Articles · General Gaming

Top Twos

A conversation earlier this week on Instagram got me thinking hard about what my top games were in a variety of categories. I thought it might be fun to share them on my blog as well. Do you see any that overlap with your favorites?

Area Control:
  1. Tyrants of the Underdark- I love the mixture of deck building and area control. It is a unique take on area control that has replay ability with different decks.
  2. The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire- I love how quickly this one plays. There is plenty variety in the different objectives, and the area control provides an engine building aspect that I very much enjoy.
  1. Rise of Fenris- The campaign expansion of Scythe provides good background to the base game and adds many interesting aspects of game play.
  2. Charterstone- This legacy game has a simple story line, but the game play provides plenty of twists and turns mechanically to keep players interested.
Card Games:
  1. 7 Wonders-  This is one of my favorite high player count games. It plays quickly, but provides many strategies for success.
  2. Capital Lux- This is one of my favorite games I have tried in the past two years, but I still haven’t managed to track down a copy. It mixes card drafting and hand management that provides players with interesting decisions.
  1. The Stonebound Saga- I will admit that I don’t generally gravitate towards combat games. However, The Stonebound Saga is the exception to that. It mixes resource management and skirmish game play in a way that reminds me of the video games I played as a kid.
  2. Arcadia Quest- I like the mixture between cooperative play and competitive play that Arcadia Quest offers. It also has some great miniatures!
  1. Spirit Island- Spirit Island offers players a lot of challenge by balancing player abilities and a variety of negative effects. Players start out feeling overwhelmed but will end the game feeling powerful (and still a little overwhelmed)!
  2. Time Stories- I love the different stories that Time Stories provides. It gives players a sense of discovery while providing challenging puzzles and a smidge of luck.
Deck Building:
  1. Ascension- I frequently play Ascension digitally, and I love the variety that the different boxes bring.
  2. Tea Dragon Society- Tea Dragon Society provides simple deck building in a filler format. It has adorable art, and some asymmetric aspects with the different dragons.
  1. Mysterium- Beautiful artwork and a theme reminiscent of Clue, it reminds me of playing games as a child.
  2. Coup- Fast and fun, Coup is easy to teach to new players due to the limited roles.
  1. Meeple Circus- Unlike other stacking games, Meeple Circus provides more difficulty because players are stacking small pieces. The animeeples also appeal to me!
  2. Flick Em Up- When we play this, we get very thematic.  Cowboy music, and all kinds of stereotypical cowboy movie phrases. It is fun and an easy way to bring gamers into the hobby.
Dice Games:
  1. Dice Forge- The dice crafting in Dice Forge feels similar to engine building and players feel more and more powerful as the game goes on. It plays quickly and is a unique mechanic.
  2. Sagrada- Sagrada is beautiful! It reminds me of the Sudoku puzzles I used to complete in my free time during school.
Engine Building:
  1. Scythe- Scythe is my overall favorite game. The game has so many different paths to victory, and each time I play it never gets old!
  2. Terraforming Mars- This one took some time to grow on me, but I really enjoy the variety of combinations that can be created due to the different cards. We have played many times, but I still don’t think I have seen them all!
  1. Potion Explosion- It feels similar to many of the phone games available, and appeals to a lot of new players.
  2. Kingdomino- Easy to teach, but circumstances sometimes make it difficult to master. There is a surprising amount of strategy in this game.
Heavy Strategy:
  1. The Gallerist- There is a lot going on in this game, and it can be difficult to teach. However, I love the beautiful artwork and the difficult choices that are made through out the game.
  2. A Feast for Odin- Another game that can difficult to teach, the mixture of the viking theme and the various mechanics ensure that no two games will play the same. Players have many options for what strategy to take!
  1. Ultimate Werewolf- It plays well with a lot of people, and often times when we play players become so engaged in the game play that hours fly by.
  2. Muse- Similar to games like Dixit, Muse can be played at a high player count, but has beautiful artwork and team based game play.
Push Your Luck:
  1. Port Royal- A quick filler game,  Port Royal mixes push your luck, set collection and card drafting in a fun way. It makes for a great entry into a game night!
  2. The Legend of the Cherry Tree- This is an incredibly simple push your luck, it is easy to teach, and has beautiful components!
Set Collection:
  1. Fantasy Realms- This is probably my favorite filler game! The instructions are as easy as draw a card and discard a card, but it is an incredibly thinky filler game.
  2. Ex Libris- The library theme and the fun components make this game stand out as a wonderful set collection game! There is a lot of strategy in how players fill out their library!
Tile Placement:
  1. Isle of Skye- Tile placement, auctioning and set collection are combined in a wonderful way in this game. It has high player interaction and allows players to think ahead in a way that many tile placement games lack!
  2. Castles of the Mad King Ludwig- Another tile placement game with direct player interaction, Castles of the Mad King gives interesting player choices when deciding whether to purchase tiles and pay the master builder or wait for tiles to become cheaper. The tile placement itself is also an interesting balance of where to put each room!
Worker Placement
  1. Viticulture-  I find Viticulture to be easy to teach due to the clear symbols and direct goals within the game. However, especially with the expansions there is a lot of variety within the game play.
  2. Rajas of the Ganges- Balancing the fame and money tracks is fun. Plus I like the fact that the dice can be used no matter what. Players are not necessarily wanting to roll high or low, but will hope for different results depending on their strategy.

