Kyle Hanley’s Top 100 Games of All Time (2019 Edition): 80-71

We are at the third installment of my Top 100 Games of all Time (2019 Edition), which means we’re about to wrap up the original trilogy. And immediately after this I’m going to run it into the ground with needless sequels like it’s a Disney franchise. If you haven’t caught up (SHAME ON YOU) here is my 100-91 and here is my 90-81.

And now, onto 80-71!

80. Lanterns

lanterns cover

Tile laying is in my top 3 game mechanisms of all time (why yes, I did rank my top 10 favorite game mechanisms while I was bored at work one day, why do you ask?), so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see some pop up on the list. My last entry had the wonderful tile laying microgame Circle the Wagons and we’re continuing the trend with my number 80: Lanterns.

Despite never catching fire quite like Ticket to Ride or Splendor, Lanterns is still one of the more popular gateway games in the hobby. This is for very good reason, and I actually like it more than those gateway behemoths I just mentioned. Lanterns is simple, quick, but incredibly puzzle-y and interactive, something every great gateway game should strive for.

In Lanterns, you’ll be dropping the titular paper lanterns into a big ass lake, watching them float around like multicolored lily pads. Normally this would be littering, but this is the big Harvest Festival, which means who cares if they’re not biodegradable! This is for the Emperor!

You’ll be placing tiles down into a communal landscape (like many tile laying games) and collecting different colored cards based on how you place them. The tiles are sectioned off into quarters, each with a different batch of colored lanterns inside. Upon placement of the tile, the players all receive a colored card matching the colored lanterns that are facing them. As the game goes on, you’re trying to cash in sets of these cards to gain points from constantly diluting pile of tokens.

Not since this past Thanksgiving with your Trump loving Uncle have you cared more about where people are sitting at a table. You have to constantly be peeking at the cards they’ve collected and making sure you don’t allow them to get a set while also being sure to get colors that YOU could use. Bonus cards applied from color adjacency and getting tokens from decorative floats that allow you to exchange cards add even more layers to this scrumptious puzzle. You’ll be fidgeting with your hand of three tiles, rotating them and squinting at the board, imagining the ramifications of each decision. The fact that this is all done in a brisk 30 minutes and that it can be taught to all your non gamer friends helps cement Lanterns right here at spot 80.

79. Hand of the King

hand of the king cover

Hey! I’ve already reviewed this one! You can read it right here! That means I can take this entry off, right? I’ll see you in ten minutes.

FINE, I guess I’ll still actually write about it. Hand of the King is an abstract strategy game set in the Game of Thrones universe, designed by my favorite game designer, Bruno Cathala (spoiler alert: he’s gonna show up on this list a LOT). In this game, you’ll be maneuvering a bald man around a grid, grabbing cards representing members of the various Houses from the books. As you gain majorities in these Houses, you’ll gain that House’s banner BUT other players can swipe the banner away from you if they either match or beat your current majority. The result is a constant tug of war over the various houses, with banners flying between players faster than crossbow bolts at a wedding hosted by Walder Frey.

There are also some nice decisions that come from the presence of ‘Companion’ cards representing other GoT characters that activate a special ability. Players can grab and use one of these cards if they take the last character of a House from the board. This creates a constant sense of tension throughout the game: do you take that last character from House Stark, even though it won’t give you a majority and the banner is already lost? Or do you shore up your majority in House Lannister, guaranteeing yourself the banner till game’s end? For just a quick 10-15 minute game, Hand of the King packs more punch than a House Clegane family reunion.

Another lovely bit about this game is that it scales incredibly well. One would think this would be best at 2 players, given its back and forth, extremely tactical nature. But it actually plays really well at 3 and also features an amazing 4 player team variant, where two teams of two are trying to share between them more banners than the other team. The best part about this variant is you can not discuss strategy with your teammate unless you spend a raven token, of which each player only has one of. Then you can find a corner of the room to discuss strategy like you’re Littlefinger scheming in the back of a brothel.

I feel bad for this game and think it went really under the radar. I think I may have mentioned this in my review (what, you expect me to go back and read it? Pssh), but I can’t help but feel that the game’s license is what held this back. Which is ironic, because Game of Thrones is gigantic, even with the show’s less than stellar (Read: shitty) final season.

If you are one of the people that dodged this game due to its license, please give it a shot. Though the game’s Companion cards are surprisingly thematic, this game is an abstract and the theme is mostly window dressing. If you DO like the license, then what the hell are you waiting for!? Buy this game, it’s super cheap and you’ll have more fun with it than two Lannister twins with a free, secluded bedroom.

