Jim Westergren
About me, my projects, SEO, Web Development and Personal Development since 2005
"If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves." - Thomas A. Edison

My Favorite Board Games and How I Play Them

Board games is one of my passions. Both as a player and now also as an aspiring game designer. And I can sometimes get obsessed in trying to improve rules of games to better suit the tastes of me and those I play with (usually my wife, son and brother-in-law). I normally play as a 3 or 4 player group and when I create a house rule it is normally to reduce game length and increase tension.

I like games that have depth, tension and that have a constant flow of interesting decisions to take without being overly complicated or taking too long to play.

These are my absolute favorite games - games I love most to play at the top.

This article is last updated: March 3, 2023.
I first begun taking notes for this article in November 2019.

The Space War Card Game

Amount of plays: 100+ as a 2 player game
My rating: 10/10
Links: TheSpaceWar.com, my article, BGG

A card game that has skill and strategy without complications. Very interesting to play and in a short play time (around 30 minutes). There are big variations from game to game and my son and I do not get bored of the game even if playing several times in a row. Created by myself with the help of my son over a period of around 3 years. Honestly one of the best games I played. Preset decks or deck building with all cards included. Can be played online in the browser but I prefer playing offline. First tournament was held in september 2021. Need to be printed and distributed.


Amount of plays: around 40 as a 2 player game
My rating: 9/10
Links: BGG

My newest game. Don't make the art fool you, this is a skill based game. Only takes around 10 minutes to play and those 10 minutes are packed with interesting decisions. Very addictive. My son keep winning over me again and again and I love it. I wrote a review of this game here on BGG.

CLESTO - The Jungle Chess Game

Amount of plays: around 100 as a 2 player game
My rating: 10/10
Links: Clesto.com

This is a game I created in 2022. It is based on a very old chineese game but with a number of rule improvements which vastly improves the game. I hired my neighbour painter to make the art.

A bit similar to Chess which I love but I like Clesto even more. It is more interesting and faster to play. Also much more easier to learn than Chess and also has deep strategy. Interesting fact: my son Alvin is the best Clesto player in the world.

In the future I want to make it possible to play online in your phone.


Amount of plays: around 5 as a 2 player game
My rating: 9/10
Links: Canastia.com

Canastia is a card game using normal poker cards that I created in 2023 and is currently in playtesting phase. It is based on Classic Canasta from 1939 but is for 2-3 players instead of 4, quicker to play, less luck, more skill and more streamlined with only about half of the rules.

Excellent thrilling strategic card game in which every action is an interesting decision. Easy to learn, hard to master. Quick to play, quick to learn.

I also play Classical Canasta online here at playok.com, and I am quite good at it. I would like to play my version Canastia online and I hope it would be possible in the future.

Magic: the Gathering

I have played Magic hundreds of times in my youth. I first played in a tournament back in 1997 or something.

I used to love the game but that was before I found other games that I like much more.

I really dislike that you have to spend thousands of dollars on cards to play in tournaments and the bad drawings of lands make you lose or win many matches. Also the fact that they keep creating new cards all the time.

The game is an inspiration for my own card game TheSpaceWar.com which of course don't have the issues I dislike with Magic.

Update in 2023:

There is something called old school in which players only use the cards that was created in the first 2 years (1993-1994). As you can imagine that is really really expensive way to play the game. But I love to look at those cards, I guess it is nostalgia. I was thrilled to see people playing old school on youtube.

In 2022 I found out that there is an old school format called 7pts Singleton which is much more budget friendly, still using the nostalgic cards I love, more balanced and more variance and strategy. And the problem with bad drawings of lands has been almost fully solved with updated rules (London Mulligan). And old school means that all those newly created cards realeased almost every month does not affect the game at all. I jumped into the game with my son and bought a bunch of cards and built decks (getting lots of envelopes in the mail with cards). We went to Madrid, me and my son, and played in their World Championship and what can I say - wow. What a community, what a blast and so much nostalgia playing with those cards that I kept all those years. And buying and playing with a few dual lands and some other cards that I never could afford when I was a kid. It is hard to explain the feeling.

Magic is about collecting and obtaining cards, building your own deck and finally playing with your deck and having a great time doing so. The effort to create a new deck that is your own unique creation, obtaining the cards, playtesting and finetuning and doing well with it in a tournament is similar to the effort needed to design and create a completely new board game.

For an even more budget and even more variance I created my own casual format Budget 100 which also has been really fun to play. But we (me and my son) mostly play 7pts singleton.

