Think it's about that time to dive into the Top 10 of all time...for me, in August of 2021. Obviously this is subject to change, but it'll take quite a bit to unseat these behemoths. I should also note that the criteria are as follows: 1) How much do I like the game's presentation, mechanisms, and overall package?; 2) How much does my partner like it?; 3) Would I play this game over any other at any given moment?; and 4) How does it work solo? (this is a bit of an arbitrary one that I've thrown in as the list goes on, as about 50% of my gaming is by myself)
With that in mind, let's get to the first half of the Top 10. If you missed any of the others, here they are:
10. Carpe Diem
BGG Rank: 351
Designed by: Stefan Feld
Released: 2018 by Alea
Well, BGG and I disagree on this one quite a bit, as the discrepancy in our rankings is just crazy (351!), by orders of magnitude. I'll preface this a bit by saying that this is in my partner's Top Five games of all time; she adores this game (and usually beats me at it). This is a tile-laying game at its core, but you're restricted by the configuration of your city district's initial setup, which is always random. There's a bit of luck in that regard, but I find the movement around the star-shaped board to pick up tiles super satisfying and crunchy, but not too much of a brain burn. As far as mid-weight euros go, this is a must-have. I can't say enough good things about Carpe Diem. It's affordable, infinitely replayable, and just tons of fun every time it hits the table. Pro tip, though, don't use the Victory Point cards that come with the game...keep track with pen and paper; it'll save you so much time.
9. Paladins of the West Kingdom
BGG Rank: 70
Designed by: Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald
Released: 2019 from Garphill Games and Renegade Game Studios
Sound familiar? Well, it's the second in the trilogy of West Kingdom Games from designers Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald, so it's the sequel to Architects of the West Kingdom, which appeared earlier in this series. Fair warning, it's a massive step up in complexity from its predecessor, but it's so rewarding. In Architects, you're trying to build the kingdom, and in Paladins, you're trying to defend the kingdom from invaders by either converting warring factions to your side or defeating them in battle. There are a TON of different ways to place your different workers in this game, and you have to solve the efficiency puzzle on your player board -- which is, incidentally, larger than the main game board -- to chain actions to gain more workers to do more actions. Not gonna lie, it's a lot of head-in-hands-type thinking, but it's an experience like no other. The solo mode is fantastic, and I think this game plays best at two players, which is most of my gaming life anyway, so this game just fit perfectly into my Top 10 of all time...Paladins. It's great.
8. The Gallerist
BGG Rank: 59
Designed by: Vital Lacerda
Released: 2015 from Eagle-Gryphon Games
So, how do you make the world of high art into a board game? You enlist the help of designer Vital Lacerda. I've already gone on record saying that he's my favorite board game designer, and this one is a stunner. I love art, and I love board games, so this one was sorta tailor-made for me. To be fair, it's very complex, as all his games are. But I can't stop gushing about The Gallerist. You take on the role of a gallery owner trying to attract celebrities, collectors, and investors to your shows, but before you can exhibit art, you must discover and commission artists of varying degrees of fame and promote them through various forms of media to drive the price of their work up before you sell it to someone else. There's a lot of interconnected mechanisms in this game, but the rulebook is superb, and you get to take actions on your opponents' turns. Simply brilliant. I absolutely love this game and would play it anytime. I'm honestly surprised it didn't crack the Top Five.
7. The Isle of Cats
BGG Rank: 96
Designed by: Frank West
Released: 2019 from The City of Games
I've also written about this one before here. The Isle of Cats is easily in my partner's Top Five of all time, and it ranks very highly on my list as well because it's simply fantastic. You take on the role of ship captains returning to The Isle of Cats to rescue cats onto your ship before the dreaded Lord Vesh arrives (it's not clear what'll happen when he gets there...). The theme is cute, and the components are gorgeous, but the combination of polyomino tile placement combined with card drafting makes this game roll. Think of playing Tetris with adorable cat tiles on your personal player board. There's a really great solo mode included, and there's a family variant, so the base box alone can accommodate pretty much any gamer, and the sheer number of cards and tiles included make this game play out differently each time it hits the table.
BGG Rank: 21
Designed by: Elizabeth Hargrave
Released: 2019 from Stonemaier Games
Yet another Stonemaier game makes it onto the list. Not sure what else there is to say about Wingspan that hasn't already been said, both here and other places...It's just a fantastic game, and it comes in at number 6 on my list (probably number 1 or 2 on my partner's list, which definitely contributes to its high ranking). Engine-building combined with beautiful art and cute, wooden eggs. A real sense of escalation as you have fewer and fewer actions to take each round while accumulating bonuses along the way, filling up your tableau with amazing bird powers. What's there not to like?
Credit: All images come from Boardgamegeek.