Kyle Hanley’s Top 100 Games of All Time (2020 Edition): 90-81

Welcome back! We’re one down, nine to go in this 2020 edition of my top 100! I’m already exhausted! Somebody help! PLEASE.

90. Spirit Island

Last year’s ranking: 55 (-35)

What I said last year

Spirit Island tasks you and your fellow players to defend an island from colonial invaders, putting you in the role of powerful, vengeful spirits who can summon the forces of nature and beyond to do their bidding. The theme is fantastic and is a wonderful middle finger aimed at all the “Let’s colonize some indigenous people!” games out there.

How the game actually plays is quite similar to Pandemic, in that players take their turns trying to manipulate the board state which is then followed by an A.I. deck wreaking havoc on everything you just accomplished. The colonists in this game even act similarly to Pandemic cubes, slowly spreading out like an uncontrollable mold, generally doing more damage the more densely located they are.  Like the disease cubes, one of your main worries is to constantly keep this  spread at bay because the moment it becomes too much to handle, it’s probably too late.

However, don’t mistake Spirit Island for just another Pandemic clone, but with more rules. There are structural similarities, but the game plays vastly differently. Rather than a rigid action system, Spirit Island is all about hand and resource management and savvy card play. Your spirit comes with its own unique set of cards and tech trees to level up, as well as supply of energy that you must dutifully manage. Throughout the game you’ll be leveling up these tech trees and spreading your own presence out on the board, which allows you to further your reach in swatting down those pesky colonists. There is even a hand building aspect to the game, with players gaining the ability to add new cards to their arsenal at certain points. One of my favorite parts is drawing and picking new cards that gel with my spirit’s playstyle. It adds a touch of ownership and customizability to it that many other cooperative games of this type lack.

Another excellent aspect of Spirit Island is that it’s a cooperative game that actually requires cooperation. A novel idea, I know, but Spirit Island does this brilliantly through a few ways. One, the game has so much going on that it’s impossible for one player to quarterback (though I’m sure some will still try). The wealth of stuff to manage requires players to say, “Okay, what can you do? I can shore up over here pretty good but there’s no way I can handle that area” and stuff like that. One of the things that’s gotten very old with Pandemic is that it’s so easy for an alpha gamer to essentially play the game by themselves thanks to perfect information and its somewhat transparent puzzle. Not so in Spirit Island. Not only does everybody have their own hand of cards to parse and manage, but there’s just so much to compute that unless you’re playing with Alan Turing, an alpha gamer is unlikely to take over.

Perhaps more importantly, spirits are designed purposely to have blind spots in their abilities. This means that spirits will HAVE to cooperate because there are things they simply can’t accomplish without another spirit around to hoist them up. Lightning’s Swift Strike, for example, is a quick, offensive powerhouse that can constantly remove colonists off the board, like a mobile bug zapper. But when it comes to actually defending the island, they’re completely helpless, resulting in the invaders doing a ton of damage of their own. On the flip side, you have Vital Strength of the Earth who is a defensive juggernaught but makes molasses look like Usain Bolt. Combine these two spirits, however, and you got yourself a dream team of abilities and powers that are able to tag each other in when they desperately need it, like Undertaker and…uhh…The Rock? Were they both around at the same time? I don’t know wrestling.

Anyway, this reliance on cooperation makes Spirit Island a constantly engaging puzzle for everyone involved and makes the game decently long run time (2-3 hours, depending on player count and experience) go by like a tropical sea breeze. I haven’t even mentioned the insane amount of content this game offers, such as the wide array of spirits, colonists with special powers and even scenarios to try. It’s a game that will keep you busy for quite some time.

What I say now

Spirit Island has the distinct honor of being the biggest drop thus far, careening a whole 35 spots down to number 90.  This is due to two and a half big reasons.

Reason 1: In general, my opinion on this style of cooperative game has cooled. These Pandemic style open information puzzles just don’t engage me like they used to, especially with the influx of fantastic limited communication cooperative games in the past few years. Spirit Island does do a better job at keeping everyone involved and removing quarterbacking than most cooperative games of this ilk, but it’s still not enough for me to want to consistently play this game.

