Urza's Top 100 Games of All Time - 2017 Edition
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This my second time making a Top 100 list here on BGG, and along with others in my community, I’m using a somewhat different methodology this time around. Last year, I took all the games I rated a “10” (I think there were nine of them at the time), arranged them in some order, then took all the 9s, arranged those below the 10s, and so on. #100 was about halfway through the 7s. (I’m a pretty harsh rater; my average is around 6.)

This year, however, I used the Boardgame Ranking Engine, which is basically an online implementation of merge sort where the user imports a list of games, and is asked which game they prefer at each comparison. (Since merge sort is an n log n sorting algorithm, it’ll take about 751 comparisons to sort a list of 150 games) At the end of it all, it’ll give you a ranked list of those games.

I took the entire set of games I either own or have rated, and pruned those I know wouldn’t make the cut or that I haven’t played enough to form an opinion. This left a total of 164 games up for consideration, plus a handful of “should have been pruned” games that I missed. (you can evict such games when they appear during your sorting) This includes all but one of the games in last year’s top 100 (Mysterium being the odd game out, for reasons unknown. It wouldn’t have made the cut this year anyway, since it was 94th and my opinion of it hasn’t changed.), plus 66 games that are either new to me or that I overlooked in last year’s list.

Overall, there are 17 games on last year’s list that fell out for this year, and thus 17 new games to replace them. They’re a mix of totally new games released since last year, those that are new to me, and those that simply climbed their way in. (possibly because the ranking system forced me to give them another look)

For most of the returning games from last year, I’ve kept the write-up from last year as my opinions on them haven’t changed much. I will, however, provide commentary on the game’s movement if its position is significantly different. A typical returning game will have dropped 10 places or so, simply because of new games that were inserted into the list above it.
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1. Board Game: Deep Sea Adventure [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:548]
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#100

Last year: NR

Deep sea adventure is a pretty simple push your luck game. You and several other divers dive down to collect treasures and bring them back up before your shared oxygen supply runs out. What really sets this game apart is that the supply is shared. Your decision to go deeper or turn around has to be heavily influenced by what others are doing. The more treasure people are carrying around (you spend an oxygen when you move for each treasure you’re carrying), the quicker you need to get back lest you suffocate and drop everything.

A fun light game that works with larger groups up to six.
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2. Board Game: Basari [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1370]
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#99

Last year: 93 (6)

This is a cute little game that uses a simultaneous blind action selection, a mechanic I really enjoy. You're moving around the board, collecting gems, and maybe scoring some free points along the way. The real catch, is that if you choose the same action as someone else, you have to bid against them for it with the gems you already have.

A simple game, but there's a lot going on. This game isn’t in my collection, which is why I haven’t played it in the past year, but I still have fond memories of it. I do wonder whether my glasses are exhibiting a rosy tint to them, though.
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3. Board Game: Tragedy Looper [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:504]
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#98

Last year: NR

Tragedy Looper is a unique game, there’s nothing quite like it that I’m aware of. One player plays the Mastermind, an adversarial GM of sorts, while the other three (the game requires exactly four players) are time travellers. The task before them is to prevent a tragedy that will befall them within the next week or so. (each day is a game turn) Likely, they will fail at this the first time around, since they’re given no information about the nature of this tragedy at the outset. The good news for them is that they’re time travellers, and so when they inevitably screw up, they can go back to the start of the “loop” and try again, Groundhog Day style. Hopefully, they’ll have learned a thing or two from their experience and have a better idea of what to do. This iterative process continues until the players get through the allotted number of days without losing, or they exhaust their limited number of attempts. (In more complex scenarios, the players can still win even after using all their attempts if they can correctly identify the plot and each character’s role in it.)

The game is thus an intriguing logical puzzle. The players are given a sheet with all of the possible plots, the roles in those plots that can be held by any of the scenario’s characters, and the various ways a plot can cause you to lose, among other things. Players must figure out what’s going on, and then how to go about stopping it, while the Mastermind tries to confuse the players (within the constraints of the rules, of course), making them lose in ways that might mislead them.

