30. El Grande
Area control and “troops-on-a-map” are among my absolute favorite mechanics in board gaming. I don’t think that many of my favorite games would exist without the OG that is El Grande. I hear people describe this game as “pure”, “elegant”, or “streamlined” area control, but I totally disagree (in a good way). The Castillo mechanic, where players throw cubes into a hidden tower (requiring players to memorize the amount of units inside) is incredibly silly and I love it.
29. Blood Rage
Wow, Blood Rage. While everything on this list is great, I think Blood Rage signifies the point where we get into my absolute favorites. Combining troops-on-a-map gameplay (one of my favorite mechanisms) with drafting
28. Hearthstone/Slay the Spire/Monster Train/Teamfight Tactics
Okay, this is cheating, but it’s our website. I really wanted to shout out some great video games that feel so inspired by tabletop gaming, they don’t feel that out of place here. Hearthstone, Blizzard’s collectible card game set in the Warcraft universe, is my favorite of the genre. The kinds of combos that become possible with the aid of the game making the calculations for you are incredibly satisfying. The auto-chess style “Battlegrounds” mode is also highly addictive. Slay the Spire brought deckbuilding to mainstream gaming. I’m really excited to see how board game designers bring roguelike elements to the table. And Monster Train… tower defense, deckbuilding, unit upgrading… none of these games are difficult to run, so if you’re a board gamer who hasn’t really tried video games, these are must-trys.
27. Glory to Rome
The rarity of Glory to Rome (link to Ebay) undoubtedly gives the game a bit of sheen, even before you play it. However, it was my first introduction to multi-use cards, and I think there’s a reason this game has reached legendary status. Clever gameplay, beautiful graphic design, and the freedom to make broken combos of cards cements its spot on this list. Despite newcomers like Fort giving interesting experiences, I’d love to play GtR instead.
26. Survive: Escape from Atlantis
I never played Survive: Escape from Atlantis when I was new to board games. After playing it much later, I can’t believe it’s not on more people’s radars as a gateway game. This was published in 1982—I think it should be a modern classic!
Players try to leave Atlantis on boat, trying to stay alive in shark-infested waters. Different players can hop on the same boat, so this game has that oh-so-great situation in board gaming of temporary (and fragile!) alliances. Great “non-gamer-y” strategy game. Play this if you haven’t.
25. Dune: Imperium
Worker placement is one of the most popular game mechanics, but as you can tell from my list, I don’t actually play many of them (or Euros in general). I hope to change this as Many Worlds Tavern grows, but if anything was going to get me interested in a worker placement game, it was one with Arrakis as a backdrop.
Unfortunately, the theme on Dune: Imperium feels a little abstract, and the artwork isn’t nearly as inspired as the recently re-released Dune board game by Gale Force 9. It takes a page out of Star Wars: Rebellion in that the characters and events feel like cameos of things from the books, but don’t go much further into creating interesting storylines.
Still, Dune: Imperium makes it pretty high on my list for incorporating deckbuilding in an interesting way into the worker placement genre. In many deckbuilders, you play your entire hand and go from there, but cards in D:I have effects when they are played or when they are left in your hand. This makes for tough decisions every round!
24. Xenoshyft: Dreadmire
I haven’t tried the new Kingdom Rush board game, but tower defense in general is something that really interests me. As a kid, I loved playing flash games like Bloons, Desktop Tower Defense, or Gemcraft.
Xenoshyft gives a similar kind of experience, but also incorporates strategy based on the order of your units. This a mechanic I’m seeing more often in video games: great titles like Darkest Dungeon and Monster Train.
In Xenoshyft, you use deckbuilding to defend against waves of aliens, placing your cards strategically. If you like anything from the writeup above, try Xenoshyft!
I played Pit for the first time at my local board game café, Tea + Victory. On a very busy Friday night, the game guide started off the teach by saying “If you guys play this game, you’ll probably be the loudest people in here.”
What a selling point! Pit is hilarious, and the game guide was right. There are no turns; when the bell rings, players try to trade cards from their hand to create a full set. Players are yelling what they have to offer “I’ve got two!” “Three! Three! Three!”. Players that are willing to trade that amount accept and swap. It’s a desperate race to get what you need, and is a great way to break the ice on game night (or end a brain-burning session).
22. Project Elite
Project Elite is the one game I’ve backed on Kickstarter. I’ve resisted the temptation on so many great looking games – most recently, I hope I didn’t miss out too much on Townsfolk Tussle.
But with this game – hearing about how many people loved the first printing, how CMON was taking over the production (and making beautiful minis), and the hope that my wife that loves real-time games like FUSE would enjoy it – I pulled the trigger.
The lack of color-coded miniatures is a pretty big oversight, the insert is bad, and I wish there were a bit more variety to the upgrade cards. That said, this game is really, really fun. Gameplay is a mix of real-time dice chucking and periodic pauses in action. These pauses feel like strategy meetings in a sci-fi war room; they give players an opportunity to reevaluate the board state, identify threats, and pl–WAIT JOHN HOW DID THOSE ALIENS GET THERE.
It’s just fun.
It took forever to paint.
21. Ghost Stories
Before Ghost Stories, the only cooperative games I had ever played were Pandemic and Forbidden Desert. With a pretty good win:loss ratio in those games, I sat at the table with Ghost Stories and felt cocky. Big mistake.
This game is brutal. Combat is resolved with dice, and the odds aren’t nice. Dice are frustrating. This game doesn’t care.
I haven’t played Last Bastion