Reason 2: This game is an absolute chore to get to the table. Its depth and complexities means there’s a great deal of fiddliness and edge cases and tiny rules to remember, meaning any time I want to play this I’m faced with the daunting task of relearning it. It’s also longer than most cooperative games, meaning I don’t have to just carve out a huge swath of time to relearn everything but also to play the damn thing.

Reason 2 and a half: Because of this game’s somewhat demanding nature, it’s a game I don’t generally want to pull out with others. This leaves its solo mode as the main option for me and even though it’s a good implementation, the solo mode leaves a lot to be desired compared to the multiplayer game. When playing solo, you play with just one spirit which means one of the biggest draws of the game (trying to combine different spirits’ powers in clever and satisfying ways) is removed. Yes, I can play two handed (where I control two spirits and act like I’m just playing a two-player game) but I get a nosebleed just thinking about how excruciating that would be on my brain.

All that being said, Spirit Island is still an amazing design packed with a buttload of content, which is a big reason why it’s still here in my top 100. It just may not be around much longer, however.

89. Cursed Court

Last year’s ranking: 66 (-23)

What I said last year

Cursed Court is a delicious concoction of bidding, deduction and bluffing. The game board represents a nine by nine grid of Medieval era characters and players will be placing plastic poker chips on various parts of the board to bet on who they think will be present in that current round. This is determined by a deck of cards that contains four copies of each character. At the start of the round, a card is dealt facedown between the player to your right and the player to your left. This means you and LeftPlayer McLeft have some information about who will be present, as well as RightPlayer O’Rightley. But, they of course have cards dealt between their other sides as well, which means they have some information you don’t know.

After this hidden information is dealt out, a card is flipped over face up for the entire table to see and bidding begins. Players then place any amount of chips they have (starting with a supply of 20) on a part of the board either representing a single character OR a specific combination of characters. You placing a wager there essentially means you think that character or combination of characters will be present by the end of the round. Places with another player’s chips can be bumped off, but the cost is double what’s already there. So, if RightPlayer O’Rightley has four chips on the King character, you can bump them off by placing eight of your chips there.

After four cards are flipped face up from the deck and everyone has placed four wagers down, all the face down cards are revealed and people score based on where they bet. If you bet on a single character, you get points based on how many copies of that character are present. If you wagered on a specific combination of characters, you get points only if every character in that combo is present. After four full rounds of this, whoever amassed the most points from the smartest wagering wins! I just hope it isn’t RightPlayer O’Rightley, they’re so smug when they win.

Cursed Court deserves so much more love. I imagine it’s generic name and artwork may have had something to do with its lack of popularity, but that needs to be remedied as soon as possible. It is such an interesting cocktail of mechanisms. You’re using deduction, making decisions based on what you know versus how other players are playing their wagers. You need to be economical with your chips, making efficient bidding another element you need to keep in mind. Twenty chips sounds like a lot, but they go fast. The bluffing is one of the more subtle pieces of Cursed Court and may not even seem apparent to new players. You can use big bids on areas you don’t think are showing up to entice someone else to bump you off, then cackle in their face when it’s revealed you were completely full of crap. Combine all of this with the incredibly tactile chips you use for wagering, and Cursed Court never fails to be a good time.

What I say now

There is a boring, simple reason for Cursed Court’s fall from 66 to 89: I simply haven’t been able to play it lately. Like Celestia and Condottiere on my previous post, Cursed Court is a game best played with 4-6. That ain’t happening in 2020. I suspect Cursed Court will find its way climbing back up when I finally get a chance to play it again.

88. Thunder and Lightning

Last year’s ranking 78 (-10)

What I said last year

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.

What I say now

Thunder and Lightning dropped 10 spots, but that’s small potatoes considering how many new games entered the list this year. I still like it roughly as much as last year, it’s just facing stiffer competition. I still have some qualms about its length since some games can be long, drawn out affairs while others are as quick and anti-climactic as a mouse’s fart. But this is still a great 2-player game that I love getting to the table.

87. Love Letter

Previous ranking : 67 (-20)

What I said last year

Love Letter is the game that many credit with kicking off the microgame craze, games that are incredibly small but manage to offer compelling, replayable experiences. In Love Letter’s case, it’s a deck of a mere 16 cards that somehow manages to be not only a game, but one that’s damn fun too.

