2016 was the first year that I wrote a Top 50 games. Here's the 2017 version starting with games 50-41. Each game is linked to the relevant Boardgamegeek page. I have adapted/borrowed descriptions of each game to give you some flavour as to what it's about, then follows my thoughts.
- O = Own
- DO = Don't own
- ** = New to my Top 50
50. Jaipur (O)**
Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. You are one of the two most powerful traders in the city. But that's not enough for you, because only the merchant with two Seals of Excellence will have the privilege of being invited to the Maharaja's court. You are therefore going to have to do better than your direct competitor by buying, exchanging and selling at better prices, all while keeping an eye on both your camel herds.
A card game for two seasoned traders! When it's your turn, you can either take or sell cards. If you take cards, you have to choose between taking all the camels, taking 1 card from the market or swapping 2 to 5 cards between the market and your cards. If you sell cards, you get to sell only one type of good per turn, and you get as many chips from that good as you sold cards. The chips' values decrease as the game progresses, so you'd better hurry ! But, on the other hand, you get increasingly high rewards for selling 3, 4, or 5 cards of the same good at a time, so you'd better wait! You can't sell camels, but they're paramount for trading and they're also worth a little something at the end of the round, enough sometimes to secure the win, so you have to use them smartly.
Jaipur is a fast-paced card game, a blend of tactics, risk and luck.
I was introduced to this game by the wonderful designer Chris 'Shep' Shepperson. It's one of a very small selection of 2p only games in my collection. I thought it looked overly simplistic and a bit dull (obviously I don't mean the art; it's gorgeous) but couldn't be more wrong. For me it's not the most thrilling game but achieves exactly what the designer set out to do in my opinion. He's created a very smooth, flowing set collection game that features push your luck, hand management, beating your opponent to rewards, and camels...lots of camels.
49. Overseers (O)**
Since the beginning of time, two opposing forces have been the pillars of the universe and coexist in eternal balance. Our Goddess in her infinite wisdom has sent a group of Overseers to protect our world. They have the power to bend human traits to their will, and they will always battle between each other to create the perfect symmetry between virtues and vices of humankind. You will now choose whether to find the best balance — or completely crush it for your own good.
Overseers is a drafting and bluffing game with a twist. Each player represents an Overseer whose objective is to bend traits in their favor to create the most dominant combination of virtues and vices. The game has three main phases:
1) Drafting: Each player receives six cards at random from the deck, selects one of them, then passes the rest to the player sitting on their left. The goal is to build up the combination that will grant them the most victory points. Some cards grant points on their own, while others require the same type of cards to earn more points.
2) Judgement: All players place their five trait cards in front of them in two rows: two face down and three face up to show the cards they chose. Give the information available, the Overseers then discuss which player has the strongest possible combination. After deliberating, players vote for this person using their token. The chosen player must then admit or deny the verdict:
— If they admit having the strongest combination, they must then discard two cards from their combination. — If they deny this, the showdown phase happens, with all players revealing their scores. If the chosen player has the strongest combination, they lose the two cards that grant the most points; if not, instead they take one additional card of their choice from the discard pile.
3) Scoring: Each player shows all cards in front of them, then calculates their score.
The game might have other phases depending on the type of overseers being played as each character has special abilities that can change the outcome of the game, such as being able to peek at another player's hidden cards, steal a card before the scoring phase, or transform one card into another.
At the end of each round, players secret their victory point (VP) tokens to keep their score secret, and after three rounds whoever has the most VPs wins.
Deep breath. Sorry for that rather long "summary" but I couldn't see a good way of cutting it down and you still getting a good flavour of it. Overseers might be the most unique game in my Top 50. It uses standard mechanisms such as Card Drafting and Set Collection but in such clever ways that they feel totally fresh. I'm struggling to find words to describe the experience of playing Overseers and I don't think that's entirely because of the beer and wine befuddling my swimming brain. Admittedly, it's not pulling up any trees rated at no.48/50. It's not a perfect game, I think you could identify certain flaws, but I've really enjoyed playing this. It needs to get to the table again soon.
48. Rhino Hero (O)
Super Rhino! presents players with an incredibly heroic – and regrettably heavy – rhinoceros who is eager to climb a tall building and leap other tall buildings in a single bound. First, though, you need to construct that building.
Players each start the game with five roof cards, and they take turns adding walls and roofs to a single building. On a turn, you first place walls on the highest floor, then you choose a roof card in your hand and place it on the wall. Each roof card bears markings that indicate where the next player must place walls on the card. In addition, some roof cards force a player to perform special actions, such as placing a second roof, changing the direction of play, or moving Super Rhino to a new location on the tower. Keep your hands steady!
