We’ve now entered the Top 10 Zone (it’s nowhere near as scary as the Friend Zone)
That’s right, the Top 10 Games I’ve Played of All Time (capitalization is very important here).
These are some amazing games, and if you follow me on Twitter (and if you’re not, why aren’t you?), you’ll probably see many references to them.
Please keep in mind the usual caveat that I haven’t played every game out there (I think Tom Vasel has probably played more games in a month than I’ve ever played).
So don’t be giving me any guff that your favourite game didn’t even rate a mention. I probably haven’t played it yet (or maybe you just don’t have taste…I mean maybe we don’t have the same taste) (Editor – nice save there)
Still have a beef?
And on that note (really, I’m not a violent person), here we go!
Designer: Michael Kiesling
Artists: Philippe Guérin, Chris Quilliams
Another gushing review can be found here, so I’ll just summarize.
This is a beautiful and sometimes brutal tile-laying game where you are trying to make the best tile design compared to your opponents.
I love the mechanism of choosing one colour of tile from a collection and then sending the rest into the middle. Alternatively, you can take all of one colour from the middle, but if you’re the first one to do so, you lose a point (but will be first player next round).
The scoring rules can be quite byzantine (Editor – That’s a weird thing to say for frescoes in Spain) and there’s no way that the game will take more than 5 rounds to complete unless all of the players play sub-optimally, but overall this is a gorgeous game with some potentially agonizing decisions.
And it plays quickly! That’s even better.
I do have to say, though, that if I had played Azul Stained Glass of Sintra when I did this post, I think that one might be here instead of this one.
Watch for my write-up of that one in my New to Me Games – February post when it happens at the beginning of March.
As much as I love Azul, that one is so much better.
But I hadn’t played that yet, and you can’t go wrong playing Azul. It is a brilliant game.
Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Artists: Hannah Cardoso, Júlia Ferrari, Giovanna BC Guimarães, Mathieu Harlaut, Saeed Jalabi
This is a game that I’ve only played once, but I fell in love with it when I did.
It’s a tableau-building game of, well, gizmos. You’re trying to use the proper-coloured marbles to build and collect the right type of gizmos to make your engine very efficient and get the most points.
I love the marble dispenser that gives you a bit of a Potion Explosion feeling but much different (and much more enjoyable).
The colours are vibrant and very clear. The artistic design is very easy to navigate with just a little bit of an explanation.
The gizmos themselves are so cute!
But also, there is the tableau building as you are trying to piece together gizmos that will give you huge combinations that will continue to power you up.
Ideally, your gizmos will make collecting further energy marbles really easy so you don’t have to spend time doing that. In my game, one of my opponents basically had it set up so that each time she spent energy on getting a new gizmo, most of that energy was recouped in the process (using Build action gizmos that gave her new energy marbles whenever she did a Build action)
Needless to say, I’m not very good at that, so I did terribly that game.
But it’s just fun to piece together all of this stuff and try to make the best one you can.
I think Tom Vasel said it best. He found that whenever he played, he spent so much time focusing on building a cool machine that he didn’t even realize the game was close to ending and he hadn’t accumulated that many points.
I can say that would be easy to do!
Give these cute little gizmos a chance.
You’ll be glad you did.
Designer: Vladimír Suchý
Artist: Tomáš Kučerovský
This is why Last Will isn’t as high as it used to be on my list of Top Games Played.
As much as I love Last Will, The Prodigals Club just blows it out of the water.
You may recall that Last Will is about trying to go broke faster than your opponents.
In The Prodigals Club, you are in a contest with your mates to lose not just all of your money, but all of your social and political standing as well.
Basically, you’re trying to piss everybody off.
One cool thing about The Prodigals Club is that it is modular. You can play with only two or all three of the modules, and it has cards to accommodate all combinations.
Just want to play social standing and money? Take the cards that are only for that combination and shuffle them up.
Or play with all three and really go to town!
While this does make set up a bear somewhat, it’s worth it for the gameplay.
The interesting things about Prodigals Club is that it kind of has reverse Tigris & Euphrates scoring. In that game, your endgame point total is the lowest of the four categories you have.
In Prodigals Club, you are trying for lowest, so your endgame score is your highest score.
If you have -10 political votes and are in debt at -10 pounds, but your social standing score is 25, then you have 25 points and you’re probably going to lose.
There are only 5 rounds, and it seems like there’s not enough time to do everything. I always have that beautiful tension when I play.
But the cards that interact with multiple modules will help you get that standing down quickly!
If you do it right.
The artwork on the cards and on the board is really great, capturing the absurd notion of a group of people trying to be the worst people they can be (without being, you know, evil or something).
One other thing is that you can actually replace the financial module in the game with a full game of Last Will. That is amazing! Even though I have no interest in really trying it.
But the fact that you can is just phenomenal.
Give The Prodigals Club a try. It’s well worth at least one play to see if it hits your funny bone like it hits mine.
There’s a reason this game has been on my Top Games Played each year for the last three years.
