As we all know, Fantasy Flight Games was purchased by Asmodee last year. Well, as of April this year they are no longer a publisher, but rather a Design House within Asmodee. They will be under the Asmodee North America umbrella or something. So as a tribute to the FFG brand I thought it would be fun to run through their catalog and pick out their best games ever.
Doing this was incredibly challenging because, like them or not, FFG is a powerhouse publisher. Probably the closest thing to a new Games Workshop we will ever see. Their games are known for being lavishly produced, having dense rulebooks, and for taking place in nerd friendly genres like space and high fantasy.
Trimming this list down to ten games was almost impossible so I created a few rules. First, this is going to be Part One. It will focus only on original games that FFG designed themselves. This list will be devoid of games made by other companies that they distributed and it will not include any reprints/reworkings. Those will get their own Top Ten Lists in the following weeks.
Alright I can tell I’m losing a few of you so I’ll get on with it. Before we begin do me one last favor. Open up a new tab and have this remix of the Spock vs Kirk Pon Farr battle music play while you read the list: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImV0CapjLIU
Sound the trumpets! Bring me the Human Beatbox! Maestro…drop a beat. Now, LET US BEGIN!
10. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game (Jay Little, Corey Konieczka, Steven Kimball etc...) - Let's get this list started off right. In hindsight, the X-Wing Miniatures game was the first salvo from a cannon barrage of awesome Star Wars stuff that rained down upon nerds worldwide. Little did we know that eventually we would be smack dab in this unlikely Star Wars renaissance. X-Wing is a game that succeeds on two very different fronts. First the concept is brilliant. Setting up squadrons with well known personas from the Star Wars Universe and dog-fighting is a can't miss concept. Luckily, FFG didn't miss and the gameplay is simple and satisfying. X-Wing also works because of it's toy factor. When this is all set up on the table and you're pushing around your TIE Fighters and X-Wings it awakens this inner spark of child-like joy. It's a wonderful feeling and I'm glad that there are products out that can remind us that being a kid at heart feels pretty good. Well that and the fact that the game lets you stuff Jek Porkins into an X-Wing and run amok.
9. Star Wars: Imperial Assault (Justin Kemppainen, Corey Konieczka, Jonathan Ying) – So FFG went from the licensed game Doom, then to Descent, then Descent 2.0 and FINALLY Star Wars Imperial Assault. I'd say the journey was worth it because this is the best dungeon crawl style game that the company offers. Yes, despite being a flagship title, Descent: Journeys in the Dark did not make this list. Imperial Assault is a dungeon crawl in the Star Wars universe and it’s great. The system makes some subtle changes to Descent 2.0 and the end result is a much better experience. Plus, they added a miniatures skirmish mode which should have been a throwaway experience, but it’s surprisingly robust. The best way to play this is the short mini campaign expansions that they release. They are the perfect length and tend to be more focused. The missions feel like Star Wars, your favorite characters show up and it all looks fantastic. To quote an excited Principle Skinner, "There's Luke... And Obi-Wan! And my favorite, Chewie! They're all here!" That's EXACTLY how this game makes me feel.
8. Space Hulk: Death Angel (Corey Konieczka) – Don't look so shocked. This game EARNED its place on the list by packing in the most DREAD it possibly could into the tiniest of boxes. This card game version of Space Hulk is frightening to play! The choice to make your Blood Angels only have 1 hit point was a stroke of genius by FFG’s resident madman de jour, Corey K. You see every time a Genestealer attacks there is a roll of this cursed, bloody, red die. As that thing click-clacks, rumble n’ bumbles its way to a skittering halt across the table your blood pressure SPIKES to an unhealthy level. Death Angel is a great solo game and I’ve wasted countless nights catastrophically failing to command my Space Marines through the Genestealer infested Space Hulk. Kudos to FFG for essentially creating Pvt. Hudson: The "Game Over Man" Simulator!
7. Forbidden Stars (Samuel Bailey, James Kniffen, Corey Konieczka) – After losing the Starcraft license FFG didn’t pout or rest on their laurels. Nope. Years later they took the brilliant orders mechanic from Starcraft and bolted it onto a Warhammer 40K space conquest game. If you love games with lots of miniatures and conflict then this is one of the best that FFG offers. The previously mentioned orders mechanic has players taking turns dropping orders into delicious short stacks around the board. As each one is agonizingly revealed the game erupts with subterfuge and combat that slowly covers the galaxy like so much syrup. Then to add a cherry to this robust pancake of doom you’ve got faction specific upgrades galore. This game makes you feel like Julia Roberts shopping with Richard Gere’s credit card on Rodeo Drive. Except instead of finding a dress to go from prostitute to pretty woman, you're coupling the season's hottest heavy flame cannon with your blood encrusted power armor. Don't forget to accessorize with a skull encrusted codpiece. Who knew upgrades were so fashionable AND deadly? For a company known for grand, epic games of war this is one of their grandest and epic-iest. Sorry Runewars, dem Ork boyz stole your invitation to this fancy Top Ten ball and I’m afraid that a Chaos Marine made you grow an extra nipple. WAAAAAAGH!
6. Blood Bowl: Team Manager (Jay Little) – Of all the GW’s properties that FFG has used over the years I’d always hoped they’d do something with Blood Bowl. Ever since I feel in love with the classic SEGA Genesis game, Mutant League Football, I've been obssessed with monsters playing football. The Genesis game was clearly inspired by BB, but my 10 year old self didn't know that. Knowing I would probably never get the chance to play in a BB league this card game was my best bet. Thankfully, it abstracts playing an entire Blood Bowl season by using a successful combination of a few popular card games. The result is a rambunctious, ruckus that never gets old. If you always felt that Battle Line could have been enhanced by some cheating Chaos Goons then you're in luck. The game is easy to play, but each game feels drastically different thanks to multiple unique teams and players with differing stats/abilities. I’ve had a ton of fun with just the base game, but I think it might be time to grab those two expansions before they disappear into the ether forever.