The first player to build all of his roof cards wins the game. Alternatively, if the building collapses, the player who caused the collapse automatically loses, and the player with the fewest roof cards in hand wins.
A stalwart of my collection, I can't imagine ever getting rid of it. Admittedly I've not played the newer version, Rhino Hero: Super Battle, which has a laughably huge box and so already has a black mark against it in my book. It does look rather epic, I will admit, but regular Rhino Hero has always hit the spot for me. There seems to be a bizarre inverse correlation between soberness and capability, at least in our plays. More booze = taller towers. Explain that Einstein!!
You have been caught looting the hoard of the dreaded Drakon. For such transgression, a fiery death should be the only appropriate response — but Drakon has decided to toy with you before she devours you. You and your rival heroes will each be released into the labyrinth, and the first hero to discover ten gold pieces will go free with his treasure. The rest of you will satisfy the dragon's hunger.
In every game of Drakon, you and your opponents must fight to stay alive in the midst of the labyrinth. On your turn, you can either move your hero to another room, or add another piece to the labyrinth, placing beneficial chambers in your own path and throwing your opponents into harm's way. But you must be cautious. The chambers of Drakon's labyrinth are filled with danger and ancient magics, not to mention the dragon herself. To navigate these deadly corridors and survive, you’ll need to be quick and careful.
It's your turn. Play a tile or move your character and activate any powers in the room you just arrived in. Draw another tile (if applicable). NEXT PLAYER! Yep, it's that simple. First player to reach a total of 10 gold wins the game. Simple it is, but it's also addictive. Although it doesn't hit the table as often as I'd like, it's often hilarious. Each player is trying to do their own thing, make a lucrative pattern through the labyrinth picking up treasure and only pausing your gold-getting to reak some havoc on your opponent(s). It's tile placement done right in my view and a very satisfying experience. Only issue I've found is the length of game with higher player counts (I have third edition so don't know if this was addressed in the fourth edition). It should be short and snappy so I wouldn't choose to play it with 5 or 6 players.
46. Small Star Empires (O)
Small Star Empires is a quick area control game for 2-4 players. In this game, players colonize the galaxy using their ships, which they move on a modular board containing hexagonal spaces (systems). The modular board is made up of seven different double-sided sector tiles, which allows for a different map and different experience each time you play the game.
During a turn, a player must move one of their ships on the board. They can move the ship only in a straight line, as far away as they want, but they cannot go over systems controlled by other players. After moving the ship, the player has to choose whether to place a colony or a trade station in that system. Both of these mark control over the system until the end of the game, but the trade station gives the player bonus points for each adjacent system controlled by their opponents. The game ends when either all of the players have placed their colonies and trade stations on the board or until none of the players' ships can move (because they have become blocked by other players' systems).
After the game ends, points are calculated. Each player gets one point for each planet that they have in their systems. (Systems have 1 to 3 planets on the board.) Players also earn points for Nebulae; the more they have from one color, the more points they earn, with bonus points from other special systems such as the Unexplored System Tiles, which are part of a variant in the game. After calculating the points, the player with the most points wins!
This was another Essen 2016 purchase, based on a recommendation by Mike and Matt of Carmik Games. At it's heart is a very similar system to that used in Hey, that's my fish but there's a lot more going on. There are multiple categories to score there are greater tactical decisions, and there are several variants included in the box to change it up and keep it fresh. If you've tried Hey, that's my fish or Battle Sheep but feel that you want more depth then this may be the game for you.
45. Seventh Hero (aka Rent a Hero (O)
The card deck in Seventh Hero consists of 77 cards, with each card representing one of seven different heroes. Players each start with two random heroes, and each hero has a special power that can be activated once. Each turn, a player sends a card from his hand face down to the next player, who can choose to take it or pass it on. If he takes it, he adds it to his group of heroes, but if it's a hero he already has, both hero cards are sent to the discard pile. Before sending a hero away, the player must obey the current round's limitations, such as the card must be odd or must be below or above a certain number. The first player to collect six of the seven heroes wins.
I was introduced to this little gem by Ad and Elaine Best at one of the many DellCons in Malvern. We'd never met before but this game was the ultimate ice-breaker. It's fun, it's quick, there's actually a fair bit of decision making and reasoning and I really like it. The game was recently re-published as Rent a Hero. Take a look.