I played this game a bit more in the past year than I have in the past, and so the game makes it onto the Top 100 for this year. It barely missed the cut last year.
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4. Board Game: Solitaire for Two [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:6433]
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#97

Last year: NR

Six Suit Solitaire, previously known as Indochine 2000, is essentially a more complex version of the very well known card solitaire game of Klondike. (The game where you stack columns of cards in alternating colors, sorting the cards into suits from ace to king) SSS improves upon that game in several ways. Most obviously, as its name implies, is the addition of two additional suits: Anchors and Wheels. These two suits are green, which has the effect of making it easier to stack columns of cards. You can play a card onto a column as long as its color is different from the bottommost card. (and is one rank lower, as usual) New columns can additionally be formed from a Queen if you have an Ace in your columns, or a Jack if you have two Aces -- so don’t be too quick to put your aces up top! The game also has three jokers, one of each color. Those can stand in for any rank and suit of that color that isn’t already visible. (You can’t use a joker as a red 5 if both red 5s are already accounted for) Later, when you reveal the final tile a joker could be standing in for, you add that tile in the joker’s place and “cash” the joker for points.

Yes, points. The game has a scoring system, so it isn’t a binary “win or lose” affair. Different suits are worth different scores for being put up top (30 points for major suits, 20 for minor suits, just like bridge; also 40 for wheels and 10 for anchors) and you also get bonus points for cashing jokers and forming a full King to Ace column (called a “grand sequence”) at some point during the game. You lose points for each facedown tile at the top of your columns, and for each joker that wasn’t cashed at the appropriate time. (Jokers must be cashed immediately upon revealing the tile they’re standing in for; if discovered later, you have to eat this penalty)

The game comes packaged as “Solitaire for Two”. I haven’t played the two-player version, but it doesn’t look that great. Seems like needlessly shoehorning in an adversarial affair to what’s ostensibly a more constructive game. Instead of cards, the game is played with plastic tiles of pretty good quality. Any number of card games could theoretically be played with these, but sadly they’re a bit too thin to stand up on their side. Six Suit Solitaire is a fun, low intensity way to spend 30 minutes.
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5. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
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#96

Last year: NR

And now, we come to the definitive area majority game. Area majority isn't really my favorite mechanic, which is the main reason why this isn't rated higher. But this is an essential sort of game, something that anyone who purports to be a boardgame connoisseur should play, even if just for the historical interest. This game, at 20 years old now, is classic in every sense of the word.

Curiously, this game remained at the same rank despite my not having played it in over a year. My opinion of it hasn’t changed, so I would have expected it to fall out because of newer games jumping ahead of it. That it hasn’t suggests that I underrated it last year.
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6. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:792]
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#95

Last year: 49 (46)

The classic monster slugathon! Each player controls a Titan, and moves their stacks of monsters (the contents of which are hidden from opponents) around the board by rolling dice. (Yes, roll and move. There's frequent choices of ways, and it works well enough, especially relative to other games of its vintage.) Depending on the type of terrain you land on, you can muster a monster native to that terrain. If that stack already has enough monsters of that type, you can muster a more advanced version. There's a pretty big "tech tree" that describes what can muster what, and where. Eventually you can build up to dragons and the like.

When you meet an opposing stack, those stacks will face off on a battle board. Each monster in the stack is placed onto the battle board and a tactical battle is fought. Those are always tense affairs as they're to the death -- only one stack will remain. If a Titan is killed, its owner is eliminated immediately. This all continues until only one player remains.

Despite the player elimination possibly coming early in a long game, Titan is a lot of fun. Just slinging monsters at each other is fun, and the battles are actually really interesting. There's a lot of rules that I'm not even going to attempt to go over here, and a lot of room for clever tactics. The same is true for the strategic layer. I don't get to play this face to face hardly ever, but the iPad version is good.

I can’t think of a concrete reason for this game’s substantial fall, except that this game is expensive and hard to find (despite the now-defunct Valley Games’ reprint; what does this mean for Titan?!), and I haven’t played it in years. It has an iPad version which is quite good, but I haven’t even played that. (my borderline obsolete iPad 3 is getting a lot less use these days, for several reasons)
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7. Board Game: Kismet [Average Rating:5.43 Overall Rank:13755]
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#94

Last year: NR


I’m honestly surprised this Yahtzee-alike managed to crack the Top 100. But I do kind of like Yahtzee, and Kismet is basically a fancier version of that classic dice game.

