You know the saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul?”  Well there’s also another saying that pairs quite nicely with it: “One must behold a board gamer’s Top 50 Games of All Time to truly see them.”

Although I have the same pair of eyeballs that I was born with, they have slowly changed over time.  Apparently I was born with blue eyes, but early on in my childhood they transformed to hazel.  Later, I discovered that my vision was not quite as crisp as I had assumed, so then I acquired glasses and contacts.  Eventually, I shed my visual accessories in favor of corrective Lasik surgery.  And as the years go by, they’ll continue to gather more wrinkles around them.

What I’m getting at here is that our tastes and preferences in this tabletop hobby are prone to evolve, morph, and change over time.  So although I made this very list last year, I’ve since had many experiences and encountered many new-to-me games that have drastically altered my perspective.

That’s an important word: perspective.  While it’s likely that we can all come together and unanimously agree the some certain games are objectively bad, those cases are few and far between.  Our experience with a game is not solely dependent on the contents of the box and mandates of the rulebook.  Oftentimes, our enjoyment with a design depends largely on the setting in which we encounter it—the group of players and their personalities, the playing surface, our surroundings, our mood, our level of hunger, and so on.  Furthermore, we are not all looking to get the exact same thing out of this hobby.  One gamer’s Ameritrash is another gamer’s Ameritreasure.

It is important to keep that perspective when learning of a person’s Top 50 Games of All Time.  Context is key.  So to give you further context, please allow me to share my personal tastes, preferences, and biases that have informed my list.  You’ll find these themes littered throughout my Top 50:

  • I’m a shameless Reiner Knizia fan.  Reiner’s design style fits my tastes perfectly.  I love games that are easy to get to the table yet surprisingly deep and full of dynamic interactions—that’s exactly how Knizia has been designing games for decades now.  This is what led us at Bitewing Games to start working with him on several publishing projects.
  • And I’m a major Ryan Courtney fan.  I’ve really enjoyed all of Ryan’s published games up to this point, and so like Reiner we are collaborating with Ryan on our upcoming release, Trailblazers.  So yes, I have personal ties and business relationships with both designers.  But to be clear: Their games are not among my Top 50 because Bitewing Games is working with them.  Rather, Bitewing Games is working with them because their games are among my Top 50.
  • I’m also a huge Cole Wehrle fan.  Every Cole Wehrle game that I’ve played thus far has landed a spot on my Top 50.  While his designs aren’t nearly as approachable as most of my Top 50, they are ripe with juicy politicking and unfolding narratives.  Whenever I play a Wehrle design, I never quite know how things are going to play out, and the endless possibilities are thrilling.  He is one of the few designers where I feel that the extra complexity is worth the trouble.
  • I almost always prefer high player interaction over low.  In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of any game is typically how it pits the players against each other—their wits and their personalities.  Additionally, potent player interaction is the number one thing that keeps a game coming back to my table for many more plays, as this keeps a game from feeling stagnant.
  • I gravitate to clean and pretty games.  The more fiddly, messy, demanding, or ugly a game is—in its setup, teardown, upkeep, rules, components, or iconography—the less likely I am to enjoy it.  Perhaps that’s true for everyone, but I feel that this element especially influences whether I like a game or even give it a shot in the first place.
  • I’m including our own publications among my Top 50, but I’m also not…  I had considered completely excluding Bitewing Games publications from my list, but here is my thought process: If this was a smaller list focused on highlighting the best games in a specific category (Like Top 10 Games of 2022, for example) then I wouldn’t feel comfortable cramming our own games onto it and crowding out others.  And a Top 50 Games list feels similar, but different.  The pool is much larger, and at the end of the day this list is a compilation of the games that I love getting to the table the most.  And the truth is that any game we decide to publish is one that we love playing and that we want to share with others.  To me, that’s what Top 50 lists are all about.  As a compromise, I’ve created a separate section outside of my Top 50 (featured in the next post) that discusses how I rank our own publications among my all-time favorite games.  So you can completely ignore that section and anything I mention from Bitewing Games, or you can simply take it at face value as a game I love to play and want to share with others.
  • I own and love way more games than these 50.  There are over 200 games in my collection, and any game that hangs around on my shelf is one that I enjoy playing and hope to get back to the table soon.  These 200+ already survived the gauntlet of my careful initial research, cold-blooded acquisition filtering, and critical analysis playthroughs that thousands of other games have not.  And this Top 50 list only gets more crowded and competitive every year, so there are plenty of games I love that didn’t make the cut.  Who knows, maybe I’ll expand my list to a Top 100 one of these years.  But just because you don’t see a specific game among my Top 50 does not at all mean that I dislike that game.

