My top 189 games of all time

For more than a decade now, I’ve made a tradition of ordering my favorite games – all games I rate an 8 or higher.  In spite of playing an ever increasing number of games – as I write this, I’ve played at least 2880 published games – the length of my favorites list has remained in a fairly narrow range, from a low of 167 to a high of 191, with some slow upward slope over time.

With each entry, I’ve included the number of times I’ve played the game as of July 10, 2017; this can be taken as a proxy for my confidence in my rating – and thereby the game’s inclusion on this list.

#189 – Aeronautika, by Jean du Poël
2 plays
First appearance: 2015

There are only two games on this list I don’t own – this game and the one one slot further up.  And Aeronautika is the only game I haven’t played since I last put this list together.  But in spite of that shortcoming – my interest in the game hasn’t fallen; I’m still desperately looking for a copy.  The components are great, and really convey the feel of early aviation.  It’s a game where bad things will happen to you through no fault of your own, and thus not an ideal choice for those bothered by such challenges, but I find it compelling – and can’t wait for my next chance to get another play or two in.

#188 – Finished, by Friedemann Friese
4 plays
First appearance: 2017

I’m not a fan of solitaire games.  But designers keep inching closer to a solitaire game that really hits home with me; Friday was the first game to come close, and then Shephy spent some significant time in my collection.  But Finished looks to be the first solo game that will actually stick for me – the theme works for me, and the mechanisms are interesting and intuitive.  I will be picking up a copy at the first opportunity, once it’s published.

#187 – Quartermaster General, by Ian Brody
12 plays
First appearance: 2015

Ah, the problems of success.  This game was a big hit in the multiple groups I’m part of in 2015 – and then various sequels came out, and the original has become hard to get to the table.  As is frequently the case for me, I’m most fond of the original, and was not impressed by the one sequel I’ve played.  I’m glad for Brody that he’s found success, but I worry that the game has peaked for me.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  In spite of cutting my teeth in the hobby on wargames, Quartermaster General fell flat for me.  I found it unexciting and one’s options truly hindered by the cards in hand.  It gets such great reviews,  however, that I really should try it again.
Dan Blum: I’ve played the original several times and unfortunately agree with Greg. However, in this case we’re the outliers and Joe is in touch with the mainstream.

#186 – Road to the Palace, by Muneyuki Yokouchi
10 plays
First appearance: 2015

Over the past decade, I’ve moved from primarily finding German and American games of the most interest, to having the greatest success with games from Japan.  Road to the Palace works well as an example of why this has happened.  It’s a very clever and original game, where players ideally want to collect two resources in the same color – but where that’s extremely difficult, and where one of the resources includes two extra colors to contend with.  This combination makes for a game that feels unique and original – factors that always help a game work well for me.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: I’m adding my comments as I go down the list, so I don’t know if any other Muneyuki Yokouchi titles will appear on this list, but I’m starting to think that in some sort of metric looking at what percent of a designer’s games that I try do I like, he’s at the top. Road to the Palace is included in the list of ones that are quite clever and I really like.

#185 – Café Melange, by Stephan Riedel
8 plays
First appearance: 2015

I’d long been a fan of Old Town, and have always been curious to try other games in the same genre – what I call “proof” games, since you make plays to demonstrate that the answer you want to be true must be.  This one has the advantage of a somewhat easier to grasp method of making proofs, and the advantage of a great setting – early 1900s Vienna.  Oh, and the advantage of including as one of the visitors Alma Mahler, the subject of Tom Lehrer’s song Alma.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna:I love logic games and Cafe Melange is fairly easy to explain and understand. The seating theme works exceptionally well for that here.

#184 – Sail to India, by Hisashi Hayashi
12 plays
First appearance: 2013

Hayashi is one of the most prolific designers around, and one with the most diversity in his designs.  I tend to prefer his bigger box games – but really, all of his designs are worth trying.  Sail to India caught on quickly with me, and I’m still enjoying it – but it hasn’t moved forward for me, thus its relatively low ranking here.  Still a favorite, though.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Yu: This one is high on my personal list as it has a high density of gaming decision to volume.  I have found that I do prize this quality a lot in my game collection, having a special section set aside for small volume games that offer a lot of punch.
Lorna: One of the games to kick off the micro game trend. Well designed and fun to play. Hisashi Hayashi has become of of my autobuy designers.

#183 – Sheep ‘n’ Sheep, by Hisashi Hayashi
7 plays
First appearance: 2017

I’ve only had this game for a month or so, but it’s my favorite of Hayashi’s recent smaller games – a set collection game with a nice spatial element to it that’s a particularly good fit for my gaming interests.  Though I still need to figure out a better way to teach the series placement rule, given the confusion it seems to engender.

#182 – Emperor’s Choice, by Hisashi Hayashi
5 plays
First appearance: 2017

OK, this is a good example of why there is no perfect time to make this list.  If I were ordering the games today, Emperor’s Choice would be higher up on the list.  But – it’s enough effort to order the better part of 200 games that I don’t really want to do it more often than once every other year.  I expect this game to pass Yokohama for me, if it hasn’t already, as the theme is well conveyed by the mechanisms.  It’s a point salad, but a coherent point salad.  It does amuse me that I ended up with three straight games on this list from the same designer.

#181 – Marracash, by Stefan Dorra
24 plays
First appearance: 2005

The first game on this list to have made it through from my first listing until now.  Offers some really tricky to evaluate auctions, even with experience, which always draws me back in.  Back in the day, Steve Kurzban and I split the cost of an extra set to allow for play with 5 or 6 players.

#180 – Snowdonia, by Tony Boydell
11 plays
First appearance: 2013

When I hear a game is a worker placement game, I’m usually cautiously pessimistic; I’ve not had the greatest luck with the genre.  But there have been enough exceptions that I will consider giving such a game a chance, if it otherwise appeals.  Snowdonia – does.  The Welsh setting helps, as does the number of choices – I don’t feel forced into a bad choice, simply because of being late in the turn order.  Suboptimal, perhaps, but not bad.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  Agreed.  Very good game with some excellent, albeit tough decisions.  
Doug G: Great game and I’m looking forward to Tony’s update in A Nice Cup of Tea.
Melissa: A lovely game that doesn’t make it to the table often enough.
Michael W.: Agreed. And the expansions are excellent as well, each making the game play very differently than the base one.

#179 – Die Mauer, by Thomas Fackler
12 plays
First appearance: 2015

Can superior components make up for gameplay?  Much as I sometimes want to say that gameplay is king – games with good, but not spectacular, gameplay do seem to make up for that with me if they have standout components.  I recently acquired The Waltzing Cat, and I’m sure that part of my ongoing interest in the game is a result of the excellent production.  And I know that this is the case for Die Mauer.  I first played the metal edition, and enjoyed the game enough to pick up the Zoch wood edition when it became available.  But without the great components, the game faded for me.  Now having the metal pieces I learned to enjoy the game with, it’s a favorite again – even with the simple bluffing mechanisms, not a favorite of mine.

#178 – Scratch House, by Kuro
7 plays
First appearance: 2017

Kuro is even more prolific than Hayashi, and nearly as varied in his designs.  But while I tend to enjoy his designs – they don’t stick with me.  Scratch House is the exception, and it’s easy to pinpoint why – the game is set in the Winchester Mystery House, and does a great job of conveying that through its mechanisms.  On the short list of games I’m most anxious to play as I write up this list.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: Kuro has some of the most interesting themes. Many of his designs have really unusual mechanisms. My personal favorite of his designs is The Ravens of Thri Sahashri.

#177 – Vinci, by Philippe Keyaerts
17 plays
First appearance: 2005

While the gaming world has, for the most part, converted over to Small World – I remain enamored with the original.  I have never played Small World, as the theme doesn’t appeal – while the Europe-conquering of Vinci seems a far more compelling option.  I’m also quite fond of the mechanism of randomly combining two specialties in each kingdom, which does an ideal job of letting players value each combination in the context of the current game.  The reliance of the game on the players to balance things is not a favorite, which is the only thing that keeps the game from ranking higher with me.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  I agree with you, Joe–I find Vinci much more appealing, both thematically and mechanically, than Small World.  The powers are more varied and distinguishable and I prefer the open scoring of Vinci (I’d rather bash a leader than someone who I think is leading, but isn’t).  Small World works better with larger player counts (5 or 6), but for 3 or 4, I much prefer Vinci.
Greg S:  I was enamored by Vinci and, like Joe, avoided Small World as I’m not a fantasy genre fan.  However, I ultimately played Small World and absolutely loved it. After several plays, I decided to part ways with Vinci and have never regretted the decision.
Matt C: I have never played Vinci and although I’m curious, I am very confident I’d prefer Small World (I’m fine with open scoring if you want…)  I find Small World to be an excellent asynchronous game, and like the low randomness.  I still think it should be a contender for inclusion in any live-broadcast boardgame championships such as found in the videogame arena.
Michael W.: I like Small World well enough, and think the expansions keep it lively, but I do kind of regret letting go of my copy of Vinci as in hindsight I prefer the same things about it that Joe mentions. It just was never hitting the table and thus once didn’t survive a purge.
Dan Blum: I rarely play Vinci any longer and am not sure I need to keep it, but I still much prefer it to Small World.
Mark Jackson: Vinci is a good game – but I think Small World is a substantially cleaner design – and with my fantasy-loving kids, it’s a no-brainer.

#176 – Auf Achse, by Wolfgang Kramer
19 plays
First appearance: 2005

It’s not hard to understand why Auf Achse has never been a hit in the US; not only does it involve European geography, but even the more familiar cities are called by their German names.  But just why no one has licensed the design for a US-focused edition, I’m just not sure – it’s a fine example of a lighter business game, with good planning rewarded, but less experience players still in contention due to events and poor die rolls.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S: Trip Godel wrote an outstanding, in-depth article for Counter magazine (Issue #76) on the history, development and potential future of Auf Achse.  I am with Joe as I find this game to be quite fun and interesting.  I much prefer the more recent edition, which corrected a few problems with the original.
Doug G: Solid pick up & deliver game. I also like the additions/changes to the recent edition.
Melissa: When we spent 5 months in Germany, Auf Achse (the 2007 re-release) was one of the first games we bought. We enjoy the game, and also enjoyed spotting familiar city names on road signs as we drove around. It has had occasional play through the years and is enjoyed by all the family. Our younger daughter used to get it out to play with her German babysitters.

#175 – The Election Game, from The Next President, by Jim Dunnigan, Philip Orbanes, and Terence M. Holland
8 plays
First appearance: 2009

In general, I have a preference for playing games with at least three players.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy two player games, a number of which make this list, so much as I enjoy gaming as a social activity, and playing with more players feels more social.  But there are a number of game topics which are very well suited to two players; US elections are one of them.  And The Election Game does a nice job with the topic, as players choose which regions to campaign in – and gain in those areas where they have advantages in the campaigning completed, nicely mixed it with each state’s natural tendencies (as least as viewed in the early 1970s).  All in all, it makes for a nice, smooth game, that usually has a favorite heading into election day – but enough uncertainty to allow for miracles.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dan Blum: The Nomination Game is also decent as I recall. I should play both again.

#174 – SteamRollers, by Mark Gerritts
10 plays
First appearance: 2017

Unfortunately, this game was only available initially in a limited edition.  It has the feel of “Age of Steam” meets “Rolling Japan”, but the later elements fix what I see as issues with the former – everyone building their own private network, in particular, helps make for a better game.  There can be elements of frustration, when the roll of the dice limits track building options at inconvenient times, but that’s well balanced with a nice set of abilities one can choose in place of building, often expanding options.

#173 – Trajan, by Stefan Feld
13 plays
First appearance: 2013

Feld is very hit-or-miss with me; his tendency toward point salad games doesn’t always delight.  But the Mancala like action selection mechanism here really works for me – both mechanically and thematically – and as a result I enjoy Trajan more than I might predict.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Simon Neale: This is one of my favourite Feld games, mainly due to the Mancala mechanic.
Doug G: LOVE the Mancala mechanism in this one.
Matt C: Wow, played once.  Thought I was losing the whole game but won handsomely.  Something I need to try again.

#172 – Goa, by Rüdiger Dorn
31 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of the things that bothers me most is when one game becomes two or more, particularly due to changes in a later edition.  I understand the desire of designers to make what they feel are important changes, but the result is that two people interested in playing “Game” may well not be interested in playing the same game.  Goa is perhaps the more painful example of the phenomenon, for me; I own, and enjoy, the original game.  But on the whole, it’s the second edition which seems to have gained greatest acceptance – to the extent that I can’t safely assume that the game I want to play is the one someone else is referring to.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: Goa (original) is definitely a favourite of ours. I find that – more than many other games – it plays very differently with two than with more players. I enjoy both, but 2p is probably my favourite.
Matt C: I haven’t pulled it out in forever but it isn’t leaving my collection, I enjoy it too much.  As with any auction game, best only if played with experienced players.  Not sure which edition I have… probably 2005ish

#171 – Nauticus, by Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling
9 plays
First appearance: 2017

A bit of an under-the-radar game from 2013, it was only as I discovered that the game really shines with three players that it grew to be a favorite for me.  This is a common problem; some games are most enjoyable for some players with some number of players, and notably less enjoyable with other player counts.  BGG tries to solve this by allowing users to indicate the number of players a game is best with – but I find that the data there doesn’t match my opinion any better than the ratings on BGG match mine.  (There is no definitive “best” number for Nauticus on BGG, though 4 players – my least favorite count – has the most votes.)

#170 – R-Eco, by Susumu Kawasaki
15 plays
First appearance: 2007

Some of the most enjoyable games, in my opinion, are what I would collectively refer to as “clever card games” – games which use cards not in traditional ways (such as epitomized by traditional card games), but which instead involve very different mechanisms.  This is any area where Japanese designs excel; the tendency towards minimalistic components make card games a logical design arena, and the emphasis on original design ideas leads to many clever new ideas.  R-Eco is an early example; it’s easy to teach, and easy to play – but with sufficient room for clever play as to reward good choices strongly.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Doug G: Love this one!  Fantastic choices for a small card game.
Lorna: One of the first Japanese designers to cross over, he had his big hit with Traders of Carthage. He has a lot of interesting ideas for games, I wish more of his designs would be picked up by other publishers. They are really hard to get here in the US.

#169 – Karuba, by Rüdiger Dorn
9 plays
First appearance: 2017

For many, the key to a game is interaction; the European style of indirect and limited interaction moves games away from the ideal.  For me, while interaction itself is a fine thing, it’s not the presence or absence of interaction that’s critical, but instead how well the interaction fits my preferences.  As a result, true multiplayer-solitaire games (and nearly true multiplayer-solitaire games, such as Karuba where the only interaction comes via the race element) tend to work well for me, as they offer no undesirable interactions.  Karuba offers particularly interesting choices, as a result of the incentives to race ahead.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: I’ve enjoyed Karuba, but haven’t rated it as anything special. I enjoy it when I play but perhaps it’s a bit too abstract for my taste.

#168 – Tricks & Deserts, by Muneyuki Yokouchi
9 plays
First appearance: 2015

Some of my favorite games are trick taking games – but as a result, I tend to be picky about trick taking games.  Tricks & Deserts has captured and kept my interest, as the tradeoffs between setting scoring and using the same cards for taking tricks leads to interesting and unique decisions.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: T&D is one of the few Muneyuki games that has disappointed me.  However, based upon Joe’s and others’ opinions, I’m softening to giving it another shot with a clean slate.  

#167 – Lost Valley, by Roland Goslar and Tobias Goslar
13 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of my favorite things to do is to explore a game.  This doesn’t necessarily require exploration as a mechanism in a game – but it doesn’t hurt.  Lost Valley – or at least the original edition, the only one I’m familiar with – seems to often be dismissed because of the tendency for actions to be at least as beneficial to other players as to the player taking the action.  But from my point of view, it leads to a fascinating game to explore.  One can take the challenge of acting so as to be most personally beneficial, or as a benefactor to humanity; either way, the game is engaging and always enjoyable.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: I, too, am a big fan of the original edition of Lost Valley – but I feel compelled to warn folks that anything you build could be used against you in a court of law. :-)

#166 – Power Grid: The Card Game, by Friedemann Friese
19 plays
First appearance: 2017

I’ve long been a fan of Funkenschlag (wait for it), and therefore was hopeful when trying Power Grid for the first time that it would provide the same experience in less time.  But in practice, it didn’t meet that standard.  For me, it was a less enjoyable experience – and at best took just thirty minutes off of the play time.  So I kept looking for what I wanted Power Grid to be – and with Power Grid: The Card Game, I finally found it.  It’s not the full Funkenschlag experience – but it plays in just thirty minutes, and provides an interesting challenge in its own right.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dan Blum: Definitely agree on this one. I was never actually that enamored by Funkenschlag, but I didn’t feel that Power Grid improved it; drawing your own lines is fun and placing the houses on pre-printed routes isn’t, and the game still outlasted my enjoyment. The card game distills the rest of the elements into a nice compact form.

#165 – Age of Craft, by Toryo Hojo
13 plays
First appearance: 2015

Both Age of Craft – and its successor, Colony – offer an interesting take on using dice to buy things.  Here, the randomness of the dice roll is offset by drafting of dice, along with some built-in ability to modify dice and one of the better catch-up mechanisms I’ve seen, as players are pushed to use their dice and not hold back – but the unfortunate player who ends up way behind can cash in a building for a number of bonus dice equal to their distance behind the leader.  This typically isn’t enough to fully catch up – but on occasion it can be, and that “one roll of the dice” feel adds significantly to the game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Doug G:  I recommended that Ted of Bezier Games look into this game after playing Joe’s copy at Meeplefest.  Great game (though I like Ted’s development in Colony a lot more).
Dan Blum: I also prefer Colony.

