NYC Gamer              

  1. Through the Ages
  2. Java
  3. San Marco
  4. Die Macher
  5. Antiquity
  6. El Grande
  7. Age of Steam
  8. Tigris & Euphrates
  9. Carcassonne
  10. Crokinole
  11. Imperial
  12. La Città
  13. In the Shadow of the Emperor
  14. Louis XIV
  15. Galaxy Trucker
  16. Goa
  17. Twilight Struggle
  18. Ra
  19. Reef Encounter
  20. Caylus
  21. Kreta
  22. Santiago
  23. Through the Desert
  24. Wallenstein
  25. Settlers of Catan
  1. Princes of Florence
  2. Ghost Stories
  3. Survive!
  4. Extrablatt
  5. Notre Dame
  6. Mr. Jack
  7. Nexus Ops
  8. StreetSoccer
  9. Roads and Boats
  10. Byzantium
  11. Puerto Rico
  12. Stronghold
  13. Hansa
  14. Diplomacy
  15. Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit
  16. Hey! That’s My Fish!
  17. Bonaparte at Marengo
  18. Before the Wind
  19. Arkadia
  20. China
  21. Meuterer
  22. Descent: Journeys in the Dark
  23. Mü & Lots More
  24. Dominant Species
  25. Loopin' Louie
  1. Hansa Teutonica
  2. Age of Empires III
  3. Torres
  4. Maharaja
  5. LOTR: Confrontation
  6. Pandemic
  7. Battlestar Galactica
  8. Big City
  9. Aton
  10. Liberté
  11. Scripts & Scribes
  12. Stephensons Rocket
  13. Fjords
  14. Le Havre
  15. Ubongo
  16. Fairy Tale
  17. War of the Ring
  18. Factory Fun
  19. King of Siam
  20. Vikings
  21. Hammer of the Scots
  22. Chicago Express
  23. Krakow 1325 AD
  24. Red November
  25. Dune
  1. Can’t Stop
  2. YINSH
  3. eBay Auction Game
  4. Hollywood Blockbuster
  5. Ta Yü
  6. Travel Blokus
  7. Amun-Re
  8. Piranha Pedro
  9. Last Train to Wensleydale
  10. For Sale
  11. Samurai
  12. Um Reifenbreite
  13. Keythedral
  14. Wits & Wagers
  15. Traders of Genoa
  16. Small World
  17. Ingenious
  18. Schnapp
  19. Tichu
  20. Agricola
  21. A Game of Thrones
  22. Fearsome Floors
  23. New England
  24. Oasis
  25. Löwenherz

1. Through the Ages

See Also: April Showers, J&J Con

2. Java

Java is a completely different experience from El Grande, but still one of my all-time favorites and also another board game designed by Wolfgang Kramer, although this time in partnership with Michael Kiesling. This pair worked together on a whole series of action point games, including not only Java, but also Tikal, Mexica, and Torres. However, Java is their greatest creation. It combines Tikal with Torres, and surpasses both in every way. It's the antithesis of El Grande in a way because it's a much more thoughtful and quiet experience. Players have a tendency to become much more pensive and focused during a game of Java. What I absolutely love about Java is the feeling of wide-open flexibility that it gives players on their turns. Rather than being confined to choose between a few different options as is the case in most board games, players in Java have a world of possibilities and are only limited by their imagination. With countless ways to divide your action points among the available actions, you can take the game in any direction you can fathom. This leads many to criticize the game for being prone to "analysis-paralysis," but simply leads me to select my opponents carefully. As long as you're playing with people who won't precisely calculate the ramifications of every possible move, this won't move too slowly and will be worth the time invested. Just make sure people are considering their options during other players' turns and you should be alright.

Related Reading: Games of the Years, Six is a Crowd, Patience isn't Always a Virtue

