The Top 99: #33-#23

We’ve reach the top third of my Top 99 Games list.  Onward!

image by BGG user l10n0fjudah
image by BGG user l10n0fjudah

#33: Incan Gold, from designers Alan R. Moon and Bruno Faidutti, is THE quintessential push-your-luck game.  Players decide whether they are going to go deeper into a temple or leave.  Those that flee keep whatever treasure they have collected and split any leftovers on the path.  Those that remain could potentially add more to their stash, or could encounter one of five hazards.  Once the second of a hazard type appears, anyone remaining in the temple gets nothing.  After the fifth round, the player who has collected the most treasure wins.  This is one of the best games to play with new people – it’s fast, simple, and a lot of fun.

image by BGG user aarontu
image by BGG user aarontu

#32: Power Grid is Friedemann Friese’s 2004 reworking of his 2001 game Funkenschlag.  In Power Grid, players are trying to power cities across the US or Germany (or whatever map you’re using).  You bid on different power plants which give you a number of cities you can power with a certain type of resource.  You then purchase resources and build in different cities, paying different connection costs.  At the end of each round, you collect income from the cities you powered.  When someone has built in their seventeenth city, the player who powered the most wins.  It’s a very good game with a unique theme that everyone should play at least once.

image by BGG user Rokkr
image by BGG user Rokkr

#31: Pandemic launched the current cooperative game trend in 2008.  Designed by Matt Leacock, this is a game about saving the world from disease.  Each player has a specialized role, and on your turn, you will take four actions – move, treat or cure disease, build a research station, or give stuff to another player.  After that, the world gets more infected.  The object is to find the cure for all four diseases before the deck runs out, or before there are too many outbreaks, or before you run out of disease cubes.  It’s a great game, and remains great after all of these years.  Some co-ops may be objectively better, but I like this one a lot.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

#30: Splendor is Marc André’s 2014 jewel collecting game that was a Spiel des Jahres nominee (and my pick to win that year).  On your turn, you have four options.  You can either take three differently colored gems.  Or you can take two of the same colored gem.  Or you can buy a card from the center by paying the necessary gems.  Or you can reserve a card from the center for later purchase by you alone (this also gets you a joker that can be used as any gem).  Once someone has 15 points, the round ends and the player with the most wins.  It’s a wonderfully simple game with wide appeal, and I like it a lot.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

#29: Red7 is a 2014 co-design between Carl Chudyk and Chris Cieslik that reportedly only took ann hour and a half to complete.  Each player has a hand of seven numbered and colored cards.  Each card has the potential to build your tableau or to change the main rule of the game.  If, by the end of your turn, you are not winning, you lose.  So you play cards in front of you and try to manipulate the rule so you win.  There are only 49 cards in the game, and it’s a wonderfully brain bending experience.  There are advanced rules for scoring and actions, but even the base game is pretty intriguing.

image by BGG user ddkk
image by BGG user ddkk

#28: Fearsome Floors is a 2001 monster-chase game from designer Friedemann Friese.  Each player controls 3-4 double-sided discs, and on your turn, you move one of them a number of spaces on a grid (there’s a different number for movement on each side).  Once everyone has moved their pieces, a monster moves.  It moves in a preprogrammed way – straight ahead unless he sees someone to his left or right.  You are trying to get the most people safely off the board to win.  There’s very little luck in the game, and I think it’s Friese’s best to this point.  At least, the best I’ve played.

image by BGG user binraix
image by BGG user binraix

#27: Jambo is a 2004 two-player game designed by Rüdiger Dorn.  The game is all about trading in Africa.  Players each have five action points to use on your turn.  You can use an action point to draw a new card, or play a card, or use a utility card.  Cards you can play include extra market stalls, goods cards that you can buy or sell, animal cards that can attack, person cards for other economic purposes, and utility cards that can remain in play and be used once per turn.  When someone gets up to 60 coins, the other player gets one more turn and the player with the most money wins.  It’s a great great great two-player game with lots of variability.

image by BGG user Debate
image by BGG user Debate

#26: Balloon Cup is the third game from Stephen Glenn on this list.  It’s a 2003 two-player game where players are competing to gather cubes by winning balloon hops.  On your turn, you play a card on either side of one of four tiles.  The cubes on the tile tell you what color cards can be played, as well as how many and how to win (high or low total).  If you win the tile, you get the cubes.  Collect enough cubes of a color and you’ll collect a trophy.  Collect three trophies and you win.  It’s a great tug-of-war game where you have to determine when to push your advantage and when to let something go.  One of my favorite two-player games.

image by BGG user a_traveler
image by BGG user a_traveler

#25: 7 Wonders is Antoine Bauza’s 2010 game about building a civilization through card drafting.  In each of three ages, you get a hand of seven cards, from which you choose one, play it, and pass the rest.  You do this until you’re choosing from two cards, discarding the other.  Points are scored in the end for collecting science symbols, winning military conflicts, prestige buildings, money, and guilds.  The game won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2010, and well deserved.  It’s a great game that is made even better by adding the expansions – Leaders is one of my all-time favorite expansions, and Cities is good too (haven’t played Babel yet).

Lords of Vegas - image by BGG user Zaphod
Lords of Vegas – image by BGG user Zaphod

#24: For a long time, Lords of Vegas was my favorite game I had only played once.  I’ve played it more since then and still like it a lot.  This 2010 game from James Ernest and Mike Selinker is all about building casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.  You’ll be gaining lots and placing dice on them.  As you expand your casino, other players may try to take it from you by rerolling the dice, or may gamble there, or even trade.  The player with the most points in the end wins.  It’s a really unique and deep game with lots of good stuff going for it.  In fact, I need to play it again now.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

#23: Vikings is a 2007 game from Michael Kiesling that does not have as much pillaging as the cover would suggest.  Players take turns buying viking and tile pairs from a wheel that determines cost.  These vikings and tiles are then placed in your area to try to score points – blue vikings are necessary to feed your people, gold vikings get you gold, green and red vikings score points, and black vikings repel invading ships.  After six rounds, the player who has scored the most is the winner.  This is my go-to three-player game – you can play with 2 or 4, but I think it is at its best with 3.  Such a good game.


Only 22 to go!  Thanks for reading!

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2 comments

  1. Hmm, now I wanna play Vikings.

    Splendor is a good game, but I dont think its at the level of Pandemic, 7 Wonders and Power Grid.

    Glad to hear someone else has an appreciation for the Leaders expansion.

    • But Splendor is one I can get played a lot more. It’s not as innovative as the others, but it’s an easier game to set up and teach, and that counts for a lot with me.

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