#164 – Frank’s Zoo, by Doris Matthäus & Frank Nestel
51 plays
First appearance: 2005

We don’t play Frank’s Zoo by the rules.  Partnerships?  Who needs them.  Special lion scoring?  Nah.  Hedgehogs?  They’re just animals.  No, we plays Frank’s Zoo as a substitute for The Great Dalmuti when playing with fewer players – and it’s very well suited to the task.  I know some don’t care for house rules – and I sympathize, as there are house rules I really don’t care for – but this is what makes the game great for me; as a designer, I always figure it’s better for people to play my games the way they most enjoy them, regardless of my intent – and therefore as a player I follow the same rule.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: Frank’s Zoo has been a long-term family favourite. Quick and simple, we use the basic rules rather than the extra add-on stuff. This was perhaps the only game that we had to handicap for our elder daughter – she could play (and sometimes win) Puerto Rico and Settlers, but Frank’s Zoo was challenging.
Mark Jackson: I’m a fan of the add-on rules… and it’s the Doris artwork that seals the deal for me.
Lorna: Still a go to filler. I play the same way Joe does.

#163 – Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar, by Simone Luciani & Daniele Tascini
16 plays
First appearance: 2013

What does one do with a broken game?  For that matter, what is a broken game?  I’ve long held that (1) there is no such thing as a universally broken game – every game works for someone, and therefore (2) “broken” really means “broken for me”.  And – Tzolk’in is broken for me.  Praying to the gods is too strong – and the technology tracks are too weak.  But while that bugs me – the gear mechanism is truly brilliant.  Brilliant in many ways, really – brilliant because of the delayed gratification, brilliant because of the tradeoff between cheap spaces and better spaces, brilliant because of the cost of flooding pieces on and off, and for that matter brilliant because of the on/off decision.  All of which adds up to a game I’m happy to play – even if it is broken for me.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  First I’ve heard of a possible dominant strategy for this great game.  Sadly, even though I love Tzolk’in, I’m not good enough at it to discuss this.  Maybe some other OGers can chime in.
Doug G.:  I love the moving parts of the inter-connected cogs.  
Matt C: My current favorite game.  In my experience, placing Crystal Skulls is extremely powerful, and can’t be relegated to only one player (or often even two.)  Granted that does also affect the gods track.  I’m a sucker for technology tracks and I could concede they are difficult to really optimize within the short duration of the game.  Only “cult of the new” or “variety” knocks it off my top game choice at any moment.  Love the gears, love the theme, and the “do I let it ride?” mechanics are great.  (Now if only I could win more reliably… but I’m usually beat out more by skulls than gods…)

#162 – Black Friday, by Friedemann Friese
15 plays
First appearance: 2013

The first game in Friedemann’s Friday project remains, for me, the best of the lot.  I’ve played many stock market games, and most of them have been awful.  Usually market results are random or market results are an averaging of player options – neither of which makes for an interesting game.  18xx solves this by having a very complex sub-game determine market performance, and does well with that – but it’s nice to have a more accessible choice in the genre.  And – Black Friday is that choice.  Players have interesting risk/reward tradeoffs, with enough information to make informed decisions – but not so much as to have guaranteed profits.  It’s also a credit to the game that one can’t reasonably predict how high up the market will get – I’ve seen a game peter out at the fourth level, and another get to the eighth.

#161 – Cartel, by Philip Orbanes
9 plays
First appearance: 2013

Sometimes, one gets to the party late.  I’ve long been intrigued by business games – but while some of them are among my favorites, a lot of them don’t work nearly as well for me.  So I found Cartel only recently – but I’m really enjoying it.  The tradeoffs are interesting, and the need to take the right risks makes for a really interesting balance in the game.  About the only drawback is that it’s really only a four player game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  I initally played this game was when it was first released, in 1973.  It was hugely ahead of its time and was a big favorite of ours.  It’s very clever and has held up reasonably well, even though the luck factor can be a bit high at times.  But for its time, this was a really good game and still worth playing today.

#160 – Sweep!, by James Hatten
8 plays
First appearance: 2009

Sports games are of mixed interest to me.  One of the games I played growing up was Ethan Allen’s All-Star Baseball, which really taught me the value of a walk.  But I find most racing games don’t hold my interest.  More obscure sports, however, are more likely to catch my interest.  Sweep!, focused on the sport of Curling, is a strategic game with randomness in the results from piles of cards (eight piles, for four different types of shots, both blocked and clear), that works very nicely and smoothly.  Being a two player game, I’ll never play it as much as many of the games on this list – but I really enjoy it every time it does come to the table.

#159 – Vikings, by Michael Kiesling
25 plays
First appearance: 2007

While I enjoyed Vikings from the start, I thought it was going to be played out for me about a year in.  When I suddenly discovered – it’s more fun, for me, with three or even two players than with four.  This isn’t an ideal limitation, but it’s a workable one.  I was initially taught the advanced rules, and didn’t play without them until many years after I was introduced to the game – and now realize how thankful I am to have been taught the advanced rules from the start, as they’re much more to my taste.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  It always astonishes me how many experienced gamers play the basic version of Vikings.  The advanced rules only take about 5 more minutes to teach, add very little time to the game, and yet make it a much better gaming experience.  Usually, gamers start with the advanced rules, so why this game is an exception is a mystery to me.  Anyway, this is a very solid middleweight which I’m always happy to play, but only with the advanced rules!  :-)

#158 – Oswald B. Lord’s Game of Politics, by Oswald Lord
9 plays
First appearance: 2005

This game entered my collection in a unique fashion – board first.  I found the board in an antique store in Ithaca, NY, and being a student of the history of electoral vote distributions, had to have it.  Later I was able to get a set of the pieces, and finally try the game.  And – I really enjoyed it.  While the board play is interesting, what really makes the game is the speech cards – distributed at the start of the game, and auctioned at random points later on.  Having enjoyed the 1935 edition so much, I acquired a copy of the 1950s edition – only to discover that Parker Brothers had lobotomized it, by removing the speech cards.  Even without them, it’s worth experiencing – but the 1935 edition is the keeper.  One mark of a good US presidential election game, in my opinion, is the ability of a player to win when the luck goes against them – and Oswald B. Lord’s Game of Politics delivers.

#157 – Speculation, by Dirk Henn
18 plays
First appearance: 2005

Another stock market game?  Well, yes – because, again, the mechanism works well, giving players insight and some limited control, but not too much.  The original has the disadvantage of potentially offering a long string of turns with no opportunities to buy & sell stocks – but, for me, still works better for the uncertainty.  Queen made a die that can be used in place of the tile pull, which fortunately I had the foresight to pick up, as for me it makes for a better game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: I was always surprised it took Queen so long to publish this one. Great stock game.

#156 – Zahlen-Mobile, by Bernhard Lach & Uwe Rapp
10 plays
First appearance: 2015

Every now and again, a shot in the dark pays off.  I only own Zahlen-Mobile because of Reinhold Wittig – who is not the designer, but who was inspired by the game to make a mechanical representation, which the publisher showed off at Essen.  Wanting to meet Wittig, I went to the booth – and couldn’t help but be intrigued by the game, a speed dice rolling game.  I’ve always had a good time with it, and suspect it would be a keeper for me even without the fun I had in adding it to my collection.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: I’m growing weary of speed games, but still have a soft spot for those that involve math (e.g. Like Dice). I’m not growing weary of games that cause me to think in a different manner than I typically do, and this one is a good fit for me on both accounts.

#155 – Koryŏ, by Gun-Hee Kim
12 plays
First appearance: 2015

I actually bought this right around the same time I bought Zahlen-Mobile, albeit without a story to tell.  The idea behind the game is simple as can be, which helps to make Koryŏ an ideal and unique filler.  The structure of the game leads to low scores – and the potential for big swings.  Which might be bothersome in a longer game – but which works very well here, keeping everyone close enough to have a chance.

#154 – Rolling Japan, by Hisashi Hayashi
22 plays
First appearance: 2015

Another multiplayer solitaire game, here of the paper and pencil variety.  I nearly always enjoy these games, but this one stands out for me because of the lack of symmetry (not all of the areas have the same number of spaces) and by the pain the game puts players through – sure, everything could go just right, but it never does.  Quick, and just as enjoyable set in Tokyo or the United States.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: I love roll-and-write games, with Qwixx rating as one of my favourites. I picked up a copy of Rolling America, expecting to love it … and it just fell flat. Not only for me, but for the whole family.
Matt C: Somehow the “theme” of Rolling America works for me, such that I like it over some of the other roll & writes..

#153 – Kardinal & König, by Michael Schacht
35 plays
First appearance: 2005

I recently had the opportunity to simultaneously play Kardinal & König (more commonly known in English as Web of Power) and Han, to see again which edition I preferred.  And – the answer, once again, was the original.  The smaller number of cards available makes for faster choice – and more dealing with what’s available.  I also prefer the European map – for this game, the oddities (such as the island of England and the lack of connections between some countries) actually make for a better environment for this game.  Which is kind of ironic, since I find Wallenstein to work better than Shogun, for the exact opposite reason – the square configuration of the European board leads to more interesting conflicts.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Doug G:  Only 153? Really? We played BOTH China AND Web of Power/Kardinal & Konig at the same  time during this year’s Meeplefest (that may become a tradition) and what a fun time! I LOVE this game (my #1) and I can’t recommend it enough.
Melissa:  SUCH a great game. Needs more table-time.
Dale Y:  I’m with Doug G.  This is probably in my top 20.  Not that I have the patience nor database of plays/ratings to be able to start an awesome list like this.
Mark Jackson:  I played again just the other night… and this continues to be one of my favorite 3 player games. Like Joe, I think the original European map is best (though I’ve played most of the variant maps Michael Schacht created.)

#152 – Bist Du sicher?, by Rudi Hoffman
10 plays
First appearance: 2013

On the surface of it, Bist Du sicher? Is a simple family game.  You roll a die; a low roll always requires drawing tiles, a mix of the items you need and various maladies – which you have to pay the bills for to win.  With a higher roll, you can take more tiles, or money.   In addition to paying off bills you can purchase insurance – which protects you from the bill should the matching malady show up.  This makes for interesting tradeoffs – do you take your chance with an expensive but rare malady?  There’s no requirement to buy any insurance to win the game – just collect the sixteen items, pay off any bills, and you win.  It’s still a simple game – but one that I really enjoy.

#151 – Ark, by Doris Matthäus & Frank Nestel
20 plays
First appearance: 2005

Ark is a unique game – it’s a game about finding the best way to follow the complex (but thematically logical) set of rules.  It’s not ideal with five players – and even four players is a bit much – but being very different helps the game to stand out.  Well, that and the incredible artwork from Doris…

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: I’d also recommend keeping to three or four players… it’s odd and wonderful. (And, like Joe said, dig that artwork!)

#150 – Big City, by Franz-Benno Delonge
32 plays
First appearance: 2005

Big City is visually very appealing – but many knock it for the lack of rewards for moving the game forward.  Which is a fair complaint, I must admit – but I still find the game fun.  Perhaps not the game most dependent upon skill to win, but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of building a city.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: Maybe it’s the components; maybe it’s the straightforward gameplay… I dunno. This has continued to be one of my favorites. (It’s a family game with 4 or 5 that becomes a bit more gamer-friendly with just 2 or 3 players.)

#149 – Hellas, by Franz-Benno Delonge
17 plays
First appearance: 2005

An honest to goodness wargame from Germany?  Well, yes and no – I’m sure the purists wouldn’t count it, but it is a game with direct conflict, even if surrounded by more traditional German gaming features.  I particularly enjoy how you can focus on particular cards for particular effects, and really appreciate how the game drives forward, even though it’s not inherently clear that it must – it delivers many of the pleasures of a wargame in a fraction of the time.  The only thing missing is the historic element – which keeps it from placing higher on this list, for me.

#148 – Santa Fe, by Alan Moon
22 plays
First appearance: 2005

I bought Santa Fe at Games People Play in Cambridge, MA, soon after I was introduced to the world of German boardgames.  And was immediately taken by it – the fun of collectively guiding the five railroads of the game in the ways you want them mixes very well with the rewards for reaching historic destinations, and the tradeoff between maximizing during-game points and end-game points seems to consistently result in both approaches being competitive.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  Ten years after Moon designed Santa Fe, he released two games derived from it, Santa Fe Rails and Clippers.  Of the three games, the one I much prefer is Clippers.  In the other two, you’re drawing scoring cards blindly throughout the game and late in the game, you might draw a great card or a worthless one.  Clippers, OTOH, is a no luck, perfect information design that I really like.  Unfortunately, its physical design is criminally awful (and its theme is less attractive than the other two titles), but I still find it one of Moon’s best efforts.

#147 – Olympia 2000 (v. Chr.), by Stefan Dorra
27 plays
First appearance: 2005

Dorra is a master of using the traditional Raj mechanism – simultaneous play, with the best card getting the prize, but incentive for sandbagging – in different manners.  Olympia 2000 adds a clever element of having four different ratings on each card – and in rewarding the low player by allowing them to choose a future contest.  The balance in the game may not be perfect, but it’s sufficient to keep all players involved throughout, and to provide some feeling of control.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  A favorite filler that has remained in my collection for over 15 years.  It still hits the table once or twice a year.
Doug G: Great little game that I need to get off the shelf more often. Thanks Mark Jackson for showing me this one a few years ago.
Mark Jackson: No problem… I still have (and play) my copy. I think this one could be profitably reprinted.

#146 – Whacky Wit, by Norman Sommer
15 plays
First appearance: 2015

Thank you, Jonathan Franklin.  Jonathan suggested we go to media day at Essen, and if I recall correctly was the one to point out a Pac-Man like game.  Investigating it, I discovered a mechanically clever game – if one that wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.  But I later saw the game in play at the publisher booth, and continued to be intrigued – and finally managed to acquire one, a few months later.  The game itself – a roll-and-move simulation of Pac-Man – is actually far more clever than one would at first suppose.  But it’s the wonderful pin reset system that really makes the game – you really have to see a video of it in action to appreciate it.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: This is the best analog version of a video game ever.

#145 – Guild, by Kenichi Tanabe
10 plays
First appearance: 2013

Ever since I was introduced to Inotaizu (wait for it), I’ve been intrigued by Tanabe’s designs.  Guild was recently updated and re-released as Nubia – but for me, the original is the superior option.  Players build pyramids – both above ground (with cards that provide various resources, including soldiers) and below ground (with cards that primarily provide end game scoring), all in a very cash-strapped environment.  Fortunately, players can get some extra help each turn – but the right help may not provide access to the right building cards.

#144 – Favor of the Pharaoh / To Court the King, by Tom Lehmann
35 plays
First appearance: 2007

I – often combine games in a different manner than BGG does.  I originally counted these as different, but – I really do consider them different aspects of the same game, and so combined them in my records.  Because one of the big reasons I keep track of my plays is to know when I haven’t played a game in too long – and honestly, if I’ve played either of these, that’s sufficient for the pair.  And if I’m in the mood to play one – the other is a fine alternative.  Though – I really like the Japanese edition, which replaces noblemen with animals.  There are very few games I keep multiple editions of ready to hand, but this is one.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: A favourite of our elder daughter’s. Like you, I like both versions.
Matt C: I like both versions.  I like the variety of Favor of Pharaoh, but it is more fiddly to set up.
Mark Jackson: Matt is correct in all counts… though my family “favors” FotP. :-)

#143 – Perry Rhodan, by Heinrich Glumpler
14 plays
First appearance: 2013

This was originally previewed as a Merchant of Venus card game a year before it was finally published, and that intrigued me greatly.  But when I played it, I was – whelmed.  It was fun enough, but it was no Merchant of Venus.  Over time, though, it grew on me, to the point of first making this list four years back.  It’s still no Merchant of Venus, but the challenges it provides are quite interesting, and the mechanism for removing goods from the game really is quite brilliant.

#142 – Rapa Nui, by Reinhold Wittig & Ingo Althöfer
11 plays
First appearance: 2011

While there are a number of games called Rapa Nui around, this is the only one to really strike home with me.  It’s inherently an abstract game with a random element to keep my interest – but it does a wonderful job of thematically showing the impact of overpopulation on Easter Island.  I recently purchased a handmade copy of the game made by Wittig, and it introduces a new rule that opens up some new play choices.

#141 – The Traders of Carthage, by Susumu Kawasaki
15 plays
First appearance: 2007

One of the interesting questions in Japanese game design is just how much game can be placed into a small box.  The Traders of Carthage gives one answer to this question – as players have an enormous number of choices and options.  I particularly enjoy how players have the option of playing conservatively or going all out – with no clear answer which path will end up being rewarded.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: Fantastic game still.

#140 – Wind the Film!, by Saashi
10 plays
First appearance: 2017

A 2017 game about – film cameras?  It must be Japanese!  And, of course, it is.  This game has learned from Lost Cities and from Bohnanza, and uses those lessons without ever once feeling derivative of either.  Players have an unsorted hand of cards, take 1-3 more pictures each turn, “wind the film” to reposition one photo later on the reel, and then develop as many pictures as they took – with the pictures having to appear in order (either first to last or vice-versa) to score positively.  Add in some nice set collection scoring requirements, and it’s a very clever game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan:  It’s a real delight. One of those games where I for no reason hesitate to pull it off of the shelf, but once I’m playing, I’m very glad to be. The “train rush” of sorts where you lose hand size suddenly as the game progresses adds some of the kind of stress that I play games to get. I’ve played 3 and 4 player and strongly prefer it at 3.

#139 – Hawaii, by Greg Daigle
19 plays
First appearance: 2013

Coincidentally, I was just listening to Mark Johnson speak (in one of his podcasts from a few years back) about how Hawaii doesn’t work for him.  Which – I can understand; there is a lot going on in the game, and while the theme comes through for me (building up villages by collecting scarce resources), it’s not hard to picture how the point-salad feeling is more prevalent for others.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Simon Neale:  Once you are past the fiddly setup, this game really moves along quickly and one that has been in my collection since it came out.
Larry:  Man, I love this game!  Unfortunately, it was (literally) trashed by Tom Vasel in one of his most infamous and, frankly, irresponsible video reviews, but that shouldn’t stop lovers of intricate Euros from playing and enjoying it.

#138 – Brügge, by Stefan Feld
13 plays
First appearance: 2013

Feld’s games are always very hit-or-miss with me, and at first I was sure this one would be a miss.  But I was at a convention, and others wanted to learn the game, so I taught it a couple of times, and it grew on me.  It wasn’t completely a turn-around – I enjoyed my first play well enough to be willing to play more – but I wouldn’t have guessed it would make a top-N games list for me.  There’s a lot of randomness in the game – and, unlike in my favorite games of Feld’s, not quite enough ways to deal with the randomness for my taste – but starting with the right attitude, it’s a fun ride.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  Conversely, this is one of my least favorite Felds.  The high luck factor and its inherent mean-spiritedness have led me to avoid it.

