Now that everyone else in our family has shared their Favorite Board Games, it’s time for me, Dad, to share my favorites.
While everyone else in the family hasn’t updated their list since 2012, I consider my list a bit more frequently.
Last year (Fall of 2014), I posted my Top 100 Best Board Games. However, I didn’t consult that list, nor my 2012 Top 14 Best Board Games, before creating my current Favorites list below. I wanted to think through my favorites completely fresh.
After I compiled my current favorites list, I went back to last year’s list, as well as my 2012 list to compare.
Interestingly enough, my Top 5 games have been pretty steady over that time. The only change in my Top 5 since 2012 is a game we first played Jan 2013 that quickly stormed into that the echelon on my list – RoboRally!
However, a number of games in my 2012 Top 14 Games list have been replaced by newer games that I love a bit more.
With so many games that I absolutely love, it’s super hard for me to whittle it down to my Top 20 games. Because when I consider how much I like a game, I picture the situation in which I’d play it. And I strongly believe that the BEST game totally depends on the situation.
Do I like Telestrations more than Scotland Yard? It’s really hard to judge because one is a fun party game and the other a thinky deduction game. Both totally fantastic but in different situations.
As such, I try to cover a range of different game types in my Top 20 list.
But inevitably, many fun games still couldn’t make the cut for this short list. So at the very bottom you’ll see my list of runner-ups that all could tie at #21.
Dad’s 20 Favorite Games:
Unlike the others in our family, my top board games are listed in ranked order – starting at #20 and working up to #1.
20. Castle Panic
Castle Panic is a board game where the name says it all. In this board game you’re trying to defend your Castle from the onslaught of goblins, orcs, and trolls. And at the rate they come at you, you’ll find yourself in Panic mode pretty much right from the start. And I love it!
It’s a healthy, fun kind of panic of course. The kind of panic that you share with your closest friends and family – because Castle Panic is a co-operative board game. Everyone is working together to make sure at least one of the castle walls in the center of the board remains standing after dispatching with all the marauding monsters.
See our video review of Castle Panic.
19. Lemming Mafia
Putting Lemming Mafia in my Top 20 games may raise a few eyebrows. The name of the game sure sounds strange. But I get a big kick out of the game every time I play. I even get a smile every time I simply look at it on our game shelf.
Lest the name imply something evil, Lemming Mafia is a light game of rooting for lemmings on their way to the river. One of the unique elements is that players don’t control a particular color lemming. Instead, all players have chances to affect all the lemmings in the game.
The roll of the dice determines which lemmings you may choose to move that turn. Then you can decide between a few different spaces for them to land on that set them up for success or failure. But the funniest part is the battle between which lemmings are getting loaded with cement shoes and which are having them removed. It’s a fun interplay between the players.
Lots of silly fun.
See our full review of Lemming Mafia.
Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension is a game about being the first player to get your spaceship out the warp gate. And the only hope you have of escaping is by using gravity to slingshot your vessel to the escape point.
The funny thing about gravity is that it can work for you or against you. Play your cards right and you’ll head in the right direction. But watch out for the others, because their shifting positions may pull you back in the other direction.
And that’s what I love about Gravwell. It’s a quick game with numerous rounds where players simultaneous choose their movement cards. Once revealed, the cards dictate who moves their ship first. With every ship movement, the gravitational pulls change as well. So players that come later may end up moving in the opposite direction of where they originally hoped when they chose their card to play.
Since everyone is choosing cards at the same time, the game goes by very quickly with no downtime of players waiting on someone else to take their turn.
It’s a unique board game that I highly recommend.
See our full review of Gravwell.
17. Code 777
You may have noticed that Code 777 is also on Mom’s and Caleb’s favorite games lists. And that’s because it’s a great deduction game.
Each player has 3 numbered tiles on a rack in front of them. However, the tiles are placed so that you can’t see your own numbers, but the other players can.
On a player’s turn, they’ll draw a question card, read it out loud, and then answer the question based on what they can see (their opponents’ tiles). The question might be something like, “On how many racks do you see either all odd or all even numbers?” or “Do you see more Blue or more Green numbers?”
