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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jumping on the List Bandwagon

A couple different lists prompt my column for this week.

First, there's The One Hundred that we've all been buzzing about for a while. Second is a geeklist called "Are You a Geek Grump?" that has you look at your ratings for individual games versus what the geek rates them at, then you take the ratio of your positive differentials vs. negative. I scored in the "optimist" range at 1.12. Not surprising as I tend to be an "any game any time" (AGAT) sort of guy.

I decided I'd take a shot at what I would have responded to Mark Jackson's query of "the fifteen games you have the most fun playing." Again, these aren't what you consider to be the best games, but the ones you enjoy playing most.

It's a tough question. Much of the time, the key to a fun time is the company as much as the game. All things being equal, though, here's my list. Or, it's my list as I composed it today. It would likely be different next month. In classic Dave Letterman style, from the bottom to the top:

#s 15-11: It's hard to actually put these games in order, but here's the bottom third, alphabetically:
Empire Builder series (India Rails, primarily),
Musket & Pike Battle System (Under the Lily Banners might be the best in the series),
Panzer Grenadier (particularly Desert Rats),
Ticket to Ride: Europe.

#10: Oltremare. A great little trading game that scales well from two-five.

#9: Settlers of Catan. The old classic still has legs.

#8: Die Macher. The poster child for "heavy eurogame." Possibly the fastest four hours I ever spent was the first time I played this.

#7: San Juan. Great little 30-minute card game. Very elegant design choice to have the cards be used for everything: goods, currency, AND product makes the game play very simply. It does suffer from the same issues most card games do in that there isn't much you can do if all you do is draw bad cards.

#6: St. Petersburg. I prefer this game as a 2-player game. Jodie and I have gotten to the point where we know what the other is trying to do, and the moves are getting three and four levels deep.

#5: Friedrich. This is possibly the most innovative wargame design in years. While I'm more a fan than most in my group due to the possible player elimination, I think it does a better job of capturing the feel of how the Seven Years War had to be run from the different countries than any other game out there. In six pages of rules.

#4: Age of Steam. The 2nd best 2-3 hour board game in existence. I'm hoping Railroad Tycoon makes this game palatable to more people (Jodie in particular) so I can play it (or games derived from it) more. Still haven't played the 2nd edition rules - I'm in the process of integrating the changes into a scanned copy for personal use.

#3: Power Grid. The best 2-3 hour board game in existence. Masterful combination of auction, resource management, and expansion. Doesn't play well with two, but with three-six it's an absolute gem.

#2: Roads & Boats. Splotter's signature game. It's really, really hard to design a deep game that features essentially zero down time. Rivals Die Macher for temporal acceleration - you might be playing for four hours, but it feels like two. Or even one. This is probably the best adaptation of "real-time strategy" games from the PC onto the tabletop. I will never, ever turn down a chance to play this game.

#1: De Bellis Multitudinis. My all-time favorite miniatures game. It definitely has a "love it or hate it" effect on people. I'm firmly in the "love it" camp and have been an active player since 1997 or so. I also noticed that it was the only miniatures game mentioned in The One Hundred. (It got a first place vote but didn't make the list.) I've painted a couple thousand figures over the years for this game, and have no intent to stop. The rules are designed to normalize armies (over 320 armies from 3000BC through 1500AD are listed in separate army books) against their contemporaries so you can actually have a good game pitting Medieval French vs. New Kingdom Egyptian. As it's frequently played as a tournament game, there's a bit of a reputation for "millimetrics" or rules lawyering, but I've found reality proves the rumors to be greatly exaggerated.


  • At 1:20 PM, Blogger dave said…

    I only rate/rank games based on how much I enjoy them. I would have a very difficult time even starting the task of identifying which games were "best", unless you pre-established detailed criteria.


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