bruno Sautter
Artists: Éric Azagury, Florian Poullet
Just One is a cooperative party word game, so of course I’ve never played it.
I just don’t get much opportunity to play these types of games.
Let’s blurb this because I don’t know anything about this game at all.
“Just One is a cooperative party game in which you play together to discover as many mystery words as possible. Find the best clue to help your teammate. Be unique, as all identical clues will be cancelled!
A complete game is played over 13 cards. The goal is to get a score as close to 13 as possible. In case of a right answer, the players score 1 point. In case of wrong answer, they lose the current card as well as the top card of the deck. Thus losing 2 points. In case of lack of answer, the players only lose the current card, and therefore only 1 point.
You have the choice – make the difference!”
It does sound like it could be fun. It takes 3-7 players, so you definitely can’t play this with just your spouse (hence another reason I won’t be buying it any time soon).
It’s not a COVID-friendly game, obviously. 🙂 Though maybe you could play it over Zoom?
Who wants to try?
Anybody know more about this game? Is it fun?
Let me know in the comments.
Designers: Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc
Artist: Miguel Coimbra
For some reason, this game and Kemet are often mentioned in the same breath. Maybe it’s because they both involve players sending armies out and killing each other in the ancient time of myth?
I’ve never played either one (as I mentioned in the post with Kemet in it) but they both look really intriguing.
In Cyclades, players are trying to gain the favour of the ancient Greek gods in order to be the first to build two cities in the island chain known as the Cyclades.
Let’s blurb this one too.
“Victory requires respect for all the gods – players cannot afford to sacrifice to only one god, but must pay homage to each of five gods in turn. Each turn, the players bid for the favors of the gods, as only one player can have the favor of each god per turn – and each player is also limited to the favor of a single god per turn.
This game sounds like so much fun!
It’s just never really made it to the table. I don’t know if anybody in my group owns it (one person did own Kemet though I don’t know if she still has it).
I want to be at the table attacking all of my opponents! There’s a reason Time of Crisis is one of my favourite games.
If I ever see this set up at a convention, I will have to give it a try.
Designer: Martin Wallace
Artists: John Austin, Jared Blando, Craig Hamilton, Christopher Moeller
Steam is an economic train game that thankfully isn’t as complicated as 18XX games are. There are no stocks or companies or anything like that.
However, you are trying to make money and build up your train capacity so that you can carry goods from city to city, picking them up and selling them.
I played this game my one and only time back in 2013, though I have played the recent app a few more times.
I am terrible at it as I don’t really understand the strategies involved and all the intricacies that you have to keep in mind when you’re doing things so you don’t go bankrupt.
Let’s blurb this since I don’t think I can explain it very well.
I told you I don’t get it!
“In Steam you build railroads and deliver goods along an ever changing network of tracks and stations. You build the tracks, upgrade towns, improve your train, and grab the right goods to make the longest, most profitable deliveries. Score your deliveries and add to your income or victory points, balancing your need to invest against your quest to win the game.
Steam contains a beautiful, double-sided game board. The map on each side depicts terrain, towns, and cities at the start of the railway age. The map of the northeastern USA and neighboring Canada is ideal for 3 or 4 players. Use the map of Europe’s lower Rhine and Ruhr region when playing a 4 or 5 player game. You can play Steam on any number of current and future variant and expansion maps, so we include pieces for 6 players.”
This game is just not for me.
I may try the game on the app if it comes up (like it may in a Stately Play Decathlon one of these days), but my few plays of the app have not helped clear my head in regards to how to play this game well.
I really don’t have the desire to play it again, though.
Not to say it’s a bad game. It’s very popular and widely considered a classic!
Just not for me.
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artists: Allison Kline, Franz Vohwinkel
We end this segment of the Top 200 games with a Knizia classic that I have actually played a couple of times!
In fact, I’ve played it twice, almost exactly two years apart. Once on January 116, 2013 and once on January 18, 2015.
Sadly, I have no pictures.
Besides, there’s an updated version anyway, so my pictures would look old!
It does have an iOS app that’s pretty good, though I haven’t played it in quite a while.
So why not pictures from there?
