This is even less of an ‘all-time’ list than usual, since there is no way I’ve played enough games to be definitive. However, it’s my format and I’m sticking to it. Also I could easily do top 5 card games, top 5 co-op games, top 5 games to play drunk etc, but I thought I’d stay simple. Consider this the Top 5 of the games I personally want to play if you invite me to games day.
Easily the cutest board game I’ve ever played, the expansion adds a lady panda miniature and also panda babies (disappointingly though the babies are tokens and not more minis). The game is a good mixture of strategy & luck, as you compete to be the best bamboo gardener. An easy recommend, and is a pretty good gateway game for people not used to playing many games beyond monopoly. View on Amazon*
The only co-op game on this list, and surprisingly also the only Lovecraftian one. Elder Sign really nails the theme and atmosphere. It’s essentially Cthulhu Yahtzee, but with enough systems to keep the luck of a game reliant on dice rolls from becoming frustrating.
This game is the one that really brought me round to enjoying co-op games. Never really saw the point before! Available on Amazon*
Giant monsters, what’s not to love?!
The sequel, King of New York, along with the various small expansions, add a little complexity, but core gameplay remains the same. Be the last giant monster standing. Buy on Amazon*
Both Hero Realms and Star Realms are very similar games, if you were just going to pick up one, the choice is simply whether you prefer a fantasy or sci-fi theme. These have been the go to 2-player card game in our house since the demise of Lords of War (sob).
The gameplay involves using your resources to purchase better cards for your own deck, then using those cards to defeat your opponent. Easy game to recommend, and a 2 player starter deck can be had for around £15. My recommended point to start now would be the latest version of the Star Realms starter, Frontiers. It supports up to 4 players out of the box and is available from Amazon here.*
Still my favourite board game. I know this is great, because I’m always so pleased we get it to the table, that I don’t even mind if I lose. It’s a game of conquering territory ala Risk, but with a large selection of player Races & Abilities which each impact the strategy of the game in different ways.
A strong alternative to Star / Hero Realms, this is another favourite in our house. There are various editions available, including a Street Fighter one.
The game play in this is similar to Star / Hero Realms, although the focus is on accumulating victory points in your deck rather than straight up combat with your opponent, so you don’t find out who has won till the end. This is a good option if you regularly have more than 2 players, as for my money, it supports more players better than Star / Hero Realms. The original edition on Amazon.
This was very close to making the top 5. What I love about this is how well it handles the theme, but the game is still excellent if you have no idea about Discworld.
A gamesday regular. Ankh-Morpork is out of print now, but if you’re interested in the game, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on Nanty Narking. It’s not out yet, but is intended to be a re-release of the game with a different theme.
Sort of an inverse happy families. You start out with one of the set families, and as the game progresses various events occur having either a positive or negative effect on the quality of life of each family member. The general goal is to make your family as miserable as possible, and then have them expire.
Although not the most uplifting of game ideas, the real joy in this game comes from storytelling. Each family member has their own backstory, players are encouraged to flesh this out during the course of the game, weaving a narrative around the various cards they are playing on their turns. Gloom is always well received when I introduce it to new people, twice I’ve had to leave it behind when visiting friends so they can carry on playing, and pick myself up a new copy. Buy Gloom on Amazon* and stop stealing my copies people!
A fast paced ‘filler’ game, very easy to learn and cheap to pick up. Much like Gloom this Love Letter always goes down well when introducing it to others. Easier than Gloom to get going in the pub though.
The deluxe edition seems to be very pricey atm, but there is an updated basic version that is excellent for travel, here.*
*These are affiliate links to Amazon, meaning if you click through and buy something, I’ll get a small commission.