Austin’s Top 100 Modern Tabletop Games of All Time!!! (#20-11)

I decided to make a Top 100.  My personal favorite tabletop games of all time.  I’m doing this for a couple of reasons.  1. Because it’s fun for me.  And 2, because it gives my readers a chance to learn my tastes in games, which will hopefully give them an idea of what games they’ll enjoy from what I review. 

Keep in mind, I just got into the hobby about 2 and half years ago, so a good majority of the games on this list will be from the last few years.  Also, there are many modern classics I have still not played.  Like El Grande, Alien Frontiers, Roll for the Galaxy, Twilight Imperium, Twilight Struggle, Terra Mystica, Eclipse, Battlestar Galactica, Arkham Horror, Notre Dame, Puerto Rico, Power Grid….. and a few others.  I plan on making a Top 100 around the same time every year, so as I play more games, the list will drastically change throughout the years, I’m sure.  My cut off for this list was April 1st, so if I played a game after that date that I thought is worthy of the list (and there is at least one), it won’t be on until next year. 

But for now, these are my 100 favorite games.  I’ve only played over 500 modern tabletop games, but I have enjoyed most of them.  I love nearly every type of game, with Medium Euros being my sweet spot.  So take that with what you will.  There are still several what I consider “great” games that did not make my list, so don’t get hung up on a game that’s “only” 98.  If it’s on my list, I consider it a great game! 

Okay, enough rambling.  On to my favorite games of all time. 

Numbers 20-11:

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20. MOMBASA (2015) Designed by Alexander Pfister; Published by R&R Games/ for 2-4 players – A fairly heavy Eurogame about the colonization of Africa is one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played.  That’s because the gameplay is really inventive with the way you use your action cards.  You play them down on three spots on your player board and then after you use them, they each go to their own pile, then you choose which pile will go back into your hand later.  That’s so cool.  Players use these action cards to invest in 4 different stocks, placing trading posts in different countries which make the stocks go up (and sometimes down), investing in diamonds, and improving your bookkeeping.  There’s a lot going on here, but it never felt overwhelming, just very involved.  And for a board game, you can’t ask for anything more.  I love trying to figure out which market to invest in, and when to boost their stock.  Some games have to grow on me in order for me to like them.  But that wasn’t the case here.  I instantly fell in love with this one as soon as I began playing it.  Fantastic!

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19. SPLENDOR (2014) Designed by Marc Andre; Published by Space Cowboys/ for 2-4 players – An excellent, straight forward, abstract strategy game.  Players are collecting different kinds of jewels (represented by different colored poker chips), and then using those jewels to buy cards, which will give them permanent jewels and victory points.  I love how this game starts out very slow, then when players start building up their jewel inventory, the cards begin disappearing fast.  Simple mechanics, but lots of strategy.  I liked this the first time I played it, but didn’t understand why it was getting so much acclaim.  I thought maybe it was over hyped.  But after playing it over 40 times now, I get it.  Its mechanics are very clean and streamlined that it’s very easy to teach this one to just about anyone who enjoys to use their head. I keep coming back to this one.   It plays rather quickly too (30 minutes, sometimes less).  I think this game has mass appeal and I feel like that people will still be playing this one in 20 years.  A modern classic.  And I just love holding those thick poker chips in my hand too!

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18. THE VOYAGES OF MARCO POLO (2015) Designed by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini; Published by Z-Man Games/ for 2-4 players -What I love about this game is all the options that are available to you.  Players take on the role of an Marco Polo (or one of his colleagues), collecting resources to fulfill contracts, traveling across Europe and Asia, and placing trading posts along their journey.  What’s so cool about the game is that each player has five dice in their color.  Before the round begins, they roll all five dice.  Depending on what they roll determines what actions they can perform that round.  There are about 5 or so action spots on the board to place your dice (traveling, collecting resources, gaining new contracts, etc).  The tricky thing about the game is that it only lasts 5 rounds.  I remember the first time I played it, I felt like it seemed way too short.  And it still does, but I love trying to figure out a way to stretch out my actions and accomplish my objectives in that short amount of time.  It definitely keeps me coming back for more.  And I LOVE that each character the player chooses has an ability that seems ridiculously more powerful than the other (which will determine which strategy you should employ during the game).  The artwork is fantastic, and it has all those classic Euro wooden bits that I have grown to love.  Can’t get enough of this one.

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17. ORLEANS (2015/U.S. release) Designed by Reiner Stockhausen; Published by Tasty Minstrel Games/ for 2-4 players – Pay no attention to the dry artwork and game board.  This game is satisfying beyond words!  If you’re familiar with the deckbuilding mechanic, than you should be able to jump into this game no problem.  But instead of building a deck of cards, players are building up their own supply of follower tokens that are placed into their personal bag.  On each turn, you draw a certain number of them and depending on which ones you drew, determine which actions you can take.  Some of the actions include recruiting new workers, placing trading posts, moving their pawn along the map collecting resources, etc.  The game has some of the most smooth and clean game mechanics I have ever experienced in a game.  Everything just flows together so well.  And even if you’ve never played a Euro game before, I feel like that this could be a great introduction.  It’s got plenty of meat on its bones, but it never seems so complex that you’re not enjoying yourself.  This plays well with all player counts.  Even with 4 players, since when it’s not your turn, you’re still trying to figure out what you should do for your next action.  It’s one of the most involved, and engaging games I’ve ever played.

