#30 Cryptid

Recommended for: Everyone

A slick, clean, and pure deduction game. The tension always builds as you and your opponents race to deduce the exact location of the Cryptid.  

Every time I introduce this gateway game to non-gamers, it blows their mind that the cryptid can only possibly be in one space.

We still haven’t had the guts to try the harder cards, maybe some day. But for now, we are still having a blast every time we play it.

#29 Jaipur

Recommended for: Everyone

I initially underestimated the cleverness of Jaipur. While the game is not very unique, innovative, or memorable, it still manages to hit that sweet spot of tense fun that so many games strive for and fail to reach. It finds the perfect balance between incentives and risks, strategies and tactics, highs and lows. When facing a competitive and capable opponent, the game takes you on an addictive journey through its point-filled tug-of-war.

The theme couldn’t possibly be more generic… yet after basking longer in its clean, balanced, and elegant design, it’s easy to see how it cements itself within the Hall of Fame of two-player games and card games.

#28 7 Wonders Duel

Recommended for: Gamers

The best “Duel” spinoff game, period. The card pyramid drafting is a very unique mechanism that deserves to be explored in more games. The additional instant win conditions are icing on this beautiful 2-player strategy cake.

#27 Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition (or Red)

Recommended for: Everyone

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every time I’ve played this game. Plays fast enough and different enough to grant multiple plays in a row. The theme fits the roll & write mechanic perfectly. The included expansions are a fun way to mix things up between each session. There’s just something about plotting out those railroads and highways that really hits the spot. The game is so easy to jump into for a quick round that we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of its fun.

#26 The Mind

Recommended for: Everyone

The Mind is less a structured game and more a thrilling experience with lots of tense and exciting moments. The game is super easy and entertaining to teach and introduce to others.  Kudos to Wolfgang Warsch for creating such a brilliant and innovative activity!

This simple game throws out everything you’ve come to expect in a standard board or card game (strategic planning, calculated maneuvering, etc.) and boils down the fun to the purest essence of playing by gut feeling.  Everyone must cooperate to play their hand of cards in ascending numerical order in increasingly harder rounds without communicating ever.  The Mind is surprisingly basic, but you will be shocked by how addicting it is.

#25 Viticulture Essential Edition

Recommended for: Everyone

Viticulture EE fires on all cylinders. The theme and year/season mechanisms are so satisfying. I wouldn’t call this a simple game, yet the it’s all designed so cleanly and thematically to make it quite easy to learn and teach. The grande worker, wake-up bonuses, and placement bonuses all hit that sweet spot of beautiful, tense decision making. The expansion, Tuscany EE, catapults this worker-placement game into legendary status.

#24  Wingspan

Recommended for: Everyone

The unique theme, the rewarding engine, the rapid pace turns, the gorgeous components and artwork, the theme-inspired mechanisms, the simple yet strategic actions…. It is all fantastic.
The gaming world needs more like this gem.

#23  Carcassonne

Recommended for: Everyone

Games like Carcassonne are just so classic and so elegant that it is easy to take them for granted. A buttery smooth experience wrought with passive aggressive tension and frequently important decisions. A pillar of modern gaming.

#22  Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Recommended for: Gamers

 I wasn’t around to witness the initial tidal wave of Legacy hotness that swept the industry, but I’ve enjoyed going back to its roots and seeing what the hype is all about. Pandemic Legacy plays surprisingly fast and fluid for a game that introduces new rules or objectives each time. The idea of ripping up cards and putting stickers on a game board to permanently change the game is wildly ambitious and exciting. This one is definitely worthy of being played through once in a gamer’s lifetime.

#21  Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King

Recommended for: Everyone

I remember being tempted to buy this game so many times for its strong reputation but not being able to get past the dull appearance. Thank goodness I finally gave it shot, because it is so much better than I expected! Isle of Skye gives the outward impression of another generic tile placement euro. You open the box to find a lazy, non-existant insert and a big open space for you to toss your huge pile of generic coins, tiles, and tokens. Everything about this game screams unoriginal and uninspired… until you start playing it.

The game contains a brilliant combination of “I cut, you choose” and tile placement mechanisms. Each player must carefully set the prices of the tiles they draw to maximize profits, minimize losses, discourage other players away from the tiles they desperately want to keep while milking players as much as they dare when attempting to sell other tiles. The scoring criteria are mixed up each round and each game to create a huge amount of replayability and fun.

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