Top 100 List (2020 edition) – Games 8 through 5

December 24th. Christmas Eve! Quick, run to the store and get your last stocking-stuffer items. Not this guy! My wife and I had a baby boy nine days ago, so we made sure to get the Christmas shopping done early. And it’s a good thing, because our schedules are in high disarray right now. 🙂

Nevertheless, the Top 100 show must go on as we continue talking about some of my Super-Favorite games — here in the top 10 (ranks 8 through 5 today)…

Links to prior posts:

Top 100 games lists

#8 – Dice Masters (WizKids, designed by Mike Elliott and Eric M. Lang) [#5 in 2019; #2 in 2018]

Dice Masters is one of two games to be in my Top 10 for all three years I’ve been making this list. (The other will show up tomorrow). My son and I have played a TON of Dice Masters games over the past 5 years. Some of that has been at local tournaments, but a lot of it has just been from creating our own 2-player tournaments –> how does that work? –> usually by putting together 8 or 16 themed teams (generally from Marvel sets) and running through tournament matches with those teams. That has been a blast because playing with several different teams let’s us explore the amazing variety of team types can be created. I tend to focus on passive attack teams (and hide behind a wall), while my son is great at ‘controlling’ teams –> which can make him real annoying to play against sometimes. Ha!

This year we are in the middle of our biggest tournament yet. We chose about 130ish cards from several of the newer Marvel expansions and did a lengthy draft from those cards. Then, from the cards we drafted, we created 8 teams. Then, with 8 teams on each side, we are doing a Triple-Elimination-Sixteen-Team-Tournament! We’re about a third of the way through the tournament (and yeah, his teams are doing better overall)….so we will have plenty of Dice Master’ing to do in 2021 with this outstanding dice game.

#7 – Edge of Darkness (Alderac Entertainment Group, designed by John D. Clair) [new to the list]

With game #7 on my list, we have reached my #1 of 5 AEG games on my list and my #1 of 4 John D. Clair games on the top 100 –> Edge of Darkness. Unfortunately, due to price point, I think this is a game that too few people even have on their radar, but the gameplay + production = one Mesmerizing Board Game. This is the third (I believe) game from John D. Clair to utilize the card crafting system, but this is definitely the deepest.

The scoring goals of the game include trying to Train your Agents, gaining the Allegiance of Neutral citizens to your Guild, supporting the Defense of the city, Advancing your Guild Citizens…AND…Hunting down the Monsters that threaten Aegis. These thematic scoring goals are accomplished via card drafting, card crafting (each ‘card’ starts with a citizen but then two advancements can be added over the course of the game to upgrade that citizen), worker placement via card actions, and properly managing the threat to the guilds (and the city) that come from a cool, cube tower –> now this is not an Amerigo style cube tower that is going to ‘hold’ cubes over time…every cube will fall that gets dropped, but the cube tower disperses them randomly into three different threat areas.

Now, in my opinion, all of these mechanisms combine into a really fun, thematic, and crunchy hybrid game. Now, part of what continually draws me back to this game is the huge variety of setups. There are 30+ Locations in the base game (and plenty more with expansions) and only 10 are played with each game. The 10-Location combo that gets used in game setup can dramatically change the way to ‘tackle’ the game. Money could be flowing or be really tight…defensive options could be weak or strong…you could have several Agent-intensive Locations or only a few. I love games like Edge of Darkness where the setup creates a brand new puzzle/challenge to your strategy even though the game itself does not change.

Last, the art, aesthetics, and story in the game hit my personal preference buttons just right. Whether I win or lose a game of Edge of Darkness, I am able to know that I’m going to have a great couple hours of gaming.

#6 – Tapestry (Stonemaier Games, designed by Jamey Stegmaier) [#15 in 2019]

During the late summer of 2019, I took a front seat ride on the Tapestry Hype Train. For me, the ride has been an increasingly enjoyable journey. I started liking Tapestry, and then really liking it, and now just plain loving this game. The game starts with 16 Civilizations that you could potentially play with during a game and these Civ’s help direct your initial strategy. There are plenty of small tactical decisions throughout the game, though, that can make small, snowballing impacts throughout, though.

One of the more controversial elements of this civilization-themed cubes-on-a-track game are the titular Tapestry cards. In my opinion, the problem is that players underestimate the intended strategy behind these cards –> yes, it is a stack of cards and thus random as to what you get…but the game allows you the choice to ignore those cards and leave yourself to the whims of random card draws (while focusing on other strategic elements) OR you can take advantage of opportunities to gain more Tapestry cards and give yourself plenty of options to find the right cards that can combo with your overall strategy.

Tapestry provides so many pivotal Take this or Take that moments. The opportunity cost of not taking one thing usually feels high…and yet you can’t do everything! I have managed to play Tapestry about a dozen times at this point and I feel like I’m learning and getting better with each play — the strategic depth is subtle, but so high in this game. I recently acquired Plans and Ploys, the expansion which is an excellent one –> providing more Civilizations, more Tapestry cards (including a greater variety of how to handle battle situations), and ways to get more buildings into your metropolis.

I don’t feel like I’ve hit the peak with Tapestry yet, so I expect this game to hold strong at the top of my favorite games list for awhile.

#5 – Vindication (Orange Nebula, designed by Marc Neidlinger) [#14 in 2019]

I mentioned in a previous Top 100 post that I only have 11 cooperative games in my top 100 list. I’ve talked about seven so far (#47, 48, 62, 68, 70, 91, and 97), which means that the other four are ALL in my top 4 (which I will discuss on Christmas Day, tomorrow). That means that at the five spot, my #1 competitive board game is Vindication from Orange Nebula. I don’t know if I’ve seen a “euro” style game — cube pushing, location activation, point salad options for scoring — that hides itself so well in within its Theme, Art, and Lore. I find myself really drawn into the art of the board and the world it creates, which unveils itself through several rounds of exploration.

On your quest to become Vindicated (and slough off the Scumbag title), you can discover Relics, persuade companions to join your jolly journey, fight monsters (well, convince your companions to fight monsters, ha!), and discover some of your True Characteristics. Relics increase your action potential, Monsters give you end-game scoring bonuses, and your Traits can be great for on-going bonuses.

Along with the base gameplay, Vindication features several modules (love the module system for expanding games!) that can easily be plugged-in or left out from game-to-game. You can include Pets in your game, a location to acquire more secret objectives (hee hee…me love secret objectives…to an annoying degree), create gemstones, find warp portals, and more. My #1 go-to module is the Guilds and Monuments expansion –> you get a Guild Favor token which gives you a 4th action. That 4th action really helps you feel like you can accomplish more each turn and automatically increases gameplay enjoyment (at least that has been what I’ve seen).

I feel like I have done a less-than-stellar job of explaining why Vindication is my #1 competitive game. Just now that I’m smiling ear-to-ear while thinking about this game. If you haven’t played Vindication, find someone who has a copy and befriend them quickly!! 🙂

That’s numbers 8 through 5. Let me know what your thoughts and/or feedback are for these titles. Furthermore, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @boardgamecrock1 and Retweet the Top 100 posts to earn entries into the Fantastic Factories giveaway.

See you tomorrow for the next 4.

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