Top 50 Games 2016 (30-21)

top 50 2016


Right, part 3 of the top 50 list.  Let’s go!  Actually, no.  Wait.  If you’ve not read them yet, you should probably go back and read part 1 and part 2.  Once you’ve done that, you may continue on and read about games 30 through 21.

30: The Settlers of Catan


Year: 1995

Designer: Klaus Teuber

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~60 to 120 minutes

The Settlers is Catan is one of the undisputed modern classics and is one of the few games on this list to really catch on with the mainstream.  The game is one of resource management and negotiation, as well as a reliable engine for lame jokes about having “wood for sheep”.  Get it?  Penises!


This was one of the first games in my collection and is one that consistently makes it to the table.  It is very easy to pick up for non-gamers and still presents a challenging game for more experienced players.  I know it’s become fashionable to knock this game, but it will stay in rotation for a long time to come!

29: A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (2nd Edition)


Year: 2015

Designers: Nate French, Eric M. Lang

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~60 to 120 minutes

One of Fantasy Flight’s living card games, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is most definitely not a collectible card game.  The LCG model does not feature random card packs, but instead features set packs with 3 copies each of 20 new cards.  This means that you can count on having the cards you need for the decks and don’t need to spend a huge amount of money for a single card.


In this game, you build decks around the families featured in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and take on other houses to acquire the most influence.  I like the system with its three types of duel (military, intrigue and power).  The best deck I’ve played was definitely a house Tully deck in first edition, in which each of the Tully heroes supported and empowered one another to eventually overpower the other houses.

A great game, but it can expensive to keep up with the rapid release schedule of expansions and card packs.

28: Specter Ops


Year: 2015

Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Plays: 2-5 players in ~60 to 90 minutes

The only hidden movement game on my list, Specter Ops is a fantastic, sci-fi game of hide and seek.  One player takes on the role of the agent, breaking into a warehouse and securing objectives before sneaking out.  The rest of the players take on the roles of the hunters, seeking out the agent and killing him to protect the objectives.  Whilst the hunter move around on the board, the agent moves on a separate record sheet, only becoming visible on the board when he crosses paths with the hunters.


This split play is a really interesting mechanism which creates a fundamentally asymmetrical experience.  his asymmetry is further reinforced by different player powers for each of the agents and hunters.  The game has a lot of depth, but can suffer from alpha gamer syndrome among the hunters.  The whole thing is also beautifully presented with great card art, a really cool board and some pretty miniatures.

27: Super Dungeon Explore


Year: 2011

Designers: Chris Birkenhagen, John Cadice, Deke Stella

Publisher: Soda Pop Miniatures

Plays 2-6 players in ~120 minutes

A big box of chibi awesomeness, Super Dungeon Explore is an arcade-style dungeon crawl reimagined for the tabletop.  Each player takes on the role of an adorable little hero who, with the rest of the group, traverses a dangerous, monster-filled dungeon.  One player will take control of the monsters, throwing whatever he can at the heroes to take them down.


The game is relatively straightforward and is a beautifully produced object in itself with cool tiles and excellent miniatures.  I think I’ve been quite lucky in that I’ve mostly played this with a really great group that gets into the feeling of the game.  A member of this group has also done what I will probably never have the time or talent to do: completed a fully painted set of beautiful chibi miniatures.  This really brings the game up to the next level.

26: Summoner Wars


Year: 2009

Designer: Colby Dauch

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~30 to 60 minutes

I don’t feel I’m getting as much as I could out of Summoner Wars.  The game is a strategic card game in which you choose a deck featuring one of several fantasy races and take on another player across a grid-based map.  Your cards essentially become miniatures as you move them around the grid, fighting other cards whilst also throwing around the occasional spell or raising a wall or two.  The basic rules are really simple, with each deck building upon or twisting them in interesting ways.


The reason I’m not sure I’m getting everything I can from them is that the game is incredibly expandable.  Myself, I’ve got the Master Set, along with maybe one or two extra faction decks that I’ve picked up on offer.  There are also reinforcement decks that add more options to each faction.  This brings a new element into the game as you can actually build your own decks and use them in the game.  I feel this would add another layer of strategy, but not one that I really need.  I’m happy with the game as is, with the base faction decks.  There’s also a four player option, but I’ve only played this with two and, again, I’m happy with this.  I’m not sure I’d enjoy it the same with four, as I think it’s almost perfect as a head to head game.

The expansion that does look interesting to me is the Alliances Master Set which adds cool, dual-faction masters.

25: Pandemic


Year: 2008

Designer: Matt Leacock

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Plays: 2-4 players in ~45 minutes

The second game by Matt Leacock on my list is another cooperative game.  Pandemic is another of these ‘modern classics’ which acts as a mainstay in many a collection.  The game sees the players work together to stop the spread of four deadly diseases across the world.  As the game progresses, disease spreads and massive outbreaks can occur, even as the players travel from city to city curing the sick and researching cures.


As with most (all?) cooperative games, this can suffer a bit from alpha gamer syndrome but, if that can be avoided, this game is a blast.  It’s another one that can be used with a range of groups, a feature that is helped along by variable difficulty levels.  For the asymmetry fans (like me), there are also player roles, each with their own powers.  The legacy edition of this game, imaginatively titled Pandemic Legacy, is currently the number one game on Board Game Geek.  I do have a copy of this legacy edition, but I’m still trying to find a persistent group I can count on to see it through over twelve sessions.

