And so it begins.
Is it kind of silly to compare party games that take 10 minutes to play with strategy epics that block out an entire day in a game ranking like this? Maybe a little.
But, I have always appreciated when other content creator’s do a ranking exercise like this. Hearing their taste in games – which are their favorites, which landed great for them but not at all with me, and discovering their overall preferences helps me value their opinion more (even if I disagree!).
It's a long list. Buckle up!
50. Flamme Rouge
Starting off a list like this with Flamme Rouge is a testament to how many great board games there are, just waiting to be played. Flamme Rouge is a game where you control a two-person tandem of cyclists, trying to reach the finish line first. While it shines with beautiful production and interesting, card-based “push-your-luck” gameplay, the game’s slipstream mechanic is its most special feature. If you end your turn in a pack of cyclists with exactly one space empty behind the next pack, everyone moves forward to join it. It beautifully captures the pressure of a peloton and the difficult decision of when to sprint away from the pack. A great start to the list.
49. Fog of Love
Fog of Love is a game that perfectly captures the passion, obstacles, and triumphs that come with budding relationships. After players navigate an emotional roller coaster spurred on by the game’s clever card system, their relationship can end in beautiful marriage, brutal breakup, or—perhaps most tragically—one partner settling and giving up on their wants and dreams to make it work. It’s a game that relies on a bit of role-playing and silliness, but with the right group Fog of Love’s unique mechanics can deliver an incredible experience. My favorite way to play? Four-player, with two players controlling each side. The folks over at Polygon filmed a great playthrough at this player count here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0WzPXt35Is
I love escape rooms. Actually, I think it’s more like “I love the idea of escape rooms”. I usually have a good time when I go to one, but it seems like they’re always just a little too small, a little too expensive, or a little too janky. Exit takes away a lot of the buy-in with little $15 escape-room-in-a-box experiences, and it’s very clever how much they can do with simple components. No spoilers here. Just give them a shot!
47. Wits & Wagers Party
Wits & Wagers was one of my first post-Catan board game purchases, and for that it will always have a special place in my heart. In this game, you can score points by actually knowing trivia answers or betting on who you think knows the answer. It’s a simple method of democratizing trivia, and in its simplicity, I believe it to be a great, elegant party game.
Perhaps the least “gamey” game on here. Polemic is more like a box of conversation starters with points attached. In it, players secretly vote on assorted topics (for example, “thinking about the future”) with simple “like” or “dislike” options. Then, players guess how many people like that topic. You get points for guessing right, but that’s not really the point. It’s the inevitable “Wait, why don’t you like thinking about the future?” This game has erupted in some great conversations, and for that it takes its spot here at 46.
45. When I Dream
In When I Dream, a “dreamer” closes their eyes and must guess words based on hints given by the other players. The trick? The other players have secret roles that score points based on how well the dreamer plays—and some roles score for the dreamer doing poorly. This is a great game that combines deduction and word association, as players try to figure out who they should trust while quickly guessing the words.
44. For Sale
As far as filler games go, For Sale is one of the best. Players bid on properties in the first phase and sell them for profit in the second. A tiny economy is created from the first turn with such simple components. For Sale—a must-buy.
43. …and then, we held hands.
There’s something special about games that use simple, abstract mechanics yet find a way to convey a theme that goes far beyond those mechanics (you can see another wonderful example of this in the World War I themed The Grizzled). In “…and then, we held hands.”, players take turns moving along nodes, trying to meet in the center. You’re not allowed to speak, and using the wrong cards can cause your partner to be unable to move, losing the game. This is all wrapped up in beautiful symbolism—the silence a symbol for empathy, always considering how your partner’s needs must be considered, and the reset mechanic a symbol for gaining new perspective.
42. Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
Play is simple; everyone is dealt a face down deck and players take turns flipping cards out. You say one of the words (Taco, Cat, Goat, etc.) when doing so, and subsequent players say the next word in sequence while taking their turn. If what you say matches what shows up, you slap the deck! Cards are taken as points. Extra silliness comes when certain cards come out—flip out a gorilla, beat your chest three times before slapping; flip out a narwhal, clap above your head and slap.
To this day, I still haven’t won Hanabi. In this game, you cooperatively try to stack like-color cards from one to five. The trick? You can’t see what cards you have. You rely on clues given to you by your teammates, and they can only say so much. I think it’s a modern classic, and the don’t-know-your-own-hand mechanic is still magical.
Fair warning: though it’s the perfect size of board game to bring to the bar, this one takes some focus! Alcohol, TV screens, and loud music don’t help!