#137 – Adlungland, by Silvano Sorrentino
14 plays
First appearance: 2011

What a bizarre concept – an amusement park made up of rides themed after nearly all of the games published, to that point, by Adlung Spiele.  But the theme made it a must to try for me – and my familiarity with the games helped draw me in.  Finally, the game provides interesting decisions – and ones where skills play a sufficient role that I consistently see experienced players do better than those new to the game.  

#136 – masKmen, by Jun Sasaki & Taki Shinzawa
24 plays
First appearance: 2015

I’ve been quite taken by Oink Games, who have published a huge number of games in very small boxes.  But while I’ve enjoyed a number of them well enough to stick in my collection, for me only one has stood out as a favorite – masKmen.  It’s a somewhat brain-bending game about Mexican wrestling in the form of a climbing game – but with no fixed order to the cards.  Instead, players must make plays to demonstrate that wrestler A is superior to wrestler B – but of course doing so uses some of that player’s wrestler A cards.  This can – and, at the most fun, does – lead to complex graphs, where we might know (for instance) that wrestlers A, B, and C are superior to wrestler D – but where we have no information about where they stand next to each other.  We may even also know that wrestlers A and B are superior to wrestler E as well – but with no knowledge of the relationship between wrestlers D and E.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Y:  I want to like this given the small format. But after about 5 plays, my mind simply can’t grok the relationships between the wrestlers.  It works when I have Joe there to succinctly sum up the way the letters stand versus each other, but I’m completely at a loss to do it myself.
Mark Jackson: This one left me completely cold.

#135 – The Voyages of Marco Polo, by Simone Luciani & Daniele Tascini
16 plays
First appearance: 2015

I don’t know if it’s how this game was designed, but I’m sure it could have been designed by putting all of the basic mechanisms together, and then asking “how can we now find eight different characters to break the game?”.  The fact that every single character breaks the game is really what makes it compelling – and leads to a fun journey to try, and then succeed, with all of the different characters.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: I didn’t buy this when it first came out, but have played a few times with a friend’s copy. I’m hanging out for the promised second edition and expansion. Really fun game with hugely over-powered characters rather than the usual tiny advantages.
Larry:  This is probably my favorite game from the past 5 years or so.  I love the mechanics and the variety, but the real feature is just what everyone else has said:  those wonderfully over-powered characters.

#134 – The Hanging Gardens, by Din Li
30 plays
First appearance: 2009

This was the first game I played to really work with the idea of overlapping cards to build an area – in this case, a garden.  Often, the earliest use of a mechanism is more important as an inspiration to later refinements, but here the game works fine as is.  Over time, I’ve become most fond of the game with three players, but I find it enjoyable with any number – with more focus on building large areas with two, and on quick scoring with four.

#133 – Elfenroads, by Alan Moon
13 plays
First appearance: 2005

I’ve enjoyed Elfenroads very much every time I’ve played it; when I first entered the hobby, it was highly praised, and I still understand exactly why.  But it takes some effort to get to the table – even when we reduce the number of auctions to make for faster play – and that keeps it from remaining higher on this list.  I still love the game, though, and it’s always worth the effort it requires.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  I enjoy the elegance and relative simplicity of Elfenlands as opposed to Elfenroads.  Elfenroads certainly adds more challenges and depth, but Elfenland is just so, well, pure.  
Simon Neale:  I completely agree with Greg here, and Elfenlands has been a family favourite for many years,

#132 – Sindbad, by Jean Vanaise, E. Duchatel, & J.P. Postel
16 plays
First appearance: 2005

Sindbad is a remarkable game – and one that most fan of Euro games should run screaming from.  While there is real room for skill, there is also a huge amount of luck involved in the game, and what makes the game amazing is the way it tells a story.  If you don’t care about the story in a game, you’ll likely tolerate Sindbad – at best.  Because the economic system is simple, and designed to help players make money.  The combat system is equally unencumbered, and is designed for quick resolution.  You may well die in the game – but it’s not a death sentence, relative to winning the game; I’ve seen players avenged by their relatives more than once.  Just watch out for the monkeys.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson:  Everything Joe says is true – this is an experience game with some excellent gamer elements. I created an inheritance variant that allows players to keep a little extra money. (I’m not sure it’s necessary – but it made my boys feel better when they were younger.)

#131 – Spyrium, by William Attia
12 plays
First appearance: 2013

I recently had the chance to visit William, and was greatly amused to hear how he tried to describe my taste in games.  But regardless of my tastes, I want to like at least one game from every designer I know.  More is better, certainly, but I always feel better when I can point to at least one.  So you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that – I didn’t enjoy Caylus.  I found Caylus Magna Carta a bit more – but not nearly enough to stick in my collection.  I was therefore thrilled – and relieved – to discover that Spyrium was far more up my alley.  The worker placement, while it has some rough edges, is far more to my taste than in Caylus, and I find the tradeoffs in the game fascinating.  I suspect that if the theme worked better for me it would be further up this list, but still – a game I’m very happy to play, and miss when it goes too long between appearances.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  While I like Caylus (and acknowledge its enormous influence on the hobby), my favorite Attia game, easily, is Spyrium.  It not only packs a whole lot of enjoyable decisions in a relative short time period, but the game has tremendous variety and replayability, which is remarkable, given that 90% of the deck is used every game.  Terrific game and one that, sadly, is quite underrated.
Melissa: You’re leaving us hanging, Joe. How did William describe your taste in games? I prefer Caylus to Spyrium, but enjoyed Syrium enough to pick up a copy.

#130 – Old Town / Gads Hill 1874, by Stephan Riedel
23 plays
First appearance: 2005

While I count many games together, usually there’s a single edition I prefer, and that one if sufficient for my collection.  This was the case with Old Town – until Gads Hill 1874 came out.  It’s not exactly the same game, but it’s close enough that I see no reason to count the two games separately.  But – I really am not sure if I prefer the 2001 version of Old Town – the ultimate compromise between the rough edges of the 2000 edition and the overly smoothed play of the 2004 edition – and Gads Hill, which brings back an asymmetric play area while retaining some of the game play improvements of later versions of Old Town.  In any event, I’ll gladly play either.

#129 – The Great Dalmuti, by Richard Garfield
55 plays
First appearance: 2005

While the gaming world has gone crazy for Tichu, I have found that climbing games work best for me when they are played individually, rather than in teams.  Of course, calling The Great Dalmuti a game somewhat overstates the case; given that there is no winning condition for a set of hands (and none of the proposals I’ve seen make any sense to me), it’s really more of a pastime.  Which is fine by me; I enjoy playing cards with a group of friends.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S: Agreed.  This is a wonderful game to play with a gathering of casual gamers or folks who normally don’t game.  We always have loads of fun with it … especially when wearing silly hats!
Melissa: Hats are mandatory (and a bucket)! Such a great game.
Matt C: The game is “OK” for me but great when played with the Dilbert version.
Mark Jackson: The Dilbert version has great art – but the gameplay of the original has filled many an evening with friends.

#128 – Freight Train, by Alan Moon
25 plays
First appearance: 2005

The first time I went to The Gathering of Friends, back when tournaments were a much bigger part of the experience, I joined a number of them – including some for games I wasn’t familiar with, such as Reibach & Co.  When, after the tournament, Dave Andrews mentioned to me that Freight Train was very similar but with more options for gamers, I was quick to find a copy at the flea market.  The game is a bit long – I’m sure, if Alan were to redesign the game today, shortening the game would be one of the things he would aim for – but there are an enormous number of choices available, giving players an incredible sense of freedom in their play.  Even if the rest of the game weren’t so enjoyable as it is, for that alone the game would belong in my collection.

#127 – Tezuma Master, by Hinata Origuchi
8 plays
First appearance: 2017

Origuchi’s designs – and the distinct near-cube boxes they fill – are quite interesting and unique.  But it’s Tezuma Master – perhaps the least unique-feeling of the games I’ve played, but also in my opinion the best – which reigns with me.  It’s a trick taking game where each player has to choose their poison suit, their scoring rule, and their special ability.  This gives players a lot of latitude over tuning the value of their hand – what looks like a mediocre hand may be excellent with the right scoring and the right special ability.  But which to pick first?

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: I love this as part of the series of small box games.

#126 – Pit, by Edgar Cayce
17 plays
First appearance: 2005

I had a great discussion earlier this year at the AGPI (Association for Games and Puzzle International) convention with Sy Epstein about the history of Pit; he’s another individual who has tried to dig into the history of the game.  He knew of some variations I hadn’t run across; I was able to provide a little more information about the epicenter of the Pit revolution, and at least one version he was not familiar with.  Which inspired me to look up the patent for Gavitt’s Stock Exchange – which, as near as I can tell, was filed after the original publication of Pit.  Which, of course, proves absolutely nothing.  I am sure, though, that Pit is the version of the game I enjoy most.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C:  I have extremely fond memories of playing this game with my 6-person family “back in the day.”  A friend even made up a game version for our youth group to play in 6 or 8 groups of several people.
Mark Jackson: Parker Brothers published a 10 suit version of the game… which I still own. (The box was gone years ago.) It’s complete chaos, but in a good way.

#125 – Carcassonne, by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
65 plays
First appearance: 2005

It’s really amazing how much getting rid of the expansions to Carcassonne restored my enjoyment of the game.  Without the extra tiles, and without the extra rules, the game flow is better and the game length is just right.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: I take boardgames to class for my (digital) game studies students to play. Carcassonne is still one of the most exciting for them. Even though I am maybe a bit jaded, to someone who hasn’t tried modern boardgames before this is still hugely fresh and exciting.
Matt C:  I’m somewhat “meh” on it, but have never gone overboard with expansions.  Farmers seem hard for new players to grasp but then I’ve never figured out which Farmer rules are the ones I should be using either…
Mark Jackson:  I like it 2 player with Inns & Cathedrals.
Larry:  I completely agree with Mark, with the added proviso that I always use the original farmer rules.  I suppose I could be talked into playing Carc with 3 players, but anything more than that will lead me to seek other pasttimes.  But Carc with 2 is quite entertaining.

#124 – Yokohama, by Hisashi Hayashi
11 plays
First appearance: 2017

OK, I’ll admit it.  I enjoy introducing people to games they enjoy.  There are of course many reasons for this.  First and foremost, I’ve helped to create a little bit of joy, which is always rewarding.  But it’s also fun to be ahead of the curve.  (A complete aside, but I remember watching, and enjoying, Seinfeld back during the first couple of seasons before the show really took off; somehow, I never found it quite as funny in the later seasons.)  And I really enjoy the feeling that I might, in some small way, be helping the designer.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  Outstanding game and my favorite for 2017.
Doug G: Joe was the guy who showed this one off at Meeplefest well before the Kickstarter and HUGE surge in popularity.  This one’s fantastic and I’m grateful to Joe for being the one who introduced it to me.
Matt C:  One game so far, played last, felt behind the entire game (seemed to always be set up to do something the turn after my opponent scored it), lost badly… sour grapes.
Melissa: This is sitting on the shelf, looking at us reproachfully.

#123 – Starship Catan, by Klaus Teuber
18 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of my favorite things to do in a game is to explore – often, even when that’s not the intention or goal of the game.  And so it’s not surprising that what most impresses me about Starship Catan is how simply going through a small deck of cards can provide the feel of exploration.  This fades over the course of the game, which is unfortunate – I’d love to see a similar game where there’s a shift over time to new exploration – but fortunately the rest of the game is well put together, leaving for a satisfying drive to the finish.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Doug G: Shel and I played this one quite a few times, the most memorable being while waiting for a flight in SFO post-9/11, having gotten to the airport for our flight to London 2+ hours early.  What a wonderful 2-player experience.
Mark Jackson: As my younger son has grown into the hobby, this has become a consistent favorite for both of us – and games tend to be tight.

#122 – Honshu, by Kalle Malmioja
10 plays
First appearance: 2017

It’s important to note that Honshu is not, box description to the contrary, a trick taking game.  (And no, this isn’t a “Joe doesn’t consider Foppen a trick taking game since the only effect of winning a “trick” is to gain the lead” moment – others actually agree with me that Honshu isn’t a trick taking game.)  The mechanism of trick taking is used, yes, but the game is really focused on the layering of cards.  The scoring is very straight-forward; the fun in the game comes from cleverly placing cards to maximize your score.  The placement rules are much looser than in Hanging Gardens, which works well here.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: I’ll second not trick-taking.  The card layering works quite well, but I’m turned off enough by the not-trick-taking part, that it’s not for me.

#121 – New Orleans Big Band, by Herbert Schützdeller
13 plays
First appearance: 2005

In my opinion, the key to a great trading game – and I’m well inclined to trading games, so I’ve tried many of them – is constraints.  If trading is too constrained, it’s not interesting.  And if it’s too unconstrained – it’s also not interesting to me, as it’s too easy to make trades.  New Orleans Big Band teeters closer to the “too unconstrained” boundary – but still keeps things in check, in part by not giving players so many musicians to work with as to overwhelm the process.

#120 – First Class, by Helmut Ohley
19 plays
First appearance: 2017

How brilliant is it that a game set on the Orient Express has, as one of the modules, a murder module?  I know it’s not particularly popular, but I’ve very much enjoyed my rare plays with it included, and to me it doesn’t feel forced.  Of course, it helps tremendously that the base game it’s tied in with works so well, and allows for a number of different viable paths to be pursued, regardless of the modules chosen.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: I played this late one night, not expecting much … and really enjoyed it. Simple, straightforward, and very enjoyable.
Doug G: Shelley and I just love this game (probably more than its big brother).

#119 – Pecunia, by Muneyuki Yokouchi
12 plays
First appearance: 2015

Some games don’t like you.  It’s likely some players don’t like you too, but the bigger problem with games where players can directly attack one another is that they can make it feel like a player doesn’t care for you, when they simply have a different reading of the state of the game.  Which doesn’t bother me directly, but which I find bothersome enough when it does come up that I usually try to avoid multiplayer games with take-that elements.  But somehow not enough designers have tried the approach of having the game punish the players, taking the personal element out of the matter altogether.  Pecunia is a good example of the genre – bad things will happen, over and over and over.  The four events in the game are all triggered on a regular basis, with just enough control in player hands to not feel totally at the mercy of the game – if not so much to be randomly harmed now and again.  I really like how your followers are referred to in the game as sheep, naturally invoking the right metaphors without ever explicitly stating them.

#118 – Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, by Mark Simonitch
15 plays
First appearance: 2005

As time goes by, my collection of wargames shrinks.  Not because I don’t enjoy them – but simply because I have too many two player games, given my opportunities for (and interest in) two player gaming.  Many of the few that stick do so for nostalgia, or because they’re short.  Hannibal is the one notable exception – it’s a fascinating game, and my appreciation of the game was further enhanced last year when I had the chance to play Andy Latto, a real student of the game.  Another proof point for my theorem that it’s always best to play games with fans of those games – regardless of your opinion of the game, you’ll have a better time for it.

#117 – Hare & Tortoise, by David Parlett
29 plays
First appearance: 2005

When I first discovered German games in 1995, there were a number that were already considered classics.  And my reaction to those classics was, not surprisingly, mixed.  But Hare & Tortoise is one that has stuck with me – the combination of mathy calculation and risk taking simply works well for me, and as a result I always enjoy playing it – even when things go wrong, as does happen.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  Yes, another winner that has stood the test of time.  The original childlike artwork on the cover was an injustice to the challenging game within.
Mark Jackson: I’ve always found Derk Solko’s quote about this to be spot on: “Hare & Tortoise is a children’s game… for Vulcan children.”

#116 – Hotel Life, by Urs Hostettler & H. Wieland
10 plays
First appearance: 2013

I don’t care if I win a game or not.  Playing poorly sometimes bugs me – but it bugs me regardless of the impact on my finish; I’m happiest if I feel I did what I was aiming to do, regardless of where I finish.  I really appreciate it when games reward this – and Hotel Life does so in spades.  Things happen – sometimes it nearly takes a chart to keep track of all of the nesting loops – and it’s fantastic.  It might help you or hurt you, but it’s fun to watch regardless.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Y:  I have a copy of this as well.  And, I’m not sure there’s really a game here.  It’s a fascinating activity.  But I never feel like I can control whether I’m going to end up with the most points or not.
Joe H: I agree, but in my opinion significant control is not the point.
Dan Blum: I really want to see a new edition of this that cleans up the start of the game (which doesn’t work unless you make up house rules) and maybe reduces the chaos a smidge.

#115 – Chariot Race, by Matt Leacock
14 plays
First appearance: 2017

Back in the day I played Circus Maximus, and had great fun with it – but we never seemed to complete even one circuit.  The fun, of course, was in the bashing of other player’s chariots.  So when Matt introduced me to this game, I was thrilled.  Attacking other player’s chariots?  Check.  Running over other players chariots?  Check.  Careening around corners too fast and suffering devastating damage as a result?  Check.  The production isn’t the best – but I still love the game, and how it was streamlined in the final production, maximizing the opportunities to attack while still holding to a short play time.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: Joe introduced me to this prototype – and my boys & I kept up a steady drumbeat over the years, hoping someone would print it. And they did.

#114 – Wyatt Earp, by Mike Fitzgerald & Richard Borg
50 plays
First appearance: 2005

I love the idea of Mystery Rummy – Mike’s concept was brilliant, and nearly every implementation has had much to recommend it.  But – none of the published games has really captured me; they all feel like they need a little something more.  Wyatt Earp is the game that adds the something more – the scoring system, adding money to various criminals and awarding it to those who do the most to capture them – is really a small change to the system, but to me makes a huge difference.  I enjoy playing Mystery Rummy, but I love Wyatt Earp.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  Ditto.  Wyatt Earp is my favorite of the series.
Mark Jackson: I like Al Capone better – but Wyatt Earp is a close second.

