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: January 10, 2022.
I first begun taking notes for this article in November 2019.

Hansa Teutonica

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

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

My newest game and current favorite. 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. Each time I play it so far I learned something new about the game. And each time we played so far the winner won using a new way.

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.

Only played using the original map with 3 players so far. Looking forward to play with 4-5 players and also testing the other maps.

Race to Chicago (prototype)

I created it in November 2021 and I am currently 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.
More info about the game: racetochicago.com

The Space War

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

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:

Dominion

Amount of plays: 100+ as a 3-6 player game
My rating: 9/10
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. Hard to master.

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.

Terraforming Mars

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

Currently ranked #4 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:

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.

Tikal

Amount of plays: 15+ 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 is the queen of Ticket to Ride).

The Castles of Burgundy

Amount of plays: 5+
My rating: 8/10
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 get done good combinations.

No house rules yet.

Bärenpark

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 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.

Agricola

Amount of plays: 5+
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. With the Agricola: Farmers of The Moor expansion all those occupation cards are not used and it seems like a wonderful game for us - however I have yet been able to get hold of that expansion, yet.

Karuba

Amount of plays: 10+ 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).

Carcassone

Amount of plays: 10+
Links: BGG

Nice family game, fitting good with kids. 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.

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: 4+
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.

House rules:

Catan

Amount of plays: 20+
Links: BGG

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.

We always 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.

My version of Canasta

Amount of plays: 15+ with 2-3 players
Links: My article with rules for our own 2-3 player version

Canasta was created in 1939 And really has tension and excitement. You can really play in different ways using different tactics.

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.

Concordia

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.

Scythe

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.

Magic: the Gathering

Links: Wikipedia, BGG

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.

If I play this again, I would like to play the old school format.

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

DungeonQuest

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.

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.

Chess

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 excitement and communication between the players.

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 .