A little over a month ago, I made a list of my top 10 favorite board games of all time. I enjoyed the process of doing it and discovering which games I really loved (and how much so over others). Sometimes it’s quite difficult to narrow down favorites just off the top of your head, and in the other post I briefly mentioned the method by which I came up with my list. Originally I’d only intended to make a Top 10 and stop there, but after thinking about it for so long, I decided to go a step further and do the next 10. So here are my other Top 10 favorite board games of all time.
#20 – Mysterium
The easiest way I’ve learned to describe Mysterium is that it’s Clue meets Guess Who. One player assumes the role of a ghost, the spirit of someone murdered who still haunts the house of his death. The other players are psychics/mediums/investigators who have been recruited to help ease the ghost’s suffering and hopefully allow them to pass onto the next life by solving the mystery of their death. It’s a cooperative game where the ghost must use abstract, bizarre, and vague clue cards (simulating dreams that the other players are having) in order to help them narrow down the true culprit, location, and murder weapon. The biggest catch is that the ghost player cannot say a single word; their only means of communication is through the cards they give to the other players.
#19 – Telestrations
Telestrations is the classic game of telephone redefined. Each player will draw a card with a series of words on it, then pick one of those words and (depending on the number of players) will either write it down, or draw it on the first page of their dry erase flip book. Then each player will flip to the next page and pass the book to the player on their left, who must now turn back to see what the previous player has either written or drawn and do the opposite – write what they think the picture is, or draw what they think the word looks like. By turns 3 or 4, things usually start to go awry, and the end result is a series of awfully hilarious, sometimes unintentionally sexual pictures.
#18 – Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Just slightly higher on the list than Mysterium is Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, a game so similar I contemplated if I should even include both of them. However, there is one significant difference in the two, and that is the primary reason why Deception is just a bit higher. While Mysterium is a fully cooperative game, Deception is semi-cooperative (and if you saw my other list, you know I love me some semi-coop). One player takes on the role of the Forensic Scientist (this game’s version of Mysterium’s ghost player), and must help the other players – the investigators – solve the murder by using clue tokens to accurately represent the various circumstances involved in the case. The thing that separates the two games, however, is that one of the “investigators” is actually the killer, and must try to push people away from what the correct answers are without being so obvious as to reveal himself.
#17 – Quadropolis
This game from Days of Wonder is as deceptive as it is colorful: part logic puzzle, part city builder, Quadropolis pits 2 to 4 players against each other to see who can construct the most prolific city. Players take turns using their various architects – numbered 1 to 4 – to grab building tiles from the board. They do this by placing the architect tile anywhere along the sides of the board, and then count inward the number of spaces that matches the number of the architect they used, and that is the tile they must take. They then place this tile on their player board in any row or column with the matching number. The amount of depth that’s layered onto this otherwise extremely simple game becomes increasingly more apparent by the second or third round when your city’s spaces are starting to fill up, and you only have so many locations left open.
#16 – Xenoshyft Onslaught
Xenoshyft is what Starship Troopers would be if it were converted into a deck building game in the vein of Dominion. This 1 to 4 player cooperative game has each player controlling a number of units in a relentless battle against swarms of alien insectoids. On your turn you’ll use any Xenosathem – currency cards – that you’ve drawn from your deck to purchase new troops or equipment, and then assemble your line of defense. The cooperative nature of the game shines as each player can also purchase and play cards for another player’s combat zone, or even use various instant effect cards on another player’s turn. Defend your lane, lest the aliens make it through and damage your base. The first time I played this game, my group won on the very last round, in the very last possible turn, with the base at 1 HP left.
#15 – Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter is one of the finest examples of a zombie game, a genre that has recently flooded nearly every single market it has been apart of. The focus largely centers on the group of survivors that the players control – as any good zombie story should – with the threat of shelter and food posing a graver threat than the shambling dead, on the eve of what could be the coldest winter in recorded history. As each player attempts to scavenge for supplies or build barricades to secure their home, one among you may be a saboteur, whose personal goals run the risk of putting everyone else in danger. Dead of Winter is the first of what’s to be a series of games to use the Crossroads mechanic, whereby a card is drawn on every player’s turn that may trigger a unique story event should that player fulfill certain conditions. This adds replayability and suspense to a game already brimming with tension.
#14 – Specter Ops
We go from one Plaid Hat game to another. Specter Ops is a 1-versus-many style in the same vein as Letters From Whitechapel or Fury of Dracula, with a sci-fi/espionage twist. Think Metal Gear Solid, and that is the primary reason why it’s on this list instead of the others that I’ve mentioned. The MGS franchise is among one of my most beloved video game series, so to play a game that reminds me so much of it is a no brainer. In Specter Ops, one player controls an Agent invading the top secret Raxxon Corporation’s facility. They must sabotage three locations on the board and escape before being captured or killed by the Hunters, genetically altered super-humans controlled by the other players. The Agent tracks their movement on a pad of paper which has a scaled down version of the map on the board, while the Hunters must use the various special abilities at their disposable to try to locate and prevent the Agent from completing his mission.
#13 – Cash ‘n Guns
If you’ve ever watched the ending to Reservoir Dogs and thought to yourself, “Man, that looks so cool, I wish I could be apart of something like that,” then you’re crazy. Fortunately, Cash ‘n Guns allows you to imitate that scene with significantly fewer casualties. This is a quick, hilarious game of loot grabbing as up to 8 players will try to bluff and shoot their way to victory. Players have a hand of 8 cards – 3 “bang” cards and 5 “click” cards. Choosing one and laying it face down, players will then, on the count of 3, point their guns at each other. Anyone with a gun pointed at them has a choice: stand down (forfeiting your share of the loot), or risk a wound. After resolving, all players flip their cards, and if a player pointing a gun at you reveals a bang, you suffer a wound and are removed from the loot sharing. All remaining players then take turns grabbing the rewards on the table until there’s nothing left. Suffer 3 wounds, and you’re eliminated from the game, and after 8 rounds, the player with the most money wins.
#12 – Spyfall
The shortest game on both lists, Spyfall is a slight variation of the popular 20 Questions game. Each player will be dealt a card, and on that card is one of two things: a picture of a location, or the words “Spy” in front of the mug of that lovely moustached man on the cover. The locations on each card are identical (and there are several dozen different decks with different locations). One player then randomly asks another player a question: “How’s the weather like?” The other player must answer: if they have a card showing the location, they must try to be as vague as possible but also answering in manner that lets the other players who are also at this location know that they are telling the truth. It is the Spy’s job to listen carefully for any clues, and hopefully when asked a question, blend in as easily as possible, because if the Spy can survive 8 minutes without being found out, they win. At any point during the game, the Spy can also reveal themselves and announce the location if they believe they have figured it out. Of course, if you’re wrong, the game is over and you lose, so it’s often better – and more fun – to just play out the whole 8 minutes.
#11 – 7 Wonders Duel
Just narrowly missing out on the Top 10, 7 Wonders Duel is my favorite 2-player game. Not only is this a prime example of taking an existing property and adapting it to a different player count without just making it feel like the same game, 7 Wonders Duel is a brilliant and gorgeous looking 2-player strategy game that incorporates unique pyramid-drafting mechanics to replace the standard card drafting of the original 7 Wonders. Furthermore, there are three paths to victory, two of which will end the game immediately if they occur; the standard most points at the end of the game; the sliding military scale; and the set collection of science cards. If a player manages to build up enough military strength throughout the course of three rounds and move the marker into the opponent’s zone, or should they gather 6 of the 7 different scientific symbols, they will immediately win.