I was not expecting to take a 2-week break from the blog.
I’m learning to listen to my heart and brain and just take breaks when I need to, and this last two weeks, I just haven’t felt like blogging.
Whenever I thought I should, I’d just load up Phoenix Point instead (what an amazing game on Steam!)
I hope none of you have been holding your breath for a post.
That would be bad.
I have so few readers anyway that I can’t afford to lose you!
In this day and age, when sometimes we wonder if we should even be thinking of doing frivolous things like posting about boardgames, we have to remember that we have to take care of ourselves.
Sometimes that’s trying to maintain a normality that we may not feel right now.
Other times it’s trying to help those people who really need it. But it’s ok if you can’t deal with it all.
Not all of us can. At least not all at once.
If you need it, though, I’m here to talk.
So it’s been 2 weeks since I did one of these posts and it just happened to come when the final one was due.
Yes, we are at the Top 5 games I’ve played of all time, and none of them will probably be a surprise to you if you’ve been reading this blog at all (ok, #1 may surprise you).
Keeping to the theme from the beginning of the other posts in this series, let’s talk about a game that took a tumultuous fall out of the Top 25 back in 2019.
Diamonds is one of my favourite trick-taking games and was in the Top 25 in 2019 (#24). This time, it fell to #69. I think part of that is because I haven’t played the game in a while, but also a big part of it is that there are so many games that aren’t short fillers that have taken its place. While there are some shorter games on my list, still, they are more of the tactical/strategic variety with lots of interesting decisions.
That doesn’t make Diamonds a bad game, but it does maybe make it fall out of the Top 25.
And that’s not a bad thing!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these 25 games and please let me know what you think of them in the comments (either of this post or the post where they are highlighted).
Keep in mind, though, that this is only the top 25 games that I’ve played. I have barely played 50% of the Top 100 games on Boardgame Geek, so it’s very possible that I haven’t played your favourite game.
So to you Agricola fans, go feed your people and leave me alone.
On that note, let’s take this train into the station.
Designers: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
2019 Rank – #4
It’s not surprising to me that Architects of the West Kingdom is still in my Top 5 games played (and actually didn’t move!) because it truly is a joy to play. Some people have said that Viscounts of the West Kingdom surpasses it, and I may reach that point some day.
But not today.
The expansion(s) I think will keep this in my “best of” category for a long time. The last three times I’ve played it have been with the Age of the Artisans expansion (review hopefully coming soon) and it’s just rejuvenated a game that I already thought was great.
The upcoming Works of Wonder expansion (which is scheduled for delivery in May!) will probably do that as well.
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, this shouldn’t surprise you, but I’ll tell a little bit about the game anyway.
Players are architects trying to impress the King and maintain their noble status by constructing buildings or perhaps working on building the huge cathedral in the middle of town. They do that by sending their workers around town to collect resources, perhaps hiring apprentices that will help them either with the construction or by making their actions even better.
They have to be careful, though. While each additional worker you put in a space makes that action even more powerful, somebody else could go to the Town Hall and get all of their workers in a space arrested and sent to the Guard Tower.
When all of the building spaces in the Guildhall are taken, the end of the game is triggered. And whoever has the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
For a more detailed description of the game, check out my review.
One of the reasons I love this game is that ability to have your actions strengthened for each worker you have in a space. I also really like how those workers can then be arrested and then sold to the Guard Tower for money (a good way to get income sometimes, especially if you have apprentices that will give you benefits for that).
Each time you build, either one of your Building cards or in the Cathedral, you will lose one of your 20 workers for the rest of the game. So that’s something to keep in mind too.
The apprentices giving you extra benefits for your actions also makes the game pretty variable (along with the variable player powers which you can also play with, of course)
The game wasn’t getting old at all when the Age of Artisans expansion came out, but that expansion still managed to make a great game even better.
It only adds a couple of things but they are very good things.
First, the Artisan (a bigger meeple) acts as two workers when you play him to the board, making the action even stronger right off the bat.
Secondly, the Tools and Adornments (called Craft cards because they can be either one) really enhance the building aspect of the game (or the apprentice aspect).
Adornments give a strong one-time benefit when they are added to one of your buildings and they also make them worth more points.
Tools added to apprentices make those apprentices even more effective.
I love this game so much, and have even played it a couple of times since regular game days started back up in August 2021.
In fact, this was the #4 game played in 2021
Designers: Wray Ferrell, Brad Johnson
Artist: Rodger B. MacGowan
2019 Rank – #1
Yes, the mighty game has fallen from its lofty perch at #1 back in 2019. That’s not surprising given what’s ahead, but Time of Crisis is still an amazing game that I want to get to the table again as soon as I am able.
Maybe even a Vassal game in the meantime?
I’d have to brush up on the rules.
Anyway, players are noble families in the Roman Empire during the tumultuous time in the 3rd Century when emperors were a dime a dozen.
