Take it to the table
November 8, 2019 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Because there's just not enough to argue about these days, Paste Magazine presents its absolutely accurate and unassailable list of the 25 best board games of the decade.
posted by vverse23 (37 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Uh oh
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:24 PM on November 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

This kind of feels like “25 most famous” in its way, since they’re all pretty big famous titles. No Codex: Card-Time Strategy? No Code Names? Nothing at all by Oink Games? Not even the shockingly elegant Rock Paper Scissors 2.0?
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:29 PM on November 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm not even going to read the article because I already know it will be wrong and stupid and
2. Wingspan (2019)

Never mind. Carry on.
posted by xedrik at 9:36 PM on November 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I started this comment with I'm really hoping for a European release of Wingspan, but discovered that there will be one! Be still my beating wingsheart!
posted by Harald74 at 9:41 PM on November 8, 2019

I have no beef with 7 Wonders, it's popular, accessible, and good. But no Concordia? And a couple of Legacy games? New Bedford is a weird choice as well. No Scythe or Root. Weird list. No Codenames also a big red flag.

And, Wingspan is fine. Not anything amazing, but, pleasant.
posted by Windopaene at 9:47 PM on November 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's not a bad list, and I would agree with a fair number, even if not the ordering. I am, however, a bit baffled by 7 Wonders at #1. I played a ton of it when it came out, and honestly I feel like a game like Sushi Go! hits all the good aspects without the unnecessarily more fiddly bits.

I also think some of the choices are either flashes in the pan, or too new to know if they'll have staying power.
posted by tocts at 9:49 PM on November 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

I feel like Splendor is maybe not a great game? At least, I’ve won it every single time I’ve played, which implies that either I’m some sort of strategic genius (unlikely) or that the game’s strategic depth might just not be there so much. I dunno. Maybe I’m spoiled. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:51 PM on November 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Splendor has the sweet big chips, which make everyone feel good. It's a solid gateway game, but, pretty simple at heart.
posted by Windopaene at 9:53 PM on November 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Splendor is one that I argue is flash in the pan. It made a big splash, it's fun for a bit, but ultimately stopped being interesting after not that many plays.
posted by tocts at 9:54 PM on November 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I expect that an enterprising MeFite is already hard at work on an epic FPP featuring the 25 best 25 best lists of the decade.
posted by fairmettle at 10:21 PM on November 8, 2019 [12 favorites]

Splendor left me cold - it feels like a pure stripped-back engine-building game without any of the flavour, theme, charm, or interest that I like. Sagrada is beautiful and solid to play but best?

Missing from the list (in my opinion): Resistance: Avalon, Codenames, Terra Mystica, Robinson Crusoe, Hanabi, Sheriff of Nottingham, One Night: Ultimate Werewolf, Brass: Birmingham, The Grizzled, K2, Skull, Isle of Skye, Onitama, Magic Maze, Tragedy Looper, La Granja...
posted by Paragon at 10:37 PM on November 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

7 Wonders is a family favorite, but I find it kind of messy, and strangely introverted. Patchwork is fun and quick. Missing Flamme Rouge, which is maybe a niche game, simulating bike racing, but it has good mechanics and is quick to learn. One thing is certain, games look way better now than 10 years ago. Game nerds and graphic design nerds finally found each other I guess.
posted by St. Oops at 10:38 PM on November 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sheriff of Nottingham is a gruelling not-really-even-a-game that should be nowhere near any best of list, ever. Concordia is just fine. Root is just fine.

More hot takes to follow.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:26 PM on November 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

excuse me but Spirit Island
posted by aihal at 12:59 AM on November 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

Yeah, Codenames is a baffling omission.

I have a lot of fondness for Gloomhaven - it's completely excessive, but you strip all that away and you still have the best dungeon-crawler I've ever played, including games like Mansions of Madness which aren't strictly dungeons but still involve moving from room to room discovering things. What makes it work is the discard/lost card mechanic - you start with a full hand, with all your options, but every few turns you're going to be forced to lose one of them, and you only get a handful of big showoff moves per game. Because you have a bunch of different abilities, each character feels flavourful and interesting to move around (unlike Mansions of Madness), and there's just enough randomness so the game isn't samey, but not so much that (unlike Descent) you agency feels like it depends on a dice roll.

