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: 60-51

60. Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge

Battle Hymn Vol. 1 is a chit-pull wargame that recently showed up on the Top 5 games to play solo list. Although combat calculations are rather clunky, the game overall is tons of dice chucking fun. The uncertainty of the chit-pull mechanic adds a lot to this game, especially because even combat resolution occurs on the pull of a chit. The campaign games far outshine the smaller scenarios so definitely check those out.

59. 18Los Angeles

18Los Angeles is a direct offshoot of 1846: the Race for the Midwest and plays like a condensed and cramped version of it. Much like 18MS, 18Los Angeles isn’t very deep or overly complex, it’s just fun, rather straight forward, 18xx on small congested map with some cool concepts (like trains sharing routes). I like how tight the map is and how quickly the game plays out.

58. Glass Road

An Uwe Rosenberg design that I adore but doesn’t hit the table nearly enough. Glass Road is an action selection game where you pick 5 cards to play for a round. If no one else has that card in hand when you play a card, you get all the actions on it. Otherwise, just one. Like many Uwe designs, I love seeing the finished product in Glass Road as you clear forests and build buildings. It’s not as grand as some other Uwe designs but the gameplay is solid. The asset wheels are worth mentioning and are a neat way to keep track of resources in the game. Talking about this makes me want to get it to the table ASAP.

57. Hero Realms

Hero Realms is a light deck building game but it is one of my favorites when played with the unique character classes. The character classes add specialized strategies to the game and without them the game feels rather vanilla. If I’m looking for a very quick playing, easy to setup deck builder, Hero Realms is my choice (again with the class packs, they are an absolute must). The game has been supported past its initial release, but I think the failure to release more character packs has been a big misstep and I would love to see more.

56. Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball Game

Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball is the best sports simulation game I’ve played. Sherco, like other sports sims of its nature, boils down to chucking dice and seeing what happens. But what sets Sherco above things like Hockey Blast or Strat-O-Matic is not only the vast amount of outcomes that can play out but the amount of actual decisions you can make though the course of a game. Whereas with Hockey Blast (a game I love to play solo) you are along for the ride, in Sherco you have what feels like actual player agency. Maybe those decisions don’t actually matter in play but they certainly enhance the experience. Some great fan work (props to the fantastic custom cards by ‘Duck’) has gone into this game and I’ve been working on my own wooden based 1985 Royals play set including a mounted Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium).

55. Root

Asymmetric woodland warfare! Root is another game that improves with continuous play. I started out thinking some factions would be duds based on their particular mechanics but I’ve since been able to get a better grasp on each faction. Once I had an understanding of each leaned into their gameplay styles I found that they are all a blast to play with unique paths to victory. Root requires keeping an eye on each player and determining how to respond to an evolving game state while also playing to your faction’s strengths. You can’t just burry your head and do your own thing but you need to interact with other players. Root allows for that in different ways whether through politicking, warfare or leaching off other in a sort of symbiotic relationship.

54. Rook

Rook is one of my favorite trick taking game with some of my favorite trick taking rules. Whoever makes the highest bid gets to take the 5 card nest (5 face down cards) and can swap 5 of their cards from their hand. Whoever wins the last trick claims the nest (you can hide pointers in there or set yourself up to be 2 suited). 5’s, 10’s, 14’s, the Rook card (super trump), and most cards taken score points at the end of each round. It’s a blast to play, I just think that the nest taker has a huge advantage. The reason Rook falls this low is because of that dominant position that the high bidder can put themselves in. But for an apparently 115+ year old card game, it’s doing well for itself. Ranking Root and Rook next to each other was completely coincidental!

53. SPQR

SPQR has always lived in this weird space for me. When I’m playing the game, I love it. When prepping game or looking back on a game, I sour on it for some reason. I think in large part it has to do with the type of combat SPQR is presenting because although the game rules are a bit dense and gameplay itself is a bit fiddly (solved by playing on Vassal, somewhat), the game design is outstanding. If detailed, tactical Ancients warfare is something you are looking for and you want more on your plate than something like Commands & Colors: Ancients offers, SPQR is a lot of that crammed into one big box.

One of my current favorite Commanders to pilot

52. Magic: The Gathering

Even just a year ago there is no way that Magic cracked my top games list but Commander, or Elder Dragon Highlander has completely changed my perspective on the game. If you are unfamiliar with EDH, Commander is 100 singleton card format best at 4 players. I find building a 100 card Commander deck to be tons of fun and Commander just leads to insane combinations, gut busting laughter and sometimes really interesting politicking.

51. Normandy `44

Normandy `44 has been surpassed by more recent Mark Simonitch designs but those don’t discredit this fantastic game. For those unfamiliar with Simontich’s ZOC-Bond style of games they are, at their base, rather straight forward, you go, I go hex and counter wargames. But piled on top of that base is the ZOC-Bond mechanic and tons of great chrome for each game design. Normandy `44 does slip a bit because of how combat will more likely than not end up on the same CRT column repeatedly due to combat maximums but I still love this game. One of my first hex-and-counter wargames and one I still completely recommend for those looking to play out the Normandy invasion.