Best Board Games of 2016 (Year in Review)


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Now that we are 3 months into 2017, it is good time to look back at the year that was 2016 and recap the best board games of 2016.

And what a year it was for board games!

Lots of great games were released. Many of which I have not had a chance to yet play. Sad face!

Since I have not personally had the opportunity to play all of these, it would be unfair of me to rank them. Instead, I have scoured the Web to find top 10 lists. And, here, I present an aggregated list to you. The games are listed based on their rank (when lists were numerically ranked) and total number of lists (of which I have included 7 ranked top 10 lists and 3 unranked lists).

The undisputed champion for best board game of 2016 goes to…

Scythe

Scythe - Board Game

Scythe appeared in all 10 lists that we reviewed.

That includes the 7 top 10 lists. It only showed up in the top 5 on three of those lists, but its consistency is what makes me confident to label this the best game of 2016. The only problem, in my mind, is its hefty price tag.

As someone who grew up as an only child and wore out my electronic chess set, one of my favorite features of Scythe is the ability to play solo. This despite the box cover not listing 1 player as an option. I would not go so far as to purchase this game with the sole intent to play by yourself, but it is a nice fallback option.

And now the full list of the…

Best Board Games of 2016

Notes on what you will find below:

    • Number of lists refers to how many “best board games of 2016” lists the game appeared on. For ranked lists, I have also included a point total which is also what determined the game’s placement on the list. All ranked lists were top 10 lists. So, a game received 10 points for appearing at the top of the list, 9 points for appearing second, and continues until 1 point for 10th place.
    • Game Description is taken from the manufacturer.
    • What Others Are Saying About It is a short recap of what I felt were the most important comments being made in reviews and forum comments about the game, including some added commentary by me.
    • There is also no right or wrong way to create a list like this. I chosen to use the point-based system to construct the rankings. This will skew some games higher than perhaps they deserve because one person really loved the game (e.g., Millennium Blades and New Bedford were each ranked 1st on one list each, but appeared in no other lists). However, if one person really loved the game that much, then perhaps it deserves some extra attention. A game like Inis, though, deserves consideration for appearing in 3 of the 7 ranked lists. However, it was ranked 9th twice and 8th once and only earned 4 points. Appearing on 3 out of 7 top 10 lists means that I will definitely be giving this game and hands-on test as soon as I have the chance.

 1. Scythe

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 10
  • Ranked: 7 | 40 points
  • Unranked: 3

As mentioned above, Scythe accrued the most points by being consistently ranked in the top 10. In fact, it appeared in every list. It averaged between 5th and 6th place ranking.

Game Description

It is a time of unrest in 1920’s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “the factory,” which fueled the war with heavily armored Mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries. Scythe is a board game set in an alternate-history 1920S period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and Valor. In scythe, each player represents a fallen leader attempting to restore their honor and lead their faction to power in Eastern Europa. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous Mech.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • This game is absoultely! not intended for casual gamers or for players who are looking for a relaxing night around the gaming table. Players are responsible for keeping track of numerous things (I almost think of it as a miniature game of Civilization but without the computer to track everything). The game is also very strategic, requiring players to make game decisions every turn.
  • The game itself is beautiful. The artwork is great and can help draw players into the game.
  • The Automa mode (playing solo against a pseudo AI opponent) obviously does not match up to playing actual humans but is a good enough substitute to get your Scythe fix.

 

2. Mansions of Madness: 2nd Edition

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 6
  • Ranked: 4 | 39 points
  • Unranked: 2

Mansions of Madness: 2nd Edition just did miss out on the top spot. And did so despite appearing on just 4 out of 7 lists (and just 2 out of 3 of the unranked lists as well).

It did so by being absolutely loved by those who ranked it. It garnered three 1st place spots and one 2nd place spot.

If you can afford this pricey game (over $100), then do yourself the favor and pick a copy up.

Game Description

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Recommended Ages: 13 years old and up

Mansions of Madness Second Edition is a fully cooperative, app-driven board game of horror and mystery for one to five players that takes place in the same universe as eldritch horror and elder sign. Explore the veiled and misty streets of Innsmouth and stumble through the haunted corridors of Arkham’s cursed mansions as you search of answers and respite. Dive into the required app to confront scenarios of fear and mystery, collecting weapons, tools, and information, solving complex puzzles, and fighting monsters, insanity, and death. Open the door and step inside these hair-raising Mansions of Madness Second Edition. It will take more than just survival to conquer the evils terrorizing this town.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Biggest improvement from the first edition is that an app now serves as the DM, allowing all participants to actively play the game.
  • Lots of stories and puzzles to keep you entertained. They are riveting enough to make you want to find the next clue or open the next door to learn more.
  • And the game has repeat play value (which is great giving the $$$ price tag) after completing all four scenarios. It just may not be quite as fun once certain story elements are spoiled after the first playthrough.
  • The biggest complaint by far is the quality of the pieces. Although Fantasy Flight has been known to replace some broken pieces (especially if discovering a broken piece after opening your brand new box), one would hope that the pieces would be able to withstand some abuse. The miniatures are a fun addition but either improving the quality or just using tile pieces would have been an improvement.

