Casualgod's 3rd Annual Top 20 Games of All Time
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This year's top 20 list was a lot more difficult for me to compile than in previous years. So many great new games vying for spots! Yes, this is an "all time" list so I have to look at each new game critically and compare them to the standouts that reappear on my list year after year.

Also, some of those old favorites which used to have a spot in my Top 20 have been given the hard eye. Some big names have fallen considerably or are completely absent. Most of those drops are due to infrequent play. Example: I love Twilight Struggle. I think it is a marvel of modern design. Yet, I have played it once in the last 2 years. Games that aren't getting played in my house are simply going to take a back seat on this list to games that get played. Pure and simple.

On the flip side, play count cannot be the only factor to be on this list. Some lighter games that cater to a wide player count and can make it to the table more easily due to familiarity don't necessarily get a pass to the top 20. They have to be great games as well.

So, this Top 20 may be more flawed than my lists in the past, but this is an attempt at honesty. I am not just holding up 20 games that I think are great, but I never play. Instead, here is a list of top quality games that I actually play and feel deserve their place in any discussion about the great games of our time.

2013 List:
Casualgod's 2nd Annual Top 20 Games Of All Time

2012 List:
Casualgod's Top 10 Games Of All Time
Casualgod's Next 10 Best Games of All Time
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1. Board Game: Vanuatu [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:598]
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Game #20 (biggest drop)

Previous Spot: #4


What I said last year:

This may be a bit of an emotional rating. To be honest, I have only played Vanuatu 4 times as of the writing of this list. It is very possible that after several more plays I will discover a lack of replay value, or an overriding strategy that kills it for me or some other element that lowers my rating.

That said, Vanuatu was my #1 New to Me Game of 2013, as listed here. The last time I was so bowled over by a new game was in 2011, when I played Tammany Hall for the first time.

I love that Vanuatu looks like a nice little game of pick up and deliver with some developing. You get to do things like dive for treasure, catch and sell fish and be a tourist guide. You even get to make sand drawings on the beach for victory points. Underneath this pleasant facade lurks a very vicious little Euro via an action selection mechanism I found to be very unique and refreshing which requires careful planning and plotting.

The mix of tactical and strategic gameplay brought together by this wonderfully nasty action selection mechanism has captured my imagination these last two months and simply will not let go. We will see how long it lasts. In the meantime, I am sticking with my guns and calling this my #4 Game of All Time.

What I Say Now:


So, yes, my #4 rating was a bit of an emotional over reaction due to it being my favorite new game of 2013. Vanuatu saw two plays in my house over the past year and both plays were enjoyed by all. The cutthroat nature of the game is belied by its outward pleasent appearance and I love that contrast. Also, the action selection mechanism is still fresh and unique.

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2. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:157]
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Game #19

New to the top 20.


I have been curious about Samurai for a while now, but always missed a chance to play someone else's copy. Earlier this year, I jumped at the chance to grab a copy in very good condition via eBay for a reasonable price.

Typically, I do not buy games without playing them first, as I have learned that lesson a few times over. For some reason, I was comfortable that I would like this one and could recoup my money if not.

Happy to say, I love Samurai. First off, the game is gorgeous from the glossy black scoring tokens to the map boards and nifty player tiles. Gameplay is fast and dynamic with a great mix of tactical vs strategic.

I have recently had an epiphany about what I like about games and Samurai has the qualities I look for, with direct player interaction, low downtime, tightly focused scoring and a 45 minute playtime which plays well with 2-4 players.
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3. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:15]
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Game #18

Previous Spot: #16


What I said in previous years:

Rules as written, I have a couple of issues with Agricola (referring to the regular game here, not family). I feel that playing without some type of card drafting mechanic will lead to some very uneven play. Additionally, sitting to the left of that one player who always has to have the first player marker gives one a decided advantage.

That said, I house rule a drafting phase at game start and use Cylus style play order rules (you never move up in play order until you take the first player action). With these additionas, Agricola is a fine game and plays 2-4 players extremely well.

The replay value afforded by the cards, along with multiple paths to victory, the constant pressure to feed your family and the long term planning bested by few other games, makes Agricola a favorite that has been coming back to my table year after year.

