My Top 50 Board Games (2021) - #30-21

My Top 50 Board Games (2021) - #30-21

Published Date
October 13, 2021

Continuing my annual countdown of my favorite board games of all time with #30-#21! Check out My Top 50 Board Games (2021) - #40-31 if you missed it.

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#30 - Mechs vs. Minions (-14)

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Total Plays: 35
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Plays in Last Year: 0
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Rank Over Time: 6 » 10 » 12 » 16 » 30

It is really a shame that Mechs vs. Minions hasn't seen any playtime in the last year, and that is likely the primary culprit in its falling in the rankings. On first look, it is a game that looks huge and "serious," but it actually is a very approachable cooperative game that simply has an over-the-top production. The escalation in programming your mech to destroy more and more minions is always good fun, and the game is arguably more fun when players take damage and start malfunctioning. It is also one of the best cooperative games for avoiding "quarterbacking" or "alpha gamers," as each player really is focusing on their own programming row. I still haven't completed all of the different scenarios since I am often playing with different and new groups, but I want to make a point to play it more this year.

#29 - Space Base (+0)

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Total Plays: 11
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Plays in Last Year: 5
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Rank Over Time: 29 » 29

Space Base is a "build your own slot-machine" kind of game, where all of the strategy comes in customizing your rewards across various probabilities. It has that great engine-building feel where you start out with humble origins, but grow your tableau to reap huge rewards by the end of the game. It also hardly has any downtime as you use the die results on every player's turn. There is something innately fun about hanging your hopes on the results of dice, and Space Base does a great job of highlighting those feelings while wrapping it in a framework that allows for more control and strategic options.

#28 - Gloomhaven (-19)

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Total Plays: 49
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Plays in Last Year: 3
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Rank Over Time: 2 » 7 » 9 » 28

Whoa, Gloomhaven dropped all the way from my top ten to number 28! The drastic shift is partly due to playing it a lot less in the last couple of years, but I think I also have just cooled a bit on it overall as some of the novelty of the experience has worn off. The puzzle presented by the tactical combat is very engaging, and it hits on a lot of what I enjoy in games, but after nearly 50 scenarios, I can't deny that there are elements of it that can feel a little "same-y." But don't equate the drop to a negative opinion; it still ranks as high as it does because I enjoy it a lot! I anticipate it will have much more modest play counts in the coming years, but maybe a little bit of space is exactly what I need to enjoy it that much more when it hits the table.

#27 - The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (NEW)

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Total Plays: 10
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Plays in Last Year: 10
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Rank Over Time: 27

The Crew has been one of the bigger hits in the modern board game industry over the past couple of years, and I am glad I had the opportunity to experience it this year. I choose to log each session as a single play, even though each hand could be considered a standalone "game," so my actual "hand" play count is probably closer to 50. The design explores a simple idea: what if a traditional trick-taking card game was cooperative? The result is brilliant in its simplicity and flexibility, and feels so fresh despite being rooted in such a classic game system. I enjoy both cooperative games and trick-taking games, so it came as no surprise that The Crew delivered and made a strong entrance onto this list.

#26 - Race for the Galaxy (-7)

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Total Plays: 311
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Plays in Last Year: 0
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Rank Over Time: 6 » 9 » 14 » 19 » 26
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Expansions: The Gathering Storm, Rebel vs. Imperium, The Brink of War

Race for the Galaxy is one of the oldest entries on my list, and if I had records dating back to around 2010, there would have been a stretch where it was my #1 game. Almost all of my plays came from playing two-player with my younger brother when we both still lived with my parents, but the few times I have played it in recent years have brought back that feeling of getting so much "game" out of just 15-20 minutes of card play. Not playing it often these day, paired with having played it so many times over such a long period, is a formula for it to naturally drop on this list. That said, the fact that it is dropping so gradually is really a testament to the impression it has made on me over 300+ plays.

Read My Full Review:

#25 - Twilight Imperium (-3)

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Total Plays: 4
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Plays in Last Year: 0
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Rank Over Time: 12 » 21 » 22 » 25

Twilight Imperium is one of the hardest games for me to rank on this list. It is a huge, full-day kind of game that can provide an epic experience for 6 players that isn't really possible with any other game I have. It has a lot of elements I really enjoy in games, but also has elements that are less in my tastes, such as having way too many game effects across all the players' components for anyone to really keep track of. I have an inner tension when it comes to scheduling a TI4 day, versus just playing a variety of other games over 8 hours. But I can't deny it fills a niche in my collection, and I have really enjoyed the sessions I've played so far. The fourth edition really streamlines some things, and for my tastes, it is superior to the third edition in almost every way. I am probably due to get this one back to the table sometime...

