The Group of Ten, 2015 Edition

Every now and again I see the same thought experiment pop up: if you had to reduce your board game collection down to ten games, what would you keep? Most recently, I saw Nate Owen’s take on the idea and it spurred me on to write up my own list. I fully expect this to have a lot of overlap with my top 10 games, but I also don’t expect them to perfectly overlap. Just because those games are my favorite games does not mean they are the only 10 I’d own. Without further ado, let’s get this started.

Cosmic Encounter

Well, this is my favorite game, so this makes sense, but why is it my favorite game? Variety. This game has five expansions as I write this post which includes 165 total alien powers, components for eight players, and 6 additional variants/decks. I’ve played this game almost 30 times and it’s never felt quite the same. You can take it seriously with a group of gamers who have played it multiple times or you can play easy and carefree with a group of new gamers. I typically don’t play with more than 6 and I’d warn you have players not getting a turn once you have 7 players, but it’s still a fun time.

Eclipse

Eclipse would be my long 4x game of choice. There’s just something about the combination of euro elements and dice rolling. Yeah, I know it sides more on the euro side, and I’m perfectly okay with that. It’s a game that can handle 2-6 and supports up to 9 (though I can’t speak for 7-9 players).

War of the Ring

I’m a bigger fan of fantasy than I am of science fiction, the problem is I haven’t really enjoyed many of the fantasy games I’ve played, at least not long term. However, War of the Ring takes one of my favorite books and gives me the ups and downs, the trials, the struggle, and the incredible odds and provides a balanced game with fantastic mechanics. I don’t get to play this one often, but when I do I really enjoy myself.

Merchants & Marauders

Here’s another game I don’t get to play often, but I absolutely love the feel of it. You’re not rolling dice, shuffling cards, and handling chits, no you’re a captain with a weak ship who’s trying to make a name for yourself. Do you stay legit and trade goods between ports and accomplish legal missions? Or do you go full pirate and plunder fat merchant ships? Or maybe something in between, something mostly legal with a bit of piracy? That’s up to you, fully. I’m not sure I’ve played many other games where I’ve been so engrossed in the feel, the theme, the narrative, that I’ve lost track of how to win. This game does it to me nearly every time.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis

Survive is one of those games that plays on an intuitive level. I can teach you the rules in about five minutes and then we’re off. You’re no longer thinking too much about the rules, just how to get your guys off the island and to safety. However, not everyone is going to make it. In fact, if you’re playing with 5 or 6 players, it’s going to be something of a blood bath. With that in mind, what’s your strategy? Do you get everyone onto a boat and get them out of dodge? Or do you diversify and put a few people on different boats and hope some of them make it to safety? That’s up to you, but you best beware of the creatures in the water.

Caverna

One of my favorite video games from my youth was Harvest Moon, a game about owning a farm and starting from nothing to make a life for yourself on a few acres. I loved the idea of owning animals, planting crops, reaping the rewards, and selling those to better your farm and make living. When I first got into board gaming, Agricola met those needs heartily, but when I saw Caverna announced, I decided to move on and I haven’t looked back. Caverna gives me the feel of building my farm and it really gives me the feel of building my house as well, something that always felt lacking in Agricola. I like the various tacks you can take, whether you go all out on adventuring, animals, crops, mining, or some combination thereof, you have options, lots of them.

Chaos in the Old World/Blood Rage

Alright, this is my cheat, and I feel bad about it. Chaos in the Old World is the known entity here, a game I’ve been playing for years and enjoyed since the first play. There’s just something about the combination of euro elements, area control, and combat that works for me. Combine that with balancing the game’s four game end conditions and you have to keep the big picture in mind as you play. It’s an enjoyable one and a game I thought would never be challenged until Blood Rage.

I’ve only played 2 and a half games of Blood Rage, but I love what I’ve seen so far. It brings in the action point allowance system of Chaos in the Old World, with the combat resolution of cards from Cosmic Encounter, and on top of that is a card draft at the beginning of each age a la 7 Wonders. That and it’s most likely going to be over in an hour and a half. So good. My only reason for having both games here, is I’m unsure of Blood Rage’s long term propositions. It’s great, but will it burn bright and fade away? I’m not sure, but it at least deserved a mention here.

Ticket to Ride

This is the game that showed me that there’s more than Catan out there, my actual gateway game if you will. I still play it and I still really enjoy it. There’s something relaxing about setting up the board and playing a low-tension two player game. There’s a nice push to get your routes out faster than the other player, but not so much that your goals are unachievable. Then bring in the many expansions it has and you have tons of options. Also, much like Survive I can teach this game in about five minutes.

Roll for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy was a favorite game of my wife and I for a long time, but along came Roll for the Galaxy. I said I wouldn’t give up Race, it’s too good and there are too many memories, but Roll for the Galaxy is the game we go to more often, the one we want to play more regularly. It has a lot of the same fun racing elements of getting planets and developments into your tableau as fast as possible, but some of your choices have been smoothed away and replaced with the variability of dice. Still, the race is there and it’s fun.

Five Tribes

Five Tribes feels like a much older game, something you expect from the golden years of board gaming, and yet at the same time it feels fresh and well thought out, something an experienced hand would make. You have a variable setup comprised of meeples, tiles, djinns, and goods. Each game will feel different due to the setup and sometimes there are crazy point scoring opportunities and sometimes every point is a struggle. My only concern with Five Tribes is how slow it can play due to the analysis it draws from it’s players, but it’s worth the wait.