Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 50-41

Moving on to the top 50! The difference between games is shrinking as we draw nearer tot he top. Is 49 better than 50, or 38 over 44? Sometimes it depends on the day you ask me. Enjoy!

50. Dominion

I arrived late to the Dominion party but glad I finally made it. The combos you can develop and strategies you can implement in this classic deck-builder are fantastic. The game play is quick and refined and totally outclasses the theme. It’s one of those games where I asked myself why it took so long for me to play. Nearly 14 years old at the time of making this list and is still one of the best pure deck builders out there. Also the last to crack the best of list.

49. Mombasa

The open gameplay of Mombasa often leaves me wanting about twice as many actions as I took by the time the game winds down. Mombasa is a gorgeous blend of several different mechanics including card drafting, pool/deck building, and area control with lots of different paths to venture down. The hand/deck management is a highlight here. As you play cards, they are moved to certain discard piles of which you may only pick up one per turn. This means that where you play your cards will determine which cards are available to you for future turns. It’s a great mechanic and just adds to the thoughtfulness of the game.

48. First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!

First Class is a top 5 game for my wife and certainly a favorite of mine to play with her. It is a card drafting game with each card having different abilities or actions, which may even vary depending on where you place the card. There are several different strategies to draft into, and although some certainly feel stronger than others, exploring all the different paths to victory is a blast.

47. Spades

There was a point in time where our family was playing Spades on just about a weekly basis for a couple years. It’s a trick-taking game without any catchy gimmicks using a standard deck of cards. Players make bids for the number of tricks they will take and you work with your partner to make sure you don’t go under your total team bid. Not a flashy pick but I love a good game of Spades.

46. La Granja

La Granja is a game about playing multi-use cards to your farm and drafting dice to perform various actions, ideally in a manner taking advantage of your played cards. In addition to managing goods, cards and available actions you must manage and keep track of available deliveries (donkeys) and turn order (through taking siestas). A very tight game that can really shine through careful planning and engine development.

45. Yokohama

Yokohma is another game with great table presence where play matches the shine on the table. Yokohama is a worker placement game of sorts but you may only move your worker (your ‘President’ in the game) to areas on the modular board where you already have Assistants. The amount of Assistants (cubes), along with other items, at the location determine the power level of the action you just moved to. I’m probably not doing the gameplay justice but I find it fascinating and requiring of careful planning to make sure you are maximizing actions.

44. Imperial Struggle

When I first tried to sit down to play Imperial Struggle, I did a quick skim of the rules and figured I’d pick it up as we went. One look at the map (also gorgeous) and I closed the Vassal module and fired up Twilight Struggle. Eventually I circled back and was rewarded with an absolute banger. The rules of Imperial Struggle are straight forward but the game is very deep and an absolute thrill to play. Each aspect and region of the game demands your constant attention. You can’t devote all your attention to one area and you certainly can’t afford to completely ignore any areas your opponent is building their presence.

43. Washington’s Crossing

The activation system of Washington’s Crossing can be a bit unintuitive as you daisy chain through leaders to get your forces in motion. But once I had the basic process down, I found Washington’s Crossing to be my favorite game covering the American Revolution. Once Trenton falls (bound to happy early), strategizing and planning really open up. I love the fatigue system (sharing some similarities to Great Campaigns of the American Civil War) and combat resolution is a fun exercise, which I always appreciate in a game.

42. Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania

Ticket to Ride is one of my first modern board game experiences and is still a game I’ll happily play to this day. For my tastes, Pennsylvania is the best game version. In TtR: Pennsylvania players will select a stock share from different companies as they lay routes across the state. At the end of the game, points are awarded to majority shareholders for each company. This provides a straightforward mechanic that doesn’t add a ton of weight to TtR but adds just enough meat to set it apart from other maps.

41. The Last Hundred Yards

The Last Hundred Yards isn’t trying to be ASL light and we’ve applauded it for that on the show. Instead, Mike Denson has developed a game series that stands on its own and offers a different experience to Advanced Squad Leader and similar tactical WWII games. Combat resolution, unit activation and even unit eligibility all take on a different form in Last Hundred Yards. The game plays quickly, differently and still tells the same great stories we love to see in tactical games. Don’t write off The Last Hundred Yards as an ASL clone because you will be missing out on a fantastic tactical game.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 80-71

80. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

This is probably sacrilege but when push comes to shove, I just enjoy the smaller 2 player version of Agricola more. Some key Agricola elements (e.g. professions, feeding family) are missing in this smaller version but Agricola:ACBS is great fun and still captures the Agricola feel. An important caveat here is the expansions are a must but that’s easy to accomplish with the recently printed big box version of the game.

