Spring is upon us. We here at Meeple Gamers wanted to take a moment to look across the hobby and think about what games best embodied the season. I’m going to take a different yet somewhat familiar take on top ten lists, if you are at all familiar with the top tens of Cinefix, a film based YouTube channel. So, with all credit to them on the format, here’s why I choose what I did, however, if you want to cheat ahead, there will be a complete list at the bottom.
#10: App Based Games:
With spring popping up and people taking more of a stretch to get outside and move around for the first time in a while it can be difficult to drag a board game with you. Fortunately, if that’s what you want the inclusion of a great number of apps have been created for your portable devices that make having an entire collection of board games with you a bit easier. I choose this as number 10 since some people won’t necessarily consider them board games. However, for the purposes of sitting on a park bench, a forest trail, or a picnic by the lake these tools will let you have a nice pass and play experience.
Honorable Mentions: There are some fantastic apps that push the experience of the game to a new or different level. The smoot recreation of the tabletop experience found in Carcassonne, Neuroshima Hex, and Ticket to Ride; the unique challenge modes found in Splendor; or the improved bookkeeping in Through the Ages.
However for me the top of the menu has to be Armello from League of Geeks. A fun map based fantasy game has players crossing a kingdom in an attempt to prevent the King, who has become corrupted by darkness, from destroying everything. With multiple paths to victory, variable player powers, and thematic elements that immerse you into the world. Most importantly, this game does not exist outside of the electronic sphere. I know some will see that as a cheat, but with the hidden information and the vast number of modifiers that would need to be tracked by players, it would be impossible to have this as a physical game. That’s why it’s my number 10.
#9: Tournament Games:
One of the things I look forward to in the hobby is playing in tournaments. I enjoy competitive play and always look forward to spring when a lot of organized play programs start their new year off. Additionally, in my area at least, a lot of tournaments get cancelled over the winter due to weather and lack of attendance. Spring marks the point where I’ll be able to start taking regular part in tourneys.
There are a lot of games that fit into this category, and with the ever expanding number of companies that are getting into the organized play arena plus things like the Unrivaled tabletop tournament series there are a lot of games to find in this area.
Honorable Mentions: There’s the long standing and deeply contested games Netrunner, Star Wars X-Wing Miniature Game, and Dice Masters. The chaotic dice play of King of Tokyo. The diehard fans of Heroscape that refuse to let the game die. With a quick shout out to tabletop miniatures games such as Malifaux, a personal favorite, that will almost certainly include Star Wars Legion once they have more figures for people to play with.
All of that said, it would have been insane not to give this to Magic the Gathering from Wizards of the Coast. Created in 1993 and still going strong, Magic not only introduced many to the hobby, it’s probably responsible for keeping many game stores open for most of the 90’s and 2000’s. I would be hard pressed to find a game store in my area that doesn’t feature regular midnight releases, tournaments, and Friday night Magic get togethers. Love it, hate it, or meh; you cannot deny the lasting effect Magic has had on the hobby.
#8: Spring Themed Games:
It felt nice to look at games based around the season itself or things thematically tied to the season. For me this meant things about life, renewal, and nature. I also considered rabbits as a representation of the season itself. I also included baseball in this, while I’ll admit that baseball could be its own number, I simply don’t know enough about baseball games to come up with an entire list.
Honorable Mentions: I considered the fantastic Arboretum for its colorful images and theme, Cottage Garden for making me think of how my Grandmother spent every spring, Bunny Kingdom played with my thoughts for its beautiful pieces and plethora of rabbits, and when it came to baseball Bottom of the 9th slid directly into the back of my mind.
In the end I choose Photosynthesis from Blue Orange Games. Creating your own forest by basing your moves on the placement of the sun was just too thematic for me. As the game progresses over time, featuring an expanding view of the woods, with the different colored trees. It was just too beautiful and to good not to be on here.
#7: Farming Games:
Since we’re rolling through nature, let’s keep with the environment. One of the big things I thought of while looking at spring themed games was farming and while these could have been included in the number nine slot there were just too many to not make their own list.