#113 – King of Tokyo, by Richard Garfield
33 plays
First appearance: 2013

While Garfield is best known for some other game, for me this is the best game he’s designed.  I know many prefer New York, but for me it took away from the simplicity and clean design of the original.  One thing that I find great about King of Tokyo is how the game seems to end by both of the winning criteria in roughly equal numbers.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C: Never leaving my collection, my sons would kill me.  I’ve found it hard to take it to 20 points, but my sons are on the violent side…
Melissa: I don’t like direct confrontation in games, but King of Tokyo is just so much fun.
Mark Jackson: A great closer game… and I agree with Joe – New York misses the simple joys of the original game.

#112 – Durch die Wüste, by Reiner Knizia
50 plays
First appearance: 2005

Perhaps my favorite play of Durch die Wüste was the time we decided to refer to the different color camels not by color, or by flavor – but by instrument.  I can’t recall which instrument was which color, but it was quite enjoyable.  Particularly given the fairly abstract nature of the game – it’s an extremely elegant design, if perhaps a tad dry.  But the choices are so fascinating – it could be the ultimate example of a classic Knizia “want to do five things, only allowed to do two”.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  Yes, it can be a bit dry, but it is still a wonderful and challenging game.  Plus, it plays quickly.
Melissa: Fraser always calls this “through the sausage” because he couldn’t quite say Wüste. I am not generally a fan of abstract games, but I really enjoy this.

#111 – In the Year of the Dragon, by Stefan Feld
15 plays
First appearance: 2007

This game hates you.  There are problems with this – it’s possible to fall off a cliff and never recover; I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not fun.  But while it’s possible to avoid the Wile E. Coyote immitations, at least with experience, it’s really a game of managing your penalties, rather than avoiding them.  This is a nice change of pace from many games, where the key is to avoiding penalties, or where the penalties are so slight as to encourage players to live with them.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C: I love to pull this out.  I lay it on thick that everything will be bad.  Do this, then bad things happen, do this then bad things happen, etc…  Coming in with that attitude it’s pretty fun.  
Mark Jackson: One of the two Feld games I really like.

#110 – Familiar’s Trouble, by Fukutarou
15 plays
First appearance: 2017

Familiar’s Trouble is a three player, cooperative, trick-taking game.  It was actually particularly fun to learn the rules, as we didn’t know it was cooperative, and the English translation didn’t make that fact clear up front.  But even once we got through the rules, this is one of the very few cooperative games to really work for me – like the few others, it’s not a game that can be played solitaire.  Add in my general enjoyment of trick taking games, and the fact that the trick taking twist in Familiar’s Trouble is both interesting and uniquely well suited to a cooperative game, and it’s easy to understand why it’s a favorite of mine.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan:  I love this game.  It works quite well with my regular group (or at least the first three of us to show up on a night), but I’ve had a little trouble spreading that love outside of that circle.  
Lorna: This is the best ever and only one I know of cooperative trick taker.

#109 – Länder toppen!, by Mathias Jünemann
10 plays
First appearance: 2017

2016 was, for me, a year with lots of games I enjoyed – a nice crop of new favorites – but without a standout, obvious best game.  But, as I played through the games, Länder toppen! has emerged as my favorite of the group.  I was immediately intrigued by Eric Martin’s preview, which described the game as a trick-taking trivia game.  It’s not, quite – though it could have been, and I might have liked it even more if it had been – but instead, it’s a game where you’re playing your 7-10 card hand to 12 tricks simultaneously, with each trick being judged by a different criteria.  Each card has a country, with the area, highest point, average temperature, population, life expectancy, and gross domestic product listed – and the tricks are won by the greatest and least in each of these categories.  This makes for some interesting tradeoffs – do you play Nepal for the certain highest high point, or do you use it elsewhere and settle for Argentina, in the hope of winning more tricks?

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: As Joe said, those tradeoffs make for some interesting hand management. The decisions are sometimes meaningful and sometimes miserable (as a compliment).  What struck me in my first game was the unexpected moments of unbelief – you go into a category that you feel confident in, only to have another player have the card for, say, Nepal.  And, as a trick taking structure, this is interesting – it is like you don’t know the range of the cards.  You can’t introduce the game saying “There are X cards in each suit and they range from Y to Z”, so when somebody pulls out Z+1, it’s a great moment of surprise because you didn’t know that number could exist. One of my favorite games from last year.

#108 – Traumfabrik, by Reiner Knizia
12 plays
First appearance: 2011

Traumfabrik took some time to grow on me – and, in practice, my renewed interest in the game coincided with my growing interest in classic movies.  Yet another data point showing how important theme is for me in a game – when introduced to the game, and familiar with far fewer of the actors and directors, I enjoyed it well enough, but made no effort to pick it up.  And I really have no interest in the more recent editions, with fictitious or parody actors.

#107 – Twin Tin Bots, by Philippe Keyaerts
14 plays
First appearance: 2015

When I tried RoboRally – 20 years ago now – I really wanted to enjoy the game, but in practice was completely frustrated with it.  I spent my first three turns with nothing but rotate cards, and thus couldn’t do anything.  And thus, I discovered something I really don’t care for in games – not having choices, particularly when the lack of choice isn’t, in my mind, logical.  Twin Tin Bots completely solves this problem for me – while it’s chaotic, due to the limited opportunities to modify programming, there is a complete set of choices available.  That works for me, very nicely, and while the game hasn’t held up for me quite as well as I hoped, it’s still very enjoyable – and still very much a favorite.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan:  I like to pick out thematically appropriate music for the games that we play, and for this one, it’s a (turn-based) Yakety Sax type situation – things are going wrong left and right as you spin helplessly in a circle, other robots are picking your pocket, and it’s just a lawless robot moshpit – but at some point you get just a little something done and a tiny sliver of accomplishment.

#106 – Grand Austria Hotel, by Virginio Gigli & Simone Luciani
17 plays
First appearance: 2017

There are some gamers who, due to the slower pace of the 4 player game, prefer this game with 2.  While I understand the rationale, I can’t agree with the conclusion.  While the game isn’t bad with 2, I find it a pale imitation of the 3 or 4 player game, due to the greater changes in state only possible with more players.  This is yet another game that largely sold me on the theme – the mechanisms are easy to explain in terms of the theme.  And feeding and housing guests is an easily relatable theme.  It’s easy for me to picture this game ranking higher the next time I complete this exercise.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  My favorite game of the year when it was published.  A wonderful challenge, refreshing theme, and ample opportunity for clever plays.  Love it!
Melissa: Definitely prefer with more than 2. As you say, theme and mechanic play off one another. It makes sense.

#105 – The Pillars of the Earth, by Michael Rieneck & Stefan Stadler
18 plays
First appearance: 2007

I am not, in general, thrilled to hear that a game uses worker placement.  Typically, this suggests to me the issues I saw with Caylus – the need to complete multiple small actions on the same turn to have the desired effect, but the ability to choose only one action at a time and thus a near certainty that one’s plans will be foiled, no matter how carefully you try to simulate your opponent’s actions.  The problem can be solved for me in a number of ways – by adding a cost to players who later choose the same action, or by having weaker actions that are unrestricted.  Or, more simply, a game can set things up such that each action is productive atomically, regardless of the other opportunities being taken.  The Pillars of the Earth takes this last approach, primarily – there aren’t a huge number of actions, but they are each useful in their own way.  It also balances differences in action qualities by requiring those making an early choice to pay for it.  While I’m not a great fan of the book, the setting of the book provides an excellent backdrop for a game, and overall it comes together very nicely.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  I had not played this one in years until just a few weekends ago.  It rekindled that original fascination I had with it.  Wonderful game with lots of often tough decisions.  
Melissa: Thank you for the reminder. This one is back on the to-play list.

#104 – Lewis & Clark, by Cédrick Chaboussit
14 plays
First appearance: 2015

I’m not generally a fan of deck-building, though there are a few such games which I find enjoyable.  But hand-building – where no shuffling is involved – works much better for me.  And I really like how the theme is carried out here.  Unfortunately, Lewis & Clark hasn’t proven the most popular game with my gaming groups; while I’m happy to be contrarian enough to continue to count it among my favorites anyway, I can’t help but to acknowledge and give fair consideration to their concerns with the design.  I still particularly enjoy the fact that the game is primarily focused on a (admittedly, non-thematic) race, rather than the deck-building.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  I didn’t care for this as I felt it required too many exacting calculations on each and every turn.  Make one slight miscalculation or estimation and your entire turn could be destroyed.  
Melissa: We only played this once or twice, but enjoyed it.

#103 – Astron (designer unknown)
10 plays
First appearance: 2013

There often seems to be a view, among gamers, that games from before (pick a date) are not as good as current games.  This opens up the question as to whether or not games are improving over time.  I am not certain, myself; modern game design certainly has a far wider number of inspirations to draw from, but at the same time many of the directions taken in game design don’t do anything more for me; as a practical matter, while my average rating for all games I’ve played published in a particular year or earlier has increased in the past fifty years, that increase is only from 4.811 to 4.937 – and the peak, 4.976, was twenty years ago.  In any event, I find that I’m much more open to playing older games – say, pre-Acquire – than many gamers, even when I randomly come across them.  And when someone actually recommends them, as Frank Branham recommended Astron – I’m in.  Astron is a delightful game, with a healthy dose of luck (noting that my healthy dose may be higher than today’s average gamer), and a clever mechanism.  The game could have been done with a long, multi-segment board, equally effectively, but the rolling board is just ideal.

#102 – Tally Ho!, by Rudi Hoffman
38 plays
First appearance: 2005

Speaking of my average rating chart – oh, sure, why not include it:

Notice how the average goes from just under 4.8 in 1972 to 4.92 in 1975?  This is the Rudi Hoffman effect.  Hoffman, while a prolific game designer for a long time, was particularly successful in getting his games to market with Pelikan, who primarily published from 1973-1975; they’re the closest thing to a German equivalent of 3M; like 3M, they were primarily known for something other than games (stationery), and like 3M they still exist, decades after they stopped making games.  Having said all that – Tally Ho! wasn’t published by Pelikan, but was originally published in the same era.  Like most gamers, I’m familiar with the game thanks to Kosmos.  Hoffman’s games all tend to be somewhat abstract, with the theme carried through in no small part thanks to the artwork, and while Kosmos didn’t keep the original artwork (from Hoffman – one of the few designers to have produced the published artwork for the majority of his designs), they did maintain a light, somewhat ironic touch to their presentation, which helps greatly.  For me, this game is really what I want Chess to be – more random, more dynamic, and more fun.

#101 – Black Vienna, by Gilbert Obermair
29 plays
First appearance: 2005

I enjoy deduction games – but I’m not a particular fan of them; only a few manage to makes my list of favorites.  I traded for this game knowing almost nothing about it; as I often had to do at the time, when I received it, I had to translate the rules before we could play.  And, much to our surprise – there was a game there.  A good game.  As we discovered over time, a game subject to player error even more than the average deduction game, but still – there’s more to it than the average deduction game, and it’s held up very well.

#100 – Time Agent, by Tom Lehmann
17 plays
First appearance: 2005

I’ve always enjoyed Time Agent, but the availability of a simple app that keeps track of the adjustments as historic events unhappen and rehappen makes the game far easier to play.  Unfortunately, it really wants a full set of six players – it’s not much longer with six, and the experience is far superior – but the asymmetric races each provide a unique and interesting challenge.  The only fault I see in the game is a minor one – the game really works best when some players are looking to win every turn.  If a player fails to notice an opportunity, it causes the game to last longer.

#99 – 18EU, by David Hecht
17 plays
First appearance: 2005

I am not an 18xx player.  Which is not to say I don’t play 18xx games; this list will strongly demonstrate that isn’t true.  But – I don’t always look for opportunities to play 18xx, and in practice there are now only three which I continue to get to the table.  18EU offers the best and most interesting example of converting-minors-to-majors among the games I’ve played, and that’s enough to keep me coming back to it.  The initial auction is troublesome – it’s easy for one player to win or lose the game there and then.  So we’ve taken to using the Minor Powers Variant, which balances companies nicely by simply giving the first choice of location to the company with the least interesting power, and so on.  We’ve taken to just drafting the minors, at least with 3 or 4 players; it’s quick and seems to work well.

#98 – Wildlife Adventure, by Wolfgang Kramer & Ursula Kramer
36 plays
First appearance: 2005

This is one of the games which, when I first got into the hobby, folks raved about.  And – they were right.  It’s still a fascinating game, and a nearly unique one – almost no games have even used the choice-of-route-extension mechanism, and none better than the original.  One of these days, I really should play Expedition – somehow, I never have.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C:I still have this on my shelf, it somehow just misses my cullings… I’ve got to get this back on the table to see if it’s still as much fun as I remember.
Dan Blum: Expedition – at least in its Queen version – was fine but did not especially improve the game. It didn’t help that Kramer indulged his penchant for variants, providing several ways to play in the rules with subtle differences between them. I am not sure if later editions have kept those or settled on a best version, but in any case I am content with Wildlife Adventure.

#97 – Die Steven Seagal, by Stefan Dorra
50 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of the best things about writing this list up for Opinionated Gamers is the ability to choose whichever title I like for each game – even the ones we use, which have never appeared on the cover.  Die Sieben Siegel has been published under many titles – someone’s probably republishing it under the title Kumquat as I write this – but the original title can be easily misread as Die Steven Seagal, and – it works as a theme for the game, better than the silly seven seals nonsense.  The various suits represent the things you’re trying to kill Seagal with – tire irons, corkscrews, fish, R&R Games, wishbones, and questions – and, of course, Seagal fights back with snakes.  OK, it’s silly, but it does seem to help bring people into the game…

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Fraser: That’s what we call it too.  In fact I have had problems logging plays of the game because I don’t remember its proper title :-)
Melissa: Snap.

#96 – Schützenfest, by Rudi Hoffman
35 plays
First appearance: 2005

Since there have been a bunch of long-time residents of this list in a row, this seems a fine time to look at just when the current 189 games joined the list:

2005 – 96 games
2007 – 10 games
2009 – 7 games
2011 – 10 games
2013 – 18 games
2015 – 27 games
2017 – 21 games

In practice, this represents the intersection of two effects – first, the tendency of games to drop off over time, as some get played out, and second, the fact that 2008-2012 was a horrible time for new game finds for me – and 2013-2017 has proven an uptick to levels not seen since 1995-1999.

One more aside, as long as I’m breaking the 4th wall (or, since this isn’t TV, is it really just the 3rd wall I’ve broken?) – one advantage of posting this to Opinionated Gamers is that as I draft it in MS Word, I’m getting a word count.  I had no clue that I was writing enough to fill a novella every two years…

As for Schützenfest – it’s another wonderful game from Rudi Hoffman, which is deeper than it first appears – a common trait among his designs.  A target is revealed, and the first player either must hit the target (with one or multiple cards) or play a single card under the target, in which case the next player must either hit the target (again, with one or more cards) or play a single card which still adds to less than the target, and so on.  While one can push other players out by playing under the target, other players end up collecting and scoring those targets.  While the game isn’t bad with four, it’s really best with 3 – I’d suggest removing one of the 100 shots, for the most interesting play, rather than a random shot.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Y:  I’ve only played this once. With Joe H.  But, since we’re on weird Opinionated Gamers asides… I wonder what the previous year’s had at word 1,000; word 5,000, and word 20,000.  Do the recaps get longer in a word per game basis?  Or does Joe just copy his paragraph from previous iterations of the list? :)
Joe H: I definitely don’t copy my paragraphs.  And I even try to avoid saying the same things over again.  I sincerely doubt that I entirely manage it…

#95 – Extrablatt, by Karl-Heinz Schmiel
20 plays
First appearance: 2005

Extrablatt is, for my, the ultimate example of player choice – there are a huge number of directions players can choose in the game, and really no guidelines as to what best to do.  This can make it a harder game to introduce to new players – the game doesn’t really suggest any particular direction, so players must uncover their own.  But the theme of building a newspaper – though it might be dated – still works exceptionally well, and the theme is a great fit for the mechanisms.  In particular, using readership (as measured in various ways) for victory points is ideal.

#94 – Mississippi Queen, by Walter Hodel
31 plays
First appearance: 2005

I suspect we’ve reached the point where Mississippi Queen is more unknown, rather than cursed for taking the 1997 Spiel des Jahres away from some other game.  But I still find it delightful – it’s a fast moving race game with mechanisms (such as bumping) that work very well with the theme.  While most race games have not held up for me, this one has – and I love the 3D printed boats Bob Pony made for me, making our races all the more colorful.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: We throw in a couple of extra tiles from the expansion – but not the ones that slow the game down. It comes out a couple of times a year and I’d be happy to see it land on the table more often.

#93 – Spinball, by Aaron Weissblum
75 plays
First appearance: 2005

In some sense, all game designers are artists.  But there are very few I think of as being primarily artists.  Jean du Poël.  Reinhold Wittig.  And perhaps most of all, Aaron Weissblum.  Of course, I’ve had the advantage of visiting his studio a couple of times, which probably colors my viewpoint.  But while Aaron’s designed a number of traditional games of interest, in my opinion his greatest contribution is clearly his dexterity games.  Spinball is the one of these which can reasonably be categorized as “published”, having been made available in a few different editions now, and it’s one of the very best dexterity games I’ve ever played.  The need to backspin the ball into the goal – and the amazing variety of ways this can be accomplished – make for a unique and extremely engaging experience.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Y:  Also one of my favorite dexterity games. It doesn’t make it out of the back closet often, though it should.  Maybe we’ll get it out this week!

#92 – Morgan’s A’Comin’!, by Paul Rohrbaugh
16 plays
First appearance: 2013

My experience with mini-games has not, on the whole, been a very positive one.  I do enjoy Pico, but most of the other mini-games have fallen flat for me.  The one exception has been Morgan’s A’Comin’!, a mini-wargame.  What makes it stand out are the different and innovative design elements; it feels, to me, like a proper wargame, simply on a reduced scale.  The fact that the game is loaded against Morgan feels historic and proper – and fun; while I’ve seen Morgan win, it’s more often a challenge to get as far as possible before the inevitable defeat.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan:  When you play games with other folks, and sometimes they’re smitten with something you’ve introduced them to, and they ask you where you hear about games, and I fumble for an answer better than “the internet”, but many times the answer is Joe.  I’ve never met Joe, but the lesser known titles that are his favorites I’ve often found to be hits for me as well, and so when he puts these lists together, it’s a treasure.

