Top 100: #21 Brass

Following the last game that was a silly cooperative game we have a tight economic game that is been around long enough it might be considered a classic, Brass. Designed by Martin Wallace  and published in 2007 Brass is a economic simulation of the industrial revolution in England. The theme might not interest everyone, it does us, but the game itself is such a great engine that we think most people should give it a try.

The game is split into two distinct ages; the canal and the rail ages. Each player will be developing industries and connections between cities during both of the eras. Unlike other games all of the action on the board is shared by all players. You get points from your own buildings and connections. However, other players can use your connections and resources to help them score points as well!

Players manipulate the board with the cards in their hand which either have a city or an industry on them. You can use the city cards even if those cities are not connected to another structure of yours. The industry cards can only be used in connected cities though. Figuring out how best to use the cards and money in your possession is where most of the choices lie in Brass.

cards.jpg


Getting points in the games comes almost entirely from flipping over your industry tiles before the end of each era. (Some buildings can even score in both eras!). In order to flip over a tile you need to use all of the resources it provides. For cotton you need to sell it to a port or the foreign market. For coal and iron those need to be used up to flip over the tiles. Using coal and iron have the most player interactivity. Players can try to create coal and iron plants that their opponents will want to use allowing you to flip the tile without extra actions yourself.


Brass is a super tight economic engine with interesting play order mechanic based on how much money you spend in a turn. Sometimes it will even be in your best interest to take out loans to make it so you can take a more powerful turn. Brass has been reprinted with beautiful graphics and the smallest bit of streamlining as Brass Lancashire and we look forward to teaching people this #21 on our top 100!


Top 100: #22 Witness

Next on our list is a rather silly cooperative game, Witness. The game is a blend of logic puzzles and a game of telephone. There are a great number of cases involved in the game to play with you and three of your friends. New players should start with some of the earlier cases as the further you get into the cases the harder they get. If you are feeling confidence though you can jump into the deep end!


Each player gets a case book that has a page or two for each of the 100 cases. At the end of the game the players will all have to individually answer three questions about the case. During the game players aren’t allowed to take notes so you need to remember all the ins and outs of the case! A perfect score is 12 points as each correct answer is worth a point.

books.jpg


With all of the case books combined figuring out the answers wouldn’t be that difficult but the challenge of the game comes from the fact that everyone has one quarter of the information needed. To make it so people can answer the questions you are going to be telling your teammates the information in your cook. There are rules however that make spreading that information more difficult!


First of all when you are telling someone the information in your book they can’t ask questions other than to ask you to repeat and they can’t really talk much either. So it is a one sided conversation.The other complication is that you will never talk to one of your teammates and they must get the information second hand from the others that you told.


Witness is a very silly game but still feel challenging as you try to piece together the evidence you learn during the game. Since you can’t take notes until the very end you try to make sure you remember what is important - even if you aren’t sure what is the most important information! We love playing the game as a silly end to an evening. All of the enjoyment we have gotten from it means it certainly deserves its spot at #22 on the Top 100!


Top 100: #23 Agents of Smersh

Games with a strong storytelling element are fairly rare, and ones that are also cooperative are even rarer. Agents of Smersh takes these two elements and lets players go on crazy adventures in a classic Bond style universe.  

Every interaction in the game fully encompasses the theme of spy movies and novels drawing you into role playing your characters.  Sometimes the theme games can be very pasted on and not noticeable during play, but Agents of Smersh does not have this problem.  Each player will choose a character that fits one of the stereotypical roles of a spy movie for example--tech guy, sultry assassin, or the handsome spy.  Players work together to travel the world map gaining clues and resources to defeat the evil Dr. Lobo and his henchmen.    At the end of each player's turn you also get to find out what evil and extraordinarily outlandish plan Dr. lobo is up to.

As you move around the board you will encounter different situations with only a few clues to help you decide what to do. From there you have to choose from several different options how you respond to the situation. With that information and a little randomness added in another player reads from the huge book of encounters to see if you succeed or fail. The success of your mission can depend on what advanced skills you have or from a dice roll based on your stats.

Over the course of the game, by interrogating henchmen, you will discover the location of Dr. Lobo.  In order to win the game you need to have the right resources from completing encounters earlier in the game.  This can be easier said than done!    

Agents of Smersh can have some decent swings of randomness that could be frustrating for people who like things to have set outcomes based on decisions. However, we would assume that most people who are looking for storytelling games are more interested in enveloping themselves in the fun theme than whether they win or lose. The story moments and theme of this game really made it sing more than some of its competitors. It can be hard to find nowadays but it still deserves a spot on the Top 100 - if you can’t find a copy make sure to try out ours!

Top 100: #24 Terraforming Mars

Mars seems to be a popular theme in both popular culture and in board gaming. One of the most popular games to use that theme is Terraforming Mars. The game uses a huge variety of cards to make every game a little different. Different corporations also add some flavor as each player will have a little be different bonus to affect their play style.

cards.jpg

The start of the game and each round begins with players drafting cards until they have selected the 10 they want for the round. Choosing a card in the draft doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to keep them. As each card you keep will cost you some of your valuable money to add to your hand. You might draft a card you don’t want to buy in order to keep it from your opponent.

