The Top 99: #22-#12

We’re getting close to that Top 11…here’s the next set of my favorite games!

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

#22: Dead of Winter just came out in 2014, and quickly became the exception to my “no zombie games” policy.  Designed by Isaac Vega and Jonathan Gilmour, DoW is Plaid Hat Games’ answer to Battlestar Galactica (in that I’d rather play this).  Players are survivors of the zombie apocalypse that are trying to continue to survive.  In order to do this, you have to complete missions, both personally and as a team.  There are zombies, but the game is more about the characters which makes it more interesting.  There’s a unique crossroads card mechanism where certain events trigger cards IF they occur.  It’s a very engaging game that I enjoy a lot.

image by BGG user screamingtruth
image by BGG user screamingtruth

#21: Mice & Mystics is another Plaid Hat Game, this one designed by Jerry Hawthorne and published in 2012.  This is a family friendly RPG-in-a-box where players are mice working their way through an adventure story.  Along the way, you’ll develop your characters, collect cheese, and encounter some pretty nasty enemies (rat warriors, spiders, roaches, and centipedes).  The game has a campaign book that acts as a story guide, leading you through the narrative of the game.  It’s beautiful to look at, and a lot of fun to boot.  It’s a game I can’t wait to introduce to my daughter when she’s old enough.

image by BGG user nrihtar2
image by BGG user nrihtar2

#20: Coloretto is Michael Schacht’s 2003 card game that would later become the basis for his Spiel des Jahres winning Zooloretto.  In Coloretto, players are trying to collect sets of colors, but you’ll only get to score three sets.  Any additional sets will earn negative points.  On your turn, you’ll either draw a card and add it to a row (no more than three per row), or you’ll take a row of at least one card.  You’ll probably end up taking some undesirable cards, but the trick is in minimizing your losses.  It’s a simple game to learn, and a lot of fun to play.  One of my favorite fillers.

image by BGG user stofke
image by BGG user stofke

#19: Dice Town was designed in 2009 by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc, and took poker to the next level.  In each round, players are rolling poker dice to try to form poker hands.  When all are done, you gain benefits based on what you rolled – gold for the most 9s, money for the most 10s, a General Store card for the most Jacks, the ability to steal for the most Queens, or the Sheriff title for the most Kings.  The host poker hand gets some property cards, and anyone who won nothing gets to visit Doc Badluck for another small reward.  It’s a very fun game that I enjoy immensely, and it works very well with non-hobbyists.

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

#18: The Duke is the game that completely replaced Chess for me.  It originally came out in 2013, designed by Jeremy Holcomb and Stephen McLaughlin, and published by Catalyst Games.  Players take turns either drawing a piece from the bag and adding it to the board next to their Duke, or using a piece on the board.  Each piece details what moves can be done with it – moves, jumps, attacks, or slides – and once you use a piece, you flip it over so that next time there’s a whole new set of moves.  It adds the element of unpredictability that Chess lacks, has more variability, and is just overall more fun.

image by BGG user karel_danek
image by BGG user karel_danek

#17: Space Alert is Vlaada Chvátil’s 2008 sci-fi cooperative game that is, I think, the greatest real-time game in history.  Players have ten minutes to program 11 moves for their characters.  Meanwhile, a soundtrack informs you of all kinds of incoming threats that you need to deal with.  You have to charge the weapons, fire them, and manage your resources perfectly or your ship is going to get blown to bits.  In the second half of the game, you sit back and see what happened.  Most likely, you will have failed miserably.  It’s a beast to learn, but it’s a blast to play.

image by BGG user Fawkes
image by BGG user Fawkes

#16: Ticket to Ride is Alan R. Moon’s 2004 classic that will be THE go-to gateway game for a long time to come.  It’s a game about connecting cities around the US.  On your turn, you can draw new train cards, or you can play a set of cards to connect two cities, or you can take new tickets that give you a goal of two distant cities to connect.  In the end, the player who has earned the most points from building routes and completing tickets wins.  It’s very simple, fast-paced, and a ton of fun.  It especially works as a gateway game because it’s simple enough for anyone to learn, and still provides a good amount of strategy and skill to keep experienced players involved.

image by BGG user AEGTodd
image by BGG user AEGTodd

#15: Guildhall is a 2012 game from Hope S. Hwang that surprised me in its simplicity and depth.  In the game, you are trying to gather professionals into chapters, and each does something different for you.  In order to complete a chapter, you need each of the five colors represented in your stack of a single professional.  Completed chapters can be turned in for VP cards that can in turn provide you with added bonuses, as well as points.  The first player to 20 VP wins.  The game is brilliant.  There are only six professionals, but the interaction between them is so well done, you never feel that the game is getting repetitive.  I still need to try the expansion, Job Faire.

image by BGG user Steverino
image by BGG user Steverino

#14: Jungle Speed is everything I want in a speed game.  Originally designed in 2007, this Thomas Vuarchex/Pierrick Yakovenko game is all about recognizing patterns.  Each player has a deck, and on your turn, you reveal the top card.  If the pattern matches any other pattern, the matching players race for the totem.  The one who grabs it gives all of their face up cards to the player who lost.  You have to be careful, however, because a lot of the patterns are similar but not quite identical.  There are also some special cards to mix things up.  It’s fast, easy to learn, and can get a little violent, especially if you have the version with the wooden totem (which I do).  Respect the totem!

image by BGG user angelkurisu
image by BGG user angelkurisu

#13: Innovation is Carl Chudyk’s 2010 civilization card game.  On your turn, you get to take two actions.  You could draw a new card.  You could meld a new card to your civilization.  You could achieve if your score is high enough.  Or you could use the dogma effect of one of the cards on your tableau.  Along the way, your tableau will be collecting symbols, and these can be used to determine if you must share dogma effects with other players.  This game will never play out in the same way, and one card that seems way overpowered in one game will be completely useless in the next.  I love it.

image by BGG user cambridgeganes
image by BGG user cambridgeganes

#12: Speaking of Carl Chudyk, his 2007 game Glory to Rome is next on the list.  In this game, you are trying to build up Rome using a unique role selection method.  On your turn, you can lead a role that everyone else can choose to follow.  Then, anyone who played that role may take its action.  You are trying to grab resources, use them to construct buildings, add points to your vault, build up a clientele for extra actions, or steal stuff from your neighbors.  I go back and forth on whether I like this or Innovation better, and right now, I think it’s this one, but they are both phenomenal games.


Only 11 more to go!  They will be revealed on October 4 in my special 5 year anniversary/500th post!  Thanks for reading!

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2 comments

  1. Some neat choices here. First off, I’ve recently become acquainted with Dead of Winter and yeah… its awesome. And Ticket to Ride is of course a classic.

    But I gotta say that everything about this sentence “This is a family friendly RPG-in-a-box where players are mice” makes me never even want to touch that game.

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