They can do that by using some deckbuilding mechanics and using those cards to gain Military, Populace, and Senate points to do various actions. They are trying to install family members as governors of provinces around the empire to increase their status and maybe, if possible, topple the current Emperor and install their own.
Until that one is killed or deposed, anyway.
The whole thing is an interesting dynamic of military conflict and political maneuvering (as well as taking into account what the populace wants) that is just so cool to witness.
Sure, if you’re playing a full 4-player game, it’s possible to get screwed right from the beginning because you chose a starting province that’s right next to barbarians that end up attacking you before you’re ready.
But that doesn’t happen often and if you’re prepared, it won’t be as bad of a problem as it seems.
It may actually give you extra glory points!
Time of Crisis does a good job of simulating the chaotic times that it takes place in. You can move in to become Emperor but if you aren’t prepared for it when you assume the role, your tenure won’t last long.
And with one of the military cards, you may be deposed by the army rather than through political machinations.
The expansion (The Age of Iron and Rust), adds a bunch of new cards for all three areas, and those cards are even cooler. They sometimes bridge the gap between areas.
Mobile Vulgus, for example (a yellow Populace card in the picture above) could let you remove another player’s governor if you have enough Populace points.
The game is a great mix of wargame and deckbuilding, as well as throwing in some intrigue for spice.
I love this game to death and I really do hope to get the game to the table sometime this year.
I want it to appear on my “best games played in 2022” game list next January.
If you want more information on how the game plays (but not the expansion, at least not yet), check out my review.
And yeah, Dave, I forgot about this one when I said in my comment on the last post that there are no more deckbuilders in my Top 25. Though this really isn’t a deckbuilder. It just uses deckbuilding mechanics.
Designer: Chad Jensen
Artists: Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Chad Jensen, Rodger B. MacGowan, Leland Myrick, Mark Simonitch
2019 Rank – New (hadn’t played)
And now we get to one of the obvious ones, but where the only mystery was “which one would be ahead of the other?”
Combat Commander Europe is a 2-player tactical wargame where the cards are everything.
In the game, each player has a deck of cards that is based on the nationality they are playing (German, Soviet or American) and everything is done with those cards.
You have a hand of cards and you can do so many actions as the scenario allows (sometimes it’s just one!).
You play a card from your hand to do the action, and then move/fire with/do whatever with whatever units you are able to activate.
Leaders have an “activation range” that lets you activate multiple units for these actions. If you don’t have a leader, you’re limited to one unit doing something at a time (other than things like “Recover”, which let you try to rally all of your broken units).
One really interesting thing about the Combat Commander system is that “dice” rolls are actually turning over the next card on your deck. Thus, if you’ve used all of the cards that have a “12” dice roll on them for other purposes, you will not roll a 12 until you reshuffle your deck.
It’s quite intriguing in that way!
My good friend Michal of the Boardgame Chronicle fame introduced me to this by playing some “Play by Email” games with me (we worked through all 12 basic Combat Commander: Europe scenarios) and I love this system so much that I joined a monthly Ladder game!
Here’s my latest post from February’s ladder game.
I don’t have this version, but I have Combat Commander: Pacific (oooo spoiler!) and I would really love to get this to the table one day.
But in the meantime, my Vassal plays have been very satisfying, and that’s why this game is #3.
And just so I don’t have to keep repeating myself, this and the next two games fill out the Top 3 on my “games played in 2021.”
Designer: John Foley, Chad Jensen, Kai Jensen
Artists: Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Chad Jensen, Rodger B. MacGowan, Leland Myrick, Mark Simonitch
2019 Rank – New (hadn’t played)
Now we get to the Pacific module of the illustrious Combat Commander series!
Combat Commander: Pacific is (duh) the game about US Marines, the Japanese army, and British Commonwealth forces (mainly Australians and New Zealanders) using a very similar system to the original Combat Commander system.
There are a ton of differences which makes me prefer this one just slightly.
First, there are two new “modes” that a side can be.
The US can be in “Invasion” mode, which gives them 7 cards but they have to actually land on the beaches (some of those scenarios can be quite difficult for the Marines). The Japanese can be in “Banzai” mode which gives them very limited cards (just 3) but lets them use the “Charge” order which can make the game quite chaotic.
“Charge” rallies all Japanese units and then activates all Japanese units that haven’t already been activated. However, it also activates all opposing units for Fire actions. This is an action that you do not want to play as a typical “Play by Email” game. When Michal and I did Banzai actions, we actually did them live. That’s because the Japanese units could get fired upon in every hex they go to.
There are also other changes to the system. No “Assault Fire” Action which means that you can’t move and fire in the same turn. There’s actual air support (rather than just an event that may break a random unit). The terrain is a bit more varied. The cards are a bit more interesting.