So, with all that out of the way, we’re now ready to dive into my Top 50 Board Games of All Time—2022 Edition!

50. Lost Cities

Man, this is the area of the list where I immediately feel the urge to be apologetic.  Not to you, but rather to the 25 or even 50 excellent games and their creators that are sitting right behind #50 and not getting the love they deserve.  I’m only getting started on #50 and already feeling guilt for not starting higher 😆.  I guess that settles it… next year we’re going Top 100!  🎉

But none of that takes away from the incredibly brilliant 2-player card game that is Lost Cities.  I’m not sure if the data publicly exists that shows which of Reiner’s games is the best selling of all time, but if we were placing bets then I would put my money on Lost Cities.  The Board Game Geek stats alone show that this is the most owned Knizia game by BGG users out of 672 Knizia-linked items—and that number (58k owners) is nearly double his second most owned game (Tigris & Euphrates).

But mere popularity is not at all what landed Lost Cities among my Top 50.  The real reason is actually quite simple: this is one of the absolute best couples games for Camille and I of all the dozens that we’ve tried.  Simple rules, bitey cardplay, and tense decisions keep us coming back again and again.

49. Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest

We’re more than halfway finished with the year and Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest remains one of my favorite releases of 2022.  Like the designers I mentioned above, Paolo Mori is another favorite of mine who managed to land several titles in my top 50.

Libertalia is a winner at our table for evoking the feelings of competitive piracy with dramatic card reveals, greedy loot drafting, and a variety of powerful characters.  It also manages to be a riot from 2 players all the way up to 6.

48. Insider

Sometimes a casual gathering of friends or family is simply too casual for a proper board or card game.  You know what I’m talking about—when folks want to play a game but they don’t want to commit any energy or effort to learning the rules or following a rigid mechanical structure.  This is one of those perfect moments to bust out Insider.

All it is is 20 questions with a twist—your question limit is replaced with a time limit, and one person (the Insider) already knows the answer and wants to guide you to it without revealing their secret identity.  The 20 questions aspect is familiar and cozy, while the twist is devilishly fun.  It’s the perfect way to engage your group with a quick, funny, but still casual activity.


Continuing on with the Oink Games streak, let’s talk about SCOUT.  The first few times I played this colorful, clever ladder climbing game, I was certainly charmed.  But I later discovered that we had gotten a minor but important rule wrong.  After playing the game more times (and properly), SCOUT has only grown on me.

The restrictiveness of a locked hand (cards that cannot be flipped or rearranged) combined with the ability to slot new cards into your hand and improve your options makes for a delightful game arc from one round to the next.  Add in the tension of deciding when to commit your best plays (after you’ve crafted the perfect sets, but before an opponent prematurely ends the round) and you have a game that has won the hearts of many, including myself.

46. The Estates

Few things excite me more than the opportunity to gather a bunch of thick-skinned gamers around the table for a session of savagery.  The Estates is perfect for such opportunities, as it allows players to absolutely curb-stomp their competition.  Yet the thing that holds it together far better than your usual “take-that” game is the shared-incentive glue and tightly-knit closed economy behind this auction game.

45. Pipeline

Pipeline presents a unique combination of tight economics and crunchy spatial puzzling all wrapped in a gorgeous package by Ian O’Toole and Capstone Games.  I still remember the first time I played Pipeline several years ago and thinking “These pipe tiles are awesome!  I’d also love to see a lighter, family-friendly spin-off game that focuses solely on this spatial puzzle… sort of like Patchwork to A Feast for Odin.”  I had no idea that designer Ryan Courtney was already working on such a game (Trailblazers) and we would end up being the ones to publish it!

At any rate, I still love revisiting Pipeline, especially now with the Emerging Markets expansion which dramatically changes each game up.  When I’m in the mood for a heavy game, Pipeline is always a great option.