I picked up the Championship deck in 2013 and that did a lot to help bring Gric to the table a number of time. Enough to make it my 3rd most played game of 2013. Most of these games were 2 player lunch games with a buddy of mine who counts Agricola as his #1 game. He is also very good at Gric but I managed to win maybe 5 of our 15 games, enough to keep it interesting for him.

What I Say Now:

First off, yes I have played Caverna. No, I do not consider it an improvement on Gric. The static game board on Caverna can never vie with Gric's staying power through the various cards that a player can end up with and have to make work. I prefer straight jacket games over the sand box feel of Caverna. So, simple taste here for me. Second, good lord what a mess Caverna is on the table with stuff everywhere. Gric is already at my extreme limit when it comes to sheer amount of components littering the table. I do not like this trend of games having hundreds and hundreds components. It seems to me lazy game design to just keep throwing more and more stuff into a game. Call me a minimalist I suppose.

Agricola did not get as many plays this year mostly due to the lunch gaming that was going on has sadly come to an end. Still, good ole Gric did see a few plays this year and I always enjoy the kick in the mouth of feeding your family while trying desperately to make points where one can.
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4. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:31]
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Game # 17

Previous # 15

What I Said Last Year:


Le Havre eluded me for a number of years. I think it's comparison to Agricola kept me away from it as I liked that game and did not want a rehash of the same mechanisms. Boy was I wrong. While Gric and Le Havre share a few things in common, they are completely different games.

Le Havre, to me, is a lot less frustrating than Gric. You can make a plan in Le Havre and expect to be able to accomplish it and if you do not, it's your fault and no one elses. The shear amount of options presented to you in Le Havre can be daunting, but they just add to the replay value.

I love the multiple paths to victory and the replay value presented by the variable setup as well as the large quantity of special cards which completely change the way you play the game.

Yes, Le Havre is a get these, to flip them into those, to make victory points style resource conversion game. But it is probably one of the two or three best games of that variety I have ever played.

Le Havre is also a really good two player game and it gets a lot of points from me for being so.

What I Say Now:

Le Havre only saw two more plays in 2014, after getting dozens in 2013. To be fair, I had a regular lunchtime apponent last year and we would play a game over several sessions. Still, Le Havre will have to see more play in 2015 to hold its spot in the top 20.

I think play time and so many newer games vying for table time have hurt Le Havre's chances to get play. Also, I wouldn't want to play it with more than 3 and my game nights have become quite popular and we usually have 5 gamers. All that said, I want to play Le Havre more often and that counts for something.
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5. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:93]
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Game # 16

Previous Spot: #8


What I said in previous years:

I managed to play Goa 8 times in 2013. As a result a couple of prevailing strategies have come to the fore. Not only that, but the end game scoring via the expedition cards can be wildly swingy. Finally, for a relatively luck free game, the expedition cards can certainly bite you during Colonizing phases, costing precious actions.

In a game where a couple points have been known to be the difference between first and last place, luck (IMO) has started to take an uncomfortable front seat in determining the victor in my last several games.

Despite my misgivings over luck in Goa, I still really like the game and enjoy each play. Certainly, good play is rewarded and no one is going to simply luck into a win. You still have to play really well to allow the luck to push you over the edge to pull a victory and for now, that is good enough for me, but not good enough to hold onto the #2 All Time spot.

What I Say Now:

Goa is just fun. Misgivings about prevailing strategies and swingy card draws aside, I have simply never taught this to someone who didn't enjoy it. For this reason, Goa remains on this list and continues to see regular rotation on my table. Everyone in my group knows Goa by now, and when we have 4 and need a 90-120 game, if this gets requested, no one ever shoots it down.

So, why the drop in rating? First, I continue to see the expedition strategy winning game in and game out. Second, possibly a little fatigue on my part? I still enjoy it and never pass down an opportunity to play it, but I am not usually the one recommending it.
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6. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:458]
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Game #15

Previous Spot: #14


What I said last year:

Second Best New to Me Game of 2013!

I had fairly high hopes for Spyrium. My first play was with 2 players. It was intriguing, but not earth shattering. Still, I could see that there was a strong game in there needing a player or two more to bring it fully to life.

I am happy to say, with 3 or more, Spyrium is a fantastic worker placement game by William Attia Mr Caylus himself.