 

3. Star Wars: Rebellion

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 7
  • Ranked: 4 | 28 points
  • Unranked: 3

Star Wars: Rebellion what I consider the next tier of games on the list. It presents a noticeable drop off from the scores of the previous two, though it does appear on all 3 unranked lists.

Game Description

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Recommended Ages: 13 years old and up

Instruction Manuals: Book 1 and Book 2

Star Wars: Rebellion is a board game of epic conflict between the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance for two to four players! Experience the Galactic Civil War like never before. In Rebellion, you control the entire Galactic Empire or the fledgling Rebel Alliance. You must command starships, account for troop movements, and rally systems to your cause. Featuring more than 150 plastic miniatures and two game boards that account for thirty-two of the Star Wars galaxy’s most notable systems, Rebellion features a scope that is as large and sweeping as any Star Wars game before it.

Yet for all its grandiosity, Rebellion remains intensely personal, cinematic, and heroic. As much as your success depends upon the strength of your starships, vehicles, and troops, it depends upon the individual efforts of such notable characters as Leia Organa, Mon Mothma, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Emperor Palpatine. As civil war spreads throughout the galaxy, these leaders are invaluable to your efforts, and the secret missions they attempt will evoke many of the most inspiring moments from the classic trilogy.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Do not expect to finish a game in a mere couple of hours. A single game of Star Wars: Rebellion will occupy at minimum 3-4 hours of your day (or night).
  • The game presents an accurate asymmetric system. That is, in both the movies and the game , the rebellion feels like a clear underdog with no chance at defeating the Imperial army with head-on attacks. Indeed, the game offers completely different objectives for each side to determine who is victorious.
  • As mentioned earlier, the game is epic in both scale and time required to complete. However, the average round time is roughly 25-35 minutes. This means that you typically only play 4-6 rounds. This impacts just what, and how much, you can do in each game. This can both be good (in that you want to play multiple times to try everything) and bad (it can be disappointing to not be able to complete or use a specific ship).
  • You may be better off ignoring that the game can be technically be played with more than 2 players.

 

4. Great Western Trail

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 5
  • Ranked: 4 | 26 points
  • Unranked: 1

Great Western Trail comes in just behind Star Wars: Rebellion, appearing on the same number of ranked lists but only on 1 unranked list. That said, on three of the lists, it appeared in the top 3 games.

Game Description

Publisher: Stronghold Games

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

In Great Western Trail, you are rival cattlemen in 19th century America, herding cattle from Texas to Kansas city in a circular trail. Your cattle are then shipped by train, earning you money and victory points. Hire capable staff, such as cowboys to improve your herd, craftsmen to build your cattle posts, or engineers for the railroad line. Upon each arrival at the destination station, have your most valuable cattle in tow. The winner is the player who manages their herd best and exhibits good timing in mastering opportunities and pitfalls on the great western trail.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game will take you approximately 2 hours to complete. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Expect the first playthrough to require a lot of time understanding the rules and thinking through how to approach the game. Some of the game is repetitious, allowing for quicker play in subsequent sessions.
  • There are many decisions that players can make, but there may be too many. Or, stated another way, there may be too many that don’t matter as much as just finding a way to get more or better cattle. This can also lead to snowballing effect as one player can begin to pull away if start amassing.
  • The overall game is fairly easy for new players to grasp, but gamers who tend to suffer from analysis paralysis may get overwhelmed with the various decision points.

 

5. Mechs vs. Minions

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 5
  • Ranked: 4 | 20 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: League of Legends

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

Mechs vs Minions is a fully cooperative tabletop game for 2-4 players. Using programmatic movement from a shared draft, teammates will grow in power as they face off against armies of marauding minions.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Great looking figures.
  • Developers intended for it to be a cross between Robo Rally and Descent. Based on several reviewers, they at least got the Robo Rally aspect correct.
  • Unboxing the game is itself an experience. Given its 12.8 pound weight, there is plenty for gamers to sift through.
  • The board game translates well from its source material. However, familiarity with the game is no way required to enjoy the cardboard version. Though you may miss out all of the easter eggs and/or inside jokes.

Note: I recommend you try purchasing through the publisher’s website (if available) or eBay where the game can be found much cheaper than the third party sellers on Amazon. Or you can wait until Wave 2 hits (Wave 1 was a limited edition) later in 2017.

 

6. Terraforming Mars

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 5
  • Ranked: 3 | 20 points
  • Unranked: 0

Terraforming Mars and Mechs vs. Minions are essentially ranked the same. MvM appeared on more ranked lists, but Terraforming Mars had a higher average for the 3 lists on which it appeared. Also, Terraforming Mars appeared on multiple unranked lists.

Game Description

Publisher: Stronghold Games

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete in doing the best work, with victory points awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar systems and other commendable achievements.

