I interrupt your horrifying 2020 to bring you a bright ray of board game sunshine: it’s my top 100 games of all time!
Last year, around the late Fall/early winter period, I shared with the public for the first time ever my top 100 board games of all time. However, that was the 2019 edition. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that a LOT can change in a year. Therefore, I think it’s fun and far more accurate to update the list year to year and this right here is the start of my 2020 list.
If you’re completely new to this, you can check out my 2019 list on my site. I obviously still have it posted, both for posterity and because there’s no way something I spent that amount of time on is getting removed. I made a little post (Yep, That Time Again, Let’s Do Another Top 100!) a week ago introducing how I’m gonna handle this year’s top 100 versus last year’s, particularly when it comes to games that I already wrote about. Check out that link above for a quick primer to see what’s in store.
With those things out of the way, let’s get into it!
Last year’s ranking: 86 (-14)
What I said last year
Monikers is a game that is based on a public domain game that has several different names: Fishbowl, The Hat Game and Celebrity are a few of the names given to the DIY versions you play with your friends, while people in the hobby will recognize Time’s Up as an officially published version of the game system….Monikers/Fishbowl/The Hat Game/Celebrity/Time’s Up is a game where two (or more) teams are trying to guess more words and phrases than the other team(s). These words and phrases are on cards that make up a unique deck for that game. On your team’s turn, a clue giver is trying to give clues to lead your team to guessing whatever is on that card. Pretty standard party game stuff, so far. But there are two unique twists that make this game as memorable and funny as it is.
The first twist is that the game is played over three rounds and each round narrows the amount of stuff the clue giver can say and give to their team in order to guess the word. First round is easy: the clue giver can say whatever they want as long as it isn’t part of the word or phrase itself. Second round is tougher: in this round, the clue giver can only give ONE word to lead their team to winning the card. Third round is madness: only charades/silent gestures can be used to get your team to guess the card.
Which of course leads me to the second twist that makes this game system so brilliant. During these three rounds, the SAME deck of cards is being used. This means players have to remember from previous rounds what words have been guessed and use that to their advantage as the clues get vaguer and more stupid as the game goes on
The end result is a hilarious game where inside jokes and callbacks run rampant. As you get deeper and deeper into the game, your brain latches onto references from previous rounds, creating a cacophony of laughter whenever they pop back up. This leads to situations like in a recent game for me, where somebody pantomiming a fire breathing dragon led to someone (correctly) shouting, “BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH.” Another saw a friend of mine running to block a door with his back, fear and panic on his face in order to get across the word “Hodor”. Perhaps my favorite of all is a very simple moment when my friend gave a serene, welcoming gesture with his hands and face which got me to correctly guess, “Richard Attenborough”.
It’s these little moments that pepper a night of Monikers that make it such a fun, hysterical experience. There’s not much else to add, so I’ll close with my favorite Monikers story. One night, I introduced it to three friends and we were playing 2 v. 2 for an hour or so. Another friend came in during the third round of a game and saw us guessing extremely specific prompts off of fairly basic charades gestures. She stood there dumbfounded, not realizing it wasn’t normal Charades, and just softly said, “how did you guys do that.”
What I say now
Yeah, Monikers is still a blast. It does, however, find itself sinking on my list, dangerously close to falling out the bottom, because of its fairly specific niche it fills. I really only play Monikers at big parties, where we have at least 6-8 willing players, and outside of that setting, I don’t find myself drawn to it. The fact that I haven’t had a social situation like that since (checks watch) mid-March due to a deadly virus raging across the planet, perhaps compounds this issue.
Still, the fun memories Monikers has provided me with and the always hilarious experiences that occur when it’s pulled out means it can feel secure here in my top 100 for at least another year.
99. Silver & Gold
Last year’s ranking: N/A
Well, that didn’t take long! Just two games in and we already have a newcomer. Welcome to the list, buddy!
Our fresh face here is Phil Walker-Harding’s Silver & Gold, a roll/flip and write that has the distinction of being my favorite in the genre. In this game, you won’t be crooning Christmas songs as the name may imply. Nope, here you’re in the role of pirates crossing off ‘X’s off treasure maps, as you do between binging rum and hanging out with Johnny Depp.
The game is essentially a deck of cards that represent these treasure maps. You start the game with two and then a separate deck reveals a polyomino shape for that turn. That shape is the shape all players must draw on one of their two maps. “Wait,” you say, your face flushed with panic, “draw on a card!? What am I, some kind of serial killer!? That’s how John Wayne Gacy started!”
