10 Great Games of the 2010s (Article by Chris Wray)

The 2010s were a monumental time period in tabletop gaming.  The industry and hobby grew exponentially, with tens of thousands of new games hitting the market and hundreds of thousands of new players entering the fold.  It was a decade marked by the rise of Kickstarter, and also one marked by industry consolidation and a continued internationalization of the hobby.  

New classics were born.  But what were those shining games among gamers?  

Today’s article is part of our “10 Great” series that features 10 great games in a given subcategory.  I pick a mechanic, theme, publisher, etc. In this case, I picked a recently passed decade.  We here at the Opinionated Gamers then all vote behind the scenes to create a list of 10 great games that meet the criteria.  We’re aiming for an article a month, and I’d love your suggestions about future lists.

The Methodology

For purposes of this project, I simply asked everybody to vote for 15 games that represented great games of the 2010s.  Anybody could add to the list assuming they were going to vote for it. Each member of the OG was offered the chance to vote for up to 15 games, and they could give one game 20 points, one game 19 points, all the way down to giving one 6 points.  We all put our votes into a spreadsheet. We then added up the points for each game and picked the top 10.  

We had 29 OG-ers vote, and 130 different games received votes.  I knew a lot of games would get votes, but 130 surprised even me!

To get on the list took a minimum of eight writers rating the game decently well.  That wasn’t a rule, but rather how the breakdown naturally worked out. There’s actually great consensus towards the top of our list.

Below you’ll see designations for gold, silver, and bronze.  Those represent the number of voters that put a given game in the #1, #2, and #3 spot, respectively.  

Without further ado, here are 10 Great Games of the 2010s!

Honorable Mention (Games That Barely Missed the List): 

20.  Dominant Species (1 Gold, 1 Silver)

19.  The Mind (2 Silver)

18.  Tzol’kin (1 Gold)

17.  Innovation (2 Gold)

16.  That’s Pretty Clever

15.  Lorenzo il Magnifico (1 Silver)

14.  The Colonists (1 Gold, 1 Silver)

13.  Great Western Trail (1 Gold)

12.  Heaven & Ale

11.  Orleans (3 Bronze)

#10 – The Voyages of Marco Polo 

111 Points, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze

The Voyages of Marco Polo was designed by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini and originally published by Hans im Glück.  The game won both the Deutscher Spiele Preis and International Gamers Award (multi-player category) in 2015, and it also received a Kennerspiel des Jahres recommendation.  

#9 – Russian Railroads

116 Points, 1 Gold

Russian Railroads was designed by Helmut Ohley and Leonhard “Lonny” Orgler and originally published by Hans im Glück.  The game won both the Deutscher Spiele Preis and International Gamers Award (multi-player category) in 2014.

#8 – Hanabi

128 Points, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze

Hanabi was designed by Antoine Bauza and originally was published by Les XII singles as part of the game Hanabi & Ikebana in 2010.  Hanabi won the 2013 Spiel des Jahres and received 6th place in Deutscher Spiele Preis voting that year.  We published a history of the game as part of our Spiel des Jahres series.  

#7 – 7 Wonders

137 Points, 2 Gold, 3 Silver

7 Wonders was designed by Antoine Bauza and originally published by Repos Productions.  7 Wonders won the Kinnerspiel des Jahres in 2011, but it also won the International Gamers Award (multiplayer category) and the Deutscher Spiele Preis that year, becoming one of very few games to have ever won all three awards.  

[Side Note from Chris Wray:  At first I was annoyed that this wasn’t #1 on the list, as I think it is clearly the star of the decade.  But if it wasn’t going to be #1, it is fitting that it was #7. Well done, OG.]

#6 – Concordia

165 Points, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze

Concordia was designed by Mac Gerdts and originally published by PD Verlag.  It was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2014, and it ranked third in Deutscher Spiele Preis voting that year.  

#5 – Azul Series

177 Points, 3 Silver

Azul was designed by Michael Kiesling and was originally published by Plan B Games.  Azul won the Spiel des Jahres in 2018 and won first in Deutscher Spiele Preis voting that year.  We combined voting for the games in the series, so the votes here also include points for two successor games, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra and Azul: Summer Pavilion.  

#4 – Castles of Burgundy

191 Points, 1 Gold, 1 Bronze

The Castles of Burgundy was designed by Stefan Feld and published by alea / Ravensburger.  It won second place in Deutscher Spiele Preis voting in 2011, and was a recommended game by the Spiel des Jahres jury that year.  It received a re-design this year.  

#3 – Pandemic Legacy Series

198 Points, 3 Gold

Pandemic Legacy was designed by Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau and originally published by Z-man Games.  Shortly after its release, it became the #1 game on BoardGameGeek.  It ranked 4th in 2016 Deutscher Spiele Preis voting, and it was nominated for Kennerspiel des Jahres that year.  Pandemic Legacy Season 2 was released in 2017, and in 2018, that game received a special prize from the Spiel des Jahres jury.  