The players acquire unique project cards, which represent anything from introducing plant life or animals, hurling asteroids at the surface, building cities, and establishing greenhouse gas industries to heat up the atmosphere. You compete for the best places for your city tiles, ocean tiles and greenery tiles. When the terraforming process is complete, the player corporation with the most victory points wins

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game can be enjoyably completed solo, playing out like a complex puzzle. Most seem to feel that 3-4 plays is the ideal number
  • Majority of people have questioned the poor artwork and component quality (though, many of those same people still feel the game is absolutely worth owning due to the actual gameplay).
  • The game is not for the feint of heart. While the rules are fairly straightforward, the mechanisms within the game (e.g., scientific projects) can be rather difficult to fully comprehend and can seem way too tedious for first-time players.
  • Keeping in mind the above, the game has immense replayability, if you enjoy your first time. There are many avenues to success, largely due to the number of cards in the game and game variants.

 

7. Adrenaline

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 4
  • Ranked: 4 | 16 points
  • Unranked: 0

Adrenaline headlines what I consider the 3rd tier on this list. Unlike the next two games on the list which appear only on 2 lists, Adrenaline found its way onto 4 different lists (averaging 7th place on the top 10 lists). Similar to the Scythe vs. Mansions of Madness discussion in the first tier, this is a matter of consistency vs. peak performance.

Game Description

Publisher: Czech Games

Recommended Ages: 14 years old and up

In the future, war has left the world in complete destruction and split the people into factions. The factions have decided to stop the endless war and settle their dispute in the arena. A new virtual bloodsport was created. The Adrenaline tournament. Every faction has a champion, every champion has a chance to fight and the chance to win. Will you take the chance of becoming the next champion of the Adrenaline tournament?

Adrenaline brings the classic first-person shooter video games to your table. Grab some ammo, take a gun, and start shooting. Build up an arsenal for a killer turn. Combat resolution is quick and dice less – and if you get shot, you get faster! game includes 5 combatant miniatures.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Unlike several games on the list, this one requires at least 3 players to play. But, it really excels with 4-5 players.
  • Despite being a combat game on the surface, it requires resource management (e.g., ammo)
  • Rules are simple. Learning how all the guns work, though, will take some time for new players. This means that games where all players are familiar with the weaponry will move, for the most part, seamlessly.
  • Fans of first-person shooter games will enjoy the thematic feel.

 

8. Roll Player

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 2 | 15 points
  • Unranked: 0

Roll Player only appeared on 2 of the 10 lists we reviewed. But, on those two lists, it appeared 3rd and 4th.

Game Description

Publisher: Thunderworks Games

Recommended Ages: 8 years old and up

You will compete to create the greatest fantasy adventurer who has ever lived, preparing your character to embark on an epic quest. Roll and draft dice to build up your character’s attributes. Purchase weapons and armor to outfit your hero. Train to gain skills and discover your Hero’s traits to prepare them for their journey. Earn reputation stars by constructing the perfect character. The player with the greatest reputation wins the game and will surely triumph over whatever nefarious plot lies ahead!.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • This games does for character creation what Adrenaline does for first-person shooters. It relies on the classic D&D skills: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma.
  • Common complaints about the game are easily summarized as “That’s it?!”. That is, you get to build your character but then there are no massive adventures for you to complete. It’s definitely a valid point, but Roll Player excels at gamifying one aspect of the role-playing experience. And it offers a strategic game as well as built-in moments for imaginative storytelling.
  • It’s essentially a puzzle game that you must solve based on the dice rolled.
  • The game can be played solo and, in fact, it is to some degree solitaire even when multiple people are playing. However, there are opportunities for impeding your opponents strategy.

 

9. The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 2 | 13 points
  • Unranked: 0

As it so happens, the same two reviewers who included Roll Player on their lists have The Manhattan Project as well. It appears 4th and 5th respectively.

Game Description

Publisher: Minion Games

Recommended Ages: 13 years old and up

From the ashes of war, nations rise to power in the atomic age. Each player takes control of a Nation struggling for power in the latter part of the 20th century. They build up their nation’s industry, commerce, and government by acquiring resources, building structures, and tapping sources of energy. The price of oil is going up, and nuclear energy is the wave of the future.

Energy Empire is set in the same universe as The Manhattan Project bu is a stand-alone game.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • If you are familiar with the original, many like this version better. It offers more avenues for winning than the prior iteration.
  • Great worker placement game that balances deep strategy and fun. And according to at least one reviewer, it may be above them all.
  • Component quality is top notch. And the artwork is overall quite good.
  • Unlike most games above it on this list, this one can be completed in around 90 minutes. Perhaps 60 once everyone understands the rules.

 

10. Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 3
  • Ranked: 2 | 10 points
  • Unranked: 1

Of note, this game appeared in the top 2 of a top 10 list. So, there is at least one big fan. Then again, he could just enjoy Lovecraftian horror, as Mansions of Madness appeared atop his list.