Relax, friend, because one of the coolest things about Silver & Gold is that the cards are all dry erase. That means you take a marker, mark out the squares and at the end of the game, everything comes off! Your goal is to mark off all the squares on a card as quickly and efficiently as possible. As you fill in cards you place them to the side like a pirate secretary filing paperwork and then you grab a new one from an ever-changing display.
Playing these minigames of Pirate Tetris as efficiently as possible is made all the more fun by the extra small but meaningful decisions Walker-Harding has peppered along the way. Some of the squares on the maps have different icons. There’s coins and palm trees which can provide big point bonuses when filled in at the right time, as well as ‘X’s that allow you to immediately cross off another square (which can be chained together to satisfying effect). Plus, many of the cards include end game point bonuses for completing certain color cards. Trying to formulate a strategy around one of these mechanisms gives Silver & Gold a slight but noticeable extra oomph and provides a solid amount of replay value.
The biggest criticism I have of this game is that it can be a very heads down experience. Aside from occasionally having a card you wanted taken from the display and the race to gold coins, it feels like you’re just paying attention to your own maps with little room for player interaction. This is, of course, a common thread among roll and writes, a big reason why the genre often falls flat for me. Silver & Gold does what it can to mask this, but even that feels like not quite enough.
But as I’ll say quite often throughout this list, making it anywhere on this top 100 means it’s a great game, so 99 is quite impressive for Silver & Gold!
98. Brave Rats
Last year’s ranking: N/A
One thing I was surprised by when I looked through my 2019 top 100, besides how insufferable I am, is how much I apparently like role selection games. I’ve always known it to be a mechanism I liked, but I like it a LOT more than I realized. We can add another piece of evidence to the sprawling “Does Kyle REALLY like role selection??” cork board that some haggard detective is currently standing front of: my number 98 game, new to the top 100, Brave Rats.
Brave Rats is designed by Senji Kanai, designer of Love Letter, another role selection game that happened to make my top 100 last year (will it return? STAY TUNED). And when you squint at both Love Letter and Brave Rats, you can certainly see the connective tissue. In fact, I’ve often described Brave Rats as a 2-player version of Love Letter.
Like Love Letter, Brave Rats has players picking role/character cards, trying to trigger their powers and/or ensure that their character’s number is bigger than their opponents. Whereas Love Letter involved players drawing from a deck, managing a teensy tiny hand of two, Brave Rats is a 2 player only game where both players have an identical hand of 8 cards. The cards (again, like Love Letter) are different characters that are numbered and include some sort of zany special power that will obliterate any chance of your game following those pesky things called ‘rules’.
You see, at its core, Brave Rats is basically a game of War (that sounds dreadful, but keep reading). You play a card and the number on it needs to be higher than the number on your opponent’s card. If it is, you win the round! First to four rounds wins.
Okay, sounds simple, but imagine playing a game of War in which you and your opponent are crammed into a giant clothes dryer and you’re spending the game tumbling together around in a kinetic blur. That’s what Brave Rats truly is.
So, let’s say you play the ‘Assassin’, a 3, which means the lowest strength wins but your opponent played ‘The Wizard’ which cancels out your card so never mind, the ‘Wizard’ has a higher value so they still win BUT WAIT, ACTUALLY on the previous round you played the ‘General’ which provides +2 to your card in the next round so your ‘Assassin’ isn’t a 3, it’s a 5, so it’s a tie which means this round is put on hold and the cards are put to the side so that whoever wins the next round wins both that round and THIS round and this is just a small example of the nonsensical, topsy turvy fun that Brave Rats provides.
Games can even last, hilariously, less than 5 seconds. A ‘Prince’ card automatically wins the round they’re played in BUT if your opponent plays the ‘Princess’ card, they automatically win the game. I’ve played many a game with my girlfriend where I play my ‘Prince’ as my first card, thinking, ‘No way she plays her Princess THIS early, heh heh oh look she did, I just lost” and the game is over just like that. It’s moments like this and the example above that make Brave Rats such a supremely silly but memorable game that I have a blast playing over and over again.
This has been an amazing game for me the past couple months in quarantine, since it’s just me and my girlfriend playing lots of two player games. The main reason this sits at 98 and not higher is because, like a powerful blood magic spell, the whirlwind of chaos this game conjures comes at a price. Often times there’ll be edge cases as to who truly wins the round and there’s a player aid devoted to tiebreakers with a surprisingly daunting spreadsheet to resolve who wins what and when.
Despite that fiddliness, Brave Rats is an absolute delight of a microgame and one that I anticipate could climb up the more I play.