5. Battlestar Galactica (Corey Konieczka) – There is a reason why you see the name, “Corey K” dominate this list. He demonstrated his mastery of matching mechanics and theme with one of his first big solo designs. Battlestar Galactica the board game IS BSG the TV series. The game perfectly captures the struggle, paranoia, and despair that the crew of Galactica went through in the first two seasons. The game took the hidden traitor mechanism from Shadows Over Camelot and elevated it into something truly special. For some it is arguably the king of this genre. But it’s much more than a hidden traitor game. It’s an ADVENTURE in the world of BSG. The game allows you slide into the smarmy skin of Gaius or kick Cylon Raider tail with Star Buck. Quite simply the game is the show. If FFG were to ever lose the BSG license and this simply became a generic space game I don’t believe it would ever be the same. Just look at REX to see how well that worked out.
4. Eldritch Horror (Corey Konieczka, Nikki Valens) – FFG loves it’s Lovecraft games. Many thought that this was going to be Arkham Horror 2.0, but it’s not. This is more akin to Indiana Jones and the Sunken City of R’lyeh than an actual Lovecraft story. And I’m totally fine with that. EH plays like Tales of the Arabian Nights: Tentacle Edition except it has more character development and onus over your choices. You have less control of your character than you do in Arkham and you sort of need to be cool with that. If you let it, this game will constantly produce some of the most entertaining nights of your life. The absolute GREATEST thing in Eldritch Horror are the card effects that will trigger sometime after you acquire them. You never quite know what a spell will do or what having a poisoned condition will trigger. It's a big wild ride of a boardgame that will take you on an expected journey each time you crack open the box. This is FFG crowning achievement in both adventure games and Lovecraft games.
3. Chaos in the Old World (Eric Lang) – There are few games unique and daring enough to walk into the Grand Discotheque of Gaming and dare flirt with perfection. Well, while killing it in a little black dress, CitOW sauntered right on up to Mr. Perfect and let me tell you the dude was blushing...hard. This game doesn’t seem to get discussed as hotly as it once did. Well it should, because it’s a masterpiece! CitOW essentially put Eric Lang on the map. His mixing of a cutthroat DoaM game with Euro mechanic sensibilities, asymmetrical powers, and Warhammer Fantasy is like some dark, twisted, equation that solves the riddle to the meaning of life. Playing as a Chaos God looking to destroy the world is not just fun…it's down right addicting. Some people could never get past the bloody Warhammer veneer or have since moved onto other newer and fresher games. Mark my words, CitOW will go down as one of the greatest boardgames of this era. If or when it goes out of print it will be a hotly sought after treasure.
2. Twilight Imperium III (Christian Peterson) – Is there any other game that personifies what FFG was all about? TI3 is a big, messy, glorious beast of a game. It has no other peers and with boardgamers moving toward shorter, simplier designs, it likely never will. This game literally takes you to a far off galaxy where you partake in war, politics, trades and domination. When you sit down to a game of TI3 you’re going to experience something that is unlike anything else in boardgaming. Yes it’s long. Yes, it requires a person to skillfully mix expansion modules for it to shine brightest. Regardless, it’s a brilliant game and hopefully one that doesn’t disappear with the new merger.
1. Star Wars Rebellion (Corey Konieczka) – It’s only fitting that the last big game released by FFG turned out to be their crowning achievement. Sure it’s brand new, but I feel more than comfortable putting it here. As a bonus here is my mini review of the game:
In life there are certain experiences that make you sit back and say, “whoa”. It might be a videogame, a movie, a book, or in this case a boardgame. The first time I played Star Wars Rebellion it consumed my mind. I literally could not think about anything else. It was basically text book insanity of my brain.
It blows my mind that this game actually exists. Do you all understand how incredibly LUCKY we are to have a design like this? This is the ULTIMATE Star Wars experience. And it’s real! It actually exists and we can play it whenever we want. Games like this make me happy to be alive in this time period. Well that and Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Shakespeare missed out on those things.
Rebellion doesn’t feel like any other boardgame ever made. In this day and age that’s hard to do. To do that AND have it be one of the best games ever made is practically impossible. This game IS Star Wars. If you ever wanted to play out your version of the Original Trilogy in some sort of interactive medium well this is it. It’s a sprawling game of cat vs mouse…Empire vs Rebellion. And yet it’s so cleanly designed. Each and every turn you’re plotting your moves and scheming. Yes, you're ALWAYS scheming in Rebellion! There is bluffing, powerful cards to play and a ton of trickery. The Empire feels like a tiger hunting a field mouse. Trying to hide is terrifying for the Rebels. It feels suitably hopeless.
Don't be fooled by the size of the box and miniatures. Rebellion is NOT a game about combat. No, in fact the design feels more akin to Fury of Dracula rather than Forbidden Stars. The hidden rebel base element coupled with a highly interactive workplace placement/leader deployment makes it feel truly unique. In fact, what it feels like is Star Wars. The game's mechanics and theme are so tightly intertwined that the theme of this game couldn't be anything other than Star Wars. DAMN, that is impressive. Oh I love it, I love all of it.
Corey K please stand up and take a bow for creating this masterpiece. I award you all of the stars in the Galaxy for your valiant efforts. Rest easy each and every night knowing you have made the best interactive Star Wars thing EVER…in any medium.
There you have it, the greatest games that FFG has ever produced. Stay tuned as I will have the Top Ten FFG Reprints/Reworkings in just a short bit.