Game Description

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Recommended Ages: 13 years old and up

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a cooperative Living Card Game set amid a backdrop of Lovecraftian horror. As the Ancient Ones seek entry to our world, one to two investigators (or up to four with two Core Sets) work to unravel arcane mysteries and conspiracies.

Your efforts determine not only the course of your game, but carry forward throughout whole campaigns, challenging you and your fellow investigators to overcome your personal demons in a manner that blurs the distinction between traditional card game and roleplaying experiences.

Ludologists Review

Check out our Arkham Horror: The Card Game review.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • One box will accommodate 1-2 players. You will need to buy a second box to expand to 4 players. And, you probably want 2 boxes in order to maximize deck building options.
  • The game works really well as a solo game, though you may want to at least have someone else in the house. You know, just in case…
  • Much of the game design focus is on developing characters and progressing the campaign story.

 

11. Agility

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 2 | 10 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Two Lantern Games

Recommended Ages: 10 years old and up

The sky breaks clear and bright over a mouth-watering field of obstacles. The golden retriever, border collie, and Irish setter you’ve adopted are exuberant as they prepare to breathtakingly weave the poles, sail over hurdles, blast through tunnels, round corners with fur a-tussle, and harness lightning while waiting for your cue on the trust-testing pause box. Agility applies a unique mechanic in which cards that supply resources also select actions.

On your turn, you play a Training Card that provides one of two types of training (speed, strength, agility, jump, or trust) in varying quantities while also granting an action on a rondel (actions are interchangeable from game to game). Sometimes you’ll key on the training, sometimes you’ll play for the action, but ideally you’ll benefit from both, which encourages clever planning and timing.

From a tableau of 6 courses (out of 16 included to further enhance replayability), you’ll draft a course upon adopting each of your 3 dogs (out of 15 possible), so there is a race within a race to snatch up pups well suited to that particular game. Then it’s nip and tuck as you tap your vision and versatility to motivate your canine friends over, under, and through to the finish lines!

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Agility uses an intriguing gameplay mechanic: your resource supply cards also select actions. This can create tension when the resource you desire does not align with the action that must be taken.
  • Quite the possibly the only strategy game that revolves around dog training.
  • Some of the game pieces are relatively small. This can be problematic as you are required to sort them at the beginning. Particularly for much older or younger players.

12. Millennium Blades

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 10 points
  • Unranked: 0

Millennium Blades appeared only on a single list. But, it took the #1 spot.

Game Description

Publisher: Level 99 Games

Recommended Ages: 10 years old and up

Millennium Blades is a board game about a fictional collectible card game, which is also called Millennium Blades. You begin the game on pre-release night with just your starter deck. You’ll open new packs, form collections, and sell your junk cards on the aftermarket to buy hot new cards. Trade with your friends, build up your deck, and prepare to compete at Millennium Blades Worlds for the title of World Champion!

This is a game about competitive deck building. You get a limited pool of cards, and then you tinker them into the most unfairly over-powered, table-flippantly broken deck that you can imagine. And your deck had better be pretty crazy, because your opponents won’t be giving any quarter, and they all have unique collections with access to their own high-tier power cards. In addition to deck building, you’ll be speculating on blind pack buys, selling and buying cards on the aftermarket, and fusing your cards to make rarer and better ones to get an advantage over the competition. You might even make a few friends, if you’re willing to help them out.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Don’t plan to play the game immediately after receiving. You will need to take to assemble the Millennium Money. And, if you want to pay proper homage to card collecting games, you can devote time to putting the cards into sleeves (bought separately).
  • If you do decide to sleeve your cards, then you will probably be seeking alternative storage solutions.
  • The game affords you the CCG experience without being sucked into the money pit that can be CCGs.
  • The game’s core revolves around a massive deck of cards (600+, all included with purchase). This means lots of shuffling at the beginning and not an insignificant time requirement to put away.

 

13. New Bedford

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 10 points
  • Unranked: 0

Like Millennium Blades, New Bedford appeared only on a single list. It, too, took the #1 spot.

Game Description

Publisher: Greater than Games

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

Set in the mid-1800s, the age of whaling, new Bedford gives 1 to 4 players the chance to build the Massachusetts town of the same name into a thriving community. Gather resources to add buildings with new actions, and launch ships to go whaling.

Go out longest for the best choice, but wait too long and the whales become harder to catch. And don’t forget to pay your crew when ships return! carefully balance risk management and timing to earn the most points in this medium-weight worker placement and resource management game.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • One of the first games on the list where I’d without hesitation attempt introducing to age groups below the recommended. As always, mileage may vary by child.
  • The game offers 12 turns which is long enough to fully enjoy the experience but not long enough to allow players to construct everything available (or maximize). Hence, the game does offer some measure of replay value. Of course, it seems likely that the replay value would be there regardless.
  • The expansions to come will expand gameplay and only continue to improve upon the base game.
  • Like many others on the list, New Bedford offers a solitaire option that can be just as fun.