The game is not very mentally taxing as some other games that I like but still has enough strategy and variance for being very interesting. The deck building and the art and feeling of the cards is also a big deal.

Hansa Teutonica

Amount of plays: around 15 as a 3-5 player game
My rating: 9/10
Links: BGG, Video review by SU&SD

Ignore the boring name, cover and art because this is a gem.

I love this game. Tactical with many ways to win, no luck, big variation, big interaction, no hidden information, no in-game-text and only around 1 hour of playtime. For the first 5-10 times I played it I learned something new about the game and the first 5 times the winner won using a new way to win.

As with the game Tigris and Euphrates the game gets better the more you play it and the first time you play you don't enjoy it so much.

The way to win in this game is to adapt what the opponents are doing and seeing their intentions. So it is a kind of group pshychology game.

I have played this as a 3, 4 and 5 player game and it worked really great. I prefer the original maps.

Race to Chicago (prototype)

Amount of plays: around 7
My rating: 9/10
Links: racetochicago.com

I created it in November 2021 and I have been playtesting it with various groups of people. So far everyone loves it, including people that generally don't play board games. 2-5 players, 60-90 minutes with no luck factor. It has worker placement, deck building, blind auctions and a race. Uses cards but no shuffling. Stocks and money. Offers many interesting choices to the players but still manages to have easy rules. Inspired by Chicago Express, Dune: Imperium and Dominion.

Dune: Imperium

Amount of plays: 10+ as a 3 player game
My rating: 9/10
Links: BGG

A worker placement game with deck building.

I have played with the rules as written and it is an incredibly good game. However I think the game can be further improved in these areas: deck building, less swingy and a bit more player agency. Some people like tight games in which you perhaps are not able to acquire any good cards for a few rounds, have bad cards in your hand and so forth but for others (like us) it can be a feeling of frustration and sometimes not a fun or rich experience.

To improve this I have settled for these house rules that we are using with a fantastic result (with disregard to the theme and Dune universe):

Chicago Express

Amount of plays: 20+ as a 3-4 player game
My rating: 9/10
Links: BGG

Wow. Fantastic game. Simple rules to learn with good strategy in just around 1 hour.

Deep strategy. Best to play with 4 people but 3 is also good. Requires a few plays to get the hang of it.

House Rules:

Tigris and Euphrates

Amount of plays: 20+ as a 3-4 player game
My rating: 9/10
Links: BGG, Great review

This is the kind of game that you need to play around 4 times before you see how excellent and deep it is. Released in 1996 and used to rank #1 in BGG and for a good reason. Build up your kingdom in a strategic way and involve in epic battles. This is a thinking game.

Not really recommended as a family game with children as you basically need to attack and destroy another player in order to win the game. A player that gets his kingdom destroyed can have a very difficult to catch up.

No house rules needed, the rules are perfect as is.


A great game that I like a lot.

But a few negative things with this great game:

  1. Only 2 players can play.
  2. The players need to have a similar skill level for the game to be interesting.
  3. Lack of communication between the players.

Now my son has gotten really good and we can play very interesting games, so naturally I enjoy playing with him.


Amount of plays: 100+ as a 3-6 player game
My rating: 8/10
Links: BGG

A fantastic game that we have played hundreds of times. The game that really ignited our interest in board games back in 2016. My wife wins most often.

Liked a lot by guests. 3 minutes to learn, easy and fast to play.

I have 6 boxes of cards. One negative is the long setup time as there always is discussion or a lengthy selection process of which 10 cards to choose. Another negative is that more than half of the cards are boring or overly complicated and almost never used (by us).

We play this game very fast, a turn is usually over in seconds.

House rules that we normally use:

We of course also enjoy playing Dominion without any house rules, but the above mentioned way is the way we prefer to play.

I have now played this game so much that I am a bit bored of it and I feel most in our family feels the same.

Terraforming Mars

Amount of plays: 30+ as a 3-4 player game
My rating: 8/10
Links: BGG

Currently ranked #6 on the BGG list.

I love the theme of the game and I really like the game but use house rules to reduce game length by around half the time (from 4 hours to 2 hours for us in a 4 player game).

We play with the Prelude expansion which is almost kind of mandatory in my opinion.

Our house rules to reduce game length and increase what we like with the game:


Amount of plays: 20+ as a 3-4 player game
My rating: 8/10
Links: BGG

Really wonderful game. Easy to understand for new players and has skill and strategy. Great variation, nice to look at.

