Welcome back to Part 2 of my Top 50 Board Games of All Time—2022 Edition!  If you missed my previous post, then be sure to peruse that one first.  Not only does it highlight 25 phenomenal games out of the hundreds I’ve ever played, but it also starts out by giving you more context to my picks including my tastes, preferences, and biases.  And if you’ve seen that post, then you’re ready for the finale.  Let’s do this!


25. Chinatown

Chinatown was one of 10 games that recently got the spotlight on our blog when I shared my Top 10 Negotiation games.

Like Ethnos (#31 of my Top 50), Chinatown is one of my favorite games to introduce to non-gamers.

The rules here are dead simple and the experience of trading and bartering is universally intuitive.  While some gamers may dislike the end game where each trade can be perfectly calculated, I’ve been lucky to play with groups who prefer to make quick, off-the-cuff trades based on gut-feelings rather than wooden calculations.  At the right table, Chinatown is a rousing experience that is tough to beat.


24. Camel Up (Second Edition)

I didn’t get deep into board games until after college, so most of my long-time friends and family aren’t hobbyist gamers at all.  With these folks, if I’m wanting to get them to the table for a game that can be enjoyed by all, it’s important to have options that are easily approachable, widely appealing, and naturally engaging.  I’ve had success with games like the above mentioned Ethnos and Chinatown, but neither of them checks all the boxes quite like Camel Up (Second Edition).

Camel Up is a racing and betting game of wacky stacking camels that has never failed to entertain the masses across my many plays.  It’s just nuanced enough to scratch that strategic gamer itch in me, yet it’s simple, colorful, and dramatic enough to reel in basically any personality sitting at the table.  Like a perfectly salted potato chip, you can never stop at just one play of Camel Up.


23. Lords of Vegas

If this pick and many previous ones haven’t made it blatantly obvious, I love an easy-to-teach game that plays in roughly an hour (or less), features a lot of player interaction, yet rewards meaningful strategies and clever decisions. This type of game is my bread and butter—it’s generally what we aim to publish here at Bitewing Games because it’s what we know best.  It’s the type of game that straddles the fence between mass market and hobbyist appeal—meaning it’s super easy to get to the table with a wide range of groups.

Lords of Vegas is what you get when you completely revamp Monopoly and remove it from the far end of the gaming spectrum (on the mass market side) and plop it right down on top of that fence that divides hobbyists and casuals.  There is still plenty of luck to be found here, but it is sustained by calculated risks and strategic decisions.  And that luck embraces its gambling-soaked theme in the most satisfying way.  Lords of Vegas is an all-time great in the area control genre that utilizes dice in brilliantly dramatic and hilarious ways.


22. Radlands

Radlands was a surprise favorite of my Top 15 Games of 2021. 

I’m not all that big into dueling card games, and definitely not into CCGs.  But Radlands hits that perfect sweet spot of being easy to get into yet deliciously intense to explore.

All you do is select three camps from the six that are dealt to you, draw your starting hand, and you’re off!  Games that require virtually no setup, play in a blazingly quick 30 minutes, and provide a big payoff with dramatic maneuvers and strategic flexibility are always welcome at my table.  Radlands is a prime example of this.


21. Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy

While I love a great little game like Radlands that is over in the blink of an eye, I don’t mind grand, sprawling showdowns like Eclipse either.  Eclipse is a joy to explore thanks to its blueprint sandbox of ship customization within a tight economic Euro featuring a grand build up to late game battles.  The sweeping arc of this game is difficult to replicate, particularly within its relatively quick playtime of 30 minutes per player.

It wasn’t the most affordable game I ever acquired, not by a long shot.  I actually sold my copy of Scythe (expansions, upgrades and all) to pay for it.  And it requires a meaty preparation, large playing area, and committed group.  But this one is absolutely worth the trouble for me.


20. KLASK

This is probably the only Top 50 list where you’ll find Eclipse sandwiched between Radlands and KLASK 😆.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for fun.