Knowing they can see your numbered tiles, but not their own, you take note of the information they give on their answer and combine it with the other information you’ve gathered to be able to figure out your numbers.
Once a player has guessed correctly, they get a new set of 3 tiles on their rack. Whoever guesses their code correctly 3 times is the winner.
When I want a game to make me think, I like to reach for Code 777.
See our full review of Code 777.
16. Alien Frontiers
Alien Frontiers is a strategic, space exploration-themed game where spaceships are represented by colored dice. As such, the game includes a good dose of luck.
However, even though game play in Alien Frontiers is built on a lot of dice rolling, it also requires good strategizing. Using your dice rolls to your advantage is key to doing well in the game. And figuring out how to maneuver your choices to better mitigate your luck as the game progresses is a big element that I love.
Points are awarded based on control of the different regions on the alien planet. As players colonize the various regions, the player with majority control will also shift – thus shifting placement on the score track as well.
See our video review of Alien Frontiers.
Can’t you tell that our family loves Telestrations?
It’s made its way onto almost all of our favorite games lists. Trevor’s limited list of 7 favorite games is the only list that doesn’t include Telestrations.
So by this stage (if you’ve been following all our favorite games lists we’ve posted this month), there isn’t much more we can say about Telestrations.
If you haven’t played it yet, what are you waiting for?
See our full review of Telestrations.
14. Scotland Yard
The deduction game that ranks a bit higher on my list than Code 777 is Scotland Yard.
In Scotland Yard one player takes on the role of the criminal Mr. X, who moves around London unseen except for a few turns when he “surfaces”. The rest of the players are the detectives and work together to capture Mr. X. They get to use multiple methods of transportation (taxi, bus, underground) to close the gap and nab him.
One of the many reasons I like Scotland Yard is that up to 6 people can play. Which means it’s a great fit for our family of 6.
See our full review of Scotland Yard.
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is a game that keeps me on the edge of my seat every time I play. It’s a head-to-head, 2-player battle that’s always tense.
The best way to play it is two games in a row. That way each player has a chance to play both sides of the contest.
No matter which side I’m on, I always feel like the other side has the advantage. When I’m the Fellowship, I feel like there’s no way I can get the ring into Mordor because of the characters I’m up against. And when I’m playing Sauron’s forces, I know the special abilities of the Fellowship characters and have to figure out how to combat their tricky moves.
I can feel the sweat on my forehead surfacing just writing about it. Love it!
See our video review of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.
One of the best things about Carcassonne is looking over the cool countryside at the end of the game that everyone has jointly built.
It’s a tile laying game that’s perfect for families and is one of the first games that got our family rolling in modern board games. It has a great balance of strategy and luck and is another hugely popular family board game for good reason.
In Carcassonne players build a countryside full of cities, farms, and roads and place their miniature people (Meeples) on the tiles depending on how they want to score points. And that’s where the strategy comes in. Good placement of your Meeples will determine your success or failure.
See our full review of Carcassonne.
K2 is a board game about mountain climbing that I fell in love with after the very first play. And it remains one of my favorite board games still.
I played it at a board game convention (SaltCon) and immediately moved it to the top of my games wish list and ended up getting it the next month for my birthday. Score!
K2 is a board game that’s perfectly tied to the theme. Players each have 2 climbers that are trying to summit K2 for points. The higher up the mountain they get, the more points they’ll claim. But the catch is that the climbers must stay alive. If not, all points for that climber die as well.
Because just like real mountain climbing, climbers can’t just blast up the mountain since the higher elevations take up more oxygen the weather can play a strong role. It’s a tough balance of knowing when to move, when to stay put, when to built a tent, when to summit and when to head lower.
The board in K2 is also double-sided with different routes up the mountain as well as different weather boards for different levels of play.
I did a short write up after playing it at SaltCon that year, but we have yet to do a full video review of K2. I realize as I’m putting this list together, that this has got to change! Look for our review of K2 coming this winter.