44. Great Western Trail

Speaking of heavy games that hit the spot, Great Western Trail is another winner in my collection.  I’m not sure any gamer knew they wanted deck building with cattle before this one was released, but designer Alexander Pfister knew that’s exactly what we wanted.  GWT also features his trademark large board rondel mechanism in an epic cowboy traversal across the Wild West.  I still think this is Mr. Pfister’s best, but maybe the upcoming Skymines will give it a run for its money…

43. Mysterium

While I surprisingly haven’t played it in a couple years, Mysterium is hanging around in my Top 50 thanks to the absolute pleasure of a party game that it has been every time it hits the table.  With the lush illustrations and large ghost screen, Mysterium offers up a cooperative experience unlike any other.  

My favorite moments are the race for every player to guess their combination of suspects, weapons, and locations before time runs out and the tense voting at the end. I’ve found that this one works best if you set up everything before the party arrives so your friends/family can jump right into the fun.

42. Wavelength

It’s funny how both Wavelength and Mysterium (two party games) dropped in my Top 50 rankings from last year.  I wonder why that would be… ahh yes, COVID.  At least in Wavelength’s case, the creators published a cooperative app that you can play remotely!

I still consider Wavelength one of the best party games in our entire collection thanks to the breezy setup, game-show style production, and engaging conversations that it brings to a gathering.

41. Royal Visit

Back to another 2-player game that has gotten a lot of love in our home: Royal Visit.  I love me a good tug-of-war game (there are several in my Top 100), but none is cleaner than Reiner Knizia’s Royal Visit.  On your turn, you may play as many cards of one type as you wish, but the decision of when to play those cards and how many to commit are what separate the boys and girls from the men and ladies.

Every aspect of Royal Visit’s design feels polished and perfect.  Any changes to the gameplay would merely corrupt this crown jewel.  

It’s these thrilling yet elegant 2-player titles like Royal Visit, Lost Cities, Battle Line, Schotten Totten 2, and more that inspired us here at Bitewing Games to begin collaborating with Reiner on some more of his 2-player designs.  Especially so when I heard Reiner mention in an interview that he is sitting on excellent 2-player designs that publishers don’t want because they claim 2-player games don’t sell.  I find that to be a downright crime (and even baffling—just look at Lost Cities’ success), especially considering Reiner’s pedigree in this genre, so we plan to keep this legacy alive and growing.  Don’t get too excited though, as these games are many months from even being revealed.  I suggest you simply enjoy Royal Visit in the meantime.

40. Orongo

If you’re wondering which game I consider to be the most underrated by the hobby in all of my Top 50, look no further than Orongo.  Reiner Knizia is not only an expert in the 2-player head-to-head genre, but he is arguably the best designer in both the tile-placement and auction genres (we’ll see why as we continue deeper into my Top 50).  Orongo is the one game I know of where Knizia is flexing both of these mechanism muscles simultaneously.  Although I suppose you could argue that the majority competitions of surrounding a space in Samurai and Babylonia are a form of auctioning, but even so…

Orongo is all about filling your fist with a few shells, a lot of shells, or even no shells at all, and revealing your bid against your opponents’ bids all at once.  The highest bidder gets first dibs on tile placement and more tiles to place, while the zero bidders pocket all of the shells from the highest bidder.  This makes for a juicy closed economy of reading your opponents’ intentions and taking advantage of your predictions.  

Best of all, there is not a single point to be found in this game.  Rather, Orongo is a race to erect all of your Moai statues before your opponents by making the perfect connections with your growing chains of tiles.  As far as I can tell, the only reason this one is so underrated is simply because the publisher made some poor production decisions that resulted in functionally annoying components.  But even that didn’t stop Orongo from landing a spot in my Top 50.

39. The King’s Dilemma

The King’s Dilemma may eventually drop off my list simply because I’ll never play it again.  And in the world of board games, absence makes the heart grow… further apart.  But for now, let’s talk about the absolute blast that I had playing through this legacy game.

We were fortunate to have an enthusiastic group of exactly 5 players to gather around for several multi-hour sessions of King’s Dilemma and power through the dynasties of many Kings.  This brought an environment of enjoyably light role-playing swaddled in heavy politicking as we each represented an advisory house with secret agendas.  Yet the thing that really made this game shine was undoubtedly the voting system which utilizes auctions and negotiation (in the form of spent power and financial bribes).  With the standalone sequel, the Queen’s Dilemma, now on the horizon, I can only hope to have the perfect group for it once more.

38. Kemet: Blood and Sand

Box front

I only own a few epic, sprawling war games crammed with plastic, asymmetry, and decisions galore.  Kemet is one such game that has earned a place on my shelf.  The thing I love about Kemet is how it allows players to start the same but quickly branch off in wildly different directions as they dive deeper and deeper into the buffet menu of power tiles.

