My Top 10 Favorite Tabletop Games (as of Today)

It’s been too long since I updated this list (here’s the previous version)–so long, in fact, that there are a few games on my old list I no longer like! Shows how fickle I am.

I’ve excluded the games I’ve designed and/or published from this list. This list is geared towards the games I would be most excited to play right now.

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Honorable Mention: Risk Legacy. I’m putting this on the list because it still ranks at the top of the best and most memorable gaming experiences I’ve ever had and the game that has hugely influenced me as a designer. However, I’ve played it through, and I don’t think it would be the same if I were to bring it back to the table. I look forward to upcoming legacy games Seafall and Gloomhaven.

10. Blokus: This is my favorite abstract game. It’s so simple that it only has one rule: Place your tetris-like pieces so they touch corners but not edges. I love how quick it is to play and that every game feels different despite the simplicity of the pieces.

9. Ticket to Ride: When I was looking over my game shelves, this one surprised me. I genuinely like Ticket to Ride, and I’m happy whenever it hits the table. It’s a simple game, but I like all the small rewards throughout the game and the precise amount of tension (not too much, not too little).

8. Splendor: Similar to Ticket to Ride, Splendor is one of my favorite gateway games with just the right amount of tension. It also has the added element of engine building–one of my favorite concepts in games is that you get better and more efficient during the game as you build your engine.

7. 7 Wonders: This has all the things I love about games (simple rules, mild interaction, engine building, lots of interesting choices without being overwhelming, etc), plus it feels fresh every time I play due to the drafting element. Brilliant game.

6. Forbidden Desert: I’m still looking for that “perfect” cooperative game, but for now it’s Forbidden Desert. It’s easy to learn or teach, and players feel like they’re all in it together right away. Most games I’ve played end up with us almost winning, which seems like a winning formula for a cooperative game.

5. Kemet: Kemet remains my favorite Amerithrash game, probably because it has strong Euro elements (the tech tree, while overwhelming for new players, is awesome) and because you never feel bad about attacking other players. It’s just part of the game, so you move on from each battle excited about the next one.

4. Castles of Mad King Ludwig: This is one of the games that I’ve found myself returning to more and more. Every game feels completely different than the last because of the crazy combinations of rooms that are randomly revealed and priced by the current master builder. It’s one of those games where everything you do feels good–you’re always moving forward, building up, getting better.

3. Telestrations: At a recent game night following several hours of heavy, serious games, someone said, “Can we laugh for a while?” Translation: Can we play Telestrations? I love this social game, largely because no person is ever in the spotlight. It’s essentially a social party game for introverts–perfect for me.

2. Tzolk’in: This could easily be #1. Tzolk’in, the worker-placement game with gears, makes my brain happy. Every decision is interesting (but not agonizing), there’s so much variety in the timing, there are short-term goals and long-term goals, and there are lots of different ways to upgrade. It’s hands-down one of the best Euro games I’ve ever played.

1. Terra Mystica: I think Terra Mystica beats out Tzolk’in because you don’t have to feed your workers in Terra Mystica. Other than that they’re very different games, but both have strong Euro elements. My favorite thing about Terra Mystica–other than the variety of factions–is the order of operations on the player mats and the upgrade ovals. I love that the simplest decision can lead you down a path you’ve never tried before, even with the same faction. I could play this game over and over.

Terra-Mystica

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Which games on this list are also on your top 10?


17 Responses to “My Top 10 Favorite Tabletop Games (as of Today)”

  1. jewelyaz says:

    Wow, so much yes, and so much no from me. LOL
    Risk is literally the only game that has ever made me flip the table (I was 12). I will never ever play anything derivative from it.
    Ticket to Ride was the first real Euro I ever played (I played earlier/older ones too, but we might not consider them Euros today), and honestly, it is still one of my favorites. I love it! The 10th anniversary edition is a beautiful upgrade and all the different maps with different challenges really add depth. I do think that Alan Moon optimized the rules and hit a beautiful 2-3 player sweet spot with Nordic Countries, and that is probably my favorite map.