24: Dixit


Year: 2008

Designer: Jean-Louis Roubira

Publisher: Lebellud

Plays: 3-6 players in ~30 minutes

Yet another staple gateway game, Dixit is a fantastic little oddity from France.  Components-wise, it consists of a simple, numbered board, a handful of little, colourful, wooden bunny rabbits and a deck of beautifully illustrated cards depicting fantastical scenes and random nonsense.  The active player will choose one of these cards and place it face down in front of them whilst uttering a word or phrase that they associate with the image.  Each other player is then invited to contribute their own card – also face down – associated with the same phrase.  The cards are shuffled, revealed and players are invited to guess which card belonged to the original player.  The active player ideally wants some players to guess correctly and some to guess incorrectly.  They are punished for giving a clue so obvious that all get, or so obscure that none do.


Dixit is an interesting game that plays very differently depending on the group.  When with a very familiar group, I’ve found that it can get very personal, with a lot of common references that only close friends would get.  For most groups, it’s a mish-mash of aphorisms, clichés and other nonsense – and that’s just fine by me!

23: Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2nd Edition)


Year: 2012

Designers: Daniel Clark, Corey Konieczka, Adam Sadler, Kevin Wilson

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2-5 players in ~120 minutes

This list has already featured Super Dungeon Explore (no. 27), a cartoony, chibi-style, fantasy dungeon crawl.  The second edition of Descent: Journeys in the Dark is mechanically and conceptually very similar, but possessing of a much different tone.  Gone are the cutesy, chibi visuals in favour of a more traditional high fantasy feel.  The miniatures, although still nice, are a tad more generic and are a bendier plastic.


I like the modular nature of this game, with tiles that can be rearranged and placed down for different quests.  Each expansion comes with more tiles, quests and miniatures, further adding to the box of awesome you can draw on for your own adventures.  Gameplay wise, it is similar to Super Dungeon Explore, with most players taking on heroic roles whilst one controls the monsters and villains, but I just feel there is more variety to this game because it’s so much more modular and there’s a cool dynamic where you choose both a character with unique stats and a special ability and the class they will represent, with a themed deck of equipment and abilities.  Whereas Super Dungeon Explore would be my choice of dungeon crawl for a group of new gamers, I’d turn to Descent first for the more experienced group.

22: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game


Year: 2012

Designers: Steven Kimball, James Kniffen, Corey Konieczka, Jason Little, Brady Sadler, Adam Sadler

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Plays: 2-4 players in 30 to 45 minutes

Based on Wings of War (which has already featured in this list), Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is a game of daring dogfights in the Star Wars universe.  You build a squadron of Rebel or Imperial ships (or, more recently, assorted scum and villainy) and go at it, chasing down and eliminating the enemy.  There are missions that are less focused on just taking out enemy fighters, just in case you were worried about repetition, but the dogfight is the core of the game.  As with Wings of War, moves are programmed ahead of time, though only one move is programmed at a time, rather than three.


The range of available ships is quite large and continues to grow, ranging from regular starfighters like X-Wings, TIE Fighters, B-Wings, TIE Bombers, Z95 Headhunters and TIE Interceptors, through larger ships like the Millennium Falcon and Boba Fett’s Slave 1.  There are also much larger ships used in ‘cinematic’ play, such as the Rebel Transport or Blockade Runner.  I really like that they are exploring beyond the films, with ships like the Ghost from my beloved Star Wars: Rebels.

The game is pricey as you build your collection, as with any collectible miniatures game but, unusually, this is one of the few games to feature pre-painted miniatures that actually look good – great, in fact!  It’s also a game that has a thriving competitive scene, if that’s your thing.

21: Paranoia (2nd Edition)


Year: 1987

Designer: Greg Costikyan, Dan Gelber, Eric Goldberg, Ken Rolston, Paul Murphy

Publisher: West End Games

Plays ~2-7ish players in however long you care to play for

I’ve spoken about this game before.  Paranoia is a classic roleplaying game that plays around with sci-fi tropes.  It makes great use of humour, encouraging you to create a funny game, be this satirical or slapstick, or any of the shade in between.  The rules are a lot simpler than other games of the time such as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons or Traveller, which is great, but it’s the setting, theme and tone of the game that sets it apart.  It’s set in a twisted, humorous-yet-sinister version of George Orwell’s 1984.  Players play as ‘Troubleshooters’, agents tasked with solving problems for Friend Computer, the benevolent Big Brother of Paranoia’s Alpha Complex.  They should generally expect to face off against traps, commies, mutants, traitors, commie-mutant-traitors and unbearable bureaucracy.  They should expect to die, but when they do, they will be replaced by an identical clone.  That clone should expect to die, too.


I love running this game.  I love that I can bring in whatever crazy ideas I have and they will work.  I love that my group took to this game so well and really got into the feel and mood of it.  It did not take them long to start ratting each other out to Friend Computer for the smallest of infractions and executing one-another for various treasons.  This game is just plain fun and it speaks to how much much I love the rest of the games on this list that it doesn’t quite make it into the top 20.

Next Time

In part 4, we will find deception, intrigue and trains!


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