The main improvements Kismet makes are most obviously on the dice: they’re colored! The pips are colored black, green, or red: 3s and 4s are one color, 2s and 5s another, and 1s and 6s the third. This only matters for the “flush” line, which you can score if all five dice are the same color. (By definition, you’ll also have a full house, or 4/5 of a kind) There’s also multiple tiers of “bonus” in the upper section. Instead of just getting a flat 35 points if you get 63 points above the line (an average of three per number), you can get more than that if you really stack up the above-the-line points. I think it tops out at 80 for the biggest bonus. So if you get five sixes, you might be tempted to score it on “sixes” to get those big bonuses, rather than as a five of a kind.
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8. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:621]
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#93

Last year: 98 (5)

This is a pretty simple game of push your luck. Roll dice repeatedly and hope you don't bust out. Just make sure you're playing the correct rules: You can't stop (literally, it's forbidden) if one of your climbers is on the same space as another marker.

Some of my friends and I have invented a 2v2 team variant. It's played the same way as regular 4p Can't Stop, except the person sitting across from you is your partner, and you win either of you completes three columns. The catch is, you can't complete a second column until partner has completed one, and you can't complete the third until partner has two. So you can't pass them by more than one column, and might be forced to slow roll a bit while they catch up.

I’ve played this once or twice in the past year. Since it climbed a little bit (rather than dropping out as I might have expected it to), I might have underrated this game last year.
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9. Board Game: Navajo Wars [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:1108]
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#92

Last year: 23 (69)


Wow, I don’t know how exactly this game sank so far, nearly falling out completely. It’s the second biggest drop from last year, and the biggest that still made the top 100. It’s true that I haven’t played this game in 2017, but not because I’ve suddenly soured on the game. There’s a lot more competition for solo games these days, and less available time to play them. But that’s not the whole story; other neglected games haven’t fallen nearly so far. Maybe I overrated it last year, and maybe this got a bad early matchup that held down its final position. Probably both.

This is a solitaire game from GMT, a company best known for its wargames. Despite its name, Navajo Wars isn’t really a wargame at all. You control the Navajo tribe, from when European settlers first began exploring the West, through to the mid 19th century. Your goal is mainly to simply survive, and preserve your culture and autonomy. You’ll also have to grow and expand throughout the Southwest. Your adversaries are primarily the Spanish, Mexicans, or Americans, depending on the current time period. Other native tribes (Utes and Commanche, primarily) also pose a threat, and will have to be negotiated with or defeated militarily.

This game covers a time period I wasn’t very familiar with beforehand. After a few plays of this game and reading the designer’s notes, I feel like I’ve learned a great deal about a part of American history that I can’t say I’m very proud of. The game itself is also very interesting. There’s a lot of levers, choices, and options at your disposal, and each of those affects a lot of other things in the game. You also periodically have the opportunity to buy a “culture card”, which is basically a technology that provides some benefit for the rest of the game. The main enemy is controlled via a clever system of action chits, which are arranged in a queue and tips you off as to which operations they’re likely to do. But each turn, you roll two dice, and flip over the corresponding chits, revealing new actions; thus, they can always surprise you with an unexpected action.

This is a long game if you play all three scenarios back to back in a full campaign and disregard auto-victory rules (as I do), but it’s a rich, meaty experience that I highly recommend.
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10. Board Game: DungeonQuest (third edition) [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1269]
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#91

Last year: 78 (13)

This is probably the closest thing to a roguelike in board game form, but with an extra helping of "fuck you" mechanics. You and zero to three friends (yes, it can be played solo!) will start in a corner of an unexplored map, trying to reach the treasure hoard in the center. The catch is that the hoard is guarded by a really powerful dragon that will burn you to a crisp and eat you if he catches you stealing from his hoard. And let's not forget all the traps, monsters, and other dangers that are elsewhere in the dungeon.

This game is hard. Like, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup hard. Nethack hard. Angband hard. FTL-on-hard hard. Often, only one player survives the game and wins by default. It's not uncommon to see everyone die. It's even harder than those aforementioned roguelikes, since those are at least fair about killing you. (Usually!) DungeonQuest takes pleasure in killing you indiscriminately. Some of the traps you'll find are of the "pass this skill check or die immediately" variety.