I think the stripped-down Gloomhaven they're working on will be a pretty big deal.
posted by Merus at 1:25 AM on November 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think that Splendor is a mechanic in wait of a game, akin to how En Garde is a thing you try once and you’re done, whereas Flash Duel basically takes En Garde and turns it into a game (by, among many other things, “burning” a few cards from the deck each round to prevent mathing out a checkmate every time).*

I also feel like Oink Games deserves way more attention! Dungeon of Mandom/Welcome to the Dungeon is a super fun game of bluffing and luck, Deep Sea Adventure is a now nearly iconic game of brilliant “coop-petitive” resource management and pressing your luck, Startups is a light but moderately deep game of keeping track of what everyone else is trying to do... anyway, yeah, check out Oink Games.

*There’s kind of a long and sordid tale involving this game, with Reinier Knizia, the creator of En Garde, threatening a frivolous lawsuit because the first version of FD credited him. Apparently Knizia has kind of a history of vexatious litigation based on his refusal to believe that game mechanics are not legally protected ƪ(˘∇˘)ʃ
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:42 AM on November 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

When did Betrayal at House on Haunted Hill come out, anyway? That might be one of the best game-as-experience things I’ve played from a pure flavor perspective, even if it doesn’t exactly hold up to high-level serious competitive play
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:45 AM on November 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

BGG advises me it was in 2004. There was a second edition in 2010.
posted by fFish at 1:51 AM on November 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Okay, in that case it’s exempt, heh
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:05 AM on November 9, 2019

Christ, is this relevant to my interests.

I've always liked board games, and in the past five years our family have really started to spread our wings from the standards of Ticket to Ride and Carcassone. In the process my wife found her new favorite (7 Wonders), my daughter found hers (Takenoko) and I found mine (Splendor, which I can understand all the criticism aimed at it in this thread, but I think I love it because gameplay is so goddamn fast and instinctive).

Cut to this past summer, where my wife got a new job in Central Florida and we had to leave Jacksonville, which had been my home for all my 45 years. The adjustment was extremely emotional for all of us, and we're only just now finally settling in. As part of an effort to make new friends (which, yeah, is not my strong suit), I joined a weekly board gaming group which introduced me to the really in-depth games.

Most of the ones I've played so far, including Terraforming Mars, have been fun as well as instructive. And the last one I played with the group (Terra Mystica) nearly broke my brain, so I found out I have my limits, which is useful. At any rate, I've been diving deep into the board game world, watching Dice Tower videos on YouTube and practically living at boardgamegeek.com. This list will most certainly add more to the research pile, so I'm very appreciative.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 3:05 AM on November 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Mind, blech.

Castles of Burgundy, yay!

Pandemic Legacy, yech.

Terraforming Mars, yay!

Sheriff of Nottingham, whoof.

Istanbul, yay! (need coffeehouse expansion tho).

Was surprised to see either of Azul and Sagrada on the list and so high up, that really smacks of "brand new shine" syndrome to me. I'd have put Yokohama on here but it's possible I love it a bit too much.
posted by hearthpig at 4:21 AM on November 9, 2019

Definitely not my ranking, but I did find out about some new stuff while reading it, so that's just fine with me.
posted by codacorolla at 7:03 AM on November 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

I played Sagrada for the first time this week - it really is a lot of fun.
posted by COD at 7:08 AM on November 9, 2019

The Splendor tokens feel so nice and substantial because they have metal inside. I know this because I got stopped and questioned at the airport when they scanned my carry-on. Heed my warning! Pack your board games in your checked baggage or prepare to unpack them in front of a group of bored TSA agents!
posted by Gray Duck at 7:11 AM on November 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd have put Yokohama on here but it's possible I love it a bit too much.

I haven't played Yokohama enough to say if it deserves to be in the top 25 of the 2010s, but I have played it enough to say that it does more interesting things with the core movement mechanic than Istanbul, which this list has a #17. Istanbul ... left me a little cold? Like, it was doing some interesting things, but not enough to want to keep at it.

I'm also mildly confused by the statement the author makes on the playtime of Castles of Burgundy. I don't at all object to its placement, it is one of my favorite games, but I can play it (2 player, at least) in about 45 minutes, including setup/teardown, not the 90-120 minutes stated in the article. It looks imposing, but it really is not -- the first time my wife and I played [at a game event], we worried as we unpacked the box that we were signing up for like 3 hours of stuff and finished our first game, even while learning, in about an hour.
posted by tocts at 7:52 AM on November 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm at a Board Game Con this weekend - this poelst is relevant to my interests. I'm glad to see Castles of Burgundy so high on this list. I have no idea why this game has not caught on in my gamer circles. Herr Duck and I played Castles of Burgundy probably 4-5 times a week for about six months a few years ago - and we still haven't found "the one way to win". It's so well balanced and the sheer number of variations keep it from getting old and/or stale. It's fantastic.

