*list tailored for Math 'n' Stuff customers and is subject to change upon further plays of any game(s) on or off this list
10 -- Settlers of Catan -- 3-4 (-6 with expansion) players 10+
Well it would be a disgrace to curate a top 10 list without the game that started it al for myself as well as millions of others. Frequently introduced to families as the game that redefines board games from monopoly to games which *cough* we actually enjoy playing *cough* this 20 year old staple is still one of the best games out there. If you haven't played it, Catan is a game in which players are building settlements, cities and roads to become the dominant force on the island Catan. Players select an initial location for their settlement on the intersection of resource tiles. At the start of each turn the player rolls two dice which select which resources get distributed that turn. Players collect resources through die rolls and trading with other players to build more structures to further their empire. The modular nature of the board (hexagonal pieces that are topped by numbers) allows for millions of plays that will never be the exact same and the reliance on dice as a resource distribution method ensures that beginners still have a chance at beating the most experienced player at the table. Overall this game is a classic that belongs in any serious board game collection.
9 -- Sushi Go -- 15 minutes 2-5 players 8+
This little gem of a game first made its splash with me when I opened it up and played with a fellow competitive magic player, shortly realizing that over 4 hours had passed. Sushi Go! is a 'pick-and-pass' or drafting game, in which players begin with a hand of cards, select one to keep and pass the rest to the next player who is simultaneously doing the same thing. Players continue picking and passing cards until all hands are deplete and then compare the point values of the cards they have selected that round to determine a winner. The game is mechanically simple, yet once learned introduces a very deep game of bluffing and memory in which players are forced to anticipate which cards their opponents will be taking. The art on the cards is absolutely adorable and play is fast enough that it can hold the attention of an 8 year old while still keeping those of us who like strategically complex games interested past the 10th play.
8 -- The Resistance: Avalon -- 30 minutes 5-10 players 13+
There isn't any game that I have played that results in more shouting and accusations than Resistance - and I mean that in the best way possible. Resistance (and Resistance: Avalon, the King Arthur re-theme of the original Resistance) is a social deduction game in which players in the resistance attempt to identify their compatriots and out the spies hidden in their midsts. Players are secretly dealt role cards and then the spies (or minions of evil) will secretly identify each other, leaving the remaining resistance members to decipher who their true teammates are through a series of votes. The best part of playing Resistance is the social interaction it breeds, leading to a different play experience with different groups. This one has been a staple at our table whenever we are looking for something quick to play between games or just want to cast suspicion on our friends and shout about who is really trustworthy and why.
7 -- Five Tribes -- 40-90 minutes 2-4 players 13+
I love Five Tribes because of the vast amount of options available every turn and the unique way it presents players with possibilities. In Five Tribes the board begins set up in a randomized fashion with workers already in place and players must figure out how to utilize the workers, moving them mancala style across the board redistributing them to other tiles and finally taking an action based of the color of the final worker they place and the tile they removed them from. Players weigh the options of different pathways available in an attempt to both increase their own score and deny their opponents points. The tricky part about the game is that there is never one right strategy to take, as the landscape is constantly changing with each play and the relative value of pieces changes wildly from game to game depending on context.
6 -- Code Names -- 15 minutes 2-8+ players 14+
In Codenames players break into two teams and compete to see which team can make contact with all of their agents first. Each team consists of 1 spymaster, whose job is to give one word clues about their team's agents(words) The teammates attempt to guess the words corresponding to the clue given by the spymaster in their color, while avoiding words belonging to the opposing team and the assassin word, which when guessed causes an immidiate loss for the guessing team. A great party game that can be played lightly, competitively and cooperatively stretching the players thinking to try to create the best, and guess the clues.
5 -- Splendor -- 30 minutes 2-4 players 10+
Possibly one of the best gateway games since Ticket to Ride and Catan that has been a hit at every table I have brought it too. Splendor is a shining example of a mechanically simple yet strategically deep game that can be understood in your first play yet not mastered in your tenth. In Splendor players race to 15 points, taking turns acquiring gems or spending gems to purchase resource cards which will further discount other purchases and provide the wealth needed to win the game. Player interaction is limited to a shared marketplace, giving you some control over your opponents' possibilities but preventing you from being in a position that harbors player conflict. Splendor is a great choice for family game night with varying skill levels or ages and I expect will quickly become a household classic.
4 -- Star Realms -- 20 minutes 2 players 12+
Star Realms holds the place on my top 10 list for all deck builders as it is my favorite in the genre. In a reimplementation of the deck building game Ascension star realms hones in on complexity through simplicity in a game in which players take turns playing cards to acquire resources that are used to purchase better cards, attack opponents or defend from an attack. The game is perfectly compact, quite easy to learn and simple in game mechanics while maintaining depth in available strategies. A great starter game for those who are interested in getting into deck building games as well as a fine addition to a seasoned gamer's collection.
3 -- Patchwork -- 25 minutes 2 players 8+
When I say a board game about competitive quilting I swear I'm not trying to trick you, this game is an absolute blast! It feels more like competitive Tetris with a bidding war on pieces. In Patchwork players use buttons to acquire scraps of fabric, which resemble pentagonal to sew together the most aesthetic (and valuable) quilt. The player turn order is determined by a time track, with the cost of some pieces being high in buttons and low on time, or low in buttons and high in time, giving your opponent a chance to take two, three, maybe even four turns before you take another. Due to the randomized setup the replay potential is quite high focusing mainly on sequencing and optimization with return play.
2 -- Roll for the Galaxy -- 45 minutes 2-5 players 12+
Upon first playing this game it quickly ascended my list of favorites. Roll for the Galaxy is a civilization building dice rolling game which has players assembling a tableau of planets and developments. Each turn players roll the dice in their cup and then secretly determine how they will place them as workers for the next turn, as well as always allocating one worker as phase selection. Players then simultaneously play out the turn in phase order, each performing the actions of any workers assigned to a phase that was selected by a player on that turn. Due to this method, RftG creates a subgame of bluffing and anticipation of your opponents actions to more efficiently place your own workers. The planets and developments allow for building combos and complex strategies allowing players to explore depth in the game through multiple plays. For any experienced players the expansion is a huge improvement on the base game, including a new starting die that makes for a more interesting early game. By far my favorite dice game and one of the most played games in my collection from veterans and light gamers alike.
1 -- Agricola/Caverna -- 30 minutes/player 1-5/7 players 12+
I know, I cheated... however I feel it only fair because Caverna is a implementation of Agricola. In Agricola you are a farmer starting off with a family of two in a shack and must utilize your workers one action at a time to grow your farm, all while feeding your family and making improvements. Caverna takes the same base game system and instead this time you are Dwarven farmers, allowing you to blast into a mountain as well as farm fields and animals. I love these games because the diversity and depth of strategy, with Agricola being unforgiving to those who fail to plan for future harvests and Caverna being almost a sandbox with the amount of viable strategies to accumulate points. Player interaction is non confrontational and yet still fierce, positioning yourself to take the action space you need before any opponents, while never actually fighting with your neighbors. The pieces are high quality wood and fantastic to play with despite the somewhat timely setup. Overall these two games sum up my enjoyment in the worker placement genre and blend of competition and sandbox style play.