We keep chugging away at this Top 99. Today, we complete the bottom third with numbers 77 to 67.
#77: As a kid, I loved HeroQuest. Descent: Journeys in the Dark seems to me to be HeroQuest 2.0. Originally published in 2005, Descent (by Kevin Wilson) is a fantasy dungeon crawl with lots of scenarios. It really hit its stride in 2012 with the publication of the second edition, which introduced a campaign mode to the base game and really streamlined the system into a tighter, more compact game. I like both versions, but the second edition is a much more accessible game, so that’s the one that makes my list.
#76: One of the early games in the current worker placement trend was Stone Age. Published in 2008, this Bernd Brunnhofer design was all about collecting resources in prehistoric times. On your turn, you place some people on various places on the map, then take turns resolving everyone. To collect resources, you roll dice; to collect cards, you pay resources and then gain a benefit; to collect huts, you pay specific resources for points. The player with the most points is the winner. This can be a very high-scoring game, and it’s a lot of fun to get into.
#75: Thebes first came out in 2004 as Jenseits von Theben, but it was the 2007 rerelease by Queen Games that was widely distributed and even got nominated for the SdJ. Designed by Peter Prinz, Thebes is a game about archaeology where players collect knowledge then try to use it on archaeological digs. It was one of the pioneers in the use of the time track mechanism, where players are operating on a continuum and may get several turns in a row based on how long things take. Some deride it for the complete luck-based archaeological digs (it’s just pulling stuff out of sacks), but I find it to be a brilliant game.
#74: Tales of the Arabian Nights first came out in 1985, but I’ve only played Z-Man’s 2009 reprint. The game was designed by Eric Goldberg, and is a storytelling game where you go to a location, then draw a card. That card will direct you towards an encounter, for which you must choose a reaction. This reaction will guide another player to a paragraph in a book that will tell you what happens. Various good and bad outcomes may follow. The story is the thing in this game, and it’s basically Choose Your Own Adventure. It’s a fabulous experience as long as you don’t care about strategy.
#73: Eggs & Empires was designed by Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle, and was published in 2014. It’s a quick-playing bidding game where players are simultaneously choosing a numbered role card from their hand in an attempt to collect eggs that are worth positive OR negative points. Most of the roles give you certain ways to bend the rules, and the winner is the player who can collect the most points. It’s a very fast-playing game, and has you really trying to outthink your opponents. I don’t usually like bidding games, but this one is a keeper.
#72: My wife and I first got to play Farmageddon at GenCon 2012, and both fell in love. This Grant Rodiek design is a delightfully nasty little farming game where you plant crops, fertilize them, and harvest them. Harvested crops are worth points, but you cannot harvest a crop the same turn you plant it. Each player also has the ability to play action cards, and these can be used to protect your crops, make other crops worth fewer points, steal crops, destroy crops, or even score off another player’s crops. It plays really quickly, and can get pretty mean, but it’s a lot of fun.
#71: Epigo holds a special place in my heart as the first game I was ever sent for review. Designed in 2011 by Chris Gosselin and Chris Kreuter, Epigo is like abstract RoboRally. Each player programs the movement of three pieces, then reveals them simultaneously to see what happens. The object is to knock three opposing pieces off the board, but there are a bunch of different variants of play. The game is really good, but it doesn’t seem to be getting much support these days. I still enjoy playing my copy from time to time, which is not something I can say for every game I get to review.
#70: Castellan was published in 2013 by Steve Jackson Games, from designer Beau Beckett. It’s probably my most recently played game on this list. It’s an abstract city building game where you play cards that determine the pieces you can use, then build walls to enclose areas. The pieces are nice sturdy plastic, the gameplay is engaging, and there’s quite a bit of fun in the box. It’s mostly a puzzle akin to the children’s game Dots and Boxes, but the ability to build a number of walls at once really helps to elevate it into a strategic exercise.
#69: Evolution is the first non-party game from Northstar Games. Designed by Dominic Crapuchettes (based on mechanics by Dmitry Knorre and Sergey Machin), this 2014 game is all about adapting species for survival. Each player has at least one species, and over the course of the game can add new traits to help it survive, increase population and body size, and add more species to their roster. Of course, species must be fed, and several species will most likely go extinct throughout the game, either by starvation or being hunted. For a lighter weight game, there’s a lot of depth in the box and I enjoy it immensely.
#68: Meuterer was only released in German, published by Adlung Spiele in 2000. This design, by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle, is one of the games credited with inventing the role selection genre of games. Meuterer means mutineer, and this is a game about shipping goods. The captain is responsible for guiding the ship to places that goods can be traded, but mutinies can occur to push him out. Role selection is not the entire game, but once goods are selected, you can choose to help the captain, start or assist a mutiny, win ties when selling goods, or draw extra cards at the end of the round. It’s a great small card game that I hope gets a reprint.
#67: Nothing like a good game about the Black Plague, eh? Rattus is a 2010 game from designers Henrik and Åse Berg. On the surface, it seems like an area control game, though it’s more about just keeping all of your cubes on the board than controlling specific regions. It’s another role selection game, but this is one where you can control multiple roles at once. The problem is that the more roles you have, the more danger you are in from losing cubes to the plague. It kind of turns into a tug-of-war as players compete over the more valuable roles. It’s a great game, and I highly recommend it.
That’s it for the top third of my Top 99. Join me again soon as I carry on. Thanks for reading!