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Top 10 Board Games Of All Time – July


Now, I know what you’re thinking. A top 10 board games list of all time (as in every board game ever…) is a pretty bold claim to make. So, rather than jumping right in at number 10, why don’t we take a look back to December, 1935 to see how we got to this point…

For those of you who don’t have the release dates of every board game memorised, December 1935 was the month of Monopoly (worthy of a national holiday in my opinion). The now ubiquitous winner-take-all board game has since been translated into 37 languages and evolved into over 200 licensed and localized editions for 103 countries across the world. So, a pretty big move in the board gaming world.

This was, simply put, the start of board gaming. There’s a formative time in every young persons life where they lose their first game of monopoly, and learn the truly harrowing truth of debt and the housing market (even the early 1900’s could see that economic crisis from a mile off).

Moving on, we get the release of such classics as Jenga, Snakes and Ladders and Ludo which you’ll find covered in dust in your family home, or only brought out for Christmas Day (personally, there’s nothing I get more competitive about than winning a game of Ludo, it’s not as boring as you think!)

So, we’ve got the board game classics, the board games that anyone of any age would be able to recognise. Fast forward a few years and, pause your collective shuddering, we arrive at the Pandemic. How else are you supposed to spend hours shut inside on the edge of stir crazy without a good ol’ board game? That’s what a lot of creators seemed to think anyway, as the gaming market boomed around this time.

And from all this, we arrive to this blog. From the classic strategy, dice rolling games of the 20th century, to campaign, tile laying, engine building, co-op games and more. I present to you, the top 10 board games of all time.

#10 Scythe:

From Stonemaier Games, Scythe is a 1-5 player engine-building, asymmetric, competitive board game, set in an alternate-history 1920s period. Now, that opening line is probably a lot of info to take in, but bear with me on this one!

Scythe focuses on expanding your factions dominance in a time of war and innovation, with the goal of gaining territory, creating upgrades and battling your enemies - its you and your industrious workers against the world. The aim of this 4x game (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) is to control areas of the board, gather resources, earn coins, and build an efficient engine. Once a player completes six achievements, the game end is triggered and final scoring is calculated.

So, What Sets Scythe Apart From The Rest?

Scythe’s ability to drag its players into a whole nother era (a fictional one at that!), means it’s pretty high on board gamers favourites list, to say the least. The sheer amount of choice and decision making the players are given can seem slightly overwhelming at first, but it’s also what makes the game great. The euro mechanisms and balancing act of the 4x label are superbly carried out, and the tactics needed for different combinations of player mats is like no other!

#9 Ark Nova:

If you’re a board gamer, there’s a very slim chance you haven’t heard of Ark Nova. The hype train this Capstone Games beast created took over the gaming world for a bit, and all of this for a game about… a zoo? That’s right, Ark Nova has you and your fellow players compete to become the most appealing and conservation minded Zoo. Build pens, populate them with all types of endangered and non-endangered animals, build attractions and rides, gain sponsorships, partner up with other zoos from across the world and, finally, release animals back into the wild!

To put this gameplay into action, we’ve got a mash up of multiple mechanisms on the go – from card play from Terraforming Mars, scoring from Raja’s Ganges, and even a tile placement game – but these big components don’t always equal a successful game. For Ark Nova, however, this is the perfect recipe.

So, What Sets Ark Nova Apart From The Rest?

Ark Nova brings in some well-known mechanisms to create something unique, and the designer does a brilliant job of making each element flow together. The giant (and by giant, we’re talking 255 unique cards) stack of cards means each game is unpredictable and keeps you and your hopeful strategy of drawing a reptile, or a sponsor card, on your toes.

The solo mode is also a great addition to the game, and the artwork makes it a veritable feast for the eyes – all in all, I just can’t fault it!

#8 Catan

Catan is often credited with being the forefather of the present-day Euro game. It’s been printed in 39 languages and sold over 27 million copies – the stats speak for themselves.

In Catan, 3-4 players compete to reach 10 victory points, by building towns and cities on a randomised board made of hex tiles. You all start the game with limited resources, with the aim to acquire more materials to construct roads linking your settlements, with the end-goal of upgrading them into cities.