KLASK has easily glided into my high rankings as an all-time favorite dexterity game.  It captures all the fun of air hockey and condenses it down into a tighter, faster, portable experience with several interesting (and hilarious) twists.  I firmly believe that this will remain the best game that features “biscuits” until the end of time.  By my estimates, this 2-player romp is a no-brainer for any household.


19. Bus

Growing up, I was never a big fan of buses.  Rowdy neighbors, strange smells, uncomfortable temperatures, grumpy drivers, motion sickness, full bladders, and more were key contributors to my feelings.  That all changed when Splotter’s Bus entered my life.

Bus is one of the first worker placement games that was ever created (although I didn’t discover it until very recently).  I’d argue that it remains one of the best, even all these decades later.  This spicy game of route building and passenger transportation planning just hits the spot for me on so many levels—most notably for how it puts the players at each other’s throats.  It’s also the most approachable Splotter game by a wide margin and a great way to dip your toes in the water and find out if the Splotter style is for you.


18. Stephenson’s Rocket

Stephenson’s Rocket is another highly misunderstood and criminally overlooked Knizia game in the industry.  Fortunately, Grail Games and Ian O’Toole understood what a gem it was and gave us a fantastic updated version only a few years ago.  Yet it is once again out of print 😢.

Stephenson’s Rocket is a perfect blend of Acquire’s mergers, Tigris & Euphrates’ tempo, and the train genre’s shared incentives.  I regard it as one of Knizia’s finest heavy games (granted, “heavy” for Knizia is “medium-weight” for the rest of the industry, but you get what I mean).  


17. My City

To be honest, there’s nothing truly profound or revolutionary about My City, yet it has become one of the absolute most praised titles by Bitewing Games.  That’s because it’s one of our all-time favorite legacy games, 2-player games, family games, and tile placement games.

My City fires on all cylinders by being easy to get into, addicting to play, and making the most of polyomino shapes over the course of two dozen episodes


16. El Grande

Few games have stood the test of time as well as 1995’s El Grande.  In fact, my only complaint about this game is the manner in which publishers have elected to treat it over recent years.  The most recent edition was printed in 2015 as El Grande: Big Box (or when fully translated—The Big One: Big Box) featuring a far too expensive box that takes up far too much space on the game shelf.  From my experience (and apparently many others), folks have bought this edition and never touched any of the expansion content that makes this version so excessive.  The base game is perfectly satisfying for endless plays.

On top of that, El Grande has now been completely out of print for several years which is a downright crime for such a timeless classic.  The good news is that this strategic area majority game is rumored to be getting a reprint within the next couple years, so the drought will end… eventually.  Hopefully the newest version will also feature a more sensible production.  But even a less than ideal production is worth the trouble when it’s for El Grande.


15. Inis

Earlier in my hobbyist days, Inis was my absolute favorite game for a good while.  As was Scythe.  But today, Scythe is no longer in my Top 50 (or collection) while Inis remains one of my favorites.  The difference?  Inis never got old.  Thanks to the three paths to victory and deeply intertwined player interaction, Inis still feels just as fresh, dynamic, and tense on my twelfth play as it did on my first play.

Inis is also my favorite drafting game because it gets the most out of the mechanism.  Players are drafting from a very small deck of consistent cards where you quickly catch on to what potential threats are being held by your opponents.  Drafting the perfect combination of cards and then playing them at the right time makes for some of the most satisfying rounds in all of gaming.


14. The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

Here lies the highest ranked cooperative game (or even trick taker) on my list.  The Crew: Mission Deep Sea is a cut above the rest.  If I’m going to play a cooperative game, I prefer one that limits communication, ratchets up the tension, and provides endless challenges to explore.  The Crew checks all the right boxes so that I’m guaranteed to never get bored of it.

The 33 missions in this game are layered with even more variety thanks to the large deck of goals and challenges making for infinite combinations.  It’s a game that packs a huge punch in each bite-sized 5-15 minute round.


13. Through the Desert / Blue Lagoon

Many folks will say that you only need to own one of these two tile-placement strategy games because they scratch a similar itch, which is why I’ve combined them here.  But for a Kniziaphile like myself, I love to own and explore both Through the Desert and Blue Lagoon.