And when he shared this list, this was a new one for me. (Um, also I have a thing for punctuation, so 4 punctuation marks in 2 words also had me.) I found a copy for $1 (one…one, dollar), and played it three times today.  

(After the first play, something didn’t feel right; I found the same concern from Joe in the forums.  One successful raid per location recommended.)

I very much enjoyed the other two plays.  In the second game, it came right down to an injured Morgan trying to ford the river into West Virginia, only to be caught by the union.  (The raid limitation mechanically brought out the theme of Morgan travelling across the board.) In the third, I finally had a game progress to the second turn, and eventually all six – the joker flips were quite dramatic.  

It’s what Joe says it is, a mini-wargame that feels like a proper wargame, simply on a reduced scale.  Approved!

#91 – Don Q. und der Dreh mit den Windmühlen, by Matthias Schmitt
20 plays
First appearance: 2011

One thing I find about abstracts is that I prefer them – to be themed.  Which probably just points to the fact that I’m not really a fan of abstracts, and the games I enjoy which I think of as abstracts, perhaps aren’t so much.  Don Q. und der Dreh mit den Windmühlen definitely fits many parts of the classic definition of an abstract – it’s a two player game, with no luck elements.  But it’s also asymmetric, as one player takes on the role of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, while the other plays the giants / windmills.  And, appropriately, each action by the windmills confuses Don Quixote, and causes him to move as well.  This is probably the least useful game for me to convince someone to gain interest in, since there are 31 copies – and it’s been sold out for years now.  But this really isn’t a list of recommendations – it’s a list of my favorite games.  The odds that they’ll closely match your favorites is negligible – and you have my sympathies if they do.

#90 – Clash of the Gladiators, by Reiner Knizia
21 plays
First appearance: 2005

Among the many reasons I have no desire to publish games is the fact that I don’t have an ideal nose for which games will be popular – and which will flop.  Perhaps the best example of this is Clash of the Gladiators, which I expected to be a big hit.  And which, 15 years later, is nowhere to be seen – I don’t think I’ve ever even seen it on “I wish they’d reprint…” lists.  But while it may not have found a large audience, it definitely found me.  It’s a beer-and-pretzels, go-beat-everyone-up dice game – but with Knizia twists, which ensure that all players remain active until the game completes – and the last survivor might not be the winner.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: I’ve found this works equally well with pre-teen boys, jaded gamers… and me.

#89 – Auf Fotosafari in Ombagassa, by Reinhold Wittig
12 plays
First appearance: 2005

The premise of this game – taking pictures of animals while on safari, and trying the get the shots you’re looking for – is brilliant.  And the components – whether the wooden or brass animals, doesn’t really matter which – add to the fun; it has the look of an enjoyable game for the whole family, and it delivers on that promise.

#88 – Can’t Stop, by Sid Sackson
78 plays
First appearance: 2005

There are only three games which I’ve played every single year since I started tracking my plays, back in 1996.  Two are my two very favorite games, and will appear another 86 and 87 entries along.  This in the third.  It’s compelling and fun and just as enjoyable when playing (effectively) Don’t Stop or completely risk-averse.  In the course of researching Sackson’s game design history, while there’s not complete data on sales, I think I’m safe in saying that this was clearly his best selling game, and deservedly so.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  Always a favorite and easy to introduce to folks who are new to gaming.  A true classic.
Melissa: I don’t get this to the table often anymore (although we did when the children were in primary school), but often play it on an app on my phone.
Larry:  And just think how many more copies might have been sold had Parker Brothers not removed it from its catalog (along with most of its other boardgames in the early 80’s) because they were convinced that the only things people would be interested in buying were electronic games!  That is what we in the hobby call an Epic Fail.  Fortunately, Can’t Stop is such a great game that it survived this and continues to sell well in other versions (although for me, the red stop sign version will always be the best one).  I don’t think any other game inspires as much kibitzing and cheering by non-participants.  So much fun to play and so accessible, and yet skill plays a huge role.  Just an inspired design.
Matt C: As I explained the game to my sons… you roll and then should stop but you Can’t Stop.  They took it to heart and it has been a perennial favorite around here.
Mark Jackson: Two thumbs way up for my favorite Sackson design… and some of my best Gathering memories.

#87 – Funkenschlag, by Friedemann Friese
21 plays
First appearance: 2005

I enjoy crayon rails games – Empire Builder and its ilk – but never found any of them truly compelling; instead, they’re pleasant.  I think Friedemann’s co-opting of the crayon rail system into a game with a very different objective (and very different set of adjacent mechanisms) was brilliant; while he’s done a lot with the system since then, the original still remains my favorite – I find the timing is the best, and the freedom of a board adds immeasurably to the experience at very little time cost.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  My first play of Funk, back in 2001, remains one of most enjoyable initial plays I’ve ever had.  There was just so much that was new and exciting about it.  Even though the crayon drawing aspect isn’t much of a draw for me, I’ve always preferred it to Power Grid, because I like the older game’s pacing.  But Funk’s length and very rough production values mean I may never get to play it again.

#86 – Abraca…What?, by Gun-Hee Kim
12 plays
First appearance: 2015

As I said with regards to Black Vienna, I’m not generally a big fan of deduction games.  But I do enjoy a deduction mechanism – most so when combined with other concepts, as with Abraca…What?.  Here, deduction helps – particularly those deductions one can make from other player’s actions – but at the end of the day, eliminating another player is nearly as good as casting all of your spells, and typically far easier.  I particularly like how you can tune your risk level to the degree of danger you are in based upon your neighbor’s spells – if a whole lot of spells are set to take you out, why wait around for it?  Better to self-immolate, should it come to that.

#85 – Domus Domini, by Heinz-Georg Thiemann
8 plays
First appearance: 2017

Over time, I’ve come to realize that it’s hard for me to get a feel for the long-term future of a game for me with anything less than 10 plays.  Even ten isn’t always sufficient, but for most games, it provides strong insight.  So I may be premature in rating Domus Domini so highly – particularly since it’s always seemed to be more fun for me than for others.  But I was intrigued by the game from the start, and the variety of options in the game continues to delight; I’m continuing to see new things in the game with each play.  I particularly appreciate that the game works well with a large number of players – I think it’s best with at least four, and might be best with a full complement of six.

#84 – Foppen, by Friedemann Friese
51 plays
First appearance: 2005

Foppen is not, in my opinion, a trick taking game.  For me, to be a trick taking game, the objective of the game has to be related to taking the tricks.  This can be the number of tricks taken, the cards taken in the tricks, or something specific about the nature of the tricks.  But in Foppen, the only advantage to winning a trick is to take the lead – useful, but in my mind secondary to a trick taking game.  But however you classify Foppen, I think it’s a great game for five, very good with six, and to be completely avoided with three regardless of what the box says.  Much as with The Great Dalmuti, part of the challenge in Foppen is predicting what can be done with a given hand.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Alan How:  I play Foppen with 4 people as a regular closer to a game session. So I’d add that four people works very well too. Strangely, my group only got to play it about 10 years ago as it was one of those games you just got because they were there at Essen and it had been lying dormant for years. Now it’s a firm favourite.

#83 – Entenrallye, by Walter Müller
14 plays
First appearance: 2005

Entenrallye isn’t a race game in the traditional sense – there’s no incentive to finish first – but instead a rally game, where players have to decide which events to attend, and how to split their time between making their cars look nice for the competitions, repairing their cars for inspection, and getting to the competition and inspections on time.  Luck plays a significant role in this, but there are still plenty of meaningful decisions to make, and while it may not be possible to assure a win with good play, it’s certainly possible to assure a loss with poor choices.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: Joe introduced me to this goofy and yet tactical game of rally & racing… and it still holds an important place in my collection. The best player doesn’t always win – but he’s unlikely to come in last.

#82 – Inotaizu, by Kenichi Tanabe
16 plays
First appearance: 2011

Given that my tastes don’t align well with BoardGameGeek (I’ve played less than half of the current top 50, and find only 20% interesting enough to have in my collection), and the fact that I don’t want to try a thousand new games a year to locate my new favorites, I’ve had to find individuals who are good at tracking down obscure games I should try.  And Opinionated Gamer writer Lorna Wong is high on that list – she’s been ahead of the curve in finding Japanese games, and specifically recommended Inotaizu to me.  Which – has been a great recommendation.  While I’ve had a lot of luck with Japanese designs, as this list indicates, Inotaizu still stands out for its traditional German-style mechanisms, with the twists of a new design one expects, combined seamlessly with Japanese theme and efficient packaging.  The idea of mapping a coastline – a historic event in Japan – is delightfully different, and well conveyed by the game mechanisms.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: I still find this game underappreciated. I really loved what Kenichi Tanabe did with the mechanisms. Still very fresh IMHO today.

#81 – Floriado, by Corné van Moorsel
27 plays
First appearance: 2005

The second time I attended The Gathering of Friends, Jay Tummelson brought a couple of new games he was publishing in English – the start of the Rio Grande Games line.  But as much as I wanted to support the availability of German games in the United States, I couldn’t lie – Fossil was awfully dry, and not to my tastes.  But I did like the movement mechanism – go left, right, or straight, any number of spaces, to the next tile.  And when I found Floriado, I discovered that van Moorsel had done something much more interesting with the mechanism, using it to design a clever, short two player game, which remains a favorite to this day.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: I really thank you, Joe for mentioning this one long ago. One of my favorites.

#80 – Winhard, by Reinhard Pichler & Erwin Pichler
33 plays
First appearance: 2005

I’ve long been impressed by the ability of Adlung to find interesting games that fit into their restrictive format – but only rarely have the games worked well enough for me to stick around.  Winhard is the most notable example; it’s a simple, but unique filler game, where players are trying to play out their hand at the right time to claim a large scoring pile, with the challenge that many cards aren’t playable at each point.  It’s not a deep game, but definitely is one I’ve had a lot of fun with.

#79 – Extra!, by Sid Sackson
20 plays
First appearance: 2013

For a long time, Can’t Stop was my Sackson dice game of choice.  But after discovering Choice, and then the more recent re-release under the title of Extra! (not the one with an extra “x”), the game grew on me to the point that it’s now my favorite.  It’s a fairly unforgiving game – like Can’t Stop, you have two pairs of dice indicating which rows you make progress on, but unlike Can’t Stop there’s a fifth die, and you must allocate the fifth die first from among the possibilities you’ve selected.  And, unlike Can’t Stop, each column you start on but don’t make enough progress counts against you at the end of the game.  Add in the simultaneous play, and it’s a great little dice game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  I learned this as Solitaire Dice, from Sackson’s A Gamut of Games book, and for years, it was my solitaire game of choice.  I still find it enjoyable and a great little time waster.

#78 – Viva Pamplona!, by Wolfgang Kramer
25 plays
First appearance: 2005

There’s a lot of negative feelings towards roll and move games, due in no small part to the overuse of the mechanism in traditional American family games, but when done well it’s a fine idea.  In Viva Pamplona, you have three pieces to move, and must use the two dice on two different pieces; there’s a further choice with some rolls as to how many spaces to move.  Beyond that, it’s a delightfully simple and aggressive game of running with the bull, trying to keep other players out of your way – and hopefully out of scoring range.  Because the bull’s movement is determined by a small deck of cards, there are a nice range of possibilities for how the game progresses that makes for excellent replayability.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: Much like Entenrallye (above), Viva Pamplona is a great multi-player roll’n’move that’s much more than just roll and move. We’ve had games that Toro (the bull) lingered for a long time before charging forward… and others where we’ve struggled to keep up with him sprinting toward the stadium!

#77 – Scoozie, by Rich Maiers
12 plays
First appearance: 2007

Scoozie is, by appearance, an abstract game; the rules, two player nature of the game, and lack of a random element all feel very much like an abstract.  But playing the game, it’s not abstract at all – it’s one American football play.  With blocking, running, laterals, even forward passes – all magnificently carried out by the simple abstract rules.  I don’t know how Maiers conceived of translating American football into an abstract game – but it’s easily my favorite game themed around the sport.

#76 – Louis XIV, by Rüdiger Dorn
28 plays
First appearance: 2005

While I was once fairly open to area majority games, over time I’ve found that they generally don’t hold up for me.  It’s not a mechanism I mind, really, I just find the jockeying for leadership in a territory to be – more tedious than tense.  Louis XIV is one of the few games employing the mechanism that’s stuck for me, and I suspect it’s that there are non-area majority objectives available every round as an alternative.  I really wish the objective abilities were better balanced – there are some of the medium difficulty objectives I find far superior to the difficult objectives, in particular – but somehow I always really enjoy my plays of the game anyway.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: Another game for the must-play-again list!
Matt C: Love this one, too but it was recently culled… just not quite rising up through the crowd of incoming cult-of-the-new…

#75 – Spacebeans, by Uwe Rosenberg
59 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of the biggest challenges in game design is getting the players to play the game in the way that works best.  I think it’s the biggest failing of Fifth Avenue – the game is fine, with a certain play style, but the game encourages a very suboptimal method of play instead, leading to a disappointing experience.  But sometimes it’s a subtle change in play style that makes all of the difference.  When I first played Spacebeans, I found it – bland.  Long for what it was, and missing the classic Rosenberg twists I’d come to expect.  But, fortunately, one day at lunch we had just ten minutes to go and no other games possible to play in that time, so we decided to play Spacebeans in ten minutes – and it was magically better, by leaps and bounds.  And even since then, I’ve taught the game as Speedbeans, and it went from unlikely to stick in my collection to a favorite.  Having seen the reactions when other games are played as fast as possible, it’s not generally a good option – for most games, I’ll only try to demonstrate how quickly they can be played if requested – but here it’s a brilliant choice.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson:  Joe re-taught us Spacebeans as “Speedbeans”… with the pithy admonition “If you know whose turn it is, you’re not playing fast enough.” And my boys love him for it.

#74 – Troia, by Thomas Fackler
14 plays
First appearance: 2005

Fackler is another game designer who’s more an artist than a game designer, so it was surprising to hear that one of the new releases at Essen in 2000 was a game from Fackler receiving Kosmos-like production and distribution.  But upon playing the game, it makes sense – the game, while offering something more like mainstream mechanisms than many of Fackler’s designs, is still a work of art – and still offers something unique, the creation of a pile of tiles to dig through to discover the old architecture of Troy.  It’s not a game I want to play so often that I can recall where the structures are, but it’s great for an occasional play, providing the feel of archaeology in a way no other game has matched.

#73 – Mr. President, by Jack Carmichael
17 plays
First appearance: 2005

I have no idea how many times I’ve really played Mr. President; I discovered the game back in the late 70s or early 80s, played with a friend so often that we created our own candidates, was given a copy as a gift from my parents who tracked down a copy back before Ebay, and even finagled my wife into playing a few times before I realized just how much she was pretending to enjoy it to please me.  And then I started keeping track of my plays; the 17 plays listed above are only the plays since 1996.  One of my favorite more recent plays involved playing with a friend who hadn’t discovered the game previously, who had fantastically better luck than me throughout the game.  And then we tallied, and he discovered that I’d won by a healthy margin anyway.  And – the light went on, and he saw how some of the things I did paid off for me; in particular, I won most of the close battles and got blown out in the states I wasn’t going to win.  Of course, I find it a lot more enjoyable to fight over the 1970s electoral map.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  A great game from my childhood and one of the best 2-player games I can recall from the sixties.  It probably holds up quite well today.

#72 – The Princes of Florence, by Wolfgang Kramer & Richard Ulrich
30 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of the things I like most about The Princes of Florence is the logic of the game.  Artists produce works; the more an artist is provided with the right environment, the better a work of art he or she produces.  It’s all very mathematical, but at the same time it’s a logical world, to the extent that I’ve taught the game to non-gamers on occasion.  It’s also one of the games which many say works best with a full set of five players which I’m happy to play, and enjoy equally well, with four.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  I continue to be enthralled by this game and it remains solidly in my Top 5 Games.  The choices are tough, the auctions — and I usually don’t enjoy auction games — are often competitive and tense, and the decision as to how to allocate one’s points — money versus points — can be downright agonizing.  A truly rich gaming experience.
Melissa:  This is the game I rate as the best ever. I’m not sure it’s my favourite ever, but it feels like the perfect game – it’s always tense, you always want to do more than you can, and it’s very plannable.
Matt C:  I can’t rank it as high as it easily fails if playing with newer players… makes it hard to get to the point where it shines (ie. everyone has enough games under their belts…).
Larry:  Still one of my all-time favorites.  Why it isn’t regarded as great as the equally wonderful Puerto Rico is a huge mystery to me.
Mark Jackson: 7 auctions, 14 actions. Figure out the puzzle and how your opponents are attempting to solve it. Wow.
Lorna: Top of the heap for auction games for me.

#71 – Nautilus, by Brigitte Ditt & Wolfgang Ditt
14 plays
First appearance: 2005

Nautilus is a game that works for me, first and foremost, due to the theme.  It’s a game with a lot of randomness, as exploration games often are; here, that randomness – and the things players can do to offset the randomness – works well for me.  I even enjoy the fact that it’s possible to end with fewer victory points than you started – I’ve never seen a do-nothing plan with any chance of success, so that it’s not a viable option, but yet it provides a nice base challenge – “maybe I didn’t win, but at least I came out ahead…” – which provides some consolation for those concerned with winning who fell short.

#70 – Big Boss, by Wolfgang Kramer
22 plays
First appearance: 2005

I can’t recall many other tribute games which have really stuck with me.  I love the concept – a designer creating a game because of their enjoyment of some other author’s design – but it’s not something that happens so frequently that there are a lot of good examples.  And none, that I can recall, to so openly and notably credit the design of the original game as Kramer did for Sackson and Acquire here.  But Big Boss is a clever design in its own right; the choice to switch to a linear board, which I would have thought suboptimal, in practice works very well, providing a very different but equally engaging experience.  And, much to my delight – I don’t understand Big Boss nearly as well as Acquire, providing lots more for me to explore going forward.

#69 – Zum Kuckuck, by Stefan Dorra
36 plays
First appearance: 2005

While I first started playing German games in 1995, and started getting to some of them when published in 1996, it really wasn’t until 1997 that I was playing a large number of these games upon (or reasonably soon after) their initial release.  As I happened to have more luck with 1997 releases than with any other year, I do wonder sometimes how much a matter of coincidence it is – if I’d really come to German games in 2003 instead, would my opinions of the games from those two years be flipped?  But in any event, Zum Kuckuck was one of the games I discovered then – and which I’ve played at least once every year since.  That’s actually part of what distinguishes a game I rate an 8 for me – it has to be a game I want to play at least once every year, whether I actually manage that or not.