We don't play with the official Advanced Rules as I feel that it loses the thematic feeling of discovery and adds complications.

I made two house rules that reduces the game length and makes the volcano tile a better tile:

  1. Whenever someone plays the volcano tile that player first does 10 actions and then everybody counts and receives points. After that it is the next player's turn.
  2. Players draw their tile at the end of their turn (but keep it hidden). That way they can plan their turn in advance, reducing game length time.

Ticket to Ride: Europe

Amount of plays: 40+ as a 3-4 player game
My rating: 8/10
Links: BGG

Favorite game of my wife, she scored 150 points last time we played. My son is also really good with this game and for example regularly wins over us with 145+ points (since he was 9 years old without help).

A nice little innocent train game right? No! For me this is one of the most thrilling game I know with full blown bluffing. You need a lot of tickets to reach enough points to win but the game can end at any round and the suspense is great. A player normally places finished tickets face down on the table but a bluffer keeps some of the finished tickets in his hand and carefully plans how to place a big bunch of trains in a long route to trigger the final round when opponents feel confident and take more tickets. Anything spoken can be a bluff to fool the opponents. Carefully watch face expressions when somebody decides to take tickets to reveal who is trying to cut the game short and who is hoping for a long game.

It is a great game, but bad luck in drawing tickets can make you lose the game even if you play perfect. The game can also get boring if you play it more than once a week as I feel you do very similar things in each game you play. The only house rule we have is that it is allowed to draw new tickets at the end of the turn you have just played and then you skip your next turn. This allows the person to study and select tickets to keep while the other players can continue to play the game - thus decreasing game length time.

Update in January 2022: I now also had the chance to play the original American version and I think I like that one better - without stations it is even more thrilling and tense. It has no tunnels (those I didn't like that much) reducing the luck factor further. I bought it for my wife for christmas and she won with a 180+ score the 3 times we played so far (she really is the queen of Ticket to Ride).

The Castles of Burgundy

Amount of plays: 5+
My rating: 7/10
Links: BGG

I really like this game but it takes a bit too long to play.

I like that the game gives you several interesting options to do each turn and you feel good when you create good combinations.

No house rules yet.


Amount of plays: 10+
My rating: 8/10
Links: BGG

Excellent family game with strategy! I like it a lot and it is cute. Easy to learn.

We play with 3 random Achievements as described in the rulebook.

The game plays rather quickly and is a great little thinking game.

Kingdomino with Queendomino

Amount of plays: 20+ as a 3-4 player game
Links: BGG

Nice simple game with strategy. Good with guests and can be enjoyed directly when playing the first time.

We play these two together with the following house rules:

Race for the Galaxy

Amount of plays: 20+
My rating: 8/10
Links: BGG

Beautiful card game with a great game design, my hat off for the designer Tom Lehmann. Short time to play, nice strategy, several ways to win, cards are used in several ways.

We play with the The Gathering Storm expansion (with goals) as that was the most recommended on the BGG forums and we have not added more expansion in order to not make the game too complex.

Works excellent both as 2 player (advanced rules) and 3 player game.

Missing player interaction to make the game more fun in my opinion.

Negative: you need to play this game a number of times before you can start to enjoy it and those learning games are very mentally taxing. This is a fry-your-brain kind of game and not for relaxing. Can be played online.

Difficult to introduce to non-hardcode-gamers.


Amount of plays: 10+
My rating: 7/10
Links: BGG

Really nice game but there is a big problem for us. The cards are important to the game as without them the game is kind of boring but the cards are in english and my brother in law cannot read english. Also english is our third language so my son and wife also struggle a bit. To spend the first 30 minutes of the game explaining 42 cards (14 cards per player) is not very fun.

I finally got hold of the Agricola: Farmers of The Moor expansion so we don't need to use all those occupation cards anymore which made the game much better for us. But it takes too long time to play, especially with small children.


Amount of plays: 15+ as a 4-8 player game
My rating: 7.5/10
Links: BGG

Not really my favorite but is on the list because it is nice eye candy and super nice for guests and new board game people.

If you like this game I recommend that you buy 2 copies as I did, all content fit in one of the boxes and then you can play 8 players. All players play at the same time, there is very little downtime. You can use the back side of one of the red tiles as volcanos (info) and also one set as tiles to set aside when revealing to see what has been revealed previously (as players commonly do mistakes with the numbers).

After we figured out the best streategy, the game at least for me became a bit boring.