78. Thunder and Lightning

thunder and lightning cover

I love me some good 2 player only games and Thunder and Lightning is a VERY good 2 player only game. Set in Norse mythology, Thunder and Lightning casts 2 players as Loki and Thor squaring off, each one trying to find a specific card in the other player’s deck. Anyone who has played the classic game Stratego (one of the few mass market games I’d vouch for and still be willing to play today) will instantly feel familiar with this game.

Both players have their own decks of cards which are functionally the same but differ in some art and card names. The cards represent various figures and tropes of Norse mythology and players will be playing these cards to a battlefield. Cards are placed facedown in a 3 by 4 grid, where your opponent can then try to fight their way through it using cards on THEIR side of the battlefield. There are also other cards that you can play immediately for powers which allow you to do things such as draw randomly from your opponent’s hand, target specific cards on the battlefield, bring back some cards from your discard, etc. If at any point a player can find the card they’re looking for (Odin’s Crown for Loki, Odin’s Ring for Thor) then they win!

Thus begins an agonizingly intense game of bluffing, hand management and secretive tableau building. Every decision is fraught with tension as you try to sneak into the mind of your opponent, trying to discover why they’ve played cards in certain positions or why they’re triggering certain powers. Are they keeping their hand so large because they drew your MacGuffin and are trying to lower the odds of you plucking it out with an Odin’s Ravens card? Or is it to throw you off the scent that they’ve already played your MacGuffin into their battlefield, waiting innocently in a corner as you pay no mind to it? Or is it simply because they like having a lot of cards and options? And what do YOU even do? Do you play strong solider cards to your frontlines, creating a sturdy defense? Or do you space them across your battlefield to provide a nice surprise for your opponent as they get deeper into your lines? Questions like this will pinball around your brain and you’ll constantly doubt and rethink your actions as you try to come up with the best use for the cards in your hand.

My only complaint about Thunder and Lightning is that the game can go on pretty long, especially if neither player draws their opponent’s MacGuffin until late in the deck. It’s entirely possible for both player’s MacGuffins to be buried in the 2nd half of their decks, meaning it will be a long time before anyone even draws it. Considering there are also cards that can raise casualties back from the dead further elongates a game that can take over an hour. This complaint is amplified by the fact that a bad bit of randomness can literally lose you the game, thus making an hour plus runtime a little tougher to swallow.

Besides that one sticking point, Thunder and Lightning is a fantastic addition to anyone’s 2 player only game collection.

77. Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden

cabbagehead's cover

A common complaint we board gamers have is that we have so many games and we constantly want to play those games, but there’s only so many opportunities to play them. Sure, you can emotionally blackmail your friends into feeling sorry for you so that they’ll come over and play but take it from me, they catch to my, I mean YOUR, tricks pretty fast. So, what’s a board gamer to do when they have that old craving for board games but no one around to help satiate it?

What’s that? Do something productive and meaningful, like volunteer or clean your house? Hahahaha, goodness no! Just play a solo board game instead!

I’ve already mentioned solo variants to games on this Top 100 and how I’m on the lookout for great solo modes, but I haven’t mentioned any solitaire only games. Allow me to rectify that with my number 77, Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden.

Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden throws you into the role of the titular Mr. Cabbagehead, who finds himself trying to win the blue ribbon for his community’s garden contest. How you make that garden is by playing cards representing specific vegetables in a grid, trying to situate them in a way that gets you a lot of points from getting like vegetables together in a big patch as well as trying to complete certain formations. Which means, yep, another tile laying game. Told you I liked them!

Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden has a couple of cool mechanisms in it that help make it unique in this very crowded genre. The first is how you draft the cards that go in your garden. Every turn, you draw three cards and put them in a row and then you have to manage these little bee tokens based on which of those cards you want. If you want the middle card, you can just take it for free and you don’t have to involve any of those pesky bees in your affairs. But if you want the card on the left you need to pay a bee token from your supply to the beehive next to the deck. Meanwhile, if you want the card on the right you have to take a bee token from the beehive. If you can’t do either of these, because either your supply or the beehive is empty, you cannot take that card. This cute little drafting system introduces a small element of push your luck to the game, causing you to carefully consider how much of a bind you’re willing to put yourself into for future turns. I guess you could say it’s all about managing your beeconomy.

Ah yes, there’s the reason I’m forced to play solitaire only games like this, glad I can skip the therapist bill for that one.

