Ranking All 73 Board Games in my Parent’s Game Closet

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For all of my life, Christmas break has consisted of playing lots of board games with my family. I can trace a lot of the reasons why I’m now in the game-making business to happy memories surrounding this tradition. This year, in homage to this tradition, I took things a little too far…

On December 26th I went down to the basement to the game closet to grab another game, and a slightly insane idea struck me. What if I played every single board game in the closet? Most of my family laughed at the idea when I first presented it, but that just fueled the fire :) For the next week my family and I played at a furious pace and into many late nights. But as of yesterday at 9:45pm our mission was completed after finishing the game we saved for last, Risk. It ended up being 73 games (minus Twister and puzzles, which totally don’t count)! A big thanks to Holly, my parents, my siblings (especially Levi, Spencer, and Preston), my nephews, and some friends for helping me knock all of these out.

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Here, from worst to best is my ranking of the games. This ranking is based purely on how much I enjoyed playing the game in this sitting. Here goes!

 

73. Box of Bunco

I can’t stomach a game that is 100% luck. I talked my parents into letting me send this game to the garbage where it belongs. :)

Result: To the garbage

72. Life

See above. There a few no-brainer decisions in the game (like choosing to go to college), but otherwise it’s 100% luck. And it’s super long.

Result: My brother Spencer ended with more money than me, so he won the game of Life. Perhaps not the right lesson to teach?

71. Candy Land

100% luck. But drawing that card that takes you like 10 squares away from the finish line does feel pretty awesome.

Result: My 2-year old niece Brighton won!

70. Chutes and Ladders

100% luck. But hitting that ladder that takes you 10 squares from the finish line also feels pretty swell.

Result: My 5-year old nephew Parley won!

69. Disney Scene It

Fun idea, but the questions and clips are too easy and it takes a while to set it up and read the (unneccessarily long and complex) rules. I also talked my parents into pitching this game.

Result: Boys team won. Then to the garbage!

68. Minute to Win It

Fun idea, but after playing it the first few times the challenges get cumbersome.

Result: The other team won.

67. Pictionary

Most trivia or performance/guessing games suffer from the thoughtless mechanic of rolling a 6 sided die, answering a question/performing something, and then continuing on around the circle. I think when a lot of these older games were coming out, the creators just didn’t grasp that there could be a better way to do things. My main issue with it is that a team can guess everything right, roll all 1’s, and then lose to a team that performs half as well but rolls a bunch of 6’s. Why were so many creators of these early games so intent on sending teams around a circle with a 6-sided die? It’s maddening!

Result: My older sister Camille and I won.
66. Six Cubes/Farkle

Mostly about the luck of the dice with a few easy decisions about when to keep rolling or not.

Result: The Holly/Travis team won!

65. Brain Quest

Go in a circle and roll the dice trivia game for kids.

Result: Tie between my brother Preston and I.

64. The Game of Knowledge

Go in a circle and roll the dice trivia game for adults.

Result: Girls team wins!

63. Scrabble

I’m never been a big word-game lover. And all the Words with Friends apps make playing Scrabble even more maddening, since there are now those people who will play 2-letter words you’ve never heard of for the win and swear that they are real.

Result: Preston wins!

62. Upwords

Scrabble, but with stacking tiles. A little more interesting than Scrabble in my opinion. And less head-hurting since scoring is simpler.

Result: My brother Derek and his wife Kim beat Holly and I in a nail-biter.

61. Cirkis

Like Blockus, but a little more random-feeling and messy.

Result: Preston wins.

60. Operation

Classic! I was sad to discover that it’s pretty easy to operate on everything as an adult.

Result: I win!

59. Hisss

Fun kids game where you’re trying to complete snakes by finding the matching heads and tails.

Result: Spencer wins.

58. Warriors of the Promised Land

Another type of game that I don’t particularly enjoy are the ones that have about 100 different types of cards, each one with a different rule on it. I know that most kids who grew up with Magic the Gathering love these games, but they tend to just frustrate me. Just too much to keep track of, and a constant sinking feeling that you’re not making the smartest plays. This was one of those games!

Result: My brother Levi or Preston won – can’t remember.