But the interesting thing is, none of that matters. It's like Chaos Spawn World. Unfair to blatantly unfair odds, indeed. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, the fun is in strapping yourself in and seeing where the game takes you. This does unfortunately limit the game's appeal. More so than any other game, DungeonQuest demands that players find losing fun.
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11. Board Game: FITS [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1267]
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#90

Last year: 88 (2)

Tetris, the board game! (But shhhh, don't try calling that or Putin’s lawyers will come after you!) Those few words are pretty much all you need to know. Drop the pieces onto your board, and try to form lines. At least in round 1. In later rounds, you need to leave holes in specific spots on the board to score points.

Expansions have added some really interesting scoring rules, including one that also turns it into a word game. You get points for making words out of the letters you can still see, and lose points for letters you can't use. I haven't played that one, but it seems a bit AP-prone.
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12. Board Game: High Society [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:860]
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#89

Last year: 55 (34)

This game is a very traditional Knizia. You bid on a bunch of items that will give you victory points, as well as a few that will multiply your points or take some away. (in the latter case, you're bidding to not get it, and the first one who passes gets stuck with it.) Sounds like a straightforward auction game, right? Well, there's one important catch: At the end of the game, everyone will add up their leftover unspent money. Whoever has the least (or is tied for the least) automatically loses! Everyone else will total their points to determine a winner.

I’ve played this once or twice in 2017, but I think it’s dropped there’s a lot of other games that fill a similar niche (many of which I don’t like as much), and those tend to get played more than this. Much to my consternation. Also, I think this game is a bit of a casualty of the shift away from lighter games in this ranking format. If I’m comparing two games I like roughly similarly, but one of them is substantially heavier than the other, I probably picked the heavy game most of the time. That makes sense, since I do prefer heavy games overall, but it does mean good light games like this can get lost in the shuffle.
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13. Board Game: Darkest Night: Necromancer Bundle [Average Rating:7.73 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.73 Unranked]
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#88

Last year: NR

I acquired this in the BGG.con 2016 Math Trade, which I was really happy with at the time. (I forget what I traded away for it. Probably a duplicate game.) I played it a few times, both solitaire and with others.

In a manner similar to a lot of cooperative games, Darkest Night tasks you with splitting your efforts between keeping blights at bay (too many of those, and you’ll quickly lose the game) and searching for the keys you need to unlock the weapon that will kill the Necromancer. The basic structure is thus familiar to anyone who’s played games like Pandemic, where you’re faced with a similar tradeoff. (between treating disease cubes and researching cures in that game) But there’s a lot of interesting mechanics that make this game stand out.

Firstly, there’s a ton of variety in the box. The Necromancer Bundle includes (I believe) 12 different hero classes, all of which play quite differently. But these aren’t just a couple of special abilities that all fit onto a single card a la Pandemic, oh no. You get a whole deck of special ability cards (10 per class), of which you start with three in play and can add more by finding treasure chests. A lot of the early game is spent trying to find these treasure chests to increase your power before the challenge level escalates through the mid to late game.

The blights placed by the Necromancer all have a different negative effect associated with them as well. Imagine if Pandemic disease cubes all did something uniquely nasty. There’s only six locations in the game so keeping track of them all never gets too fiddly. This goes hand in hand with the character variety to make each game feel rich and different.

Finally, there’s the map deck. It’s a brilliant little mechanic that I haven’t seen elsewhere, although Arkham/Eldritch Horror do something similar. When you place a blight, or successfully search a location, you draw a map card to see what you get. The card has a list of all six locations in the game, along with a blight and an item associated with each. This card will thereby tell you which blight gets put in that location, or which item you’ve found. This means that each location has a totally different “loot table” and a different likelihood for which blights might appear there. For searches specifically, there’s some icons on the board at each location to show you what you’re likely to find, and the rulebook has a few sentences for each as well. So depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll want to search in the right locations. But some of them tend to be more dangerous than others because of the different type of blights that appear there. (many blights will attack characters in their location each turn)

The main reason this isn’t higher on my list is that it is a bit fiddly. You frequently have to search through a pile of blights to find exactly the one specified by the map card, and it’s challenging to play more than one character at a time because they all have such different abilities. And you’ll frequently have to do just that, since the game requires the use of exactly four characters, no matter how many people are playing.
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14. Board Game: Meltdown 2020 [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:6124]
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#87

Last year: 52 (35)

The travel logistics game, with dying meeples! This game consists of a randomly generated map with a bunch of nuclear reactors that are melting down. (hence the name) Also strewn across the map are a bunch of meeples of each player's color as well as three vehicles for each player: a van, a car, and a helicopter. The goal is to use those vehicles to pick up the meeples of your color (fuck everyone else!) and bring them to one of two airports before they die of radiation sickness. The three vehicles all have different capabilities: the van moves slowly but can carry four meeples, the helicopter can carry only two but moves quickly, and the car is in between.