I love the boiled down to brass tacks nature of the game. There is no fluff here. Spyrium is engine building in its rawest form. Get buildings to get spyrium, get buildings to flip Spyrium into victory points.

Add into the mix a unique (from what I have seen) WP mechanic that I can only somewhat liken to the timing mechanic in Tzolk'in and you have a whole new twist in the WP mechanism.

All this in a game with a 60-90 minute playtime and a medium sized box with a sub $30 dollar price tag.

Wow, just wow.

What I Say Now:

In 2014 I played Speicherstadt which has a similar style of auction mechanism, but I still prefer Spyrium for two reasons: the option to pull for money and the spatial relationships between the cards whereby a player can place a meeple and exert influence on more than a single card. That said, both Spyrium and Speicherstadt are very simple engine builders and Spyrium is simply better implemented. So, while Spyrium isn't as unique as I once held, it is better than the other game in its genre.
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7. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:10]
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Game #14

Previous Spot: #7


What I said in previous years:

This one is just fun. The first four games on this [note: previous year's] list can be considered brain burners, and while the strategy in CoB is by no means light or obvious, this game is very approachable by less experienced gamers. I have successfully taught CoB to non-gamers who enjoyed it quite a bit. It may be a stretch to call CoB a gateway game, but it is about as gateway as I usually want to play.

The central mechanic of using 2 dice actions at a time on your turn mixed with the tile drafting mechanic gives Castles of Burgundy a nice mix of long term strategy and short term tactics.

Also, the sense of satisfaction one gets after carefully setting up a nice cascade of actions yielding a super turn makes this one a lot of fun. Mix in a fair number of different player boards for replay value and you get one of Stefan Feld's best designs.

What I Say Now:

Castles of Burgundy was the King of my Gaming Table for nearly three years running. This resulted in considerable fatigue with this game. Also, after so many games I have come to regard doing well in this game to be much more atrituble to the tile draws, die rolls and player boards than any strategy or skill on the part of the player. After almost 80 plays, I can say with confidence my "Skill" at CoB did not appreciably improve after the first dozen plays. A typical CoB score for myself and those I play with can range from 180-240. So the winner of any one play is the person where the stars align best. Not what I want for a game that takes a solid 90 minutes for 3 player and 2 hours for 4.

All that said, I do not have the heart to boot CoB from the top 20 altogether. It has provided more hours of fun than just about any game in my collection. It is still a fun game, if not one I find very competitive.
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8. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:429]
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Game #13

New to the top 20.


I discovered Medici late last year. Too late for it to find a way onto my 2013 top 20. Since then, it has seen consistent play, being suggested by many players within my gaming circle.

Medici is a very simple to learn, hard to master, auction game. I have found that it plays 4-6 extremely well with a reasonable playtime of about 30-45 minutes. Often we will play two games back to back due to everyone having so much fun with it.

There is a fair amount of luck in Medici, but it is the right kind of luck: the kind you push.

I suppose I should mention this is a Knizia game and is in his "auction trilogy" which is a humorous title given that I have played quite a few more Knizia's with auctions as a primary mechanism. Still, Medici is most often compared to Ra, which I find a much clunkier game with its many ways to score. For a Knizia, Medici's scoring is downright sparse: points is money and money is points. What you spend in the auctions are your victory points and there is only the one resource in this game. Makes calculating values of the auctions both tense and enjoyable.

So, due to its wide play count, I would even play it with 3 in a pinch, perfect play time, ease of teaching and clean gameplay and scoring, this is my favorite Knizia auction game, and one of two Knizia's in my top 20.
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9. Board Game: Manhattan [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:973]
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Game #12

New to the top 20.


This is another game I have been familiar with for a couple of years, but it has been steadily growing on me. I liked it from my first play, but it took me a while to get a copy for a reasonable price.

Since acquiring my own copy, Manhattan has seen steady play on my table. I love the spatial aspect of the tower placement and I really enjoy watching the towers go up as the game progresses. The multiple layers of presence, area control and competition for the tallest tower make this game fairly deep despite its low complexity and ease of teaching.

I have seen last place players after the first two scorings end up winning the game when the dust settles in the final round. So, everyone is always in it to win it until the final card is played.

