My Top 100 Board Games – 2018

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There are just a few hours left in 2018, but that’s enough time to do something I’ve been meaning to do for six months. Let’s stop procrastinating and finish out the year with a big-time, genuine, all-beef official Top 100 Board Games list!

A Top 100 List? How? And WHY?

This list started when I realized that taking 200+ games across the Atlantic to a small apartment was a Bad Idea. I had to cut down.

Much soul-searching and sorting happened. A few games were sold. About half the games went into storage. I tried to bring only the games that my family or I wanted to play.

It was still a lot of games. About 100 came over the Atlantic, and a few more have crept onto the shelves since. So I can’t help but ask: do I really value all these games? Why do I have them? Would I be just as happy with 50, or 25, or 10?

I procrastinated on this question for about six months. But over Christmas vacation I went through the shelves, made a list of every game, randomized it, and started doing face offs. Each winner went in pile A, each loser in pile B. After three or four passes, I had several clumps of more or less favorite games. Each clump was small enough that I could sort it without too much difficulty.

The pile of names turned into a list faster than I expected. It’s an arbitrary list, and if I do it again next December — or next week — it might be substantially different. But looking at the games one by one, I found I had a reason for each one.

Some of the games were challenging, others elegant. Some had great memories associated with them, or family members who are eager to play them. I weighed the reasons, and when in doubt went with how much I wanted to play the game again. The list makes sense, even if it only makes sense to me.

A Few Notes…

Mystery Entries: Four games are on the “top 4 too early to tell” list. Two of them (Fleet: the Dice Game and Fleet) arrived the day after Christmas. I haven’t had much time to play them yet, though I really like Fleet: the Dice Game and it’s almost certainly in the upper half of the top 100.

I also got Shikoku at the Essen Game Fair, but haven’t had a chance to play it yet. It looks like fun, but the three player minimum has made it hard to get to the table.

Then there’s Cape HornThis clipper ship racing game has been sitting in shrink wrap on our shelf for almost twenty years. Another three player game, it always looked interesting but never made( it to the table. Maybe 2019 will be its year.

(Dis?)honorable Mentions: 13 games missed the top 100. I do like most of them — Bears is good dice rolling fun, and Wiz-War brings back some happy nostalgia. But some are hard to teach, some I keep for specific people or social situations, and some just feel creaky and old. I should probably have left most of these in Texas, but they were small and easy to move so why not?

Enough preliminaries. On to the list!

#100 to 76: Welcome to Game Purgatory

These boxes are full of mixed feelings. They are games that I like, but can’t find others to play. Or that I don’t love, but other family members do. They may come out a little too often, or not at all.

What keeps the latter games on the list is the potential for rediscovery. We played Mystery of the Abbey a few days ago, when our younger daughter went looking for Clue (which we did not bring). It’s been 15+ years since we last played it, so it took a little while to get back up to speed, but it was a rewarding experience.

  • 100. Say Anything
  • 99. Wits and Wagers Family Edition
  • 98. Happy Salmon
  • 97. Air Baron
  • 96. First Martians
  • 95. Article 27
  • 94. Settlers of Catan system
  • 93. Sheriff of Nottingham
  • 92. Britannia
  • 91. Dungeon Lords
  • 90. The Dragon and Flagon
  • 89. Robo Rally
  • 88. Compounded
  • 87. Trains
  • 86. Chinatown
  • 85. Stephenson’s Rocket
  • 84. Sail to India
  • 83. Jungle Speed
  • 82. Shadows over Camelot
  • 81. Mystery of the Abbey
  • 80. Forbidden Island
  • 79. Too Many Cinderellas
  • 78. Elevenses
  • 77. Vino
  • 76. The Adventurers
top 100 #60

#75 to 51: The Island of Lost Games

This group is full of games I like, but rarely get to the table. They’re usually too complex and slow to teach to family members and friends.

878 is a notable exception. Fast and easy to learn, it’s my top-ranked wargame — one of the few I brought to Finland with me. The long, super-complicated Avalon Hill wargames that I treasured while growing up went to storage.

The Brass games are the first 2018 games on this list. I enjoyed my first play of Lancashire and want to spend more time with this system. I’m just not sure who I’m going to spend that time with.

  • 75. Ricochet Robot
  • 74. Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents
  • 73. Paperback
  • 72. Diplomacy
  • 71. Nemo’s War
  • 70. Brass: Lancashire and Birmingham 
  • 69. Katzenjammer Blues
  • 68. Tally Ho!
  • 67. Carcassonne
  • 66. The Resistance: Avalon
  • 65. Big City
  • 64. Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama
  • 63. Coup: Rebellion
  • 62. Taj Mahal
  • 61. Star Trek Panic
  • 60. 878: Vikings — Invasions of England
  • 59. Medici
  • 58. Formula De
  • 57. Diamonds
  • 56. Frank’s Zoo
  • 55. No Thanks
  • 54. Tokaido
  • 53. Ta Yü
  • 52. Elfenland
  • 51. Bang: the Dice Game

#50 to 26: The Semi-Regulars

Our kids love a lot of the games in this section, so they’ve gotten a lot of plays in recent years. I’ve actually played 17 of the 20 in the last year, which is probably the best percentage of any group.