No matter which one you go with, these two games really shine with three or more players as you race across the map to claim territory and tokens.  You’ll always wish you had just one more action on your turn, because there’s always a pesky opponent hot on your tail and seeking to throw a wrench in your strategy.  Blue Lagoon is easily available and dirt cheap, and it provides an interesting variety of strategies for maximizing points within a fascinating two-phase structure.  Through the Desert will soon have a shiny new edition coming to crowdfunding from publisher Steeped Games, and the gameplay offers just a little more strategic depth and bitey interactions as you strive to position and extend your various camel colors wisely.


12. The Great Zimbabwe

The Great Zimbabwe is one of the most recent new-to-me games to land a spot on my list, and number 12 is impressively high, at that.  Just last month I shared my full first impressions of the game, and I’m only hungrier to play it more since then. 

Not only do I love highly interactive games, but I also love games that don’t simply retread the same design ground over and over.  Nothing is more refreshing than encountering a solid game that feels unlike anything else.  The Great Zimbabwe stands out from the pack with its spatial economy, strategic diversification, and customizable victory requirement race.


11. Root

Root is the gift that keeps on giving for both publisher and fan.  For the publisher, Leder Games, this has become an evergreen seller reaching far and wide into the collections of gamers abroad.  For the fans, Root continues to provide one expansion after another making for an irresistible array of factions to explore.  The charmingly illustrated world by Kyle Ferrin combined with the deeply asymmetric woodland creature conflict by Leder Games is what makes this game so fascinating.

While it’s admittedly a bit intimidating to get into, the smartphone/steam app certainly makes that a bit easier as it will walk you through the fundamentals of the game and let you play through campaigns against AI or online against friends.  I very recently received the latest physical expansion and am dying to try my hand at being a ratty warlord. 


10. Brass: Birmingham 

Brass has long been one of the most widely loved games by all of my gaming groups.  Little wonder that this title is ranked as the #2 best board game of all time on Board Game Geek.  It offers plenty of economic complexity to satisfy the modern hobbyist crowd while making that economy highly interdependent and interactive to satisfy the old school Euro crowd.

Birmingham has been in my Top 10 for years now, so I really have no excuses left for why I haven’t tried its older sibling, Lancashire.  Anybody want to talk me into playing it sooner than later?


9. Sidereal Confluence

Sidereal Confluence is one of the designs in my collection that feels like an event game.  That’s probably because it ideally needs 5-9 hobbyist gamers who are hungry for 2-3 hours of heavy negotiations.  Yet this one is always worth the trouble of arranging a group fit for the occasion.

I recently shared my Top 10 Negotiations Games list, which Sidereal Confluence was obviously on.  What I didn’t share was how Sidereal Confluence has had a major effect on the development of our upcoming publication, Zoo Vadis.  The brilliant thing about SidCon is that your asymmetric abilities are powerful but not in a vacuum—you have to interact with the other factions and negotiate deals in order to make the most of your ability. This served as a prime case study for us as we worked with Reiner Knizia to add asymmetric powers to Zoo Vadis that enhance the negotiation possibilities rather than detract from them.  So I absolutely owe some creative inspiration and some incredible game nights to the legendary Sidereal Confluence.


8. Age of Steam

In the wonderful world of train games, one train game rises above the rest.  Age of Steam is a heavy and harsh design with endless maps to explore.  Like Brass and The Great Zimbabwe and so many others on my list, the shared game board makes for a battlefield of cutthroat strategies.

The Deluxe Edition with artwork by Ian O’Toole is absolutely worth the plunge for those who are interested.  I’m looking forward to the many more Deluxe Edition maps that are coming soon.


7. Hansa Teutonica: Big Box

Hansa.  So hot right now.