#24 - Marvel United (NEW)

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Total Plays: 16
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Plays in Last Year: 16
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Rank Over Time: 24

Wow has Marvel United been a shocker this year. It is a light, simple cooperative game that can play in less than a half hour, and with a popular IP that makes you wonder if the game is actually any good. It came onto my radar more with the new kickstarter for the X-Men set, and the more I researched it, the more I felt that it might fit what has been an elusive niche for me to fill: a quick and approachable cooperative game that doesn't suffer from alpha gaming and has enough depth and variety that I will still enjoy teaching and playing it hundreds of times. I went ahead and grabbed the base set to give it a try, and it exceeded my expectations. It has gone over so well with every group I've played it with, and even works great two-player with my wife, making it the first cooperative two-player game (besides Codenames: Duet) that has worked well for us. I am a sucker for variety in games, and made the decision to go nearly all-in on the Kickstarter. Many might scoff at pouring so much money into such a light game, but I have found that I care a lot more these days about getting the right games for my collection as opposed to the most cost-effective games, and I see Marvel United being a staple in my collection for years to come.

#23 - Ticket to Ride (-5)

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Total Plays: 146
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Plays in Last Year: 1
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Rank Over Time: 10 » 16 » 13 » 18 » 23

Another game that has been on my list much longer than I have data for, Ticket to Ride continues to rank highly despite being such an approachable and well-known family game. As I played it recently, I realized that Ticket to Ride is really my board game equivalent of comfort food. I have played it so many times, but it always plays out differently, and the various paths of push-your-luck are always interesting to balance. Having a few expansion maps goes a long way in keeping it fresh, and after 146 plays, I think it is fair to say that it is a game system that I probably won't ever get tired of. Maybe other gamers feel the game became obsolete as they "graduated" onto other more flashy or strategic games in the hobby (and admittedly, a lot of those kinds of games rank higher for me), but I still just love a good quick session of Ticket to Ride.

Read My Full Review:

#22 - Millennium Blades (-1)

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Total Plays: 11
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Plays in Last Year: 1
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Rank Over Time: 9 » 15 » 16 » 21 » 22
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Expansions: Set Rotation, Collusion, Sponsors, Futures, Fusion Chaos

Uniqueness is one of the biggest factors that helps a game remain in my collection. Even if a game isn't one of my favorites, if it fills a niche that I don't think other games do, I will likely hold onto it and get it to the table. Millennium Blades is one of the more unique games I own, as players get the full collectible card game experience of buying booster packs, building decks, and playing in tournaments, all in a crazy real-time game with an absurd amount of content (as I have most of the expansions). I have always liked CCG-style games that involve dueling with custom decks, dating all the way back to a middle school obsession with Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Millennium Blades has a lofty goal that feels impossible, but somehow manages to capture much of that experience in under 3 hours. Not an easy one to get to the table, but there is nothing like it.

#21- The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (-6)

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Total Plays: 224
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Plays in Last Year: 4
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Rank Over Time: 13 » 18 » 18 » 17 » 15 » 21
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Expansions: Shadows Mirkwood (1-6), Dwarrowdelf (1), Khazad-dûm, The Hobbit Saga (1-2)

Enter another game I've owned for nearly a decade that once held the title of my favorite game! Just as Millennium Blades benefits from my enjoyment of CCG-style games, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game takes that interest and combines it with my love of cooperative games and one of my favorite IPs. I have played and enjoyed both Arkham Horror: The Card Game and Marvel Champions, and I feel left in this limbo where I don't know whether I should add either to my collection, or simply keep picking up more expansions for Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. It's hard to justify owning more than one two-player, cooperative Living Card Game that is nearly guaranteed to become a money sink, but after ten years, Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has proven that those kinds of games really hold up to many plays for me.

Each year it feels like better and better games are getting pushed out of the top 20. See the next set of games in My Top 50 Board Games (2021) - #20-11!