    What games would you like to try? Are there any categories you agree or disagree with?


5 thoughts on “Top Twos

  1. Great idea, and great list!
    Here’s mine, with your categories:
    Area Control:
    1. Ethnos — Haven’t played many area control games… so it’s pretty much just this one. My wife isn’t a fan of area control, and with her as my main gaming partner, I’m not likely to see much of this mechanism in my collection. That being said, I actually like Ethnos more for the set collection/drafting aspect anyways.
    1. Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar — This one is pretty damn hard, and you can replay it, start your characters again, etc since it’s just putting different cards in your starting deck for each encounter. I still prefer Aeon’s End for co-op deck-building. Again, this is the only one, aside from the intro to Pandemic Legacy Season 1.
    I’m yet to be able to find one that will convince my wife that it’s a worthy investment, since some other games in our relatively small collection have 40–80 plays and still cost half as much as some campaign games. I would love to play Charterstone though! Given that my wife and I love Viticulture and Between Two Cities, and we’re due to get My Little Scythe any day now, I think a Stonemaier game has the best shot of being our first legacy game!
    Card Games/Deck-building:
    (Combining these categories because for me, these apply to both)
    1. Aeon’s End — My favourite co-op game, deck-building game, and card game. Also fairly difficult, but my wife and I make a good team and I don’t think we’ve lost a game together. I love the no-shuffling twist, variable turn order with the boss/monster as well, and having to prepare your spells for your next turn. Would have loved to have been able to afford to back the legacy version, but shipping to Australia is just ridiculous!
    2. Clank! — Also my favourite push-your-luck game! The deck-building isn’t as strong in this one, but gets better with expansions or in Clank! In! Space! But I just have so much fun playing this game, even when I bomb out with zero points in the depths for pushing it too far and making to much noise. CLANK! 🙂
    Don’t really have anything in this category, and it doesn’t interest me all that much. Unless you would count the pie fights in My Little Scythe, which I’m looking forward to! 🙂
    1. Aeon’s End — The co-operation is quite important here, though of course you could also play it solo with multiple characters/hands and it would be similar. But I guess it’s the feeling of being in a great struggle, similar to how you say you feel overwhelmed a bit in Spirit Island.
    2. The Shipwreck Arcana — A small box game that was a successful Kickstarter a while back. It’s co-op deduction, with a similar feeling to Hanabi, though I much prefer this one. The cards are tarot style as well as tarot-sized, with really nice artwork, along with good quality components. It was the first game I backed on Kickstarter, and has so far been the best experience with a Kickstarter project. You can get it fairly cheaply at the publisher’s site, Meromorph Games.
    I’d love to try Spirit Island and Time Stories, but both likely take a bigger time commitment than I can give at the moment, with two young children in the house that hate sleeping at the same time. I’d also like to play a lot more Gloomhaven, but can’t for this reason.
    Deck Building:
    See above. I also love the Ascension app, and the Star Realms one. Both really good implementations of board/card games.
    1. The Shipwreck Arcana – see above. Or just buy it. Yes, do that. 🙂
    Haven’t played many, unless you count Jenga. Would love to try Klask though!
    Dice Games:
    1. Sagrada – For the reasons you mentioned! It’s also really easy to get people interested, since it just looks better than anything you’d find from the traditional games selection in a toy store or wherever.
    2. Tiny Epic Galaxies – Love the custom dice, and how you can manipulate them or use them in multiple ways by combo-ing the actions. My favourite solo game at the moment too.
    Engine Building:
    1. Valeria Card Kingdoms – technically a tableau-building game, but this is my number 1 favourite game, so I don’t care! 🙂 I love that it keeps players engaged on other people’s turns, that everything is open on the table, so it’s not too difficult to teach, and the artwork is just the best (love artwork from The Mico). There are many possible strategies, and a good amount of variety and replayability with the different card combinations. I’m looking forward to getting more expansion content for this one.
    I also enjoyed Terraforming Mars the one time I’ve played it, but again, a bit too long to get any play time if I owned it. And I’m sorry… I still haven’t played Scythe, but really want to, since I’m quickly becoming a huge fan of Stonemaier Games and everything they do. Maybe if we really enjoy My Little Scythe, I can convince some people that we need to take it up a notch and go for the original! 🙂
    1. Between Two Cities – I’d probably introduce this to someone after they’ve played Kingdomino, but this is one of my top 3 games. It looks great, plays quickly, accommodates up to 7 players (but even has a solo mode), and I love the kind of friendly competition you get from having it semi-co-operative, working with the players on your left and right. The scoring is just genius! Almost every game I’ve played it’s been quite close in the points at the end, which I love, and suggests to me that it’s extremely well balanced.