Hansa Teutonica is the beige, bland-looking Euro that puts nearly all other beige, bland-looking Euros to shame.  Where too many Euros get stuck in the mire of solitaire optimization puzzles, Hansa ties the efficiency to the interactive board.  Where too many Euros rely on predictable engine building to satisfy the players, Hansa puts its engine building in opposition with its tense tempo.  Where too many Euros are about exploring the static setup-driven strategies, Hansa is about exploiting the dynamic player-driven opportunities.  

Three cheers for Hansa Teutonica!  Hip Hip… Hansa!  Hip Hip… Hansa!  Hip Hip… Hansa!


6. Ra

I could tell you all about how Ra is the greatest auctioning game to ever be designed, but why bother when I wrote an entire preview on the newest edition of this masterpiece merely a few months ago?

All I can say is that since my preview, I have played Ra several more times (now at all player counts), and I can confirm that it is still, indeed, a masterpiece.


5. Babylonia

Babylonia continues to claw its way up my list with each and every play.  It must have something to do with the fact that Reiner Knizia has been crafting tile-placement games for decades now and Babylonia is a perfect harmony of many of his greatest ideas.

You have route building and blocking, area majority contests, farmer sneak attacks, river trade-offs, enticing power tiles, lucrative city rewards, ripple-effect decisions, and clever scoring strategies.  On top of all of that, you have one of the few Knizia tile-placement games that I would eagerly play at any player count from 2-4.


4. Crokinole

Crokinole is the most expensive board game in my collection and yet the most priceless possession in my game room.  This dexterity game of flicking and ricocheting disks transcends the medium of tabletop hobbyism and enters a realm of its own.  It resides in a place of sport and suspense.  Hubris and humiliation.  Tension and tactility.  Tournament and tradition.  

My memories of playing Crokinole with everyone from gamers to non-gamers, family to friends, and neighbors to nemeses will forever remain some of my most cherished memories in all of tabletop gaming.


3. Pax Pamir: Second Edition

I have called Pax Pamir: Second Edition a “historical, philosophical, and strategic sandbox for participants to lose themselves in as they explore its nuances over the course of endlessly engaging plays.”  But the thing that drew me into to this game in the first place was the fact that it looked like a work of art.

Bright resin blocks represent standing armies or laying roads.  A simple cloth map displays a tumultuous nineteenth century Afganistan.  Spinning player wheels denote fragile loyalties and uneasy alliances.  And plain player discs act as controlling tribes or conniving spies.  From their very first publication, Wehrlegig Games have established themselves as one of the best indie publishers in the industry.


2. Tigris & Euphrates / Yellow & Yangtze

Although they are twenty years apart in age, these sister games stand as two of the most brilliant designs in modern history.  What other game covers such a wide scope of theme and endless depth of strategy within such a simple ruleset?  Civilizations rise, clash, and fall within the span of minutes while a deliciously satisfying feast of dramatic decisions is consumed in roughly an hour.

The mathematician-turned-designer, Reiner Knizia, somehow manages to produce a game of infinite possibilities from the equation of 2 actions times 4 options.  Here, players are given the opportunity to lay careful plans, concoct ambitious schemes, and watch with glee or despair as their dreams bear fruit or burn to cinders.  600+ published games aside, Tigris & Euphrates alone (or it’s spiritual sibling, Yellow & Yangtze) cements Dr. Knizia as one of the greatest game designers of all time.


1. Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile

In many ways, Oath is on the opposite end of the civilization spectrum from Tigris & Euphrates.  Where T&E depicts multiple clashing civilizations across thousands of years from a gods-eye view within the span of a single play through four simple actions, Oath zooms in on one civilization and follows its detailed history across multiple sessions which each represent a generation and are driven by a deeply complex web of player actions and card tableaus.

Oath is probably one of the most unconventional games on my list.  In today’s board game industry where many stakeholders are pushing trends in the direction of outwardly polished yet inwardly hollow products that only hold up for one or two plays, Oath swims against the current with a design that demands and rewards repeated plays from a consistent group.  Where driving forces and popular practices are pressuring publishers to make their games more vanilla, more fair, more balanced, more smooth, and more toothless, Oath is a new game with potent flavors, unfair challenges, power imbalances, rough edges, and bitey interactions.  The reason it works is because it embraces its uniqueness whole-heartedly.