57. TriBond

Another go in a circle and roll the dice type of game, but fun to think of how the 3 items connect.

Result: Everybody wins!

56. Munchkin

Too many types of cards, too many rules, too much random!

Result: Spencer wins

55. Masterpiece

Not a lot of strategy since there isn’t much to base auction bids on, but fun to feel like a rich person buying pretty artwork.

Result: I win.

54. Jots and Tittles

Go in a circle and roll the dice trivia game. This one got rated higher than others because of how absurdly impossible some of the questions were. It was funny.

Result: Girls team wins (you’ll notice that the girls seemed to win most of the trivia games. I have a very smart mother and wife and sisters).

53. Boss Monster

Another one that felt a bit too like a “100 Rules” game.

Result: One of the twins (Spencer and Preston) wins!

52. Quelf

Go in a circle and roll the dice. Some funny moments because of the randomness of the game, but not extremely enjoyable.

Result: Boys team wins!

51. In a Pickle

A creative game where you try to say how certain things fit inside other things. A little loosey-goosey, but can be fun.

Result: I win!

50. Risk

Risk is one of the greatest games ever made. But it SHOULD ONLY BE PLAYED ON COMPUTERS AND PHONES. Way too slow otherwise.

Result: Spencer and Levi couldn’t take it anymore and claimed a tie.

49. Connect 4

A step up from tic tac toe. Enjoyed this one more than I expected.

Result: I win!

48. Zooreeka

One of the best kid games I’ve seen. Simple, but fun mechanics.

Result: Preston wins!

47. Rummikub

Fun numbers/puzzle game. My issue is that most of the time it’s impossible to win until all the tiles have been drawn, so early movers have very little to no advantage.

Result: Holly wins!

46. Pit

2! 2! 2! 3! 3! 3! The chaos makes it fun.

Result: My sister Janae wins!

45. Ghost Stories

A little too many rules going on for my liking, but some cool moments of teamwork and strategy.

Result: Spencer, Preston, and I killed the Boss Ghost!

44. Smash Up

Same story- too many random moments and rules to make it super enjoyable for me.

Result: Spencer wins with a silly-good robot deck.

43. Curses

A classic, and probably the goofiest I will ever get. My little brothers are pros!

Result: Preston had like 7 curses but never lost one. He was pretty miserable by the end.

42. Stratego

I’ve always liked this compared to most 2-player games, but it sure stresses me out and I feel like there aren’t many strategies to try out.

Result: I win!

41. Sequence

Pretty simple tic-tac-toe with cards type of game, but enjoyable enough to be #41!

Result: Spencer wins!

40. Boom Boom Baloon

This game is insane. You roll a tie, and then move pins closer into a full balloon til it pops. STRESS!

Result: I lost!

39. Battleship

A classic game I enjoyed with my nephew Lincoln. He put all his boats except one in the corner. Finding that last one was maddening!

Result: I won.

38. Break the Ice/Jenga

A cool kids game where you hammer away blocks of “ice” and try not to make the guy fall. Played Jenga simultaneously for some extra thrills.

Result: I broke the ice. Holly broke the Jenga tower.

37. ImagineIf

Another go in a circle and roll the dice game, but a fun idea that brings people into it well.

Result: Spencer wins!

36. Memory (Polynesian Culture Center theme)

My memory isn’t great, so I wasn’t excited for this- but I ended up enjoying it a lot more than expected.

Result: Levi and I tied.

35. Carcassone

Solid game laying down tiles that creates cool landscapes and strategic choices. Not my favorite game, but respect.

Result: Mom won.

34. The Magic Labyrinth

A kids game where you move your pawn through a hidden maze. Really clever use of magnets and a hidden board that my nephews seemed to love.

Result: Preston won.

33. Guesstures

Quick-paced acting game. This ones higher than other games of its type because of the cool contraption it comes with that “eats” your cards if you don’t win them in time. Played it a lot growing up too, so the nostalgia factor gave it a boost.

Result: Everybody won?

32. Quirkle

All the good things about scrabble, minus the words :) Great wood components and bag.

Result: I won on a last-second Quirkle!

31. Betrayal at House on the Hill

This game is so creative and interesting and fun. One of my favorites. Buuut, it has always taken too long to set up and get the scenario cranking, and we happened to play one of the worst scenarios. Another scenario may have put it in the top 15.

