Archive for Annually Updated Top 50

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'nother year, 'nother list

If I could only keep 50 games, May 12th, 2021 edition: Love you more than everything Loved it more than anything Loved everything more than anything: an attempt at commitment
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Thu May 13, 2021 12:29 am
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100 Ranked

I did 20 two years ago.
50 last year.
I figured I'd finally go for the 100. The ranking is almost arbitrary, but it is based on desire to play again right now and not some notion of how objectively great the game is. Yes, this year I once again include games that I haven't played in a decade, but I think I'm getting better about this. They're on the list to prompt me to play them. If I repeatedly don't play them, they'll likely leave the collection and leave the list.
The Compleat Gamester - trawlerman's Top 100 Games, May 18th-19th, 2020 Edition, to be completely revised on the morrow, weather permitting, and if he gets out of bed.
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Tue May 19, 2020 10:06 pm
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50 Alphabetical

I like lists. I like picking out favorites. I like thinking about desert islands. A year ago, I put together my first attempt at an "all-time" list. That list can be found here:

There are a few differences between that list and this one.

That one was a foolish attempt at ranking games. For that list and this list, I didn't want to exclude fillers and card games and family games. If I had, then ranking would have been fairly easy. But how does one assess the relative ranking of Blood Rage and Cheeky Monkey? If I'm drinking beer with childhood friends, then I want to play Blood Rage. If I'm drinking root beer with actual children, then I want to play Cheeky Monkey. And so on. If I'm with one friend, I want to play Chess more than anything else. If I'm with another friend, I'm happy to be able to get Combat Commander to the table. And on and on. You get it.

The previous list was only 20 games. This one is 50. Maybe I'll keep on expanding this number out. I don't know. 50 seems like a tight enough number that games actually have to earn their spot on the list. Since joining BGG in 2005, I've rated 597 games. Currently, I've probably got about 150 games in the house. The fact is, based on space and based on what actually gets played, I should probably have no more than 100 games in the house. 100 is arbitrary, but it's around the right number FOR ME. But this list is only 50.

Related to the number 50, the last list was restricted to games that I've played more than 5 times. I've relaxed that restriction here. I've only played Unhappy King Charles once. Yet it really is one of my favorite games. I'm a fool for not carving out the time to play it more. But I'm not getting rid of it; it's not leaving my collection. Putting it here on this list is almost an instance of me admonishing myself, telling myself to get my act together and actually play the games I say I love.

So, what games do I love? Here's the list:
(# of plays is face-to-face plays logged here on BGG since 1/1/06)

Trawlerman's All-Time Top 50 (2019 Edition)

Age of Steam
# of plays: 5
First play: 1/18/06
Last play: 1/21/17

I can clearly remember the day in '06 when my friend Joe taught me this game. It was only my second week going to the Buffalo Meetup Group, so I barely knew Joe or anyone else. I owned a copy of Way Out West already, so was familiar with Wallace, and with Warfrog, and knew about AoS by its reputation. This first play was great. 2006 was all about playing widely rather than deeply. I was discovering new games every week. I wish now that I had insisted on playing more AoS, but that didn't happen. I didn't play again until three play in '08, followed by a 10+ year gap of no playing (because it was like pulling teeth trying to get local gamers to play at the time), then another play at NBW in '17. I still love the game. It's my mission to get it played much more often. My older children are old enough to play AoS now, so I think it's time that I taught them lessons in bankruptcy.

I enjoy the brutal decisions of AoS, assessing the value of the auctions, and laying track aggressively. It's probably one of the meanest games on this list.

# of plays: 9
First play: 4/10/08
Last play: 1/1/19

Agricola is mean in a different way than AoS. There isn't as much direct player interaction, but the game itself punishes you, by giving you so many options, then reminding you that you can't pursue any of those options or your family will starve. It's a slow grind to success. Maybe this should remind me to much of real life struggles and tensions, but I guess in its board game version, this stress is delicious. In real life, I've only successfully figured out the family growth with no room action. :-)

# of plays: 6
First play: 2/10/07
Last play: 2/3/12

I love the rondel. That's all.

I've almost purged this game from the collection a few times. It still might happen, and may not be on the next version of this list. This is almost an earlier version of Scythe for me. The Scythe player boards are just miniature rondels (with a little bit more freedom of movement). Scythe fills the same sort of micro-civ/engine-building grind that I liked about Antike. The more I think about it while writing this, the more I think it's true. I just haven't felt the need to play Antike at all since playing Scythe. Dang it. Maybe I shouldn't have put it on this list. Still, I respect this game for the joy it brought me in the past.

