Every 6 months I update my top 10 favorite tabletop games list. Those 6 months have flown by–I play a lot of games, and I’m always curious to look back at my tastes over that period to see if they’ve changed.
There are many, many games that won’t make this list, including all games that I’ve designed (Viticulture, Euphoria, Scythe, and Charterstone), published (Between Two Cities), or experienced as a one-time campaign (Risk Legacy, Near and Far, Pandemic Legacy, etc).
Rather, the deciding factor on this list is how much I would like to play these games right now. And not just in a “new hotness” kind of way. These are games that I’ve continued to play over and over, and I’m always excited when someone wants to play these games.
Moving off the previous list are several games I still adore, but they’re just not quite in the top 10 right now.
As you can perhaps tell from the title and the list below, there are 12 games, not 10. I simply couldn’t cut it down to 10, and I get to make the rules, so I’m extended the list to 12 this time!
12. When I Dream (new)
For such a light game, I have so much fun with When I Dream that I had to keep it on the list. It’s a game where you take turns “falling asleep” while players with various intentions give you clues to a series of cards. It tops other party games I love because it actually plays well even at low player counts.
11. Downforce (new)
I literally just played this for the first time a few days ago, but I played it twice in a row, and I would have gladly continued to play it. It’s a fantastic race game full of interesting decisions and a clever mix of positive and negative interactions.
Orleans kind of jumped on this list out of nowhere, as it wasn’t on my radar until I looked through my BoardGameGeek ratings. I realized that even though I don’t play this often, I would gladly play it most any time. Also, I love that it offers fully satisfying experiences as both a competitive and a cooperative game.
9. Rajas of the Ganges (new)
I’ve been completely hooked on this game for the last few months. It has a brilliant track-intersection mechanism, and it’s constantly rewarding you. I love rewarding games. If you like medium-weight Euro games, I highly recommend Rajas of the Ganges.
8. Terra Mystica
I’ve loved this heavy Euro game for a long, long time, and I’m still eager to play it. I think I’ll always consider it one of my favorite games, and as much as I appreciate the design of its spiritual successor (Gaia Project), I think I’d still choose this over it.
7. Isle of Skye
I mention another 45-minute game later on this list, but this one is right up there with it. I love I-cut-you-choose games, and this one adds to it a brilliant scoring system that makes every game feel unique.
Tzolk’in wasn’t on the last top 10 list, simply because it doesn’t get to the table as much as it used to. But I really do love this game. The gears, the use of time as a resource, the engine building…it’s an amazing medium/heavy Euro.
Clank is a blast to play. I love the different paths, the huge stack of cards, and the tension between going deep into the dungeon and getting out in time. It’s one of the few games for which I’m eager to play every expansion.
4. Scotland Yard
Whenever I have 45 minutes at a game night, I want to play Scotland Yard. It’s a hidden movement game–a genre I typically don’t like–but it’s distilled down to the core elements here, and that allows so much fun to emerge from every play. Well, that and the fact that Mr. X needs to reveal himself a mere 3 turns into the game. That beautiful design decision ratchets up the fun, giving players a feeling of agency and control while offering Mr. X plenty of opportunities to feel sneaky and clever.
It’s almost a bit of a surprise to me that this ended up so high on the list, but I absolutely love the puzzle of this 2-player game. It’s so simple, so fast, yet there are so many interesting decisions. I am always up for playing Hanamikoji.
2. Castles of Mad King Ludwig
This has been my favorite game for a while now, and in many ways it still is. It’s a wholly different game than the game I’m putting in the #1 spot. But I’m constantly drawn to Castles, even when I go months between plays of it. I love the I-cut-you-choose element, the rewarding aspects of pretty much everything you do, the vast opportunities to feel clever, and the end result of each game.
1. TIME Stories
Earlier today on a livestream I listed Castles of Mad King Ludwig as my favorite game. And it very well may be. But if you told me that I could play a new TIME Stories module or a game of Castles, I would simply have to go with TIME Stories. I get as excited about each TIME Stories module as I do about Hollywood blockbuster movies. That comparison is apt because you feel like you’re in a movie when you play TIME Stories, except it’s even more immersive. Each session feels like an instant memory, an unforgettable experience. I love this game.
That’s my list! Are any of these among your favorites? What are some of your favorites that aren’t on my current list?