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16. FIELDS OF ARLE (2015) Designed by Uwe Rosenberg; Published by Z-Man Games/ for 2 players – Here’s another hefty game for you.  There is A LOT of game in this box.  Tons of components consisting of wooden horses, sheep and cows; several building, field and vehicle tiles; and 2 big boards for each player, not to mention a giant main board.  Even though the game is a table hog, it’s only for 2 players.  You play as a family of farmers in Germany during the early 1900’s.  You’re raising animals, constructing huts and buildings, cutting peat, using wool to make clothing, using hides to make leather, growing grain in your fields, cutting wood in the forest, selling goods at various different towns…… yeah, you get to do a lot in this game.  This is probably the richest game I’ve ever played.  Since there is so much going on, the game can seem intimidating, but at its core its a traditional worker placement game.  Each round you send your 4 family members to an action space and do that action.  The action itself is usually something simple (collect 2 sheep, cut 5 peat, etc), but there are 30 different actions to choose from, and it can be overwhelming at first figuring out what you should do on your turn.  But if you stick around and just trust the game, this can be a very rewarding experience.  After you’re done, it definitely feels like you’ve accomplished quite a bit.  It’s a heavier game, but one that makes thematic sense and is full of good, tough decisions.

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15. ALHAMBRA (2003) Designed by Dirk Henn; Published by Queen Games/ for 2-6 players – This won the Spiel Des Jahres back in 2003, and I can easily see why.  This tile laying game is pretty easy to grasp, but is constantly challenging.  Players use 4 different kinds of currency to build a giant palace.  There are 6 different building types, and players are trying to get the most in each one, but since that’s virtually impossible, so it becomes a challenge to figure out the balance of buildings to get.  The scoring system is fantastic.  One of my favorites.  You only score three times.  Once at the end, and twice during the game when a random score card is drawn from the currency deck.  I haven’t played with more than 4 players, but I think the game is still strong with 2 players.  I usually don’t like 2 player variants, but it works extremely well here.  I love the idea of having a certain currency for a specific building, and trying to time it out just right on when to buy it.  Wonderful modern classic!

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14. CAMEL UP (2014) Designed by Steffen Bogen; Published by Z-Man Games/ for 2-8 players -A game where you are betting on camel races?  Yes please!  What a crazy theme!  In this simple, but absolute fun party game,  players bet on which camel they think will be in first at the end of each round, advance a camel by releasing a die from the dice pyramid, placing tiles on the board that will either move a camel forward or back 1 space, and also place a final bet for the overall winner and loser of the race.  As each camel advances, players frantically change their bets.  I LOVE this game!  I’ve played it about 50 times now and it just doesn’t get old.  Every group I introduce it to has flipped for it.  It’s not a strategic game at all, but who said that every game had to require skill?  This is a super fun betting game that works just as well with 2 players as it does 8.  In fact, I’d say the sweet spot for this is 5 players.  And the expansion adds more replayability.  Fun theme with great components (the camels even stack up on each other) and simple, streamlined mechanics.  And everyone loves shaking that dice pyriamid.  This is one of my go-to gateway games!  Oh yeah, and it won the Spiel Des Jahres in 2014.  Deservedly so!

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13. CASTLES OF MAD KING LUDWIG (2014) Designed by Ted Alspach; Published by Bezier Games/ for 2-4 players – Another tile laying game, but this one has a super neat theme.  You are constructing castles in the 1800’s during the time of King Ludwig!  There are 8 different types of rooms you can build, and within those types of rooms, each has a unique name.  You can build a dungeon, a mold room, a pumpkin garden, a theater, a panic room… the list goes on and on.  Each room gives you a certain amount of victory points when you build it, plus gives you a bonus if you build it next to a certain type pf room.  Constructing your castle is just so exciting, but the meat of the game comes from the buying of the rooms.  The players take turns being the master builder, who gets to set the prices of the rooms that are available to purchase, then when the other players buy the rooms, they pay him/her.  It’s a very interesting part of the game as players try to guess who wants which type of room, and trying to put high prices on rooms that they want so that no one else snatches it up.  But be careful you don’t shut them out if they don’t have a lot of money, because then YOU won’t get any money that round.  And or course, I love having those end game goals.  My favorite thing in games!  Also, the ipad app just came out!  It’s incredible.  If you’re curious about this game at all, definitely check the app out.  Or better yet, just pick up the actual game!

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12. TRAINS (2013) Designed by Hisashi Hayashi; Published by AEG/ for 2-4 players – This one is my favorite, straight-up deckbuilding games.  The theme, building a railroad network, is more interesting to me than Dominion (which I find too dry), plus it has a main board that you can lay rails, connecting to cities.  Players purchase train cards, action cards, build station expansions, but also gain waste (which must be managed somehow).  Between the base game and the Rising Sun expansion, there are a ton of different cards that you can use from game to game.  Some allow you to get rid of waste, some score you points right away, some will let you ignore cost of building rails over specific terrain, etc.  I find each game very different, as the variable card combinations determine how you play each game.  I’ve played this over 40 times, and I keep coming back for more!  My go-to deckbuilding game!

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11. AMERIGO (2013) Designed by Stefan Feld; Published by Queen Games/ for 2-4 players – Another game from designer Stefan Feld (and it won’t be the last) is a beast!  The box is giant, and there’s a lot that comes with this game, including a giant cube tower!  Players are explorers discovering America.  The actions are moving their ships around the islands, constructing buildings (with tetris-like tiles), advancing on a technology track (giving you bonuses), and collecting goods.  What makes this game unique is that the number of each action you can perform is determined by a cube tower.  Each action is represented by  different colored cubes, which are dropped into the cube tower.  Depending on how many cubes of each color come out of the bottom of the tower will determine how much of that action you can do.  I instantly fell in love with that mechanic and the overall game!  Lots of tough decisions to make, but all satisfying.  Of course, dropping those cubes in that tower is the main draw, but Amerigo is much more than just a novelty.  It’s what I think should be considered one of the great Eurogames of all time!

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That’s it for now!  Stay tuned for my last entry, numbers 10-1!!!

 

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