    So… my top 10 these days… hmm
    1. Mysterium. So much win here… it’s super fun and super hard to be the ghost, communicating through pictures.. and it’s so great to try to deduce what the ghost is trying to tell you in your dreams. It’s hard! We’ve won exactly once in more than twenty plays since November, and nobody ever turns it down. Often, we play a second or even a third game in a row. THAT is a good game.
    2. Orleans. This is the best Euro of 2014 and probably 2105. We have played this and taught it many times and it has so much replayability and strategic elements. Player conflict is not harsh. Suitable for a wide range of styles of play too.
    3. Sushi Go! I love Telestrations, maybe more than some of the other folks we often play with, but this is our light, go-to, relax and laugh game.
    4. Category 5/No Thanks! These are tied as the other lightweights we love.
    5. Stone Age, with the Fashion is the Goal expansion. The expansion’s name is dreadful but the elements it adds to the game are excellent. Challenge level is just right, always good decision options; house rule that you cannot starve your people or they die.
    6. Ticket to Ride. See above. This one will never wear out its welcome with me.
    7. Splendor. This is the only “real” Euro our almost 7-year old is capable of playing at this point and we’re playing it somewhat often to try to get him over the thought-process hump. He has good strategy and sometimes wins!
    8. Scoville. The best title from TMG, in my opinion; novelty and good strategy. A little bit of a runaway leader problem if everyone’s not paying attention, but if players are on the ball, it’s not possible for that to develop. Beautiful game too. We recently replayed Belfort and the interactive guilds sucked all the fun out. That previously would have been my favorite TMG title.
    9. Panamax. Currently my favorite heavy Euro. Easy to learn this one with botched-up, misunderstood rules, so learn from someone who has stumbled past that problem. Once you understand the rules, the delicate interplay between helping yourself, helping other players, and hurting other players’ chances is elegant and super-challenging. This is as good as Power Grid (which earns a permanent spot in my list and is the only game I’ve ever rated a 10 on BGG), with a theme that is not at all pasted on, and refreshingly different too.
    10. Saint Petersburg. Love the additions to the new edition, hate the new art. Still, an amazing game that I will never pass by.
    Honorable mentions, always on my favorites list: Airships, Finca, and Scrabble.
    This is a cheaty list of 10… I have 16 games listed here, 17 if you count the one I won’t play! LOL
    Thanks for asking this question. It’s a good one.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Julia: Thanks for sharing your list! This definitely makes me want to play Orleans–we have similar tastes. Mysterium only made my list, but I didn’t think it was fair to put it on there after only one play. I can’t wait for it to be released here!

      It’s not the Risk part of Risk Legacy I love–it’s the legacy part. 🙂

  2. Scot Duvall says:

    I own some of these that are yet to hit the table, so you’ve given me an incentive to play them. Splendor might well make my Top 10. It gets a lot of hate, but I think it’s one of the most elegant, easy to teach gateways out there.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Scot: I agree about Splendor. It’s an odd game in that it can be played in complete silence (and often is), but I still love it.

  3. T-Mac says:

    To me, the most interesting part of this entire post is the line, “In fact, there are a few games on my old list I no longer like.” What are they and why?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Trev: Good question. There’s nothing against these games at all, as they’re all very clever designs. But my tastes have changed.

      Trains: I love the idea of deckbuilding with a map. But the last few times I’ve played this, as clever as the game is, I realized I wasn’t having fun. I was just going through the motions.

      Agricola: For a long time I’ve considered this the pinnacle of board games, but I’ve realized that so much of the game is built around feeding my workers. I don’t like that kind of upkeep. Tzolk’in somehow gets away with that.

      Boss Monster: I had a blast playing this game for a while, but it lost its novelty, and I gave it away.

      • T-Mac says:

        Whew! I thought you were going to note “Sheriff of Nottingham,” which I still can’t wait to play again.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          That was actually #11 on my list. Some plays of Sheriff I absolutely love, but I’ve found if there’s even one person at the table who isn’t into it, they can have a hugely negative impact on the game.

  4. I agree on 7 Wonders, Ticket to Ride, wouldn’t put Terra Mystica so high up (I’d even consider Smallworld in there), and I really want to try Splendor. Tzolkin was three hours of agonizing rules-referencing. Little surprised to not see Stone Age but I know you prefer Tzolkin as a worker-placement game.

    Also, if you care, I’ve dropped Resistance and Avalon off my list. My work group has gotten to the point that the assassin interrupts in round two or three and correctly guesses Merlin or the Commander. Simply not fun anymore.

    Edit: you GAVE AWAY Boss Monster? Was it too light for you? I could see it running out of fun. I’ll bring the new one Tony Go came out with when I get it, it’s similar concept but hopefully plays much differently.

      • Jamey Stegmaier says:

        Amy: Yes, I own Dixit and enjoy it. Though, after playing Mysterium (which is like Dixit but with an ongoing mystery), I don’t think I would go back to regular Dixit.

      • jewelyaz says:

        I know a lot of people who love Dixit, but for what it’s worth (next to nothing), I hate that game. I ALWAYS lose… somehow, I NEVER get it right. LOL Mysterium combines a similar size and style of card with the deduction of Clue that I loved as a child, and the ghost role especially, if played right (completely silent and poker-faced) is TOUGH. Even the heavy-duty players in our group, who would normally never agree to something with so few rules LOL, really like it.

        I never got past the first play of Tzolkin. And Agricola irritated me… solo solitaire for hours, until the other person destroys your game. Um, no. I have work to annoy me that much. Even with the spectacular-for-the-time animeeples, I couldn’t get into that one. 😉

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      JT: Have you played Tzolk’in a second time? It’s a lot to take in the first time, but it’s much better after that.

      Yeah, Boss Monster kind of lost its novelty for me. I enjoyed it while it lasted, though.

  5. […] I’ve decided that I’m going to completely redo this list every 6 months (it’s about 6 months since I last made it), just because I play a lot of games and my tastes are always evolving. Here’s the previous list. […]

  6. […] My Top 10 Favorite Tabletop Games (as of Today) […]

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