Has any area of culture changed as massively as board gaming has in the last ten years? In 2010, the hobby was too small to be a niche, and if you heard a reference to tabletop games in the mainstream media, it was probably mocking. Only Catan, then still called The Settlers of Catan, had any kind of audience outside of the hobby, and you couldn’t find any of these games outside of your Friendly Local Game Stores or online retailers. Now you can find a well-curated selection of Eurogames at Target and Barnes & Noble, while FLGSs and board game cafes keep popping up in more and more cities. Gen Con, the biggest annual convention for board gaming in the United States, sets new attendance records each year, while PAX expanded into tabletop conventions two years ago with the first PAX Unplugged. If you haven’t played any of these games yourself, by now, you know someone who has.
This list was compiled by me, and only me, so you are reading the opinion of one person, although in my defense, I’ve played a lot of games in the last 10 (more like 15) years. It’s as comprehensive as I can make it, but there are still some highly regarded games from this decade I haven’t played (Coimbra comes to mind), and I still have a queue at home of 2019 releases to play and review. There are also some popular titles from the time period that I didn’t like as much as the general gaming community did. This list only includes tabletop board games, not role-playing games, dexterity games, or anything else that I don’t think qualifies as a standalone board game title.
You will disagree, because that’s the nature of the thing, but I hope you’ll enjoy the list, and perhaps find a game or two you hadn’t played before.
25. Broom Service (2015)
A remake of a 2008 game called Witch’s Brew, Broom Service has a light fantasy theme on top of a midweight game that lets you pick whether you want to be brave or cowardly in your roles each round. Being brave is more powerful, but if another player later in the round chooses the same role, you get nothing; being cowardly is weaker but you will always get to use that action. You use these roles to gather potions and deliver them around the board. The second edition also included rules for two players, an improvement over the original’s limitation of three to five.
24. Welcome To… (2018)
Welcome To… is one of the first major “flip and write” games, where players flip cards from a shared deck, then each player writes something on their own scoresheet, a twist on roll-and-write games that replaces dice with cards. It’s also incredibly scalable, with the box promising it plays from 1 to 100 players (the limit is the number of scoresheets that come in the box), and already has multiple expansions via new packs of scoresheets that tweak the main rules. Players try to fill out their neighborhoods with houses matching the numbers on the upturned cards, but you have to keep your street numbers in order and by the end of the game it’s easy to find yourself unable to make any moves. It’s fast, fun, and very easy to teach.
23. Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar (2012)
I think this is the heaviest or most complex game on this list; it certainly has a lot for you to keep in mind as you play and make choices around the board. And what a board it is: It’s covered with interlocking gears that turn in each round, altering the options available to players and carrying workers to different spots. Players can place workers on the lowest available spots or pick workers back up, paying corn to do so, and then collect resources, construct buildings, visit monuments, and move up various tracks to gain points. It’s an all-in sort of game that requires your full attention but that has the kind of deep design that rewards the player who likes this sort of immersive experience.
22. Whistle Stop (2017)
I’m an unabashed fan of the Ticket to Ride games, which I think are the ultimate introductory game for parents looking to get their kids into better board games and don’t require any real gaming experience for parents or children—you can pretty much jump right in and play. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated train game, though, Whistle Stop should wet your … uh … anyway, it’s a great game that lets players build out the map by laying track tiles, then gives points for delivering goods to different points across the map as they head from east to west.
21. Gizmos (2018)
Designer Phil Walker-Harding has had some of the biggest and best hits of the last decade, with Gizmos, Cacao, Bärenpark, Imhotep, Sushi Go!, and Silver & Gold all to his credit already. Gizmos does two things exceptionally well: It’s one of the simplest, most elegant engine-building games I’ve ever seen; and the game’s main component looks like a gumball machine. You can’t put this on the table without getting others’ attention. The marbles (not edible, sorry) represent energy tokens you’ll collect to buy cards from the display, and you then use those cards to build your engine, using them to gain more marbles or make buying more cards cheaper, especially if you build in a way that lets you daisy-chain those bonuses. Engine-builders tend to be complicated or just require a long playing time, but Gizmos is fast and very accessible for non-gamers too.