3. San Marco

If I were to frame and hang any one game board on my wall it would undoubtedly be the San Marco game board. It's absolutely gorgeous. Thankfully it's also a wonderful game. Like El Grande, this is another game that is based on the area majority mechanic, but like all of the best games in that genre, it has a crucial twist to reinvent the familiar formula. San Marco is most well known and most distinguishable for its “cake cutting” mechanic (which incidentally has since been employed by Jeffrey Allers in a game that is actually about cake cutting called Aber Bitte Mit Sahn). This mechanic takes its name from the venerable tradition of sharing a delectable dessert with a friend or sibling by allowing one person to divide the dessert and the other person to pick which half to take. A genius way of encouraging as even a division as possible. San Marco does the same thing except with cards. Players take turns being the “splitter” whose job it is to take 10 cards and divide them into three groups. Every group must have at least one card, but other than that the splitter has free reign to divide the cards as symmetrically or asymmetrically as he or she pleases. Then the other two players take turns selecting a group of cards before the splitter is eventually stuck with whatever group remains unselected. This encourages the splitter to make sure no single group is inferior because he or she will inevitably be stuck with the inferior set of cards. The cards themselves are fairly simple, allowing players to do things like add cubes to the board, remove opponent cubes from the board, or score one of the six regions. That’s it. The game doesn’t sound like much, but the “cake cutting” mechanic makes it deliciously agonizing. You’re faced with a world of possibilities as to how to go about grouping the cards and, depending on the people you play with, you may have your opponents serving as angels or devils on your shoulder kibitzing to their hearts content. I actually think the kibitzing is an integral and fun part of the game as long as it isn’t allowed to make the process drag on for too long, as it keeps the other players actively involved during the splitting process. You can always admire the beautiful board if there's downtime.

Related Reading: Agonizing Decisions, Decisions, Decisions, Games of the Years, Six is a Crowd

4. Die Macher

No other game is as engaging as Die Macher. This game takes between 4 and 5 hours to play, but the game sucks you in and makes the time fly by. It'll be the fastest 4 hours of your life. What's really remarkable about Die Macher is that after finding the time to play it, my desire to play isn't quenched, but rather fueled. I simply want to find another time in the near future to play again, which isn't easy since you need exactly five people and at least four hours. But it's worth it because every time I play Die Macher I confirm my feeling that I'd much rather play one game of Die Macher than four one-hour games in that time. It's greater than the sum of its parts, far greater. Die Macher is also far simpler than its reputation makes it out to be. You play 6 rounds and each round has 15 phases, but each phase is actually very straightforward. The game is only imposing because of the quantity of phases and the intricate way in which those phases work together. If you break it down into its component parts it becomes very easy to learn and understand. Then again, the greatness of the game comes from the way in which those pieces work together when combined. The way in which the party platform conference phase, the shadow cabinet phase, the forming coalitions phase, and the media markers phase, just to name a few, all influence each other in countless subtle and not so subtle ways. Die Macher is a game about German elections that not merely manages to be interesting but actually manages to be completely engrossing. Never do I get as into a game experience as I do with Die Macher.

Related Reading: Games of the Years, Fraternizing with the Enemy, Revolution Number Nine, Columbus at Night

5. Antiquity

There's not much left for me to say about Antiquity, given that I've already discussed it in six different articles so far. That appears to be a record, making Antiquity tied for first (along with Crokinole and Settlers of Catan) as the games I've discussed most. This doesn't come as any surprise given how detailed and intricate Antiquity is, making it a prime candidate for discussions and analysis. Antiquity is one of the most complex and convoluted games I own and enjoy, yet it's not complex for the sake of complexity. All of the pieces fit together and the game makes sense. The rules are dense yet intuitive and the flow of the game feels natural. Antiquity is the quintessential Survival Game, as discussed in my Survival Games article, because it's all about trying to survive. The game throws pollution and graves at you and you just have to try to hang during the wild ride that ensues. The game provides such a challenge that it's an accomplishment merely to build a civilization that thrives, regardless of whether you manage to win and beat your human opponents. The real opponent is the game and if you can tame that beast then you've won in a way. I love the challenge provided by Antiquity. It sticks players between a rock and a hard place, and really forces you to think under pressure in order to survive. It's not for the faint of heart, but if you want a memorable game experience then Antiquity is sure to fit the bill.

Related Reading: Surviving in 11th Century Italy, Survival Games, Revolution Number Nine, Across the Spectrum: From Haba to Splotter, Games of the Years, Gaming Trends, Getting Better All The Time, April Showers

6. El Grande

The reigning king of board games in my mind is El Grande. I'll never say no to a game of El Grande. It's simply peerless when it comes to combining simplicity with tension. Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich did an incredible job designing a game that presents players with an almost incessant bombardment of difficult decisions to make, yet within a framework of rules that is easy to grasp and not complicated or convoluted by any means. El Grande is perfect for 5 players who enjoy a raucous evening of negotiation and tactics. Many complain of the need for mastering finger-pointing and deflection to excel at this game, but that's all part of the table talk that makes this such a fun experience. It's not only important to play the right power cards, select the right action cards, and place your caballeros in the right region, but also crucial to convince your neighbors to focus their efforts elsewhere and concern themselves with other people and places. El Grande is simply a joy to play and never gets old.

