My Top Ten!
David Hammel
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So, I never had a reason to make this list or rank my collection (even loosely) until I started the task of knocking it down from a unweildly 300+ to a lean 100. But now, I have a bit of a rough draft of a top ten I feel okay about, so I thought I would share, so it can be criticized and heckled or perhaps even earn the slightest of praise.

I have a few honorable mentions before we get started of games that I think could crack my top ten very soon after more plays:

Orléans
Scythe
Gloomhaven

Oh, also, these are not in order. Ranking them against each other would, in most cases, be difficult and an exercise in banality. Who cares, they're all amazing to me.

Let's get started!
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1. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:41]
David Hammel
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I think 7 Wonders is nearly perfect. It can handle up to 7 without adding much time, it's relatively easy to learn, benefits with multiple plays, has wonderful expansions and never overstays its welcome. I've played at least 2 dozen times, and I'd happily play 2 dozen more (and then some). I don't see this ever not being in my collection.
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2. Board Game: Small World [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:183] [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
David Hammel
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This was, for a long time, my favorite game. Honestly, I am not sure it isn't still; it is certainly a top 3 for me. The variability is off the charts, and the core gameplay mechanism is easy. I think once you play it enough to take a peek into the Matrix, as it were, I think the game really opens up. It stops being a game about aggressive conquest and more about planning several turns ahead to maximize your broad presence (points). Newer players get combos like commando orcs and think they're gods (because they imagine they are playing fantasy Risk) and overlook the more unassuming powers like Spirit, Fortified, etc. that can be big game winners when played correctly. I prefer at 3, 2 or 4 is still good, count me out for 5+. Wonderful game.
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3. Board Game: War of the Ring (Second Edition) [Average Rating:8.40 Overall Rank:12]
David Hammel
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This game is the epitome of epic. It isn't one I play often or would want to play often, but I love it when I can actually get it to the table. There are slight variations to the story that can occur that are amazing, like losing Aragorn to the palantir. I think the asymmetry is much wider and much more interesting here than most others. It is similar to Star Wars Rebellion in that both sides are concerned with their military engine, but the good guys are playing much more defensively to keep something hidden while the bad guys are playing much more aggressively to find the hidden objectives and maintaining the military superiority.

I enjoy this game more than Rebellion (which is still in my top 25) because the hidden objective has a fixed destination, which informs decisions on both sides and keeps the momentum going. Love this game.
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4. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:11]
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I am not a huge Feld fan, but this game just sings. It is a great example of what you can do with a game that revolves around dice rolls. There's always choice, there's always something to do. This is a system I love playing inside of, at any player count.
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5. Board Game: Chaos in the Old World [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:96]
David Hammel
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I have had countless awesome experiences with this game. Blood Rage gets all of the accolades these days, but Chaos is a finely tuned machine (ironic) with the pre-set decks for each faction. Blood Rage always feels unhinged and out of whack in comparison. I will keep this until it disintegrates.
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6. Board Game: Elysium [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:313]
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Gorgeous game. I love the production, I love the different faction decks, I love how you use little pillars to draft cards and I love how you have to decide when to lose the function of a card to move it to to your scoring area. The dual layer tableau building game. Fantastic.
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7. Board Game: Viticulture Essential Edition [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:19]
David Hammel
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I love how rich this game feels. I would like if it were maybe a hair more complex sometimes, but I think maybe the strength of it is that it is so approachable and the theme resonates over everything you do. I reiterate with new players every single time: get seeds, plant seeds, harvest grapes, turn grapes into wine, sell wine. The fact that the game plays in seasons just reinforces a very elemental idea of planting crops in the spring and harvesting in the fall. It just plays silky smooth and goes great with a pinot noir and good friends.
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8. Board Game: Forbidden Stars [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:83]
David Hammel
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It is a shame that this was a casualty of the FFG / GW split because I feel like this would have benefited from an expansion, but the game is so good on its own. The combat is very Ameritrash (and a bit clunky to be honest), but the core mechanism of this game where you seed actions and resolve them in reverse order feels very Euro-ish because you are not just competing against your opponents, you really have to game the game to get what you need. It really makes you focus, opens up the door to some bluffing and fun player interaction. It is my hope to upgrade the production of this to a actual WH40k scale with better models to play with.
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9. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:67]
David Hammel
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Russian Railroads is a bit dry, but it is an exercise in efficiency of action. It doesn't give much leeway; you have to play sharp or you'll watch your opponents bang out massive point combos midturn. So many gears and levers here to play with, every game feels challenging and rewarding. Even better with expansions but it doesn't need them.
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10. Board Game: Seasons [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:160]
David Hammel
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It didn't really occur to me before, but Seasons, Elysium and 7 Wonders sort of strike that same chord of drafting (both cards and dice in this game) and tableau building. Seasons does it in a very colorful and vibrant production and has a great countdown mechanism in the passing of seasons that really gives the game a sense of urgency and purpose. Your choices dictate the timing at which you play your 9+ cards, how quickly the timer counts down, the acquisition of resources, how/when to manipulate the conversion of resources to points, etc. I really prefer this game with 2 but plays up to 4 pretty well.
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11. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:45]
David Hammel
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My #11. Caylus nipped at the heels of a few on this list for a top ten spot, and while it didn't quite make it, this is such a delicious game. A lot of worker placement games are so straight forward, but Caylus has a wonderful self balancing mechanism in the Provost, which also serves as the game's physical representation of the game's progress. There are so many great ideas I am surprised don't get re-used in other games.
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