Alongside that diversification is an aggressive game of area control where nowhere is safe to hide, as every enemy is merely two spaces away from you at most.  For folks who want to enjoy 2-3 good hours of spicy confrontation, Kemet is tough to beat.

37. Ankh: Gods of Egypt

It’s funny that both Ankh and Kemet ended up right next to each other on my list, because on the surface they share a lot in common.  Egyptian, asymmetric area control featuring huge minis and power diversification.  Perhaps a hobbyist should only have one of these games in their collection and ignore or purge the other.  Fortunately for me, I don’t have to face that dilemma—my nearby friend owns everything Ankh.

I’ve heard this game described as a Knizian-like design by Eric Lang thanks to its elegant and clever action selection, event triggering system.  And as you could probably guess, anything Knizian-like has my full attention.  While I’m happy I don’t have to deal with all of the CMON baggage that comes with the excessively large and sprawling Ankh, this is one unowned game that I would never turn down the chance to play.

36. Jaipur

My 2-player game collection continues to grow over the years, and the competition is only getting more fierce.  As I mentioned earlier, we’re so in love with 2p gaming that Bitewing Games is currently cooking up our own line of 2p games to debut in 2024!  Throughout my deep and broad exploration into this genre, Jaipur remains standing as one of the all-time greats.

Perhaps the secret ingredient is camels… I’m counting at least 4 games with camels among my Top 50.  Jaipur uses camels brilliantly and in the form of hand management.  You and your opponent will tango with your hand of cards and an ever-changing card market as you aim to claim the best goods tokens using carefully crafted sets in this addicting 30-minute game.

35. Dogs of War / Blitzkrieg

As is the case with any of my lists, I’m always finding ways to cheat. 😆  For this year’s Top 50, I’ll be cheating by combining certain games and slotting them into the same spot.  To be fair, these combined games do scratch a similar itch, and I’m generally equally happy to play either.

Dogs of War and Blitzkrieg are designer Paolo Mori and tug of war gameplay at their finest.  The combination of tight tug-of-war competition and enticing worker placement bonuses make this a consistently delicious experience.  Whether you’re playing Blitzkrieg at 2 players or Dogs of War at 4 or 5, you’ll be faced with tough decisions on every turn.  If we’re lucky, we might even see a reprint of Dogs of War within the next few years, considering how popular it’s remained since its release.

34. Modern Art

I love a great auctioning game, and Reiner Knizia is the King of this genre, so Modern Art is another pick of several in my Top 50.  What could be more delightful than putting a ridiculous painting up for bidding and watching your friends fight tooth and nail for it only for the winner of the auction to pay you their bid?

Interestingly, Modern Art has now had 28 different versions published in various styles and languages over the decades by publishers all over the world.  It’s one of Knizia’s most iconic designs, and for good reason.

33. Taj Mahal / Beowulf: The Legend

Speaking of Knizia auctioning games, Taj Mahal and Beowulf: The Legend are two more bangers worthy of my list.  Why pair them together, you ask?  Well both games featuring a similar blend of auctioning and hand-management that feel like a game of chicken.  Over the course of many auctioning rounds, you must decide when to commit to a bidding battle and when to back off and save your precious cards for later.  The player who can read the table and time their plays best will be the one who comes out on top.

Taj Mahal is a game of pure strategy while Beowulf features dramatic moments of push-your-luck.  I’m equally happy to play both and continually wondering when a publisher is going to bring these classics back into print… What are you looking at me like that for?!  7 other Knizia releases in the span of 2 years isn’t good enough for you?

32. Equinox

Speaking of Knizia classics brought back by other publishers, it’s no secret that I love a good betting game.  Few things are as captivating as the opportunity to feel personally invested in a racing horse or rising company or charging camel or… legendary creature?  Yes, a legendary creature indeed.  While nearly every other betting game I’ve encountered is based on a race track, Equinox goes against the flow.

Here, 8 creatures are engaged in a battle to the death through five rounds of elimination.  Only three will live on in legend and tale, and your job is to bet on the right ones and help them survive.  Dr. Knizia once again shows that he is a master of card play and hand management as every turn and every decision feels painfully tight.  As you decide which creatures to protect and which to attack, you’ll explore a wide swath of creature abilities that mix up the feel of each play.

