As I began to narrow down my current collection to a favorite top ten, I saw a few overlapping qualities, so I’ll just preface this by saying that the following things are what I enjoy most about tabletop games:
-Unique themes, with mechanics and artwork that reflect them
-Clever twists on existing popular mechanics
-Tons of replayability
-A solo mode that isn’t simply, “Get a really high score”
-Clean, easy to follow rules and tight component design and organization
-Fun, gimmicky components and bits
So right now this is the top ten (in no particular order), with a brief comment about each:
Deus- I adore the entire card system behind this game, from the way you cycle your hand to the way the tableaus you create form chain reactions.
Imperial Settlers- Tons of fun whether you play out of the box, add expansions, or customize your decks, and it has a great solo mode.
Small World- An unreal amount of replay value, and just gloriously chaotic area control.
Troyes- Really clever dice mechanisms and theme, and another exciting solo mode.
Raiders of the North Sea- Just the right twist on work placement, must-have expansions, and, you guessed it: solo play that is worthwhile.
The Manhattan Project- So much theme, and what I consider to be a great balance between engine-building and “take that” interactions.
Five Tribes- A beautiful brain burner that modernizes the Mancala family of games.
Carcassonne- Tiles and meeples in perfect harmony. I never tire of this one, but it buckles under the weight of adding too many of its expansions.
A Feast for Odin- A monstrous amount of choice, and a fun way to add Tetris-y mechanics.
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar- You’ll never see a board game gimmick more thematic and well-implemented.