My top 25 games
Andrew Plassard
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I wanted to go through my top 25 games and detail why I think they are fantastic. I've also included the player count(s) at which I enjoy the game.
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1. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:114]
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Martin Wallace knocked it out of the park with Age of Steam. This is a game all about route building, behind a crunchy auction. Each turn you have to determine the value of taking more load by assessing the value of routes you need and your interest in the special actions available.

The brilliance of the game lies in the depth of planning you need to do both based on the current board state, but also based on the upcoming production and what your opponents will do. Age of Steam rewards a balance of long term planning and efficiency. Even though the rules are simple and streamlined, there are always divergent strategies and multiple paths that can be taken to success.

If you like tight, economic games with little room for missed moves, then Age of Steam is a game for you. Oh and did I mention that there are over 150 maps for the game, each of which has its own rules?

3-6 players
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2. Board Game: Food Chain Magnate [Average Rating:8.22 Overall Rank:29]
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Food Chain Magnate is a perfect system where every decision you make is consequential. In FCM you are the CEO of a, hopefully, burgeoning restaurant and your job is to make your restaurant chain profitable. Easy enough, right?

The entire game is played on a board, but at the beginning of the game your agency on that board is limited to one 2x2 square representing your restaurant. Since your restaurant can't be moved, everything you do in the game is in reverence to that decision. Where do you want to market your burgers so that you and only you can sell them? What path does my truck driver take to get me drinks? Can I undercut my opponents on food prices? And can I open a second restaurant to maximize my output?

What makes FCM so great is its simplicity and how difficult that makes the remainder of the game. The only randomness in the game is the initial board setup and the rest of your success rests on your ability to take advantage of the system and what your opponents actions. Every decision you make has to weigh the current state of the game and every other decision your opponents have made.

3-5 players
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3. Board Game: Gloomhaven [Average Rating:9.00 Overall Rank:1]
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So I don't like dungeon crawls. I don't really need an in-depth theme to pull me in to a game. Legacy games don't really sit well with me since I don't enjoy destroying components and games made ever complicated by legacy rules. So why do I like Gloomhaven so much? It does each of these things in an elegant and innovative way.

So let's start with the dungeon crawl. I've played through all of Imperial Assault and I've played Descent and Doom a little. I understand that all of these are built on the same system so I may not have the full spectrum of comparison. My experience with these games is that they just get repetitive. Every mission feels the same, every turn feels the same, decisions aren't that consequential. What Gloomhaven does is it wraps these elements into interesting decisions with unique and thematic characters. I won't spoil anything here, but each thematic character type has interesting and unique abilities. The characters you're controlling also have powerful and thematic cards available to them, even though they don't fit into standard fantasy tropes.

And that leads me to the theming of the game. Nothing in the game is a standard fantasy trope. Each mission you go on has an interesting back story that leads you into the game. As I mentioned above,all of the characters you play as and all of the enemies you battle have clever tactics which you can implore.

Finally the whole legacy bit. For much of the second half of Pandemic Legacy I felt that the game just added rules and missions that weren't interesting from a gameplay standpoint. In Gloomhaven that isn't the case at all. All of the legacy rules have centered around living in Gloomhaven. The legacy changes don't add fiddly complexity, but instead make simple changes like improving your battle deck.

Gloomhaven is amazing. It is a beautifully written story wrapped in an exciting and tense game. I have yet to play a single mission that I felt was "easy". I really enjoy the sense that you can win or lose each quest you sent out on, but there isn't necessarily a sense of winning or losing at Gloomhaven, or at least that I've discovered yet. As I'm setting up each game I'm giddy to read about what is going to happen in the next game. It takes dedication to want to play Gloomhaven to the depths to discover what lies within, but I can definitely say that for me it is worth it.

2-4 players
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4. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
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Most of the games I enjoy are long, slog it out games with a high rules complexity. Race for the Galaxy has a similar degree of rules depth, but it plays in a much shorter time length. The tough decisions and hand management make each game of Race tense.

In Race there are numerous paths to victory, even though the game is mostly multi-player solitaire game played entirely with cards. Can you build a powerful production engine? Or will you be better off going deep into military and focusing on conquering Rebel worlds? Maybe you're a fan of the aliens.