Moving on, let’s talk about neighbors. Like, not in general, but in the game. Mr. Cabbagehead has an awful cast of characters in his neighborhood, and they’re constantly stalking outside the garden gate, waiting for Mr. Cabbaghead to go on holiday so they can slink through and steal some vegetables. How this is represented in game terms is that at the end of every turn, your draw a certain number of neighbor tokens (decided by the vegetable cards you didn’t draft) and place them on the neighbor they represent. When it’s time for Mr. Cabbaghead to go get lit at some music festival for the weekend, the neighbor with the most tokens steals a specific type of vegetable. Unless there is a tie which means no neighbors visit. So, on top of managing your beeconomy (no, I’m not letting it die) you also have to be thoughtful of how many neighbor tokens you’ll have to pull based on which vegetable card your draft. Having vegetables stolen is back breaking in this game. I’ve had one measly stolen vegetable cost me well over 30 points once because of where it was placed and how central it was to my strategy. Managing your neighbors to avoid this from happening is as essential as the actual gardening itself.

The last thing I’ll rave about is this game’s theme and art. The game sports a very Victorian era aesthetic and feel that makes it incredibly charming. The illustrations are even inspired by old vegetable drawings you would find in Victorian literature and the anthropomorphized vegetable people that inhabit the game world are also ripped straight from the era. Sure, it can be a little creepy looking, to the point that the characters look like something the Umbrella Corporation would engineer in their company garden. But the somewhat grotesque nature perfectly falls in line with the tongue in cheek humor that oozes from the game’s flavor text and its rulebook (the rulebook for this game might be my favorite rulebook ever, it’s hilarious). The end result is a super unique and charming look and feel to this game that really elevates it from the more generic looking tile layers out there.

My one complaint about this game is that it can feel very swingy if you run into bad luck. I mentioned earlier that a single vegetable being stolen from your garden can result in you losing 30-40 points, and there’s many times you lack the control to prevent that sort of thing from ever happening. Yes, there are ways to mitigate the random draw of neighbor tokens and you can plan ahead and situate your garden in a way that losing a certain vegetable won’t be devastating, but there are a ton of times where you’ll play the odds in your favor and still come out with a negative outcome strictly because of bad luck. I’m convinced the only way to get the blue ribbon in this game (which is the ‘top’ score) is to not only play perfectly mistake free but to also not have ANY sort of bad luck plague your garden. Any Cabbaghead experts out there willing to prove me wrong, I’d be more than happy to hear it!

All that being said, this game is a quick 15-20 minutes, so it’s not like you should really care that much about swingy randomness. Because despite it, this is such an enjoyable, charming little game that any aspiring solo gamer should have in their collection.

76. Carcassonne

carcassonne cover

All this talk about tile laying games, and we haven’t even mentioned the grand poohbah of them all: Carcassonne. Arguably the game that really brought tile laying into the mainstream of the board game hobby, Carcassonne continues to be one of the most popular gateway games into the hobby; if there was a Mount Rushmore for gateway games, Carcassonne would 100% be on it. I credit Forbidden Island and Pandemic for getting me into the hobby, but Carcassonne is the first competitive game I truly fell in love with. Here we are, over four years later and Carcassonne is still on my top 100.

Carcassonne tasks players with building the titular city as well as its surrounding countryside, placing tiles out in a communal landscape (wait, didn’t I just say that a few games ago), and placing their meeples on various features to try and score them if they ever finish them before game’s end. As the landscape grows, players become invested in certain areas, creating a tense race to the finish line as each player hopes and prays the tile they draw is the exact tile they need to complete something (Narrator voice: “They won’t.”)

There’s just so much to love about Carcassonne, but one thing I’ve always adored is how it’s very versatile in the type of game it can be. If you want to play a peaceful game of city building, not getting in each other’s ways and just enjoying the piece of art everyone is creating, this game allows that. However, if you want a vicious game of cutthroat maneuvers and constantly butting heads, Carcassonne can be as mean as all hell. I have some friends who enjoy the more peaceful playstyle, and it’s always a serene, relaxing experience. But I have other friends who will ALWAYS place tiles in a way that either attempts to snipe your territory or that makes it incredibly difficult for you to complete the feature you’re working on. Whether it’s a lovely stroll through idyllic France or an absolute massacre, Carcassonne manages to be a great time either way.

