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Games don’t need to be featured in the BoardGameGeek top 100 to be fantastic. It certainly helps, though.

 

That said, a select few have left a real impact on me an avid board game player, and a budding boardgame designer.

Be it for the clever mechanics, lasting experiences, or just the straight-up value they impart – I love tabletop games in all their forms.

 

Of the games I’ve been fortunate enough to play, I have five filling my top spots. It just so happens three of them are in the BGG top 100 too…

 

🏛️ SANTORINI

Designer: Gordon Hamilton  – Publisher: Roxley Games

Who knew you could make Chess accessible, incredibly interesting, and gloriously three dimensional?

 

 

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It took 30 years of development to make such a polished game that can be learned in just 30 seconds.

Santorini scratches the same tactical itch as Chess, replacing it for me and many friends who enjoy both games.

 

I only wish I saw the game when it was announced on Kickstarter – more God powers and the Golden Ram game mode look excellent.

 

On a side note, screw Pan; that mischievous little Satyr has stolen too many wins from me!

 

🎒 NEAR & FAR

Designer: Ryan Laukat – Publisher: Red Raven Games

The fantastic storytelling town management game Above & Below was the first Kickstarter I ever backed.

It was the game that got me really into the hobby; Above & Below was the patient zero of my boardgame obsession.

 

 

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Fast forward a few years, and the sequel, Near & Far, gave me everything I loved from Above & Below, and so much more.

 

Taking the storytelling aspects to the next level, Near & Far delivers a strong adventure game; one which will have you managing your party and equipment, chasing curious and mystical quests, and building a network of camps to traverse the book of maps.

 

Pair all that with Ryan Laukat’s unmistakable art style, and his attention to detail in component quality and you have the gorgeous Near & Far.

 

I don’t get to play this as much as I’d like, being it a big game to get to the table, but whenever I do I always relish the experience.

 

🦆 THE QUACKS OF QUEDLINBURG

Designer: Wolfgang Waarsch  – Publisher: Schmidt Spiele

From the talented designer of other hits Ganz Schön Clever and The Mind, Quacks is a game I’d seriously recommend to anyone.

 

 

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Simple gameplay for any experience level, beautiful euro style artwork, a fantastic theme, and an emotional rollercoaster of hope and despair.

 

I’m never not in the mood to play this game – you can’t ask for much more from a board game, in my opinion.

 

If you’re a regular to my blog, you’ll know how much I love this game -I gushed about it to no end in another blog post – GAG: The Quacks of Quedlinburg.

 

I’m super excited to pick up The Herb Witches expansion at UKGE this year, for even more potion producing poppycockery!

 

 

⚔️ GLOOMHAVEN

Designer: Isaac Childres – Publisher: Cephalofair Games

Where else can you get the full Skyrim experience in a million pieces of cardboard?

 

Yes it’s massive.

Yes it takes forever to set up.

Yes it’ll take you decades to totally complete it.

 

Do I care? No.

 

Gloomhaven is such a fun, engaging experience that every time I play I just want to book in the next session.

 

 

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It’s also insane how talented, committed, and maybe a little bit crazy Isaac Childres is for developing this game by himself – at least the majority of it.

My hat goes off to any designer who can go through that laborious process with such a massive game.

 

My good friend Ash owns this game, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of his ownership. You know I love solo games, and I don’t think you could do much better than Gloomhaven.

 

 

🍷 VITICULTURE

Designer: Jamey Stegmaier  – Publisher: Stonemaier Games

Viticulture is the masterwork of one of my role models, Jamey Stegmaier, the creator of a plethora of hit worker placement games (I see you, Scythe).

 

I actually impulse bought Viticulture when I couldn’t decide between Mage Knight for its solo play or Caverna for its high player count.

 

Knowing little about the game, I saw it had great BGG ratings, and it ticked both boxes for me, so I just threw caution to the wind.

It was a good decision.

 

 

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Viticulture immediately wowed me with it’s deep and complex play that was served up simply and intuitively.

A lot of the advanced parts, such as the winemaking process, make sense to beginners because of the clever use of theme found throughout the game.

 

Even down to the worker placement being simplified.

At first the board may look confusing to new players, but very quickly things make sense as you place your limited workers on limited actions.

 

Viticulture doesn’t compromise on quality, replayability, accessibility, and all ’round loveliness. It also plays amazing at any player count (though solo and even numbers are my favourite).

 

If I had one recommendation to offer for a game you should pick up right now, it would be Viticulture – Essential Edition.

 

Then when you realise you love it, do what I do and pick up all the other expansions and metal coins…

 

 

 

There we have it, my top five games (for now). I could write a Gush About Games blog post for all of these titles; maybe I will in the future.

 

Honourable mentions go out to Azul, Robinson Crusoe, Yahtzee, and War of the Ring – they’re all worth looking into!

 

On another note, it’s been an eventful week on the game design front – a publisher saw my sell sheet for Tinderblox and has requested a prototype ahead of UKGE!

 

I’ve also received my tracking number for Joan of Arc, and just heard that Villagers is on UK soil, so I should expect it by the end of the month.

Lots of great emails coming into my inbox.

 

Cheers for reading – let me know what your favourites are on IG, and enjoy another week of tabletop titillation. 😉

 

– Rob Sparks (@boardgamebud)

🏛️🎒🦆⚔️🍷