Due to the variety of symbols in Race, the barrier to entry can be high but its worth it. You constantly have to decide if you're going to continue following your strategy or if its time to abandon ship for a different pursuit.

2-4 players
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5. Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:343]
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If Food Chain Magnate is all about playing your opponents, The Great Zimbabwe is all about playing the game. FCM rewards your ability to think two steps ahead of your opponents and your skill at predicting and reacting to what they will do. It is virtually impossible to build an engine in FCM that someone can't find a big enough wrench to throw into it.

In TGZ you can set yourself up perfectly and create an unstoppable force. Your goal is to play the game, and to play it better than your opponents. TGZ gives you numerous options to score points and branching strategies where every decision you make is vitally important.

3-5 players
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6. Board Game: Indonesia [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:189]
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Indonesia is a game that scratches a similar itch as Age of Steam. The game revolves around building production companies and maximizing the value of the shipping routes around the board. Another Splotter with simple rules and a lot of strategic depth, the game is loaded with monkey wrenches that people can throw into your plans. From the amazing merger mechanism to the ability to start new production companies all over the map, Indonesia is a gem that will keep your brain burning for the entire game.

3-5 players
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7. Board Game: Keyflower [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:42]
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For a while Keyflower was my favorite game, and for good reason. Richard Breese seamlessly integrates worker placement and auction mechanisms into an interesting civilization building game.

Throughout the course of the game you're challenged to decide if you are better off using your limited workers to bid for new tiles or to gain resources. That duality and limited resource availability creates a tight dynamic built around the economy of meeples. Players will frequently find that they are not the only person who wants a particular tile and thus the bidding will get intense. At that point, you need to decide what is best for you - to bid further or to change your strategy.

2-4 players
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8. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:52]
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Chaos reigns free in Dominant Species, a game about survival of the fittest as the ice age approaches. Your goal is to leverage a worker placement system to maximize your presence on the board.

What makes Dominant Species a successful game for me is it's mean, but the game isn't generally direct about that meanness. You may kill someone's species on the board, but when you do that it isn't really about killing them, it's about your moving up in the game.

Each round of Dominant Species you'll have a plan, things you'll need to accomplish, goals for the round. By the end of the action selection phase you'll have changed that plan several times due to the moves of your opponent. This goes towards the beauty in the depth of the game. You can make moves to cut people off, use the resources available to advance your species, and you can adapt to the ever changing circumstances of the game.

4-6 players
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9. Board Game: The Climbers [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1194]
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The Climbers is the first game in the "Simply Complex" line of games and that distinction of being simple but complex is exactly what makes it one of my favorite games. In The Climbers the goal is simple: be on top at the end of the game. The way you achieve that is also easy: on your turn move a block and move up spaces you can see over. Beneath this simple veneer, there is a load of strategic complexity, and a wildly fun experience. The Climbers is the only game on this list that I feel like is suitable for every gamer, whether it's my 9 year old cousin, or my over the hill parents. This is a game that can belong in every collection.

3-5 players
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10. Board Game: Blood Rage [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:21]
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It should be clear by this point in my list that production quality doesn't play a big role in the games I enjoy. Blood Rage is an exception to that notion. In Blood Rage you control a clan which, with the help of the gods, hopes to be the leading clan at the end of the game.

The game revolves around these cards that you will draft at the beginning of the game. You'll get cards which allow you to upgrade your clan, add monsters to your team, and help win battles by increasing your influence.

Blood Rage is not a perfect game by any means, but there is just something so gripping about an area control game where you're not directly fighting each other for position, but instead you're battling for resources on the board. I've enjoyed every play of Blood Rage that I've had and I'm always happy to see it hit the table.

3-5 players
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11. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:71]
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Trajan is a mancala, and possibly rondel depending on who you ask, game about something. What makes Trajan awesome is not the theme, but instead its the gameplay mechanisms. Unlock most mancala style games, Trajan gives you complete control over your mancala, with the ability to plan turns way in advance. In order to succeed you will need to maximize the actions you take in your mancala. If you're able to access the scarce resources before your opponents or send out a large number of workers into the military fields, then you'll have a high chance of success.

Unlike many Feld point salad games, you can really fall flat in Trajan if you don't have a coherent and well thought out plan. I really appreciate that the edges are a little rougher in this one than most of this other titles.

