Continuing my Top 99 Games with #55-#45.
#55: Wok Star first came out in a self-published edition by Tim Fowers in 2010, and was later reprinted by Game Salute in 2014. It’s a cooperative game set in a Chinese restaurant where players are rolling dice, using those dice to collect ingredients, trying to spend those ingredients on recipes, and using the money earned to upgrade the restaurant. Everything is done on a timer, so it gets pretty crazy. I loved the original edition, and while the second edition was fun, I think I prefer both the components and the gameplay of the original.
#54: Notre Dame was one of the first Euro games I bought without knowing much about it – my wife liked the look of the cover, and it was by the publishers of Puerto Rico, so we got it. This 2007 Stefan Feld design is all about earning prestige in the area around the famous cathedral. In each of the nine action rounds, you draft a hand of three action cards, then play two of them. You’ll be collecting cash, points, workers, and trying to keep the rat population in check – bad things will happen if you don’t. This is early Feld, and I think it’s still one of his best.
#53: The stacking game Animal Upon Animal is often cited as one of the best children’s dexterity games, and I agree. Designed in 2005 by Klaus Miltenberger, this game is about trying to get all of your animals in a pile. Each player has a set of the same seven wooden animals, and on your turn, you roll a die to see what happens. Either you’ll put one to two animals on the stack, or give an animal to another player, or have the other players choose what you’ll do, or add an animal to the base of the stack. It’s not a strategy game, but it’s a lot of fun.
#52: Bohnanza is a game I avoided for a long time because it sounded really boring. Bean farming? Really? Uwe Rosenberg’s 1997 classic is all about trading. You have a hand of cards that you cannot rearrange. On your turn, you plant one or two beans, then you engage in a round of trading to try to make your beans more valuable. You go through the deck three times, and the player who has made the most money wins. The most challenging thing in the game is not being able to rearrange your hand, everything else is pretty simple to understand. It’s a lot more fun than a bean farming game should be.
#51: Carcassonne is an undisputed classic. Klau Jürgen-Wrede’s 2000 game won the Spiel des Jahres in 2001 and is often cited as one of the best gateway games around. It’s a simple tile laying game – draw a tile, place it, then possibly add a meeple to claim an area for points later. You get two points per tile and shield in a completed city, one point per completed road tile, one point per tile surrounding a completed monastery, and four points per completed city touching a field containing a farmer. It’s really easy to pick up, there are a ton of expansions, and it’s a game that is playable by anyone.
#50: Qwirkle is Susan McKinley Ross’ Spiel des Jahres winner. First published in 2006, this is a light abstract game about pattern building. On your turn, you place any number of tiles in a line so that either all tiles have the same color, or all tiles have the same shape, but not both. At the end of your turn, you score one point per tile in the line. If you ever complete a pattern with six tiles, you score a Qwirkle worth 12 points. The fun in the game comes from trying to build the best scoring combos you can while not setting up your opponents. I like it a lot – it’s quick and easy to understand, and yet still provides some good depth.
#49: Rattlebones is Stephen Glenn’s 2014 literal dice building game. On your turn, you roll one of your three dice, then resolve your action based on what is rolled. If you roll Rattlebones, you advance his figure on the score track. If you roll a number, you move one of your monkeys and possibly replace a side on your die with the indicated symbol. If you roll an action symbol, you resolve it – it could be scoring points, gaining gold, rolling the gamble die, gaining stock, and so on. The player who reaches Rattlebones first wins. This is a very unique and creative game that will be getting a lot of play from me in the future.
#48: Forbidden Island is Matt Leacock’s 2010 reworking of Pandemic into a more streamlined, family friendly game. Each player has a unique role, and are cooperatively trying to move around the island in order to collect four treasures. At the same time, the island is sinking, and you have to prevent key areas from completely submerging before you can escape. If the group collectively gets all four treasures, and every member makes it back to the helicopter before it sinks completely, you win. It has a great theme, lovely art, and is a fantastic family game.
#47: Forbidden Desert took the system of Foridden Island and created a game that felt completely unique. Published in 2013, this game had the group cooperatively searching a desert for pieces to an ancient flying machine after their helicopter crash landed. They have to compete with ever shifting sands – a sandstorm moves the tiles around throughout the game – as well as the harsh sun. This game is much more complex than its predecessor, and harder to win. The theme really shines through, and while I think both are excellent games, this one gets the edge.
#46: Libertalia is a 2012 pirate-themed role selection game designed by Paolo Mori. In each of the three rounds, each player will have an identical hand of role cards. For each day, everyone chooses a card and plays it, resolving them in lowest to highest order. Then, from highest to lowest, each player gets loot. Loot scores points, and the player who has the most points at the end of the third round is the winner. It’s a very clever role selection game that plays out differently every single time – all players have the same hand, but the cards are randomly drawn by one player. One of my favorite pirate games.
#45: No Thanks! rounds out this portion of the list. Thorsten Gimmler’s 2004 filler classic is a model of simplicity. Cards are revealed from the deck, and each player decides if they want them or not. If so, you take it. If not, you add a chip. Cards collected score points, and you don’t want points. Chips collected, however, remove points. You also only score the lowest card if you have several cards in sequence. It’s a very easy game to learn and play, and it’s one of the best fillers around. I highly recommend it.
44 to go! I was going to try to wrap this up before my 5th anniversary, but now I think #11-#1 will be in that post on October 4th. Also, there are other reasons you should be there for that one…stay tuned. Thanks for reading!