While everyone is trying to cart their meeples to safety, the seven reactors are slowly accumulating radiation counters. Each reactor will irradiate hexes out to a range equal to the number of radiation counters on it. At the end of each turn, each meeple that is on an irradiated hex (including those on a vehicle that is on an irradiated hex) will be sickened, and is literally tipped over onto its side. An already sick meeple will become very sick, and lie on its back. A third dose of radiation is fatal, and the meeple is removed entirely. Radiation sources are cumulative, so being in range of multiple reactors will give you multiple doses, as will being closer than necessary to a given reactor for a dose. Later in the game, whole swaths of the board will become totally impassible due to the extreme radiation.

It's really fun to see the map, once filled with healthy meeples gradually empty out around the leaking reactors. Halfway through the game, you can see large empty spaces where everyone has already been evacuated, or is dead. Players must optimize the routes their vehicles take, prioritize areas that are becoming inhospitable, and even consider just leaving some meeples to their fate. This game is more fun than it looks, and it's become a staple BGG.con game for me. (I don't have a copy, it's in the library, and it's fairly short)

I didn’t play Meltdown at BGG.con in 2017, or anywhere else for that matter, but it’s still my choice for a fast, fun logistics game.
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15. Board Game: Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:309] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
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#86

Last year: 37 (49)

Thunderstone Advance is the definitive deckbuilding game, as far as I’m concerned. (I still haven’t yet played Legendary Encounters enough to merit inclusion on this list) It’s the same basic gameplay as Dominion, except you’re buying heroes, who can become more powerful by spending experience points, and are used to defeat monsters to earn VPs. So much more fun and interesting than buying coins and provinces in Dominion.

There’s also an epic variant that Tom Vassal seems fond of, though I haven’t tried it. I also only have the one box, Towers of Ruin; I’d like to get more at some point.

I did play this game about a month ago, but prior to that, I hadn’t played it in years. It’s as good as I remembered. I do wish the expansions could be had, they’re all out of print now. They were in various wishlists as “tack this onto an order to get over the free shipping threshold”, but by the time I actually needed an add-on item, they were nowhere to be found. A shame.
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16. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:43] [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked]
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#85

Last year: 63 (22)

The rare party game that meets my approval. You can play this with any number of players, and there's a ton of variety in the names (and combinations of names) that are used. Just make sure the Spymasters know what they're doing. Nothing's more frustrating than playing with a bad Spymaster.

I haven’t played Pictures, but I have seen it played, and I don’t think it has the same appeal. It’s a lot harder to look at a bunch of pictures that are all fairly abstract, versus a grid of words each with only one or two meanings. Deep Undercover is a fun idea in theory -- and I was thoroughly amused when I heard about it -- but in practice, it wasn’t actually fun to play. A lot of the DU words mean exactly the same thing, or nearly so (How many different words for “penis” can you think of? They’re probably all in the game.), and so there isn’t nearly the same creativity in word association that you get in the base version. That, and it’s frustrating if your codewords mean nearly the same thing as the assassin word. I also haven’t played Codenames Duet, but that one might be really fun.
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17. Board Game: Ambush! [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:676]
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#84

Last year: 66 (18)

One of the first solitaire wargames, and still unique. It relies on a paragraph-driven system, which tells you what you encounter, what the Germans do, and so on. It has a fairly deep combat system, with leadership (keep your men near an NCO!), initiative and panic (which often happens if you aren't near an NCO!), and a good deal of detail for what happens when you shoot at someone. (or, more often, vice versa!) Of particular note is that there's penetration rules: you can actually shoot through walls and doors and hit people on the other side. (Higher caliber weapons are better at this, and stone walls are harder to shoot through than wooden ones) There's a good deal of variability in the equipment you can use, and you're empowered to use whichever of it you want, as you simply "buy" them with a pool of equipment points. Attached to all of this is a light RPG system: your soldiers have stats in initiative, weapon skill, observation, and driving skill, and these all improve as they go on missions. Watching them get killed in action is gut-wrenching in a way that is very reminiscent of XCOM.

