Happy New Year and welcome to my annual top games list. If you want to rank your games head on over to the ranking engine.

It is hard to believe that another year has already gone by and I’m here again writing about my favorite games, but I am excited about it. There are 3.5 new games (you read that right) in my top 9 - I’m pretty sure this is the biggest shift I’ve had in a long time.

Beyond the Sun

9. Beyond the Sun

The first new game to my top nine! I remember hearing Beyond the Sun described as "Tech Tree: The Board Game". Sounds kind of boring - unless you are me! I love tech trees! I'm also a fan of the "place stuff from your player board onto the main board to uncover bonuses" thing. This game makes me happy in lots of ways. I got to play this game several times this year which gave it a solid place in my top 9. And there is an expansion around the corner.

8. Scythe

Scythe dropped off this list last year (not very far) but it is back. It is hard to deny the appeal of such a well designed and beautifully illustrated game. Again, I love the player board manipulation and uncovering bonuses as you do. The action selection is simple but provides wonderful decision tension. It is hard to knock such a simple combat mechanism (set your power, maybe increase it with a card, reveal) but I do wish there was a bit more to it. That's the only thing I can come up with to complain about. I have very fond memories of this game and it still shines when it hits the table.
Dune: Imperium

7. Dune: Imperium

Dune: Imperium combines two of my favorite mechanisms: deck building and worker placement. Add in the Dune theme and you have one of my favorite games. The influence tracks capture the the factions of the Dune universe really well. The combat in the game (not your typical combat) is all about building your power and knowing when to make your move. Dune Imperium is a super fun game that does not overstay its welcome and has the right mix of mechanism and theme.
Undaunted Normandy

6. Undaunted Normandy

The second new game on my list! I remember playing Trains for the first time with high hopes. The deck building with a board aspect to it really appealed to me. Don't get me wrong, Trains was a fine game but it was just missing something. Whatever that something was, Undaunted Normandy has it! Your deck is made up of your soldiers and all of them have a name. So when one is taken out, it isn't just removing a card from your deck, it is acknowledging a "death". It hurts. The tension in what cards to add to your deck and the board play make this game stand out. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I've got a campaign going with a friend so I look forward to every play.
Star Wars Rebellion

5. Star Wars Rebellion

I'm unsure if I can say anything new about Rebellion but I'll try. Having recently watched (and loved) the show Andor I can say that Rebellion feels somewhat like that show. The Rebels always feel like they are a turn away from being blown off the map by the overwhelming force of the Empire. But the Empire, despite it's size and strength, is struggling to figure out where the Rebels are and who they are. Both sides feel this tension. The galaxy is too big for the Empire and yet too small for the Rebels. I have never played a game of Star Wars Rebellion that didn't end in a nail-biter. I love Star Wars Rebellion and will play it anytime. Anytime I have the time, that is. It is a long game. Also, if they ever made a game about Andor (or expanded Rebellion with it somehow) I'd play that.

4. Skymines

Skymines is the re-implementation of Mombasa - a game that has been on this list before. So, while Skymines is technically new to my list, it is really just replacing Mombasa for me. The main reason should be evident from the rest of my list - I just tend to like science fiction and fantasy themed board games. Skymines also adds a second board to play on that alters some of the board play. You can play on the moon which is like original Mombasa or you can play in the asteroid belt which introduces another building type that can be built on the board. Skymines is a game that combines may different mechanisms in interesting ways that always keep me engaged. Yes! More Skymines (or Mombasa) please.

3. Shogun

Shogun consistently shows up in my top 3 for good reason: I like war games. But war games often fall into the trap of making their combat too convoluted or take up too much time. This usually results in two players being very engaged in what is happening while the other players checkout until combat is resolved. Not so in Shogun. The cube tower makes combat both quick an interesting, potentially to all players at the table. The other things it adds in is some memory to battles in the game. Maybe you lost 2 previous battles - that probably means the tower still has quite a bit of your units stuck in it that eventually will come out for you. I also really enjoy the action planning system in the game. Since this is done simultaneously it helps keep the game moving. I love this game and I will keep loving it.
Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion

2. Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion

I had been looking for the next campaign game to play with my oldest two children and I found Jaws of the Lion on sale for around $20. That is the best $20 I have spent on a game in my memory. I was a bit worried that the game would be too complicated to hold their attention (they are 10) but the way it teaches you the game slowly over the course of 5 scenarios is amazing. They got it and we were off to the Gloomhaven races. If you are looking for a way to try Gloomhaven (or Frosthaven now) without spending for the big box, get this one. It is amazing.

1. Eclipse

To round out my list this year, Eclipse is still my number 1 game. And to continue the theme of player boards in this article I'll talk about that here as well. The interplay between the actions you take and the economic cost your empire must pay is amazing. In addition, to control planets you have to put your action discs out on the board which drives up your costs. The more you control and the more you do the more it costs you. Makes perfect sense and provides great decision tension to your turns. I could go on but this isn't a review. It is my favorite game.

To create your own image like this you can either use the Top Nine Tool or rank your games with the Ranking Engine which will then allow you to create one.