Manhattan is a great gateway game and one that seasoned gamers can also enjoy. It looks good on the table and is in and out in about an hour. No one I have taught it too has been disappointed.
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10. Board Game: Splendor [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:100]
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Game #11

New to the top 20


Splendor is a very polarizing game. A lot of people with whom I share similar tastes with despise this game. There have been cries of it being multi player solitaire, but I disagree. At first, it looks like the only interaction is in competing for cards in the display. There are a lot more ways to interact however. There is a whole tug of war going on in getting players to spend their chips before you so you can see a card flip at the right time. Also, there are the limited chip colors and grabbing and holding onto the right chips at the right time can cause your opponents a lot of pain. All that to say, every action you take in Splendor should not only further your goals, but hinder those of your opponents, much like in Puerto Rico. Ultimately, and this may sound weird to some, I find Splendor is over flowing with subtle interactions in how you push your opponents into taking the moves you want them to take at the time you want them to take them.

Aside from the interaction, the playtime makes it a perfect 2 or 3 player filler game or can easily stand in as a game night staple by playing 3 or 4 rounds in a row.

Also, I love engine building and Splendor is a stripped down engine builder and when it snowballs you can do some pretty quick game ending damage.

What's more, I like planning and you can definitely craft a strong strategy to go along with the strong tactical interactive style of play I mentioned above.

Splendor is a wonderful game which is probably not for everyone, because yes even though it has interaction, it is the quiet mustache stroking type of thoughtful interaction, not the "damn your hide for taking the last blue chip!" type of interaction, although come to think of it, that does happen as well.
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11. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:23]
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Game #10

Previous Spot: #11


What I said in previous years:

Hmm, let's see.
Route building: check.
Resource management: check.
Auctions: check.

Three of my favorite design elements in a game. The resource track in PG is pure dead brilliant. The way you can see ahead in the auctions to plan ahead combined with the route building choices give PG a heady melange of differently flavored choices all brought together by a unique victory condition: power the most cities in the final turn. After all your machinations, this is the only thing that matters and what everything boils down to.

Brilliant game.

I picked up the Robots expansion in 2013 to give PG some legs in games with fewer players. Suffice to say they did not succeed. These games devolved into who could best manipulate the robots, taking the game into an entirely new, unwanted, direction.

This brings us back to the player count issue which keeps PG from my table. Also, I have noticed a tendency of most games being determined either the round before it ends or very early in the final round, making the last 20 minutes or so very anti-climactic.

These issues have conspired to bring PG down a few notches in my estimation of the game.

What I Say Now:

Power Grid is, to me, the granddaddy of economic efficiency games. I occasionally give harsh criticism to games that are "just another economic efficiency game". For the most part, when I say this, I am saying they are dry and boring. But, somehow, Power Grid is neither dry nor boring. Due to the player order mechanisms, the route building on the various wonderful maps, the auctions and the resource economy, Power Grid is always engaging and dynamic. Nine times out of ten when I say "that game is an economic efficiency game", I mean it in a derogatory way. When I say it in regards to Power Grid, I say it reverently and in awe.
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12. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:41]
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Game #9

Previous Spot: #9


What I said in previous years:

Caylus is still the grand daddy of all worker placement games in my mind. I do like Agricola, but the cards in that game, while adding a lot of replay value, also add a lot of uneven play, which can be mitigated via house rules such as drafting. Also the turn order mechanic in Gric needs some tweaking for my taste. I also like the option to directly attack other players in Caylus and the various under handed ways to get favors. Almost no luck and multiple paths to victory round out this true classic.

My comments last year were a bit sparse, so let me expound...

Caylus was probably the 3rd Euro game I acquired back around 2005 or so after I started playing Settlers of Catan and went on to discover the plethora of gaming goodness we call "Euros". The second was Puerto Rico. Ah, good times!

Back then, of course, I didn't know Worker Placement from a whole in my head and I didn't think it was anything unusual. In the context of the game, it made sense for me, as a master builder, to be sending out my underlings everyday into town to acquire the items I needed in order to further my goal of building a Castle.

As we all know, Worker Placement would soon become a mechanism so oft used in Eurogames that it would induce groans among hardcore gamers. That said, Caylus may not have been the absolute first to use this now time honored (or derided depending on who you ask) mechanism, but it was fairly early in the genre and I still hold that it is among the best of the lot.