One downside, depending on how you feel about the whole thing, is that it’s not quite as random as the Europe edition. You’re less likely (though it’s not impossible!) to get a “wow, this event changed the whole complexion of the game!” thing.
One big change is how you rally your units.
In Europe, you play a “Recover” card and you lose all of your Suppression markers and have the chance to rally all of your broken units, depending on the “dice” rolls. Depending on their morale, you might not get them all.
In Pacific, you can play a card with “Revive” points which lets you rally or unsuppress a certain value of units (1 “Revive” point per unit). So it’s not automatic how much you can do and you might have to Revive-5 when you only have one unit who needs it.
It feels like a total waste, but if that unit is important, you will do it!
However, there is no chance involved. If you spend the Revive point, you will rally/unsuppress that unit.
Overall, I like the decisions you have to make in Pacific more than in Europe, but I do appreciate the Europe “holy shit, this event just changed everything!” aspect of things.
That’s why Pacific is just slightly ahead of Europe this time, but I love both of them and things could easily switch around on a given day.
Designers: Christian Leonhard, Jason Matthews
Artists: Josh Cappel, Donal Hegarty, Rodger B. MacGowan
2019 Rank – New (hadn’t played)
Surprise, Dave! It’s not a Combat Commander game!
I didn’t want to spoil anything at the beginning, but you might as well just count this as a GMT Top 5 (with one Garphill Game in the mix) because here’s yet another GMT game that is topping the charts.
1960: The Making of a President is a game about the 1960 US presidential election between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, and it is freaking amazing.
It’s a card-driven game much in the same vein as Twilight Struggle but with some differences that actually make me like the game more.
In the game, players are one of the two candidates and they are trying to get as many electoral votes as possible to win the election. They do this by controlling states where they gain the electoral votes of those states in the final election.
This is a card-driven game where, every round, players have a certain number of cards in their hand and they have to play them for a couple of different things.
They can play them for the event on the card, in which case they’re going to want to only play cards that that have events favourable to them.
You can also play them for the points where you can do some campaigning, or maybe put points towards the three issues in contention, or maybe even try to get some advertising in a certain region of the country!
The thing about playing the card for the event, and what makes it different (and far more appealing to me), is that while the other player can play the event of your card if they want, they have to spend Momentum tokens in order to do it.
In Twilight Struggle, the opponent’s event automatically happens when you play it, which means that you have to try to mitigate it. Maybe try and make it so the event doesn’t actually do anything. Or just suck it up and know that you’re going to get hit hard.
But if you’re stuck with an entire hand of your opponent’s events, you just have to deal with it.
In 1960, that isn’t necessarily the case.
To execute an event that your opponent played, you have to spend a Momentum marker.
If you’re out of them? Oh well. You won’t get any of those benefits.
Because of this, to play an entire hand of your opponent’s events, you just have to figure out which would be more likely to make them spend the token to do so. If they only have a couple, then it’s a bit of a bluffing game.
Do they want to spend the marker for this event? Or maybe wait for another one? But maybe you’re only playing the one event and the rest are yours?
It’s an intriguing push and pull that I really enjoy.
At the end of each round, you’re going to be saving one card to play for the Debates (or after the Debates, two cards to play during the Election). This also adds fateful decisions because Debate cards benefit the candidate whose symbol is on it, so you will most likely want to save one of yours. But maybe they’re all good and you want to play them during the round?
After the Debates, the cards you save will be used to try and get votes in the state represented by the card. Here, the candidate doesn’t matter but the state might! If the card gives you good stuff but it also has a state you really need, that’s an interesting decision there too.
This all comes together in a brilliant game that I can’t get enough of.
The only reason I haven’t played it more (and I have reached 3 plays of it now, after 2021) is because it’s a 2-player game and it’s long (at least 2 hours). Thus I can’t play it at lunch and our game group usually requires games that play 3+ players.
But if I get the chance to get 1960 to the table, you know I’m going to do it.
So there you have it.
We’ve reached the end of my Top 25 Games Played of All Time (2022 edition). I will probably have played enough games by 2025 to do another one (given how the last three years have gone, but without a pandemic maybe sooner?).
I know there are some awesome games that didn’t make the cut because I hadn’t played them before this list came out. (I believe Ark Nova fits into this?)
Hopefully they will make the cut next time.
What do you think of all these? Any that you love? Hate, or are indifferent towards?
Want to yeat into the sun? (Editor – “Look at you, trying to show your expertise in Internet slang”)
Let me know in the comments.
Top 25 Games Played of All Time – 2022 Edition (25-21)
Top 25 Games Played of All Time – 2022 Edition (20-16)
Top 25 Games Played of All Time – 2022 Edition (15-11)
Top 25 Games Played of All Time – 2022 Edition (10-6)
Top 25 Games Played of All Time – 2022 Edition (5-1) – You’re here!