Related Reading: Games of the Years, Patience isn't Always a Virtue

7. Age of Steam

Brutal, challenging, and completely unforgiving game... but brilliant and infinitely replayable. I did not remotely understand how incredible this game was from reading the rules. It seemed like a whole lot of phases per turn, but it all just seemed to boil down to building track and shipping cubes to cities of the same color, which didn't sound all that interesting or compelling. I let this one sit on the shelf for much longer than it ever should have and I didn't think I'd ever need any expansion maps, but now over 30 games later and with 14 maps in my collection (paltry compared to some I know), I get it, I get why this one keeps people, including me, coming back and playing it again and again, and buying more and more maps. It's finally a German-style board game that rewards long-term strategic planning and not just short-term tactics. It's a game where you can have a completely new experience on a new map without having to learn a whole new set of rules, just a tweak here or there and you've got an entirely different experience, but 4 people who've played the base map before can just jump right in without any noticeable start-up time. In addition, the wide variety of maps means that Age of Steam scales remarkably well to accomodate almost any number of players. Finally, I should note that the rules paradoxically make it seem both overly complicated with lots of phases and intricate rules for replacement/redireting but also too simple to hold my interest since it's just laying track and shipping cubes, but it turns out it's neither of those things in practice, but instead is one of the most interesting and engaging board games I've ever played. Escaping from your starting debt and building a profitable railroad that isn’t in jeopardy of going bankrupt is a huge challenge, but the game does a wonderful job of making you appreciate the moment when you finally manage to go from being in the red to being in the black.

Related Reading: Survival Games, Games of the Years, Maps Galore, Six is a Crowd, Fraternizing with the Enemy, Columbus at Night

8. Tigris & Euphrates

Rounding out the Top 5 is Reiner Knizia's classic Tigris & Euphrates. This game is the poster child of pasted on themes, but I actually think of this as a very thematic game. Knizia once claimed in an interview that the theme came first when designing this classic, and I'm inclined to believe him. Tigris does a fantastic job of reenacting the rise and fall of civilizations. The ebb and flow of kingdoms on the board is a joy to watch. No matter how I'm doing in the game, I enjoy simply watching the dynamic board morph over the course of the game. This is the one board game that I think would be most interesting to watch time-lapse footage of. The shifting kingdoms as they grow and merge and crumble are enthralling. Tigris combines tile-laying with direct confrontation with an ingenious scoring system, and the result is a masterpiece in board game design. The fact that it scales well from 2 to 4 players is just icing on the cake.

Related Reading: Games of the Years, Patience isn't Always a Virtue

9. Carcassonne

This and Tigris & Euphrates are my favorite tile-laying games. The latter is widely recognized as a complex and deep strategy game, while the former is often dismissed as a light and random game solely for beginners to the hobby. I beg to differ. The naysayers of Carcassonne fail to play it as aggressively as it should be played. This game can be far more vicious and brutal than most people realize. It doesn't have to be a game simply about peacefully building your own roads, cities, and farms with randomly drawn tiles. It's best as a game where you're constantly conniving to steal the cities, roads, and farms that your opponent has gone through the trouble of building. Moreover, once you add in the Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders expansions, which I consider essential to making the game great, then you have the additional layer of trying to use your large meeple and builder units effectively, while simultaneously trying to trap your opponent's best units on the board in useless positions. The flexibility of the various expansions are also what make the original Carcassonne far superior to any of the standalone versions that I've tried (e.g., Hunters & Gatherers, The Castle, The City). Some of the later expansions have been a disappointment, such as Princess & Dragon, but the earlier expansions are nice to use from time to time, such as the River, King & Scout, and the Count. The countless combinations possible with the expansions is part of what makes this game always fresh. I've played Carcassonne over 70 times and am still enjoying it, which is some of the highest praise I can give a game.

Related Reading: Carcassonne as heavy as Tigris and Caylus?!