In Love Letter, players are competing to get a love letter to the princess, which I guess was the Medieval version of sending unsolicited nudes. Everyone has a hand of just one card and on their turn they draw one from the deck and choose one of their two cards to play. The cards represent different characters in the kingdom, like the guard or the priest or the princess herself. They each have an ability when played and you’re essentially just trying to survive until the end of the round with the highest numbered card in hand. First person to win a set number of rounds wins, ostensibly because you’re the best at pestering the poor princess.

Congratulations! I’ve officially taught you the entire game! This is one part of what makes Love Letter so amazing. Its simplicity makes it so accessible and easy to pick and play. And once you are playing, it immediately gets the endorphins going. Cards are thrown on the table as players laugh and groan and cheer and as soon as one round is done, you’re ready to start the next one. It’s such an addictive, lively experience.

It’s tough to really say much more because Love Letter is such a small but pure experience. When my friends and I have spent the whole night drinking and it’s two in the morning, but we want to get just one last game in, Love Letter is often the go-to choice. This game has created so many great memories from that type of scenario and for that reason alone, I don’t see Love Letter leaving my top 100 anytime soon.

What I say now

Love Letter is one of those games that I think is simply starting to play itself out a bit. I still love playing this game and I have fun whenever I do, but it’s slipping due to the sheer number of times I’ve played it. I wouldn’t say I see it leaving the top 100 because it’s still one of my favorite wind down, end-of-the-night-after-too-many-beers-kind-of-games, but it’s getting close. Love Letter? More like Reluctant Break Up Letter, amiright??

86. Everdell

Last year’s ranking: N/A

The first ‘new to the list’ game for this 90-81 section is Everdell. Everdell is a worker placement, card driven tableau builder that I think can best be described as ‘51st State but for furries’.

In Everdell, you and your opponents are various woodland critters, building up the kingdom of Everdell through your own personal cities. What that actually means is that you will be placing workers to obtain resources which you will then spend to place cards in front of you, hoping those cards will form an engine that net you even more resources and/or end game points (giving you that aforementioned 51st State feel).

The absolute first thing you’ll notice about Everdell is its stunning art and production values. It’s a breakout performance from artist Andrew Bosley, whose gorgeous art adorns every inch of this game, creating a universe that brims with charm and personality. The components are also top shelf quality, with tactile resources, like chunky twigs and squishy berries, and a cardboard god damned tree that sits at the edge of the board. From a practical standpoint, the tree actually kinda gets in the way more than it helps but it’s a GIANT CARDBOARD GOD DAMNED TREE. I’m not going to ask questions.

These stratospheric production values help instill what is my favorite thing about Everdell: atmosphere. Aside from Viticulture, I can’t think of a Euro that does a better job of immersing you in its world and providing you an almost palpable sense of ambience. As I place my workers and collect my resources, shifting through my hands of cards to see what I should focus on, there is a feeling of warmth and serenity that bubbles up within me. I practically feel like I’m in the kingdom of Everdell itself, fraternizing with the other critters and gossiping about how the skunk is sleeping with the otter or whatever it is that forest animals do (remember: what happens in Everdell, stays in Everdell).

Everdell finds itself not quite as high as other Euros on this list mainly because of lack of multiplayer experience. The bulk of my plays have been solo, with one two-player game being my sole multiplayer session. What I have played is obviously top 100 material already but keep your eyes on Everdell next year. I could see this making a big jump up the list.

85. Old West Empresario

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Another new game to the list!This one is Old West Empresario and it is a real chocolate and peanut butter situation. It takes two awesome things-tile laying and dice drafting-and mashes them together to make the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of tableau builders. And that is as far that metaphor will go, don’t worry.

In Old West Empresario, you are building up a frontier town, building things like distilleries, saloons and graveyards (because you only did two things back then: drinking and dying). Every round, dice are rolled and placed in columns depending on their number. When it’s your turn, you take a die and then take a tile from the column to build in your town. As you build, you’re hoping to set it up so that the tiles are next to things that score them lots of end game points.

