Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 40-31

40. Caesar: Rome vs Gaul

Caesar is an innovative card driven wargame that builds upon many of the foundations of Mark Simonitch’s earlier design, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. It’s fast playing, elegant and features a game state that seems to require constant reassessment as threats pop up and change very rapidly. A much more interesting dice-based combat resolution replaces the, for my taste, less interesting battle cards found in Hannibal. Hannibal and Caesar are both great games but Caesar is a refinement of its predecessor resulting and one of my favorite card driven games.

39. Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan

I initially bounced off of Sekigahara pretty hard. At first, I found no satisfaction in the combat resolution cards, much like Hannibal. After deciding to revisit the game, I discovered that the card play of Sekigahara is far deeper and much more rewarding than I initially thought. Mechanically simple but extremely clever in design, Sekigahara is an amazing game that has revealed its true potential over the course of continued play.

38. Bayonets& Tomahawks

I guess this is the part of my list where I’m dumping all my card driven games. That wasn’t by design but as I process these past few picks, I realize that they all share the common trait of being elegant, fast-play card driven games. None of games 40 through 38 are overly complex or monster wargames. They each build upon and offer new and interesting takes to the CDG genre and don’t overstay their welcome on the table. Bayonets & Tomahawks contributes its fair share of innovation and development to the genre with my favorite being how the differently shaped combat units interact with each other and lead to interesting combat outcomes. I’ll a admit that Bayonets & Tomahawks is a bit of a surprise hit for me. It snuck in a play in 2021, delivered a fantastic experience and has been occupying brain space ever sense.

37. Advanced Tobruk System

I earlier applauded Last Hundred Yards for standing on its own legs and being its own type of tactical WWII game. ATS on the other hand offers a very similar experience to Advanced Squad Leader. I don’t love everything about ATS but there are some very specific mechanic and rule choices that I do generally prefer to ASL. Most importantly, the rulebook is much more condensed and can almost be read much like you were preparing for any other wargame, almost. ATS also features alternating activations as opposed to entire I-go, you-respond phases in ASL. I could make a list of differences and things I prefer for each game but, in short, for me, ATS is a nice change of pace from ASL but does not dethrone it.

36. Arboretum

I alluded to Arboretum way back with game #79, Red Rising. Arboretum is this surprisingly tense little card game about planting different trees in increasing numerical order to try and score the most points. Scoring isn’t a guarantee though because you have to hold back enough trees in your hand to be eligible to score that type of tree. It’s simple but fascinating and sometimes excruciating trying to determine which cards to play, discard or keep. A brain-burner that I absolutely love.

35. Buffalo Wings

I am not good at playing Buffalo Wings. In my first face to face game my opponent, Mitchell Land, pointed out that after probably 5-7 turns of zooming and whirling around the map, my plane was effectively back to where I started, facing the same direction just at a much lower altitude. The Fighting Wings and Air Powers series covering tactical air combat from J.D. Webster fascinate me. As I dive deeper into these games, which I admit is a process, my fasciation grows. What I really like and appreciate is how the spreadsheet flight logs (tracking expenditures of movement, power, altitude, change in market value, etc.) reinforce the rules you’ve read and are trying to grock. I joke that it’s ‘Spreadsheets the Wargame’ but I’ve found I rather like working through that step-by-step process each turn to better understand these very meaty games.

34. Arkham Horror: The Card Game

I recently discussed Arkham Horror: The Card Game as my top solo game. Whether solo, or multi-player, Arkham checks a lot of different boxes for me. First, I love a good Cthulhu based game. I know a lot of board gamers feel an oversaturation of Cthulhu as a theme but so long as the game play is fresh, keep `em coming. For Arkham, everything about this game captures or leans into the Cthulhu vibes I’m looking for. The scenarios, the settings, the art, and even the mechanics all lend themselves to the Lovecraft aesthetic and make for an outstanding scenario based living card game.

33. The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire

Worker placement, engine building, tableau building, again we’re talking about a game that checks a lot of boxes. Manhattan Project: Energy Empire is an example of using the right mechanics and using them well and in new ways. Worker locations are never completely locked down because you can commit more energy to visit a spot that’s already been claimed. You can manipulate and use different buildings and energy types that align with your particular approach for that game. A great take on the worker placement genre.

32. Terra Mystica

I owned Terra Mystica for years before I finally played it and I only started playing because I played Gaia Project and couldn’t find a copy of it at the time. Terra Mystica is very much a resource management game. As long as you have the resources, you can take which ever action you want. There isn’t always an obvious or clear action to take when you first get started but once you start to build momentum and become more and more efficient the game’s depth begins to reveal itself. Factions are unique and offer different game play experiences. Games themselves can play out very differently based off those factions and different bonus and scoring tiles revealed. I don’t always go for euro games that require a ton of future planning but there is something about sitting down in front of Terra Mystica and realizing that if I do A, then B, that sets up C which will mean I can finally accomplish D.