Designer: Cole Wehrle
Artist: Kyle Ferrin
Players: 2-4 (1-6 with expansion)
This is another love at first sight game, and I do really need to play it again to solidify things.
Root is, at its base, an asymmetric COIN-like game where each different faction has their own way to play and to be successful.
Essentially, war has come to the Woodlands as the current rules (the Marquise de Cat) are trying to hold off the old rulers (the Eyrie birds) are trying to resume power. Other woodland creatures have banded together to form an alliance, and then there’s the Vagabond (the cute little
trash panda raccoon) who just wants to get along and maybe help himself on the side.
The expansion adds the River Folk who are merchants and selling their services to the highest bidder, as well as the Lizard Cult who are trying to spread their holy vision throughout the woodland.
All of this comes together into a tasty mix of a wargame where each side is trying to control clearings in the woodland in order to expand their own power base.
The artwork both on the board and on the cards is amazing. Each faction has its own abilities and its own way of winning. Sure, whoever reaches 30 points first wins (unless somebody gets a Domination victory), but each side gets their points in their own ways.
The Marquise de Cat gets points from controlling clearings and building their industrial base.
The Vagabond gets points from helping other factions as well as going on quests.
It’s just all so juicy and intricate.
I can see why it may be too much for some people.
I was the Eyrie in my one game, and the fact that you have to build a Decree that must be carried out each turn is just so amazing. You’re balancing everything you might want to do on a turn and trying to figure out what you will be able to do in future turns.
Each turn, you have to add a card to your decree in one of four action areas: Recruiting armies, Moving armies, Fighting opponents, and Building new eyries.
If you have two cards in the Fight section, you have to battle twice. If you have two cards in the Build section, then you have to build two eyries.
And each turn a card gets added to this, adding another requirement to your actions.
If there ever is a time that you can’t do an action that’s in your decree, you go into turmoil.
You lose one point for each bird card in your decree (bird cards are wild so broaden the possibilities of where you can move/fight/build), discard your entire decree, and basically start over.
I loved walking that fine line and it was just so satisfying to be able to do it.
I want to play a different faction and see if I can figure them out as well.
This game is just so replayable, and I think it will be something I want to play for a long time.
I get giddy just thinking about it.
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Artist: Isaac Fryxelius
Funnily enough, when Terraforming Mars first came out, I kind of avoided it because I didn’t think it could live up to the hype. Two people in my game group had bought it and they salivated over it so much that I got one of those looks in my eyes when I walked past.
And then I sat down and played it.
It was ok.
Then I played it again…and again…and again.
Oh man, am I hooked!
Terraforming Mars is about…well, terraforming Mars.
But it’s so much more than that!
It’s about playing special project cards that may or may not have anything to do with colonizing the red planet.
Maybe instead of putting a forest on the city of Mars, you’re going to play a card that puts pets on Mars instead. Every time somebody builds a city, you get a pet! And a victory point. Or building a giant space mirror, or maybe even importing methane from Titan.
Who knows what will get you points?
Or maybe you could build that Research Outpost away from everything else on the board.
But then surround it with plants.
The world (ok, Mars, anyway) is your oyster!
Ultimately, you’re trying to increase the three main terraforming indicators (oxygen, temperature, and oceans) to their maximum levels to end the game.
The game already has a ton of expansion, most of which make it even better so consider this #6 ranking as with those expansions.
While the Venus Next expansion isn’t really that necessary, it is interesting. Having two extra maps (Elysium and Hellas) add variety, including different Milestones and Awards.
Prelude is almost a must-own as it gets the game started giving players a bit of a boost as well as an idea of what direction they may want to take the game.
The new Colonies expansion is almost a must, but I would be willing to play without it. This allows players to build colonies on distant moons and planets, as well as to trade with them.
Some people say the game is too random with all of the cards that you draw (four cards each generation, which may all be crap). I agree with this to an extent if you don’t use the drafting variant. However, if you draft cards (four cards each generation, but you choose one and pass the rest along, etc) it becomes much better. I recently played without the drafting variant and became kind of frustrated with how bad my cards were.
Yes, the components aren’t the greatest. The player mats are terrible (I only play my friends’ copies, which have better player boards with recessed spaces for your income), the artwork on the cards can be questionable (some is cool and some looks like the worst stock photographs imaginable).
But I don’t care.
This game is just pure fun. Even when it drags to a conclusion because you have an AP-prone player in your midst (who let them in here?), it’s still incredibly entertaining.
I love seeing how my corporation, opening cards and Prelude cards go together, and trying to better my score each game.
I’ve played this almost 10 times, which is rare for a longer game.
That’s how much I love it.
Terraforming Mars at #6 (with all of the expansions).
We’re about to head into the Top 5.
Long-time readers of this blog, which game haven’t I mentioned yet that you know I love?
Can you guess what’s in the Top 5?
Or let me know what you think of these games, if you want something easier to do (Editor – Wusses)
Leave a comment and tell me your Top 10.
Top 25 Games Played of All Time (10-6) – You’re here!