31. Ethnos

Speaking of a wide swath of creature abilities that mix up each play (I’m on a roll with these transitions, aren’t I?), we’re back on to another Paolo Mori design to finish off this Knizia/Mori sandwich residing in my Top 50.  I would absolutely label Ethnos a gateway game or a family game that is perfect for busting out with non-gamers.  Where popular and perfectly fine games like Ticket to Ride, 7 Wonders, and Catan have long been collecting dust on my shelf, Ethnos remains one that I keep coming back to.

Like many others, we here at Bitewing Games have long mourned the art direction, production quality, and bare-minimum effort that Ethnos has received from its current publisher.  But that doesn’t stop us from loving its fast-paced gameplay of area majorities and hand management.  At least it’s remained in print and readily available over the years.

30. Undaunted

Undaunted is a killer line of games that combines deck building with platoon skirmishes.  To be honest, that very description sounds like something that neither I nor my wife would have any interest in.  But under the steady hand of designers Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson, Undaunted is a surprisingly clean and tense experience that we love to get to the table.

The reason I’ve played Undaunted 20 times and plan to come back for many more is that it maintains a solid foundation of intense war gameplay upon which many scenarios have been built across multiple games in the series.  We’re still playing catch-up on the North Africa scenarios, but I’m very much looking forward to playing Stalingrad after it releases.

29. The Quest for El Dorado  

Deck builders are a staple of modern board gaming… but they’re also a dime a dozen nowadays.  The Quest for El Dorado has climbed its way to the highest rated deck builder on my Top 50, and here’s why:

Many deck builders try to graft an entire board game onto the mechanism, but none do it as cleanly as El Dorado.  Many feature card markets that are either too static or too random, but El Dorado solves this problem entirely.  Many are smooth but not necessarily intuitive; El Dorado is both smooth and intuitive.  Many get lost in an endless stream of self-congratulatory combos and heads-down card play, but El Dorado shifts the focus to a shared map featuring interactive blocking and a tense race to the finish.

28. Decrypto

Decrypto is the game where I get to put on my cool kid sunglasses and reminisce that time where I stumbled across it at Gen Con 2018 and loved it before it became the #1 party game on BGG 😎.  Four years later and I still love it!

Decrypto offers a zesty clue-giving, team-based challenge similar to Codenames, yet it wraps that challenge in a spicy cat-and-mouse chase where each team also tries to crack the other’s code.  It’s also a party game that actually works best at 4-6 players, which means it’s much easier to get to the table.

27. Regicide

I’m not the type who gravitates to cooperative games or games that use a standard deck of cards or the dungeon crawler genre.  I tend to prefer some cutthroat competition within a playground of custom components in an above-ground setting, thank you very much.  All the more impressive that Regicide, a cooperative standard deck dungeon crawler, is so high on my list.

I am endlessly delighted by what the designers of Regicide were able to come up with in such a tight design space.  Here you’ll find limited communication, card combos and abilities, a ramping difficulty, tense tactics, and succulent strategies.

26. A Feast for Odin

A Feast for Odin represents a pivotal moment in my hobbyist journey.  It’s the first title where I bravely took the plunge into heavy gaming.  Up to this point, I had only been swimming in the light-medium depth side of the board game pool.  Fortunately, I was in good hands thanks to the masterful craftsmanship of Uwe Rosenburg.

If you are at the same spot where I once was, let me assure you: A Feast for Odin is a brilliantly crafted game that is surprisingly well organized.  It plays far smoother than it looks.  And the mess of polyomino tiles and worker placement spaces and thick rulebooks is absolutely worth the plunge.  No other game does what this one does.

Be sure to tune back in next week for games 25-1 of my Top 50 Board Games of All Time—2022 Edition!  But before you go, I’d like to mention that our next publication, Trailblazers, launches on Kickstarter this week.  

As a small indie publisher, we need your support to help make Trailblazers a reality.  As a regular content creator, the only way that we can justify all the time, effort, and energy spent creating posts such as this one is through the support our audience gives us via our published games.  The way I see it, this is our form of Patreon.  But rather than having you send us regular, direct donations, we prefer to create and share games that we love to play and you’ll likely enjoy as well.

If you appreciate our content, want to see us grow, and/or share similar tastes in games, then we hope you will pledge any amount for our Trailblazers campaign.  Be sure to click the link to be notified the moment we launch.  Thanks for helping Bitewing Games create and share classy board games that bite!

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.

Leave a Reply