    2. Kingdomino – You’re so right on this money (or lack of money, it’s pretty inexpensive!) on this one! Haven’t met anyone who didn’t really enjoy this one when they’ve played this. I like it best at 2 players with the 7×7 grid though, so my wife and I still play it a fair amount when we know we’ve only got a short period of time to play something.
    Heavy Strategy:
    Haven’t played many heavy games. Just don’t have the time! Terraforming Mars was about the heaviest/longest, and I would happily play it again.
    1. Telestrations – This just brings me so much joy and laughter, and is made better when you have people who are terrible at drawing. Plays quickly, so you can have people jump in and out, and technically you could just use the words/phrases from any other party game that has them on cards.
    2. Dixit — I’m not sure I would necessarily count this as a party game, though it’s very light I guess, but BGG does, so I’ll go with it. This one is a little bit dependent on the group you have playing (and definitely best with higher player counts), but it’s just so accessible and fun. And the artwork is the best in just about any game out there. I get a little tired of this if played too much, but happy to have it come out every now and then, especially when playing with someone who doesn’t want to get too much into strategy or tactics.
    Push Your Luck:
    1. Clank! – I don’t have much in this category, but the push-your-luck aspect is my favourite part of Clank! It’s very thematic in this case, and despite the fact that I often fail miserably here, I enjoy it every time!
    2. Fantasy Realms – I recently got Fantasy Realms based on your Instagram posts about it, and enjoy it, and can see a bit of a push-your-luck aspect to it, though very much tied into the set collection, so I can see why you put it on that list.
    Set Collection:
    1. Ticket to Ride: Europe — Maybe not the first thing people think about for set collection, but this is my favourite TtR game, and I am one of those hoarders that go nuts collecting all the cards needed to build the routes before placing many trains down, so it’s definitely set collection for me! See the Train Card Hoarder from Semi Co-Op’s comic: 🙂
    2. Fantasy Realms – You’re so right about this one too! It’s almost pure set collection, but the combos are what make it so crunchy! Looking forward to playing more, and with more people.
    Tile Placement:
    1. Between Two Cities – I just love this game. I’ll stop talking about it now. Or soon. Someday. 🙂
    2. Bärenpark – Only played once, but I love the theme, artwork and puzzly aspect of trying to tetris those pieces in!
    Worker Placement:
    1. Raiders of the North Sea – Again, artwork by The Mico, instant win for me, but also the unique take on worker placement, and I guess worker displacement 🙂 makes this one of my other top 3 games. Great components, smooth gameplay, and not too difficult to teach. A few different strategies and paths to victory, and from what I’ve heard, the expansions are almost essential, so they are high on my wishlist!
    2. Viticulture Essential Edition – One of the best implementations and examples of theme and gameplay mechanisms working together. Components are excellent, as usual from a Stonemaier game. Definitely requires a bit more long term strategy and planning than I am capable of pulling off successfully (I haven’t won a game yet), but I look forward to playing much more of this one. Also curious about the Tuscany expansion, and the newer Rhine Valley one seems like it would suit my wife and I and our style of playing.
    Other categories that you could maybe add (or just answer here in the comments):
    – Family games (not children’s necessarily)
    – Small box games (including microgames, etc)


    1. There are some games in there that I really need to try! Clank has been on my list for a long time now.
      For the other two categories…
      Family games:
      1.Ice Cool- I love teaching this to my nieces. They get so excited playing it, and despite the fact that it’s simple we all have fun.
      2.Clue- it’s old, but I love it. The entire family already knows how to play, so it makes set up much easier. Plus it still has levels of social deduction.

      Small Box Games
      1. Tiny Epic Quest- I love RPGs and the theme feels similar. Also, the meeples are just great.
      2. Doxie Dash- It is super easy to teach, but also a lot of fun. I love that it has asymetric hero cards.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yeah Ice Cool looks like tons of fun, but my kids are a bit young still, and I’d still prefer to play more strategy games before dexterity/family games, so I probably won’t be playing it any time soon.

        Doxie Dash looks great too, but it’s just too expensive to back most Kickstarter games when you have to get them shipped to Australia! If it makes it’s way here by other means, I’d like to track it down and try it out or get a copy.

        Thanks for the response! Now, go play Clank! 😁


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