Lately we've been on a Sagrada/Splendor kick. Those two games add up to a nice post-dinner game hour a few nights a week. I think Sagrada has more potential staying power, and I agree with the above poster that Splendor is a mechanic in wait for a game.

We are unpacking Pandemic Legacy at this very moment. We have a copy of Wingspan on reserve for later tonight.

I like Azul fine, but I can't believe that it scores so high or even is on the list at all. I am not the least bit surprised that 7 wonders and Duel are at the top. There's another pair of games that don't have"the one way to win". Fun and eternally replayable.

Okay I'm being called back to the table!!
posted by Gray Duck at 7:55 AM on November 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

one of the most unreadable books (Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson) I’ve ever read - no, you are just wrong.
posted by doctornemo at 8:45 AM on November 9, 2019

Okay but the honorable mentions...
posted by cooker girl at 10:01 AM on November 9, 2019

I started an offline social media night with my friends earlier this year, but made the mistake of running the Dungeons & Dragons starter kit one night for something different. Now all my board games are collecting dust and I spend half my free time reading PDFs. 16 games later and we're finally almost done with the starter adventure (not bad for $25!). Been meaning to pick up Gloomhaven since that doesn't require a game master though! But surely some of these other are going to end up on my shelf as well.
posted by bradbane at 10:08 AM on November 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is also very relevant to my interests, but I have to say that as much as I love playing Takenoko with my partner, the scoring rules in particular would take it off of a best of list for me. Games that work well for a mix of player skill levels should have one or more paths to victory that are so bad as to be unwinnable if others take different paths. And the difficulty in executing a strategy ought to be commensurate with the victory points award. It's a fun game with some great design, but man can it be tough to have fun with it sometimes.
posted by Carillon at 10:12 AM on November 9, 2019

Got Gloomhaven a week ago and have played it at least once a day since then. My partner and I are both fairly strategically minded, and the difficulty of it is tuned such that in most of the missions we've done, we narrowly failed the first attempt and narrowly succeeded on the second. I've semi-facetiously asserted that in terms of raw mechanics, it's both my favorite Fire Emblem game and my favorite edition of D&D. It's a very chewy tactical combat puzzle game.
posted by NMcCoy at 4:04 PM on November 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Apparently Knizia has kind of a history of vexatious litigation based on his refusal to believe that game mechanics are not legally protected ƪ(˘∇˘)ʃ

Pretty rich from a guy who basically slapped a fun concept & some bonus mechanics onto Agricola & sold it as Dungeon Lords eh
posted by taquito sunrise at 2:04 AM on November 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

(also wait I guess I accidentally ate my comment about being excited to play some of these I hadn't tried yet but wondering how 7 Wonders was at #1 when 7 Wonders Duel fixed a lot of its issues & was objectively a better tighter game, OBJECTIVELY)
posted by taquito sunrise at 2:08 AM on November 10, 2019

Hadn't heard of a one till 7 Wonders, which I definitely bought after the first time I played it.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:35 AM on November 10, 2019

Pretty rich from a guy who basically slapped a fun concept & some bonus mechanics onto Agricola & sold it as Dungeon Lords eh

Maybe I'm missing a subtle joke here, sorry if that's the case, but Dungeon Lords is a Vlaada Chvátil game, not a Knizia one.
posted by jklaiho at 12:26 PM on November 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

But yeah, as far as difficulty in compiling an authoritative top 25 listicle goes, doing one for board games is a near impossibility. The sheer breadth of different experiences and target audiences available in that space is just staggering. (Even the author pretty much says just that.)

I can't say for sure which portion of this list I'd include in my personal 2010s top 25, but the overlap would be somewhere around 3 or 4 games. 7 Wonders at #1 is pretty mindboggling, for example. I must have played something closer to 100 games of it over the years, which is a hell of a lot for me, and I still sort of like it, but there are a lot of valid and even harsh criticisms to be made about it (Mark Bigney of So Very Wrong About Games has been particularly lucid in his takes on it).
posted by jklaiho at 12:40 PM on November 10, 2019

Codenames is a definite miss here. And New Bedford? Really? (I also personally don't see the point of the -- to me -- interchangeable Sagrada, Azul, and Splendor all on the list.)
posted by Legomancer at 9:09 AM on November 11, 2019

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