In addition to the worker placement, we have multiple paths to victory, a neat little tech tree of sorts and an engine building game where the scoring is always tight and keeps you on the edge of your seats until the final tally.

I picked up the iOS for Caylus in 2012 and it saw quite a bit of play in that medium. I tried online play but it was slow and too often people would drop out. I don't believe I ever finished an online game.

I also taught the game a couple times and re-discovered that Caylus is a damn fine 2 player game as well as being excellent at the 3 and 4 player counts.

What I Say Now:

Interestingly, Caylus has been #9 all three years of this list. Bear in mind I make these lists first, then go back and look to see how the games were previously rated.

Caylus saw an uptick of table time in 2014 and is liked by most everyone in my group. I look forward to consistently bringing Caylus back to the table in 2015.
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13. Board Game: Graenaland [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:2176]
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Game #8

New to the top 20


This is my Settlers of Catan killer. Make no mistake, this is not a game I will suggest in a recommendation thread for neophyte gamers looking for a next step after Catan. When I say this is my Catan killer (at the risk of sounding like a game snob), I mean this is Settlers of Catan for gamers.

Graenaland is an earlier Vlaada Chvatil game featuring resource management, network building, VOTING, and negotiations. I love this little known game more every time I play it and I have had some moderate success as a Graenaland evangelist.

I wrote a review of this year here for anyone interested in hearing my detailed thoughts on this wonderful game.
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14. Board Game: Tammany Hall [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:538]
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Game #7

Previous Spot: #2


What I said in previous years:

I adore this game. Why? Well, it played well 3 and 5 players, which is a great bonus considering the play count is 3-5. It plays in about and hour and the rules are about 5 pages long. I like short play times and simple rules. Check and check.

I also love auctions, and the blind auctions where all bids are lost make the decisions in Tammany Hall brutally tough and this is what made me fall in love with this game.

In short, quick play time, good at all player counts, tough decisions that are never obvious and simple elegant play.

Can't wait to own my copy.

Tammany made my top 10 list last year on the basis of 2 plays. Fortunately, Tammany held up with repeated play. I picked up my own copy early in 2013 and managed to play it 14 times in 2013.

I also wrote a review of it here: The Way To Have Power Is To Take It - Another Mixed Review by Casualgod.

What I Say Now:

Tammany is probably the meanest game on this list. AS such, I am often hesitant to bring it out. This game is just tense all the way through and it seems like every decision can make the difference between ultimate success and failure. This is both great and a little damning for the game as I typically play to relax and relaxation is about the last thing on my mind when I play Tammany Hall. Still, I cannot deny that while I play I am engaged and closely watch every move by every player. I just need to learn to chill out when people start dropping cubes in my wards WHEN THERE IS CLEARLY A BETTER MOVE FOR THEM TO MAKE.
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15. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:14]
David Debien
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Game #6

Previous Spot: #3


What I said in previous years:

Puerto Rico hits my playtime sweet spot at about 90 mintues, and plays really well with 3-4. I do not like the 5 player game as it seems to downplay the significance of the Governor and lengthens downtime to an unacceptable degree for me.

Puerto Rico may or may not have invented the role selection mechanic, but when I see it in other games, I can't help but think how PR does it better.

PR is such an elegant game, offering almost perfect information to the players. Due to this, PR is played almost entirely in the players heads rather than on the board (if that makes any sense). Maneuvering your opponents into positions where they do what you want them to for your benefit is what makes PR shine for me.

Also, PR is a great engine building game which is fairly limited in the base game but gets blown wide open by the inclusion of the expansion buildings. Add in multiple paths to victory and you have what I consider the greatest board game of all time.

I have had to admit to myself some hard truths about my erstwhile favorite game.

Mainly things people already know. Like player order issues and games with players of mixed Puerto Rico Playing skills.

I played PR twice in 2013 and both games were somewhat lackluster. Predictably, the players to the left of the newbies either did really well or the rookies received considerable help from myself and the other experienced player to offset the skew. Either way, the game suffered as a result.

Still, with the right group, I still contend PR is one of the finest games you can get your hands on and for that reason PR remains high on my list, but I can no longer justify a 1 Rating.