97. Majesty: For the Realm
Last year’s ranking: N/A
My number 97 comes from designer Marc Andre, who is best known for making the smash hit Splendor. While I quite like Splendor, it isn’t quite a top 100 game for me. Therefore, I find it a little disappointing that his follow up, Majesty: For the Realm, hasn’t gotten near the buzz Splendor did because I, obviously, find it to be a better game.
Like Splendor, Majesty is a gateway level engine builder perfect for rookies to the genre. Whereas Splendor had players collecting and spending poker chips to buy victory points, Majesty has you drafting cards to slot into a tableau so that they can net you exponential returns. Every player starts with a row of cards representing a village, with locations like the Mill, the Brewery and the Castle.
On your turn, you draft a card from a display, following a Small World-esque system; the first card is free and every card past that requires you to drop a meeple on everything that comes before it. You then take the card and put it in its proper location: Millers go the Mill, Brewers go to the Brewery and so on. This gives you an amount of points, the amount of which is determined by the number of cards already at that location and/or the number of cards at other places in your tableau.
The points you’re rewarded start off small, like the drizzle before a spring shower, and eventually become laughably huge, turning that drizzle into the monsoon scene from Jumanji. So many engine builders revolve around building engines that either make actions more efficient or allow you to trigger chain reactions that lead to an eventual windfall of resources or points. In Majesty, it’s far simpler. Things just snowball till you blink and suddenly you have 200 points. It’s a refreshingly elegant and satisfying way to tackle a mechanism that, I think, can sometimes transform its games into downtime filled slogs as every player needs to wait for their opponent to trigger 14 different cards that lead into each other.
These point explosions that come at you like a fireworks display’s grand finale are made all the more satisfying by the chunky point tokens you get from scoring. They aren’t quite the tactile delight that the Splendor poker chips are but they’re damn close. Obviously, this is a fairly shallow observation to make, but components can add a lot to a game and the gratifying clickety clack of these point chips elevate the already rewarding engine building that Majesty provides.
The interesting thing about Majesty is that this isn’t new to my collection or a game I just played this year for the first time. I’ve had Majesty since it released back in 2018 and it’s always been a game I’ve really liked. I just happen to rediscover my love for it this year, thanks to quarantine gaming with my girlfriend. We’ve been playing it a bunch over the past few months and it’s been a wonderful experience, like greeting an old friend you haven’t seen in a while.
Majesty certainly isn’t the deepest game and there’s a certain strategy that I think is perhaps overpowered (there is a ‘variety point bonus’ for getting all your locations filled that seems to always decide the outcome), but this is one hell of an underrated game that deserves more love.
Last year’s ranking: 83 (-13)
What I said last year
Celestia is a push your luck game in the style of Incan Gold, where you and a group are pressing forward on an increasingly dangerous path, and the crux of the game is deciding whether to stay and take guaranteed points or to stay juuust a bit longer to squeeze out a bit more. While Incan Gold has you going through a fairly generic temple setting, Celestia has you travelling on a steampunk style airship, making pit stops in a vibrant Wonderland-esque cul-de-sac of floating cities.
Celestia is played over a series of ‘journeys’, which involve moving from city to city. At each city, a new captain takes over making this either the most fair, egalitarian group of air travelers ever assembled or the most indecisive. Whoever the captain is must roll a certain number of threat dice, the number of which gradually increases throughout the journey. These threat dice might be rolled to a blank side, which reveals no threat (awesome!), or show some sort of threat icon (booo!). The threats involve things like ‘Sky Pirates’, ‘Lightning’ or ‘A Whole Shit Ton of Birds’. The captain must beat these threats by playing cards from their hand which have a matching icon. If the captain does, congratulations! Onward to the next floating city that definitely isn’t just an LSD hallucination! However, if the captain CAN’T play cards to beat the threats? Well. Hope your family took out a nice life insurance policy, because that airship is going DOWN.
The key here is that before the Captain reveals whether or not they can defeat the threats and safely fly everyone to the next city, every other player gets to decide whether to stay with their fearless leader or parachute on down to the current city tile the ship is on, grabbing a victory point card from the city. Victory points increase down the path, which entices people to stay on board but the chance of getting NO points can scare even the most stronghearted explorer. After all, you know what they say: a bird in the hand is worth two in the flaming airship wreckage.