#2 – Codenames Series

219 Points, 2 Silver

Codenames was designed by Vlaada Chvátil and originally published by Czech Games Edition.  It won the Spiel des Jahres in 2016, ranking second place in Deutscher Spiele Preis voting that year.  One of the sequel games in the series, Codenames Duet (co-designed with Scot Eaton), won the 2-player International Gamers Award in 2018.  

#1 – Terraforming Mars

254 Points, 4 Gold, 1 Silver, 5 Bronze

Terraforming Mars was designed by Jacob Fryxelius and was originally published by Stronghold Games.  Terraforming Mars won first in Deutscher Spiel Preis voting in 2017, and it received a nomination for Kennerspiel des Jahres that year.  It is one of the highest rated games on BGG today, currently sitting at #3.  

Terraforming Mars was the runaway winner in our voting, with more than half of our writers voting for the game.  

—-

Thoughts from Opinionated Gamers:

Chris Wray:  Congratulations to all of the designers and publishers on the list.  My #1 vote went to 7 Wonders, my #2 went to Codenames, and my #3 went to Hanabi.  

The games I voted for that weren’t mentioned above include: Caverna, Die Crew, Kemet, Kingdom Builder, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Patchwork, Splendor, and Suburbia.  

For the curious, Die Crew was the highest rated 2019 game on our list, coming in at #24.

Joe Huber:  Not surprisingly, very few of the games I chose did well enough to make the list above.  What did surprise me, when creating my list, was that the only author to have two games among my picks was Florian Racky (Circus Grandioso and Blöde Kuh).    Probably the biggest surprise to me was the lack of any other folks listing Glass Road – the game that has become my favorite of Rosenberg’s board games.

Larry:  Given that most of the OGers prefer lighter games than I do, I’m pleasantly surprised how much I like the games in the list.  The only two games from the top 10 that I wouldn’t enthusiastically play are Azul and 7 Wonders and I don’t dislike either of them (I’d just see if the other table was playing something better).  For the same reason, I’m a bit surprised that Terraforming Mars is our clear favorite, but I think it’s a fine choice.

Games in my top 10 that made the list are Marco Polo, Castles of Burgundy, Russian Railroads, and Concordia.  Heaven & Ale, Lorenzo, and Tzolk’in also made my top 15. My top 5 votes went to Ora et Labora, Navegador, Marco Polo, CoB, and Barrage, with other votes going to Spyrium, Grand Austria Hotel, Hawaii, and the Pfister-designed Blackout: Hong Kong and Mombasa.  Fun fact: Simone Luciani co-designed five of my top 15 games of the decade!  No other designer has more than two games on my list.  Yeah, you could say that Luciani is my designer of the decade!

Brian L: This methodology is a great way to find games which appealed both reasonably strongly and very broadly. It is a strong top 10 and set of runners-up. It is also interesting to note that eleven of us picked a number one game that didn’t even make the top 20 overall. And some runner’s up were not picked as a top three by a single one of the 28 voters. When I look at my own favorite game of the decade, Star Wars: Rebellion, it is unsurprising to me that it didn’t come close to making a list like this. It is a game which is perfect for me, blending deep play, clever and subtle decisions, story and nostalgia. It is also a game which has rewarded my opportunities to play somewhere around 40 games (each averaging about five hours over two sessions) against the same opponent and childhood friend. It is quite clearly not a game for everyone, or even a terribly broad audience. But it is reinforcement for the value of each player seeking out games which most perfectly match where they will find greatest joy. While I very much like the games on the list, I find many to be good because they have broad appeal, but believe only the top few choices consistently meet that higher criteria for many players.

Matt Carlson:  I gave the gold medal (#1 spot) to Tzolkin, which probably carried it into the top 20.  I’m sure it isn’t for everyone, but I like worker placement and I like “tech trees”, both of which are present here.  The gears are a silly but fun part of the game and while they have a great “gimmick” factor they do present some excellent decision options…  since you must add or remove there is much agonizing over when to pull a worker off or to let it ride. This time-dependency to your workers (the longer they stay the higher the reward) is, if not unique, is at least fairly uncommon.  While I enjoy longer games, I tend to only get shorter games to the table, so my votes mostly went for the shorter games in our list. Hanabi and Codenames (and Pandemic Legacy) were high in my rankings, 7 Wonders was there, but lower down.  This list is a great point of reference to me, letting me know I need to play some of these longer, highly rated games. Marco Polo, Terraforming Mars, Concordia, and particularly getting in more plays of Castles of Burgundy.

Brandon Kempf: I think I ended up with only five of my votes ending up in the Top 20. My top three being Ginkgopolis, Azul Series and Carson City Big Box. I have not figured out the obsession with Terraforming Mars. I’ve played it a half dozen times and while it’s a fine game I just don’t know what folks’ obsession is with a game that requires that much digging for cards. But to each their own. I think the ‘10s gave us some good games and this is a pretty good list of those in my opinion, even if they don’t match up with me personally. 

