Variant: Top 100 Games – 60 Through 51

Image via parentstv.org

Image via parentstv.org

With this set of 10, we close out the bottom half of the top 100. I adore all of these games and would happily play them any time. Looking over this list, I find some of my most played games. And several others that I would love to play more, but don’t seem to hit the table as often due to other players’ preferences.

60. Viticulture

I love the way each play of viticulture creates an arc. You start off scraping by for money. You give tours not to impress people, but solely for the cash it brings in. By mid-game, you start to get your feet under you. And by the end, you tend to be so wealthy that cash is basically superfluous to your designs. Fun worker placement and the Tuscany expansion really allows you to tailor the game to your liking.

59. Specter Ops

Specter Ops basically killed every other hidden movement game for me. I never need to play Scotland Yard again and I traded away Letters from Whitechapel. The introduction of special powers is fantastic, the miniatures are evocative, and the game is always tense. It seems that in every play, it comes down to those last few moves as the infiltrator tries to desperately escape with a pack of hunters at his heels.

58. Brass

It’s been a few years since the Brass20 Challenge, and I’m starting to like this title again. It wasn’t that it had gotten played out, it was more that to meet the challenge I was setting aside other titles. And that was annoying. But Brass is still interesting and I love the way that it sets up a semi-cooperative play style between port and cotton players.

57. Navegador

Now here is a title that hasn’t hit my table in a tragically long time. I’m a big fan of the Rondel mechanic, and Navegador uses it brilliantly. It forces you to plan ahead and think a few turns out. But better yet, the game has a completely player-driven market. Manipulating that market and situating yourself to make the best use of ups and downs is essential to success.

56. Pandemic

When I first brought this game home, my wife and I would play it over and over and over until we got a win. I remember one Sunday evening when we played four or five times in a row until we got the win on Hard. Since then, we’ve learned some tricks to increase our win percentage. But Pandemic is just an engaging, evolving puzzle that gives meaningful choices to everyone.

55. Uluru

I love logic puzzles. “Sally wore red shoes on Tuesday. The kid in the yellow jacket went to school on Wednesday.” That sort of thing. And that’s basically what Uluru (called Pelican’s Cove in the newest edition) is. A set of cards randomizes the logic puzzle and then players are under time pressure to complete it. Without the time pressure, you could figure it out. But with the time pressure, you’re hard pressed to get it completely right.

54. Pax Porfiriana

When I was first introduced to Pax, I immediately thought, “not for me.” The cards are very busy, the components sort of cheap, and the victory conditions are not immediately intuitive. But after giving it a couple of plays, the brilliance of the game shone through. Managing the different types of points is critical, as is gaining money. But even more important, the game provides a rich experience and you get many opportunities for clever play and strategic maneuvers.

53. Merchants and Marauders

This is, without a doubt, the best pirate game on the market today. Most games with that theme are either jokey or just plain bad. But here you get an entire sandbox to play around in. Want to pillage ships? Do that. Want to sell goods, there’s that, too. Feel like investigating rumors? Go for it. Undertake dangerous missions – covered. The whole Caribbean is your oyster and this game is as much about the atmosphere it creates as the gameplay.

52. Tzolk’in: the Mayan Calendar

I knew this game would be a good one when it came with tiny crystal skulls. In truth, the base game is very good, but not fabulous. Over time, there are certain strategies that really stick out – and if you’ve played online, you know that. But the expansion really brings this into its own. It forces the players to deviate from set strategies and puts them quite directly into conflict.

51. Glory to Rome

Rounding out the bottom half of the list is my favorite Chudyk game. I’m still mad at the goofy artwork. It encouraged me to avoid playing Glory to Rome for far too long. And, unfortunately, I missed out on the black box. But the gamplay is absolutely phenomenal. Highly interactive, players have to be careful about what they play and when. When you act, all other players get to follow. And, while not unique, it serves the game extremely well. Less chaotic than Innovation and strongly strategic. But with crazy powerful combos, because Chudyk.

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