2-4 players
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12. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:23]
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Concordia is a smooth, medium-weight game built around an elegant hand management system. At it's core, the game is trading spices in the Mediterranean, but the theme isn't what shines here. The simple gameplay of play a card, take an action. Eventually, play the card that lets you pick up the cards.

The really neat mechanism in this game for me is the fact that the cards you are using, and can purchase, also include your victory point scoring. This combination of mechanisms creates a tension between building up cards to score points and executing your strategy. This battle between building up your supply of cards and actually playing the game combined with the hand management makes this game a top game for me.

2-4 players
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13. Board Game: Antiquity [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:218]
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For a game about suffering through the middle ages, in a comically large box, Antiquity is really great. The goal of Antiquity is to build a cathedral, choose a saint to worship, and achieve the goal that the saint you worshiped specifies. When you choose your saint, you also get a special power associated with the saint as well.

All of this is combined around a fairly simple action selection/resource management game which uses polyaminos to build a city. As you're trying to reach your objective, the game is trying to consume you under the weight of graves piling up in your city and pollution filling the nearby fields.

I love Antiquity because you're battling against the game consuming you as much as you're battling anyone else in the game. The game is punishing and makes you pay for any mistake. I can't say I recommend this game to many people, but if you like challenging games, this one is up there with the best of them.

2-3 players
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14. Board Game: Great Western Trail [Average Rating:8.28 Overall Rank:9]
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Great Western Trail is a game all about wrangling cattle around the Midwest. This game centers around a simple deck building mechanism and hand management, while you're on your way through a path of buildings. Each building lets you do a different action, whether that be hiring workers to help you, building new action locations around the map, buying cattle to add to your deck, or culling your hand to optimize your deliveries to Kansas City.

What I like about the game is the gameplay is deep, but each individual decision isn't too hard. Your goal is to make it around the board quickly, so you're incentivized to take the furthest action available, but at the same time the actions in between may help you improve your trips. Balancing these decisions is crucial to your success.

2-3 players
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15. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:11]
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On the other end of the Feld spectrum, Castles of Burgundy is the perfect mid-weight game. Your decisions at all times are very confined to what two dice allow for. At most, you can choose from two different areas on the board and placing in a few areas on your player mat. Even though you have a highly constrained set of options, you can still make some incredible combos.

Finding fun an interesting moves based on a limited combination of actions is what draws me to Castles of Burgundy. Unlike other medium weight euros, Burgundy doesn't center around micro decisions, and that really appeals to me.

2 players
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16. Board Game: Pandemic Iberia [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:93]
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To me, this is the best version of Pandemic. I like the increased variety and depth that Iberia provides in comparison to the base game. Your inability to fly between cities, combined with the historical diseases variant is absolutely amazing. I have yet to beat this game with four historical diseases and six epidemics. I've heard rumors of it happening, but I don't know if I believe them. "Extreme mode" of Pandemic Iberia is just plain old hard, and I love it.

Oh and you can build a train, and it is so satisfying to use the train to zip around the peninsula.

2-4 players
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17. Board Game: Arboretum [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:360]
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Arboretum is basically a trick taking game where you have to build up a spatial field. Over the course of the game, you need pick up and play cards into your tableau such that your cards are in increasing order on the table. At the end of the game, you only score different colors if you have the highest total sum of cards of that color in your hand. So you're incentivized to keep cards in your hand, but also play them to the table. Also, you need to pay attention to what everyone else is doing so that you don't discard a card that someone else is dying to pick up.

Sometimes the winning score will be in the 30 point range and other times it will be closer to 10, just based on who was withholding and what people actually got to score. Arboretum is a tough game to play well and you'll agonize over the decisions of the game.

2-4 players
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18. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:34]
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Brass is one of the first truly heavy games I ever played. The hand management, route building, and economic engine of the game are fascinating. Having to build up your buildings through your routes is challenging since its easy to leave yourself challenging.

With the economics of the game, you will frequently have the tough decision of using your opponents' resources, which would be mutually beneficial. In those cases it becomes necessary to weigh out the pros and cons of helping your opponents for your own game. This combination of an economic engine with the incorporation of shared resources is a great balance, plus Brass work well at two unlike many other economic games.