I am a little surprised Carcassonne is relatively low on this list (not that spot 76 is anything to sneeze at!) and I simply think that’s because I played SO much of this when first getting into the hobby. When first getting into board gaming, I pretty much exclusively played cooperative games. When I did play a competitive game, though, Carcassonne was ALWAYS the one to hit the table. It certainly holds a nostalgic corner of my heart, but I do think the constant play of it in those first few years has resulted in a tad bit of burnout.

Regardless, Carcassonne is still amazing and anybody who hasn’t played it absolutely needs to. It is an evergreen classic in this hobby for a reason, and there are so many tile layers we have Carcassonne to thank for.

75. Hive Mind

hive mind cover

This is perhaps the most mass market-y game on my list. In fact, if it didn’t have the name of an established publisher and of literally one of the most influential designers to ever work in the industry on the box, it’d be easy to think this was mass market. But to cast it aside simply because of that would be a grave mistake, because Hive Mind is one of the most purely fun party games you can buy.

Designed by industry legend Richard Garfield (the guy who designed Magic: The Gathering, perhaps you’ve heard of it), Hive Mind is a ridiculously simple party game that can be explained by simply saying this: it’s reverse Scattergories. On your turn, you pick a card from a box and pick one of the six prompts it has (or even create your own if you’re feeling adventurous). These prompts are things like “Name 5 rides you’d find at an amusement park” or “Name 3 things that are red” or “Name 10 reasons why Boar & Arrow is your favorite board game blogger”. After the prompt is given, players write their answers and then, one by one, share what they’ve written. So, using the “Name 3 things that are red” prompt, I might write ‘firetruck’, ‘Elmo’, and ‘bricks’. As I say these answers, anyone who matches with me announces (read: shout excitedly and obnoxiously) that they have the same answer and people get points based on how many others they matched with. Whoever has the least matches gets knocked down a level in a big beehive (there’s a bee theme to this game, by the way, so I’ll try and fit my ‘beeconomy’ joke in here somewhere), and a new round is played until someone is kicked out of the hive.

The fun in this comes from the loud, raucous conversations that these prompts and answers ignite. Going back to the example prompt I gave, I say firetruck and the entire table cheers that they match except for one person, who puts their head in their hands and groans, moaning, “How did I not think of firetrucks.” But then I get to ‘bricks’ and nobody matches on that so I complain for two straight minutes about how on earth can you not say bricks, things are literally described as ‘brick red’, come on! All of this with slightly more cursing, of course, this blog is trying to stay in the PG to PG-13 range. Then it goes onto the next person, which starts a brand-new batch of groans and high fives. It’s an incredibly social game, one where you want to agree with people which is a delightful change of pace from many social board games.

Hive Mind has easily been one of the most successful games with non-gamers for me. It’s sooo easy to teach and the fact that most people already have played Scattergories means they have a touchstone to help them understand it even easier. It’s a favorite at holiday family functions for me, with my mom constantly asking me if I’ve “brought the bee game”. My 90+ year old grandfather, who was in the last months of his life and entering the nasty stages of dementia, was able to play this game with us and everyone had an absolute blast with it. Not to get sappy, but aren’t moments like that what board games are all about?

If you have a game group that enjoys these casual kinds of party games, it’s tough to find a better recommendation than Hive Mind.

74. Lost Cities

Lost Cities cover

My next game marks a triumphant return of Reiner Knizia, who hasn’t been seen since doing double duty in my 100-91 blog post. On that list, one of his two games that appeared was Schotten Totten, a two-player card game that involved playing cards on your side of the table in a tug of war match over different areas. My number 74 is often compared to Schotten Totten and it’s another one of Knizia’s classics. I am, of course, talking about Lost Cities.

In Lost Cities, players are partaking in expeditions to various regions, such as the Amazon, the Arctic and to what is either the center of a volcano or literally Hell. Like Schotten Totten, players play a card and draw a card. When playing a card, you either play it to a specific expedition on your side of the board (making sure the card values are in ascending order) OR to a communal discard pile for that specific expedition. When you draw a card, you either take blindly from the top of the deck or take the top card of any one of those communal discard piles.

What could be a fairly standard game of drawing and playing cards efficiently is transformed into a panic inducing game of chicken and press your luck thanks to one little rule in the scoring. Knizia is known for little twists and wrinkles that take simple designs and rulesets and turns them into beautifully tense experiences that make your brain scream for mercy. Lost Cities involves one of his best ‘Knizia twists’

(No, ’Knizia twists’ is not an actual term in the industry and yes, it sounds like a brand of German pretzels, but I’m coining it anyway).

