Everywhere in the wonderful world of board games we are accosted by lists, the top 10, the top 100... I sat down tonight to run through my game collection and work out what my favourite games were, so I could write this post. One thing is abundantly clear, this list is good for right now. Not the right now of you reading this, but the right now of me writing this. By the time you read this I may have picked up a book on the Middle Ages, watched an action movie where Arnie avenges a lost friend/family member/pet or pondered the wonder of our solar system, and my favourite games, the games I want to play right now, may have changed radically.
Small things combine, like the rings that summon Captain Planet, to impart some momentum on the direction of my thoughts, likes, dislikes and interests (and I say me, but I doubt I am in the minority). My favourite game? To play with whom? How long have we got to play? How many players? What theme is radiating magnetic lines attractively in my direction this fine evening?
And what do we mean by best? The objectively better game designs? But by what metric would such a thing be measured and would this be accurate? To keep things simple, I’m running with a loose definition - what games do I want to play the most... as in right now, if it were possible...
To try and anatomise the sum of my experiences with different games and provide a subjective ranking is obviously going to result in a ridiculous caricature. It’s not completely pointless of course - the games that make the list are definitely games that number among my favourites.
I had some trouble deciding how to structure this list, should I list them 1-10, should I list them 10-1... The real reason I had trouble with this is because all of these games are favourites, giving them some arbitrary ranking seems somehow dishonest. So take the numbers with a pinch of salt - these ten are all my number one games.
So without further adieu, and with no more circular logic and pointless arm waving, here it is:
10 - Sorry Sliders
Sorry Sliders is a simple game, a poor man’s shuffle board or Crokinole. Players slide their pieces (which have ball-bearings inside them) down a track and onto a scoring board. It’s simple, but it’s also a lot of fun. This is one of those games that is easy to get out and play many many times in a row. Plain and simple - it’s fun.
9 - Carrom
Carrom is like billiards, but instead of poking balls around a table, you are flicking disks around a board. It is a dexterity game, like Crokinole, and like Sorry Sliders, but it is difficult. There is real skill involved in getting the deflections, rebounds and angles just right. It’s a wonderful game, and I’m very glad to own a board - however poorly I play it.
8 - Fairy Tale
Fairy Tale is a game where players try and build a collection of 12 cards in front of them that will combine to score the most points. The key to achieving this is in the drafting, which happens every turn. It’s a wonderful game, and my absolute go-to filler, as it plays in around 10-15 minutes. I’ve played it literally hundreds of times, and haven’t tired of it yet. A game that is much bigger than what you get in the box.
7 - Stone Age
Stone Age is a worker placement game, players roll dice, collect resources and generally try to balance improving their ability to do things, with doing the things that will score them points. It’s easy to play and is simply an enjoyable ride. Great game.
6 - 7 Wonders
Like Fairy Tale (above), this is a game about building combinations and drafting cards. It plays with a large number of people, but manages to do so in a neat package and reasonable play time. It is an easy to game to play (though difficult to teach), and feels like a really neatly designed system. An excellent game.
5 - Kingdom Builder
Kingdom Builder is a game I was prepared to dislike based solely on the hype it was getting (like 7 Wonders), however, upon playing I found a very simple and yet highly enjoyable game. I really like the flexibility of the system, the variety of goals and objectives that subtly change the way players approach their turns. A very solid game that is highly enjoyable.
4 - Neuroshima Hex
Neuroshima Hex has probably been best described as a knife fight in a phone booth. Players are laying attack tiles on the board to create a network of attack and defense, but it’s not clear exactly when the whole intricate network will simple explode, and there are casualties galore. This is one of the best games I have ever played, and I needn’t say more than that.
3 - Rivals of Catan
A two player spin-off of the powerhouse Settlers of Catan, and a revisioning of the older Settlers of Catan the Card game. It is a highly enjoyable and very well structured two-player game. The theme decks that come with the game give it a real flavour, and manage to emphasize different aspects of game-play, whether peaceful building, trading, racing for x, y, or z, or outright aggression, the theme decks add a huge amount to the game. This is a very good little game, and one that my wife and I enjoy a huge amount!
2 - Agricola
Agricola is a game that needs no introduction, you are a family of farmers building up your farm holding, growing crops, extending your family and home and breeding animals. I was prepared not to enjoy this game particularly much, but this is a game that my wife and I absolutely love playing together. The only downside is typical of these games - just as you feel you are getting everything sorted out the game ends. Agricola is a very good game that plays well with two.
1 - Song of Blades and Heroes
My flavour of the month, so to speak. How can I not add this game - after spending so many hours putting together terrain and painting figures...? Well truth be told, it’s also here because the game is simple, and yet engaging enough to remain highly enjoyable. It’s a skirmish game - meaning only a a small number of miniatures per side are required. Scenario play adds a whole other dimension to the game - and brings it from being an interesting 40 minutes, to a tense and enjoyable romp. I can’t wait to play with the supplemental rules...
Well, that’s a brief overview of my top 10... and as I wrote earlier, these are really all my top ones. I found it very difficult giving them a ranking, and I’m not happy with it - but it will suffice for now. All these games are favourites, and all are, in my view, excellent and fun games.
For some additional interest, here’s how my list looks expanded out to 30:
11 - Condottiere
12 - Castle
13 - Erosion
14 - Animalia
15 - Starfarers of Catan
16 - China
17 - Chaos in the Old World
18 - Nexus Ops
19 - War of the Ring
20 - Runewars
21 - Formula D
22 - Ra: The Dice Game
23 - Battlelore
24 - Taluva
25 - Pandemic
26 - American Megafauna
27 - Origins How We Became Human
28 - Court of the Medici
29 - Duel of Ages
30 - Manoeuvre