 

14. Allegiance: A Realm Divided

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 2 | 9 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Underground Games

Recommended Ages: 14 years old and up

Allegiance: A Realm Divided is a fully self-contained board game for 2-4 players. It is a game of strategy where players assume the roles of powerful heroes and engage each other in epic fantasy battles.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Allegiance is a great card game for those who wish to avoid deckbuilding. Rather than customizing a deck, players have the option from choosing a card from different decks. This does provide a certain level of consistency which can be interpreted as good or bad.
  • The asymmetry stems from the 10 characters players choose from when starting the game. The combination selected gives each a game a slightly different feel and requires players to take different tactical approaches.
  • Stunning artwork on both the cards and the character sheets. It also includes a hero booklet and art/lore book.

 

15. Via Nebula

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 2 | 9 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Asmodee

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

A valley emerges from an era of monstrous creatures and darkness. A thick fog lingers, concealing treasures and opportunities untold. You’re going to clear the fog, unveil natural resources, and build up society so the valley’s people can live in peace and prosperity once again.

In the game Via Nebula, players compete to rebuild the Nebula Valley as it recovers from a dark age, by clearing the valley’s fog and locate resources. Whoever has done the most to restore the region’s buildings and towns wins!

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game is easy to pick up by new players. And the rules are not terribly complicated.
  • Via Nebula fosters high level of player interaction by making your actions directly open up decisions paths for other players (e.g., opening a resource spot enables it to be used by everyone).
  • The game plays much better with 3-4 people than it does with only 2. However, the gameplay is streamlined enough that even 4 player games do not drag out.
  • The board is double-sided with one side representing an easy version and the other a more challenging experience. Additional replay value stems from the random placement of resources on the map.
  • The game is fast-moving (~30 minutes to complete) but the actual in-game development and strategy is completed incrementally.

You can also read a review of Via Nebula from one of our writers.

 

16. Vast

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 2 | 9 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Leder Games

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

As the ultimate asymmetric board game, Vast: The Crystal Caverns provides a limitless adventure, playable again and again as you and your friends explore the five exciting roles in many combinations. Play solo or with up to 5 players for the full game.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game has built-in difficulty scaling (5 levels: easiest to expert).
  • The artwork is pleasant and many of the cards have flavor text which was often one of my favorite parts of looking at a new Magic card.
  • The remaining components are of good quality, or at worst, good-enough quality that you feel like you are getting good value.

 

17. 7 Ronin

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 8 points
  • Unranked: 0

7 Ronin was only ranked on 1 list but appeared at the #3 spot.

Game Description

Publisher: Grey Fox Games

Recommended Ages: 10 years old and up

7 Ronin is an asymmetric two-player game in which one player controls a Group of Ninja attacking a village that’s defended by seven Ronin (masterless Samurai), which are controlled by the other player. The Ninja player wins by occupying five of the village’s ten areas, while the Ronin player wins by surviving eight rounds.

Each turn starts with the players distributing their forces over the village areas simultaneously and separately. Their choices are then revealed, and combat resolved. Each of the Ronin have a different special ability to aid the Defender, while each of the village areas have a special ability usable by the attacker once it has been occupied.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Relatively simple 2-player strategy game that can be completed in 15-30 minutes. The brevity does not detract from the game is one of the game’s appealing features.
  • Even if its just you and one other person, there are plenty of scenarios that could unfold in subsequent games. In fact, you and your game partner will develop a certain metagame that you can then look to exploit (and so can they). And that’s all before you decide to switch roles.
  • You may find the initial learning curve steep but keep in mind 2 things: once learned, you can easily play subsequent games (and since the initial game does not take long, you can often get another game in before one of the other games on our list would be finished) and it’s completely worth learning.

 

18. Cry Havoc

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 8 points
  • Unranked: 0

Cry Havoc was only ranked on 1 list but appeared at the #3 spot.

Game Description

Publisher: Portal Games

Recommended Ages: 10 years old and up

Cry havoc is a card-driven, area control, war game set in a brutal Sci-Fi world that plays in 90 minutes or less. The players will be in command of one of 4 unique factions with varying abilities and units. The game will include 54 custom miniatures, a large format board, and over 100 unique cards, all with stunning new artwork.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Though not necessary, the miniatures are designed in such a way that allows you to paint them.
  • The asymmetry means that each of the 4 factions plays differently and part of the first times playing the game are determining the respective strengths and weaknesses. Some feel that particular factions (especially the humans) are too strong, but it may also be dependent on who is controlling each faction.
  • Games will typically end within 90 minutes. But even if they go long, the downtime between your turn is rather minimal.
  • At times, it can be too easy for one player to be “ganged up” and effectively eliminated because of the number of turns preventing a comeback.

 

19. The Castle of Burgundy (card game)

 

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 8 points
  • Unranked: 0

Castles of Burgundy (card game) was only ranked on 1 list but appeared at the #3 spot.

Note: Please forgive my laziness of just repeating the same, but accurate, sentence.