I know that a lot of heavier gamers prefer Imperial as their Gerdts game of choice. I've played Imperial twice. One lesson that Imperial taught me is that I like Area Control/Area Majority games. I like Dudes on a Map. I like having a board presence and manipulating pieces in real space. Imperial failed for me because the heart of the game was elsewhere, in the money instead of on the map. I respect that design a lot; it's just not for me.

Attack on Titan: Deck-Building Game
# of plays: 6
First play: 12/27/16
Last play: 9/15/18

Attack on Titan is my favorite co-op game (and the only one on this list). I've only seen the first few episodes of the show. I like to imagine that the show only last a few more episodes, then everyone is eaten or crushed, and the world ends in flames. Because that's how everyone of my plays of this game has ended. I've read that others have beaten this, so it must not be impossible. I'm just really bad at it.

# of plays: 28
Last play: 11/19/11

Wow, it's been a long time since I've played Bananagrams. Still, a word game needs to be on this list. What I remembered being great about Banangrams was the lack of a board and a lack of special bonus spaces. But the truth is that I don't even remember the simple rules to this game. I need to fix that and play this again soon.

Barbarian Prince
# of plays: 5
Last play: 1/25/11

It has also been a long time since I've played Barbarian Prince. It's easily my favorite solo game, delivering on the promise of so many lame choose-your-own-adventure books of my youth (not to mention the somewhat better Lone Wolf books). When I was playing this more often (in '10/'11), I would entertain my children by telling them the story of my adventures and my untimely death. I never did regain the kingdom.

# of plays: 55
Last play: 7/21/18

For a long time, I told people that this was my favorite game of all time. In the past year, I've realized that that's probably not true anymore. But this game was very important to me in the year 2000. It was the game that convinced me that new great games were still being made. I wrote a review of the game when I first joined BGG in '05:

Blood Rage
# of plays: 2
Last play: 3/2/19

I like Blood Rage. A lot. I didn't think I would. I was convinced that it was overhyped. I don't like any other card drafting games. I don't really care for the type of "blind bidding" card combat. I shouldn't like Blood Rage, and yet I do. I've had a blast playing it with old friends. I'm pretty good at strategy games. What that means in this game is that I get a pretty good lead, then I get crushed when everyone decides that I need to be punished. I need to learn the gentle art of riding second place and swooping in for the kill only on the last turn.

I backed the recent KS reprint, and I'm excited to get a copy to play with my kids.

# of plays: 21
Last play: 12/24/18

Carcassonne is a nice game. It's a nice game even when it's a mean game with mean farmers. I also used to play this a lot via the iPhone app, which was a great digital implementation.

# of plays: 4
Last play: 1/21/17

I need to play more Caylus.

Cheeky Monkey
# of plays: 9
Last play: 3/5/18

Cheeky Monkey is my push-your-luck game of choice. It's quick and simple. Mostly, it's fun as a kid's/family game, but I've also enjoyed it as a light filler in other settings.

# of plays: 47
Last play: 1/1/18

If I logged online plays, Chess would be my most played game of all time. I go through periods of binge playing on the app.

Chess was the most important game of my childhood. I was fortunate to be a part of a short-lived elementary school chess club. Because it was so short-lived, I never got the chance to compete in any part of the tournament scene, so as I grew up, all of my plays of this were friendly games. In high school, some of us got more serious about chess, reading books, doing daily puzzles, etc. We had regular games going in study hall, and played often.

# of plays: 10
Last play: 6/4/18

This is one of my favorite light card games. My children usually beat me at it.

Combat Commander
# of plays: 8 (6 Europe + 2 Pacific)
Last play: 4/13/18

I love the narrative swinginess of Combat Commander. At the end of any single game of CC, I usually have some crazy story to tell about something that has happened during the course of the game.

Dungeons & Dragons
# of plays: 27
Last play: 1/30/17

I messed around with 2e as a kid. Mostly, I remember long sessions of creating characters with one of my friends. Then the two of us would host arena combat games and have the characters fight one another. That was the extent of my early life in role-playing.

When 5e came out, I heard good things and picked it up. I've been role-playing off and on with my good friends ever since.

Dungeon Crawl Classics
# of plays: 1
Last play: 9/14/18

While some of my friends still prefer D&D, I've fallen madly in love with DCC (and now MCC). I love the joyful spirit of it. The rules as written are great. The system is great. But where the game really shines is in the many adventure modules. Nothing is too crazy for Dungeon Crawl Classics!

