Welcome to this year’s top 50 games list in which I list my personal top 50 games at this point in time. My choices are not limited to games from this calendar year, but instead represent my current thoughts on the top 50 games out there. Next year, some of the games featured may move up and down as my opinions change and I get the chance to play more games or revisit old favourites.
This series will comprise 5 posts, each covering 10 games as we work down from number 50 to number 1. We’ve already had part 1, so let’s carry on with games 40 to 31, shall we?
40: X-Wing Miniatures Game
Previous Position: 22 (-18)
Designers: Andrea Angiolino, Pier Giorgio Paglia
Plays: 2-4 players in ~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 ships and have at it.
It’s a good game, but it’s fallen quite sharply for me this year. The game starts off so well, but in the games that I’ve played, they generally devolve to see the players chasing each other around in circles trying to scrape that last kill or two.
The game is both smooth and rough at the same time. The rules are straightforward and easy to understand, but there’s a fair bit of book-keeping, between creating your squadron with their ship cards, equipment cards, bases and models, along with tokens and whatnot. Then there’s the turn to turn management which, whilst not huge or overwhelming, can mount up to be reasonably significant in a larger game.
I feel I’ve been negative here. I still really like this game. Heck, I played it the other week and it was fantastic, but it’s just not quite as shiny to me as it was this time last year. Also, bit shout out for the quality of the beautiful, fantastic pre-painted models.
39: 1960: The Making of the President
Previous Position: New to the list!
Designers: Christian Leonhard, Jason Matthews
Publisher: GMT Games
Plays: 2 players in ~90 minutes
Having picked up the new GMT edition of this game from GMT’s P500 preorder system, I was determined to get it to the table as soon as possible. I was actually quite disappointed that it did not show up until after the 2016 US election – it would have been a nice tie-in.
The game is very similar to Twilight Struggle, which was a big selling point for me. That said, it is different enough to keep it interesting and for it to maintain a place in my regular play, despite the fact that I do ultimately prefer Twilight Struggle.
I like these differences, and I particularly like the use of momentum markers as currency for a number of different actions. For example, in Twilight Struggle your opponent may play one of your cards to claim the operations points it provides. In doing so, they will also trigger your event. In 1960, if you want your event to trigger, you must spend one of your very limited stock of momentum markers. This use, among others, make these tokens invaluable. Add to this that they decay by 50% each turn, and they become a resource that really must be carefully managed.
This game is great fun and would probably be higher if I did not have a couple of other, quite similar 2 player games (Twilight Struggle and Star Wars: Rebellion) in my collection.
38: Super Dungeon Explore
Previous Position: 27 (-11)
Designers: Chris Birkenhagen, John Cadice, Deke Stella
Publisher: Soda Pop Miniatures
Plays 2-6 players in ~120 minutes
I have a big place in my heart for dungeon crawls. I love dungeon crawl video games and board games. One of my earliest board games, Dragon Quest was a dungeon crawl, and the whole thing has really stuck with me. Super Dungeon Explore follows a broadly similar theme, but with massively simplified rules and a cool, chibi aesthetic.
The game is really easy to pick up and, with this second edition, has the option of playing in the traditional all vs. one way, or by allowing the game to play the monsters and villain automatically. These are two quite different experiences, but can both still be challenging. The models are also fantastic, with the whole having the some of the best production values I’ve seen. Really great.
My only gripe, and the reason it has fallen down the list this year, is that even with the variety of different models and expansions, each game can be quite samey. The game always boils down to going into the dungeon, killing some dudes, getting some treasure, killing the boss. There’s no in-built mission-based approach or similar. Still a great game, but other dungeon crawls, such as Descent, give that little bit more variety and so remain higher on the list.
Previous Position: 33 (-4)
Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Plays: 2-5 players in ~30 to 45 minutes
A modern classic, Carcassonne doesn’t see quite as much play for me as it once did, but it does still come out once in a while with younger players, or when something light is called for. I think the core game is enough for me, as it feels like a good, balanced game that can be competitive but is ultimately quite easygoing.
That said, I did give away my old copy of this and have picked up a German ‘big box’ edition with a few expansions. These don’t see a lot of play, as they add a layer of complexity that can be satisfying, but also adds a bit of extra management. This shakes things up but takes away some of the simple elegance of the original.
Another good way to play this game is through the app, which is a good translation of the tabletop game.