In Lost Cities, players score the cards they played to their expeditions by simply adding the values together. So, if I play a 1, 2, 4, and 6 in the Amazon, that is 13 points for me! There are also hand shake cards which can multiply that by 2, 3 or even 4. That means if I play two handshakes there, I get 39 points! Awwww, yeeeeah, I just kicked the Amazon’s ass. BUT…remember that Knizia Twist ™ I mentioned earlier? The moment you play a card into an expedition you immediately start at negative twenty points for that area. Thematically, that is the capital you’re investing to jumpstart such a grand adventure. In gameplay terms, it means you need to get a value of at least 21 in that expedition if you want to score any sort of positive points. That example I used earlier means that I would have scored 13 minus 20 which equals… (checks calculator)…negative 7 points. And those handshake cards? Those are applied AFTER the twenty point deduction, so let me check my calculator again….ah, yes, that is now negative TWENTY-ONE points. It appears the Amazon kicked MY ass.

This creates such an agonizing dilemma. You don’t want to play into an expedition before you’re pretty sure you can amass the cards needed to get over that 20 point threshold. BUT doing so means you have to tread water with your hand, discarding cards to the communal discards before committing to an expedition. BUT doing this means that you may give the exact cards that your opponent needs to get started on any expeditions they’re working on so you just never wanna play a card to an expedition or to a discard but you have to so what do you do and ahhhh, i want my mommy!

Lost Cities is everything I want in a card game: simple and quick but packed with suspense and tough decisions.

73. Arboretum 

arboretum cover

Going from one card game that will give you a panic attack to another card game that will give you an even bigger panic attack, we’re here at number 73: Arboretum. Arboretum is a game that found life in two different editions: once published by Z-Man Games, and now published by Renegade. The Renegade version has vastly prettier art (in my opinion, of course) done by the always wonderful Beth Sobel. A game that has enough popularity to be published twice by two different publishers is usually a good sign for a game, and such is certainly the case for Arboretum.

Arboretum, besides being a word I’ve already misspelled like five different ways while writing this entry, is a card game about planting trees and making the best, well, arboretum. Planting trees requires placing them out in a grid like fashion in front of you, making Arboretum yet another tile laying style game on my list. But the heart of Arboretum is in its hand management. And it is not a warm, gentle heart at all. It is a dark, gnarled, brambly heart that lies in the tree hollow of this game.

Let me explain. Like Lost Cities, Arboretum has a very simple gameplay loop. On your turn, you draw two cards (either from the deck or from one of the personal discard piles in front of each player) and add them to your hand. You then play one to your arboretum and discard another card to the discard pile in front of you. Playing to your arboretum is where you’re gonna get points; you want to play cards of the same type (suits are tree species in this game, like oak and maple) together and in ascending order, because that’s how you score each species. But like Lost Cities (again), there are some scoring twists that make a relaxing game of walking through an arboretum into a game that will trigger PTSD the next time you look at a tree.

As mentioned, points are given based on how you laid out your species of trees in your arboretum. You score a species based on finding a continuous path of ascending trees that start and end with that species in your arboretum.  The twist here is that only one person will score any given species per game. That honor goes to whoever has the cards of that species left in their hand that adds up to the highest total value.

Welcome to Tree Hell.

Every decision you make in this game will be overflowing with self-loathing and doubt, as you’re constantly second guessing every choice you make. When playing into your arboretum, you never want to commit to a certain suit of card because that will cause others to prevent you from getting it. When playing into your discard, you never want to give your opponent something they can use. But if you’re wishy washy and conservative with every decision, you’ll clog your hand and never gain any ground on anything. It’s brutal, it’s mean, it’s infuriating and I love every single minute of it.

The 30-45 minutes you spend playing Arboretum is a white knuckled adrenaline rush, with every synapse in your brain is begging for mercy. By the time it’s all done, you’ll feel like you’ll need a cigarette. The only reason why Arboretum isn’t higher is because I just haven’t played it as much as I’d like. I wouldn’t be shocked if in 2020, this game creeps its way into my top 50.

72. World’s Fair 1893

world's fair cover

I’ve already mentioned a couple of gateway games this list with Lanterns and Carcassonne and my number 72 is perhaps the most underrated gateway game of them all. This game is World’s Fair 1893, an area control and set collection game set in, surprisingly, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.

World’s Fair has a modular board where five areas, each representing a different department of exhibits at the World’s Fair (like agricultural and electrical), are situated around a big Ferris wheel which acts as the round tracker. Cards are randomly dealt out to each area, with more cards being added at the end of every turn. On your turn, you’re going to place one of your cubes in the area of your choice, which does two things: one, it allows you to take all the cards and add them to your player area and two, it allows you to have a cube in that area for area majority purposes at the end of the round (more on that later).