Game Description

Publisher: Ravensburger

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

The hundred years’ War is over and the Renaissance is looming. Conditions are perfect for the princes of the Loire Valley to propel their estates to prosperity and prominence. Through strategic trading and building, clever planning, and careful thought, players add settlements and castles, practice trade along the river, exploit silver mines, farm Livestock and more in this top-selling game by Stefan Feld.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game can be enjoyably played solo. And multiplayer games can be completed in as little as 15-20 minutes. Personally, I consider the brevity both a blessing (sometimes you only have 30 minutes to play a game) and curse (I would much rather engage in a longer game than multiple playthroughs of the same game).
  • The game has satisfying complexity and does not devolve into luck-driven strategy that can sometimes crop up with card games. That said, there is more randomness than in the board game variant.
  • The portability of the card game is nice. But, if that is not a concern, you would probably be better off just buying the original board game.

 

20. Quadropolis

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 4
  • Ranked: 2 | 7 points
  • Unranked: 2

Yes, Quadropolis appeared on 4 lists. Something only 7 other games on this list can claim. That alone should give you a clue as to the quality of this game. And also that rankings are not always everything.

Game Description

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Recommended Ages: 8 years old and up

After a hard day’s work, you take a break to admire your city through the large windows of your office at this hour, most of your citizens are going back home, heading for the tall buildings that you see in front of you. Some others are still wandering in the parks and gardens with their kids, and others decided to go shopping in the new mall that you opened a few weeks ago. In the distance, near the harbor, you can see smoke rising from factories’ chimneys. Somehow, the city never sleeps.

In Quadropolis you enact the role of the Mayor of a modern city. You will need to define a global strategy to build your city according to your Inhabitants’ needs and outmatch your opponents, sending your Architects to have various buildings erected in your city. Each building allows you to score victory points. There are various types of buildings with different scoring patterns; many of them may be combined for better effect. Will you be able to meet the challenge and become the most prestigious Mayor in history.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Games take approximately 15 minutes per player.
  • Like other Days of Wonder games, the component quality is quite high.
  • The rules are quite simple and easy for experienced and novice gamers to learn and enjoy.
  • Quadropolis is one of the few games on this long list that lists ages as young as 8. Several people have noted the family-friendly nature of the game. Though my daughter is years away from moving past Candyland and its ilk, this is certainly the kind of game I will be looking to get for the house.

 

21. A Feast for Odin

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 1 | 7 points
  • Unranked: 1

A single #4 spot garnered all 7 points. But it did also appear on a single unranked list.

Game Description

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Recommended Ages: 8 years old and up

Delve into the world of Vikings and dabble in trading, hunting, raiding, pillaging, plundering, and raiding some more. Build houses, explore new worlds, and every round, have a feast in Odin’s name. The large variety of actions and occupations guarantees your northerners long-lasting fun, with each game creating a new world on your player board!

What Others Are Saying About It

  • If you traditionally like Uwe Rosenberg’s games, then you will like this one.
  • High level of replayability due to the roll of the die and draw of the deck. And also due to your opponents’ strategy.
  • The game design allows for 4 players to complete a game in roughly 2 hours (not counting time spent teaching new players). That’s not too bad given all that goes into this game.
  • There are a number of viable paths to victory.

 

22. Agamemnon

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 6 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Osprey Games

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

None can defy Fate but the gods themselves. Driven by the ambition of their king, the Greeks have arrived on the shores of Troy. Some seek power; some seek revenge, while others seek the great moment in battle that will define their place in history. From veteran designer Günter Cornett, Agamemnon is a fast-paced strategy board game in which two players take the roles of ancient Greek gods during the Trojan War. By tactically deploying warriors to where they’re needed across the board, each player may influence the final outcome of the battles famously detailed in Homer’s Iliad. Some areas will be decided by the strength of your warriors, some by sheer weight of numbers, and others by the inspiration your heroes provide.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Easy game to learn (~10 minutes) and quick to play (20-30 minutes)
  • The quality opponent is relatively poor compared to many (perhaps all?) of the games on the list. The items, though, will withstand repeated game sessions.
  • The artwork, too, leaves much to be desired. That said, the gameplay is what saves Agamemnon.

 

23. Codenames: Pictures

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 1 | 5 points
  • Unranked: 1

Game Description

Publisher: Czech Games

Recommended Ages: 10 years old and up

The two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 Agents. Their teammates know the Agents only by their code names. The teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their Agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple pictures on the board. Their teammates try to guess the pictures of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin. Code names pictures: win or lose, it’s fun to figure out the clues.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game is quick to play (up to ~20 minutes) and can be enjoyed by gamers and non-games alike.
  • Codenames: Pictures seems to be enjoyed almost universally, though the original is still the preferred choice by many.
  • The game can be enjoyed by children younger than 10 and is definitely an advantage over the original.

 

24. Saloon Tycoon

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 5 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Van Ryder Games

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

Players are Saloon owners in an old West gold rush town. They’ve purchased lots on the four corners of the main Crossroads and need to expand their small establishments into thriving businesses. Their goal is to create massive centers for commerce and entertainment in the wilds of the West. To boost their success, they’ll need to attract the wealthy and famous citizens of the town while keeping away the less savory characters.