#68 – Jump Drive, by Tom Lehmann
62 plays
First appearance: 2017

While I’ve always enjoyed The City well enough, I wasn’t particularly taken by it, and never owned it; the idea was fine, but for me it was inferior to Race for the Galaxy and not sufficiently shorter to justify playing it in preference.  When I first tried a prototype of Jump Drive, my reaction was similar – not bad, would play, don’t need to own.  But Tom kept developing the game, and when I played it last year – it had come together for me.  It was now an interesting game in its own right; not one I’d play in preference to Race for the Galaxy, but one that belonged on my shelf next to Race.  And unless something unusual happens, Jump Drive will be my most played game of 2017 – the first game ever to be my most played in the year of its release, which sounds better if you don’t think about the fact that Bridge and Race are the only games that have ever been my most played in a year since I started keeping track, and Race came out late enough in 2007 to keep my plays in check.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: We were big fans of The City… but Jump Drive has pretty much replaced it as the go-to “one last game before bedtime” game.

#67 – Numeri, by Rudi Hoffman
60 plays
First appearance: 2011

Numeri is a great example of a game you can start playing knowing none of the rules, and learn them by the time it matters  It’s a very simple roll-and-move game, where instead of the roll determining how far a piece moves, it instead determines which piece moves.  It’s easiest to move the lower numbered pieces – but they’re worth the least in scoring.  It’s a delightful filler for three or four; for a while we were playing it every week, but now it’s back to a more normal pace.

#66 – Der Elefant im Porzellanladen, by Michael Schacht
23 plays
First appearance: 2007

Or, as I think of it, the insurance fraud game.  Each turn you buy pottery or have an elephant run through your pottery store – but you get an insurance payout whenever the latter happens, whether any damage was done or not.  And, in fact, the game is best played by taking advantage of convenient elephants, wisely choosing when to allow an elephant to stampede so as to be well placed when scoring occurs.  It’s a simple game, but a delightful one.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Simon Neale: After picking this game up at its Essen release, it is still getting played which shows it can stand the test of time. I love the attempts to minimise breaking your own china collection!

#65 – Fast Food Franchise, by Tom Lehmann
105 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of these days, I really have to try playing Fast Food Franchise conservatively.  I always find myself taking chances – usually to see things come crashing down when the other players prove most adept at avoiding my eateries.  I’ve never been able to convince myself that a conservative strategy is viable – but really, that’s all the more reason to give it a try.  So, next time I play – Doughnuts.  Definitely doughnuts.

Update: Doughnuts won.  Three players, no bankruptcies.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  Back before I discovered German Games, I picked this one up and was thrilled to find such an intelligently designed “roll and move” property game.  I’ve had a lot of fun playing this with my nephews over the years.
Mark Jackson: One of my top ten games… a work of genius.

#64 – Outpost, by James Hlavaty & Tim Moore
57 plays
First appearance: 2005

This is one of the games I was introduced to around the same time I was discovering German games.  And I’ve always had a significant concern about the game – while I’ve only seen a runaway leader a couple of times, I’ve seen fallaway trailers in the majority of games I’ve played, and been the trailer myself a number of times.  Which, if the game were longer, would be bothersome – but it’s always been a two-hour-or-less game for us, and recently has been closer to an hour.  The other bothersome aspect of the game – the addition of large numbers – doesn’t bother me, though it does sometimes slow down the endgame.

#63 – Ursuppe, by Doris Matthäus & Frank Nestel
27 plays
First appearance: 2005

I’m not sure why it is, but Ursuppe might be the game I have the hardest time exploring alternate strategies for.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy exploring them – when other players prevent me from taking my most usual plan, I honestly appreciate it – and it’s not that I feel I’m playing the strategy optimally.  But for some reason, if I have the chance to get Movement I and Streamlining – I can’t pass them up.  Clearly a personal failing.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C: Man, I love this game and I think it’s almost all due to the theme.  I’m also a sucker for “improving” my powers in a game.  This has both, but does suffer from an overwhelming burst of information for new players.  It can also go a bit long.

#62 – 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations, by Muneyuki Yokouchi
11 plays
First appearance: 2015

Perhaps as a result of playing Bridge when growing up, I’ve always been well inclined towards partnership games.  And trick taking games.  But I was still a bit leery when we sat down to play 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations – the large number of suits relative to the hand size and the ability to pass cards meant that voids were inevitable.  But in practice, the unique makeup of the suits – the 7, the only cards that matter for scoring, are in each position within a suit, though for the suit in which the 7 is high, the low card in the suit is a trump to offset the advantage – and the general desire not to take tricks without a 7 makes the voids a non-issue.  We enjoyed the partnership game so much it took a while before I tried the game with three, and that only after hearing it was at least as good with that number.  IMHO, don’t believe it – with three, 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations felt like yet another trick taking card game, while with four it’s a favorite.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: Strongly agree (on all but one point). This is my favorite of Muneyuki’s, and probably my favorite trick taking game. The staggered suits which result in a different positioning of the 7 in each suit is genius. (P.S. Joe, I apologize for proselytizing the three-player game.)  

#61 – Witness, by Dominique Bodin
42 plays
First appearance: 2015

While I generally shy away from cooperative games, one reason I don’t do so too automatically is Witness.  Witness shouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable a game as it is – the concept of basing a modern game on the classic game of telephone (as it’s known in the United States; Chinese whispers elsewhere) doesn’t sound inherently appealing, but it works.  The cases – all logic puzzles of various stripes – are varied and clever, and there are some wonderful twists in the cases to keep everyone on their toes.  It’s not a game for everyone – but if we have the right group of four, it’s one I love to get out.  I’m sad that I’m getting close to having played all of the cases.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: Similar to Joe, I’m also sad, but for me it’s that I fear my plays of this have stalled at around 24.  Finding the right players to whisper in each others ears, and the right ambiance for such whispering, and getting distracted by something new have unfortunately sidelined this one for too long. I hope to make it to the harder cases at some point.
Dale Y: I’m glad that my copy found a home with someone who actually plays it… I remember trying this out with Joe and was quite happy he was willing to take the game… One question I do have is – now that it’s almost been 2 years, do you think you could go back to the start and re-play them?  How much time has to pass before you forget the cases?
Joe H: Almost three years, actually.  And, I don’t know, though I’m sure it’s more than 3 years…

#60 – Breitseite, by Reinhold Wittig
11 plays
First appearance: 2017

As much as games are generally thought of as being for children, very few games really capture the spirit of childhood.  Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier is one – but for me, this is the ultimate example.  It’s a dexterity game, representing a naval battle, with both players shooting cannons at one another.  When one ship falls apart – or loses both masts – the other player wins.  I can’t help but be drawn back to childhood, playing various games with blocks; the ingenuity of the design, forcing players to risk their own ships in their attempts to damage their opponent’s ship, helps sell this feeling.  Rarely have I played games that I found more fun.

#59 – Eggs of Ostrich, by Shinpei Sato
55 plays
First appearance: 2015

When I picked up Eggs of Ostrich in 2013, I was hopeful but not terribly optimistic about the game; the short play time and limitation to only playing with three, combined with the blind bidding-like mechanism, seemed unlikely to work for me.  But – it did.  And as I played it more, I enjoyed it more.  It’s a game with limited applicability – but the conditions for which Eggs of Ostrich is applicable seem to arise commonly.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: My tolerance for games that involve the “but you’d know I was going to do that, so I clearly can’t drink from the glass in front of me” mechanic is thin.  This one, where essentially all other mechanics are stripped away and you play less than a dozen cards, slides right into that thin gap.  Really enjoy.

#58 – Circus Grandioso, by Florian Racky
24 plays
First appearance: 2013

I got to try Circus Grandioso thanks to Hilko Drude, who ran a geekgold lottery which I won, selecting this game from among the list of options.  And, much to my surprise, the game worked for me.  Really worked.  It’s a simple game, of building a human (well, animal, mostly) pyramid, with some nice timing elements and some great memory elements – the ideal type of memory elements, in my opinion, as having a better memory helps, but forgetting something has no negative effects upon other players.

#57 – Galaxy Trucker, by Vladimír Chvátil
28 plays
First appearance: 2009

Galaxy Trucker is the reason I usually prefer to complete my first play of a game.  After the first third of the game, I was convinced it wasn’t for me – but by the end of the game, I was convinced to pick up a copy.  While I generally avoid expansions, I was glad when Rough Roads Ahead came out, as it largely puts experienced players back into the same place as the rookies – dealing with ships falling apart.  And I have to mention – I had the good fortune to receive a copy of the Galaxy Trucker novel earlier this year, and it proved to be quite enjoyable, a nice airplane read.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C: Love the game, great to pull out for new or non-hardcore players.  Game length is limited by timers… lots to like here.
Mark Jackson: Delightful mixture of mechanisms and chaos, augmented by a very funny rulebook. (When playing with newbies, play partners with experienced players. Then trade ships for the space flight – newbie gets the pretty ship; experienced player gets the newbie-designed heap.)

#56 – Entdecker, by Klaus Teuber
30 plays
First appearance: 2005

Exploration games are among my favorites; while I might not have the right disposition for real-life adventuring, I’m fascinated by the discovery and investigation of the unknown.  And Entdecker does one of the best jobs of any game in providing that sense of adventure, while maintaining a coherent and logical map.  I remain a big fan of Manu Soeding’s variant; it changes almost none of the rules, but gives players a couple of additional key choices to make during the game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: Another “classic” that I’ll never part with – not a fan of the Exploring New Horizons re-do which made it more clunky & less charming. Also needed to say nice things about this for my ‘namesake’, Mark Johnson.

#55 – Factory Manager, by Friedemann Friese
41 plays
First appearance: 2009

You know, I do wonder sometimes if Factory Manager would have received a better reception, overall, without the Power Grid branding attached.  I hear a number of people complain about its presence in a game so different in feel as Factory Manager – but at the same time, I bet many folks tried the game in some part because of the connection.  Of course, which not directly connected, they’re both very clever economics game.  And unlike Power Grid, Factory Manager can easily be played in under an hour – and I’m a sucker for short but still involved economic games.

#54 – Ricochet Robot, by Alex Randolph
64 plays
First appearance: 2005

I’m not, in general, a huge fan of puzzle games.  Oh, I tend to enjoy them – but generally they don’t stick for me long beyond my introduction to them.  Sometimes they’re too easy, sometimes they’re too hard, and sometimes they only really reward the first player to solve the puzzle.  Ricochet Robot might be the best of these games, in my experience, at keeping all players involved – particularly when playing with the family rules, where given equal solutions the player who has solved fewer gets the first opportunity.  This often has led to the discovery of a superior solution – a continued involvement in the puzzle from everyone.  Add in the ability to add or subtract players at will, and this is the puzzle game that sticks in my collection.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C: My wife loves this game and I can hold my own just enough so that I have a (small) chance of winning.  Thought I would like Mutant Meeples, but the special powers actually seemed to make the game less complex.  (Not in a good way… I mean finding game solutions that require moving 3 or more pieces for that master plan…)

#53 – Kardinal & König: Das Kartenspiel, by Michael Schacht
23 plays
First appearance: 2005

I’m not quite sure how he did it, but in changing Web of Power into a card game, Schacht made a good game system even better.  The three-dimensional set collection works brilliantly, as players must make continuous trade-offs as to how best to approach the available choices.  And the method for reserving cards is ideal – it adds a good tension to the game, due to the ability to override reservations, and the consequences of doing so, particularly in the late game.  I’m particularly impressed by just how many choices are possible in a turn, given the limitations the game imposes.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: Agree, Michael Schacht kept the flavor of the original but made a great portable game out of it. While Richelieu the published two player version is good, I think the original multiplayer version is better.

#52 – Samarkand, by Sid Sackson
33 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of the projects I’m working on – if not nearly so often as I’d prefer – is a book about Sid Sackson’s game designs.  I’ve collected a lot of data for this, thanks to the great help of the staff of the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester and their marvelous collection of Sackson material.  But I’ve only found a few things out about the origins of Samarkand, which grew out of a request from Schmidt Spiele for a Bazaar-like game.  Samarkand was a later reworking of the idea, and is a great design, turning a straight-forward goal (turning 200 Piaster into 500) into a large number of critical decisions – all with a figurative clock ticking as your opponents move closer and closer to the goal.  I also appreciate that Sackson had rules for each eventuality – and that each of these rules is a “don’t let this happen to you” rule, clearly and strongly discouraging players from testing some corner cases too aggressively.

#51 – Concordia, by Mac Gerdts
20 plays
First appearance: 2015

One of the things I enjoy most about Concordia is just how simple it is to explain the rules.  On your turn, you play a card from your hand, and do what it says.  There are fewer than ten types of cards, so going over all of the “what it says” cases isn’t a problem.  But given that simple base, the game offers an impressive array of options; I particularly enjoy trying different paths.  It’s always fun to explore different aspects of a game, but particularly when it means ignoring conventional wisdom.  I also appreciate the double-sided board, with overlapping ranges of player count choices for the two sides.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: After Qwixx, Concordia is probably my most-played game over the past few years. Every time I play, I find something new to do.

#50 – Geschenkt, by Thorsten Gimmler
135 plays
First appearance: 2005

For some reason, fillers – by which I mean games running around 15 minutes or less to complete – don’t get consideration for a 10 rating from me.  It’s not that I won’t consider short games, or that I have a bias against fillers – many are right among my favorite games.  But – I think I’m looking for a little something more from a game than what even the best filler can deliver.  In any event, Geschenkt is one of the best of the breed, and like others in the genre frequently gets played multiple times in a row when it comes out.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: I hadn’t played this at all for years, then played it four or five times in fairly quick succession last year. The decisions are interesting and the game plays very quickly. It’s a lot of game in a small box.
Larry:  So amazingly and elegantly simple and so much fun.  It’s terrific to play this with new players and see the panic in their eyes as their collection of chips dwindles down to zero, while they stare at that high number card in the center of the table.

#49 – Löwenherz, by Klaus Teuber
21 plays
First appearance: 2005

In general, my preference is for games with a low degree of confrontation – and, where there is confrontation, to have mechanisms such as in Vinci where the resolution is automatic.  Which means that Löwenherz really shouldn’t be my type of game.  But, somehow, it is – I really enjoy the game, and particularly the establishment and expansion (and contraction) of kingdoms much more than the mechanisms would suggest.  As I don’t understand why I enjoy it, I really don’t have any idea if it would be an exception for others as well, but I do think it’s a game worth trying.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  Like Joe, I’m not a huge fan of confrontation in games, but this is in my all-time top 10.  Maybe it’s because you’re forced to butt heads each turn, but I love the brutality of the game.  It’s Teuber’s most atypical design, which is probably why I like it so much more than his other stuff.  Not for the faint of heart!

#48 – Showmanager, by Dirk Henn
51 plays
First appearance: 2005

Thematically, Showmanager should bother me more than it does – why in world would I have to put my production of Wolf on in New York just because someone else did?  Wouldn’t the audience be bigger in Troisdorf? – everything works so well from a gaming perspective that it just doesn’t drag me down.  I’d particularly recommend the original Queen edition of the game, as the artwork adds quite a bit to the experience, and it’s fun to select an instrument as your symbol for the game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  While the game itself isn’t anything brilliant, I always have a great time playing this, role-playing and “yukking” it up.  It is on a regular rotation and gets to the table quite often, both with gamers and non-gaming friends.
Mark Jackson: I love this game. Love, love, love. My former game group played it over & over – and that didn’t diminish my love for it at all.

#47 – Planet Steam, by Heinz-Georg Thiemann
24 plays
First appearance: 2009

As much as I wanted to see a boardgame version of M.U.L.E., playing M.U.L.E. The Board Game convinced me than Planet Steam took the better approach to the problem.  It’s less true to the original – but a significantly better game, as a result.  Because while I might have thought I wanted a boardgame version of M.U.L.E., what I really wanted was a great economic boardgame, ideally with some of the feel of the computer game.  And Planet Steam delivers – at least if one avoids playing with five.  My first play of the published game was with five, and I was nearly ready to swear off the game; the game plays too slowly, and the market is too swingy, and worst one doesn’t get to do enough.  So long as played with no more than four, it’s a great game – and, for some reason, the one game I might actually prefer in the Fantasy Flight edition.

#46 – Imperium, from Neue Spiele im Alten Rom, by Reiner Knizia
20 plays
First appearance: 2005

Neue Spiele im Alten Rom is a really fascinating collection of games; the roots of many of Knizia’s later designs can be seen throughout the set.  But for me, only one of the designs really stands out, and makes me want to keep coming back to it – Imperium, a simple, short blind bidding game that avoids my usual concerns with such games primarily by making all bids add to the game state and by being so quick that it never really becomes an issue.  I particularly like the fact that players don’t have enough pieces to simply aim full-bore toward the late, most valuable contests.

#45 – Rails of New England, by Walter Hunt & Gregory Pozerski
29 plays
First appearance: 2011

As any game with trains should be, a big part of the appeal of Rails of New England is the pleasant journey it provides.  The historic businesses add a lot of flavor to the game, and I love the detailed map of the region of the country where I’ve lived for nearly thirty years now.  There are still plenty of interesting decisions to make within the game – it’s not a game I play just for the experience.  But there are enough random elements that some significant part of the difference in a game between equally experienced competitors will be the good and bad fortune they each enjoy.  The pleasant journey helps this to go down smoothly, regardless of which fortune you find falling upon you in a particular play.

#44 – Battle Cry, by Richard Borg
35 plays
First appearance: 2005

I realize that this version of the Command & Colors system has lost preference to others, but for me it works the best among those I’ve tried.  Part of this is simply that I have more interest in the US Civil War, but I also think the simple but fascinating system that Richard has put together is best suited to a simpler wargame.  All of the details Command & Colors Ancients added to the proceeding probably delighted other players – but left me wishing for the clean design of Battle Cry.