Honorable Mentions: From Viticulture featuring its expansive vineyards and tourism to Barnyard Roundup a fun family bluffing game about farm animals there were numerous games I could have included here. I could even have posted the granddaddy of them all, Agricola. Probably not he first but certainly one of the most well regarded.
However, I went with Caverna: The Cave Farmers from Lookout Games. The follow up to Agricola, it expanded and streamlined an already impressive game. With multiple paths to victory and wonderful table presence the Caverna: The Cave Farmers is a game worth trying at least once.
#6: Family Games:
From farming to family because I don’t have a good transition. With spring comes spring break, and a couple of other long weekend school holidays. Spring also brings family trips, bad weather, and unforeseen time spent in a house, cabin, or hotel room with children. When this happens it’s a good idea to have one or two board games to spend time as a family.
Honorable Mentions: From wonderful games with simple rules that evoke storytelling like Near and Far, Charterstone, and Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island. The fun dexterity game Ice Cool is a welcome addition, encouraging both movement and family time. The update of an old classic with a popular theme in the very well done modernization Monopoly Gamer. Even the PC game Jackbox which while, yes a computer game is still a family game that can keep everyone entertained.
In the end I had to give it to Grimm Forest from Druid City Games. Grimm Forest is a beautiful production where players take the roles of the three little pigs and their cousin as they attempt to build a series of houses. Using friend cards representing a number of fairy tale creatures and lovely miniatures to set the stage and draw you into the world.
#5: Cabin it the Woods Games:
Maybe you went on vacation not with your family but with your friends. You rented a cabin by the lake, headed out for water skis and fishing and got a ridiculous downpour. What do you do when stuck in doors miles from anywhere? If you’re like me, you have at least one board game with you. To be fair to families, most of these games will still apply if you’re trapped with teenagers too.
Honorable Mentions: If you’re with your friends and want a good laugh while drinking a couple of beers, then can’t go wrong with cards against humanity. If you want something a bit more Thematic to the whole trapped in a cabin then look to Mansions of Madness, Last Friday, and Zombicide all of which can give you that campfire story telling while keeping you dry indoors.
For me the best cabin experience is Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game from Flying Frog Games. A one vs many game of zombie survival, players are either the various townsfolk trying to survive a zombie attack on their small town or the player controlling the zombies. Thematic weapons, locations, architypes, and situations that will remind everyone at the table of their very favorite zombie movies roll out set against a backdrop of rural America.
#4: Stayed at Home Games:
Of course it’s possible you didn’t go in vacation. Be it lack of funds, time, ability or any number of other reasons you stayed at home while a lot of other people went on vacation. You’re gaming group has been reduced to you and one other person. Or maybe you and your spouse, partner, or significant other want something to play on a late night.
Honorable Mentions: If you want a quick experience with some good choices then games like Shadespire, Hero Realms, and Fog of Love are great choices. For more in depth games with longer play times look towards Star Wars Rebellion or the wonderful Twilight Struggle each offering wonderfully thematic experiences.
For the best experience I want to throw it too Codenames Duet from Czech Games. A wonderful back and forth game where players try and get their partner to find specific words. The game is light enough that you can have a glass of your favorite beverage and chat while playing or laser focus yourself into the game with no distractions. It’s a nice evening with a good friend and a pleasant experience.
#3: Rainy Day Games:
While we’re sitting at home with some of our favorite people let’s expand the group and the amount of time. I’m sure we’ve all had those spring moments, those rainy day weekends where it’s a little too cold, a little too wet, and whole lot too grey. I live in Ohio, we get this a lot. *sigh* Anyway, on those days it’s nice to have some friends over, throw something in the crockpot, and pile the kitchen table full of snacks. Break out your favorite cup of coffee, nicest glass of wine, and tallest mug of beer. You then sit around a table for the long haul. One of those all day with the occasional all night game sessions. If you’re going to do that, it’s nice to have a game that goes the distance.
Runners up: While talking about long games we could roll out Twilight Imperium in all of its grandeur, whichever edition you prefer though 4th is the current. If you want a bit more campaign and story in your day there’s always Arcadia Quest, Star Wars Imperial Assault, and Shadows of Brimstone for those that want a bit a narrative in your day. If you have a taste for a unique experience that will tailor it to your group then maybe a legacy game is for you such Seafall and either season of Pandemic or both if you’re feeling froggy.