10. Colt Express
Similar to K2, Colt Express is another board game that I first played at SaltCon, added to the top of my games wish list, and got the following month for my birthday. Score again!
By saying Colt Express is a fun family game may raise some eyebrows when you know the game is all about robbing a train. And the players are the train robbers trying to grab the most loot.
Like another one of my favorite board games, RoboRally, Colt Express is a game of pre-programmed movement. There are 2 phases in each round. The first phase is where everyone chooses which action they want to do (move between cars, move up or down from the roof, pick up loot, punch, and such) and in what order. Then in the second phase all those actions play out in the order they were submitted.
Sometimes you’ll know what the other players are trying to do and sometimes you won’t. You may have great plans to move forward a couple cars and pick up some loot. But then another player moves the sheriff into that same car (knocking you up to the roof) or punches you (causing you to drop some of your loot).
I immediately loved it!
And it’s got the most awesome components in a board game – even down to the cardboard cactus and rocks!
9. Black Fleet
It can be tough for a game to break into my top 10 since I’ve played so many games that I love. And Black Fleet is a game that managed to do just that.
Black Fleet is a fun and light pirate-themed game where players get to play as Merchant, Navy, and Pirate on every turn. As a Merchant, players work to deliver goods from port to port. As a Pirate, players attack other merchant ships and bury the captured loot on small islands. And when controlling a Navy ship, they try to sink the opposing pirate ships.
Not only is it a great game to play, but it’s also great to look at. I love the artwork style used in the game for the board and cards. And the plastic ships are top notch.
Take to the seas and grab a copy for your family.
Watch Trevor’s video review of Black Fleet.
Another game to jump into my top 10 this year is Star Wars: Imperial Assault. And it’s not just because the new Star Wars movie is coming out in a few weeks. It’s because it’s an awesome game!
One of the games that my boys and I have played most often over the last 2 years is Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd edition. We love the campaign mode where players can level-up their characters as they progress through a variety of encounters and quests.
So when we heard Fantasy Flight Games was creating a Star Wars game based on the same game play as Descent, we were all in!
In addition to the Campaign mode of Rebels battling the Empire through a series of encounters, 2 players can go head to head in Skirmish Mode.
With so many miniature figures and tons of map tiles, (and sure to be game expansions) the game play seems endless.
The Force is strong with this one!
7. 7 Wonders
7 Wonders didn’t make my Top 14 Best Board Games list in 2012, but it’s solidly on my favorite games list now. Perhaps it’s because we play it so much as a family.
But even more than that, it’s because it’s a game that mom loves to play. If she’s in the mood to play 7 Wonders, then so am I. And thus it becomes a favorite of mine because it’s one of the games she enjoys playing. And I like enjoying time with her.
7 Wonders is also a game where familiarity with the game makes it more enjoyable. Being familiar with the various symbols and the different abilities the cards grant means that games flow rather quickly.
One of the things I love the most about 7 Wonders is the simultaneous play. There isn’t any downtime waiting for players to take their turn because there aren’t any turns. Everyone has a hand of cards and can only choose 1 to play. Then they pass the rest of the cards to their neighbor. With that new hand of cards, players again choose only 1 card to play and do so through 3 different Ages until the end of the game when scores are totaled.
There’s a bit of a hurdle to get over in learning to play, but if you watch our video review, you should be all set to give it a go.
See our full review of 7 Wonders.
YINSH is another game that just missed the cut on my 2012 list. But in thinking of the games I like the most and glancing over our game shelves, YINSH is a stand out.
It’s one of my favorite 2-player games for a few reasons. The first reason is that it requires strategic thinking. I love the mental challenge in going head-to-head with the strategy. The second reason is that it’s very well designed in how to move and capture pieces – which leads to the need for good thinking.
Another reason is the natural balancing between players during the game.
To win, a player needs to claim 5 of their colored pieces in a row 3 times. But the catch is that as a player scores a row, they are then limited in what they have to work with. That’s because players start with 5 circle markers that allow them to place pieces on the board. Each time they score a row, they must remove one of those circle markers from the game.