The cards you’re collecting come in three flavors: cards representing exhibits that pertain to each department, cards representing tickets for midway attractions and historical figures from the real life World’s Fair. The historical figures have special abilities you activate on a subsequent turn and the midway tickets give you a point per card and move the round tracker around the Ferris Wheel but the cards you really need to pay attention to are the exhibit cards. These exhibit cards all match the color of an area on that board, the very areas you’re vying for area majority in throughout the round. This is important, because players get to cash in a certain amount of exhibit cards for scoring tokens at the end of the round. But how many? That’s determined by the rankings of the area majority in that area. If you have the majority in that area, you get to cash in more exhibits than anybody else.

Like all great games, this system creates an interesting balance. In order to get a green card you might need to place a cube in the red area, which seems counterproductive because then your cube is counting towards an area majority that doesn’t even allow you to cash in green cards. It’s incredibly tactical and you’ve got to weigh the benefits of certain areas on a turn by turn basis. It’s a surprisingly crunchy puzzle given how simple the gameplay and choices are on a given turn.

I’m also a huge fan of this theme. I’ve always been drawn to the look of the late 1800s/early 1900s (yanno, minus the horrifying amounts of racism and sexism back then) and this game captures that aesthetic brilliantly. There is flavor text on all the cards, giving you a little bit of trivia about that specific exhibit at the fair, doing a great job of immersing you even further. Even the damn round tracker evokes the theme perfectly, the Ferris Wheel carriage moving around the circle to indicate how quickly the round might end.

All in all, I think it’s a damn shame that this game doesn’t get more respect. I truly believe it should be in the same conversation as Carcassonne and Splendor when we talk about evergreen gateway games, but World’s Fair never quite got that amount of attention. Correct this injustice by giving this game a try.

71. Naga Raja

nagaraja cover

We end this section of my top 100 with Naga Raja, another game I’ve already reviewed. Read that very post right here or continue reading for the Cliff Notes version.

Naga Raja is a two player only game and the second appearance on this list by my favorite designer, Bruno Cathala. In this game, you and your opponent are rival archaeologists trying to explore their temples and uncover prized relics before the other player does. This is done with multi use cards, tile laying and dice chucking, which all simmer and cook together to make a fine fondue for two.

Players are going to use their cards for one of two things: they are either going to commit them to use the dice that’s printed at their top OR they’re going to spend special dice called naga to activate a card for its special ability. I’m a big fan of multi-use cards, and I love how they’re used here. Having to choose one of two uses for them helps keep things tactically rich and engaging, but simple and streamlined.

But that’s only half the game. The other half is the actual exploration of your personal temple board, which starts out as a 3 by 3 grid surrounded by nine face down relic tiles. Throughout the game, you’ll be rolling dice (given by cards, as I said) and whoever rolls more pips gets to grab a tile that’s up for auction. The tiles involve pathways that, when put into your temple, you’re trying to link together in a way that it connects the relic tiles to the entrance. Doing so flips over the tile, getting you points. The game is a race to 25 points, so being as efficient as possible with getting the right tiles and placing them in the right place is key.

There are some other subtle things that make Naga Raja great. For one, there is a mini push your luck element involving cursed relics. There are three of these things among your nine treasure tiles and they are worth the most points. But if you expose all three, you automatically lose the game (which is not the first time someone would get in trouble for exposing something). This creates a great deal of suspense when somebody has two cursed relics flipped over. Every flip of a relic tile after that becomes a hold your breath, peek through one eye kind of affair.

The special abilities you can activate on the cards are also a ton of fun to manage. Some are straightforward, like being able to draw more cards or allowing you to add pips to your dice rolls for the sake of the tile auction. But others allow some deviously clever plays, like the ones that allow you to rotate or slide tiles around your temples, or to even screw around with your opponent’s temple like the world’s least wanted interior designer. When you pull off a game changing move with one of these abilities, it creates such satisfying moments of feeling like you outwit your opponent…until they do the same thing to you, of course.

Naga Raja is such a cool, unique blend of different mechanisms that create a great back and forth battle of tactics and luck for two players. Partnered with some really great art by the always fantastic Vincent Dutrait, and you have yourself an easy top 100 pick for me.

*

Three down, seven to go! Thanks for reading and come back in another week or so to see what makes the list in the 70-61 section!

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