Ian's Top 50 Games
Ian O'Toole
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Inspired by the Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast, and by Tom Vasel's Top 100 videos, I've decided to make a Top 50 list of my own.

Many of these are games I've played a lot, and many I've only played a few times. There are games that I've played more than most games on this list that didn't make it, either because they've fallen out of favour or the reason I've played them so much is down to some other factor.

This is a list of my favourite games at this point in time, NOT what I believe are the best games of all time. Let me know what you like and hate

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1. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:47]
Ian O'Toole
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This game is just perfect for me. It's got a great pace, it's full of meaningful decisions and there are lots of paths to victory. Don't let the iconography scare you, this game is sublime
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2. Board Game: Summoner Wars: Master Set [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:171] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
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This is sometimes my number one game, it and Race for the Galaxy pretty much share that spot. This game has given me more moments of high drama than any other. Last minute saves, dramatic reversals of fortune and fantastic unexpected moves. Every faction feels completely different, yet all are supremely balanced and feel powerful. Add to that a great resource building mechanism and the spatial positioning aspect of the board and you have a game I could happily play every day.
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3. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:162]
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This is a new game for me, but I always knew that I'd like it. This plays like a mixture between Race for the Galaxy (see above!) and Innovation (see below!).

Cards having multiple uses is a mechanism that I really enjoy, as it leads to great tough decisions. Also every building power feels really powerful, making the strategic decisions very tough. LOVE this game.
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4. Board Game: Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:1013]
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This is the only LCG I've really dived into. Although I'm finding it pretty hard to unearth players at the moment.

The resourcing mechanism is great, as it allows you to count on a gradually increasing resource pool, while still creating agonising decisions (cards from your hand are sacrificed as resources). In my opinion that mechanism alone puts this above Magic: The Gathering as a game design.

The rest of the gameplay is quite unique, and very varied. Also, this game seems to offer the most freedom when it comes to deck building. You can put any amount of any of the factions in the same deck. The only reason not to is that the more you diversify the harder it becomes to effectively resource.
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5. Board Game: CO₂ [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:608]
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This is a great heavy, semi-cooperative euro game with a very unique theme of running green energy companies and trying to reduce global carbon emissions (while turning a profit). I find that the theme still comes through strongly, despite the high level of abstraction.
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6. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:38]
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Not at all the gimmick I feared it would be, this is a really riveting worker placement game with a lot of strategic depth, as well as an excellent timing mechanism that makes future planning crucial.
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7. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:25]
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Another highly thematic euro. I've never played a game that makes me feel more proud of having done well by the end of the game, or more crushed by having not. This also scales really well.
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8. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:304]
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This is another great card game by Carl Chudyk, designer of Glory to Rome. Every card represents a unique innovation that gives your civilisation a special ability if you utilise it. The sense of progression is fantastic as your civilisation moves through the ages, from early innovations such as writing and pottery through to nuclear fusion and the internet. Each age's innovations bring more and more powerful abilities.

This is quite a divisive game as it is very chaotic, and, before all players are familiar with the cards in each age, quite random. It plays to four but is at its best with two or three. In fact, I'd actively avoid playing with four.
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9. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:11]
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This is another newcomer, but the depth of strategy is apparent very early on, as is the variety of approaches provided by the fourteen different races. Also, it's a beautiful production. I'm really looking forward to exploring this more.
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10. Board Game: Myrmes [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:455]
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This is a worker placement game that I don't see around very much, but I really like it. It hits the sweet spot for me of tension created from not being able to do everything you want to, and having to make those hard decisions about which path to follow. There's a decent amount of variation in strategy and the theme makes it stand out, as does the great, vibrant artwork.
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11. Board Game: The Manhattan Project [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:247]
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A nicely streamlined worker placement game with another unique theme. This one allows players to directly attack other players' buildings, rendering them temporarily unusable. Although it's not a tactic that's been used much in the games I've played, I like that it's there.

I like the flow of this game. There are no defined rounds or turns. Players either place workers or recall workers on their turn, there's no stopping. Also, the game ends immediately once one player reaches a certain number of points, meaning that once a player begins to build bombs (the only way to score victory points) the tension kicks up a notch as everyone tries to catch up as quickly as possible.
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12. Board Game: Mansions of Madness [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:298] [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
Ian O'Toole
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This is a game that I love despite itself. It's flawed, with certain scenarios being pretty much broken, but I still love it, because no other game can create the stories and situations that this game can. If you play it as a collective story telling experience, and not necessarily to win, it is far more enjoyable. Also, I think it's better as a two, maybe three player game, with the investigator player(s) controlling multiple characters.