This is a building and tile placement game where the purpose of the game is to build the best Saloon. The game is played by each player taking a board and then taking turns going clockwise from the first player earning gold, taking an action, building and collecting bonuses. The player with the most reputation points at the end of the game wins!.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game looks and feels great. Both the components and the artwork look good.
  • One of its greatest qualities may be serving as a gateway game due to its easy-to-learn nature and luck-of-the-draw element that can keep even beginners in the game.

 

25. Inis

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 4
  • Ranked: 3 | 4 points
  • Unranked: 1

In this way of ranking, Inis appears at #25. But two other methods would have it ranked much higher: total number of lists (sixth) or total number of ranked lists (seventh). I would argue that it definitely warrants at least its current ranking. And probably much more.

Game Description

Publisher: Matagot

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

Players are Saloon owners in an old West gold rush town. They’ve purchased lots on the four corners of the main Crossroads and need to expand their small establishments into thriving businesses. Their goal is to create massive centers for commerce and entertainment in the wilds of the West. To boost their success, they’ll need to attract the wealthy and famous citizens of the town while keeping away the less savory characters.

This is a building and tile placement game where the purpose of the game is to build the best Saloon. The game is played by each player taking a board and then taking turns going clockwise from the first player earning gold, taking an action, building and collecting bonuses. The player with the most reputation points at the end of the game wins!.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Beautiful artwork
  • Adds a twist to the classic card drafting approach: being able to pass previously selected cards. On top of that, you can employ a bit of card denial by identifying your opponent’s gameplan.
  • As a longtime collectible card game enthusiast (Magic and Hearthstone are my main two vices), I can appreciate the mention of card advantage vs. tempo in at least one discussion about Inis. In the same post, the author argues that many people may not be playing the game correctly which leads to negative impressions. For me, this just makes it a game that I have bumped to the top of my list.

26. Mare Nostrum: Empire

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 4 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Academy Games

Recommended Ages: 14 years old and up

The ancient Romans called the Mediterranean Sea Mare Nostrum which is Latin for “Our Sea”. Mare Nostrum – Empires is an empire building game in which 3-5 players lead their individual empires to dominion of the ancient world. You grow the fame and glory of your empire by expanding your influence into new Provinces, then extending your Trade Caravans, building Markets, and founding new Cities and Temples. You may also recruit Heroes and create Wonders to help your Empire’s cause, but beware of your ‘friends’. They may look upon your gains with envy and greed. And thwart your progress towards dominion of Mare Nostrum!.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Despite multiple paths to victory and several layers of strategy, the game can be relatively easy for new players to pick up within a single game session.
  • Absolutely beautiful game!

27. Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 4 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Recommended Ages: 14 years old and up

Beings of ancient evil, known as old ones, are threatening to break out of their cosmic prison and awake into the world. Everything you know and love could destroyed by chaos and madness. Can you and your fellow investigators manage to find and seal every portal in time? hurry before you lose yourself to insanity.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game largely holds true to the Cthulu mythos. You assume the roles of investigators trying to prevent Cthulu’s awakening and maintain your sanity.
  • Do not expect this version to be as good as Pandemic. That said, it is still a quality game and more than just a painted-on Lovecraftian theme. 

28. Conan Board Game

Number of Lists: update this

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 3 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Asmodee

Recommended Ages: 14 years old and up

Conan’s immersive and asymmetrical scenarios pit one to four heroes against a nefarious Overlord and his minions, and you resolve your battles with an innovative combat system that almost lets you feel the strain in your muscles and the weight of your sword in your hand.

With its muscular combat mechanics, its evocative scenarios, the lavish maps upon which they’re played, and the seventy-four detailed miniatures with which you play them, Conan transforms your adventures into the stuff of legend!

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Unlike similar big-box games, Conan offers several one-off adventures rather than an extended campaign. This offers advantages (namely, no excessive commitment from players) and disadvantages (namely, the lack of continuity from adventure to adventure).
  • Plan to pick up some extra dice or track number over multiple rolls. Under maximum needs, you will not have enough dice. Other deficiencies include finite number of scenarios and maps.
  • Adding expansions can give the game extended life.

29. Ice Cool

Number of Lists:

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 5 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Brain Games

Recommended Ages: 6 years old and up

The lunch break is almost there and all of the young penguins would finally get the fish they’ve been craving for. However, some rascals think they are quick enough to snatch some of the fish before the lunch break starts, but they have forgotten one thing – the Hall Monitor! Each school day one of the penguins is designated to watch over the school, and this is his moment to shine – for each rascal penguin he catches he would get additional fish!

A fun run takes place – the rascals are running everywhere and trying to snatch some fish on their way, but the Hall Monitor is trying to catch each and one of them to have some order in the school. Who will be more successful?