While players decide whether or not to drop out, the Captain can say whether or not they have the cards to beat the dice. The fun part is, they can tell the truth or bend it to their advantage. This extra bit of bluffing is what makes Celestia sing, and it creates lots of table talk and negotiation as people try to figure out what to do. Every game I see alliances form, with two or three people becoming each other’s Ride or Die, always jumping ship at the same time or sticking together during even the darkest of times. It’s hilarious when one of these alliances goes deep down the journey’s path, managing to snag a high point victory card from one of the final cities as everyone else bitterly mumbles under their breath. It’s even funnier when an alliance foolishly crashes together, making one wonder if Kool Aid is one of the in flight refreshments.
Like many push your luck games, Celestia is full of laugh out loud and stand up moments. Add in the extra social dynamic of bluffing and table talk, and you have an easy top 100 entry for me.
What I say now
Celestia finds itself falling down my list. One of the biggest reason for this is Celestia’s player count. The box says 2-6, but like an insecure man stuffing the groin area of his pants with a sock, that’s way overcompensating. This game is ostensibly a 4-6 player game and that’s bad news. Not just because of *gestures to the pandemic* that, but also because Celestia faces a lot of competition in my collection at that player count. If I’m in a situation where I need a game that plays best with 4 or more, Celestia finds itself low on the list of options.
One reason for this is my main criticism against this game. It’s a criticism I swore I brought up last year but, looking back, it appears not. It’s never too late to complain, though, so let me complain! My biggest critique of Celestia is that has a very slow pace in the first half of the game. It’s a game to 50 points and I always feel like the first 25-35 points take FOREVER to get. I have a couple specific memories of playing this game for 20-25 minutes, looking at my stock of points to discover I only had, like, 12. I will admit that the last third of the game feels much quicker and more intense, with everybody suddenly within arm’s reach of the 50 point target. But getting to that final act feels like climbing up a hill made entirely of treacle.
I still obviously quite like Celestia; any game on this top 100 is a game that I really enjoy playing. When/If the pandemic ever ends and I get a chance to play this again, I could definitely see this solidifying a place on the list. For now? Let’s just say its facing a little turbulence and that there is a faint whiff of whiskey wafting from the captain’s cockpit. (It’s an airship metaphor. Like the game. Get it? Venmo me your tips)
Last year’s ranking: 97 (+2)
What I said last year
Anyone who has played The Witcher 3 will immediately recognize Condottiere as something familiar: this game is basically Gwent…In Condottiere, players are vying over control of 13th century Italy with the end goal being to either control 3 adjacent territories on the board or simply controlling 5 in all. These territories are won by playing battles, which is where the Gwent similarities start to pile up. Players are playing cards from their hands, most of which are soldiers with values attached to them. Ultimately, by the time the battle ends you want your little battle line of cards to have the highest value so that you can claim the territory with one of your cubes.
Of course, it’s not that simple. There are a handful of special cards that spice things up like Grandma’s marinara. There are drummers which double the value of your battle line, there’s a Bishop who destroys every copy of the highest valued soldier (what a cranky old man), there’s even a card that ends the battle abruptly, resulting in hilarious moments where someone wins a territory with one dude holding a crossbow in their line.
At its core, Condottiere is a tense game of hand management. You’re constantly debating whether you want to spend your best cards and really commit to winning that territory, or if you just want to retreat and save your hand for another day. In a clever rule, if you’re the only person with solider cards in your hand in between battles, the round actually ends and you have to discard your whole hand, thus meaning hoarding till everyone else is depleted won’t work. When you throw in some politicking with your friends, the game REALLY comes alive. The last game I played of this was an absolute blast, and a lot of that had to do with the constant fragile alliances being made and immediately being broken as people were selfishly trying to win each territory for themselves.
If there is a main gripe I have with this game that keeps it from being higher on the list, it’s that you can really be boned by a bad hand of cards in this game. I usually don’t mind luck of the draw, but in this game it stings a lot more for some reason. Probably because there isn’t much of a way to mitigate a bad hand and since you’re stuck with it for an entire round, it can be deflating to watch battle after battle being lost. I once drew a hand that was essentially a high school marching band, with nothing but drummers and very few soldiers and it was not fun.
Outside of this unfortunate luck of the draw, Condottiere is a fantastic card game that seems to get even better with each play.
What I say now
It’s funny that Condottiere follows Celestia on the list. Remember when I said Celestia is competing against a lot of great 4-6 games in my collection? Condottiere is one of the games I’d choose over Celestia! Well, this is awkward. Sorry, Celestia, I didn’t think you’d still be in the room.
I don’t have much to add or change to what I said last year. Everything still stands and this is one of many games I can’t WAIT to play again when game nights are safe to have again.
Last year’s ranking: N/A
My number 94 is another new game to the list, a push your luck, hand management game called Kodachi. Set in 12th century Japan, players find themselves in the roles of ninjas breaking into various estates, hoping to defeat guards and grab some loot in an effort to get the most points. Just like real 12th century Japan!
