Category Archives: Board Games

Top 10 Board Games (#1)

1. Memoir ’44

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And finally, my number one favorite game, Memoir ’44. To me, this is a masterpiece. The card driven mechanics which gives orders to the three sides of the battlefield is absolutely excellent at adding enough randomness and another layer of strategy, while also capturing the element of the confusion of war. The combat is simple, but effective. The game is so widely replayable, with easily customizable battlefields and a myriad of scenarios involving many different special units. This is the go-to two player strategy game, as well as one of the best World War II board games in my opinion.

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I suppose, though, I should mention that this game really holds a special place on my shelf because it largely introduced me to the board gaming hobby. I love how this game can be played in an hour, and yet still provides a very intriguing battle experience that can sometimes create an interesting story. And if one battle just isn’t enough, there are campaigns that you can play through: a set of five games that respond to the wins and loses of two opposing forces within the context of the actually campaigns of World War II.

Anyway, I am sure that it is clear how much I like Memoir ’44 (I mean, I even have the box of the base game signed by the designer). I think that I have really surprised my friends with this game at how unique it is and how it changes people’s perspective of a World War II game. This game is easily accessible, and it is one of the most replayable games out there.

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Top 10 Board Games (#2)

2. Lords of Waterdeep (w/ expansion)

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Now this game was a slight surprise for me. I only got introduced to this game last summer, when I tried it at the WBC convention. I then later got the game along with the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion as a gift. After multiple plays, I can certainly say that this game hits almost all of the right points.

It is a very smooth and elegant worker placement game. Simply take turns having your agents navigate the town, collecting resources and recruiting different people in order to complete unique missions. Complete quests to gain points, and then move on to the next. However there are intriguing strategies at multiple levels. You need to consider when is the best time to claim a spot and lock out your opponents for this turn. You have to consider what order to complete quests in and what set of quests to complete in order to maximize momentum and bonus points. You have to consider when to play your Intrigue cards so as to best help yourself and best hinder your opponents.

Now the theme; that is an issue that has certainly been debated. This is a Euro game at heart, there is no doubt about that. Mechanics do play a much larger role than theme. However, the story-telling text on the cards and the overall atmosphere of the game does provide an interesting overlord view of Dungeons and Dragons. For anyone who has played or appreciates this roleplaying, there will certainly be enjoyment from the modest thematic elements of the game.

However, without the expansion, this game would not be this high of the list. The expansion significantly increases depth to the strategies and increases the choices that a player can make, including more risk and reward choices. After the initial games without the expansion, I soon found that momentum was difficult to find and that many turns were quite straight forward. This expansion does do an excellent job at fixing these issues and making the game a much more engaging experience.

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The one reason I think this game is set higher than Alien Frontiers is that it provides a gaming experience that is more engaging and interactive with the players. Since you take turns placing your agents and do not place them all at once, you are often paying attention to what the other players are doing on the board and you can sufficiently plan. In Alien Frontiers, the worker placement mechanism is quite different in that you have to place all your ships (workers) out at once on your turn, and sometimes you feel like you can simply walk away from the table for a few minutes if a player is taking long enough to decide what to do on their turn, because all of your plans could change after that player places his five or six ships on the board.

Overall, I would highly recommend this game. The base game, by itself, is a great start (especially for relatively new board gamers), but the game with the expansion is the “gamer’s” game.

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Top 10 Board Games (#3)

3. Alien Frontiers (w/ expansions)

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Alright, now we are up to the top three, and we are starting with a game that definitely grabbed my interest (and money) and has yet to let it go. Alien Frontiers, now known as the game that “shaped gaming’s use of crowdfunding,” was not produced by a very large publisher nor designed by a very famous designer. None the less, it is now one of the most talked about worker placement games on the internet, and it has really brought a lot of attention to the designer, Tory Niemann.

For a sci-fi fan like myself, this game is certainly a blast to play. You roll dice and use them as workers (representing ships in your fleet) to collect resources, discover alien technology, and form colonies on the planet, Maxwell. In addition to bringing strategy and player interaction to the forefront, this game also provides brilliant artwork. I cannot think of many other games that have such boards and cards that are so fascinating to look.

Nevertheless, after playing this game time and time again, I have noticed some flaws in the replayability. With just the base game, I soon felt like I was using the same strategies again and again. Luckily, the Alien Frontiers: Factions expansion really helped to solve this problem. By giving each player a unique faction, this helped to really personalize the gaming experience for each player and provide some new strategic ideas. Furthermore, the additional agenda goals provides a great option of going somewhat out of your way to gain points through other means.

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Additionally, after getting a chance to play test this game with the Outer Belt expansion (which is expected to officially come out at the end of this year), I was pleased to see how the addition of more options through the expansions truly prevents the game from becoming too dry.

Overall, this is still one of my favorite games, especially among the category of 2-3 hour games. However, I will acknowledge that this is actually a tough recommendation to make in that it is not widely available and truly shines with the expansions (which require a larger investment). Still, I would highly recommend giving Alien Frontiers a play through.

