Whether its reviews from the major sites like IGN or Gamespot, or aggregate sites like GameRankings or Metacritic, there are a lot of different places you can go to find a ranking of the best video games. With so many different options to view, there isn’t really any consensus as to which list is the definitive list.
Board games are certainly different in this regard. There’s only one list that matters, and it’s the list on Board Game Geek. Ranked based on a countless number of user reviews, this is as close to a definitive list of the best board games as there is on the internet. The movers and shakers on the list are hotly debated, especially since Pandemic Legacy ousted the 5-year champ Twilight Struggle from the #1 spot at the beginning of this year. How does having this centralized ranking system impact my purchase decisions?
As a newcomer first discovering the site, my immediate inclination was to research and buy the games at the top of the list. At the time, it was Twilight Struggle, a two-player card game about the Cold War. I’ve read countless stories of users who went out and bought that game just because it was at the top of the list. While I’m sure that the game won some people over, it’s not nearly as mainstream of a game as you’d expect for the overall #1 board game. It’s only supports two players, features a theme that isn’t going to have mass appeal, and it’s an intense strategy game that takes three hours to play. For many newcomers, this is a horrible place to start with the hobby, amazing as it might be for experienced gamers.
The new #1, Pandemic Legacy, stands a far better chance of appealing to newcomers. It’s a cooperative game where players work together to find the cures for four deadly diseases before they ravage mankind. Having played it, I love that game to bits. It’s a much easier sell to a wider audience, but then newcomers will have to wrap their heads around cooperative play, which may be a new concept to them. Also, they’ll have to contend with grasping the Legacy system, where the game features a finite end and where the game constantly asks you to destroy components. At the very least, the original Pandemic, which sits around #50, would be a much better place to start.
I find that understanding what you like in board games is key when it comes to tackling the top 100. All of the games that have ascended that high on a list of over 80,000 titles is going to be great in some regard. It’s more of a matter of finding the titles that suit your taste. For example, I love Star Wars, so when I played X-Wing Miniatures and Imperial Assault, those games delivered the goods. If something is in your thematic or mechanical wheel house and appears in that top 100, it’s almost certain to be a winner.
That said, a few games on that list have really surprised me. I used to always pass on Power Grid in the store because of its boring box and theme, but oh my goodness that game is phenomenal. It is a brilliant strategy game that plays like a more advanced version of Ticket to Ride, my all-time favourite. Also, Codenames was a game I purchased solely on the hype, and it’s become the go-to party game.
Board Game Geek might be the closest thing any community has to a definitive best-of list, but it’s still a subjective list with a bias from board game enthusiasts that take the time to review games on that website. With an eye on picking games on that list based on your personal taste versus their ranking, you’ll find more hits than misses. Also, don’t fixate so much on playing only games in the top 100. There are great games all over the place on the Board Game Geek rankings. Lords of Vegas is one of my all-time faves and it’s somewhere in the 300s. It’s not perfect, but in general, I prefer having Board Game Geek’s rankings than not.