36: DC Comics Deckbuilding Game
Previous Position: 36 (No Change)
Designer: Matt Hyra, Ben Stoll
Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment
Plays: 2-5 players in ~45 minutes
A relatively simple deckbuilding game, this is an easy sell to lots of different groups. Not only is the game very accessible and fun, but the theme is also a popular one. Ultimately, the theme is pasted on – it could be pretty much anything else without much work – but it does work, and the art is very cool.
I’ve not a huge amount to say on this game. I just kind of plods along as a really simple deckbuilding game. It doesn’t have the structure of Dominion, the quirks of Paperback or the dungeon crawling elements of Clank!, but it does the job. Solid and reliable.
Previous Position: 40 (+5)
Designer: Tim Fowers
Plays: 2-5 players in ~45 minutes
The second deckbuilding game on this list, but most definitely not the last! I’ve had a lot more opportunities to play Paperback this year, and it’s risen up the list as I get more used to it and more interested in how it works. Combining a deckbuilder with spelling doesn’t sound particularly compelling, but this really works. The theme is bit lacking, but that’s a problem with a lot of deckbuilders. Despite this, the art is really good on the scoring cards, each representing books written by the game’s character.
I’ve widened the circle that I play this game with and have been glad to see that it actually holds a wider appeal than I’d have expected. The small form factor of the box is also a selling point for a smallish card game that can be played in different settings. I’m wondering if this will hold its position for next year. I reckon the unique quirks that this game has will keep it safely on the list.
34: Summoner Wars
Previous Position: 26 (-8)
Designer: Colby Dauch
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Plays: 2-4 players in ~30 to 60 minutes
A simple strategy game that uses cards on a grid in place of miniatures, Summoner Wars is a perennial favourite. I purchased the Master Set, which represent fantastic value, giving you a good selection of different factions and a hard-backed board, rather than the paper board that had come in previous editions. The game is very expandable, with lots of other factions, reinforcements and spells that you can mix into your game. I’ve not really needed to do this myself, having only picked up one extra faction. That said, I am a little tempted by the new big box, based on factions in alliances.
The game is really easy to pick up and play, with relatively simple rules, a quick play-time, little to set up and tidy away and a deceptively deep level of strategy and resource management. It’s just so easy and convenient.
33: Settlers of Catan
Previous Position: 30 (-3)
Designer: Klaus Teuber
Publisher: Matyfair Games
Plays: 2-4 players in ~60 to 120 minutes
Another moder classic that has remained in the list with only a small bit of movement, Catan is another simple and elegant design. The game is great for new players and can be incredibly cutthroat with more experienced ones. There are a lot of expansions to add either more players or more mechanisms to the game. I own two of these expansions, but I feel the same way about Catan as I do with Carcassonne, that the core game is really the best offering.
This is a game I can play with my parents, with my regular gaming group, with a group of kids. It’s flexible and accessible and I don’t see it moving from this list anytime soon. It does feel a bit dated, but nothing has really come along to displace it for me yet.
Previous Position: 24 (-8)
Designer: Jean-Louis Roubira
Plays: 3-6 players in ~30 minutes
Dixit was one of the first modern board games I picked up when I really started getting into them and it set a tone for me, that these games really are scaffolds for social experiences. Dixit is all about empathy and language, so it really appeals to me and I’ve stuck with it, even years later. I’ve bought one of the expansions to revitalise the game and add some variety back in, and I think I’m getting to the point where I’d like another expansion or two to mix things up again and give some new and different art.
Recently, I have purchased Mysterium, but have yet to have a chance to play it. I wonder where Dixit will end up on next year’s list once I’ve played this very similar game.
31: Specter Ops
Previous Position: 28 (-3)
Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Plays: 2-5 players in ~60 to 90 minutes
Specter Ops nearly dropped off my list this year, as I hadn’t really played it for the first 7 or 8 months of 2017, but more recently I’ve broken it back out with a few different groups, and I’ve been reminded why I liked it so much. It’s also been given a new layer of freshness in that I’ve played it a few times with the same people, allowing me to try out some different roles. Generally, I’m playing it with people who have not it played it much or at all, so I have gone the agent. As people get used to it and want to play as the agent, I’ve been able to play as a hunter a lot more, which has freshened things up for me by giving a new and different perspective.
As with Dixit, I’m curious as to how this game will rank next year as I have recently picked up a similar title. In this case, I’ve purchased Fury of Dracula, picking it up just after FFG lost the Games Workshop license. With the two games being so similar, I’m curious as to which one I will end up liking more.