I don’t know if that will be true next year — kids’ tastes are fickle, and mine seem to like learning new games more than practicing old ones. But I know I’m not tired of the games on this part of the list yet.

Case in point: Gulo Gulo. It’s the top kid’s game on this list, and it’s not going anywhere even if the kids never play it again.

Minerva, Dragons, and Blue Lagoon are the 2018 entries in this section. The last one is the first new Reiner Knizia game that I’ve bought in years, but you’ll see a bunch of older Knizia titles from here on out. (Blue Lagoon has a good chance of rising in the list, too. I just haven’t played it that much yet.)

  • 50. Tiny Epic Galaxies
  • 49. Kodama: the Tree Spirits
  • 48. Hanabi
  • 47. Kahuna
  • 46. Savannah Tales
  • 45. Mare Nostrum
  • 44. Minerva
  • 43. Word Domination
  • 42. Animal Upon Animal
  • 41. Survive: Escape from Atlantis
  • 40. Castle Panic
  • 39. Fuji Flush
  • 38. Vast: the Crystal Caverns
  • 37. Dragons
  • 36. Mirror, Mirror
  • 35. Gulo Gulo
  • 34. Blue Lagoon
  • 33. Ra
  • 32. Lord of the Rings
  • 31. Lost Cities

#30 to 11: Family vs. Strategy

As the numbers count down, the split between strategy and light family games just seems to widen. These are all games I deeply enjoy, and I consider myself lucky to have played 15 out of the 20. But I really missed playing the other five.

Web of Power is a perfect example. It’s an older game with simple components and an understated theme. I love it — I think it’s Michael Schacht’s best game. But I haven’t gotten to play it in six years.

Only one 2018 game made it into this group. Planet lets you collect animals and stick terrain tiles on to big dodecahedrons, so it was almost guaranteed to be a hit with us.

  • 30. Codenames
  • 29. Innovation
  • 28. Celestia
  • 27. Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
  • 26. Fugitive
  • 25. Kingdomino
  • 24. Sun, Moon, and Stars
  • 23. TransAmerica
  • 22. Serenissima
  • 21. Web of Power
  • 20. Pandemic Legacy
  • 19. High Society
  • 18. Mamma Mia!
  • 17. Euphrat & Tigris
  • 16. Durch die Wüste
  • 15. Lanterns
  • 14. Planet
  • 13. Musée 
  • 12. Hey! That’s My Fish!
  • 11. Quicksand

Top Ten Time!

As the years go by, one of the things I worry about is that my tastes are getting too fixed. Part of my job is to keep up with games as they are now, without getting too attached to the games of the past. So I’m not always comfortable with the idea that my favorite games go back decades — or millennia.

These are games that inspire me, though. They provide fun and challenge with simplicity and elegance. I don’t just love to play them — they’re design touchstones, and it’s probably just as well they don’t change often.

Welcome To… is the only game from 2018 that made it to my top ten. I’m not sure it’ll hang there in the long-term, but the way it balances limited opportunities and

  • 10. Welcome To…
  • 9. Splendor
  • 8. Samurai
  • 7. Acquire
  • 6. Go
  • 5. Battlestar Galactica
  • 4. Flash Point: Fire Rescue
  • 3. Ticket to Ride system
  • 2. Evolution system
  • 1. Bohnanza

My #1 was a surprise to me. The rest of my top 5 are more systems than individual games, full of expansions and variability. But Bohnanza is that rare game that depends on non-zero-sum negotiations. It’s the only game where you can benefit from giving your opponents free stuff, and that rich set of interactions makes it endlessly fascinating to me.

So, What Did We Learn Here?

Don’t spread it around, but I probably don’t need to have 100+ games. They’re nice to have, and it would be hard to have a top 100 list without them.

But 100 games is a lot of games — and the further I get down the list, the more games come with a sigh attached. There’s a lot of “I like this game, but…” in the lower half. A lot of those games are too slow, too light, too hard to teach, or just not as much fun as the ones further up.

I’d do just fine with 50 games. I could live with just my top 10, if I got to play all of them on a regular basis. Having the games on my shelves is nice, but if moving taught me anything this year, it’s that I can walk away from a lot of things that are nice to have.

I’m not rushing to get rid of anything, though. It’s frustrating to see old favorites go unplayed, but the satisfaction of bringing an old favorite back makes up for it. If there’s anything this top 100 list has done, it’s reminded me of how many treasures are lurking on the shelves next to me. We’ll see how many of them I can get back on the table in 2019…

Statistical Odds and Ends

  • Games played in 2018: 244
  • Different games played: 72, give or take an expansion
  • Top 100 games played: 55
  • 2018 games played: 7, four of which made it to the top 100 and one (Fleet: the Dice Game) which will likely join it
  • Played the most: Splendor. 42 plays, many online and/or expansion
  • No lucky 7: I have play counts at every number from 1 to 10, except 7.
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Copyright 2018 The Roaming Designer

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