Across my now 11 plays of Oath, no session has ever been alike, yet one thing has always remained consistent: this game is epic.


Where would I slot our own (revealed) publications into my personal list?  Here’s a quick rundown:

Top 5: Zoo Vadis– Knizia at his finest within one of my favorite genres—negotiation.  Plus Kwanchai & Brigette take this Zoo theme to the next level.

Top 10: Trailblazers– My favorite solo game, and it’s not even close.  Yet it somehow also plays great all the way up to 8 players? 🤯 The high skill-ceiling, constant pressure to close loops, and wide spatial flexibility keep the game fresh even after 50 plays.

Top 20: Hot Lead– One of my favorite card games period thanks to the fast-paced, dramatic, push-your-luck auctions.

Top 40: Soda Smugglers– One of my favorite chill card games that always hits the spot due to how engaging and funny it is to bribe, bluff, and smuggle.

Top 75: Pumafiosi– A refreshingly weird twist on trick-taking & auctions that I love to break out on a regular basis.  It’s also one of the few games in this genre that I prefer to play at 2 or 3 players.

N/A: Gussy Gorillas– It’s my own design, how am I supposed to rate this? But I do love playing it because there is nothing else that features this style of blind negotiation.

I hope you enjoyed my Top 50 Games of All Time and the celebration of tabletop gaming goodness that it represents!  If you appreciate the effort that went into this post, then I’d like to ask a favor of you in return: please check out our live Kickstarter page for Trailblazers.  Just like this post, I’ve put a ton of love into Trailblazers and bringing it to life. 

I’m deeply passionate about this hobby of ours and I want to contribute even more.  Bitewing Games is the conduit through which I’m able to create and share phenomenal games—games like my Top 50—and your support is the fuel that will help keep us alive and growing.  Thanks for your help!


Article written by Nick Murray. Outside of practicing dentistry part-time, Nick has devoted his remaining work-time to collaborating with the world’s best designers, illustrators, and creators in producing classy board games that bite, including the upcoming Trailblazers by Ryan Courtney. He hopes you’ll join Bitewing Games in their quest to create and share experiences that, much like a bitewing x-ray, provide a unique perspective and refreshing interaction.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. JaceyCole

    Thanks for the list, I really enjoyed reading it! I’d love to hear or read you discuss why the following games from your 2021 list fell off the 2022 list, especially considering some of them were pretty highly ranked! Were they simply crowded out by better games? Didn’t hold up to repeated plays? Never made it off the shelf?

    For Sale
    Tournament at Avalon
    Concordia
    Beyond the Sun
    Cosmic Frog
    Renature
    The Mind
    Treasure Island
    Love Letter
    Condotierre
    Mandala
    New York Zoo
    Irish Gauge
    Arboretum
    Watergate

    1. Nick Murray

      That is an interesting topic, I agree!

      The majority of those games remain in my collection and in my Top 100. In most cases, they were simply crowded out of my Top 50 by games that slightly edged them out. The notable exceptions to that would be:

      Cosmic Frog – I sold this game from my collection. It’s too much of a pain to teach to newcomers, takes too long to play with newcomers, and half the time newcomers don’t like it 😆. I’d happily play it with a group that loves it and knows what they are doing.

      Concordia – I still own and enjoy this one, but I’m also a bit burned out on it. I’ve probably played it over 10 times now, and the last few plays have just started to feel very similar — like my strategy hasn’t changed much and opponent actions don’t affect my plans much.

      Beyond the Sun – I still really enjoy this one too, but my last couple plays have ended with somewhat unsatisfying results. I felt like I had played a great game, but then somebody else just combo-d into a far better tech track and they left everyone else in the dust and there was nothing we could do to stop them.

  2. FrankQB

    You had me until #1. I just have no interest in Oath whatsoever.

    1. Nick Murray

      Oath is definitely not for everyone. But it is for me 😉.

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