What I Say Now:

In my first top 20, Puero Rico was my #1 rated game. Puerto Rico had been my favorite game for so long, it just became like a reflex action to say it was still the case, not taking into account all of the great new to me games I had been discovering in the meantime.

I think for now, #7 is a solid spot for Puerto Rico. With 3 or 4 skilled players, I can think of very few games I would rather play.

I played three games of Puerto Rico in 2014. The first and third games were with 3 players, including a neophyte and someone who had played it a few times. Scores were predictable with the neophytes coming in a distant last, the middling skilled players second and with me wining by a comfortable margin in both games. Not what I look for in a game.

The second game was again with 3, this time a little more evenly matched and it was one of the best game plays of the year, affirming my high regard for this great game that has stood the test of time.

I have been on a kick lately to get my group up to snuff in regards to Puerto Rico skills. Perhaps in 2015 I will accomplish my goal of home brewing some serious competition and I can get Puerto Rico back into the Top 5.
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16. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:219]
David Debien
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Game #5

Previous Spot: #6


What I said in previous years:

I have made my love of Macao no secret on the forums and geeklists of BGG, loudly declaring my fondness as often as possible.

There are higher rated Feld games but I hold Macao above them because:

1: I love super turns. I mentioned this in Castles of Burgundy, which also features super turns, but the super turn you can pull off in Macao make any from CoB pale in comparison.

2: Many complain about the luck in Macao. I think most people who lodge this complaint play it once or twice and don't fare well with the dice. However, familiarity with the game will uncover the many ways you can speculate the dice colors in your game. You can look ahead to office cards as well as play common colors together. You can also see what city quarters you will want to buy. It just feels great when your color speculations pay off in this game and again familiarity pays off here, so the replay value you get from playing well due to this familiarity keeps this one coming back to the table.

#3: Engine building. Once you get a head of steam in Macao, you can do some really amazing things combining your card affects. The sheer variety of these cards and the combinations you can make with them again contribute to an already over the top replay value.

#4: Final scoring is always close making Macao tense to the very last moment.

In 2013 I finally stepped up and wrote a full review of Macao.

I will let that review stand as my thoughts on the game if anyone is interested.

What I Say Now:

Macao continues to draw steady play on my table with 4 plays in 2014. If I recall, I lost all 4 as I have found that Macao is more fun if you press your luck to the breaking point and take a bunch of hard to complete cards. So far, it hasn't quite clicked, but I am hopeful my next game the stars will align and I will have a break out game.
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17. Board Game: High Frontier [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:733]
David Debien
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Game #4

New to the Top 20


I have to start by saying that this is not at all my kind of game. If you hadn't noticed by browsing this list, I am a dyed in the wool Euro gamer who prefers economic engine building games that take 45-120 minutes to play. High Frontier is none of those things. In fact, it is spectacularly unlike anything else on this list.

So, what is this grain of salt doing in this pepper shaker?

Simple answer: story telling and problem solving.

The story this game tells each time it is played is simply amazing. In no other game I own, can you (virtually) do the COOL things you do in this game. And because these things are so difficult and complex to pull off (here is the problem solving part) that when you do these cool things you feel a real sense of accomplishment that eclipses the rush from winning at other games.

By simply overcoming the roadblocks the game puts in your way, you can get that "I won" rush several times in a game. Oddly, actually winning at High Frontier is no where near as big a deal to me as setting up a Space Factory on a particularly difficult object in the outer solar system after 90 minutes of careful planning and acting and then producing some cool new technology on it and returning it to Earth for a big payoff or to use as some new super high tech tool.

All that said and I have only scratched the surface. I recently picked up the Colonization expansion which doubles the complexity and challenges (yikes) as well as doubling the size of the board (drool) and more than doubling the number of cards and technologies available to the players (wow).

If Colonization lives up to the promise set forth by Vanilla High Frontier, I will be looking forward to many long plays of this in 2015.
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18. Board Game: Steel Driver [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:910]
David Debien
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Game #3

Previous Spot: #5


What I said in previous years:

This the only Wallace game to make this list and indeed I have not played many of his greatest games, Brass among them. So, I have some pretty big holes to fill, but as I have mentioned, I have only played about one tenth the amount of games as someone like Tom Vasel.

