Alright, everyone, I hope you managed to check out my Honorable Mentions as well before diving right in. If not, no worries! Without further ado, I'll get into the list and comparing it to last year's as well.
25. Carpe Diem
BGG Rank: 349
Last Year's Rank: 10
Designed by: Stefan Feld
Art by: Lalanda Hruschka
Released: 2018 by Alea and Ravensburger
While this one has fallen a bit, it's still clinging to a spot in the Top 25. It's a great game from one of my favorite designers of all time, and I think it manages to hold a spot mostly because my partner adores this game, so it gets brought out relatively frequently. It's a pretty breezy tile-laying game that falls firmly in the mid-weight category, and with a lot of ways to score, you always have a sense of accomplishment with this one. Plus, it plays in about 40 minutes or so, which is always a positive. Boardgamegeek users and I disagree significantly on this one, as I think it's one of Stefan Feld's best designs and deserves to climb the overall rankings.
24. Ganz Schön Clever
BGG Rank: 149
Last Year's Rank: --
Designed by: Wolfgang Warsch
Art by: Leon Schiffer
Released: 2018 from Schmidt Spiele and Stronghold Games
I've definitely written about Ganz Schön Clever a ton in the past, and the entire series is fantastic (Twice as Clever, Clever Cubed), so this is a bit of a cheat, as it stands in for a trilogy of games. Last year, it landed on the Honorable Mentions list, mostly because I thought it was too light of a game to have in my Top 25...how wrong I was. This is easily one of the most influential games on this list, as it definitively changed the roll-and-write genre forever. The series remains one of our most played games in our house, and I've had to re-buy the first game in the series because I ran out of score pads. Excellent value for an excellent game as well.
BGG Rank: 260
Last Year's Rank: 15
Designed by: Uwe Rosenberg
Art by: Lukas Siegmon and Klemens Franz
Released: 2020 from Lookout Games
Hallertau is a heavy hitter as a pretty complex resource management and worker placement game (you might see a theme, here), but a vast majority of it is simultaneous play, so it never really outstays its welcome. Though I will say that it has sort of inexplicably fallen eight spots due to just other games getting played more and new titles pushing it down. However, it's also from my favorite designer, Uwe Rosenberg (well, there are two favorites...more on that later). What makes the game special, though, is that you can play cards and combo them at any time, even if it's not your turn or if it's the middle of a phase -- simply delicious. It has a pretty boring theme of hops farming and building up a community center in Bavaria, but it's very autobiographical to the designer, which gives it a little flavor for me, anyway.
22. Lost Ruins of Arnak
BGG Rank: 32
Last Year's Rank: --
Designed by: Mín and Elwen
Art by: Ondřej Hrdina, Jiří Kůs, Jakub Politzer, František Sedláček, Milan Vavroň
Released: 2020 from Czech Games Edition
Well, here we are, further up the list and another newcomer. This game is hodgepodge of mechanisms - worker placement, light deckbuilding, and resource management/conversion - but it's a brilliant game that plays quickly and consists of a bunch of micro turns so there's very little down time. I've played this solo and multiplayer (mostly online on Board Game Arena, as the implementation is excellent and a major factor for why it's on the list), and it never disappoints. The theme is pretty loose (exploring an uninhabited island to research a once great civilization), but it's pleasing all the same, as it tends to shy away from the problematic colonial exploits that some euro-style games can glorify, even inadvertently.
21. The Magnificent
BGG Rank: 730
Last Year's Rank: 14
Designed by: Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby
Art by: Martin Mottet
Released: 2019 from Aporta Games
Another one that's sort of gotten pushed out of the upper echelon is The Magnificent. It's still a brilliant dice drafting, action selection game where you score a ton of points, though. While the theme is virtually nonexistent in terms of connection with the mechanisms, the art is simply stunning. It's worth noting that I've never once won the solo mode of this game, and I still love it to bits. While it's slowly working its way up the BGG rankings, I think this is a super underrated gem.
Credit: All images come from Boardgamegeek.