So what did you think of the first 15? Well, it’s time for some more great games, so let’s get on with the list.
- No Thanks! (-23)
One of the best $10 games out there. We gamers by now know we always need fillers available when we’ve got a little bit of time between games or while we wait for another group to get done. No Thanks! is so easy, but still has interesting decisions. Do I want the card or not? Maybe with more chips on it I’ll take it. Do I risk grabbing that 17 knowing I already have the 15, hoping the 16 will come later and I can string 15-16-17 all together? A good light game, but starting to fall out of my favor since I’ve played it so much. Let’s face it—I like my variety, and when I’ve played a game this much, I tend to want to grab something fresher.
- Favor of the Pharaoh (new entry)
I love games with an engine-building concept, and this is probably the only one I can think of where you are building up an engine of dice. So this is basically Yahtzee! where you need to roll 7 of a kind. You start with just a few dice, and as you roll combos, you can earn more dice and more special abilities that help you manipulate your dice results. And this game has piles of dice, many of them customized for this game. The dice are gorgeous and high quality. Once you build up your dice enough and can roll 7 of a kind, you’ve gained the Favor of the Pharaoh and earned the Queen die. Then every other player gets a chance to make a better combo than your 7 of a kind. You get one last chance to beat anyone who can overcome your initial 7 of a kind roll. Whoever ends with the best combo wins. This is a pretty quick and simple game, and based on that I think it’s a little pricey for what it is. The base game does not come with enough dice for a full 4 player game to have a full set of their own—you may need to be passing dice around. If you invest in extra dice (available from Bezier games), you might be approaching $60. But ignoring the price, I do like this game a lot. It’s a great one to borrow from your buddies.
- Cutthroat Caverns (new entry)
This was a game that was on my wish list for a very long time, but it came off when my friend Ethan obtained it. So I’ve got a chance to play it a couple of times, and I like it a lot. Each player is a dungeoning adventurer, working together to defeat a number of boss monsters. Where things get interesting though, is in order to gain “prestige” required to win the game, you have to be the character that deals the killing blow on the monster. And therein lies all kinds of party backstabbing and deviousness in order to try to be the one who deals that killing blow. Trip people, edge them out, steal their cards, whatever you’ve got to do. The tagline for the game is “Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win” and that’s exactly appropriate. The card play is pretty easy, but what I like probably the best is that there are a LOT of different boss monsters to play each game (you’ll usually face 8 or 9 of them each game), and they each are very thematic, and change the game play a little bit based on what kind of monster you are fighting. Some challenges aren’t even monsters at all, some are traps or labyrinths. A good game for a larger group, 5 or 6 people if you can get them together, and I definitely recommend it. See Amber and Ethan’s review here.
- Fairy Tale (-19)
I do like drafting games (or pick-and-play, if you prefer that description). 7 Wonders is the one I prefer in terms of strategic and intricate play, but sometimes you just want something you can get to the table quick. Amongst the gaming circles, whenever light drafting games are discussed, it’s either Fairy Tale or Sushi Go! Both are really good games. I like the theme in Fairy Tale better, and there is a larger deck of cards with more variety in it than what you get in Sushi Go! As for drafting games, the one I still need to try is Among the Stars—maybe it makes the top 100 next year if I can get it played. In the meantime, Fairy Tale is a good drafting game, that fits the niche between 7 Wonders and Sushi Go!, and I’m glad I have it in my collection.
- Jaipur (new entry)
For some reason, I didn’t think much of this game based on the reviews I’d seen initially. Everybody seemed to like it, but I apparently was missing the point. So when somebody finally got it in our group, and I had a chance to play it, I discovered what everybody was talking about. This is a relatively simple card game, where you’re trying to collect sets of goods before your opponent does. If you get goods before your opponent, they are worth more, but if you can get a large set (4 or 5 cards at once) you’ll get bonus points. Play through the deck, total the points, and play best out of three. Honestly even writing this, it doesn’t sound all that exciting, but if you’re looking for a good, quick 2 player game, this is one of the best. We liked it so much that we ran a Jaipur tournament at our last NMA, and it was really well-received. One of the better quick two player games, and definitely recommend it for couples. See Amber and Ethan’s review here.
- Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (-20)
So everybody likes Catan—for the most part. As mentioned previously when discussion Dice City, Catan won’t be on this list. The components aren’t great for what the game costs. Plus I’m not a huge fan of trading games. Plus you can get screwed for resources if the dice are unlucky for you, or you get pinned into a corner on the map with little room to expand. Cleopatra solves all of those things. Cleopatra has one of the coolest game mechanisms whereby you build her temple right on the upturned box. It looks cool. And there are tons of plastic components to build. Also, you make your own decisions about what resources to take, although sometimes you’ll be picking blindly. If you get shut out for resources, it’s your own fault. Try to avoid using or drawing those corrupted resources—they may help you build faster, but that corruption is an issue. Maybe make an offering to reduce your corruption, or build a sanctuary. At the end of the game, whoever is the most corrupt architect is immediately thrown to the crocs and loses the game. The winner is the remaining player who builds the most, and is able keep the most money they’ve earned. This is a Days of Wonder game that is pretty much impossible to find, but sure seems to be overlooked in the gaming world. It’s one of my favorites and I’m really glad I have it. And probably what I like about it best, is sometimes when games look this good on the table, people come by and can’t help but ask “What are you playing?”
- Salem (new entry)
So with 54 and 53 we have a couple more hidden-role games. Salem comes in at 54 and is one which is set in the time of the Salem witch trials, but really that’s just the hook for a really silly game, so it’s not to be taken too seriously. What’s fun about this game, is while it has hidden roles, the gameplay is card-driven rather than driven by conversation driven, so you’re not required to depend on verbal skills or bluffing as much. Just play cards. Try to figure out who’s on your team, not as much by what they say, but by what they do and what cards they play (and who they backstab in the process). And it is chaotic and cutthroat, and tossing cards out at a very quick pace—really fun, and most often when we play we play several times in a row. Good party game. See Amber and Ethan’s review here.
- Deception: Murder in Hong Kong (new entry)
So here’s a game that categorically is similar to Salem, Sypfall, and most social deduction games, but in implementation is totally opposite. By that I mean, it’s still a hidden-role-find-the-bad-guys game, but here there’s much less social deduction, and much more logical deduction. I love the concept here—it’s totally unique, and you really need to try it to see how it works—a written explanation can’t do it justice. Just watch the player count—with 8 cards face up per player, there’s a lot of information to try to absorb and disseminate. Just because you can play 12 people doesn’t mean you should. Get this around 6-9 players and it works really well. This game got played like crazy when someone in our group finally got it, and I’ve really enjoyed it. See Amber and Ethan’s review here.
- Biblios (new entry)
Here’s another new game that once it hit the table kept coming back over and over. Like Jaipur, it’s pretty quick and easy to pick up, but it has more depth than Jaipur. So this is a card game about collecting sets of cards in the colors you want, but there’s a drafting element, an auction element, and even a stock market element. Amber and Ethan have reviewed it, so I won’t get too deep into the gameplay. What I like about this game is how those three game mechanics all work together. No particular part of this game is all that difficult, but there are lots of little decisions to make, and you’ve got to have an overall plan and put it into action in order to win. A neat little game, and definitely worth picking up. See Amber and Ethan’s review here.
- CV (new entry)
CV stands for Curriculum Vitae, and in Latin is loosely translated to “the course of life”. Here’s a game that doesn’t seem like it should be as much fun as it is, but after I saw it reviewed by Actualol on youtube (look him up—he’s pretty funny) I had to get it. This game is basically Life crossed with Yahtzee. On your turn you roll dice—your results might be good luck, bad luck, or things like health, knowledge, releationships, or money. You spend those results to buy cards from the market. Those cards represent different events that occur during your life. Maybe you get a childhood friend, or take a trip around the world, or get married, or a job, or have children. Each of those cards laid out in a tableau on the table, telling the story of your life. Those cards will give you special abilities that will affect your turns, like extra dice, the ability to change your dice results, or buy cards for reduced cost. Your goal is to collect sets of each type of cards, and to meet some secret goals and public goals to try to get the most points at the end. It really is a simple game, but surprisingly strategic in what cards to buy, and how to manipulate your dice results to get what you want. And the cards are really thematic, and they are organized throughout the phases of life, from childhood, middle age, and to old age. I’m tracking to get the expansion (CV: Gossip) which hopefully adds more thematic elements and even more strategy. Love this game, and it’s really a bargain—you should be able to find it around $25. Great family game and a great purchase. Definitely recommend.