10. Crokinole

The king of dexterity games. There are many good dexterity games, but Crokinole is the truly great one. It really transcends the genre by being both a dexterity game and a strategy game. Once you have played enough to get a good feel for the dexterity element then you can move into the realm where you are also making strategic decisions about which of your opponent's discs to shoot for and where you want your disc to end up after your turn. I've played over 150 times and I'm still seeing new board positions and ways in which the game can play out. Moreover, it's not just a great two-player game, but also a great four-player game with the players divided into two teams of two people each. The partnership aspect adds an extra layer of planning and cooperation to the game that makes it even more interesting. To top it all off, many Crokinole boards are beautiful enough to double as works of art hanging on your wall when they're not in use. Bamboleo, Tumblin' Dice, Loopin' Louie, Piratenbillard, Bausack, PitchCar, Jungle Speed, Maus nach Haus, Hamsterolle, Tier auf Tier, Villa Paletti, Zopp, and Weykick are all good dexterity games. It's a crowded field, but Crokinole is nonetheless far and away the best because it has strategic depth and interesting decision-making that make it worth coming back to time and again, year after year.

Related Reading: Hilinski Brothers Tribute, It Takes Two, Games of the Years, Gaming Trends, Nickels and Dimes and Quarters, Oh My!, Round Number Gaming

11. Imperial

Related Reading: The Bulls & Bears of Gaming, Revolution Number Nine, Games of the Years, Gaming Trends, Non-German Three-Peat

12. La Città

La Città reminds me of El Grande, not in the rules or the game play, but in the way both games manage to combine tension and difficult decision-making with simple and straightforward rules. This combination is what I prize most in games and what I love about many modern board games. I generally prefer games that are simple enough to learn quickly and play decently well in your first game (notwithstanding Antiquity and Die Macher being in my Top 10), but that have enough depth to reward many repeated plays as you explore the various strategies and approaches possible in the game. La Città provides players with incredibly numerous, difficult, and meaningful decisions, while still being relatively easy to learn and understand. It's a city-building game where players are tasked with selecting which buildings to add to their city and where to add them on the board, but this task is not carried out in isolation because the population of each city is fickle and eager to move to whichever city is currently prospering. That is to say, your citizens will abandon you in favor of your neighbor if you don't keep up with the Joneses. Not only is this significant because the number of citizens you have is the primary determinant of your score at the end of the game, but also because you need a citizen to occupy each building in your city. If you end up having less citizens than buildings then you will be forced to destroy buildings all unoccupied buildings. This makes for a fairly vicious game as players can build their cities to encroach on their neighbors and lure away their citizens. However, there are many variables to keep in mind because you also need to have enough food to feed your citizens, otherwise there is a very stiff penalty, so being greedy and stealing too many people from your neighbors will backfire. La Città is a wonderful three-player game where the players keep each other in check as they grow their cities and their population. The modular layout of the board and wide variety of buildings makes it an experience that never gets old.

Related Reading: Survival Games, Six is a Crowd, Games of the Years

13. In the Shadow of the Emperor

Related Reading: Games of the Years

14. Louis XIV

Related Reading: Games of the Years

15. Galaxy Trucker

Related Reading: Games of the Years, November Madness: Part 2, Gaming Trends

16. Goa

Related Reading: First is the Worst - Mitigating the Advantage of the Starting Player, Games of the Years, The Joy of Specialization

17. Twilight Struggle

Related Reading: Matthews' Masterpieces Compared, Fraternizing with the Enemy, Games of the Years, J&J Con, April Showers

18. Ra

Related Reading: Six is a Crowd, Super Fillers for 2, Games of the Years, Round Number Gaming, Patience isn't Always a Virtue, Getting Better All The Time

19. Reef Encounter

Related Reading: The Bulls & Bears of Gaming, First is the Worst - Mitigating the Advantage of the Starting Player, Games of the Years, Six is a Crowd

20. Caylus

Related Reading: The Attia Family Tree, Grandfather of Worker Placement, First is the Worst - Mitigating the Advantage of the Starting Player, Games of the Years

21. Kreta

Related Reading: Simplicity is Paramount, Games of the Years, Patience isn't Always a Virtue

22. Santiago

Related Reading: Games of the Years

23. Through the Desert

Related Reading: More than Meets the Eye, Super Fillers for 2, Games of the Years, First is the Worst - Mitigating the Advantage of the Starting Player

24. Wallenstein

Related Reading: Pappenheimer Surprise, Games of the Years

25. Settlers of Catan

Related Reading: Eye-opening GameSpot Review of Catan for Xbox, Games of the Years, First is the Worst - Mitigating the Advantage of the Starting Player, Joe and Bob, Patience isn't Always a Virtue, Fraternizing with the Enemy