The problem with this game, and it's a big one, is that there's only 8 missions in the base game. There are expansions that add more, but they're even harder to find than this base game, not to mention much more expensive. So this game is held back a great deal by its finite lifespan, something I'm already on record as disliking. Surprisingly, I haven't seen much in the way of user-generated content for this game. I would have guessed that the internet age would have allowed those creative individuals to create more missions and share them with the community, but AFAIK, that hasn't happened. (It’s frankly astonishing to me that this is still the case.) That all said, it's been over a decade since I've played this, and I no doubt have forgotten nearly all of the details of those missions, so I should give it another go sometime soon.
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18. Board Game: Space Cadets [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1162]
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#83

Last year: 54 (29)

This is an interesting game that utilizes a potpourri of different minigames and mechanics to simulate the players running the different bridge stations on a starship, in the style of Star Trek. The helmsman pilots the ship by programming it Roborally-style, the weapons officer fires torpedoes by flicking wooden disks, the science officer has to scan and lock targets by identifying shapes by feel, the engineer powers other systems by building a grid out of tiles like in Galaxy Trucker. There's even more besides, and on top of all of this, the captain is trying to maintain order, make sure everything gets done that needs doing, and monitors the strategic situation.

I really like the concept of this game, and all of the minigames are fun in their own right. With the right group, this game is a huge hit and tons of fun. However, a lot of people were much more lukewarm when I played it. Teaching the game is a bear, since it also requires teaching everyone all the minigames as well. And I do mean everyone: When the ship is damaged, one of the things that can happen is that players are forced to switch stations and start doing something totally different. Hope you were paying attention during the explanation of the station that is now your responsibility. I have no doubt that this is a hilarious and fun mechanic for experienced players. But I think it's really rough on newer players who, as a result of this, are unable to focus most of their effort and attention on their initial station during the explanation, and slowly learn the others later. Instead, they're forced to learn every station right from the start, and then not actually use most of those stations during the play.

Another possible issue is that if someone's doing a poor job at whichever station, it's really obvious to everyone else. That player might start getting blamed, or feel guilty about not pulling their weight. I tend to laugh off such things -- losing is fun! -- but some wouldn't be able to enjoy being clearly the player responsible for catastrophic failure.

I’ve only played this game once or twice, back when it was new and in the BGG.con Hot Games room at the Westin, but it was memorable enough to still remain on this list in 2017.
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19. Board Game: Suburbia [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:92]
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#82

Last year: 43 (39)

Suburbia is a fairly straightforward engine building game, but with a fun city-building theme on top of it. You buy different buildings and districts and add them to your city. Most of these districts have adjacency bonuses as well, so there’s a lot of strategy in actually planning out where things are actually going to go. There’s NIMBY-esque penalties as well, so do try to keep the landfill or toxic waste dump away from your parks and homes.

The game also has a clever “throttling” mechanic. As your population (ultimately, VPs) grows, it’ll cross red lines on the scoring track. Each time you do so, your income and popularity (immigration per turn) will decrease by 1. So, getting a ton of popularity is good, but your growth will slow and eventually stall entirely if you cross enough of these barriers without added more popularity. And you need to keep on top of income as well, or you’ll go bankrupt. It’s possible to actually have negative income and have to pay money each turn, which needless to say will make it difficult for you to expand.

I like this game because it’s easy to play, has a lot of varied strategies, and is replayable. I played it a few times in 2017, and I don’t have a good explanation for its large drop other than the stock excuse of so many new games being inserted above it. Suburbia will probably remain on the Top 100 next year, but it’ll get harder and harder as slots get filled up by better and better games and the bar set by game #100 goes ever higher.
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20. Board Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:422]
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#81

Last year: 47 (34)

I got this game in its initial release. Since then, I'm pleased to see it having gotten a reprint, and now even an expansion! This game is just a fun romp through B-horror film tropes. You explore a haunted house, and at some point, one of the players will go insane and turn against the other players. The way this happens is different every game. There's a total of 50 scenarios in the base game, all of which play very differently from each other. The scenarios don’t really limit replayability either, since even individual scenarios will play differently depending on what happened leading up to them. And you probably aren’t going to remember the details of any given scenario when/if it does come up again, anyway.

