While I consider myself very much an omnigamer—I’m happy playing anything from party games to 18XX—heavy-ish euro-style games continue to be some of my favorites. And here at BoardGameQuest our series of Top Ten lists is sorely missing a list of the best heavy games out there. Now I will say, “game weight” is a pretty subjective opinion, so don’t come at me in the comment about how light these are and you only play 8-12 hour games and require moderate amounts of calculus. I’m just not that smart. So here’s my take!
Top 10 Heavy Euro Games
10. Age of Steam
Let’s just jump right into the train games. Although Age of Steam is not just a game but more of a system. The goal is pretty simple, build train routes to deliver resources to the cities that demand them. Doing so increases your income, allowing you to build more tracks and stronger locomotives to… well… deliver even more goods. Have the most income at the end of the game and you win. And there are literally hundreds of maps out there that provide a variety of different experiences.
9. Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition (review)
In what is sure to be a historical miscarriage of justice, Clash of Cultures isn’t nominated in the BGQ Awards for game of the year. I did what I could. But this travesty doesn’t mean you should dismiss what is undoubtedly the best civilization-themed game to ever exist. Players must carefully manage their resources, military, and culture. Dozens of civilizations and leaders with unique abilities. A gigantic tech tree that lets you choose your path to victory and makes every game feel unique. There is nothing not to absolutely love.
8. The Gallerist
Teaching heavy games can be pretty difficult. But if the theme helps the mechanisms actually make sense it becomes much easier. The Gallerist is the go-to example of a perfect marriage of theme and mechanisms. Discover a new artist? You can commission their art and purchase it later. Already own some art? Help promote the artist, raise their popularity, and it will go up in value. There’s a lot to do, a lot to consider, and the goal is to run the best gallery and, obviously, collect the most money.
I’d be remiss to not include an 18XX game on this list. So I’m going to use Chesapeake as a stand-in for the genre as a whole. If you are familiar with 18XX, well, you probably already have your favorites and don’t need to read this anyway. If you aren’t, 18Chesapeake is undoubtedly the best place to start. And let’s get this out of the way… it really isn’t that complicated. If you can learn other games on this list you can easily learn 18XX games. But they are deep. I’m still very much a newbie compared to most 18XX fans and I learn more tricks every time I get one to the table.
6. Food Chain Magnate
Running a fast food joint is a pretty simple business. Hire some cooks, throw up a billboard, profit. Until some other person comes in selling pizza cheaper, stealing all those customers who you were expecting to serve. Be forewarned: there isn’t a meaner game on this list. You may march into my capital city in Clash of Cultures and literally take it over… but nothing hurts more than an opponent feeding the customers who were influenced by my advertising. But if you are ok with a lot of direct interaction and having to keep close tabs on what everyone is doing, Food Chain Magnate is perfect for you.
5. Great Western Trail (review)
A little bit of deckbuilding. A big ol’ rondel. Lots of cows. Clearly the formula for success. It’s hard for me to nail down exactly what I love about Great Western Trail, but it’s one of the games on this list that I get to the table most often. The main goal of crafting the best hand of cows and delivering it to Kansas City, rinse, repeat, seems like it would get pretty stale. But there are lots of small optimizations you can make along each route and many other options for scoring additional points. Never disappoints and I’m very much looking forward to the new versions coming soon.
4. Brass: Lancashire
The best Brass. You Birmingham defenders can come to yell at me in Discord. Honestly, both Brass games are good, but Lancashire is my favorite. The card-driven actions mean you have to make the best of the hand you are dealt and can’t just lock into the same strategy game over game. But there also never seems to be a “bad draw” as there are tons of options for how you can turn actions into points. The economy is incredibly tight, both with money and a limited number of actions. Loans are a must. Knowing when to try to beat your opponents in the cotton market is key. And the beautiful production from Roxley doesn’t hurt a bit either.
About five years ago I did a top 10 list of my personal favorite games and Concordia was #4. That list has changed wildly over the past half-decade but Concordia would very likely be holding onto its spot. The base game is great—built cities, gather resources, buy additional cards to increase your score, and give you additional actions. Maybe I just have a thing for games where cards in your hand determine the actions you can take. There are also a lot of different Concordia maps out there and having a variety for different player counts and to change things up a bit really helps keep it fresh. And for seasoned Concordia players out there the team variant in the Venus expansion is wonderful.
2. Pax Pamir: Second Edition
I’m not entirely sure how to describe Pax Pamir. Players take the role of Afghan leaders trying to establish influence and control in Afghanistan. And as a leader each player can align themselves with one of the factions: Afghans, British, or Russians. The game consists of a beautiful fabric board and hundreds of cards detailing historical figures and events of the time. You’ll use these cards to build a tableau, giving you new actions you can take to recruit troops, build roads, fight battles, or take out leaders from other players. The key to it all is the shifting alliances that must be made as each round of the time can score differently depending on if one faction has sufficiently surpassed the others. I don’t generally like negotiation games but the alliances here are made to be broken and it’s really built right into how the mechanisms of the game work.
1. Kanban (review)
No surprises here. Five years ago it was my #1 game. It still is. In that time we’ve got the new Kanban EV version from Eagle-Gryphon Games with art from Ian O’Toole. My love of Kanban really comes from two key mechanisms. First, is the worker placement process where each space always activates in the same order and you also continue to block the space until you move for the next round. This gives a lot of interesting decisions about when and where to go and you’ll have to be thinking a couple of turns ahead (and trying to predict where your opponents will be going). Second, is the huge variety in scoring. The bulk of the scoring comes at the meetings that take place throughout the game and exactly what will score changes every game. There is no perfect Kanban strategy as it’s all about adapting to the new goals for this particular game.