My Top 10 Favorite Games (as of September 2023)

Every six months I update my top 10 favorite tabletop games list. For this list, I looked back at most of my top 10 videos over the last few years for games that were ranked 1 and 2 multiple times (for any type of list, most of which focus on a specific mechanism), and I ranked those games for this list.

There are many great games from other publishers that won’t make the list even though I’m fond of them, and Stonemaier Games products aren’t eligible due to extreme bias on my part. I also don’t include campaign games in this list–as much as I love those experiences, this list is specifically focused on games I’m eager to get back to the table over and over again.

The previous list is here. I tend to cycle through favorites, hence why I do this every 6 months, but that also means that there are previous favorites that may completely drop off the list for 6-12 months.

My top campaign games: My City, Near and Far, Rise of Queensdale, Roll Player Adventures, Sleeping Gods, The King’s Dilemma, TIME Stories, Clank Legacy

My honorable mentions: Marvel Dice Throne, No Thanks, On Tour, Ora et Labora, Parks, Patchwork, poker, QE, Railways of the World, Rajas of the Ganges, Scotland Yard, Shards of Infinity, Summit, Sushi Roll, Telestrations, The Crew, The Mind, 7 Wonders, A Feast for Odin, Azul Summer Pavilion, Cartographers, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Clans of Caledonia, Concordia, Ethnos, Glen More II, Hanamikoji, Libertalia

My top honorable mentions: 7 Wonders Duel, Mysterium Park, Orleans, Planet Unknown, Roll Player, Rumble Nation, Russian Railroads, Space Base, The Guild of Merchant Explorers, Clank, Dice Forge, Downforce, Fantasy Realms, The Isle of Cats, Just One, Lords of Waterdeep

10. Magic the Gathering: Magic may be a money sink for collectors and competitive players, but there are other ways to play. A few times a year when an exciting new set is released, I buy enough packs to host a draft with friends. We open packs, pass them around the table to select cards, build decks, then play 1 game against each other player. It’s a really fun way to spend a few hours. Most recently I had a blast with the Lord of the Rings set.

9. Ra: My all-time favorite auction game uses a streamlined bidding system combined with a push-your-luck mechanism that makes every moment thrilling. Do you bid on the current auction or hope that it gets even better before the end of the round, the timing of which also features an element of chance?

8. Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game: This is one of two 2023 releases that I’ve already played enough that I was compelled to include it here. This is a 2-player dueling game featuring a shared, random row of cards that both players interact with, gaining and removing cards. The game is a race to destroy 3 of your opponent’s bases; the choice of which base to use after the previous one is destroyed is one of the best choices in the game. I love how the theme is implemented, and I’ve had a blast sharing this game with people.

7. Tzolk’in: There are a few heavier, more complex games I’m always eager to return to, and Tzolk’in is one of them. It has a brilliant time-based worker placement system using giant dials, along with a number of other progress systems via various tracks. It’s a game with very little variability from one game to the next, yet I still have fun every time I try it (and I never end up doing the exact same thing).

6. Terra Mystica: This game is so successful that it’s spawned 3 sequels: Gaia Project, Terra Nova, and Age of Innovation. I enjoy those other games, and if I’m pressed for time, I’m happy to play Terra Nova instead…but I just keep coming back to the comfort of Terra Mystica. I love the income system and asymmetry.

5. The Quacks of Quedlinburg: This push-your-luck, bag-building game has multiple expansions, and I’ve played them all, yet I think I’m the most compelled to just play with the core game, as it offers exactly what I want from the game. It offers the perfect intersection of whimsy and agency.

4. Skull King: This is my favorite trick-taking game. I love how it escalates, with the first hand just being 1 card, then 2, then 3…all the way up to 10. The scoring potential ramps up too, giving players the feeling that they have a chance even if they fall far behind. We always end up laughing quite a bit while playing Skull King.

3. Dune Imperium: I love that this game only asks players to gain 10 points; as a result, it feels amazing whenever you’re able to earn a point. There’s great tension in the worker placement, and the cards you don’t play each round contribute to either gaining better cards or to combat. It’s one of the longest games I love, so it doesn’t get to the table all that often, but I’m very happy when it does.

2. Ark Nova: I love every aspect this zoo-building game, from the simple action system to the dual VP tracks to the race to achieve shared goals to the organic rounds. Most of all, though, I love the cards. There are a vast variety of cards–many of them animals–that offer the puzzle of how to play them and when to play them, while providing some wonderful payoffs: passive benefits, ongoing benefits, instant benefits, end-game benefits, etc. I’m eagerly anticipating the expansion.

1. Earth: The other 2023 release on my list has climbed all the way to the top spot. Like a few other games I love, Earth is a tableau-building game in which you start with a few special cards and eventually build a 4×4 grid of cards. The magic of it is that it’s almost entirely simultaneous, with one player choosing an action and all players taking a version of that action, then activating all cards of the matching color in their tableau. It doesn’t offer much interaction beyond a race towards public goals, but that isn’t what I’m looking for in these games where I’m just focused on building something amazing.

What are a few of your favorite games that you’ve consistently ranked among your favorite games and are always happy to play?

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