44. Port Royal (O)
The merchant players in Port Royal are trying to earn as much as they can out of the Caribbean Sea. The 120-card deck depicts a coin on the back of each card — with players earning and paying coins throughout the game — and different items on the card fronts. On a turn, a player can first draw as many cards as he likes, one at a time from the deck, placing them in the harbor (an area near the deck). If the player draws a ship with the same name as a ship already in the harbor, he's spent too much time dilly-dallying and his turn ends (after using the ship to attack, if possible), with all the cards in the harbor being discarded. Otherwise, the player can stop whenever he likes, then use/acquire one card if three or fewer ships are in the harbor, two cards if four ships are present, and three cards if five ships are present. Players rob ships, collecting the number of coins shown on them, then discarding the card, while they hire people, paying the number of coins depicted. After the active player takes his 1-3 cards, each other player may pay the active player one coin in order to take one card in the same way. When one player has at least twelve influence points — which are on both people and expedition cards — the game is played to the end of the round, giving everyone the same number of turns, then the player with the most influence points wins.
This is one of my favourite push-your-luck games. Considering how light this game is, in terms of rules and strategy, it's impressive how many choices you have to make and how many different ways there are to play it. Port Royal definitely benefits from adding in the Ein Auftrag geht noch (One more contract) expansion and Gambler promo as there is even more replayability and decisions added through them. I don't get this to the table often but it's always entertaining when I do.
43. 6 nimmt! (O)
In 6 nimmt! you want to score as few points as possible. To play the game, you shuffle the 104 number cards, lay out four cards face-up to start the four rows, then deal ten cards to each player. Each turn, players simultaneously choose and reveal a card from their hand, then add the cards to the rows, with cards being placed in ascending order based on their number; specifically, each card is placed in the row that ends with the highest number that's below the card's number. When the sixth card is placed in a row, the owner of that card claims the other five cards and the sixth card becomes the first card in a new row. In addition to a number from 1 to 104, each card has a point value. After finishing ten rounds, players tally their score and see whether the game ends. (Category 5 ends when a player has a score greater than 74, for example, while 6 nimmt! ends when someone tops 66.) When this happens, the player with the fewest points wins!
This game is really one of a kind. I've not come across another game that is so simple but creates so much exhilaration and frustration in virtually every round. It absolutely shines with large numbers of players and is a classic end to a game group evening.
42. PitchCar Mini (O)**
PitchCar Mini is a small version of PitchCar, a dexterity game where large, wooden, puzzle-like pieces are used to construct a race track that looks very similar to a slot car track when finished. But instead of using electrons, players use finger-flicks to send small pucks around the track, a la Carrom.
I had been looking out for second hand copies of PitchCar or the mini version for a while- thanks to the volume of wood and weight of the box it's pretty costly brand new- when a cheap copy of PitchCar Mini came up for sale to collect at UKGE 2017. I jumped at the chance and what a great purchase it's been. Of course it's light and silly fun but I've not yet found anyone who doesn't enjoy it.
41. Keltis: Das Kartenspiel (O)**
Keltis: Das Kartenspiel has 110 cards and will retain the Keltis card-play: Players have a hand of cards, playing or discarding one card each turn on piles of the same color then drawing one card. Each of the five colors includes two 'finishing cards', and these cards can be played on a stack of the matching color at any time, after which no further number cards can be added to that stack; once five finishing cards have been played, or the deck has been exhausted, the game ends.
I first came across Reiner Knizia's 'Keltis' series of games when I picked up a copy of Keltis: Der Weg der Steine, a delightfully simple game made almost entirely of small cardboard tokens. It remains in my collection, although it does not feature in my Top 50, because it appeals to non-gamers as well as gamers, depending on the player count. At 4 players there's very little strategy: it's a bit of light fun. At 2 players, it gains a whole new level of strategy and tactics. What is true at all player counts, however, is that the game is probably governed more by luck than skill. That's where Das Kartenspiel comes in. It's virtually the same game but with much less luck and therefore means the better player will likely win. Hand management, the addition of communal discard piles (which give the game a similar vibe to Arboretum) and the balancing act between immediate point scoring and sacrificing potentially useful cards for gem stones mean that players have meaningful decisions every go.
Turns are short and you need to pay attention to what other players are doing which leads to a nice level of interaction. The rules are very brief, though unless you're a German speaker you'll need to download and print them in English, and the box is tiny which is welcome in this age of bigger and bigger boxes. It's cheap to buy and won't take up much room on your shelf: winner!