A few weeks ago, a former coworker with little gaming experience asked me for a list of recommended board games. He loved the classics as a child, and he had tried a couple of modern titles, but he wanted to explore a few more.
In today’s marketplace, where thousands of titles are released each year, finding good games can be a challenge. I immediately rattled off a list to my friend, but I also got an idea for an article: what would the consensus list be for us here at The Opinionated Gamers? What games would we recommend that aspiring (but wholly inexperienced) gamers play first?
We had 13 Opinionated Gamers vote, with 46 different games receiving votes. We decided to write about our findings in three articles, discussing the top ten games. This article will discuss #10 to #6 (i.e. the second-highest vote getters). Tomorrow’s article will discuss #5 to #1 (i.e. the highest vote getters). Wednesday’s article is everybody’s chance to discuss games that didn’t make the top 10.
Each member of the OG was offered the chance to vote for up to 10 games. They could give one game a 10, one game a 9, one game an 8, all the way down to giving one game a 1. We all put our votes into a spreadsheet. Any OG writer could add games, provided that they were willing to give it a vote.
We then added up the points for each game and picked the top 10.
We left the criteria for selecting games to the individual, only asking people to pick the games they’d recommend new gamers play first. These (intentionally) ambiguous instructions led to quite the debate on our internal email list, with some people suggesting this was essentially a list of “gateway” games, while others suggested we were creating a list that would expose potential gamers to the variety of games out there. In the end, I encouraged our writers to embrace the ambiguity and simply list the games they’d recommend an aspiring gamer try first.
#10 – KING OF TOKYO
18 Points (Recommended by 4 Voters)
Designer: Richard Garfield
2-6 Players, Ages 8+, 30 Minutes
In King of Tokyo, you play as mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens—all of whom are destroying Tokyo and whacking each other in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.
On your turn, you roll dice, and depending on the results, you can earn victory points, deal damage to other players, heal yourself, or earn energy, which can be used to buy special abilities. Kind of like in Yahtzee, you can re-roll your dice and try to earn a better roll. The most ferocious player will occupy Tokyo, earning extra victory points, but that player can’t heal while he’s in Tokyo. To win, you either need 20 victory points or to be the last creature standing.
The game is simple — you could play this with kids — and accommodates a wide range of audiences at a variety of different player counts. With its short playtime and fun theme, it is easy to see why King of Tokyo has been such a hit. If you like dice games (especially Yahtzee), this is worth checking out!
#8 (TIE) – DOMINION
27 Points (Recommended by 5 Voters)
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino
Publisher: Hans im Gluck / Rio Grande
2-4 Players, Ages 13+, 30 Minutes
In Dominion, you take on the role of a monarch ruling a small but pleasant kingdom. You’re ambitious, trying to build your kingdom, but you’re in a race against other rulers to gather up lands. To achieve your goals, you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury.
Dominion is a pure card game, and the entirety of its components is 500 cards. You start the game with 7 “copper” cards (which can be used to purchase other cards) and 3 “estate” cards (which are victory points). On your turn, you draw five cards from your deck, play one action card (you don’t start with any, but you can buy them), make one purchase, and then do a clean-up phase. The goal is to keep buying better and better cards for your deck, thus expanding your actions, purchasing ability, and number of victory points. Everything is in the deck, which is why the game is called a “deck building” game. You’ll keep cycling through the cards, and hopefully you’ve got enough good cards — or at least enough purchasing power — to help you get victory points.
Setup is variable: you only use 10 kingdom cards in a game, but the game comes with 24 different ones. The result is a game that can be played endlessly.
The fast and addicting gameplay unite to create the sort of game that people rarely want to play just once. The fundamental concept — that you’re building a deck with literally everything in the deck (the actions, the money, the victory points, even the rules) — is brilliant. Dominion is slightly more advanced than most games on this list, but it is still playable by gamers and non-gamers alike. After all these years, Dominion is still a go-to deck building game for much of the hobby.
#8 (TIE) – NO THANKS!
27 Points (Recommended by 6 Voters)
Designer: Thorsten Gimmler
Publisher: Amigo / Mayfair
3-7 Players, Ages 8+, 20-30 Minutes
No Thanks! is a simple yet engaging card game. It is one of the easiest titles on this list to learn, and you could play this with just about anybody.
The deck consists of cards numbered from 3-35, and nine of those cards are randomly removed at the start of the game. On your turn, you flip a card from the deck. You then have a choice: play one of your chips to avoid picking up the card, or pick up the card. If you play a chip, the next player faces the choice. The player who eventually takes the card takes all of the chips that have accumulated.
Players are seeking to have the lowest score at the end of the game, and each card counts for its face value. The chips are minus a point each. The twist is that runs of two or more cards only count as the lowest value in the run, so if you had a 24, 25, and 26, you’d only get 24 points. Players typically play four rounds and add up the scores to determine the winner.
No Thanks! is all about managing your supply of chips and trying to gather up runs of cards. It can also turn into a bit of a bluffing game, as players decide what cards they’ll take and at what price. With its short playtime and engaging gameplay, it is easy to see why No Thanks! is a staple of many game groups.
#7 – FOR SALE
28 Points (Recommended by 6 Voters)
Designer: Stefan Dorra
Publisher: Eagle Gryphon / Iello
3-6 Players, Ages 8+, 20 Minutes
In For Sale, players are buying and selling real estate to make the greatest possible profit. Each player starts with $18,000 (in 3-4 player games) or $14,000 (in 5-6 player games). The game then proceeds in two phases, using two different decks: the property deck and the currency deck. During the first phase, players are bidding on properties from the property deck, which has cards ranging from 1 (a cardboard box) to 30 (a German castle). A number of these properties are flipped up, and then players bid, with the higher bids earning the better cards.
When that phase is over, players will sell the property cards, hopefully for a gain. During this second phase, players are trying to get currency cards, which range in value from $0 to $15,000. A number of these are flipped up, and players bid with their properties, with the higher properties earning the better currency cards. The player with the most money at the end wins!
For Sale is a simple-yet-effective auction game. Players must manage their money wisely, and outwit their opponents with clever bluffing and bidding. Like most games on this list, For Sale accommodates a wide range of audiences at a variety of different player counts. With its short playtime, intuitive mechanics, and fun theme, it is easy to see why For Sale is such a hit.
#6 – INCAN GOLD (a.k.a. DIAMANT)
30 Points (Recommended by 5 Voters)
Designer: Bruno Faidutti, Alan R. Moon
Publisher: Eagle Gryphon
Previously Published as Diamant by Schmidt Spiele
3-8 Players, Ages 8+, 20 Minutes
In Incan Gold, previously published as Diamant, players explore an Incan temple in search of turquoise, obsidian, and gold. The game is played over five rounds, and in each round, you have a simple choice: go deeper into the temple, hoping for more treasure, or retreat to the safety of the camp. Going further is risky — spiders, snakes, mummies, and other treacheries loom ahead — but better treasure is alluring. The player with the most treasure at the end of the five rounds wins.
Incan Gold is a “press your luck” game, and the fun is in weighing your greed for treasure against the risk of danger. The game feels like an adventure through a temple, is easy to teach, plays in twenty minutes, and accommodates a crowd up to eight people. Throw in the beautiful artwork on the new edition, and it is easy to see why Incan Gold remains so popular.