Result: The good guys (me, Jason, Preston), beat the Darkness (Levi, Spencer)

30. Ligretto

Fast-paced game of putting the right cards in the right stacks. My sister Janae is infamously boss at this game.

Result: Janae wins (but I won the real race for 2nd place!)

29. Guess Who

Classic, easy, clever. Camille got lucky on the question “does your person have eyebrows” and beat me in 3 turns.

Result: Camille wins by an eyebrow.

28. Outburst

One of the more enjoyable trivia games, working with your teams to guess the list of 10 words in the category.

Result: Girls win, but it should be mentioned that two of their questions was asking for US states, so they just had to sing the states song to get them all.

27. Cranium

A move in a circle dice game, but a good-looking game with well thought-out categories and questions. It’s always more fun than I expect it will be.

Result: Girls win, of course.

26. Taboo

A fun challenge to describe a word without using the forbidden “taboo” words listed.

Result: I won?

25. Survivor

The actual boxed game of Survivor is pretty awful. Lots of dice rolling and meaningless items. BUT, my family is pretty intense so we gave each tribe 3 minutes to wander the house and make alliances and whisper fake promises to each other before voting someone out. Eventually the tribes merged until there was one final backstab (me as the recipient). Good. Times.

Result: Janae wins after staying loyal to her original alliance with Levi.

24. 7 Wonders

Great game, but it does seem to suffer from lack of re-playability. Each game feels very similar to the last. Still a fun one that I like playing at least once a year though.

Result: None of us except Preston collected the science cards and he thrashed us.

23. One Night Werewolf: Daybreak

Love how quick it plays with the app, but the expansion’s roles definitely work a lot better with the original game. Also, we only played with 4 players and it works a lot better with more. Sometimes we play the game with 2 roles each, which is pretty fun. Solid game.

Result: We played a few rounds since it’s so quick. The werewolves were caught once, and another time we managed to convince everyone that all werewolf cards had been moved to the center so we all won.

22. Wits and Wagers

Finally a trivia game that doesn’t do the whole roll a dice, answer a question format! Fun game that values your betting and guessing abilities just as much as your trivia knowledge.

Result: I win.

21. Racko

Always a favorite of mine. Simple, relaxing, low stress, but still strategic.

Result: Spencer wins.

20. Yahtzee

Classic for a reason. Easy and quick to play, exhilarating when the rolls go your way!

Result: Preston with the Yahtzee and the win.

19. Mad Gab

Most fun to be the card holder and hear people say the phrase they’re looking for over and over again without realizing it. Good times.

Result: Boys win.

18. Bang!

Fun game, but a bit flawed in that the Outlaws never have much of a chance after their initial strike against the Sheriff. Also moves a little too slow for my liking.

Result: The girls killed all the boys, then each other til Sheriff Holly remained.

17. Daytona 500

An oldie that should be played more. Great visuals of the cars racing around the tracks and great strategy of choosing which cards to bet on and how to use your cards to waste others’ moves.

Result: I think the winner was Janae’s boyfriend Andrew?

16. Scattergories

Have a small amount of time to think of unique words that start with the correct letter. Spencer was a funny judge and there were some good answers.

Result: Dad and I tied.

15. Word on the Street

The most creative and enjoyable word game of the break.

Winner: The older kids.

14. Family Feud

Just like the game show, using cards of audience answers. Great big group game that seems to get everyone excited.

Winner: The team on the far couch!

13. Blockus

One of the most surprising games of the break. Thought I’d hate it, but realized there was more strategy than I expected as the game went on. Keeps going even when you think a player will be out of options.

Result: Spencer wins.

12. Monopoly

The biggest surprise of the break. I expected this to be long and tortuous, I think partially because Monopoly gets a bad rap from a lot of people since it’s the most classic board game of all and viewed as long, boring, and overplayed. But, as a business owner I liked it. I like the deals, the timing of risks, and the luck/suspense of avoiding the nasty squares. We also made sure to play super speed so that it didn’t drag on.

Result: I win!

11. Snake Oil

Fun game where you have to try to “sell” a product to a customer based on two cards that you play. Fun, creative game. Can get a little political at times, but a good one to have in the closet.