Resources are allocated each turn based on a dice roll, and players can negotiate trades with one another (which can turn into a brutal sport of good ol’ fashioned bartering).

So, What Sets Catan Apart From The Rest?

First up, its replayability is basically endless – the boards tiles can be randomised, as can the numbers used to determine what roll produces what resources – so it’s an entirely new challenge each time.

It’s also the perfect gateway game for new gamers, the rules are easy to pick up, it’s not too complex or heavy, and you can be packing it away in about an hour – it’s a board gaming staple!

#7 Spirit Island

Spirit Island is a 1-4 player co-operative island defence game designed by R. Eric Reuss. A game of strategy and defence, you and your team play as island spirits fighting to defends their home from the colonial invaders attempts to settle colonies, blight the island’s natural beauty and eradicate the indigenous Dahan.

Each spirit is unique, with its own powers, influence and attacks; the ways in which you interact with friends and foes is unpredictable, and this character design is something that cannot go unnoticed – these spirits and their personalities really are the driving force of the game!

Players win either through completely eradicating the invaders, or through acquiring enough Fear tokens to push the invaders to abandon their plans. The players lose if the invaders deplete the pool of Blight tokens, or if one spirit’s presence is completely removed from the island.

So, what Sets Spirit Island Aprt From The Rest?

Spirit Island is a truly nail-biting experience of tension, where the fate of the island is constantly on the edge of collapse, making a win that much more satisfying. The game itself is positively dripping in theme, from the art style, to the component quality and unique narrative that is drawn out of every game. Now, the gameplay itself is pretty complex, and there’s a lot of analysis and brain power that goes into making the right moves – but once you’ve cracked the code, this game might just become one of your favourites.

#6 Carcassonne:

A 2-5 player tile-placement and area control game released in 2000, Carcassonne has made its name as a must-have in the board game world. It was the Spiel des Jahres winner in 2001 and has been nominated for, and won, several other awards since being published.

For such an award sweeping game, the premise is deceptively simple: players select a face-down tile from the centre of the table, and place it to continue the landscape of the already set tiles on the table, aiming to develop an area of the South of France. On the surface, it’s your run of the mil tile-placement game…

What’s the kicker then...

So, What Sets Carcassonne Apart From The Rest?

Well, it’s a tile placement with its intensity ramped up to 1000. The key rule with Carcassonne, is that roads must continue roads, castles must continue castles; you cannot cut off a feature. Each tile placement matters, and your brain will be working hard to try and figure out the best moves – but that’s half the fun!

Despite its minimal components and simple gameplay, the game offers some tough tactical and strategic decisions. And for once the fate of humanity isn’t in your hands – what’s not to love!

#5: War of the Ring (Second Edition)

Lord of the Rings is one of the biggest franchises – even if you didn’t grow up with the epic trilogy, your parents would have sat you down to relive their own nostalgia, or passed on their old books. So, when a board game described as “Tolkien-in-a-box,” was announced, it had a pretty big audience base to please, and some pretty big shoes to fill.

War of the Ring is a 2-4 player, area control strategy war game, pitting the Free Peoples and the forces of Shadow against one another. It uses Action Dice, which allow players to move armies, play event cards, move specific characters and so on. There are two possible routes to victory; the first is the military route which comes down to conquest and capture of enemy cities and strongholds. The second is the ring, if the ring gets destroyed by throwing it into the cracks of Mount Doom then the player of the Free Peoples wins, if the Ringbearer fails in this quest then the player of the Shadow wins.

So, What Sets War Of The Ring Apart From The Rest?

This game is huge in more ways than one. It doesn’t just try to capture the Lord of the Rings lore, but it tries to capture it on a 41 by 54 inch board (guys, we’re gonna need a bigger table…). Not to mention the figures representing military units, the main characters and the extras, the four decks and the event cards. The 48 page rule book should help you get your bearings though, and before you know it you’ll be battling it out for victory.

Gameplay estimate is around 3 hours, so you’ll have to carve out a pretty good chunk of the day to really get into this game, but boy is it worth it! This is a game you might not play that often because of the sheer weight of it, but its one you won’t dream of getting rid of – as far as tabletop games go, this one’s pretty epic.