# of plays: 9
Last play: 8/14/18

Go melts my mind. Every time I try playing online, I realize what a poor player I still am. I'm better than my kids, but I think that even they could beat me if they put some effort into it.

Fury of the Norsemen
# of plays: 0 (0 logged, because I used to not log solo plays of non-solo games)
Last play: n/a

I've only played this one solo, so it's a bit of a cheat to list it here. But I've had this game for many years, and it has survived many serious culls. Fury of the Norsemen represents every small historical wargame that I'm interested in. I love the specificity of games like this. In particular with this game, I love how it really does capture the feel of a viking raid, both from the viking perspective (slaughter and pillage), and the settlement perspective (fear and determined survival).

Great Western Trail
# of plays: 9
Last play: 11/26/18

I get the complaints of those who think that this is game is a design mess, but I almost immediately came under the sway of this game's rhythms. I love following the trail and delivering cows!

Hammer of the Scots
# of plays: 11
Last play: 5/21/18

I've become friends with the Hammer of the Scots World Champion (he won several years at WBC and now runs the tournament). One play with him taught me that the game is even more deep than I thought (and I already thought that it was pretty deep). It's a subtle game much more about movement and retreat than about blunt force.

# of plays: 58
Last play: 7/10/18

Hive is one of my favorite modern abstracts (which is a game genre that I enjoy greatly).

# of plays: 5
Last play: 12/23/11

It's hard to believe that it's been that long since last playing Java. Java probably is my least favorite of the Mask Trilogy, but each time I played it, I had a great time. I only think that it suffers in comparison, because if I'm given the choice about which one to play, I'll pick Tikal every time.

# of plays: 14
Last play: 3/2/19

KeyForge scratches the Magic itch without being Magic.

King of Tokyo
# of plays: 26
Last play: 7/21/18

I generally dislike dice manipulation games. I generally dislike Yahtzee style games. I've played this one a few times as a light game with adults, but I like this one mainly because of seeing how much joy it has given my kids.

Legendary Guys, The
# of plays: 6
Last play: 9/14/18

This is a great little role-playing party game that should be better known.

Lord of the Rings
# of plays: 8
Last play: 11/19/16

This is NOT the co-op Knizia LotR. This is the awesome children's adventure game Knizia LotR. It's pretty heavily luck-based, but it's for kids, and it feels pretty epic for what it is.

Lost Cities
# of plays: 13
Last play: 10/18/15

I used to play this pretty often with my wife. I still have good memories of playing this with her. I guess it's been a while. Gaming is not her first activity choice. Sigh.

Love Letter
# of plays: 4
Last play: 3/12/18

Huh. It's odd that I've only played this 4 times. I know that my children have played this hundreds of times. I have a lot of respect for how clean this simple design is.

Magic: The Gathering
# of plays: 275
Last play: 11/21/18

By far, my most played game. Most of these plays were based on when my brother-in-law was local. He would come up to the house on a summer evening and we'd Winston Draft, then play several rounds.

2 player Live Booster Draft is currently my favorite way to play:

# of plays: 6
Last play: 4/16/18

Mexica can be pretty cutthroat. It comes from a better time, when German Games valued high player interaction, and hadn't morphed into Euro games yet.

No Thanks!
# of plays: 42
Last play: 3/26/19

No Thanks is the perfect filler card game.

Normandy '44
# of plays: 2
Last play: 3/27/11

This is the game that taught me that I could play pretty much any wargame that I want to play. It's also the wargame that taught me that I don't have the life circumstances to be regularly playing any wargame that I want to play. I sold my 1st edition copy for a profit when it went out of print. I bought the 2nd edition. I currently have my 2nd edition copy listed on eBay for $100, because I can't justify holding onto an unplayed game if someone else is willing to spend that kind of money on a copy. Some day I'll probably buy a 3rd edition because I'm a sucker.

It's probably true that a game that I'm getting rid of for the second time doesn't belong on a list like this, but it's my list, and I'll do as I please. The reason this game is here, I guess, is because it represents the weight of game and time commitment that I'd like out of a wargame if I had the free time and opponents to be playing these games regularly.

# of plays: 12
Last play: 1/13/19

PitchCar is another game on the list because I love seeing the joy that it brings to people who play it, especially to my children as they play it with extended family during holiday parties.

Myself? I'm terrible at flicking games.

