Here we are for the next installment of my favorite 25 games of all time. Not much to add here other than you should check out the previous posts in the series, including my honorable mentions and numbers 25-21.
20. Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
BGG Rank: 390
Designed by: Joanna Kijanka and Ignacy Trzewiczek
Released: 2019 from Portal Games
I'll preface this by saying that I rank this game so highly because the solo mode is really fun; my partner didn't really care for this game much, but I absolutely adore the card play. Each turn is incredibly satisfying as you build your tableau and manage resources to generate the best point-producing engine possible. It's always a race to a particular point threshold, and I can't say enough good things about this game. Each of the six factions in the base box offers serious asymmetrical gameplay, which offers a ton of replay value, even if you're just playing this against the solo scenario book.
19. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
BGG Rank: 5
Designed by: Isaac Childress
Released: 2020 from Cephalofair Games
The little brother of the monster hit and current BGG Number 1, Gloomhaven, Jaws of the Lion is a much more palatable introduction to the world of Gloomhaven. First, it's way more affordable and can be found at Target, and second, the rules are taught through a series of introductory scenarios, making the barrier to entry significantly lower than its big box predecessor. In this fully cooperative game, you are mercenaries slashing your way through various dungeon scenarios on the hunt for answers to the mysteries the campaign sets out for you from the very beginning, and it's superb. Because you're mercenaries, the game only allows for imperfect communication and introduces secret goals as you progress through each mission. The card play is just phenomenal and puzzle-y enough for me to really enjoy this game that I otherwise wouldn't ever bother picking up. I'm not a fan of tactical skirmish games or dungeon crawlers normally, but the constant choices this game offers makes this one stand out to me. I highly recommend picking this one up for a consistent gaming group.
18. Lorenzo il Magnifico
BGG Rank: 96
Designed by: Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, and Simone Luciani
Released: 2016 from Cranio Creations
You'll notice a bit of a theme, here in that I love dry euro games that are all about action efficiency and resource management or conversion. I'm not a theme-first player; I'm all about the game mechanisms. In Lorenzo il Magnifico, you are members of the Italian nobility during the Renaissance vying for the most influence and prestige (victory points) while trying to avoid being excommunicated from the church. It's a worker-placement game that is driven by dice values, which is a great twist and offers unique decision points as you acquire different types of cards to build up a production engine or influence major players throughout the nation to earn points. The game ends after six rounds and 24 total actions, so every single action must be calculated as efficiently as possible. I simply love this game.
17. Spirit Island
BGG Rank: 12
Designed by: R. Eric Reuss
Released: 2017 from Greater Than Games
Spirit Island is the pinnacle of cooperative games in my opinion, and I've already written about it a bit here, so I won't go into too much more detail. The theme here is really what grabbed me -- turning the colonial narrative on its head and acting as the indigenous populations and the native spirits of the island to drive out the invading forces. I gotta admit, though, this is a heavy game and not a great introductory experience to solo gaming or cooperative gaming; it's definitely for more advanced players. But, once you grok the rules, it's an absolute blast, even though it's challenging every game, even without increasing the difficulty with scenarios. There are a couple expansions for this out, now, but I find the base game to be nearly infinitely replayable.
16. Agricola (Revised Edition)
BGG Rank: 77
Designed by: Uwe Rosenberg
Released: 2016 from Lookout Games
Agricola used to be in my top five games of all time, and my partner and I adore this game. It's fallen a bit in my rankings, probably due to being preoccupied by newer games in my collection, but it's still a phenomenal worker-placement game that is really a grind to get through in the best way. The Revised Edition that I own reimplements the original 2007 release in terms of mechanisms while upgrading the components and streamlining some of the card play, but it keeps the spirit of the original release in that you are struggling from the very beginning to build a food-generating engine -- by planting crops and animal husbandry -- to feed your family over the course of the game. The production in this one is amazing. If you're looking for a tight, tight experience where resources are hard to come by, this game is for you as well.
That's it for 20-16.
Credit: All images come from Boardgamegeek
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An infrequent review of my collection of hobby board games, coverage of the board game hobby at-large, lists, purchasing advice, and maybe some writing updates here and there.