#4 Pandemic:

We’ve had a lot of every-man-for-himself, only one can take the crown kind of board games so far – so what about the games that let you take the pressure of how you’re playing, and think about the whole group instead? You guessed it – it’s a co-op game, and it’s none other than (drumroll please) Pandemic!

Pandemic is a cult-classic at this point – if it’s not front and centre on your board game shelf then you need to make some room.

Maybe a bit too on the nose for what seems like a Pandemic that just ended, Pandemic (the board game) is a brilliant 2-4 player game, with the simple goal of working together to find the cure for each of the four diseases before time runs out. Seems simple, but you’ve got a lot to juggle. Watch out for epidemics, build vital research centres and prevent infection spreading across cities…once again, the fate of humanity is in your hands (these board game makers do love a post-apocalyptic theme).

So, What Sets Pandemic Apart From The Rest?

It’s pretty simple – the co-operative play, where players must strategize to achieve victory, is brilliantly immersive; if you’re not shouting at each other at least once about the best next move then you’re definitely doing it wrong!

#3 Wyrmspan

If we’re talking about big impact games, then I can’t ignore Wingspan, and its sequel - Wyrmspan! Released in 2019, Wingspan opened a lot of eyes to the ‘modern board game’ genre of today and, after its success in the board gaming world, it released a dragon themed follow up!

At its core, Wyrmspan is a 1-5 player, card-driven, engine-building game with a twist. Players take on the role of dragon enthusiasts seeking to attract diverse species to their sanctuary. Through strategic placement of cards representing different dragons, a dragon fact book to deepen your dracological knowledge, player mats, adventurer meeples, guild tokens and more, being a dragon keeper has never been easier!

So, What Sets Wyrmspan Apart From The Rest?

Wyrmspan did so well in the board game scene, even more so than its publishers expected, because of its theming– in other words, it really went ham on the dragons! From the beautifully illustrated cards to the intricately designed habitats, every component is a tight link to the world it’s trying to create.

This isn’t just any old board game that happened to do well, it’s a template for many of the board games we get today, and well deserving of the top spot in my Top 10 Board Games of all time.

#2 Ticket To Ride:

As soon as I got my hands on a copy of Ticket To Ride it became a family favourite, and a weekend just doesn’t feel complete without a game (as long as I win, of course). But what makes it so addicting?

Ticket to Ride stands proudly in the pantheon of modern board game classics; as a gateway game, it introduces newcomers to the world of modern board gaming while maintaining that depth that seasoned players come back for.

Simply put, it’s a 2-5 player set collecting and route building game where players compete to connect cities across the map with colour coded train routes – relying on both strategy and luck to win.

So, What Sets Ticket To Ride Apart From The Rest?

It’s exactly this combination of strategic decision-making route building with a dash of luck that calls back to the likes of monopoly, but this time in a refurbished, higher value production. It’s replayability is, and I can vouch for this as an avid player, endless, and the huge variety of expansions mean if you did want a change of scene, you’re not limited for options. This is a modern classic building on everything that made a great board game in the past!

Check out the expansions here!

#1 Terraforming Mars

Set in the not-so-distant future, 1-5 players assume the roles of competing corporations tasked with transforming the Red Planet into a habitable home for humanity.

Now, Terraforming Mars has a lot going for it in terms of the kind of game it is: from card drafting, resource management, engine building to strategy, risk and chance – but it’s all this that makes it the perfect game.

So, What Sets Terraforming Mars Apart From The Rest?

Unlike many board games that rely solely on chance, Terraforming Mars offers players a deep strategic experience, allowing them to craft their path to victory through careful planning and decision-making. The game's mechanics really do pile the pressure on – I mean, the future of humanity is quite literally in your hands here – and it effortlessly simulates the challenges of real-life terraforming, from managing resources like energy and water to placing cities and greenery across the Martian landscape.

All these elements, coupled with the game's strategic depth, keeps players coming back time and time again.

Final Thoughts:

So, this was my rundown of the top 10 board games of all time – my personal crème da le crème. Obviously, there are some games that couldn’t make it onto the list, and some that you’ll probably disagree with – but this is the perfect time for you to give them all a go! Check out our huge range of games over at Zatu, and check back in for some future change ups to the Top 10 board games….Happy gaming!