79. Red Rising

Red Rising uses a favorite card game mechanic of mine which is deciding to keep a card in your hand for scoring/end-game purposes or playing it for some immediate benefit. The decisions generated by multi-use cards are excruciating and produce some excellent internal tension and that’s definitely present in Red Rising. The theme doesn’t come oozing off of the game but Red Rising at least pushed me to check out the books which I highly recommend. Doesn’t overstay its welcome on the table and has fantastic art.

78. Battles of the American Revolution Tri-pack: Guilford, Saratoga, Brandywine

There is some great value to be found in this collection and I seem to always find it hovering near the top of my “I need to play that again” pile. The Battles of the American Revolution as a whole is a sharp, elegant system that plays without getting bogged down. Randomized turn order adds a nice surprise element to the game and troop morale can play a role as well. American Rev isn’t a topic I gravitate towards but I think this is a great system, and more specifically entry in the system, for anyone looks for some American Revolution action.

77. Kingsburg

I’ll add the important caveat that Kingsburg only cracks this list with its fantastic expansion Kingsburg: To Forge A Realm. With the expansion, Kingsburg is an excellent dice placement game where you have to prepare for a looming threat while developing your realm for victory points. To Forge A Realm adds variety to each player board and future plays. A second edition exists that I haven’t played.

Photo from Ted Alspach, BGG

76. Crokinole

I’ve had success with Crokinole in just about every situation I’ve introduced it. This is a simple flicking game with targeting rules that shift depending on the current board state. Absolute blast and I’m very happy with the recent Mayday Games board I acquired for my own collection.

75. Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King

Isle of Skye is a great blend of auction and tile placement mechanics. The ‘trick’ here is you price the tiles for sale or to keep. You want to price the tiles your opponents want high enough to take their money, but not so high they buy elsewhere. You also want to protect the tiles you want by pricing them just so someone won’t take them from out in front of you.

74. Star Wars: Destiny

Oh man, when Star Wars: Destiny came out I was all in. I was cracking packs and going to draft tournaments every chance I could. Prices and publishing delays/schedules killed a lot of the momentum but mechanically I loved this game. Destiny was a collectible card game with dice and tons of Star War theme jammed in. Eventually Fantasy Flight pulled the plug on this game but I still remember it with fondness. When stores were unloading their stocks I bought a bunch up to build a couple of balanced decks to keep around.

73.Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles

Band of Brothers was my entry to tactical WWII gaming. If you have no interest in the rules or complexity of ASL and ATS, this scratches the exact same itch with a much, much smaller rule book. Fantastic components and just as capable of telling the great stories that tactical games often tell. The only reason Band of Brothers hovers this far back in the list is because I eventually moved on to ASL and ATS and needed to make space.

72. Genesis: Empires and Kingdoms of the Ancient Middle East

The thing I like most about Genesis is that it allows me to focus on my kingdom’s immediate concerns and objectives. If playing as the Babylonians, there is little I can do to react to events unfolding in Troy or Memphis. My immediate concerns are the areas and threats facing Babylon as my chits are drawn. The result is the game allows me to focus on my kingdom’s expansion in a way that I enjoy. On top of that, Genesis has very interesting percentage-based combat resolution where the victor needs to weigh taking vs. inflicting casualties. Richard Berg admitted this game was unbalanced (it’s really easy to make a Mitanni sandwich) but if you understand that going into the game Genesis makes for a great play.

71. Fresco

Solid worker placement with a fun twist and a unique (especially for the time of its release) theme, painting. Here, players commit their workers in secret and depending on how early their painters wake up will either get their preferred spot or the unwanted leftovers. We don’t sprinkle in the expansions beyond those included in the base box but we are still enjoying this game several years after its release. I guess you could say it still feels Freshco.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 91-81

This February on History on the Table, Rich and I will discuss my Top 10 games of all time. As that episode draws nearer, I wanted to count down to my Top 10 with all the other games I love to play. Over the next few weeks between now and Episode 35 of History on the Table, I’ll be sharing my top 91 games of all time. This list is not exclusive to war games or historical board games, just as it wasn’t when I first started the podcast and revealed my Top 10 games. So, follow along as I count down and feel free to share your thoughts and favorite games down below. I’ll update each page with the next series as they are posted.

I want to talk a little bit about my process and answer some questions before we start the count down. First off, I started with just about every single game I’ve played and made cuts of some obvious games (looking at you Phase 10!) and then did an initial ranking of about 400 games using Pub Meeple’s Ranking Engine. From there I cut the list down to 153 games and did another run through of the Ranking Engine. Finally, I examined the list, made adjustments where necessary, and settled on my top 91 games of all time.

Why 91 games? 91 was the point where I looked at the list and thought there was enough difference in terms of how much I enjoy game #91 and game #92 that it made for a better cut off point than 100. In other words, games #92-100 probably fall outside of my ‘top games’.