Result: 3-way tie

10. Clue

So classic. Love the logic and calculating when to risk a guess. It has it’s flaws, in my opinion, but Clue is a great game.

Result: I win!

9. Code Names

One of my favorite games lately. When you use a word just right to get 3+ tiles knocked out, nothing feels better.

Result: My team wins.

8. Killer Bunnies

Probably the best silly and somewhat “random” game out there, since there’s just enough strategy to keep players feeling like they have some control over their destiny. I love the mechanic of trying to have the one winning carrot at the end, and destroying bunnies in every way imaginable is always a good time.

Result: We did a few rounds with a different winner each time.

7. Dominion

This game always seems more daunting than it actually is, and is actually pretty simple. Has a little bit of the “100 rules” problem, but remedies it by only having 10 types of cards in each round. A solid game that I’d like to play more of.

Result: I win.

6. Pandemic

I was in a time crunch to finish all the games and one morning I woke up before everyone else. So I simulated two players and played by myself on the hardest level. One of my guys was the Scientist and was able to sprint through most of the cures. On the final turn I had both players leave Asia to rot and cured the final disease just as the final red cube was played. For the win! I’d love to develop a co-op game that is as fun as Pandemic.

Result: I beat the board!

5. Settlers of Catan

The modern classic. Somehow it always comes down to the last turn, and nobody seems to be out of it (except Spencer who got totally trapped and had to start desperately buying development cards). This is a great game – no way around it!

Result: I won.

4. Splendor

A game I started playing recently that seems to grow on me each time. Something really fun about building up cards that can then be used to buy the more expensive ones. Found myself really enjoying this round.

Result: I won.

3. Ticket to Ride Europe

Great mechanics, and probably the prettiest game in the closet (besides Salem and Tortuga, of course, haha). I love the map, the trains, the rulebook, and especially the train cards. Fun game that everyone seems to enjoy even if they lose really bad.

Result: I won.

2. King of Tokyo

It has it’s flaws, but this game is fun and we actually splurged and played it twice in a row. Love the Yahtzee aspect of the dice rolling, and the decision to go for points or kill the other players. Also love the shifting bad-guy mechanic based on who is in Tokyo, and the cards you can buy that change up each game.

Result: I won both rounds.

1.Apples to Apples

I think Apples to Apples got over-played when it came out years ago, and people got tired of it. But when we pulled it out it was just late enough in the evening that it HIT THE SPOT. I was literally in tears laughing on several occassions, especially since years ago we had created some of our own cards that are still in the game. The one that got me the most was when I was judging “Delicious.” Someone played “Braden’s Toes” (my brother had his toenails removed for medical reasons and they are pretty gnarly). But then I revealed “Houseguests” (a card my dad had played) and just lost it. It just conjured this beautiful image of Adams Family cannibals. Apples to Apples wins!

 

Again, this ranking is based purely on how much I enjoyed playing the game in this sitting. As a game designer, I recognize that some are “designed” better than others, but sometimes a certain game is just right!

 

It was an exhausting week, but playing all these games with my family was well worth the effort! Until next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Kevin Nufer
    | Reply

    Wow, what an undertaking! I’ve played 47 of those games. I agree with most of your choices, except:
    1) never could bring myself to like Apples to Apples
    2) Yahtzee and Farkle would be swapped in my book.
    3) Betrayal is underrated here! Love the relatively simple mechanics but endless possibilities.
    4) I would have also rated Risk and Scrabble higher, except I can’t get anyone to play them with me in person (same as Robo Rally–one of my favorites!). Who you’re playing with makes a difference!

  2. Deb Chapman
    | Reply

    I had fun finding this & reading your list! I’ve played games my whole life and now play every Sunday with my grand kids. I have a game closet. Their favorites change with age. We play Sorry! a lot, only they call it Not Sorry! We played Life this week for the last time I think. You are right that it’s just too long & boring. We’ve been laughing a lot with Kids Create Absurdity lately. I’m going to share your list with the kids. They’ll get a kick out of it. I will also try some new (to me) ones you liked. Gotta keep trying to keep them off their phones playing Fortnite. !! Thanks!

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