Because it’s been a busy couple of weeks with the holidays, I thought that this week I’d bunt and write a column about my top ten favorite games. Two things to note:
A) Everything below second place is vague and could shift up or down several places depending on my mood.
B) A lot of these games start with the letter C for some reason. I don’t know why.
10. Sentinels of the Multiverse
I haven’t played Sentinels in a while, partially because I’m burned out and partially because you can’t play it with people with uneven experience levels, but it’s the game that, more than any other, got me into game design. It also opened me up to co-op games; most co-ops before it were blisteringly hard by default and Sentinels had a much wider range of difficulty levels. The idea that co-op games can be fun while not being incredibly tough was something I brought with me to Tiny Trainwrecks. It’s also an incredibly thematic game; I really felt like a superhero fighting a villain when I was playing.
- Roll For The Galaxy
I play a fair number of engine-building games and something I like about Roll in particular is how powerful it makes you feel. Some games tax you or make you deal with resource scarcity; in Roll For The Galaxy, you’re only limited by the number of dice you have on your turn, so even if you have a lean turn you don’t feel like your engine is irreparably behind. There isn’t a lot of interaction, but the interaction that exists is very interesting and rewards careful observation of your opponents’ situations.
Deckbuilders aren’t my favorite genre, but I make a special exception for Trains. The actions you take will genuinely affect your opponents in one way or another, and while it’s easy to figure out the basics, there’s a huge amount of space to grow as a player. I also appreciate the diverse strategies in the game; you can charge towards valuable cities, spread out as fast as possible, or stay lean and purchase VP cards. Trains: Rising Sun is a little messier, and I don’t like attack cards in this system, but it’s still fun.
Citadels was an impulse buy from a local game store in San Mateo and one that I’m deeply grateful I made. It’s a very clean, elegant game that somehow proves to be both tense and hilarious; the draft segment makes you think and the economy always keeps you hungry. Despite never having won a game of Citadels, I’m a huge fan of it (and basically every Faidutti game) because it keeps me in the game the whole time.
- Castles of Mad King Ludwig
There are several things Castles has going for it that I enjoy. Strategies vary greatly depending on the available tiles and bonus cards, requiring you to improvise for every game. Additionally, even if you’re in last place, building your castle is fulfilling and makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something. However, Roll For the Galaxy does these two things a little more tightly, so why is Castles ranked higher? The answer: Theme. Castles’ (slightly) more grounded theme makes games a little more impactful and adds a dash of humor that gives the game a slight boost above Roll.
- BattleCON: Fate of Indines
BattleCON isn’t an objectively better game than the five previous ones on the list, but it is a game that was practically made for my specific enjoyment. I’ve always been a fan of fighting games, and BattleCON preserves the strategy and bluffing from the genre while removing the need to practice combos over and over again. It’s also extremely anime. Fate of Indines’ comparatively small cast of characters is more of a benefit than a drawback, as it gives you more time to master one and doesn’t intimidate new players with variety.
There are only a few games that made me excited just from hearing a description of the rules, and Vlaada Chvatil’s masterpiece Codenames was one of them. As soon as I purchased a copy, I ran game after game for any group of friends I could find, and all of them appreciated the game’s simplicity, tension, and massive amount of room for lateral thinking. Add the short playtime and near-infinite replayability, and you get more than an excellent game: You get a modern classic.
In addition to having low player downtime and a unique puzzle to solve, Libertalia is one of the funniest board games I have ever played. There’s very few moments that top, to name a few examples, everyone at the table revealing a Brute and punching each other off the ship, everyone dodging a series of cursed Incan pendants by attacking a ship with all cabin boys, and defeating a Captain by surrounding him with beggars and draining the hapless Captain’s player for fifteen doubloons. As I mentioned previously, Libertalia is also super easy to teach, as the game’s complexity is limited to the cards. There’s very little to complain about this game, except that, similar to Citadels, I have never won a game in the 10 or so I’ve played.
- Conspiracy: Take the Crown (Magic: The Gathering)
During the summer of 2006, I asked a friend to teach me how to play Magic, which introduced me to a hobby that I continue to pursue to this day. Conspiracy: Take the Crown is an expansion designed specifically for drafting, featuring heavy multiplayer and political elements. The set has a lot of things that I adore, ranging from the fun and interactive draft segment to the over-the-top combat. There are probably other expansions that are more challenging at a professional level, but I have never had more fun playing Magic than when playing Conspiracy: Take the Crown.
- Cosmic Encounter
I’ll keep this brief because I already wrote an article about Cosmic Encounter, but this is a game that was 40 years ahead of its time. Some of the ways it fixed the problems with the political game genre haven’t been replicated since, and the varied alien powers make it one of the most impactful games ever created. I own every expansion of the Fantasy Flight edition, along with an aftermarket box insert, and it’ll probably take me half my life before I get tired of playing.
Well, there you have it, my top 10 favorite games. If you want to discuss, that’d be cool. Thanks!