Top Ten Heavy Games

The brain burners. The Afternoon killers. The heavy games. It started with Avalon Hill back in the 90s, and my love of all things dense, think-y, and time consuming remains strong. Mercifully the rulebooks have gotten somewhat more clear and the art a thousand times better. If I’ve got a 2 or more hours to spare and a few like minded friends, we’re headed to the shelf that holds the more complex of our collection. My faves:

Russian Railroads
I’m pretty sure every list of euros HAS to include a train game. Russian Railroads elegantly combines straightforward gameplay with multiple strategies for winning. There’s a whole lot of micro-optimization to be had, and for a game with no trains, this fulfills the spirit of of the genre without a route board your clumsiest comrade can wipe out.
Designer: Helmut Ohket, Leonhard Orgler
Publisher: Zman
Player Count: 2-4
Length: 1.5-2.0

The Gallerist
I missed an opportunity to manage an curate a gallery in real life due to a cross-country move, now I can do it on the tabletop any time I like. Fantastic theme, gorgeous board, and seemingly simple objectives (attract visitors, curate some art) combine for a rich, deeply strategic experience in what is commonly in the top three on Lacerda lists.
Designer: Vital Lacerda
Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
Player Count: 1-4
Length: 1-2.5 hours

Spirit Island
Flipping the colonism trope 180, in Spirit Island you play the guardians of an island, protecting your resources and people from the interlopers. Want to be a giant, vengeful sea turtle? Here you go. This is also one of the few co-op games that isn’t a legacy that I’ve genuinely enjoyed from play one.
Designer: R. Eric Ruess
Publisher: Greater Than Games
Player Count: 1-4
Length: 1.5 – 2 hours


Allow me to introduce you to the fun and excitement of – managing a car production factory. If you’re ever dreamed of micromanaging your workplace, this one is for you. Create the leanest, most efficient assembly line the world has ever known, and impress the board of directors. Designer: Vital Lacerda
Publisher: Stronghold
Player Count: 2-4
Length: 1.5-2.5 hours

Food Chain Magnate

Enter the cut through world of fast food. Be prepared to fight for supremacy of the land and sky in an effort to entice locals to your friendly establishments. Build a lemonade empire, or a pizza kingdom. Victory never tasted so sweet (or savory.)
Designer: Jeroen Doumen, Joris Wiersinga
Publisher: Splotter
Player Count: 2-5
Length: 2-3 hours

Terra Mystica
Are you anti-randomness? Is perfect information the perfect playing field? In that case, you need to get your mitts on a copy of Terra Mystica. Variability of set up and number of factions will ensure no two games go exactly the same. This is a ‘difficult to win, lifetime to master’ game.
Designer: Jens Drogemuller, Helge Ostertag
Publisher: Z-Man
Player Count: 2-5
Length: 1 – 2.5 hours

Brass: Birmingham
Its the age of industrialization. And things powered by beer! Build your trading empire and supply the market through the canal and railroad eras. Upgraded copies contain a set of Iron Clay’s which kicked off our resident Game Accessory Guru’s obsession.
Designer: Martin Wallace, Matt Tolman, Gavan Brown
Publisher: Roxley
Player Count: 2-4
Length: 1-2 hours

Journeys in Middle Earth
OK, I know its technically a legacy. Whose list is this? There are no wrong moves and no biding time type of turns in Journeys – those that be snoozing, be losing. Its a fantastic co-op adventure with lots of twists and turns and much more strategy than the usual IP based offering.
Designer: Nathan Hajek, Grace Holdinghaus
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Player Count: 1-5
Length: 1-2 hours

This is The Prestige the game, without it going all ‘whoa, hey guys, its just a magic show’ at the end. Turn of the century illusionists match wits to put on the best show and capture the hearts and adoration of fans. Sadly, no David Bowie as Nikola Tesla contained herein.
Designer: Richard Amann, Viktor Peter
Publisher: Mindclash Games
Player Count: 2-4
Length: 1 – 3 hours

Probably towards the lighter end of my list, but a solid economic classic. Like real commerce, there’s no catch up mechanism in this exploration of mercantilism in ancient Rome.
Designer: Mac Gerdts
Publisher: Rio Grande
Player Count: 2-5
Length: 1-2 hours