Play continues around the table with each player taking one action and possibly a second each round. If you don’t want to take that first action you have to pass, but then you are done for the round which is why you might stretch out your actions more so you can stay in the round longer. Some of the cards have requirements like how much Mars needs to be terraformed before use or possibly it might already be too terraformed for the card to be effective.

board.jpg

There are lots of ways to get points but a lot of them are from taking steps to make Mars more habitable. There are three factors that determine how friendly the planet has been made for human life; water, oxygen, and temperature. Two of the other big ways to get points is by claiming one of the milestones if you have met their requirements. There are some end game ways to score but the players will choose over the course of the game which ones they want to activate - not all of them can be used in a game making end game scoring variable. Some of the cards you play also provide points to the players, especially some of the later cards where you are developing life.

Once three gauges marking the progress of terraforming mars have been maxed out then the game ends at the end of the round. Which adds another layer of variability as you never know how many rounds you have until the end of the game and you might not want to end as you have grander plans for the planet and its moons! With so much variability there is always something new to explore - and now there are even new maps to change the game up even more. With the constant expansions Terraforming Mars continues to grow and might even sneak higher on the Top 100 as we find new ways to enjoy it!

Top 100: #25 Spirit Island

Another cooperative game makes this list - although this one is a bit heavier than some of the other cooperative games we enjoy. All of the players are spirits that have long protected the indigenous population of Spirit Island when invaders come to exploit the island. Your goal as spirits is to impede their progress until they are too afraid to stay on the island. With this interesting and unique theme already gives it lots of bonus points!


board.jpg

Every spirit available, and there are lots, plays a little bit differently in how they defend the population. Some are simpler spirits that use the nature around them to attack and drive off the invaders. While other spirits use nightmares to simply scare the invaders away, driving them away in terror. But the end goal for all of the spirits is the same to save the island from those invaders.



When you take your turn you pick one of your growth powers. All of them are pretty similar but they try to make them match the theme of your spirit. One of the best ways to help the island and its inhabitants is by placing your presence on the island. The cards that you play each turn more than likely influence regions where you have presence or next to them. Also when you place your presence down you uncover more of your player aid. Each time you uncover your player aid you get more and more powerful on your turn.



character.png

Similar to other cooperative games after you take your turns the bad stuff gets a turn. The invaders start to encroach farther and farther inland. You do have knowledge of some of the movements they will make as the cards cycle through the evil actions. The victory conditions chance based on how much fear has been caused by the spirits. The longer you last the easier it can be to claim victory.


The asymmetry of the different spirits adds some terrific flavor of this game. So combining some great theme, game play, and art makes Spirit Island one of our favorites. Because of the difference between the spirits it can be a little hard to start off but if you like a good meaty cooperative game you should definitely give Spirit Island a try! We would even help you learn this if you want to play this at Platypus-Con!




Top 100: #26 Starfall

board.jpg

Sometimes all you need to make an enjoyable game is just a few simple choices. In Starfall, when it is your turn, you only have 3 choices you can do with your one action. Those three choices are putting out a new disc into the sky, decrease the value of one of the discs already in play, and then lastly you can use your stars to buy one of the available discs.

Each of the discs have different spacey elements shown that score different. If you get lots of comets each of them slowly grows in value. You can get some planets for moons but each moon has to have a planet. (Evidently no multiple moon planets in this galaxy!) Others are just worth stars that can be used to buy other discs.

scoring.jpg

While the game has very few choices, deciding which one to choose can be a thinker. Putting out a new disc you want to buy might not last until your turn. The decision between making something cheaper or just buying it is one of the hardest to make. You have limited currency to spend on getting discs so you want to get your bang for your stars, but if you make it cheaper someone might buy it first. It doesn’t help that sometimes if there isn’t room in the sky you could be making it much cheaper than it already was.

Starfall’s simple choices that require thought is why it is one of our favorite games to teach and play. While we got this game on a whim it has definitely proved it is worthy to be up on this list. People can start playing in less than a minute and then have the fun of making those tough choices throughout the game. Just don’t ignore the comets - if someone gets a lot of them they can sneak in a victory!

Top 100: #27 Codenames: Pictures

One of the most popular party games in recent years, Codenames and its sequel Codenames: Pictures are a great team based word games. The game doesn’t get as raucous as some other party games and doesn’t expect you to draw or even know trivia!

target.png

Each team is trying to locate their agents in a field of cards spread out on the table. One player on each team knows which cards are theirs and which ones are bystanders, their opponents agents, or the spy. On each turn the person in the know gives a one word clue and the number of cards on the table that match that clue.

One by one teammates will select cards on the table hoping to choose correctly. SInce the clue giver can’t make any comments, the only thing they have to guide them is those one word clues. If they get one of their own agents they can continue guessing. A wrong guess ends the turn - unless they pick the assassin then they immediately lose!