#43 – Autoscooter, by Günter Cornett
24 plays
First appearance: 2005

The idea of a game themed around bumper cars is a brilliant one; I’m surprised more designers haven’t given it a go.  But among the few such games I’ve played, none holds a candle to Autoscooter.  The use of programmed movement works incredibly well here – players can try to go earlier or later, but are unlikely to be able to guarantee their position more than two times during the game.  And, as the last turn usually demonstrates, even knowing exactly when you’re going to move only helps so much.

#42 – King’s Breakfast, by Alan Moon & Aaron Weissblum
64 plays
First appearance: 2005

There are many reasons I might appreciate a game design.  It might have very clever solutions to what would otherwise be problems in the game, it might introduce innovative new mechanisms, or it might simply lay information out in a manner that makes it particularly easy for players to follow.  Or, as with King’s Breakfast – it might simply be a game you tried, but failed, to design.  I had a game design – themed around collecting books – which tried to achieve essentially the same balance between community holding and personal holding that King’s Breakfast achieves.  But while my design was – clunky, is probably the best way to describe it – Alan and Aaron designed a smooth, simple, inviting filler instead.  I’ve gotten far more enjoyment out of King’s Breakfast than I ever would have with my design.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: Now I need to dig this out as well! Thanks, Joe.

#41 – Puerto Rico, by Andreas Seyfarth
87 plays
First appearance: 2005

Puerto Rico held on, for far longer than I expected, as the last game in the BGG top 10 that I had in my collection.  And, for a while, it was actually the only game in the BGG top 25 that I owned, though a second game has snuck back in.  Puerto Rico has never been my very favorite game, but it’s never been far from the top, and it’s long been one of the games of which I most closely match BGG in my appreciation.  I hear – and don’t entirely disagree with – the thought that games such as Puerto Rico (and Princes of Florence) began the slide into modern Euro game design, and the complexity for complexity sake it’s seen to exhibit.  But regardless of where Puerto Rico led game design, it’s not an example of it (among other things, the fact that the game can consistently be played in an hour differentiates it), and it remains a game I really enjoy.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: We’ve played Puerto Rico so many times and with so many people. What a clever, thinky, interesting design it is!
Larry:  My all-time favorite game for a very long time and still one I’ll play at any time.  Just brilliant.
Mark Jackson: Another brilliant design.

#40 – Machi Koro, by Masao Suganuma
32 plays
First appearance: 2015

Eric Brosius is bothered by the comparison made between Settlers of Catan and Machi Koro, often with the suggestion that Machi Koro is the same – but without the trading.  While I enjoy trading in games about as much as Eric, and agree that the comparison doesn’t really hold, I do find Machi Koro a very enjoyable game in its own right.  I think of it more as a push-your-luck game – to what extent do you maximize the payout from one outcome, as compared to spreading out to take advantage of a wide variety of rolls.  Which is a problem I find fun – particularly given Machi Koro’s short play time.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: After playing with the Harbour expansion, we will only ever play this with the Harbour expansion … and after playing with the Millionaires’ Row expansion, we will only ever play this with the Harbour expansion.
Matt C: I describe the game to new gamers as “Monopoly without the board” but it is so much more than that.  My eldest loves the game.  I will agree that the Harbor expansion (by itself) is the best, but I can put up with the base game if showing it to new players.
Joe H: Just had to add – I played with the Harbor expansion once, and would never do so again; it completely ruins the game for me.
Dan Blum: I’m not nearly as big a fan of the game as Joe is, but I entirely agree that the Harbor expansion ruins the game.

#39 – Quacksalbe, by Volker Tietze
26 plays
First appearance: 2005

In general, I’ve found that the sillier the theme, the less game there tends to be underlying it.  But there are exceptions, and Quacksalbe is just such an exception.  It’s a trick-taking card game at heart – but really, it’s more of a corpse-taking card game, as I’ve rarely seen the majority of patients survive.  What really makes the game, though, are the special patients – like the hearse driver, who if saved takes one of your corpses to give to an opponent, or the phantom, who players have to treat blindly.  On the whole, the silly theme actually makes this game what it is – it might have been fun even without, but not nearly so engaging.

#38 – Le Havre, by Uwe Rosenberg
38 plays
First appearance: 2009

While I’m not nearly so fond of Rosenberg’s designs from Agricola to present as I am of his great classic card games, there are exceptions.  And Le Havre is a major exception – it has the feel, to me, of a challenging economic game, rather than a worker placement frustration or a puzzle.  In particular, the availability of multiple options for key actions helps the limited worker placement play not be bothersome.  Though – I will only play the game with two or three; my one play with four convinced me that the game didn’t handle the number well for what I want to get out of it, and the idea of playing with five would send me screaming.  Well, or suggesting a 3/2 split, with both tables playing Le Havre…

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: Love Le Havre!

#37 – For Sale, by Stefan Dorra
221 plays
First appearance: 2005

I’ve always thought about Geschenkt, King’s Breakfast, and For Sale as the classic fillers, and of For Sale as the king of the trio.  It’s fast – there’s always time for For Sale – and flexible, playing well with 3-5, and tolerably with 6 (even though I will only play the original Ravensburger / FX Schmid edition, so one must use the 3 player rules to play with 6).  Speaking of the original edition – I have played the later edition, and as a result For Sale is a game that’s always under consideration to bring when attending a convention; even if someone else is bringing it, they might be bringing the wrong edition.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C:  Falling just behind No Thanks! for my go-to card game for non-gamers, it is still a strong contender as it adds just a bit more complexity.
Melissa: One of the Bigster’s all-time favourites.

#36 – Mamma Mia, by Uwe Rosenberg
71 plays
First appearance: 2005

I count cards.  Not consciously, always – it simply happens.  Which is great for some games where it’s expected, but some games seem to assume players aren’t doing it, for reasons I’ve never quite understood – particularly when a game relies upon players not counting cards.  And it’s because of this that I love Mamma Mia – the game specifically foils card counters.  You might know the state of the stack – but with every pizza added there is uncertainty.  You can probably correctly guess some obvious cases, where pizzas will or will not be made, but at least half of the pizzas added are hard to predict – and each wrong prediction foils future predictions.  As a result, while counting cards helps one play the game well – it’s really a game that anyone can win.

#35 – Minerva, by Hisashi Hayashi
15 plays
First appearance: 2015

I love games that provide the opportunity to do clever things.  And that, in a nutshell, describes Minerva.  While the basics of the game are not particularly complicated, the opportunity to do interesting things – to take best advantage of the flexibility of the rules – is great; I frequently have seen players do something I hadn’t expected or previously considered.  Of course, this also means that the game has a long learning curve – something I value in games, but not everyone else does.

#34 – Macao, by Stefan Feld
31 plays
First appearance: 2011

And then, sometimes, one loves game for no easily discernible reason.  Macao is very abstract; the attempts at theme are almost comically bad, particularly the floating capitals of Europe.  Worse, it’s an example of what I consider to be the negatives of a point salad – the various aspects of the game just don’t seem to fit together very well.  But I love the central mechanisms – you put N cubes in, N turns later you get them out – but you can’t save any for a rainy day.  And I love how only half the building and people cards are used in a play; that uncertainty fits in very well here.  And as a net result, I love the game – in spite of a number of flaws that would typically be fatal for me.  In this case, they are likely enough to prevent the game from ever reaching a 10 rating for me, but otherwise they aren’t holding it back.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  The central dice mechanism is wonderfully elegant.  And there’s so many clever ways of using the cards.  This still gets regular play in my group, almost a decade after its release.
Melissa: I’m getting old … this is six years old already?!
Larry:  You shall always be eternally young to me, Melissa, but it’s been six years since it made Joe’s list for the first time.  The game actually came out eight years ago.  As you mentioned earlier, snap!

#33 – Factory Fun, by Corné van Moorsel
35 plays
First appearance: 2007

I’d hoped to find Factory Funner at least equally enjoyable, if not more, but in practice it felt well short for me – while helping me to understand better why the original works so well for me.  The ability to move a limited number of machines, which I wouldn’t have thought critical to my enjoyment, actually proved to be so; it frees up the possibilities nicely.  In contrast, the square grid of Fun feels less forgiving that the hex grid of Funner, and that limitation makes the choice of machines more interesting for me.  I also find that the square grid makes more sense to me, in the context of this game, another point in favor of the original.  I didn’t hate Funner – but I won’t play it by choice, though I’m very happy to play Factory Fun even more often than I currently manage.

#32 – Jambo, by Rüdiger Dorn
162 plays
First appearance: 2005

I find that most economic games really aren’t at their best with two players.  There are a number of game mechanisms – auctions and share ownership in particular – that are common to economic games, but just not effective with only two players.  When I discovered that Jambo was an economic game – and one that not only worked, but worked well with two players – it was an obvious addition to my collection, and quickly became one of my most played games.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  Perhaps my favorite two-player game.  Thinky, without being brain-burning and plenty of variety.  Always enjoyable.

#31 – Timbuktu, by Dirk Henn
29 plays
First appearance: 2005

I am rather amazed that this game is as popular on BGG as it is.  Not that it’s particularly popular though – it’s outside of the top 1000 – but that’s still a few thousand places higher than I would have expected when I heard Queen was going to republish it.  I expected a much higher percentage of opinions aligned with the negative comments, based upon my own experiences.  Of course, I still love the game – the deductions based upon the actions of the player two to your left, in particular, being fascinating; if I really cared about winning, I’d really prefer to be two seats to the right of the player I considered strongest at the table.  Since I don’t care, the problem becomes even more fun (and more vexing); I have to decide the extent to which I can count on the actions of that player to reveal information of use to me.

#30 – Flaschenteufel, by Günter Cornett
62 plays
First appearance: 2005

Traditional card games are, by their nature, abstract; I suppose I should be bothered by this, but in practice, I’m not.  I’m sure that growing up playing cards – I didn’t know pinochle the few times I saw it played at larger family gatherings, but played Euchre with my grandfather and Bridge with my parents and their friends – has a lot to do with it.  But regardless, my experiences with card games growing up have significantly impacted my expectations of them as an adult (well, at least by age).  And so I don’t expect trick taking games to have a theme – even if (see #97) I will sometimes impose a theme anyway.  But with Flaschenteufel, that’s just not needed – the theme, setting, and story of the game are all straight from the Robert Louis Stevenson story that inspired the game.  And the mechanisms and artwork of the original do a fantastic job of supporting the theme.  Unfortunately, each further edition has been more disappointing for me; I’m hoping that the new edition scheduled for Essen comes closer to the original.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  This and Schnappchen Jagd are the two great 3-player trick-taking games for me.  Flaschenteufel is quite counter-intuitive and has a pretty steep learning curve, but it’s great stuff and its strong theme only adds to its appeal.

#29 – Indonesia, by Jeroen Doumen & Joris Wiersinga
34 plays
First appearance: 2005

While I really need to play Roads & Boats sometime, I haven’t in no small part because I’ve not had the greatest luck with Splotter’s games.  Oh, I admire them, and can see why others enjoy them; they just haven’t generally been a fit for me.  Indonesia was the game that broke that streak.  It’s nice and compact, and can easily be completed in a couple of hours.  And – I have no idea how to play the game well.  I’m getting to the point that I can correctly guess the winner before we count up, but – that’s about it; earlier, when it would be really useful for decision making, I can pretty much count on guessing incorrectly.  And – I love this about the game.  A game that I can spend more than 50 hours playing and still not really know what I’m doing?  Sign me up.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Simon Neale: This is a great example of a game where ownership of companies in the final round may not be the best route to victory, so spot the game end approaching and let others take over your companies!

#28 – Too Many Cinderellas, by Nobutake Dogen & Nao Shimamura
55 plays
First appearance: 2015

I really only have a couple of things to note about Too Many Cinderellas.  First, it’s another proof game, like Old Town – but distilled; it’s a proof filler.  And – it’s become my single favorite game of the genre.  Second – one of the features of many Japanese games is their small footprint; with a small number of components, many of these games also feature a short playing time.  And as a result – my list of default, go-to fillers has had to expand.  Unfortunately, that means that each one gets a bit less table time.  And unfortunately, I’m still waiting to see the cat be chosen as Cinderella.

#27 – Food Chain Magnate, by Jeroen Doumen & Joris Wiersinga
18 plays
First appearance: 2017

This is the highest ranked new entry on this list.  And – on my first play, prior to publication, I wouldn’t have expected it to make the list at all; I found the game frustrating, more than enjoyable, and was only willing to try it again with a rule tweak.  Fortunately, Jeroen and Joris found a far better way to address the concerns I had, and the result was a game that, while still unforgiving, still offers players a greater opportunity to change direction and make meaningful improvements in their lot than in the prototype.  Though, to be honest, when I saw the artwork I was happy to give the published game another go with just the assurances that the issues I’d noted had been addressed; the style chosen just works incredibly well with the game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Simon Neale: This game really appeals to those of us with project management in our blood!
Melissa: What a table hog of a game! And what a time hog too – but it’s a time hog that doesn’t drag; there’s always something interesting to do.

#26 – Glass Road, by Uwe Rosenberg
23 plays
First appearance: 2015

Every now and again, one finds a design decision that’s just perfect.  Such is the case with the resource wheels in Glass Road – while the resources could just have easily been represented by hundreds of counters, the choice of using resource wheels improved the game immeasurably, and helped make Glass Road my very favorite game in the Agricola era.  In many ways, it harkens back to the clever twists Rosenberg provided for his early card games, having a larger effect than one would expect, and integrating perfectly with the remainder of the game.

#25 – The King of Frontier, by Shun
43 plays
First appearance: 2015

I’ve never listened to many musical mash-ups; the few I have are mostly thanks to my brother.  And – they haven’t generally done much for me.  But there is one – No One Takes Your Freedom – which smoothly combines songs from Scissor Sisters, The Beatles, George Michael, and Aretha Franklin, and which works for me.  Similarly, few game mash-ups have really worked for me; I might admire what Friedemann did with Copycat, but I’m not inclined to play it.  The King of Frontier, however, manages to rise above the elements it takes from Carcassonne and Puerto Rico to deliver a game I enjoy more than either.  This is also another example of a rare game that I actually frequently play with the expansion; the fact that the expansion really doesn’t have any negative effects while adding a little more variety makes it about as good an expansion that’s not required gets for me.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: I first played this around the same time as I played Jungle Rumble, another Japanese mash-up game.  This one I still play.  I’m always happy when I inevitably see a group at BGG.CON trying to futz through the rules, as it gives me a chance to teach them and spread the joy of this game (and hopefully join them.)
Melissa: Oh yes! This is such a lovely game, and so easy to teach.

#24 – Mü, by Doris Matthäus & Frank Nestel
305 plays
First appearance: 2005

I’ve been very fortunate; in general, as time goes by, I’ve had more opportunities for gaming; only one regular gaming opportunity has disappeared entirely.  Unfortunately, that was a regular Friday Mü game at work, which above and beyond the opportunity to play the game had the secondary benefit of improving everyone’s game over time.  It’s a brilliant five player trick taking game – the game in the genre to play when you have five – and I still get it to the table occasionally – just not nearly so often as I once did, or as I would prefer.

#23 – Neos, by team SAIEN
52 plays
First appearance: 2015

And now we reach – my favorite filler game, currently.  Those who aren’t fond of multiplayer solitaire exercises are unlikely to enjoy it as much as I do, but for me it’s my current favorite in a genre I’m generally fond of.  Players play cards, adding each new card played to either side of the line, and in doing so aim to create groups of three of the same ribbon or three of the same color in a row.  This makes for great challenges – when to abandon an effort, when to try to take advantage of cards matching multiple characteristics, and so on – and is the type of game that usually gets played multiple times in a row, as my quick ascension to 50 plays might suggest.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
James Nathan: If you like the Karuba/Take It Easy-style multiplayer solitaire, this is a card game in the vein.  For such a simple choice and such a simple scoring system, the return on gameplay that you get is nice.  The colors and matte cards of the current edition are quite pleasant.
Mark Jackson: Man, I wish I could find a copy of this game that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.
Lorna: Love it.

#22 – A Brief History of the World, by Steve Kendall & Gary Dicken
27 plays (including prior editions)
First appearance: 2011

I first played the Monarch Avalon Hill edition of History of the World right around the time I was being introduced to German games, and unlike some of the more traditionally American games of the time (well, OK, it was British, but it fit with the classic Avalon Hill), History of the World stuck.  I never played it a lot, but it did get to the table now and again, and always enjoyed it when I did; it just wasn’t a favorite.  When I first tried A Brief History of the World, I wasn’t convinced that it improved upon the experience.  But I was willing to try it again, and I’m glad I did – with more play, the advantages of Brief become more and more apparent, and the game I’d been playing for years became a favorite – and then one of my all-time favorites.  This is a type of game I want to play sometimes, and it’s a great choice when in that mood.  And – it really is significantly shorter than the original.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Greg S:  History of the World was a game we played a LOT in my former Westbank Gamers group.  I truly loved the epic scope of the game, and at the time I didn’t mind the 4 – 5 hour time frame.  I’ve played Brief History of the World a few times and also really enjoy it, but didn’t care for the revised card distribution method and missed some of the other features it deleted.  
Mark Jackson: Top ten – and I think it both streamlined the original game and actually made it better.

#21 – Canal Mania, by Steve Kendall, Phil Kendall & Gary Dicken
31 plays
First appearance: 2007

Yup, we’ve reached the Ragnar section of my favorite game list.  Though, like Splotter, my hit rate isn’t great – but in both cases, the games I do enjoy I really enjoy.  For me, Canal Mania is what Age of Steam should have been – the game rewards players for semi-cooperative play, delivering goods longer distances by working together.  The contract system enforces this – one can’t simply build canals where one wishes, but instead must connect two towns in some reasonably efficient manner.  This makes for a game that’s much closer to what Lancashire Rails hinted at, but didn’t quite deliver on, and where I always hoped the series would go.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry:  Even though I prefer Age of Steam, Canal Mania is an extremely well designed train game and is easily my favorite Ragnar Brothers game.