For me it’s the one that embraces all of these things, Gloomhaven from Cephalofair Games. A long form dungeon crawler that uses a unique card driven mechanic to plan your turns. It has a great story campaign with multiple paths and conditions. Allows for the legacy aspects of making permanent changes to the board and cards. Decisions you make influence every aspect of this game and will give you a wonderful day of play.
#2: Cookout Games:
But what if it doesn’t rain, because I’m still bad at transitions, or like me, what if you’re having a cookout? Every Memorial Day I have a massive bar-b-que. I invite all of my friends and family over and we cook out like you wouldn’t believe. Many of you have probably come across something similar. With a large outdoor gathering where someone might want to play a game.
Honorable Mention: There are certainly time tested games that fit into this setting: Croquet, Bocce, Hillbilly Golf, Horseshoes, and Lawn Darts, the safe plastic ones, not the dangerous metal ones from the 70’s that my family definitely doesn’t own a set of. However, we here at Meeple Gamers haven’t reviewed any of these games so I should probably move on. You could play things like Happy Salmon and Flower Fall are great games that get people moving around and are designed to be chucked around so the cards hitting the ground isn’t that big a deal. If you have a big enough space and can divide folks into two separate groups then Two Rooms and a Boom gets folks talking and laughing in a game that takes less than an hour.
For me this is going to a game that takes party quiz to a new level, Box of Rocks from Haywire Group. The game is simple, answer a series of trivia questions where the answer is between 0 and 2. The trick, the box contains two rocks each painted with a 1 on one side and a 0 on the other. The game is first to three. For my bar-b-que I’m grabbing a white board and keeping score. Everyone plays against the rocks, first to three gets the point, and at the end of the day we’ll run the tally and see which is smarter a box of rocks or my friends and family. Vegas odds are currently on the rocks.
#1: Campfire games:
And we approach the end of the list and the day. The sun has set, the night grown cold, and you’ve gathered around a fire pit, campfire, or bonfire. You’ve roasted some marshmallows, sang some songs because Trevor brought his guitar again, and someone says, “Let’s play a game.” What do you play?
Honorable Mentions: Some social deduction games, such as Coup and The Resistance can be a ton of fun, but passing the voting cards and coins around can be problematic. Mafia De Cuba solves the passing problem by tucking everything in a nice cigar box or Spyfall which gives the players only one deck of cards at a time to deal with. Then there’s Superfight which allows for a bit of storytelling if you don’t mind having one person in charge of the decks.
But if you want to go with the best campfire storytelling game it has to be Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier games. Storytelling, social deduction, and murder everything that makes sitting around a campfire memorable. Certainly it has player elimination but if you’re all around a campfire it just turns it into the ghost story you would have been told anyway. With the multiple roles, public voting, and wonderful theme this game can really take on a life of its own. If you have one friend who’s a good narrator then so much the better.
I hope you enjoyed the list. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on what I’ve written and why I choose each game. Also, let me know in the comments below what are games I missed in each category and why a different game illustrates the strengths of that group. Finally, I know there are categories I don’t have, let me know what those are. I know baseball is a category that could have appeared on this list, I just don’t have a lot of experience with it. If you have a baseball game you’d love to pitch me, I’d love to hear about it. Also, if you like the format used here, and have even a passing interest in film head over to Cinefix on YouTube and check them out. Let them know we sent you too.
Finally, to the rest of the writers at Meeple Gamers, I want to hear what you think. Please go into the list and add a note in the different categories that give a couple of games you think fit there. Attach you’re name to it so we can know who wrote what. I’m looking forward to what everyone has to say.
10: Armello from League of Geeks
9: Magic the Gathering from Wizards of the Coast
8: Photosynthesis from Blue Orange Games
7: Caverna: The Cave Farmers from Lookout Games
6: Grimm Forest from Druid City Games
5: Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game from Flying Frog Games
4: Codenames Duet from Czech Games
3: Gloomhaven from Cephalofair Games
2: Box of Rocks from Haywire Group
1: Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier games