Welcome to this first installment of my all-new 2015 Top 100 Games List! This time, we start at the bottom of the top, looking at games 100 to 91. So let’s jump in and start talking about these great games!
Number 100 – Snorta!
This is a pretty old game that still retains its own sense of fun. At its heart, Snorta! is the similar to several other games where players try to get rid of cards, e.g. Jungle Speed. However, where Snorta! stands out is that each player has a hidden animal. When matches occur, affected players have a race to make the sound of the other player’s secret animal.
It may sound silly and simple, but the game is both fast and fun and rarely gets put away without several plays. Always a crowd-pleaser with old and young, the game is also a fabulous ice breaker and a great way to start this list!
Number 99 – Race for the Galaxy
I used to LOVE this game, and actually I still do. Unfortunately, the game shows its age a bit. Equally unfortunate, the publisher seems determined to release multiple incompatible expansions. But most unfortunate of all, the game designer made the strange decision to convey all game information through a series of complicated symbols, making the game’s learning curve artificially high.
However, if you can complete your cryptography course, the game is certainly worth your time. Even though it has aged a bit, when played with people who know what they are doing, Race for the Galaxy turns into a fast-paced battle of wits and provides an excellent and satisfying gameplay experience.
Number 98 – Wok Star
Wok Star is a great cooperative experience and is easily the second-best cooking game out there. The game involves a fast-paced timed race to manage ingredients and complete orders for a Chinese restaurant. While the components are relatively cheap (as is typical for Game Salute publications), the game itself outshines its weaknesses.
Wok Star is an excellent game for new players or for players who tend to take a bit too long with their turns, as it forces intense and frantic fast-paced cooperation. While Wok Star may not be as widely loved or regarded as other games on this list, it is certainly one worth trying.
Number 97 – Chroma Cubes
So-called “adult” coloring books seem to be the therapy fad of the day. Chroma Cubes combines the trill of coloring with a strategic race game. No matter where you play, this game turns heads as it involves a group of adults rolling dice and franticly coloring in a coloring book. The game was self-published, so the components may not be the highest quality, but then again it’s mostly coloring book pages and some crayons, so what do you expect.
I know there was also a publishing attempt on Kickstarter that turned out to be a scam, so the game may be associated with unpleasant memories for some people. Regardless, Chroma Cubes is light game that breathes a breath of welcome fresh air to a night of heavy Euro games. The game belongs in every collection and is guaranteed fun for all.
Number 96 – Rolling Freight
I recently re-played the train classic Age of Steam, a heavy and quite contentious train game. While I played, even though I was enjoying the experience, the entire time my mind kept coming back to Rolling Freight. Rolling Freight is delightful blend of dice, route construction, and goods delivery. Several maps have been released now, so there is plenty of variety.
The game walks the line of dice mitigation better than almost any other game out there. Really the only problem with the game is that the cards are beyond small. They are about 1.5” x 1” and really are much too small to be useful. However, other than that, the game is an excellent train and dice experience that cuts through the fat of other train games (e.g. stocks and auctions) and gets straight to the fun.
Number 95 – Power Grid
This game has fallen quite a bit in my list, but it is still one of my favorites. Power Grid has one of the most interesting supply and demand market mechanisms ever. With probably 20 maps now, plus several small expansions, the game certainly has more than enough variety. And while the components include probably the worst paper money of any game on the market, other than that the game is extremely well-built.
As much as I enjoy it, the auction phase is not as much fun as it could be, and the end game is more of a whimper than a roar, but don’t get me wrong, with the right crowd (and some poker chips to replace the scraps of paper), Power Grid is a classic that still has what it takes to compete with modern games.
Number 94 – Thebes
In my group, this game went under the name of “Jenseits” for a long time, as I have a German copy (with the name “Jenseits von Theben”). The principle is simple, the game is about collecting cards to enable players to make more efficient chip pulls from several bags. And while this sounds simple and, frankly, kind of dull, the game nonetheless manages to create a ton of atmosphere.
Chip pulls are much more exciting than they should be, as players cheer for their opponents to find worthless objects instead of treasures. Additionally, the game is extremely easy to teach to others, and new players can jump right in with very little explanation. All in all, Thebes is a fine older game that does not see as much love as it probably deserves.
Number 93 – Stronghold
As will be seen later in the list, I positively adore two-player only games. Perhaps that stems back to my younger days when I had trouble getting people to play with me, and perhaps it is a function of the fact some of the best games out there are two-player experiences. Stronghold is one of those games. One player takes the role of a swarm of monsters invading a castle, while the other player is the valiant defenders trying to repel the attack.
At its heart, the game is simple, but each decision made by each player is crucial to success. This is the game that put Polish game designer Ignacy Trzewiczek on my radar. Unfortunately, the game does not get as much play as I would like, which is why it is a bit lower on my list. However, perhaps the pending reprint (from Stronghold Games, which is very appropriate) will breathe new life into this game and I will get to play it more. Either way, the game is a fascinating tug-of-war for two, and it provides an immersive and memorable game experience each time it hits the table.
Number 92 – One Night Ultimate Werewolf
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is probably the best “social deduction” game out there. It condenses the entire werewolf experience into about 5 minutes. Recently, I acquired its two expansions, and now I have so many roles for the game that it is guaranteed never to play the same.
The game’s only downside is that it requires a fairly large group to play to its full potential, and sometimes that is hard to manage. Also, it is a bit difficult to explain the rules, but this is balanced by the fact that the game becomes intuitive immediately. For a large group or for an end of the night experience, One Night Ultimate Werewolf delivers one of the most fun, laugh-inducing five minutes of betrayal and backstabbing out there. Pound-for-pound, it’s hard to contend with a werewolf!
Number 91 – In the Shadow of the Emperor
My love for this game is perhaps a bit irrational. I first discovered this delightful little game in my last year of law school, and as far as I can tell, I’m the only person still playing it. In the Shadow of the Emperor is a diamond in the rough for me. Something about the way the euro-mechanisms tell a story of a power struggle in the Holy Roman Empire, something about the interplay between church, state, and bumping off old incumbents with an unscrupulous doctor just speaks to me.
If I got to play this game more than once in a blue moon, I think it would be in my top 30 for sure. As it is, if I can ever find a willing victim or two, this is one I am sure to inflict on them. It is an old game that truly has stood the test of time, so give it a try the next time you have a chance!
And that concludes our first installment. Next time we will look at Games 90-81. I hope you will join me soon!