Missing games? Some games I am certain that would crack the list and perform quite well were excluded because I just can’t make a call on them yet. I simply haven’t played them enough. These include Dune, Operation Mercury, Baptism By Fire and Gloomhaven.

Why am I ranking series as whole? I combined GCACW, OCS, Line of Battle and Next War into one entry each and considered my top game in each series for ranking purposes. I did this because I didn’t want a run of 4 GCACW games all in a row. If games share a common set of ‘system rules’, they got grouped together. It’s the same story for expansions (e.g., Dominion titles) and tactical games with various modules like Advanced Squad Leader, Advanced Tobruk System, and Company of Heroes.

Something doesn’t match up with the Every Wargame Ever List? Rich and I declare that the EWE List is highly objective with tongue in cheek but compared to my own Top X lists, it is more objective. Also, Rich isn’t weighing in on the discussion here so there may be some inconsistencies.


91. 7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders Duel is an addictive, fast playing 2 player card game where players develop their civilizations by drafting different types of cards into their tableau. Each play feels deep and different strategies all feel viable to achieving victory. Fun choices to explore and a household favorite for both my wife and me.

90. Coup

It has been a while since I needed to bring a filler game to a meetup but Coup is probably my favorite in the category. It is also one of my favorite social deduction games. Easy to each and also fast playing I especially appreciate how different play groups develop their own Coup metas. The game itself is incredibly simple. Players can take any character action in the game but risk being challenged and losing influence if they are caught lying.

89. Inis

Inis is a gorgeous area control/card drafting game that offers very tight card play from a limited card pool. You will know (mostly) which cards are out there but you won’t know when they will be played. Timing and understanding the cards is important.

You’ll also have to weigh whether you want to sacrifice a precious card or pull one of your clans from the board as you fight across the map.

88. Commands and Colors: Napoleon

In short this is one of the deeper C&C games with combat strength actually tied to remaining blocks. For more comments check out this Top 5 with Judd Vance.

87. Honshu

Honshu is an interesting little card-based tile laying game that also uses some light trick taking elements. In Honshu the winner of each ‘trick’/round gets to pick from the cards played to become a tile in their expanding map. That means you may or may not end up with the tile you would like. It’s quick, easy to each and has some fun end game scoring.

86. Azul

Another quick and easy game and another great looking title. Azul is tile drafting game with a surprising amount of depth to it. You’re not only selecting for your own board but need to be mindful of what tiles get left behind. If you (or even better, your opponent) can’t use a tile you or they will lose points. If you trigger the end of the game, you want to make sure you are the one popping off for the biggest point combinations.

85. Tournay

Tournay is a bit of a hidden gem in my opinion. I can see how it is easy to brush aside for more exciting looking games for sure. But inside the box is an exceptional game that shouldn’t be missed. You draft different building and character cards into your 3×3 grid that either provide ongoing benefits or can be activated by placing workers. It has a super interesting mechanic where you can pay your opponent to use their workers if you run out. Fantastic at 2 players.

84. Alhambra

Alhambra is a euro game classic and it’s always a delight to play. There isn’t a really wow factor to tell you about or anything overtly noteworthy, it’s just a solid playing tile placement/set collection game that looks really nice on the table. The rules can basically be boiled down to either collecting money or purchasing/placing buildings into your Alhambra. There are placement considerations and set collection scoring to keep in mind but that’s about it. Simple but effective game design.

83. Dune: Imperium

Dune: Imperium is a great design that uses two of my favorite board game mechanics, worker placement and deck building, and throws a great theme on top. I’m a little surprised to find it this far down the list but maybe it’s a rising star.

82. Agricola

Agricola used to be quite a bit higher in my past top lists. Nothing has changed in terms of quality of the game, it is still fantastic, tight and sometimes punishing. It gets knocked down because there are several Uwe Rosenberg games that I prefer to play. I’ve found that I enjoy the more sandboxy worker placement games and Agricola feels restrictive, especially compared to some future Rosenberg titles. It’s not that I mind the brutality of feeding your family in Agricola but I like feeling as if I have different options to choose from, even to meet tough demands.

81. Caverna

Caverna also used to be much higher up in past lists but doesn’t find itself here because it feels restrictive like Agricola. No, Caverna offers plenty of different options and is quite a bit more flexible than Agricola. That being said, it just didn’t resonate quite as much with me as other Uwe games have.
This seems as good of place as any to go ahead and point out that although we are at the ‘bottom’ of my Top 91 games, these games are still in the top 20% of all games I’ve ever played. So don’t worry, Agricola and Caverna are still great games that I love to play.

Only one war game so far but I suspect that we may see one or two more in the coming posts. Check back next week our next list. This page will be updated with a direct link when posted.

Again, feel free to share your thoughts down below.

Games: 80-71