Variant: Top 100 Games – 30 Through 21 | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Variant: Top 100 Games – 30 Through 21

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We are inching ever closer to the final toppest of the top. The thirties represent not only some of my favorites, but also games that are objectively awesome. Sure, they might not be some peoples’ cup of tea, but if you look at the mechanisms involved and the thematic ties, there is no doubting that they are well crafted and solid titles.

30. Eldritch Horror

For me, this completely replaced Arkham Horror. It’s not just because it is more streamlined, though it is. And not because it feels grander in scope, though it does. Instead, it’s that every Old One has its own deck of clue cards. So each time you unravel a mystery, it feels solidly tied to the particular entity at issue. Such a great thematic boost that I can never go back.

29. Dead of Winter

And, speaking of replacement games, this one completely replaced Battlestar Galactica. Even though BSG still has some elements that I really like (such as the ability to switch teams at the halfway point), it had some clunky rules and was definitely long. Dead of Winter provides a remarkably similar paranoia in a simpler ruleset. Plus, I love that there may not be a betrayer at all – which really complicates things since you don’t know whether you have a true co-op on your hands or not.

28. Yunnan

The game of hard-boiled tea traders. At least it says so on the box. Yunnan is absolutely fantastic. It scales well from three to five, though it provides a slightly different experience at each player count. But the best thing is that it provides a rich experience, filled with direct and indirect player interaction.  You have to consider your opponents’ moves and motivations at all times. And, because it is a race to 80 points, this deep and rewarding title also plays very quickly.

27. Chicago Express

I am not usually a fan of train games. Too mathy for my tastes. Which is a shame because what makes them great are the stocks. The stocks create emergent alliances where players might have overlapping interests organically, rather than through some kind of game rule. But, unlike other train games, Chicago Express is fantastic. It has great stock implementation, isn’t overly mathy, and has a more straightforward method of gaining and spending money. Plus, unlike some of the longer titles in the 18XX series, this game is probably 90 minutes tops. Just be sure to limit the player count to 3 or 4.

26. Android: Netrunner

This would actually be higher on the list if any of my gaming group still played. But it’s still a remarkable game, and one I adore. I’m a big fan of asymmetric games, and Netrunner does a stellar job. The Corp and the Runner have opposing goals and play completely differently. Nevertheless, the two halves compliment each other and always create an exciting experience. Plus, the deck construction allows you to constantly fine-tune your strategy and try new tactics.

25. Chaos in the Old World

I created the top 100 before I played Blood Rage. I’m not ready to say that Blood Rage is a replacement game, but it definitely draws from some of the same mechanical inspiration and, were I to make the list again today, Chaos may not be as high up as this. Nevertheless, Chaos is a fantastic experience. I love that each of the four Ruinous Powers has a completely different feel. And each has tactics effective against the others. It’s a marvel of asymmetric play.

24. Prodigals Club

Unlike some of the other titles on this list, Prodigals Club did not act as a replacement. I enjoy both it and Last Will. I love the way this title pulls you in different directions. There are three simultaneous competitions going on and you want to succeed (or, thematically, fail) in all three. It uses the Tigris & Euphrates scoring method where your worst score becomes your final score and whoever has the best worst score wins. It’s crazy fun to see how everything interacts and to try to get multiple engines moving simultaneously. Just be sure to always play with all three boards.

23. Core Worlds

Hands down my favorite deck builder. I enjoy it not for the deck building, so much, but because it is a solid game that happens to also use deck building as a major element. One of the great things the game provides is the feeling of progress. At the beginning, you have very basic units, but can soon capture better cards. It’s a satisfying challenge to grab those first few planets. But then the next deck comes out and you get another challenge. And then another. By the end of the game, you have amassed an empire and are conquering the core worlds of the galaxy. It’s a fun experience.

22. Last Will

See, Prodigals Club didn’t replace it. Last Will is greatly aided by the inclusion of its expansion, Getting Sacked. The expansion adds a randomized action board so that you are faced with new choices each time. And it also provides the additional challenge of income. But, best of all, getting fired requires taking specific actions which might be outside of your particular engine. This encourages players to spread out a bit, at least initially, and leads to more well-rounded and enjoyable games.

21. Codenames

I almost always dislike word games. But I’m in love with this one. It’s such a clever experience and I often describe it as the “thinking man’s party game.” It’s a party game mostly because it can accommodate any number of players on a team. But beyond that, for the clue giver it’s really about clever word choice and taking calculated risks. And for the clue guessers, it’s also about interpreting those word choices and taking calculated risks.

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