My Top 10 Favorite Tabletop Games Ever (as of Today)

There is a massive gaming convention happening in Essen, Germany right now where hundreds of thousands of people will gather to buy, talk about, and play tabletop games. Although I try to keep most board game chatter to my Stonemaier Games blog, it is a major passion of mine, so I like to write about it here every now and then.

Plus, I’ve written several other “best strategy games” posts on the blog in the past (here and here), and every year–heck, every month–they seem more and more antiquated.

This list does not include the two games I’ve designed and published, Viticulture and Euphoria. If I wasn’t the designer for those games, they would both be on this list.

I’m basing this list off of how excited I would be if I had the opportunity to play these games right now. There are many games I love and admire, but it’s these games that continue to draw me back to the table.

AEG-Trains-Box-Cover10. Trains

Although I just got Trains 2 months ago, it has fast become not only my favorite train game (tell me again why are so many games train themed), but my favorite deckbuilding game as well. The brilliance of Trains is that it incorporates a board into the typical deckbuilding mechanism, allowing you to feel like you’ve built something when the game ends. It also removes all the purely mechanical restrictions that Dominion has (i.e., only 1 action and 1 buy per turn), which, as it turns out, aren’t needed at all. If you can get by with fewer rules, do it. Great game.

9. Agricola

Agricola has been higher up on my list in the past. While I love so much about the game, it’s just so damn long. When I play games, I want to play a game and then play it immediately again. Agricola never allows me to do this because of the length. Maybe it’s because I usually try to play with 5 players. Regardless, Agricola is the ultimate farming game, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

8. Ra

I have a confession about Ra: I’ve only played it on my iPad. But I’ve played it there SO many times, more than Medici or Carcassonne. Ra is an auction game with an irrelevant theme where you’re trying to obtain different types of tiles. It’s essentially set building or trick taking, but it’s done SO well. It employees several mechanism that make happy centers in your brain–the type that make you want to keep pulling the lever on a slot machine–trigger over and over. If you like games that activate happy hormones, this one is for you.

7. The Resistance

I debated whether or not to put The Resistance on this list because I don’t always want to play it. The Resistance is a social game, by far the most social game on this list. But I value it because it’s so easy to teach, works well for a big group, and it activates small part of me that isn’t an introvert yet. As much as I want to bury me head in a heavy Euro game, I like to get my blood flowing with The Resistance every now and then too.

boss monster

6. Boss Monster

This is a game that came out of nowhere and blew my mind with how fun it is. In Boss Monster, you’re a pixelated dungeon lord trying to lure heroes into your dungeon to, well, kill them and eat their soul. It sounds morbid, but it’s actually a lighthearted, whimsical game with tons of interaction. If this list were based on the sheer fun of a game, Boss Monster would be at the top of the list.

5. Libertalia

I’ve come to appreciate games that are easy to teach. I’ve spent an incredible amount of time the past year teaching people how to play Viticulture. Which is great…but it’s also exhausting. Sometimes I just want to sit down and start playing a game. And you can do that with Libertalia. Aside from a few basic rules, the game teaches itself, and by the third and final round, everyone will be strategizing like seasoned veterans. Plus, it plays 2-6, which is my sweet spot.

4. Terra Mystica

Speaking of meaty Euro games…this is the granddaddy of them all. If your granddaddy was somehow born last year, that is. In Terra Mystica, you take on a race of fantasy-themed people trying to build your empire. The beauty of the game is on your player mat. You will never have more fun with a player mat–whether it’s shifting and activating magic, activating abilities unique to your race, carefully balancing the give and take of building out or building up, you will have no choice but to delight in Terra Mystica.

Risk-Legacy-board-2

3. Risk Legacy

I wrote about Risk Legacy here soon after I got it, and man…this is one hell of a game. It’s Risk the first time you play, and then it becomes a completely new animal (okay, mostly new) because the game permanently changes every time you play. You write on the board, you put stickers on cards, you reveal new rules…and there are spoilers. A board game with spoilers. Brilliant. I still have one spoiler to unlock, and I can’t wait to see what it does. Play this game. You will not regret it.

2. Pandemic

The only truly cooperative game on this list (The Resistance is semi-cooperative), Pandemic is a brilliant game with tons of interaction and problem-solving. There is SO much tension in this game. You’ll truly feel like you’re part of a team trying to save the world. When I play Pandemic, I want to play again immediately. And then again. And again. I have to say, it’s refreshing to have one game where you’re not trying to beat the other players. I’m very competitive, but sometimes it’s nice just to work together with people to solve a problem. Especially when the problem is more interesting than a copy jam at work.

Tzolk'in1. Tzolk’in

Ah, Tzolk’in. My precious. My precious. Tzolk’in is a worker-placement game where you put workers on gears, turn those gears, and take the workers off when you’re ready. You see, the longer they’re on the gears, the better the resources you collect when you take the workers off. And there are so many things you can do with those resources–no two games of Tzolk’in will ever be the same. The board is beautiful, the game is fully engaging, and you always feel like you’re moving forward thanks to those gears. Forward momentum is so important in game design. All of that combines to make Tzolk’in my current #1 game.

So there you have it! My top 10 games. Which of these games are on your list? What are a few of your favorite games that didn’t make my list? Do you have any recommendations for me based on the games I’ve listed here?