I really like the way this game really puts you into a B horror film. The house has tons of locations that evoke horror tropes, as do the haunt scenarios themselves. The survivors also each have a bunch of stats, and these are mainly used in skill checks that are required when interacting with events or features of the house, as well as combat once the haunt begins. The first part of the game is basically a random dice fest, but I don’t care because it’s all so fun and thematic. The haunts are often poorly balanced because of the way the house is laid out, or the stats of the survivors or the traitor; but again, I don’t really care. As with a few of the earlier games on this list, this game is really more of a fun experience than a serious strategy game. Just strap yourself in, see where the game takes you, and try not to care too much about the result at the end.

Speaking of the end, each haunt has two epilogues, one of which is read at the end of the game depending on who won. Those really put a fun cap on things, as it basically describes the final scene in the “movie” you just played just before the credits start rolling.
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21. Board Game: A la carte [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1464]
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#80

Last year: 31 (49)

And now for something completely different! A la Carte is a light, silly cooking game with some dexterity elements. You and 1-3 opponents are chefs in a kitchen preparing various meals. Completing a meal requires two things: the proper types and amounts of spices, and a certain amount of heat. (from your stovetop) Once you have those two things, you can serve the dish and earn some VPs, with more complex dishes giving more points. However, it’s also possible to ruin a dish: too much of any spice, or too much heat, and the dish must be fed to the dog, costing you VPs. (a constant amount, no matter the dish) Why would you use too much, you ask? Well, one doesn’t simply put spices on their food: they have to shake it out of a shaker. Literally.

There’s four different spice shakers in the game, for each of four different spices. Each contains a bunch of colored wooden pieces to represent the spice, as well as a few white pieces representing salt. (too much salt will also ruin the dish) For each action, you may take a spice shaker and shake it once. You can shake it more than once, but each shake is an action. Whatever comes out after each shake is what you get. Oh, and it also has to land inside your frying pan, or it doesn’t count. Spices that miss or bounce out are put aside. As far as heat, you also can’t just set the stove to the desired heat, you have to roll a die. The die determines how hot your stove gets. It seems crazy that you’d have to rely on random rolls to heat your stove, but even more inexplicably, one result increases the heat of everyone’s stove by a little bit. That bit of unexpected heat can ruin some of your opponents dishes, even the ones that don’t require heat. (which raises the obvious question of why the salad is being prepared on a stove that might spontaneously heat up and burn the salad, but never mind) Another result on this die is to shake a spice shaker on someone else’s dish. Yes, you can physically pour salt on someone’s dish to ruin it. This is more like Cutthroat Kitchen than Iron Chef.

Silly, but fun. I like it a lot.
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22. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:73]
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#79

Last year: 42 (37)

Pandemic is one of the first cooperative games I played. (by myself, strangely enough) It remains one of my favorites today, though it was in the metaphorical doghouse for a while when Z-Man changed the graphic design in later printings, rendering the first edition I had at the time obsolete. Newer expansions were wholly incompatible, a situation that was both infuriating and inexplicable. I’ve since traded away my expanded first edition, and got Challys a complete set for her birthday last year, so I’ve moved on. I still can’t understand why they changed it, though. I like the graphic design and bits of the newer edition better, but I’m not sure it was worth it.

As far as the game itself is concerned, it’s a classic. Move around the world, treating diseases, trading cards with each other in an attempt to get five of a kind to someone, so they can cure the disease of that color. But each card also has a city, and you can only trade the card in that city. Alternatively, they can be used to travel quickly around the map (to or from the city on the card), or build more research stations. More disease cubes pop up each turn by flipping cards from a different deck, and periodically the discards are shuffled back onto the top of the deck, thus putting more cubes in cities that already have them. If a fourth cube would be added, the city instead outbreaks, putting cubes into all adjacent cities instead. You lose the game if an eighth outbreak occurs, which is the primary loss condition. (you also lose if too many cubes of a certain color are on the board, or if you simply take too long)

The game is simple to learn, but still interesting to play. This is especially true once you add in some expansions, which throw a ton of interesting wrinkles into the game. One of these actually makes it an adversarial game, as one player becomes the bio-terrorist and sneaks around the map planting diseases. The other players can track him down to try to limit his ability to do this, giving the game some of a Scotland Yard feel.

