I sometimes ask myself hypothetical questions, such as how I’d escape from a shark or could I outrun a crocodile if it was chasing me – but one question that terrifies me is: “Which games would I choose if all of my board games disappear and I could only have five games?”
I will address this unenviable conundrum in the preceding article but must define my approach – they may not necessarily be my top five games of all time per-se, more so I will have to choose the five games as if they’re the only five games I will ever own, so I will have to consider a mix of genres, accessibility, lengths and player counts.
This game is quite possibly my favourite game and makes it into this selection for numerous reasons – it is fairly simple in its processes and mechanisms, but the sheer magnitude of the options and available strategies in Terraforming Mars means I really can’t see myself tiring of it. It plays fantastically well at any player count, plus the solo mode has proved itself my as favourite board gaming solo experience.
I always get such a sense of satisfaction building my terraforming engine, being guided somewhat by my Corporation’s abilities, the cards I’m dealt and the actions of my opponents. Moving my translucent corporation cubes and the shiny resource cubes around my player dashboard never fails to give me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, and placing a city or greenery tile on the map and popping a corporation cube carefully on top is always a triumphant moment.
Pandemic: The Cure
I enforced a limit of only one game from the Pandemic franchise, and despite vastly enjoying regular “vanilla” Pandemic, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu and Pandemic: Iberia I have chosen the dice variant, Pandemic: The Cure. I chose The Cure because it contains the look and feel of regular Pandemic but sets up and plays in less than half the time while still emitting some of the epic feeling that goes with Pandemic games.
It looks crazy and abstract on the table and is the only co-operative game on this list. I play it with my daughters and also love playing it solo. Incidentally, it is my second most-played game of all time at the time of writing this article, which says a lot!
King of Tokyo
I’m including King of Tokyo (my third most-played game of all time) on this list because, while essentially being a fairly simple dice chucker at heart, I have had so many laugh-out-loud moments playing this as a person virtually comes back from the brink to scupper someone else’s plans or to become King themselves. You can teach this game to people in just five minutes and even if your monster is killed, you’ll find yourself cheering others on, and the game is over in no time so you’ll barely feel the pain of elimination anyway.
I love saving up energy cubes to purchase on special abilities and the tactical thinking of whether to go for a points winning strategy or taking the plunge into Tokyo and hanging on in there in the hope that you can damage all of your opponents. Playing up to six players, this is the closest thing on this list to a party game.
Choosing an abstract strategy game was a tough choice, with Splendor and Sagrada coming so close, but I have gone for the tile-laying classic Azul here. The 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner pips the others to the post as it is currently the hottest game in my household. I dismissed this game at first sight but then when I had heard good things about it I played and soon grew to love it.
It is a perfectly weighted thinker that plays equally well at all player counts. You can employ numerous strategies but have to adapt in-game if your opponents hate draft or the tiles you want are not available. I have a feeling it may surpass Splendor as my most-played game of all-time at some point, plus those tiles look almost edible!!
Raiders of the North Sea
Choosing a final game to add to this list was the toughest choice of all, as so many could’ve made it. But I’m going to go with what I feel, right now, at the time of writing… The final place goes to Raiders of the North Sea. I recently purchased this game and feel like I have so many more play to come as I love the Viking theme and the whimsically wonderful artwork and then there is also the fact that I didn’t have another worker placement game on this list.
I have the whole North Sea saga, but Raiders is the game with the most plaudits and I enjoy building up my crew and provisions then sending them on raids. The race to the best raiding spots and the numerous paths to victory mean this game will have longevity for me. The place-then-pickup worker placement mechanism is novel and can lead to some tough and strategic decisions.
The choice of games that could have made this list is long – Splendor, Sagrada, Architects of the West Kingdom, Scythe, Adrenaline, Carcassonne, Hit Z Road, to name a few. But I made my decision fairly quickly otherwise I could have got very bogged-down.
It would be interesting to put my hypothetical question into practice, but that’s a question for a parallel universe, because in this universe I’m thankful that the question is only hypothetical and I can continue to enjoy the golden age of board gaming, and all of my games!