Greg S:  A truly great list of games, nearly all of which I enjoy.  My big change is that I would place Pandemic Legacy at #1. The game created an entirely new genre in the boardgaming hobby.  My playing of Season 1 is probably the best gaming experience I have ever had. Thrilling, exciting, tense, fun … it was absolutely incredible.  It will likely never be duplicated.

James Nathan: For me, my thoughts have echoes of Joe’s, as my 15 do not have much overlap with our overall top list; Brian’s, as methodology-wise we’re likely to find things with broad appeal (though the cynic in me sees that as a pejorative –have we found things we all like, but no one loves?); and Greg’s comments that the feelings of playing Pandemic Legacy Season 1 are likely to never be duplicated. 

I’ve played each of our top 35 vote getters at least once, and among those, I voted for Pandemic Legacy and Dominant Species 1 and 2, with lower votes going to Codenames and Heaven & Ale.  At 37th, Joe and I voted for The King of Frontier as our top 2 and 3 respectively, but this, along with one other vote, was still only enough for 37th!

Other things I voted for: QE; Witness; Twin Tin Bots (#4); Strasbourg (#5); Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go To The Ghost Town; Time Palatrix; Detective: City of Angels; Natsumemo; Hiktorune; and Age of Assassins

—–

Past Articles in the 10 Great Series:

10 Great Games by Reiner Knizia

10 Great Roll ‘n Writes

10 Great Ticket to Ride Maps

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18 Responses to 10 Great Games of the 2010s (Article by Chris Wray)

  1. Martin Griffiths says:

    I’ve played half of these and I like half of those: the SdJ winners (Azul, Hanabi, Codenames) plus The Mind and Innovation. Many of my picks would have been idiosyncratic but I’d like to have seen Love Letter here!

  2. apertotes says:

    Well, polls are polls. But Gloomhaven not being even in the Top 20 is telling of how narrow your likes are even as a group. I mean, look at the list. 20 eurogames. Not only Gloomhaven was left out, but also Twilight Imperium, Star Wars Rebellion, War of the Ring, Blood Rage, Imperial Assault, etc.
    I am not disputing any single of your choices. They are all fine games, but OG, oh so euro.

    • Martin Griffiths says:

      I mean, I don’t think they’ve been hiding this :)

    • Brandon Kempf says:

      Yes, the OG is more than a bit Euro biased, but also could be that those of us who played Gloomhaven didn’t think of it highly enough to give it a vote. And I’m sure the % of us who have played it is probably just as normal as anywhere else you look. For me, four games of Gloomhaven was more than enough. It’s kind of a fiddly, book-keeping mess of a game. Number one on BGG? That still makes zero sense to me, even with it’s Euro inspired “Hand Management”.

      Also, see “Kickstarter Endowment” :)

      • apertotes says:

        That is alright. We all have our filias. I just wanted to point out how heavily biased towards eurogames is OG in general, not any single member, based on this list. I do not think that a wider range of tastes would hurt anybody. It’s not like you are short on staff, I mean, 29 people voted. That should be enough to have a bunch of non-euro players.
        Because the bigger problem is not that Gloomhaven is not on the list. That is simply a sign. The bigger problem is that none of the games I pointed out are on the list. Not a single one of them. And I still left out fantastic games like Android: Netrunner, Kingdom Death Monster, Descent 2nd Edition, Kemet or A Game of Thrones.

        • Brandon Kempf says:

          There are more than a couple thematic gamer’s on the site, they just don’t write as much as they used to. Mark Jackson, or Alan How may be the most active at the moment of those who enjoy those styles of games. AGoT may be an omission that I’d be willing to concede, everything else you have listed that I have played really hasn’t excited me too much.

          Personally though, I do love when we review things outside of our comfort zone, and maybe we do that a bit less than we should, but who has the time to play all of these(Well, I mean who besides Dale)? Plus, I’m pretty sure that even if I came in with a well versed and thought out critique of Gloomhaven after playing 50 hours worth of it, I still wouldn’t like the game and people still wouldn’t like that I reviewed it.

          Come to the OG for the fantastic Euro coverage and the occasional step outside the box.

          ps, I am hoping to review Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle Earth sooner than later, just tough to find groups to play these games enough to review them around here where I am.

        • Will Colton (DaGreenMachine) says:

          What you call a problem, I would call a feature!

    • toucanas says:

      Umm. Pretty sure the OGers are mainly all Euro players and their reviews on the site should be a dead giveaway

  3. Evan Hale says:

    Very happy to see Castles of Burgundy on the list. It is a game I don’t think I’ve stopped thinking about. It was one of the first games that came easily to me when I first join CABS here in Columbus.

    It didn’t appear anywhere on the list, but I really like Lowlands for basically doing a Uwe Rosenberg game without the excess of an Uwe Rosenberg game.

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  5. ianthecool says:

    TMars is a good choice. I’d probably have it as my 2 or 3 for the decade. I don’t see Terra Mystica though… where is it?

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