I did a full reorganization of my board games collection and like every responsible organizer I started with blowing things up. So I piled up all my games in the living room to figure out how to put them back together in a better way. While there, I first started by laying them out on the carpet in a top list manner. What I ended up with was a “Top 40 Games That I Own List”.
Caveats to this list are: I only included one favorite game version from each family (so the Railroad Ink that I prefer, only one Gloom, etc.), and it only includes ones that I own (so it doesn’t show some games that I like a lot because I don’t own them). And one more note: we are a household of two with the wife, so two-player games and great-at-two are in priority for sure.
Here’s the list first, and then some notes:
Some learnings that I took away while making this list:
I have a lot of emotional attachment to Fox In The Forest at this point, it just catapults it to the top. By the way I do love trick taking games, I should have more of these. But Fox In The Forest is so special: it’s been with us on so many trips around the world, it is the definitive go-to game during any activity where we have ten minutes downtime, and we both know it well and can play it well but it doesn’t go in either of our way in a definitive way.
My personal favorite on my own right is Tiny Epic Galaxies. This is the smallest game with the largest scope, it’s pretty much a 4x galactic civilization thing that fits in one palm.
I highly value games that are small and have something clever in their game design that makes them unique and blows the experience out of proportions. The “galactic civ in a hand” of Tiny Epic Galaxies, the “you do literal everything with one single resource type” of the Bloody Inn, the “intrigue, deduction, and fun with just 16 damn pieces of cards” of Love Letter—these are amazing to me. I cannot get enough of them just because of being able to marvel that design in action while playing.
We’ve only played Ark Nova once, but taking a 6-hour long session and being involved and interested all the way through, especially the wife, too, while she’s totally not there for the long games—that was unique, and one of my favorite gaming experiences.
I love push your luck, another mechanism that should be much more heavily represented in my collection. But for now, this is what propells Clank! to my Top 10.
I really hate those games when a lot depends on so few dice rolls and there’s too few ways to mitigate this luck. I try to actively avoid this. However, I just cannot resist the aesthetic, theme, and atmosphere of Elder Sign and Space Hulk: Death Angel. Elder Sign is a fantastic representation of the Cthulu-themed horror, and Death Angel is the smallest best version of Alien in a game, even though it’s supposed to be Warhammer.
I’m interested in Raptor more than I had realized. I always had this instincitve reaction of “no” to it because I’ve never had any feeling of success or joy while playing, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around its tactics. But as I was organizing the games and thought about them, I realized that I’d like to give it more chance that I had done before. Just by imagining different plays of it I kinda came around and figured I’d be happy to play it more.
The one that I have a lot of fondness for based on its design but have very little interest in playing is Onitama. It fits the “so clever in such a small box” bill that I wrote about above, but the perfect information aspect somehow kills it for me. I feel like you cannot win in Onitama by being clever, you can only loose by overlooking something. I’m sure there are tactics to force someone into a loosing position, but that would mean so much effort and attention that I’m not willing to put into it.
One clear realization I have lately is I don’t like games where lying is the central mechanism. Social deduction games where it’s all about lying to the others and trying to be the best liar are not an activity that I enjoy at all. It feels like a liberating self-definitive axiom like when I figured I love the aesthetic of creepy horror movies but I just cannot stand the nerve that sticks with me afterwards, so I avoid watching them now. It’s like acceptance and self-discovery with a feeling of accomplishment. That said, Secret Hitler is an amazing game, but it’s not for me.