# of plays: 7
Last play: 3/1/19

Root is a charmer. It quickly rose to its place as one of the best 'dudes on a map' games in my collection.

Saint Petersburg
# of plays: 6
Last play: 2/26/19

This is my favorite pure "engine builder." Buy cards to buy more cards more efficiently.

# of plays: 9
Last play: 4/9/19

I love direct player interaction, but I also find mostly solo-ish engine building pretty satisfying. Scythe is really all about taking baby step after baby step until you're able to run.

# of plays: 7
Last play: 1/19/19

Shogi revitalized my love for chess, and also gave me something new to love in itself. The change of being able to drop captured pieces onto the board is huge. It's a difficult change to wrap one's head around, but it definitely increases the depth of the game, forcing one to always be mindful of what's off the board as much as what's still on the board.

Summoner Wars
# of plays: 15
Last play: 3/11/19

Summoner Wars is deeper than it first appears on its surface. I mostly play it casually with my kids, but appreciate it for the level of decisions it brings into what is clearly a fun head-to-head skirmish game.

Target Arnhem: Across 6 Bridges
# of plays: 2
Last play: 1/4/10

I'll always be grateful to MMP for sending this game out free in the mail back in the day. It was wonderful to receive. I set it up and solo'd it a bunch. I pretty much taught myself how to play wargames (and learn much of the language of the genre) with this game.

I'm not sure that it would stand up to many repeated plays, but I'll always hold onto my copy. Writing this has me wanting to bust it out sometime soon to play with one of my older kids.

# of plays: 9
Last play: 12/22/17

I'm not afraid to admit that sometimes a stupid party game is exactly what is needed.

Terra Nova
# of plays: 11
Last play: 2/26/18

I love abstracts. I love area control games. Before Terra Nova, no one had done it better or more purely than Kramer/Kiesling. Terra Nova, though, takes that area control formula and boils it down to its essence. This game is severely underrated, and deserves more attention.

# of plays: 7
Last play: 12/18/18

This one is still in my collection (and makes it onto this list) because it works as a solid filler for a larger crowd. It's late and you want to play a game, but nothing too long and nothing too thinky? TransAmerica is the game you want.

Through the Desert
# of plays: 12
Last play: 6/16/18

Through the Desert is another game on this list from an earlier time in German design, when players didn't mind rudely cutting off other camel caravans.

Tigris & Euphrates
# of plays: 15
Last play: 6/4/18

I'm firmly in the camp that believes that this is the good doctor's best game, and one of the best games of all time.

# of plays: 13
Last play: 2/18/19

And this is the best of the Kramer/Kiesling collaborations, and also one of the best games of all time. Action Points! Analysis Paralysis! I love it.

# of plays: 2
Last play: 1/22/19

Transatlantic takes the great card use idea behind Concordia and applies it to a much more dynamic game with greater direct player interaction.

Twilight Struggle
# of plays: 9
Last play: 12/11/15

I don't know about TS anymore. I used to think that it was one of my favorite games of all time. Lately, I just haven't had any desire to play it. Things like the space race die roll bug me. Not having the cards memorized feels like I just haven't cared to get into the game. I'm still sucker punched by lame lack of knowledge. I don't know. I know that it's still a great game. I need to get back to it.

Unhappy King Charles!
# of plays: 1
Last play: 7/30/11

Only 1 solo play and 1 face-to-face play, but I know that I'll never get rid of UKC. I'm fascinated by the English Civil War, so this game is naturally of interest to me. I'm eagerly anticipating Vasey's new project, The Good Old Cause. There's not much information available about it (maybe I need to log back into CSW for the first time in years?), but it looks to be another civil war game, this time from Compass.

Victory Lost, A
# of plays: 1
Last play: 2/23/09

Only 1 play. Ten years ago. I remember the game taking all day. And I remember being fully engaged the entire time, hardly noticing the passing of time. I have to live with the idea that I'll probably never get this to the table ever again.

Ziegen Kriegen
# of plays: 12
Last play: 1/1/19

With No Thanks and Coloretto, this is my favorite card game filler.


Well, that's it. My list of 50. For right now.

For the sake of those who don't think that a list like this counts unless it's ranked, here's a concession, my current Top 10 as a Top 5, ranked, as of today, this very moment:

1) Chess / Go / Shogi
2) Tigris & Euphrates / Tikal
3) DCC / D&D
4) Magic: The Gathering
5) Blood Rage / Root

Direct head-to-head confrontation and goofing around with friends. That's what I like the best.
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Tue Apr 23, 2019 8:57 pm
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