What Defines a Good Board Game
A good board game is one that is suited to your tastes and the dynamic of your gaming group. The best board game, then, is not the most popular board game necessarily, but the one that fits your own personal niche in a way no other board game can. The games that are most popular (Agricola, Twilight Struggle, Dominion, Pandemic) are really just the gateway to finding a more perfect game. This is my to ten list, which is to say, ten games that have had the most success at my table. Are they the best games of all time? For me, they definitely are, but they aren't all conventionally popular, and that's okay. If you want to know if these games are right for you, then understand the criteria that - for me - make a great board game:
- I like a game with mechanics that serve the theme. A great game with a "pasted on" theme is no theme at all.
- I like a game that plays at a pace that keeps my interest. Both fast games and thoughtful games accomplish this in their own respective ways, but a game with too many decisions and resulting "analysis paralysis" is to be avoided.
- A good game relies primarily on strategy, very little on luck. Not only do I appreciate a game that rewards strategic thinking, but when a game contains components of luck, a good game is liable to be ruined by a horribly unlikely card draw or roll of the die.
- A good game fits the occasion. Often, I prefer a heavy, two- to three-hour game, but sometimes, with the right audience and the right time, I just want to have a blast for 20 to 30 minutes. When the occasion is right, I'm willing so sacrifice in any of the other criteria.
- A good game enables you to spend more time playing than teaching. I love Eclipse and Mage Knight, but I don't want to own a game I get tired of explaining.
- Finally, variety is important. No matter how good two games can be, if they both have the same theme or mechanics, on a list of top ten, one must displace the other. A more unique game will win over a timeless classic, especially when so many people already own the classics. Ultimately, it's nice to have a collection that let's you bring something new to the table.
You can read my individual reviews by clicking on the thumbnails underneath the table.
|Game||Players||Duration||Theme||Strategy||Fun||Learning Curve||Pacing||Distinguishing Characteristics|
|Myrmes||2-4||1-2 hours||10||10||8||8||8||Best Strategy Game|
|Concordia||2-5||2-3 hours||7||10||9||9||9||Best Civilization Game|
|Food Chain Magnate||2-5||2-4 hours||10||9||8||8||9||Best Deck Builder Game|
|Splendor||2-4||25 - 50 minutes||1||5||8||10||9||Best "Dessert" Game|
|Imperial||2-6||3-5 hours||8||10||7||7||5||Best War Game|
|Avalon||5-10||15 - 45 minutes||5||7||10||10||9||Best Concealed Identity Game|
|Isle of Skye||2-4||1 hour||4||8||7||9||8||Best tile placement and Bidding Game|
|Legends of Andor||1-4||1 - 3 hours||8||8||9||10||8||Best Cooperative Game|
|Codenames||2-10||10-20 minutes||1||7||10||10||10||Best Party Game|