Pictures.png

The original Codenames uses a set of 25 cards with words on them for the teams to guess, and the sequel Codenames: pictures uses a slate of 20 pictures instead of words. When we first heard about the pictures set we thought they would be generic clip art style photos. Instead they are very unique pictures that give lots of openings for connecting the different cards.

Whether you want to connect words together or some interesting pictures Codenames can be tons of fun for any group of people. Simple rules and lots of laughs over some ridiculous connections make Codenames and Codenames: Pictures our favorite party games.  Our favorite version of this game, the one used on this list, is Codenames Pictures. But if you want there are lots of different varieties now with a Marvel and a Disney version!

Top 100: #28 Mystic Vale

Deck building games have become quite common since the first version of Dominion came out in 2008. Many different designers have made their own changes to those base rules to create new and exciting deck builders. Mystic Vale is changing those rules in a large way by moving away from building your deck to building your cards that are in the deck. People who enjoy deck builders will likely enjoy card building as it obviously has its roots in the deck building system.

In Mystic Vale instead of adding or removing cards from your deck you buy transparent cards that slide inside of the sleeves to increase the strength of those cards. One of the few rules about the ways you can build those cards is that you can’t cover anything up so preprinted information and prior upgrades are stuck in your cards once you get them.

The beginning cards and even some of the improvements have red tree symbols on the cards and those can cause you to lose all of your resources and your turn. So the game has a bit of a push your luck mechanic. When you get yourself ready for your next turn you flip over cards until you can see three of those symbols. If you ever can see four that is when you lose everything for the turn. Sometimes you really want just one more buying power or one of your powerful cards so want to flip over one more card. Will you get the resource you wanted or wind up wiping out for the round?

There are lots of different improvements you can get for your cards. Some let you get more buying power, others cancel out the red trees, and others get you points every time you play them. The game runs until the victory point pool based on the numbers of players is exhausted. After that you total up the points you have between tokens and the points on the cards that you bought over the course of the game.

Mystic Vale keeps the spirit of deck building while never increasing the size of your deck to dilute the powerful improvements that you buy. It is always lots of fun and we are looking forward to where this designer and others take this type of game play in the future. Especially after seeing all of the inventiveness people have had with the deck building system. Mystic Vale’s uniqueness and fun makes it deserve its spot on this list - but it might be replaced as they continue to innovate with this card crafting system!

Top 100: #29 Mixtour

Next on the list is what is probably one of the last abstract games on the list. We do have a soft spot for theme and immersion in our games so it is harder for them to reach the top. So there definitely has to be something special about Mixtour to get it this high up on the list. While it looks very usual on the board the intricacies of how you move and play in this game is really where it shines.

board.jpg

Each player has the goal of creating a tower at least 5 pieces tall with their piece at the top. The game is played best 3 out of 5 so one bad move won’t sink the game for a player. Moving the pieces around on the game board is based on the height of the stack. There are lots of games where the movement is based on the moving stack, but in Mixtour it is based solely on the size of the stack you are moving too. So if you are trying to move some pieces onto a stack that already exists and is two pieces tall - you have to be moving pieces that are two spaces away.

We generally do pretty well against new players before they come from behind and beat us because of how mind bendy the game is because of that unique movement mechanic. It takes a while before players figure out how to twist the movement rules to their benefit or see ways to stop their opponent. One of the main ways to stop them is to put pieces in between some obvious moves. As the other movement rule is you can’t jump over other pieces in play.

The unique strategies and game play have definitely cemented Mixtour on the Top 100, while more thematic games might come out and force it to slide down the list it is too great to fall too far. If you are a fan of a pure abstract games you owe it to yourself to give our #29 a try to see if you can master this unique and exciting game.


Top 100: #30 Kingdomino

Our next game is Kingdomino, a great little tile placement game where you are trying to create your own little kingdom. The scoring, placement, and drafting are all quite simple and easy to grasp but there are lots of choices to be made that make this little game a lot of fun.

drafting.jpg

As the name would suggest the game has some of its roots in dominoes, that is mostly in the shape of the pieces and the placement rules. When you acquire a tile you have to place it in such a way that that one of the sides is adjacent to a side of another tile are identical. Generally you want to do this anyways as it will help you score the most points.

The way you get points in the game are the number of crowns in a region times the number of squares in the region. So if you have 4 crowns in a region that is 8 squares big then for that section along you got 32 points. Pretty respectable. This simplicity makes the game very approachable for even our youngest gamers.

board.jpg

While we prefer Kingdomino because it has won the Spiel de Jahres it also has a decent number of expansions. There is also another version called Queendomino which is quite similar but they have adds lots of new bits and bobs to make the game have even more choices and scoring opportunities. That game is fun as well but part of the draw of Kingdomino for us is the simplicity.

We might be bias towards games that have a giant version like this one does but either way this game is tons of fun! If you are looking for a game that is fun and relaxing to play or if you are trying to introduce new/young people to our great hobby this one is a bright and colorful entrance to the board gaming hobby. Such a great introduction that it is our Top 30 games of all time!