One more note: I’m specifically talking about regular Pandemic here. Pandemic Legacy is a game that I’ve also enjoyed, and is one that everyone should play once. (Except for the ending, which I feel was a pretty big letdown, and nearly soured me on the whole game) I have a pretty strong distaste for the one-and-done nature of the physical version, however there’s a really good module for it on Tabletop Simulator. I’ve started playing it through again by myself on TTS with an extra Epidemic card thrown in to make it more challenging. I’ve not played Season 2, but I plan to do so next month.
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23. Board Game: Excape [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:2246]
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#78

Last year: 57 (21)

Here's a fun, simple dice game with some push your luck elements. The object is to get your meeple from the start to the finish. You're also given two dice of your color, but they aren't normal dice. They both have 1,2,3 pips and an X; one also has 5 and 6, the other 4 and 7.

On your turn, you roll your dice. If you rolled doubles, you get to move forward that number of spaces straight away. (up to 3, since numbers higher than that only appear on one die) You then decide whether to keep your roll, or roll again. If you roll again, there's a risk: if you roll any Xs, your turn immediately ends, and you go back a space for each X. (If you roll an X on your initial roll, there's no penalty, it just counts as a zero.) Once you're satisfied with your roll, you arrange the dice to form the highest two-digit number you can. You then place those dice into an open space in the center of the board. There's a "ladder" of spaces there, labeled 0 to 5. When dice are placed on the ladder, anyone's dice that are above that space (i.e. on a higher-numbered space) and are showing a total that is equal to or lower than the total of the just-placed dice are bounced off and returned to their owners. The hope is that when it comes around to your turn again, your dice are still on the ladder. If they are, you get to move forward a number of spaces corresponding to the spot on the ladder they were occupying (0-5) before removing them and taking your turn.

Simple and fun, with a good deal of excitement. It's a great filler sort of game that you can finish in 15 minutes or so, and it even accommodates up to six players. Regrettably, it’s been over a year since I’ve played this game.
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24. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:425]
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#77

Last year: 35 (42)

This game combines deckbuilding with a tableau game. Each turn, you choose a role, and add a card to your deck that will make it easier/better for you to use that role again in the future. Additionally, you can use the Research role to add more advanced cards to your deck.

I haven’t played this much, but I really liked it. It reminds me of Race for the Galaxy, but with deckbuilding as well. I need to find a way to play this game more. That I haven’t explains its precipitous drop from last year.
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25. Board Game: Secret Hitler [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:194]
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#76

Last year: NR

Secret Hitler is my favorite social deduction game, no contest. It’s kind of similar to Resistance, and that you have a leader nominating one or more other players to undertake some kind of mission. (In SH, there’s a President that nominates a Chancellor) Everyone then casts an up or down vote on that ticket; if less than 51% vote yes, the Presidential nomination passes to the next player in rotation, who then nominates another Chancellor. When a ticket is confirmed, the elected players enact a policy. That policy could be a fascist policy (good for Hitler and his fascist friends) or a liberal policy (good for everyone else). The President draws three cards from a deck of mostly fascist policies, secretly buries one, and passes the other two to the Chancellor, who then enacts one of them and buries the other. Either side can win if enough of their policies are enacted. There’s an alternate VC for each side as well later in the game when enough fascist policies are in place. Once you’re at that point, the fascists can instantly win if Hitler is elected Chancellor. Late fascist policies also permit the President to shoot another player. (eliminating them from the game, but they can still win with their team) If the liberals can shoot Hitler, they instantly win. (there’s no information otherwise gained from shooting someone; all you get is “not Hitler”)

The interesting part of the game, and part of why I like it more than Resistance and other social deduction games, is that it’s very possible for the President to draw three fascist policies. (There is a safety valve in the form of a veto which two liberal players can use if this happens when one more fascist policy loses the game.) So you’re going to have some innocent players accused as a result, and it’s easy for a fascist player to bury a liberal policy without necessarily outing himself.
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