Ice Cool is a flicking game in which each round one of the players takes the role of the Hall Monitor (also called “the Catcher”) – his aim will be to catch each other penguin and get points for that. The others (also known as “Runners”) will try to run through several doors, thus gaining fish (that give them points) on their way. When either the Hall Monitor has caught each other penguin once or any of the others has gone through all 3 doors that have fish on them, the round is over. Each player will take the role of the Hall Monitor once and at the end of the game the winner will be the one with the most points on their fish cards.

The penguins can be flicked in a straight line, make curves and even jump over the walls! Each player will have to use the best of their skills in order to get the most points in this fun and exciting game. It’s not just cool, it’s ICE COOL!

What Others Are Saying About It

  • Ice Cool takes the prize for being the game with the youngest recommended age. Not surprisingly, this is probably one of the best games on this list to purchase for families.
  • Wonderful dexterity game. And quick to play!
  • Personally, one of my favorite parts of the game is that the game box actually becomes part of the game.

30. Xenon Profiteer

Number of Lists: update this

  • Total: 1
  • Ranked: 1 | 3 points
  • Unranked: 0

Game Description

Publisher: Eagle

Recommended Ages: 13 years old and up

Xenon Profiteer is a highly thematic, deck-deconstruction, euro game for 2‐4 entrepreneurs. Each player takes control of their own Air Separation Facility and distills Xenon from their Systems to complete lucrative contracts. You will also expand your facility by building upgrades, pipelines, and acquiring new contracts.

In a decidedly different take on the classic deck‐building format, XENON Profiteer not only actively encourages players to remove cards from their decks, it is absolutely essential in order to isolate Xenon. Players strategically remove cards from their hand (and deck) through Distilling in order to isolate the Xenon in their hand.

Players also buy powerful upgrade cards for their facility in order to become more efficient, and, depending how much they pay, can either place them directly into their system (deck) or install them directly into their facility to be used every turn for the remainder of the game.

After a player has either completed 5 contracts or installed 5 upgrades, the game end is triggered and the player with the most Xenon points is the winner.

Do you have the ingenuity, strategy, and tactical fortitude it takes to be recognized by several reputable business publications as the owner of the most influential domestic supplier of Xenon?

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game can be enjoyed by kids as young as 9.
  • The game is part of the deckbuilding genre, but plays different than many other games within the field.
  • Packs a fair amount of strategy into a short game (~30-40 minutes).

31. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Number of Lists: update this

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 1 | 2 points
  • Unranked: 1

Game Description

Publisher: USAopoly

Recommended Ages: 11 years old and up

A cooperative deck-building game that is progressive, allowing rich game play experiences to unfold with varying levels of difficulty.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game can be enjoyed by kids as young as 8-9.
  • Yes, I and many others understand the trepidation that this could just be another game making a money-grab at a much-loved franchise. I imagine they have made quite a bit of money from game sales, but it’s much deserved.
  • The game is enjoyable when replayed. But, nothing will beat the first time through as you get to reveal each new box’s contents. It’s always fun when components list get spoiler warnings.

Other Notes

Check out our list of top 4 Harry Potter board games for other suggestions if you are a fan of J.K. Rowling’s universe.

Or, you can look at a longer overview on our site.

32. Seafall

Number of Lists: update this

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 1 | 2 points
  • Unranked: 1

Game Description

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Recommended Ages: 14 years old and up

SeaFall is a 4X game (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) set in an “age of sail” world reminiscent of our world. In SeaFall, the world is starting to claw its way out of a dark age and has begun to rediscover seafaring technology.

Players take on the role of a mainland empire that consults with a consortium of advisors to discover new islands, explore those islands, develop trade, send out raiding parties, take part in ship-to-ship combat, and more. SeaFall evolves as the game is played, setting their grudges into the history of the game and building a different narrative at every table as players open up the world.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • The game has built-in catchup advantages that allow it to remain interesting for all players.
  • Tread reviews carefully so you don’t get spoiled. This is a legacy game. You should enjoy it!
  • But if you have never played a legacy game before, you should possibly look elsewhere.

 

33. Captain Sonar

Number of Lists: update this

  • Total: 2
  • Ranked: 1 | 2 points
  • Unranked: 1

Game Description

Publisher: Asmodee

Recommended Ages: 12 years old and up

The year is 2048. Beneath the quiet ocean waves, a silent war is taking place, and new, unstable submarines are your chosen weapon. Prepare to dive in Captain Sonar, a game of dueling submarines for two to eight players!

Captain Sonar is an innovative real-time game that challenges two teams to take their submarines head-to-head in a thrilling battle. Your entire crew must work together to chart a course, locate the enemy, and keep your own submarine operational.

Ludologists Review

Read our full Captain Sonar review.

What Others Are Saying About It

  • 2 teams, 4 players per team (so, start tracking down 7 friends). Each player assumes a different role, like that time you went to Space Camp.
  • Captain Sonar can be played out in roughly 45 minutes. Just be thankful you don’t have to remain silent like you would on an actual submarine.