Amount of plays: 10+
Links: BGG

Nice family game, very suitable with children. I bit boring for me. Bought the big box but I don't recommend playing with all the expansions at the same time as it takes too long and some of the tiles are overly complicated. Nowadays we choose around half of them to include.

We played Carcassone in the real Carcassone which was nice.

House rules:

Pandemic: Iberia

Amount of plays: 10+
My rating: 8/10
Links: BGG

No other game has ever got my heart pounding with excitement as this one. You play together and help each other to try to win over this historic game. Each one has a role with unique abilities. We always play with the “Influx of Patients Challenge” as I really like the realistic theme behind it. Brutally difficult game, we lost 8 times in a row. Once we were missing a single action to win. My wife started to hate the game stating that the game was rigged to lose just before you win but the challenge to win only grew stronger within me. We finally won in a play with relatives and never played the game since then. House rule I made that we sometimes used to make the game more simple (maybe too simple?): if you research a cure then the hospitals are able to cure patients themselves provided that they have access to clean water (use 1 or 2 water tokens for each cube).

Castle Panic

Amount of plays: around 10
Links: BGG

The reason this game is on this list is because it is the only game that my 2 daughters enjoy playing. My 4 year old loves to play this game (now she is 5 and still like it).

House rule:


Amount of plays: 20+
Links: BGG

Kind of good game and perfect to play with guests as the game is easy to understand directly. The negative with this game is the luck factor because of die rolls which is not very fun - we only play this game with guests if they really want it. Now it has been some years ago we played this.

We play with the Seafarers expansion and make the biggest map that is possible. Usually we have the gold tiles as islands and some desert islands with points token and secret development cards.

We have 2 house rules we always use:

  1. It is not allowed to put the pirate so that it disturbs a player that only has the 2 starting points. This is to reduce the possibility for a player to get very behind in the beginning of the game and not be able to catch up.
  2. You can only trade in your own turn and you can only do it by announcing a single offer. The first player that says yes gets to do the trade. You are not allowed to revise your offer. Next turn you can make another or the same offer again. This house rule adds a new interesting twist to the game and reduces game length by around 30 minutes.

We have also one house rule we sometimes use to spice things up and put more excitement but it will increase game length greatly:

Stone Age

Amount of plays: 20+
Links: BGG

Good game and liked by guests.

But it gets boring after 10 plays or so. Also bad luck with dice can affect you a bit badly, but is kind of ok in this kind of game.

No house rules developed yet.

Legends of Andor

Amount of plays: 3
Links: BGG

This is not a dungeon crawler but more a puzzle game like Pandemic. In my opinion Legends of Andor is like a cross between Pandemic and Talisman in a beautiful way both aesthetically and mechanically. Less puzzle/strategy than Pandemic and less luck than Talisman. Nice adventure game but lacking some strategy for my taste.

Too few plays to have more opinion than that.


Amount of plays: 10+
Links: BGG

This game was fantastic in the beginning but after playing it a number of times I felt that it did not have enough variation and it got boring. It's been a few years since I played it the last time. I want to try it again.


Amount of plays: 5+
Links: BGG

Nice game and fantastic art but it really takes too long to play and so we almost never played it. Difficult to find a good house rule that would decrease the game length time. Also feels a bit like a point salad. I purchased the big map and look forward to playing it again.


Amount of plays: 3 I think
Links: BGG

Enter the dungeon and try to steal from the dragon. Get out alive ... but you will probably die.

This is not really a game you play to win as there is very little player agency. But it can anyway be fun with the right players and the right mood. You play for the story that unfolds and probably some laughs.

House Rules still under development and not finalized yet:

Monopoly Deal

Links: BGG

A quick and very simple card game that actually is quite good with guests.

To add a little more excitement I made these house rules:

  1. A player does not win directly but has to keep his win status until the start of his next turn.
  2. The card "Just Say No" is modified and can be used to deny a person to win the game for that turn.

But beware that these house rules can prolong the game a lot.

Other games I own and have played but did not make it to this list of my favorite games

Note: I have not received any review copies or other compensation from any game listed here - these are my personal opinions. I also don't use any affiliate links.

I also have other games that I did not mention, see a full list on this link.

18 Dec 2021

About the Author Jim Westergren Jim Westergren is a Swedish web entrepreneur currently living in Spain. He is happily married and has three lovely children. Some of his interests are web development, SEO and writing.
He is the Founder of DomainStats and N.nu. Read his .