But I’m burying the lede here. Sure, you’re trying to set the tiles up in an efficient, geographic formation but that’s a mechanism you can file under “Every Tile Layer, Ever”. The real draw of Old West Empresario is that all the tiles have special powers which are activated by a certain die number. When you draft a die, you don’t have to take a tile from that column. You can instead use that die number to activate all tiles in your town that have that activation number.

This adds so much richness to the otherwise standard tile laying fare of Old West Empresario. Suddenly you’re not just looking to the end game, trying to get specific tiles next to each other for a big point payout at the finale. You’re also keeping an eye on what powers work well together and what their die numbers are. Do you place a bunch of tiles with different die numbers, so that no matter the rolls you have something to activate? Or do you load up on tiles of one or two numbers, so that when you get a die of that type you can trigger a domino fall of powers? It’s an engrossing dilemma to wrestle with and one of the reasons why I love this game.

Old West Empresario finds itself in a similar situation to Everdell. It’s in the 80s now due to having only a few plays of it, but it’s something I could see rising come next top 100. Regardless, it’s a fantastic combination of two of my favorite mechanisms and I can’t wait to get it to the table again.

84. Biblios

Last year’s ranking: 18 (-66)

What I said last year

In Biblios, you are living through everyone’s biggest power fantasy by donning the cowl of a medieval monk and trying to create the best damn library around. If that doesn’t get your pulse racing, then you’re probably a pretty normal person. But don’t worry about the theme (even though I secretly like it because I’m a weirdo). The real magic in Biblios comes from its gameplay.

Biblios is simply a set collection game at its heart but where it blossoms into a beautiful monk shaped flower is in its unique structure. The game is divided into two phases. There is a card drafting round known as the Gifting Phase where you’ll be gaining and divvying up cards, and then an auction round where you’ll be buying even more cards in an auction format.

First, the Gifting Phase. During this phase, players draw cards from the deck and must do the following: keep a card, give a card to the other players and put a card into the auction deck to be auctioned off in the following phase. The cards are either gold cards to use for the auction, cards that control the dice that mark the point values for the different colors in the game and then the cards of said colors.  The key here, however, is that players draw these cards one at a time and must decide immediately what to do with it. If you draw a high value blue card, do you keep it? What if you’re not working to collect blue? Do you willingly give it to another player, knowing it’ll greatly help them out? Or do you just stow It away in the auction deck, waiting for Future You to deal with it? Every card draw in this phase feels like a mini game of push your luck, trying to decide what to do with each card so that you don’t end up getting stuck with something crappy or giving your opponent something amazing.

The next phase is just a straightforward auction but it’s no less intense. The gold you accumulated in the Gifting Phase is used to buy the cards from the player crafted auction deck, with everyone raising their bid or bowing out to save up for the next card. Even if you made an effort to get a nice, fat stack of gold, it feels like you’re always on the precipice of being completely broke. It’s a tightrope walk of getting good value for cards you want while making sure your opponents don’t get things they need for cheap. This often results in you feeling like you’re overspending or letting your opponents get cards too easily and, like Hanamikoji, the brilliance is that your opponents are thinking the same thing.

Every turn and decision is loaded with anxiety and panic, which culminates in a climactic reveal. At the end, players reveal their hands to see how much of each color they have, which then shows which colors they’ve essentially ‘won’. Points are awarded based on what the die of that color says and whoever has the most points, wins. It’s always a surprising and thrilling revelation, a dramatic release of tension like a slingshot snapping a rock through a window after being held for twenty straight minutes.

I’ll end this by saying that even if you find the theme of monks and libraries to be empty and boring, you’d be doing a disservice to Biblios to not play it. It’s such a superbly designed game with two unique halves that somehow flow together seamlessly. Try it out, Biblios is amazing.

What I say now

That sigh of relief you just heard is from Spirit Island up above, which no longer has the honor of being the game to fall the farthest. Now it’s Biblios, which was in my top 20 last year, falling down to my bottom 20. What the hell happened, Biblios!?