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Top 10 Board Games (#4)

4. Castles of Burgundy

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Interesting enough, this is the one game on my list that I do not personally own. Regardless, I still get to play it enough with others that do have this game.

This game really is a Stefan Feld masterpiece. There are so many options, so many ways to formulate strategies for your turns, and still plenty of player interaction and friendly competition. The mechanic of rolling your two dice on each turn, possibly manipulating the result with additional workers, and then using the results to conduct actions is great at capturing the interesting aspect of randomness while also keeping the game quite balanced and leaving the player with the choice of how much control and security he or she wants to have (at the sacrifice of a few actions).

Additionally, there is the enjoyable aspect of building your own kingdom. Guaranteed, this kind of building is more strategic than thematic (as it typically is with a Euro game), but the general idea still remains.

In short, this is a model Euro game that I would recommend for anyone who wants to explore beyond the gateway board games (i.e. Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, etc.).

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Top 10 Board Games (#5)

5. Dominion (w/ expansions)

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Dominion may be a game that you have heard of. Like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne, this game has continued to get more and more popular, even among an audience of people who may not be very familiar with the strategy board gaming hobby.

In short, the finest aspect about this game is this: it is simple to learn but hard to master. As the game rules say, knowing what to do on your turn is as easy as ABC (Play action cards, buy new cards from the display, and clean up the cards in front of you). This smooth design for the game makes it easy to finish a game within 30-45 minutes, but also requires quite a bit of thinking for how to make an edge over your opponent and optimize card combinations and deck management.

This game was remarkably innovative by introducing a new in-game mechanic: deck building. This takes the concept of creating your own personal deck in a collectible card game and improves upon in by having the same selection of cards available to everyone, therefore better balancing the game and making building your deck part of the focus of the competition.

However, one thing I would like to address is that the full enjoyment of this game comes from the incorporation of different expansions (even if it is just the Dominion Intrigue set). After playing with many different sets of cards, I have determined that the base set does offer very limited player interaction and often creates very straightforward strategies with the cards. Don’t get me wrong, the base set, by itself, is still a great way to start with the game, but in order to list this game as #5 on my list, I have to acknowledge that the large contributing factor for the replayablility of this game is the addition of cards from expansions.

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Now, even with the introduction of other deck-building games lately, I think this game still stands out for its simple elegance. I have to say, I have probably found more people to play this game with than I have with any of the other games in my top ten list.

Top 10 Board Games (#6)

6. Dominant Species

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Now this is probably a game that many people may not have heard about. It certainly does bare the GMT games logo, so it must be a wargame. Yes and no. This is a game of conquest and a little bit of combat, but it is far more unique that GMT’s other war games. Within this game, you take the role of some animal species (whether it be amphibians, mammals, insects, etc.) and attempt to adapt to the environment as the world around you is reaching the ice age, struggling to survive and maintain dominance.

With worker placement mechanics matched with area control mechanics, this game is wonderfully designed. You take turns first placing action pawns on certain action spaces, thus committing to those actions, and then complete those actions on the rest of the board. Then, if you took the appropriate action, you score points depending on who has the most individuals, second most, and so on for a particular tile. But what, that’s not all for the turn! Then, you see who is best adapted to the environment on that tile and give that person the opportunity to play a dominance card, which can significantly alter the game by allowing someone to change adaptations, force all species on a particular tile to move, or even create a catastrophe which wipes out numerous creatures on the map.

One thing to note, however, is that this game can last 3.5 to 4 hours. While that may seem like quite a long time for a board game, this game certainly does not fail to lose your attention. With a constantly changing environment on the board and really powerful cards being played from turn to turn, you are kept on your toes, and there is a great depth to the choices and strategies that you make. Also, with the different special abilities for each species and different starting adaptations, each player’s experience is noticeably unique.

Honestly, I do not get to play this game too often, due to not having too many players and not often having so much time to leave open toward playing a board game, but I highly enjoy the few times I get to bring out this game, especially when I play it within a tournament at the WBC board gaming convention.

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Top 10 Board Games (#7)

7. Agricola

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Ah, the well-honored Eurogame! This is such a masterfully designed game, and it certainly hits all the marks of a solid strategy board game. Unique theme? Check. Tense but enjoyable competition? Check. Encourages in-depth strategies? Check. Lots of interesting pieces to fiddle around with? Check. Has a family-friendly setup for better teaching new players and an advanced setup for experienced players? Check.

While playing a game in which you take the role of a family of farmers at first sounds kind of boring, this game really engages you into an interesting struggle of creating the best farm in town while also managing to feed your growing family. Especially when I play this background music, I really feel immersed into the game.

However, the true heart of this game is the excellent worker placement mechanics, as well as the card management in the advanced game. Knowing when to to take what resources, when and how to build new upgrades, and how to have an advantage over your opponents makes this game so elegant.

For anyone intrigued by relatively-heavy strategy games and is willing to commit a good length of time to the game, I would absolutely recommend trying this out.

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