Why do I like Steel Driver so much? Well, it plays very well from 3-6 in about 75-90 minutes regardless of the number of players. It also features some of my favorite mechanics: auctions, route building, and stock speculation. The neat little set collection mini-game that comes at the end is also very cool.

Final scores in Steel Driver are always close and everyone I have taught this to has seemed to like it.

What I Say Now:

This is the only game that has climbed further up my top 20 all 3 years. I think at #3 it has likely peaked, but I still enjoy every play and admire the design. TO read more of my opinion of this under appreciated Wallace game, read my review.
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19. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:30]
David Debien
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Game #2

Previously not in my top 20


I have to admit, I played my first game of Brass about 3 years ago. But, this is the first time it is appearing in my top 20. Exactly what the hell took me so long?

In my defense, my first couple plays from a few years ago were awkward plays where we were learning the game as we went along and missed several rules. The result was a couple lackluster plays. When I came back to it a few months later, I found I had forgotten just about everything and trying to parse out the rules again seemed more trouble than it was worth.

Fast forward to earlier this year when I was invited to play Brass online. That first play was every bit as painful as the face to face games from a few years ago, but I vowed to figure this beast out and atone for my poor play in my first online game. After a few more plays, everything clicked and I realized Brass for what it is: a brilliant heavy Euro game with marvelously enmeshed game mechanisms, tight resource economy, brilliant player interaction, and a wonderfully realized theme.

I have since played Brass a dozen or so times face to face and enjoyed every minute of it.

So, what is so great about Brass? First of all, the interaction in Brass is relatively high. Everything you do has an impact on those around you and everything they do will influence how you proceed with your strategy. The game is heavy but once one understands the rules and implications of certain actions, Brass flows amazingly well. Many paths to victory, strong replay value and the fact that all players are engaged even when it is not their turn (I hope someone builds a Coal in Manchester, or connects to my port in Liverpool or drains the iron market so that I can overbuild red's mine, etc) round out this fantastic game.
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20. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:61] [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked]
David Debien
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Game #1

Previous Spot: #1


What I said in previous years:

I recently had an epiphany in regards to Dominion. It has been the most played game in my house over the past 3 or so years. This is mainly due to it being my wife's favorite game and the fact that I am just happy that my wife plays games with me. I used to fool myself into believing that I tolerated so many plays of Dominion and that I merely found it to be ok. I rated it a 7.

But then, I got to thinking. I have played literally many hundreds of games of Dominion. Would any of my other games stand up to so much repeated play? Highly doubtful. Despite that, I still play Dominion and, indeed look forward to and enjoy my plays of this game. Why is that so? Is it just because I am happy to be playing games with my wife or is something else going on here?

My conclusion, of course, is that something is indeed going on here. I like Dominion. A lot. My previous lackluster rating comes from the fact that I play it so often with my wife, that I do not seek to play it with others. Why should I when I get to play it so regularly at home?

We own all the expansions except for Alchemy and have moved all the cards into the base box and one of the small boxes (Guilds, I think). Combined, my Dominion collection weighs 15 pounds! The sheer variety of strategies, fast game play and interesting twists keep Dominion fresh for me play after play after play.

While the core mechanisms never change, I view each unique spread of Kingdom cards to be its own game, with its own strategies, challenges and hidden delights. I am sure I would quickly tire of and indeed grow sick of any other game on this list if I attempted any where near the number of plays I have had (and continue to have) of Dominion.

For all of the above reasons I have had to be honest with myself and rate Dominion as my #1 Game of All Time. No other game on this list comes close to the replay value and joy I have received from this game, nor would they ever be able to do so.

What I Say Now:

Everything I said above still applies. Also, in 2014 I added Alchemy to my collection, completing my Dominion collection and giving us even more options with near infinite replay value. I look forward to the day that Dominion falls to #2 because that means I will have discovered an even more perfect game.

If anything, I like Dominion more now than ever. Playing Dominion is fun and relaxing and I can play it for hours on end. One of the things I love about this hobby is learning and playing new to me games. Every time I play Dominion, I get that new game feel due to the endless variations of the kingdom card spreads. So, I get the joy of discovery every time I play Dominion without having to teach, learn or buy a new game. Brilliant. Writing this makes me want to play Dominion now...
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