Okay, it’s easy to see a huge freefall like that and be like, “Well, guess Kyle hates Biblios now” but that’s far from the truth. I still REALLY like this game. It’s still an amazing card game. My big issue with Biblios is that its luster has worn off a bit. It was one of the first card games I really loved when getting into the hobby and I think a there was a shred of nostalgia behind its high rating last year. I also just have to admit that since playing and falling in love with Biblios for the first time a couple years ago, I’ve played so many small, tense card games that I, frankly, like more than Biblios. This realization occurred some time between last year’s ranking and now, hence the dramatic plummet.

But again: Biblios is an incredible card game that I would recommend to anybody. In fact, I’d be SHOCKED if Biblios falls off the list entirely come next year. It’s still firmly a top 100 game. It just isn’t as high up, that’s all!

83. Sheriff of Nottingham

Last year’s ranking: 53 (-30)

What I said last year

In Sheriff of Nottingham, you and your opponents take turns being the titular Sheriff. When you’re the Sheriff, players hand you a bag stuffed with up to five cards, claiming a certain good, such as cheese or chicken. BUT, in pure bluffing game fashion, they may be lying. If you call them out on it and open their bag only to find they’ve been telling the truth, you pay a penalty per card. If you open it and discover they’re sneaking in contraband, such as crossbows or pepper (the law really hates pepper in this game), then THEY pay the penalty.

That’s pretty much the game! As you can see, this is far from a deep experience. But what makes Sheriff of Nottingham so much damn fun is the negotiation and the role play that blossoms from the simple mechanisms. You can bribe the Sheriff to open a bag or to not open a bag or even offer them goods if they let you go through. They can haggle right back, threatening to open unless you provide something in return. All the while, players are (hopefully) doing this in shoddy British accents, dramatically playing the parts of humble merchants or of a ruthless Sheriff.

This game was firmly in my top 25 for a while but has recently fallen because I’ve realized how much the game relies on everyone buying into the role-playing aspect. If you have everybody being goofy and doing stupid voices, this is one of the most fun games you can play. But if even half the table is playing it straight, it will sink the experience. My last playthrough of this had me being the only one acting like a dumbass and it was not nearly as pleasurable as past playthroughs. Waaay back in my 100-91 section, I talked about a game called Goodcritters and said that if everybody isn’t getting into it, the game will fall flat. The same can be said for Sheriff, unfortunately.

Ultimately though, if you think you have a group that will really buy into it and act like a bunch of assholes at the Renaissance Faire for an hour, Sheriff of Nottingham is incredible amounts of fun.

What I say now

My main critique of Sheriff of Nottingham last year-that it requires everyone to act silly and role-play a bit-still stands strong today and is the reason behind Sheriff’s slow but noticeable decline. I’m now much pickier with my plays of Sheriff and thus have not gotten it to the table in a while. When I get the chance to play this again with the right group, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sheriff starts to claw its way back up; it’s too fun a game not to. But for now, 83 will have to do!

82. Oriflamme

Last year’s ranking: N/A

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve come to realize that role selection is one of my favorite mechanisms and here’s another game to spotlight why. Oriflamme is my number 82, an under the radar game that feels like someone took the bluffing and role selection mixture found in the game Coup and added a dash of programming to it.

In Oriflamme, you and your opponents are fighting over some random throne because some random king decided to randomly die without an heir. How irresponsible of him. To win the throne, players need to cleverly activate roles while building up influence chips throughout the game. Whoever has the most influence chips, wins.

Lots of role selection games involve players simultaneously selecting their roles and then flipping them over to activate. Oriflamme manages it a bit differently. Every round, players take turns playing a role from their hand face down into a display, adding it to either end. Then, an activation phase commences in which the players go down the display and decide one of two things: do they want to flip over the role and activate it OR do they want to keep the role face down and place an influence chip on it?  Letting these chips build up is essential to winning since they are victory points but doing so means you’re not activating a potentially important role AND you’re painting a huge target on your back for somebody to attack that card and remove it, and all its influence, from the game.

