So I got asked for my top ten board games something I’d never really considered – seems a bit of an omission if you ask me…..
Things is a top ten implies a strict progression – 10 being better than 1. But my enjoyment of a board is very much linked to the people, the time and the mood. If it’s 11 o'clock at night, and I'm slightly drunk, then maybe now is not the time to start an epic (for those people muttering Midnight Britannia under their breath I said maybe.....); conversely if there are 4 of use, it’s ten in the morning and we've no plans then cracking out the vile combo generator is not right either.
So there is no numerical order in these games – instead it’s goes party games, gateway games, and gamer games.
Cards Against Humanity – which I like to describe as a vile game for vile people and which I've brought for my as a sixteenth birthday present because she so enjoyed getting her mother to say the most deeply unpleasant things she could.
I've seen it argued that it’s not a well-designed game – and it’s a fair point – but it’s still a fun game which manages to make everybody feel like there group has the most twisted imaginations ever.
The Great Dalmuti - is a game I've played so often and so drunk that it’s been proved I can explain the rules clearly and coherently while a bottle of port (and more) to the wind. It’s a simply trick taking game that is elevated into a storming amount of fun due to the fact that it is unfair and allows the people doing well to order the other people around ‘do fetch me a drink….’
Aye Dark Overlord – one of you is the evil overlord, the rest of you are there minions, you were given one job, and you have failed. That’s the start of the game – as you try and fast talk your way out of trouble and somebody else into it. A story telling game of brilliance where we throw more and more of the rules away each time that has left me closer to passing out more than once. Word of warning – it is very dependent on the group you play with and as it’s about the journey rather the destination you are not really able to skip over other people.
Lover Letter – this one could just as easily have been put in the party games section but it’s a little more involved and deduction based then the party games. That’s not to say it’s complicated – far from it – there are 16 cards in the game and they all say what they do on them. But as you try and make sure your love letter gets to the princess and your opponents letter is goes nowhere then it's got a little more focus on winning or losing then the pure party games.
Settlers of Catan – an absolute classic of game design for a reason. The game most likely to end up replacing monopoly as the game every family has a copy off. Roll dice, get stuff, build your settlements and maybe steal a little bit of stuff of people. I'm a bit of a purist and tend to play with just the basic set – I know there are expansion but the basic set is so well designed and balance why change it? Introduced a whole generation of gamers to the idea that compelling game play could come from indirect competition for resources and trading.
King of Tokyo – you are a giant monster, you want to destroy Tokyo, other giant monsters want to stop you, crush them! Often described as gamer yahtzee it’s basic mechanic of ‘throw and reroll and reroll to see what you get’ is easy to grasp while the power cards add an element of replayability and depth as you try and work out which broken combo of cards you want to unleash on your foes. All while trying t push your luck as to how long can you stay as the king of Tokyo. I will say I don’t own this game – but I've come damn close a number of times.
Heavy weight games
Most of these take an evening to play, require a reasonable amount of rules explanation and generally involve a certain amount of thinking.
Britannia – Yes I know it’s 8 hours long, yes I know it plays with exactly 4 people which is annoying , and yes I know it very luck based and involves throwing tons of dice often to no damn effect; but it gives you the whole scope of British history from the Romans through to the Normans. It’s great to win, and it’s great to see some really messed up history ‘We call this Pictland’ or ‘Well that’s the last Saxon dead – murdered by the Welsh’ or ‘What do you mean William the conqueror died under Jutish axes on the southern coast – who the hell are the Jutes?’.
Caverna – you are dwarves, you need to make the best dwarfish home you can. So send your dwarves out to mine, farm, adventure, and furnish in this fabulous and smooth worker placement game. I know I said I preferred Glass Road before and that is still brilliant – but Caverna is winning me over…… Tiny little wooden sheep after tiny little wooden sheep……
Trajan – there’s a bit playing Trajan where your brain breaks and you think you can see through time and space, see through to the underlying code of the universe and manipulate it to your will. Don’t worry that’s perfectly normal; it’s also utterly false as you’ll discover in 4 turns time when you realise you've fucked up. It’s paper thing Roman theme puts some people off but for me it’s unique mancala (move token between pots) based action sequence makes it shine – and when you pull off a clever turn spanning combo to really grand effect it makes you feel like the king of the world. I don't own Trajan but I want to. I so want to.
Brass - the industrial revolution, spin, ship, mine, and railway your way to the top as the best and most efficient capitalist oppressor you can be; all set in in sunny Lancashire. Use of a deck of cards manages to give you almost unlimited freedom but restrict you just enough or to put it another way you wander why the cards were ever included right up until the point they block your awesome move..... I did almost pick Tinner Trail by Martin Wallace but I've played Brass more and it's definitely the more famous of his games.
So there you go - my top 10. Tell me why I'm wrong and what I missed off that has to be on this list or I am a no nothing