It also looks amazing on the table. The modular tiles are beautifully detailed and the miniatures are great. The Call of the Wild expansion is highly recommended, as the less linear style of scenarios fix many of the issues with the base game's.
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13. Board Game: City of Remnants [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1775]
Ian O'Toole
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This is a very thematically strong and varied game, in which players control a gang in a sci-fi city on a prison world. Using very nice deck building mechanisms to represent your gang strength and organisational and economic capabilities, players are able to recruit new members to their gang, buy items on the black market, develop areas of the city and attack each other, all the while hoping that the alien overlords who run the city aren't going to turn up and spoil your day.

It's long, but I love it.
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14. Board Game: Catacombs [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:776]
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And now for something completely different. This is a dexterity-based dungeon crawl game, in which players try to defeat the evil overlord by flicking their heroes, as well as their arrows and spells, around the board.

Unexpectedly strategic at times, and intentionally hilarious most of the time, this is a unique and engaging break from the norm.

Beware though, it's as ugly as all hell.
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15. Board Game: Alien Frontiers [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:181]
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This is a great dice rolling / worker placement game with beautiful retro sic-fi artwork. Oft compared to its predecessor, Kingsburg, Alien Frontiers' theme and central area control mechanisms push it to the front for me.

It does go a bit too long with four though, I think three is the sweet spot.
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16. Board Game: Glen More [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:282]
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A great tile laying / resource management game with a fantastic mechanism for claiming tiles that makes for some tough decisions. Despite the use of a dummy player, something that I usually hate, the is an excellent two player game, but it also scales well all the way to five.

Quick to play, but you feel like you've finished a meaty game when you're done.
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17. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:13]
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My favourite of Feld's games that I've played by a long shot, as I think it's one of his more cohesive. There are a few basic rules that govern how players use their dice actions, and the game's variety is contained in the effect each tile has when it's placed. It also provides some great opportunities to chain tiles for big scoring turns.

Three is probably the best number for this, although it works very well with two as well. I've only played it once with four and felt it ran far too long.
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18. Board Game: Suburbia [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:104]
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Similarly to Castles of Burgundy, this game's core mechanisms are very simple, yet there is a great amount of variety in the combinations of tile effects that grow in complexity as your suburb develops. This is far more thematic than the last game, however, and you'll find yourself planning your suburb as you would a real one, or at least attempting to.
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19. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:114]
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This is a great, quick two player card game filled with many small interesting decisions. Still haven't figured out what the secret panda on the camel is for though...
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20. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:75]
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The only co-op I play and enjoy, this game is a great puzzle with some nice thematic mechanisms. I always play with the expansion's mutations and fifth purple disease to increase the difficulty and keep the challenge fresh. At its best (and most challenging) with two players.
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21. Board Game: Vikings [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:348]
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A very nice, highly abstracted game about creating the best viking settlement (or something). Basically it's a tile laying game with pretty simple mechanisms that create some great gameplay choices. Hard to find at a reasonable price now but great fun.
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22. Board Game: Seasons [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:176]
Ian O'Toole
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A very unique card drafting / dice allocation / resource management game with fantastic artwork and great components. I haven't played this enough to be familiar with all of the cards but I'm very keen to play more. Great as a two player game, although I feel that three is probably best.
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23. Board Game: London (first edition) [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:305]
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This is one of only two Martin Wallace games on my list, although I haven't played a whole lot of his designs. The rules are extremely simple, but the complexity unfolds through the card combinations. Very easy to learn with lots of paths to victory.
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24. Board Game: Belfort [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:406]
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This blend of worker placement and area control mechanisms doesn't do anything revolutionary, but it ties it all together very nicely. The mid-round turn order swap is really interesting, and the artwork lends the game a lot of personality.
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25. Board Game: Tournay [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:862]
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A clever tableau building / worker placement hybrid with a nice sense of escalation as the game progresses. There are some less than ideal iconography choices, but a single play irons out those issues (don't use a greater than symbol as an arrow, basically).
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