These tantalizing decisions during every activation phase makes for a perpetual game of chicken between you and your opponents. You and the others around the table are constantly side eyeing each other, wondering who’s going to draw first blood. Making it even more intense are the presence of the Scheme and Ambush roles. The Scheme card allows you to reap DOUBLE influence when you activate it, meaning anybody who lets the card sit for half the game is going to get a massive return on investment. Buuut, don’t let that persuade you to attack each other blindly because there is the Ambush card. The Ambush card means that whoever attacks it loses THEIR card and the ambushed player receives a payout of 4 influence, which can be a surprisingly huge swing in this game. The mere threat of these two cards looming over the display creates a tense game of double think and bluffing, giving every choice surprising weight given the game’s brisk 15-20 minute run time.

To go even more inside baseball, you can stack your own cards on top of each other in the display, giving you more control over what activates and when. Combining this with some savvy ordering of your other cards in the display can trigger big chain reactions that create a huge knockout punch in your benefit. This injects some of that programming element I alluded to earlier, a unique feature in a role selection game. Thanks to extremely important timing, it can feel hard to pull off some of these power moves, making you feel more like Hodor than Littlefinger. This can give the game an air of frustrating chaos BUT the prospect of doing so outshines that occasional negative feeling.

All of these small, subtle elements to your decision making creates a game that is far more crunchy and cunning than it lets on. My time with Oriflamme is still relatively fresh, so I could definitely see this climbing in the ranks. For now, it is a rock solid 82.

81. Small World

Last year’s ranking: 62 (-19)

What I said last year

Small World [is a] cartoonish fantasy area control game of drafting different races and powers in an effort to wipe other players’ races off the map. It’s genocidal fun for the whole family!

The main draw of Small World is the myriad of fantasy races and goofy special powers that are combined randomly every game and then allowing players to pick which of those combos they want to play. Do you want to play as the Alchemist Trolls, a heavily defensive race that will produce extra gold every turn? Or do you take the Flying Merfolk, who can zip around wherever they want on the map, cherry picking the areas that border water and give them extra points?

This system of picking and using randomized armies brings two cool things to Small World. The first is the draft itself. When you pick your race and power combo, you have a whole column to pick from. The first combo is free and you can take it without spending precious gold. But if it’s a relatively weak combo that you want no part of (“Seafaring dwarves?? Absolutely not”), then you can pick a combination farther down the column with the caveat that you must place a gold coin on every race you skip. Then later on, if you anybody picks a combo with gold on it, hey! Free points! This is one of the first games that used this clever drafting system and we are finally starting to see other games copy it for use in their own systems (Century: Spice Road, Majesty: For the Realm and Micropolis to name a few). It creates a wonderful decision space where you’re constantly trying to figure out the value of how powerful a combo will be versus how much it’ll cost you to get to that.

The other cool aspect that this brings comes in the form of the decline mechanism. Like The Beatles or Butterfinger BBs, nothing lasts forever, and such is true for your races in Small World. As time goes on, your race is going to start to thin out more and more and you’ll have to decide when you’ll want to put them in decline. This simply means you spend a whole round taking most of those units off the board, flipping the remaining ones over to a black and white side and then getting ready to pick a new race in the next round. Timing for going into decline is absolutely crucial. Go into decline too early and you’re not being as efficient with your race’s powers. Go into decline too late, however, and you’ll end up having some very low scoring rounds since your current race is mere scraps on the board. If you time it just right, you can maximize points from your race in decline AND the new active race and that is ultimately the key to success in Small World.

What I say now

Not a huge drop for Small World, but sizable enough to do a brief double take. Unfortunately, this is another game in which it’s a fairly boring answer: I just haven’t played it in a while. Small World is best with more than 2, so being stuck in a pandemic fueled Groundhog’s Day scenario of nothing but 2 player games hasn’t helped it to get to the table. My girlfriend, the one subjected to playing games with me during this lockdown, is also not a big fan of Small World so that hurts its chances even more.

What I will say is that I DO feel the urge to play Small World. For a game I played so much in the early days of my hobby gaming, I don’t quite feel the burnout that I do with other games of that era, like Pandemic or last post’s Carcassonne. I really would love to dive back into this game’s fantasy world of wacky wanton warfare.

Until then, Small World has to be satisfied with a place in the low 80s.

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Congratulations! You’ve completed Part 2! Not so hard, was it? See you next week for 80-71!

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