31. 1830: Railways & Robber Barons

You always remember your first and 1830 was my first 18xx game. It closed in a glorious blaze with someone else dumping an empty shell corporation on an unexpecting new player leading to their bankruptcy. For so long I had placed 18xx games on this hard to reach pedestal but 1830 opened my eyes to the fact that 18xx games are not rules complicated, they are practice and execution complicated. With that first hurdle cleared, subsequent 1830 games then revealed how deep 18xx games, including and especially 1830, can be. The best part about 1830 is it accomplishes that depth of play without flashy gimmicks or tricks. Not saying those are bad things, they can make for very fun 18xx games. A fantastic, truly classic game design.

Matt’s Top Games of All Time: 70-61

70. Champions of Midgard

Dice based combat resolution and worker placement may not seem like a nice pairing but that’s what you get here and it is tons of fun. Champions of Midgard is like many worker placement games where you collect various goods to build neat things and feed people. Here the people are Viking warriors and the cool things are warships and supplies to protect the village from monsters. Glory (victory points) are earned by venturing out and killing monsters. Still ranks as one of my wife’s favorite games.

69. Food Chain Magnate

My first and only Splotter Spellen game (to date). Food Chain Magnate is a very smart and ruthless design where you can easily get left behind. It’s a great balance of developing your own board state while needing to keep an eye on what your opponents are up to. Unique theme and a great look. A recent play reminded me how strong of strategy game this even though I was playing terribly.

68. 18MS: The Railroads Come to Mississippi

18MS is my change of pace 18xx title. It won’t be my only 18xx entry either. It’s very straight forward and doesn’t have the same depth of play as other, more robust 18xx games but it’s still very fun to play. A fixed number of rounds makes for fast playing games and the privates offer fun one-time abilities.

67. The Castles of Burgundy

Mechanically straight forward but deep enough for continued rewarding and strategic play. The Castles of Burgundy is a great dice/action selection game and a go to couples’ game for my wife and me. Like Kingsburg, I prefer to play with the variable player boards to add some spice to each play.

66. Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles

If you want to read more, check out this Top 5 list with Judd Vance. In short Samurai Battles has some very fun power cards and a very interesting meta currency that sets it a few notches above other Commands & Colors titles.

65. Innovation

I didn’t play Innovation until 2021 but once the pop was topped there was no going back. Innovation is sometimes chaotic but always fun race to the end. Multi-use cards, take that capabilities and limited actions come together in great way here. The group I play this most with has developed a great meta that only adds to my appreciation of the game. Oars!

64. Operation Pegasus

Judd is getting named dropped twice in the same chunk of my top 100 games. Here it is for spreading the good word about Operation Pegasus. This a 42 year old war game covering the Siege of Khe Sanh that holds up surprisingly well (unless you can only play your wargames solo). Hidden counters, helicopter management and logistics and very fun gameplay. Combat is a little murky but certainly worth working through.

New Axis Empires edition

63. Axis Empires

Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg! & Axis Empires: Dai Senso!, either separate or as a combined game, are great WWII sandbox games that really give a lot of agency to each faction. The political tables and the outcomes from various political event rolls are the highlight of these games and can make for some very interesting and unexpected game states. Combat is fun but pretty shallow but at the army scale it works. Definitely worth looking into if you want WWII: What If in a box.

New Axis Empires edition

62. 1832: The South

Until I get a chance to play 1817 in person (spoiler, 1817 doesn’t crack this list, yet), I think 1832 is around the top of my 18xx complexity interest. There are plenty of levers to pull in 1832 for my taste. It was my first experience with price protection and the creation of Systems and the clever game play that develops from their use. Doesn’t have the harshness of 1817 but certainly a robust 18xx design.

61. Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Crusades

Game play experiences and the memories we develop while playing play a huge role in shaping our perception of games. My first play of Onward, Christian Soldiers was enlightening and incredibly memorable, in the best of ways, and now O,CS lives rent free in my head. The game certainly has its flaws and could use some additional development that will probably never happen but I am convinced that the workings of a wargame masterpiece are here. If you could assemble a group of 7 experienced players and hash out a couple, but not many, rule ambiguities you could have an unforgettable wargaming experience. Factions have to act out of their own interests but also must work together towards their side’s common goal. Brutal attrition, deadly combat and no reinforcements for the Crusaders really make for a tough nut to crack.

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