Kodachi is a push your luck game in same vein as Incan Gold or Port Royal; you’re revealing cards from a deck and hoping you don’t bust. What separates this game from those, however, is its hand management system. The cards you’re revealing in Kodachi represent guards and they have a number you must beat by playing a value from your hand. What value must you play? Ahh, that depends on how you decided to approach this round.
You see, when you turn over the first guard to start your turn, you have a choice: are you going to break into this estate using stealth or strength? If you use stealth, then to beat the guards you draw you must play a value lower than their number. If you use strength, however, then you must play a value higher than their number. This decision to either tip toe around like Solid Snake or lay waste to every living thing in your path like John Wick is a reliably tense one, forcing you to compare the first guard to the cards in your hand, trying to figure out what is the safest bet going forward.
If you ever draw a guard you can’t beat, you bust and your turn ends. If you decide to end your turn before that happens, though, you get to draft cards from the various cards you’ve drawn. You can take guard cards, which provide a treasure to represent the loot they’ve dropped, or you can spend treasure gained in this fashion to grab new cards to add to your hand/deck. This adds a subtle dash of deckbuilding to the game and helps you fashion a deck that can go in any number of ways. Perhaps you grab cards of varying values, hedging your bets so that you can be prepared for any roster of guards you face; or maybe you focus on exclusively low or high values, so you can consistently approach your turns with the same mentality; or maybe you don’t even focus on the cards that provide values and instead grab ones that reward end game points, sacrificing deck versatility in an effort to bolster your final score. For a game that isn’t primarily a deckbuilder, it’s a surprisingly robust amount of strategic choice you have in crafting your deck.
This unique combination of three mechanisms I love (push your luck, deckbuilding and hand management) makes Kodachi a veritable parfait of gaming excellence. It’s a little slower and more deliberate than most push your luck games of this time, which is perhaps a reason it finds itself in the 90s of this list rather than higher, but the more you play the more you’ll appreciate Kodachi’s expertly woven patchwork of elements. It’s a game that doesn’t get talked about too often, so definitely keep an eye out for this one.
Last year’s ranking: 76 (-17)
What I said last year
Carcassonne tasks players with building the titular city as well as its surrounding countryside, placing tiles out in a communal landscape…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.
What I say now
I express surprise in last year’s entry for Carcassonne that it was lower on the list than I expected. And here we are, a year later, and Carcassonne is even lower at 93. Turns out my suspicions of burn out last year turned out to be true. I simply don’t have the desire to pull out this game too often because of how much I played this game in my days of being a youthful, vigorous 26-27 year old.
I did get to play this a few months ago for the first time in AGES and I definitely enjoyed it, marveling at it from a design and innovation perspective. But it also didn’t fire me up like many of the games higher on my top 100 do. It’s still an excellent game, but I have a feeling this old timer may retire to a life in Florida by the next top 100.
Last year’s ranking: 80 (-12)
What I said last year
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.
What I say now
Lanterns, like Carcassonne, is another tile laying gateway game that finds itself slipping. Unlike Carcassonne, though, I actually think the slippage here isn’t due to me liking the game less, but rather it getting pushed back thanks to so many new games entering the top 100 (or returning games moving up the list). I played Lanterns about a month ago, in fact, and had a blast with it. I’d say I enjoy it just as much now as I did in 2019.
That being said, stagnation can spell doom for Lanterns’ presence on my next top 100. If more new games come onto the list, the sheer lack of space could cause Lanterns to float away without a trace.
91. Hive Mind
Last year’s ranking: 75 (-16)
What I said last year
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.
What I say now
Similar to Lanterns, my opinion on Hive Mind hasn’t really changed. I still think it’s one of the best mass market style party games in the hobby and is an essential part of anybody’s collection, gamer or non-gamer. But my love also hasn’t really increased, either. And that’s not a bad thing!
I will admit, I’m a little surprised this fell as much as it did. This is one of the few games I have been able to play remotely with friends during the pandemic. I thought those recent plays, partnered with the rare instances of solace and companionship I’ve felt over 2020 that those plays brought, would have either kept it where it was or even nudged it upwards. The fact that it didn’t makes me wonder…am I…am I a bad person?? I mean, I’m awful, just the worst, but seeing proof is always a little disarming.
Anyway, Hive Mind is still great.
That’ll do it for part one! I think this format I’ve come up with for this year is working pretty well, so I’ll stick with it for now. Come back next week for 90-81!