2-4 players
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19. Board Game: Mombasa [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:65]
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Mombasa is a medium-heavy stock market, hand management, area control game with one of the most sobering themes I've experienced in board games. The game revolves around an interesting hand-management mechanism where you play cards to three discard piles and at the end of each round you can add one of those piles back to your hand.

Mombasa has two of my favorite mechanisms: hand management and a stock market. There is no company ownership, like in other stock market games, but the buying shares of companies to increase your personal value is really well done. I appreciate that there are multiple paths to victory and how much planning can go into your hand management decisions.

3-4 players
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20. Board Game: Orléans [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:27]
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Orleans is a fantastic bag-building game where you train workers of different types. Depending on which types of workers your train, you then take special actions, making certain action types cheaper, giving you more workers, or adding new action spaces to your game.

What really put Orleans over the top for me was the addition of the co-op variant in the first expansion Orleans: Invasion. As much as a I enjoy heavy games, a good co-op with interesting decisions will always have a place in my collection.

2-4 players
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21. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:362]
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Oh man this game is cool and smooth. I've only gotten to play it once, but the fun system around auctioning off shares of companies, building routes, and racing across the board to Chicago make this a fantastic game that fits into a 45 minute play time. Whether it's your first or last game of the evening, I think Chicago Express can always provide something interesting.

The game is very easy in that you can only do one of three things on your turn, but those are tough decisions to make. At times you have to race ahead to increase your stock value, others you may want to auction off a share of stock in a company your opponent is highly invested in just to use your future actions to throw away their trains or spend a lot of money.


Though there are only three basic choices in the game, the game has amazing branching paths you can dive down. My favorite mechanism of the game is that you only need one share of a stock to operate a company. This makes buying in just to tank a company a viable move. I definitely want to play this one more.

3-5 players
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22. Board Game: Hansa Teutonica [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:108]
Andrew Plassard
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This game is mean, it has unappealing box art and shelf presence, and the game revolves around a really simple mechanism. Some of the pieces of the game are scripted based on what turn order position you start with, but overall its a good, deep game.

Hansa Teutonica requires you to be ready to punch an opponent in the face by blocking them into a space, and a big part of the game is leveraging your opponent's moves to your advantage. How badly do they need a particular move, and can you afford to try and block them for your gain?

The route building, powering up, and action selection mechanisms are fantastically well done in this simple to learn, but painstakingly deep to play game.
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23. Board Game: Captain Sonar [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:99]
Andrew Plassard
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For me, some games are about the mechanisms and some are about the experiences. Captain Sonar is the latter. This game, essentially the best possible team-based battleship game, is all about working with your teammates to hunt, and hopefully sink, your opponent's submarine.

There is so much tension in Captain Sonar. You're hunting your opponent while they hunt you. How quickly you can close in on your opponent without them finding you is of the utmost importance. Even if your team gets sunk, the experience and comradery of working with a team is always fun.

One note, I think the silence action is overpowered and we limit it to once per time you surface.

6,8 players
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24. Board Game: The Voyages of Marco Polo [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:40]
Andrew Plassard
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Dice worker placement at its finest. What really ticks about Marco Polo for me is two-fold. First, the character powers that you have are seriously awesome. Some characters let you jump across the board at will, while another gives you two characters, others still give you free resources based on what your opponents do. These characters effect both how you and your opponents play their game.

Second, the game is tight and in particularly the movement. You only get a very limited number of movement spaces throughout the game and being able to maximize those is a puzzle that I absolutely adore.

2-4 players
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25. Family: 18xx
Andrew Plassard
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I've only gotten four 18xx games under my belt at this point, but I've enjoyed every single one. The truly incredible thing about the system is the basic mechanisms aren't all that complicated. From how the stock market can work, to running you trains, to building stations, it's never that complex. But there's so much that can happen.

I'm fascinated by how games can make simple tweaks to the train availability and rusting patterns to make train rushes more or less brutal, how the decision of the size of the bank effects the valuation of the cities, how you can use companies to effectively transfer funds between them, and how some games can be focused on the operations whereas others can be focused on the money.

At this point, I'm still way too new to the system to be able to look at a game and really tease out the complexities and choke points of the game, but I want to play more. Each time I've gotten to play an xx game, I've been tormented by my decisions for hours after I've finished. I can't wait to play more.
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