26. Princes of Florence

Related Reading: Games of the Years

27. Ghost Stories

See Also: Best in Show, November Madness: Part 1, J&J Con

28. Survive!

29. Extrablatt

See Also: Games of the Years

30. Notre Dame

See Also: Survival Games, Games of the YearsNovember Madness: Part 2

31. Mr. Jack

See Also: Extension in the New Expansion, Games of the Years, November Madness: Part 2, Non-German Three-Peat

32. Nexus Ops

See Also: It Takes Two, Patience isn't Always a Virtue

33. StreetSoccer

See Also: Varsity Geek, Revolution Number Nine, Games of the Years, Round Number Gaming

34. Roads and Boats

See Also: Gaming Trends

35. Byzantium

See Also: Fraternizing with the Enemy, Six is a Crowd

36. Puerto Rico

See Also: Games of the Years

37. Stronghold

See Also: Non-German Three-Peat, J&J Con

38. Hansa

See Also: Loop-de-Loop in the Hanseatic Sea, Super Fillers for 2, Round Number Gaming

39. Diplomacy

See Also: Diplomatic Smörgåsbord, Games of the Years

40 Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit

See Also: J&J Con

41. Hey! That’s My Fish!

See Also: Games of the Years

42. Bonaparte at Marengo

See Also: Games of the Years

43. Before the Wind

See Also: Games of the Years

44. Arkadia

See Also: The Bulls & Bears of Gaming, Games of the Years

45. China

See Also: Six is a Crowd, Patience isn't Always a Virtue, The Joy of Specialization

46. Meuterer

47. Descent: Journeys in the Dark

48. Mü & Lots More

See Also: In With The New

49. Dominant Species

50. Loopin' Louie

See Also: Gaming Trends

51. Hansa Teutonica

See Also: Non-German Three-Peat, In With The New, The Joy of Specialization, Columbus at Night

52. Age of Empires III

See Also: The Attia Family Tree, The Joy of Specialization

53. Torres

See Also: Games of the Years

54. Maharaja

55. LOTR: Confrontation

See Also: Revolution Number Nine, Patience isn't Always a Virtue, Getting Better All The Time

56. Pandemic

See Also: J&J Con, Columbus at Night

57. Battlestar Galactica

See Also: Paranoia at its Finest

58. Big City

59. Aton

60. Liberté

See Also: Revolution Number Nine, The Joy of Specialization

61. Scripts & Scribes

See Also: In With The New

62. Stephensons Rocket

63. Fjords

64. Le Havre

See Also: November Madness: Part 2, Best in Show

65. Ubongo

66. Fairy Tale

67. War of the Ring

See Also: Getting Better All The Time

68. Factory Fun

69. King of Siam

See Also: Games of the Years, It Takes Two, Six is a Crowd

70. Vikings

See Also: In With The New

71. Hammer of the Scots

See Also: J&J Con

72 Chicago Express

See Also: November Madness: Part 2, Best in Show

73. Krakow 1325 AD

See Also: Best in Show

74. Red November

See Also: November Madness: Part 1

75. Dune

See Also: The Many Faces of the Desert Planet, Games of the Years, Patience isn't Always a Virtue

76. Can’t Stop

See Also: Games of the Years


78. eBay Auction Game

See Also: Revolution Number Nine, Games of the Years, Six is a Crowd

79. Hollywood Blockbuster

80. Ta Yü

81. Travel Blokus

See Also: Patience isn't Always a Virtue, Getting Better All The Time

82. Amun-Re

83. Piranha Pedro

84. Last Train to Wensleydale

See Also: Non-German Three-Peat, In With The New

85. For Sale

86. Samurai

See Also: Super Fillers for 2, Patience isn't Always a Virtue

87. Um Reifenbreite

See Also: Varsity Geek

88. Keythedral

89. Wits & Wagers

90. Traders of Genoa

See Also: Games of the Years

91. Small World

See Also: It Takes Two, November Madness: Part 2

92. Ingenious

See Also: It Takes Two

93. Schnapp

See Also: Across the Spectrum: From Haba to Splotter, Varsity Geek

94. Tichu

See Also: It Takes Two

95. Agricola

See Also: Survival Games, The Attia Family Tree, November Madness: Part 2, Six is a Crowd, Frozen Carbonite Farmer, The Joy of Specialization

96. A Game of Thrones

97. Fearsome Floors

98. New England

99. Oasis

100. Löwenherz