My Five Favorite Game Boards

Moderator Level 1

                I love tableau builders. I love good card games. I love a number of tile laying games. I love games with a variable board setup. But sometimes I just want a game with a big beautiful game board in the center of the table. There is just something about a big beautiful game board that is fun for me. So, I decided to rank my five favorite game boards. This is, as are all my lists, completely subjective. I also want to make it clear that I am strictly ranking the boards. I am not ranking the rest of the game.

  1. #Scythe: This was the first “premium” game I ever bought. The thing that captivated me the most about the game when I opened it up was not the cool player characters, or the dual-layered player boards, or the lovely mechs, or the custom meeples. No! The thing that captivated me when I first opened up the box was the board. This is a big board, and somehow it manages to be extremely artistic while, at the same time, being completely clear and legible. Often times, with a beautiful board, the art can sometimes obscure essential gameplay elements. Maybe my favorite thing about this is the multitudes of easter eggs hidden within the art. If you look you can find any number of cool things hidden within the art, you can find Pacman, or Gandalf, or Nessie, or any number of other cool things.
  2. #High Frontier 4 All: This, like Scythe, is another game that melds beauty and legibility in a really astounding way. This is a board that you look at, and it makes zero sense, then, you learn the game and suddenly it is all clear. Really, the way that it plays with distance, time, and information on such a 2d space is a marvel. A notable thing about this game board is that I think that it makes a good litmus test for whether or not HF4a is a game for you or not. If you look at the board and you recoil in horror, probably not for you. If you look at it, and you find yourself fascinated, likely a game for you.
  3. #Pax Pamir (Second Edition): My first two pics are big boards with a lot of information and art. They are the crème de la crème when it comes to the melding of art and information. This game board isn’t even, technically, a board. This is a small piece of cloth with simple lines on it. There are several reasons I love this board. I love how it disappears into the theme. I have tried playing this with a cardboard map, and it just sort of somehow subtly distracts from the them. I also love the tactile nature of the board. I love the way it feels and sounds when you put a coalition block on there.
  4. #Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain: This is another big cardboard board like my first two. There are some things that are easy to nitpick about it. I think it might be a little bit hard to distinguish between some of the colors sometimes. With the multitude of wood on the board, it can be difficult sometimes to read the place names you need to be reading. The way that one track tracks everything is slightly annoying. But that being said, this is a beautiful board. I love the way the script looks. I love that they used Latin place names. I love the way the numbers on the track look. I love the way the pieces look on the board. I just like this board.
  5. #Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island: This combines a big beautiful board with variable board setup. I love the art on this one. The open books, the beast deck on the board, the way that it looks like a bit of a hand drawn map and a handwritten journal in different parts. It is just a thematic looking board with a theme that I love. I am sorry that I don't have more and better pics of this one. But, it is what I had on my phone, and I am too lazy to set it up for this opinion piece.

This list was sorta painful for me. I found myself leaving out gameboards that I thought for sure that I would include #Navajo Wars. I figured that #Imperial Struggle would probably make the list, I even thought that there is a decent chance that #Fief: France 1429 or #Root would make it. However, I am happy with my list. I like the way that I have a pretty good variety of games on this list. Every one of these games is hugely different, and none of them share a publisher, a designer, or an artist. I imagine there is probably something here for most tastes.

Anyways, drop your favorite boards in the comments below. Drop some pics, and tell us why they are your favorite.

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Moderator Level 112 months ago

Fun post idea! I generally do love games with "map" style boards, so usually boards that have some kind of spatial movement aspect to them. There are some great ones that don't have that though...

#Everdell - I mean just look at it.

And now a couple of "map" style boards:

#Western Legends

#War of the Ring: Second Edition

And now for my "Does this count?" entry: #Inis - the map tiles make up the play area, and more get added as the game progresses.

Moderator Level 112 months ago

I agree, Inis is gorgeous.....But, is it really a board??? LOL

Premium User12 months ago

I debated the same.  I decided to not consider any segmented boards but you are right, Inis is gorgeous!

Premium User12 months ago

I'm with you on 3 out of 5. :)  Pax Pamir and Robinson Crusoe don't really do much for me but I do agree with the other 3.  I am looking to buy High Frontier as something I can setup somewhere and really take my time with when I'm in that mood.  I own Scythe and Pendragon and I agree they are both beautiful games.

For my top 5 boards from games that I own:

  1. #Scythe - For all the reasons you mentioned plus it works so well in game.  2 players?  7 players?  No problem!  You are all a quick tunnel ride away from each other.  It's just well designed and beautiful.
  2. #Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars - I opened this map up and and "Ooooo coool!" escaped my mouth.  Something about it really appeals to me.  It's beautiful and functional and just tweaks something for me.
  3. #Brass: Birmingham or #Brass: Lancashire - I really enjoy the aesthetics of these boards. Plus being able to choose daytime or nighttime is cool too!
  4. #Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain - A big beautiful map with a LOT of stuff going on.  Like you I just enjoy the aesthetic.
  5. #Concordia - Sure to be controversial but I like the Concordia map style.  They are all somewhat different from each other but I enjoy them all.  

Moderator Level 112 months ago

I haven't seen Concordia in person, but, I honestly do think that the map style there looks nice.

Premium User12 months ago

Yeah, something about that style.  Power Grid gives me the same feeling but it's not quite as pleasing to me as concordia.  The lines between cities etc are a bit harsher.

Moderator Level 112 months ago

Yes, that power conduit in Power Grid definitely looks harsh.

Moderator Level 112 months ago

I don't have pics of these downloaded to my computer, but my favorite boards now in my collection (all but one of them is big), in alphabettical order, are:

#Lost Ruins of Arnak (I played for my first time this weekend) beautiful, and easy to understand once you start playing.

#Raiders of Scythia so many options, symbology helps you understand your available actions.

#Scotland Yard (my 1985 version) yeah, it might be outdated, but seeing the transit map in color does something for me.

#Scythe (I purchased it this spring) amazing for all the reasons people have shared here.

#Under Falling Skies small, simple, variable, and just perfect for the game.

Honorable mention to #Paladins of the West Kingdom, but I have another Shem Phillips/Garphill game on here.

Moderator Level 112 months ago

Scotland Yard, I think I can picture the map you are talking about. If I am picturing it right, than, yes, I agree, that is a nice board. It is a really off the wall pick, I love it.

12 months ago

Fantastic list, though I'd go with Liberty or Death as my COIN board of choice!

Premium User12 months ago

This is one I would like to grab along with #Fire in the Lake.  Just have to wait for the next P500.

Moderator Level 112 months ago

#Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection looks beautiful as well. If I would see it in person it might beat out Pendragon for me. But, I haven't seen it in person yet. 

12 months ago

Great list!

I agree with you on Scythe. It's just too awesome. Also on Robinson Crusoe. I always loved the art in that game. But then, our paths diverge. I am going to nominate #Small World, #Tokaido, #Ghost Stories and #Everdell

Moderator Level 112 months ago

It is interesting how many of us still choose scythe. That is getting to be a "older" game now, but the board is still just awesome.

Moderator Level 112 months ago

It's weird seeing Scythe described as an 'older' game-I just bought it a few months ago and love it!

Moderator Level 112 months ago

I hear ya. But, it's still a great game.

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