I have a little sister. I think she’s 23 or something, but in my head she’s pretty much 14 indefinitely. She’s also way smarter than me. When she came home one year with a boyfriend, as an older brother it was my duty to be incredibly skeptical. He seems like a good dude, but I had to make sure by playing Suburbia with them.
It’s a really great city-builder. I like how other players’ actions can trigger parts of your city.
P.S. I’m usually pretty against house rules for otherwise well-designed games, but goodness take out the “PR Firm” tile. There’s a mechanic in the game where you get less reputation as you get a higher score, signified by red lines on the scoring track. Building the PR Firm negates this restriction, and I’ve never played a game where PR Firm didn’t blow the game wide open.
19. The Mind
I love teaching The Mind. Without a word, I usually deal out a card to each player, then say “I just dealt cards from a deck of cards numbered one to 100. Don’t show anyone your card. Without talking to each other, let’s play the cards in ascending order.” Then I laugh at their reactions, as most people expect me to give more instructions.
“Wait, what do you mean without talking to each other?”
This game is brilliant, difficult, and creates magic with rules that can be explained in ten seconds. If you haven’t played it before and it doesn’t sound like much, talk to me after you try it.
I’ve never met someone who’s played Cartagena before I’ve shown it to them. It’s a racing game. It’s kinda like Candyland in that you move to a symbol rather than count spaces, but there’s no random draws. Rather, players play cards with symbols that match the board, and the goal is to move all of your pieces onto the boat at the end.
The trick? You move to the next available symbol of the type you play. So, if your opponent plays a sword, playing a sword on your turn allows you to leapfrog over them to the next one. The only way to get more cards is to pay for one by sending a piece backwards.
Like Flamme Rouge all the way at number 50 on this list, Cartagena is all about trying to move with the resources you have, stealing spaces and tempo when you can, and being patient so as to not jump too far ahead. Awesome game, and very fun to play with competitive people as they try to puzzle out their strategies.
17. The Crew
Wow, a trick taking game this high up on my list. I like trick-taking, and Fox in the Forest Duet is a really pleasant trick-taker up earlier on this list.
The Crew however adds a fun hint mechanic that reminds me of Hanabi.
I think Codenames belongs in every collection.
And honestly, I don’t think I really know what makes it so special. The theme is kinda random, the cards don’t look all that special, and the rules are quite simple. It’s just… fun? And incredibly accessible. When I pick out something to bring to game night, I usually have to consider the kinds of players I’ll be with. Codenames can go into the bag without a single hesitation.
Personally, I like games where you lie. I’ve had phases with all kinds of lying games—The Resistance, Bang, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Secret Hitler, Among Us.
But wow, after intense lying in games like that it can be really draining. You can only stare into someone’s eyes and lie so many times before the game starts to feel a little too… personal?
Skull’s white lies are much less stressful in comparison, but the excitement of winning still feels amazing.
Instead of explaining the game, grab a few friends and coasters, and look up the rules online. It’s one of those games that can be explained in two minutes. Then, go buy a copy of the beautiful Asmodee version.
Anomia is a simple party game where players take turns flipping out cards. On each card is a symbol and a category, such as “Capital City” or “Sandwich”. If you flip out a card as someone else, you race to name something from their category before they can name something from yours—“Peanut Butter and Jelly!”
The winner takes the card. The players can’t relax, however, because this exchange might reveal a card underneath with a symbol that matches someone else. Chain reactions occur, and Anomia
13. Ghost Blitz
It’s interesting that I have several games that resemble Rat Screw (Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, Anomia, and now Ghost Blitz)—where cards get revealed and players have to react quickly. I was surprised to find out recently that Andrew *hates* games like this!
So I guess we won’t play them together. Ghost Blitz is my favorite out of all of these. In this game, players must choose the game piece that matches the card that flips, or the one that doesn’t match perfectly.
I see this game at board game exchanges a lot, and if you can get it for under $10 it’s a no brainer.
I took a bit of a break from board games after my freshman year of college—around 2014. We played Catan and Pandemic to death—plus, they were always competing with Super Smash Bros. anyways. Splendor, along with games like Bang, Ticket To Ride, and Sushi Go, were part of my return to the tabletop several years later. Splendor remains the only game that I’ll keep on this list.
I love how the economy of the game is difficult to intuitively figure out. Some players will decide to buy a lot of low-cost gems, building a bit of wealth. Some players will reserve a top card early to guide their overall strategy, and some will try to collect sets for big point swings.
11. Can’t Stop
Can’t Stop is the reason I’m nervous to ever go to a casino with my wife. This game is a pure dice-chucking, push-your-luck affair. There’s some strategy, there’s some bravery, and there’s some inability to stop. Great game!