I’m ready to flip some game pieces. Who’s up for the challenge?
See our full review of YINSH.
Kingdom Builder is another great family game with a lot of variety built around some basic game play that I’ve played a ton and still love.
For starters, the game has a variable board set up as well as variable objectives. In every game, players randomly select only 3 (out of 10) ways to score points for that game. They also randomly select 4 (out of 8) boards to set up the landscape for playing on. So every game has a different layout and different ways to win.
Plus there are special abilities that are dependent on each board, so those variations will also help determine the best way to maneuver to get points during the game.
The game is very puzzle-like in nature. I love trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the card I’ve drawn with the special abilities I’ve claimed to place my settlements in the most strategic locations or patters to gain the most points.
I always have a great time playing.
See our full review of Kingdom Builder.
Yep, RoboRally is absolutely one of my favorite board games. I love the simultaneous robot programming and then revealing and watching the chaos that ensues. Inevitably I’ll be knocked off course by another robot and have to find a way to get my revenge.
There’s a reason it’s on all of the guys’ favorites lists. It’s tons of fun.
See Trevor’s video review of RoboRally.
3. Power Grid
Power Grid is the meaty game I love the most.
My mind is so engaged the whole time that it’s hard to realize a couple hours have gone by. From the power plant auctions and city networks to the fluctuating resources and player order, I’m constantly evaluating every element to know what moves to make next – when and where to expand my network, when to hang back so I can stock up on cheaper resources or when to grow quickly, and which power plants to bid on and how much to bid up the auctions.
There’s plenty to think about the whole time and I love it!
I’d play Power Grid all the time if I could consistently get opponents who are up for a couple hours of the mental effort.
See our full review of Power Grid.
Dominion is my most-played game and I don’t see it subsiding any time soon. It’s so simple to play and packed with replayability.
Play an Action, Buy a card, Clean up by discarding and restocking your hand and do it again. This deck-building game is cram-packed with variety in getting your deck of cards to work well for you in order to buy victory points.
Randomly starting with 10 sets of cards in play to add to your deck each game creates an endless supply of possible combinations. And adding Dominion expansions opens so many more possibilities.
Dominion is an addiction that I don’t want to give up.
See our full review of Dominion.
1. Memoir ‘44
While Dominion tops the list as my most-played board game, Memoir ’44 holds the spot as my #1 Favorite Board Game.
Memoir ’44 was the first “war game” that I’ve played. And in my mind it’s still the most approachable and fun. Sure there are war games that go a lot deeper. And many don’t classify Memoir ’44 as a war game at all.
But for me, I love the balance of simplicity and strategy in Memoir ’44.
Every time I play, I still get heightened anticipation of what’s going to happen next. I love the challenge of playing the “underdog” side for each scenario. And there are so many scenarios to play (those included in the rulebook, posted online, or self-created), that I could really play Memoir ‘44 all day and not get tired.
I’ve also gained a far greater appreciation of all those affected by WWII than I had before I got into Memoir ’44. As I’ve played different scenarios, I’ve also found myself reading more materials covering that time in world history. It’s been a great learning experience along the way.
Big salute to Memoir ’44!
See our video review of Memoir ‘44.
In looking over my 20 Favorite Board Games, it’s easy to see that my preferences are for games that are cooperative or semi-cooperative, require deduction or guessing opponent moves, include some pre-programming of moves, and reduce turn downtime through simultaneous decisions.
There are still plenty of games that just missed being on this Top 20. So as a parting thought, here are the next 10 games that come in tied at #21:
- Battlestar Galactica
- King of New York
- The Resistance Avalon
- Reverse Charades
- Timeline Challenge
- Monkey Lab
- Wits & Wagers Party
We’re happy to have shared our favorite games lists this month. If you’d like to look over the rest of our lists, here they are:
- 12 Favorite Board Games – Mom
- 8 Favorite Board Games – Brooke
- 9 Favorite Board Games – Caleb
- 10 Favorite Board Games – Jaden
- 7 Favorite Board Games – Trevor