Baxter’s Top 10 Board Games for Enthusiasts

Hey hey folks!  Welcome back.  This week I’m diving into my Top 10 Board Games for Enthusiasts.  These titles all demand a little more than the average game, or scratch a particular itch that other games can’t quite reach.  While there are a wealth of compelling titles out there that deserve a place on this list, such as Nemesis and Wingspan, they have received more than their fair share of coverage in recent times.  Here then are further titles that provide deep gameplay and weighty themes!


Honorable Mentions

Pandemic Legacy Season 2 (For Epidemiology Enthusiasts)

Jokes about the current situation aside, Pandemic the board game series has found itself a broad and devoted audience, as evidenced by the multitude of spin offs, sequels and variants to the original Pandemic that have all but flooded the market in recent years.  Most popular among those variants has been the Legacy series, games that are played in a campaign style with ongoing permanent changes to the play state.  Pandemic Season 2 is a solid entry to the series, allowing players to cooperate in a race against time to prevent the spread of deadly diseases.  A theme that remains both topical and compelling to gaming enthusiasts.


Terraforming Mars (For Mars Enthusiasts)

If you’ve ever attended a board game event you’ve more than likely seen or heard of a little game called Terraforming Mars. This corporate simulator follows what I can only imagine are the further adventures of Bezos and Musk after they finally abandoned Earth altogether and set their sites upon the red planet. Researching technologies, altering the environment and progressing Mars incrementally closer to being a habitable world is a strangely addictive puzzle.  While the game is competitive, all players are working towards the shared goal of, well, it’s right there on the box I guess.  The game ends when the planet has become fit for habitation and the player with the highest VPs wins.  Terraforming Mars is a highly strategic puzzle that keeps players thinking, trying to balance out their next move against the strategies of their opponents.  


10. Star Wars Rebellion (For Star Wars Enthusiasts)

Star Wars Rebellion is the original Star Wars trilogy’s struggle in a box.  This time the action takes place in a wider scope, encompassing fleets of ships, squads of ground troops, tenuous alliances, intrigue and political maneuvering. Choosing to side with either the Empire or the Rebel Alliance, players progress from planet to planet across the galaxy far far away attempting to bolster their military might, strengthen their supply chains and bring order or freedom to the galaxy. Beyond being a great Star Wars game, Rebellion would be an excellent strategy game even without the famous science fantasy IP attached. Star Wars Rebellion is a sizeable game and will take some commitment, but the experience is well worth the effort for board game or Star Wars enthusiasts alike.


9. Dune: House Secrets (For Dune Enthusiasts)

This cooperative adventure game set in the Dune universe utilises the same system used by Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game. In Dune: House Secrets, players work through several lengthy scenarios embroiling themselves in the struggles of the desert planet, Arrakis, progressing the story based on the decisions they make, their choices will have an effect on future events.  Not only is the gameplay reliant on character interaction and cooperation, but the theme lends itself well to the political ins and outs for which the Dune universe is known.  [insert obligatory the spice must flow quote here].


8. Sleeping Gods (For Adventure Enthusiasts)

In Ryan Laukat’s Sleeping Gods, players engage in a wondrous, emotional and thought provoking journey the enigmatic seas of a far away land.  Adventure abounds and players will face not only the dangers of the deep, but also the moral choices that come with the tough decisions they’ll face over the course of their travels.  Not only do the players’ choices have immediate risks or rewards, but they can affect the narrative in ways that are difficult to predict and may not eventuate until several game sessions later.  Sleeping Gods takes the adventure board game genre in an exciting new direction and proves that games can be an effective story telling device on par with any novel or film.


7. Beyond the Sun (For Space Enthusiasts)

In Beyond the Sun, players compete with each other to progress society as it advances into the Space-Era by researching technologies, social advancements and more.  The layout and graphic design of the tech trees look like they could have been lifted from any recent sci-fi video game and the components are clean, crisp and pleasing to the eye. If you enjoy tech trees, upgrades and science fiction based gameplay, then Beyond the Sun could well be worth any enthusiast's attention.  


6. Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon (For Folklore Enthusiasts)

Journey through across the ever darkening lands of Avalon in this dark interpretation of Arthurian legend.  In Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon, players here are not the stuff of legend however, the true heroes sent to prevent the world’s plunge into darkness and decay never returned, the players are those left behind, the damaged or unstable personalities who were overlooked.  Now they are Avalon’s only hope. Featuring glorious artwork, deep storytelling and a fantastic card based combat and diplomacy system, Tainted Grail is sure to appeal to the unsung hero in all of us.


5. Gloomhaven (For Fantasy Enthusiasts)

Gloomhaven is the game that proved that even enthusiast titles can appeal to the mainstream. This multi-layered fantasy RPG epic is a beast of a game, the box alone weighing in at almost 10 kg before punching out the staggering amount of cardboard tokens. Providing a massive campaign of more than 90 scenarios Gloomhaven allows characters to fulfil individual goals before eventually being retired and opening a new box containing a new character.  This turnover of beloved characters gives Gloomhaven a deeper sense of being a living, breathing world, with favourite characters being written in and out of the plot as the narrative progresses. There’s far more to Gloomhaven than can be expressed in only a couple of paragraphs, so why not get together with your favourite group of fantasy enthusiasts and experience this wonder for yourself?


4. Everdell (For Animal Enthusiasts)

This charming tableau building game centres around various woodland creatures as they go about building their towns and adding prosperity to their simple lives.  Everdell reminds me of the adventures of Toad, Mole, Badger and all the other enchanting characters from The Wind in the Willows.  The artwork is glorious and you soon begin to immerse yourself in the lives of these denizens of the forest, seeing them progress through the seasons and carve out a life for themselves beneath the Evertree.  Eye catching, captivating and compelling are the best words this little fox can find to describe this wondrous game.  And you know what? I prefer Everdell over Wingspan…. There I said it!


3. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (For Gloomhaven Enthusiasts)

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion could  be referred to, dismissively, as Gloomhaven light, but doing so would be a disservice to both games.  Where Gloomhaven provides a fully laden 7 course banquet of adventure, battle and dungeon crawling epicness, Jaws of the Lion allows players the click and collect equivalent; the same core experience but absent of many of the overwrought production elements and fiddliness that more casual gamers tend to shy away from with Gloomhaven. For instance, gone are the modular tiles, here replaced with a ring bound scenario and map book the open pages of which become the physical board for each scenario. The same great taste in a smaller package, what’s not to like?


2. Memoir ‘44 (For Military Enthusiasts)

While not the most complex game on this list, Memoir ‘44 nonetheless fits well into the enthusiast category by merit of its theme.  WWII is a strong fit for a hex based war game.  Two clearly opposing armies, boots on the ground style combat, tanks, gunnery positions, aircraft, all the things we tend to associate with the classic war movies we grew up with.  Memoir ‘44 relies on card based play, dice rolling and careful positioning to get the most out of its 15 different scenarios.  Despite being released in the early cusp of the golden age of board gaming, Memoir ‘44 continues to be in high demand and it’s wonderful to see it being discovered by a new generation of board gamers.  While it doesn’t have flashy miniatures, or benefit from overproduced stretch goals like so many modern games, much like our grumpy grandad, Memoir ‘44 needs none of that pomp and ceremony.  Just give him a hex board, some cardboard tokens and a few dice and he’ll show you how it’s really done, son!


1. Scythe (For Strategy Enthusiasts)

Designer Jamey Stegmaier really struck a chord with gamers when his company, Stonemaier Games published Scythe.  This alternative history 4X strategy game took down all comers upon its release in 2016, going on to become a household favourite among board game enthusiasts, and with good reason. Every aspect of Scythe drips with care, quality control and passion. Set in an alternative post WWI Europe, Scythe provides a wonderful emergent narrative, pitting familiar nations against one another and sprinkling war mechs in for good measure.  Beyond the excellent strategy game underpinning its theme, Scythe owes no small measure of its appeal to the incredible artwork of Jakub Rozalski who’s haunting imagery of mist shrouded bipedal war machines instantly conveys all we need to know before lifting the lid on this epic game. Scythe is balanced, highly replayable, wonderfully strategic and extremely well produced.  If you could only choose one game from this list, Scythe would be my recommendation.

That wraps us up this week my fellow enthusiasts, but continue to check back as there are more Top 10s in the pipeline coming soon. In the meantime if you have a particular game from today’s list you enjoy, remember you can share your thoughts in the comments below or over on our Game Kings Gamers page.  Until next time, take care!

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