#20 – Africa, by Reiner Knizia
80 plays
First appearance: 2005

Africa is sometimes described as a game which suffered from unrealistic expectations.  Which, I suppose, is fair; if you were expecting Euphrat & Tigris, well, it’s not.  But I don’t think my expectations were particularly low when I first played it, upon its initial release; I perhaps had the advantage of having been exposed to a wide swath of Knizia’s designs, and therefore went in not expecting a heavy game particularly.  Which, Africa is not.  Actually, Africa’s kind of a strange game, in some sense – while there’s far more skill to the game than it’s often given credit for, there’s still plenty of luck, and the mechanisms are more one of a family game – but one aimed straight at gamers.  The rules aren’t as simple as would be ideal for a family affair, and the balancing of the luck a greater focus.  Which, for me, is great; I love family games and more gamer-focused offerings, and the mix works well here.  But I suspect it hurt the game’s reception.  Still great fun, regardless.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: It’s best with 3 players… I think some of the bad attitude was related to playing with 5 players. Probably my favorite Knizia design.

#19 – Acquire, by Sid Sackson
94 plays
First appearance: 2005

With the research I’ve done on Sackson’s game design, I probably know more about Acquire than about any other game at this point.  And nothing I’ve learned about the game has in any way diminished my appreciation of the game; instead, I’m all the more amazed by it.  And by just how much Bill Caruson contributed to what the game is; he was acting as a developer decades before Bernd Brunnhofer and Stefan Brück – perhaps even more invisibly, but just as importantly.  There’s still much more I hope to discover – just so long as this also involves the practical research of playing Acquire.

#18 – Sextet, by Ralph Peterson
84 plays
First appearance: 2005

Sextet is six-player Bridge.  Well, at least in rules.  Part of what makes Bridge so imposing to new players is the number of conventions; playing well means not only a clear understanding with partner, but also an understanding of opponent’s bids.  Sextet – has no conventions.  Well, that’s not entirely true – some bids from Bridge carry over easily enough to apply approximately the same meanings, but when a good friend tried to solve Blackwood for Sextet his conclusion was that it’s just not worthwhile.  Peterson may have intended on the use of certain conventions, but I’ve never found any literature about the game that really gets beyond the basics, so either I’ve been unfortunate in my searches – or there is none.  I’ve found that this actually makes the game much more accessible to new players; in some sense, you can’t make a wrong bid, since there is no authority on what is right or wrong.

#17 – La Città, by Gerd Fenchel
41 plays
First appearance: 2005

La Città isn’t really a civilization game, but it has some of the feel of one – just on a smaller, more intimate scale.  Instead of civilizations battling to build and grow, here it’s cities, utilizing basic services in an attempt to woo more citizens to join them.  This scaling down of the problem works very well – the game can comfortably be played in under two hours with up to four.  And, in turn, this avoids the “Civilization in two hours” problem of having to abstract things to an absurd level; by reducing the scope, sufficient detail can be included to provide a great experience.  Not a Civilization experience, but a great one nevertheless.

#16 – Bohnanza, by Uwe Rosenberg
99 plays
First appearance: 2005

Bohnanza is the only game I’ve ever tried to be completest about, and fortunately I realized both the futility and absurdity of this, and cut back to what I really like – and will actually play.  But it’s a testament to the game system Rosenberg created that the game has continued to work across dozens of variations.  The underlying set collection game is interesting enough, but the combination of the play restriction of playing cards in order and the ability for trade spurs on some of the most interesting trading in any game I’ve played.

#15 – Russian Railroads, by Helmut Ohley & Leonhard Orgler
53 plays
First appearance: 2013

One advantage of looking at when I added games to my top games list this year is the realization that only one of my top twenty games – Russian Railroads – has been added to the list since I first generated it in 2005.  In some ways, this isn’t a surprise – after all, more than half of the games here were there back in 2005 as well.  And I’m certainly slow to move games up.  But still: 16 of the 20 games currently in my top twenty were in my top twenty in 2005, too.  And it’s not as if I’m simply using the previous list as the starting point for each new list – I create the list from scratch each time.  In any event, it’s all the more impressive that Russian Railroads has broken through to reach this high for me; I’m continuing to play it, and continuing to enjoy the game tremendously.  I particularly enjoy the ability to choose a plan at the start of the game, and then do the best one can to carry it off.  Nothing against games requiring reevaluation continuously based upon what choices are available – they just don’t tend to be as satisfying for me as those where I have to adapt my plan to the choices, but can keep the central plan intact.

#14 – Ticket to Ride, by Alan Moon
38 plays
First appearance: 2005

As they’re popular with others, I’ve played a number of alternate Ticket to Ride maps over time.  And most of them have been perfectly acceptable – not particularly more interesting for me, but not bad.  I do like what Team Asia does with the game – and how the partnerships naturally fall into set-and-spike actions.  But for my money, the original game remains the most enjoyable.  Part of this is geography; my familiarity with the area (even as occasionally creatively representing here) adds both a sense of hominess – and sometimes even a little familiarity with the companies that once ran these routes.  But a lot of it is a kind of nostalgia – not for the game, which isn’t that old, but for the discovery of a new favorite that accompanied my early plays of Ticket to Ride.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C: I love the team options in Asia.  I primarily play with with my kids using our tablets – fast setup and quick play time.  Great title as it works for a good age range.  New gamers can grasp the rummy-like collecting easily.
Mark Jackson: A great, great design – it’s weird to see it so easily available now in mass market stores, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

#13 – Schnäppchen Jagd, by Uwe Rosenberg
141 plays
First appearance: 2005

Speaking of discovery – when I received Schnäppchen Jagd, back in 1998, all I knew about it was that it was from Rosenberg – and his track record was good enough to be happy to take a chance on the game.  When I translated the rules, and we sat down to play, we were all a bit surprised by just how well the simple rule set played out in practice.  It didn’t take us long to discover that the game was best with three players – and for this game to become my trick taking game of choice with three.  I sometimes put an asterisk on this, because Flaschenteufel is also extremely enjoyable with three, but it’s really a Frick-asterisk; Schnäppchen Jagd is truly better, I just like Flaschenteufel too much not to mention it.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: This may well be my favorite trick-taking game, period. And, like Joe (and many others), I think it’s best with three.

#12 – Thebes, by Peter Prinz
39 plays
First appearance: 2005

As much as I enjoy Troia, Thebes shows how there are multiple possible approaches to providing the experience of digging through rubble to find treasures from antiquity.  Thebes also adds additional aspects – attending archaeological colleges, rewards for the greatest knowledge of each ancient civilization.  While I first grew to love the original Jenseits von Theben, over time I’ve come to prefer the great Queen production of Thebes, even if I’m still not sure the exhibits are ideally done.  The bags to draw from are definitely a step up from the card decks.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Simon Neale: I love this game although it can be frustrating when you excavate pure sand!
Mark Jackson: The blend of mechanism and theme are darn near perfect.

#11 – Euphrat & Tigris, by Reiner Knizia
51 plays
First appearance: 2005

A number of times I’ve seen the debate between setting and theme in games; I’ll be the first to admit that some of what I see as theme really would be better classified as setting.  But Euphrat & Tigris is a game where there is a clear theme – the rise and fall of civilizations – in addition to the setting suggested by the game title.  And the mechanisms of the game – in particular, the mechanism for conflict between two civilizations – do a wonderful job of carrying out that theme.  Some civilizations grow large, while others split and decay.  I particularly enjoy just how quickly the game can be played by experienced players.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C:  Usually my example of a game I dislike that is liked by many others.  Playing with hidden information is what usually gets me… somehow I’m always assuming my opponents have just the cards needed to crush my attempts.  And I’m wrong, except for the times I actually try it…  The hidden points thing doesn’t help any.

#10 – Race for the Galaxy, by Tom Lehmann
1387 plays
First appearance: 2005

In 2008, I played Race for the Galaxy an average of just under three times a day.  As a result, I played Race more than year than I’ve ever played any game other than Bridge.  One of the greatest compliments I can give the game is that I’m still enjoying it – and still occasionally learning something new – even after so many plays.  And I’ve found, over time, that I’m just as happy playing the original game as with any of the expansions.  

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: This is a game that I have never warmed to; perhaps because so many people loved it so much, so quickly.
Matt C: I enjoy the game although I eventually grew less interested in time as I felt like I had explored enough of it for me to lose interest.  Surprisingly, I own several of the expansions but felt that they just added complications without adding much else.  However, now that it is on my phone (with a pretty good AI) I’m playing it quite a bit more.
Mark Jackson: I’ll play it in pretty much any configuration – it’s been my #2 game pretty much since it came out.

#9 – Frisch Fisch, by Friedemann Friese
54 plays
First appearance: 2005

I wasn’t sure, when the new edition of Fresh Fish came out, just how it would compare with the original for me over time.  And – now I know; the accessibility of the 2014 edition makes it a great option for those who have difficulty visualizing the original, while I still enjoy the original a bit more when the right set of players is available.  But either edition provides a fun problem – minimizing distances – that is far different from most games.  This unique goal makes for a very different experience, regardless of which version is played.

#8 – Res Publica, by Reiner Knizia
83 plays
First appearance: 2005

Yet another trading game, here with the twist that each player proposes half of the trade.  What I most enjoy about the game is the limited but invaluable opportunities to advertise.  Since as with most trading games there is an advantage to making trades, players have every incentive to improve their chances of trading.  This provides incentive to offer silly trades sometimes – but it also means that the game works best if everyone is paying attention.  Which makes the game most enjoyable, in my opinion, if played jovially by engaged players.  Of course, the same can be said of all games…

#7 – Saint Petersburg, by Michael Tummelhofer
130 plays
First appearance: 2005

Saint Petersburg was a revelation when it came out – it provided, in a wonderfully streamlined form, an optimized build-the-economy then convert-to-victory-points game.  While this formula has been repeated in many games since, none has pulled it off so well.  One thing that particularly amuses me about Saint Petersburg is how often known good advice in the game – isn’t.  This has a particularly useful consequence – if following one path has no chance of working, another one – just might.  In a recent two player game, I picked up a Fur Shop to prevent my opponent from collecting it – so he took the czar to keep me from being able to play it.  But in doing so, he didn’t have the money to get his last card out, so we both had a card left in hand at the end.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: Another game that “rested” at our place for a few years but is enjoying a resurgence..
Matt C: I love St. Petersburg.  It is my top choice for a beginner “engine builder” game.  It is fairly easy for new players to understand how to get something going, but then the mid and endgame allow for pursuing different strategies.  This game gets overlooked far too often.

#6 – 1846, by Tom Lehmann
204 plays
First appearance: 2005

One great advantage of having played 1846 so many times is that I can accurately judge how long the game will last based upon who (and how many whos) are playing.  One huge advantage of 1846 is that it offers so many choices that I’m still finding new things to try – and wonderful new ways to lose the game.  Though my favorite play of the game came after I had just flown home from Fort Wayne, Indiana – and built my strategy for the game around the city of Fort Wayne.

#5 – Merchant of Venus, by Richard Hamblen
75 plays
First appearance: 2005

It took a while for Merchant of Venus to really grow on me – while I first played the game in 1997, it wasn’t until 2003 that I really began to fully appreciate it – and until 2006 that that appreciation moved up to an unequivocal love of the game.  From 2006 until now, I’ve played Merchant of Venus at least five times every year – one of only three games about which I can make that claim.  I’m not particularly good at the game – it probably doesn’t help that, like in many games, I set a direction for myself and then do my best to carry out that mandate, but I think even without setting out with a goal my performance wouldn’t significantly improve.  I’m just too drawn to the fun of the game, rather than to making money.  Of course, I’m fine with this, as I don’t really care if I win or not, but now I am curious to see what happens if I were to focus on the financial side sometime.  Probably won’t be as much fun for me, so it would likely be a one-time experiment, but I really should try it.

#4 – Advanced Civilization, by Francis Tresham
21 plays
First appearance: 2005

I played MegaCivilization for the one and only time last year, and discovered that it did not work, at least for me.  Part of this is the credit system, which seemed to be broken, to the extent that one player was likely to get all – or nearly all – of the advancements before the end of the game, had we continued.  The bigger problem, for me was the difficulty in finding trades.  In Advanced Civilization, there are just two goods in each stack, so the odds of having two matching goods (needed for a trade) between two players with five cities each are around 90%.  In MegaCivilization, with five different goods of each type, the odds are around 40%.  This suggests that in an 8 player game of Advanced Civilization, you might be able to find a trade with 6 of the 7 other players; in an 18 player game of MegaCivilization, you’ll only be able to find a potential trade with 7 of the 17 other players.  In practice, the odds didn’t seem to be nearly that good in MegaCivilization, which might just mean that I calculated the odds incorrectly.  Trading with 18 players worked much better than I expected, to be honest; it’s just that finding production trades was extremely difficult.  So I’ll stick with Advanced, or for that matter with the original which I still enjoy, if not quite as much.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Matt C: I have never played this out on a board (far too long for me now) but enjoyed this as one of the first CD-ROM games I ever purchased.  With the computer keeping track of things I was able to play many times, several times with a friend as well.  It was nice to have additional opponents and have the bits and pieces managed by the computer.  I suspect I would consider the physical implementation quite fun, but its length would be a strike against it.

#3 – 2038, by Tom Lehmann & James Hlavaty
52 plays
First appearance: 2005

So, why do I prefer 2038 to 1846, even though I’ve played the latter nearly four times as much?  First and foremost – there is more for companies to do in 2038.  Unlike typical 18xx games, where companies just lay track, place stations, and buy trains, in 2038 companies explore space, place bases to jump off from, buy refueling stations to extend their range, buy claims to both reserve and increase the value of their mines, and buy ships.  This means a greater need to keep cash in a company in order to continue growing revenue – even as compared to 1846, which has more need than the average 18xx title I’ve played.  And that makes for different – and interesting – tradeoffs.  But beyond that – there can never be standard strategies in 2038, since the board is different every time.  Even 1846 – where I’ve seen the play differ tremendously – still tends to have themes; the Chicago run for Grand Trunk and whichever company buys Michigan Southern, the Cleveland runs for New York Central, and so on.  Add in an interesting underlying game, and 2038 remains one of my very favorite games ever.

#2 – Bridge, by Harold Vanderbilt
2145 plays
First appearance: 2005

One of my favorite aspects of Bridge is the tremendous amount of writing the game has inspired.  Some of the books are merely technical, showing how to bid or play, and to be honest they’re rarely my favorites.  Some aim to demonstrate various principles through the write-up of relevant hands; these are sometimes more interesting, particularly when the hands are well chosen, but still not favorites of mine.  Some books on Bridge are things you would never have expected – Charles Schultz Bridge comic strip, for instance, or a book about playing Ghoulie Bridge on a train.  Still, my very favorite Bridge books are those I classify as Bridge fiction – books by authors such as Victor Mollo and David Bird which use real or constructed hands as the backdrop to stories featuring interesting characters (or caricatures).  Between all of these categories, I’ve found lots of Bridge books of interest; my collection of Bridge books includes more books than my collection of games includes games.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Melissa: My dad was a professional bridge player and bridge teacher. Although I don’t play anymore (I didn’t have the time to invest in becoming anything but terminally mediocre), I do enjoy Bridge fiction like Right through the Pack.

#1 – Die Siedler von Catan, by Klaus Teuber
100 plays
First appearance: 2005

Actually, I could say first appearance: 1995; I did create a few lists of my favorite games before I got into a regular biennial cadence, and I know Settlers topped this list every time since I first played it in 1995.  Of course, I’m also certain that my number of recorded plays is at least 50 short of my number of actual plays; the game came out at any excuse back in 1995, frequently for multiple plays each time it did.  It was a revelation, and did more to shape my gaming hobby than any other game save for possibly Acquire.  And I still enjoy the game today, every bit as much as I did back in 1995.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Mark Jackson: Thank you from a fellow fan of Catan for not giving in to the general gamer ennui about this classic game.

General thoughts:

Lorna: Fantastic list Joe. I have to say I enjoy almost all the games you have on your list that I have played  (152/189) and  will look for opportunities to play the obscure ones I haven’t.
Melissa: What a great list, Joe! Thank you for putting it together, and for discussing the different reasons why you enjoy each. I cheered when some of my favourite games appeared.
Matt C: Impressive list!  I was glad to see some of my slightly less popular favorites included.  You have some time-heavy beasts at the top, if I had the time I think they would be fun to try.
Mark Jackson: It was fun to realize how many of the game I love on this list you introduced to me.
W. Eric Martin: I enjoy playing games with you, Joe, and wish that I could do it more frequently, if only because I appreciate your taste in games and wish that I could try some of these listed here with you!

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7 Responses to My top 189 games of all time

  1. Eric Brosius says:

    Thanks for publishing this list once again. I have to admit that I preferred the GeekList format, where I could comment individually on each game, if I had something to say.

    I was surprised to see that there are 16 games on this list that I’ve played more often than you have, given that they’re your favorites and you play so many more games than I do. But then again, many of them are my favorites as well, often because you introduced me to them.

    Here are the games I’ve played more often:

    R-Eco (surprise to me)
    Black Friday
    Kardinal & Konig
    Traders of Carthage (surprise to me)
    Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
    Wyatt Earp
    King of Tokyo (surprise to me)
    Traumfabrik
    18EU (surprise to me)
    Viva Pamplona!
    Princes of Florence
    Outpost
    Samarkand
    Puerto Rico
    Ticket to Ride
    Saint Petersburg

    • Joe Huber says:

      I’m less surprised by these than you are; R-Eco and Traders of Carthage, in particular, I’d like to play more than I get to. And 18EU just doesn’t surprise me – you’re playing 18xx significantly more than I am at this point. The one that most surprises me is Wyatt Earp, actually…

  2. Eric Brosius says:

    We played a ton of Wyatt Earp when our kids were still at home. I have 85 plays since I started recording plays.

  3. Jacob Lee says:

    This was a beast to read through – and I loved it! It’s nice to be reminded of older games that still work for you. The only one that I don’t have experience with and I’m now interested in is Glass Road. Best of the Agricola series? I won’t judge. I’ll just have to see for myself.

  4. I was very glad and a bit surprised to find my Adlungland game on this list!
    I remember a very nice review from Joe when the game appeared years ago, and I am glad the game is still getting some love; the nice folks at Adlung did a wonderful game with the presentation, too!

  5. Pingback: BGG.CON Day One | The Opinionated Gamers

  6. Pingback: BGG.CON Day Two | The Opinionated Gamers

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