Any of these 7 games could be anywhere on this list for me, but I tried to order them in terms of what would I like to play the most if I had the right group, right play time, etc.
My thoughts on Pandemic have been fairly well expressed on this blog. If you haven't read the review on it, go take a look. I really enjoy the puzzle aspect of Pandemic. Now puzzle doesn't mean that there's only one right way to win the game, but rather that each piece gives a clue as to what's next. It's a hard co-op where the board can beat you fairly easily, yet almost every game is winnable. It's a great challenge, and a great way to see how people think and work together. You simply have to make good use of the player abilities, else you are doomed to fail. At this point, I never play without the expansion for the game because the additional powers make it more interesting, the new special event cards add variety, and the different ways to play the game add new challenges. Pandemic would be ok without the expansion, probably in the 20s for me, but with the expansion it makes #13, with potential to climb.
When I first heard about Dixit, I was skeptical at best. I'm not a very creative person when it comes to words, as you may realize from reading my articles, but the artwork intrigued me. There was so much depth to the pictures, and now so much variety due to ~250 cards. This is perhaps a better Apples to Apples because it gives players freedom, and it has a better structure for scoring points. Dixit shot up my list because of the people I played with. It's an experience game, made amazing or meh by the people who play. At school I had many well read friends who could pull references that I knew nothing about. Some people may get frustrated by that aspect, but I learned things, and eventually gained a good guessing instinct for the cards. There's a very subtle line between realization and giving away the answer to other people, because the storyteller is trying to get someone but not everyone to guess their card, but if everyone or no one gets it right, the storyteller gets no points, and everyone else scores. Dixit is a lot of fun, and if you have a group that likes Apples to Apples or storytelling, this is definitely worth a look.
#11 Forbidden Island
Here's another game that I've talked about a lot, and you'll notice the distinction between Forbidden Island and Pandemic isn't great. Simply put, I've played Forbidden Island more frequently as of late, and had better success teaching new players the game. I love the artwork and the near constant tension that everything has to be taken care of, else we could lose at any moment feeling. Seriously, the best thing I can say about this game is that unless you absolutely hate co-op games, you won't be disappointed with this as compared to the money it costs you. At worst you'll be able to give it as a gift to someone who will like it.
#10 Incan Gold
This is an intriguing press-your-luck game. The goal is to get more treasure from the temple in 5 rounds than your opponents. Now, you might think all you have to do is stay longer than them, but knowing when to stop is the key to this game. Each round, a card is turned over, revealing either treasure or a trap. A single trap acts a warning, but a duplicate triggers the trap sending everyone away empty handed. There are 5 different traps, so it's possible that nothing will spring until the sixth trap. The revealed treasure is split evenly between remaining players, with leftovers going on the card. The leftovers are given away to players when they run, so knowing when to run is a key aspect. If you stay too long you may get nothing, but if you run too soon you'll be greatly outscored by your opponents. I've had many good times with this game. Everyone seems to understand it, though silly mistakes will be made, it's short enough, ~20 minutes, to play more than once.
Not to be confused with Ratatouille, the beloved Pixar film, this game features rats in the black plague timeframe. Now, if you're skeptical of the theme, don't worry too much, the game doesn't really involve rats, just some rat tokens. The goal of Rattus is to have the most cubes on the board at the end of the game, but this is easier said than done. On your turn you can take a power card, each one has a symbol on it which will come into play later. Then you place cubes in one region equal to the number of rat tokens there. Then you move the plague piece into an adjacent region, place one or two rat tokens in adjacent regions, and finally you resolve the plague by looking at the total number of cubes in the area, comparing it with the token, then causing player powers, the majority owner or all players to lose a cube. This goes on until there are either no rat tokens left, or one player gets all 20 of their cubes on the board. It's a fun back-and-forth amongst powers, with players taking your power sometimes. You want the powers to do extra things, but the powers also cause you to lose more cubes, so it's a tough balance. If you can get past the theme, Rattus is an enjoyable strategy game with some luck mixed in.
#8 Shadows Over Camelot
Shadows is one of the earlier co-op games, but it took me awhile to get around to playing it. I personally love the theme, come on, it's Arthurian Legend. I think the knights of the round table was the first real fantasy that I enjoyed, plus the Stargate-SG1 use of things helped keep my interest in the mythos. Each player plays a knight of Camelot, or King Arthur. Every knight has a special power which helps good defeat evil, but the twist to the game is that one knight may be working against the others. It took my 45 games to finally act as the traitor, though not all of those were games where a traitor was possible. There are multiple quests that the knights have to work on together in order to succeed. Knights can purse the Holy Grail or Excalibur, fight the Black Knight, the Picts or Saxons, the treacherous Lancelot or the fearsome dragon. There are a lot of things to do, and the key to Shadows is managing what you can and can't do, letting things fail, and trying to win things at the right time. I've spent many good hours trying to figure out and then defeat the traitors to Camelot, as well as direct the knights. I've had more fun watching seemingly innocent people (MY SISTER!) play the deepest hidden traitor act, and completely bamboozle the knights. The one thing I've yet to see is King Arthur turn traitor, but I know it will happen eventually.
Just one more week to get through this list.
I apologize for the lack of other articles, but without a digital camera I'm kinda stuck on reviews. I've been writing a few, but other life events also slow things down. I'm trying to keep things going, so a big thank-you to everyone sticking with me and here's to better things ahead!