What is Ra?
It’s an auction game with a very unusual way of paying for things.
It’s also a set collection game where you are bidding on tiles.
Hell, it’s been over 5 years. Let’s blurb this.
“Ra is an auction and set-collection game with an Ancient Egyptian theme. Each turn players are able to purchase lots of tiles with their bidding tiles (suns). Once a player has used up his or her suns, the other players continue until they do likewise, which may set up a situation with a single uncontested player bidding on tiles before the end of the round occurs. Tension builds because the round may end before all players have had a chance to win their three lots for the epoch. The various tiles either give immediate points, prevent negative points for not having certain types at the end of the round (epoch), or give points after the final round. The game lasts for three “epochs” (rounds). The game offers a short learning curve, and experienced players find it both fast-moving and a quick play.“
The auction mechanism is cool because the suns you have are numbered 1-16 (possibly some numbers are removed for fewer than 5 players). Each player only has 3 suns and there’s one in the middle of the board.
Each turn, you can either flip over a tile onto the tile track, play a God tile, or invoke Ra (start an auction for all tiles on the board).
If you flip over a Ra tile, then the auction begins anyway. The auction starts to the left of the player who started it. You go around the table and choose one of your suns to bid. Or you can pass.
The highest bidder takes all of the tiles as well as the sun that’s on the board (at the start of the game, the “1” sun is there). That sun is placed face down, so it’s not available this round. They place the sun they bid on the board for the next auction.
What’s really cool about the game is that only a certain number of Ra tiles can come out before the round ends (unless everybody runs out of face-up suns before that).
Thus, you could have a situation where there is only one person with a sun left in the round. The game then becomes a bit of push your luck because if that last Ra tile comes out, the round ends with no auction.
The various tiles can give you points depending on how many you collect. Some tiles are disasters that make you lose two tiles, but maybe the rest of the tiles up for auction are very lucrative so you decide to take the whole set anyway.
This is a really cool auction game, though I’m not sure whether it would appeal to people who don’t like auction games (some auction games, like Modern Art, actually overcome that aversion for people like me).
One of the things I like about Ra is how you only have three things to bid with and as you use them each round, your choices get thinner. Maybe there’s a huge cache of tiles ready for auction, but you’ve already used all of your suns for the round.
Or maybe there’s a really lucrative group of tiles to bid on but you only have the 16 left and the sun that’s on the board is the 1.
I’m not very good at this game, as you can imagine, but it’s an intriguing one and I do really like it. Sadly, the new version seems really expensive and over-produced for what you’re paying, and I don’t have a game group that likes auction games anyway, so this one probably won’t get played again any time soon.
But the app is around! And in playing it again to get those pictures, I find that I really do actually enjoy it.
Maybe I’ll get some plays in there.
So there you have it.
Finally, another post in this series.
At this rate, I might finish by 2022!
This one has six that I’ve played on the table, one that’s digital only, and four that I’ve never played (I counted Cartographers last time, so it’s not being counted here).
What do you think of these games? Played any of them? Want to play them?
Want to dump any of them into the desert and have them buried in sand?
Let me know in the comments.
Posts in this Series
Category: Board Games, Top 10Tags: Area Control, Auction Games, Bruno Sautter, Carcassonne, Card Drafting, Cartographers: a Roll Player Tale, Cyclades, Czech Games Edition, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, Frank West, Galaxy Trucker, Goat Wolf & Cabbage, Hans im Gluck, Iello Games, Jamey Stegmaier, Jordy Adan, Just One, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, Lucky Duck Games, Ludovic Roudy, Martin Wallace, Matagot, Max Temkin, Mayfair Games, Mike Boxleiter, Party Games, Queen Games, Ra, Ravensburger, Reiner Knizia, Repos Games, Roll and Write Games, Secret Hitler, Shogun, Social Deduction Games, Steam, Stonemaier Games, The Isle of Cats, Thunderworks Games, Tile-Laying Games, Tobey Ho, Tommy Maranges, Train Games, Viticulture, Vlaada Chvátil, Worker Placement Games
This is a blog about board games, with the occasional other post for a bit of spice.