- Flash Point: Fire Rescue (-10)
By now people probably realize that I really do like cooperative games, so based on strong recommendation from Tom Vasel on the Dicetower, I jumped into Flash Point. It’s a game of keeping fire at bay in a building so you can rescue the survivors. It compares most directly to Pandemic, but the randomness of the fire propagation makes it less strategic. Really it’s about doing the most you can each turn, but the cooperation and mathing out of each turn is not as in-depth as Pandemic. But I like the theme better, and there are tons of expansion maps, and firefighters with different roles and special abilities just like Pandemic. There’s a little bit of just about every kind of urban structure available, including submarines, garages, high-rise buildings with multiple stories, subway platforms, airplane runways. It’s always interesting to see what they will come up with next. If you’re looking for something just a little less work, but still cooperative, then Flash Point is for you.
- Takenoko (-10)
Happy pandas, gardens, bamboo, and colorful components. That’s Takenoko. This game made it on my wish list when I was looking for lighter fare that would work as a family game and still keep me interested strategically. This one definitely hits the mark. Strong artwork, great components, plays pretty fast. It really looks wonderful on the table, even if you don’t have the $200 to drop on the super-huge-component deluxe version with minis that are 6” tall. Megan seems to always win at this game, but that’s ok. One of the quintessential light family games that I would recommend strongly, provided you are not creeped out by cute pandas. The Chibis expansion adds just a few more options, but nothing too complex. It’s a very easy addition if you’ve played the base game even once.
- 7 Wonders: Duel (new entry)
Drafting is pretty difficult to make interesting in a 2 player game. Tides of Time does it, but that’s a pretty simple game. You can play Sushi Go! and Fairy Tale as 2 player games, but I think both of those are better with at least three. Same goes for 7 Wonders. So when Antoine Bauza (and Bruno Cthala) came out with a two player version of 7 Wonders, I very much had reservations. But in the end, they did a good job with this game, and it follows the original 7 Wonders approach pretty well. What makes this game very interesting is strategically you have to work in a very confined space. What I mean by that is, there are three ways to win this game, so you have a lot to balance in your choices. If the game goes the full 3 ages, highest score wins. But if you can dominate your opponent with military or if you can get enough scientific achievements, you can get an immediate win before score is even tabulated. Even more than in regular 7 Wonders, often your choices are driven by what you don’t want to let your opponent have, rather than what card might help you the most. This is a neat little game. My only knock on it is the cards are very very small. I’d pay another $10 if the cards were standard size. Still a great little tactical card game, and definitely recommend. See Amber and Ethan’s review here.
- Hanabi (-11)
And here is the second of the great $10 games. This one isn’t a filler though. It’s easy to learn, but much more difficult to master. Better hope your communication skills, deduction skills, and poker face are in order. It’s the game where you hold your hand backwards. Give clues to your partner(s) to help them know what to play, even though they can’t see their own cards. 3 mistakes and you lose. This game isn’t so hard to win cooperatively, but to win with a high score takes practice. Every gamer should have a copy of Hanabi in their bag just in case. Maybe even multiple copies. See Amber and Ethan’s review here.
- Dead of Winter (new entry)
Here’s a game that hit it really big in the gaming world when it came out. I was really ambivalent about it when it came out, but I’ve played it a couple of times now and I have really enjoyed it. So what you have here is another zombie game (ho hum—the 3,798th I think, or so it seems—I don’t get the fascination with zombies). Each player has a couple of characters they are controlling who have holed themselves up inside a building and are trying to survive the aforementioned dead of winter. The gameplay is honestly quite simple. Move your characters to locations nearby, hopefully avoiding cold and zombies, and search for items and equipment you need to stay alive. Or maybe stay at the compound and build barricades, or make food, etc. That’s pretty much it. They core of this game is how the goals are set up. There is an overall game goal (different each time) that the group must achieve in order for the players to win—(almost) everybody works together on this goal to win cooperatively. But, each player also has a secret goal—other things they must accomplish in order to win, above and beyond the public cooperative goal. And maybe there are players that are traitors, who are not working with other players at all. It’s a good game, and I get why it so popular. There are a LOT of different characters you can have, and they are pretty thematic. But for me, it’s just a card game with a few tokens. I do not like the standees used for the characters and zombies. There’s not a lot to do on your turn. Really this game is about the social interaction, and the crossroads cards that provide some (completely random—by that I mean there is no overall story narrative) interesting story elements and group decisions. Those parts are done well, and make this a good game. But for me, there’s another game I would rather play that scratches the hidden-traitor-mechanic itch for me better than this one.
So that’s a total of 9 new games in this last 15. How many more do you think are in the top 45? What do you think the highest new entry on the list will be?
Until next time, this is Rob–the hastyhobbit. Have Fun, Play Games, Make Friends. Join me next time when I reveal games 45-31!!!