Jonathan Hicks’s Top 10 Games of All Time – Part 2

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Tainted Grail - Knights

Last week, I started going through my Top 10 Games of All Time – numbers 10 through 6. This week, it’s the top 5! As before, you can watch us discussing the entries on the Boardgame Opinions channel if you prefer.

There are two new entries to the top 5 this year (and 5 new games in my top 10 altogether). I wasn’t expecting so many new entries, but the adventure game offering this year has been particularly strong. So without further ado, let’s get to it!


5. UBOOT

UBOOT

This is the most thematic game I’ve ever played. It’s a co-operative app-driven submarine simulation that puts you at the helm of a German U-boat during World War II. You have to sail around the North Sea, completing missions and sinking British ships.

Each player controls several sailors that have to move around a 3D model of a submarine on the table accomplishing key tasks that allow the U-boat to change speed or course, to dive or fire torpedoes, as well as more menial tasks like preparing meals and repairing damaged systems.

The app provides your view of the surrounding area, informing you when enemy ships have been spotted or when you’ve been hit by a depth charge. It does a great job of providing a convincing atmosphere, including shouting at you in German whenever you issue orders (“Jawohl!”).

Overall, it feels more like playing a computer game (with three other people in the same room). That won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I love the experience it provides.

4. Myth

Myth

This is an old favourite now. My preferred old-school dungeon crawl. The Kickstarter is still delivering content, despite it taking place over 5 years ago, but it looks like they should get there eventually.

I love the artwork and the deck-builder card play. Taking actions requires you to play particular cards from your hand. Deciding when to play your cards, or when to hold them back for that one card that will combo really well is tricky and always gives you something to think about.

The best thing about it though, is that it makes you feel powerful. You often have hordes of enemies charging at you, but with clever card play, you can take out great swathes of them at once, which feels so satisfying.

It’s an expensive buy in (and potentially difficult to get hold of), but it has lots of variety in terms of miniatures, types of enemies and settings. I don’t regret backing this one for a moment.

3. Too Many Bones

Too Many Bones

This is rapidly becoming another old favourite. It has a lot in common with a traditional dungeon crawl, but the combat is quite abstract, taking place on a small grid. It’s very thinky and you can die quite easily if you don’t plan your attacks well and co-ordinate with your teammates, which I love.

It has the best upgrade system I’ve ever seen in a game. You typically go on missions (that provide some nice story), kill a bunch of bad guys and then upgrade your character by adding dice.

Dice might increase your attack, give you extra utility or crowd control, provide healing or alternative ways of dealing damage… there is a huge variety of options each time you level up. It means you can play the same character again and again and take a very different upgrade path and play the character quite differently each time.

If you like combat-orientated games with a big focus on upgrading your character over time, they don’t get any better than this.

2. Tainted Grail

Tainted Grail

This was only delivered to Kickstarter backers just before Christmas, but I came to the conclusion quite early on that it’s the best adventure game I’ve ever played. I love the dark, Arthurian theme, but it provides a tremendous sense of exploration and story.

It has a 7th Continent style map that you gradually explore, but when you take actions on a location, you turn to the Exploration Journal, which essentially provides you with a mini Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. The stories are well written and provide a lot of meaningful, story-defining decisions, which the game remembers from location to location.

The card-based combat system can be a bit drawn out on occasion, but it’s novel and provides lots of interesting decisions. Co-operation and resource gathering (and managing) are key features of the game.

It’s pretty much the perfect package for me. High adventure, with lots of exploration and strategic decision-making. It’s superb!

1. Hanabi

Hanabi

How does this little card game manage to stay at number 1 year after year? I haven’t played this as much as I’d like over the past year, but I still really enjoy the experience whenever I play.

It’s the co-operative card game where you can’t see your own hand (but everyone else can). You’re trying to communicate (using very restrictive clues) what the other players have in their hand so that they can play the right cards at the right time.

I’m only really interested in playing this with a set of conventions that allow you to communicate not only what cards players have, but what they should do with them. It gives you a lot more to think about and requires all players to be very focussed and on the ball.

Played in that way, it elevates the game to one of the most co-operative games I’ve ever played and gives a rich and rewarding experience every single time.


And that’s it for another year! What are your favourite games? Do we have any in common?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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