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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Series and Parallels

It’s interesting that we all have different takes on this month’s question – and I appreciate my compadres covering pretty much soup to nuts on what is and what isn’t a series. To take it as a metagame, I’ll cover my votes in each of several areas: Themed Series, Shrinking Series and Format Series.

THEMED SERIES. These are the games, mostly of the modern boardgame era, that share a theme or a common set of resources. I agree with Dave on this one – the group of games relating to the original island of Catan by Klaus Teuber is my “favorite” series overall. I like StarFarers of Catan with its plastic rockets, the basic Settlers game with Seafarers, and the Settlers card game, including our four player version which uses two sets of the two-player card game.

In second place, I’d have to go with Mike Fitzgerald’s Mystery Rummy series: #1 Jack the Ripper – #2 Murders in the Rue Morgue – #2.5 Wyatt Earp (this game, though not part of the official series, looks like and acts like) – #3 Jekyll and Hyde – #4 Al Capone – #5 Bonnie and Clyde (not yet released). My favorite for two players is #1, but for a multi-player game Wyatt Earp is very good.

For the Carcassonne series in third place – my top picks in this line are the Castle (two player), and Discovery (multiplayer) for people new to the board game genre.

Here are some other series that came to mind, but didn’t make my list:
  • Risk – Castle Risk – Risk 2010 – Risk Godstorm – Risk Lord of the Rings – etc. A many-years-between series, some better than others. I like the new elements in Lord of the Rings, but it’s becoming harder to recognize it as Risk.
  • Amazing Labyrinth – Master Labyrinth – Secret Labyrinth – Labyrinth the Card Game – 3D Labyrinth. Mostly for kids, but a great base mechanism.

And here are a few others that are series of a slightly different ilk:

  • Tikal – Java – Mexica; the so-called Kramer Keisling tile trilogy
  • Euphrat und Tigris – Samurai – Durch die Wuste; the so-called Knizia tile trilogy
  • Can’t Stop – Gold Connection (Can’t Stop 2) – Sid Sackson classics on risk management
  • Bazaar – Bazaar 2 –Samarkand – Another Sid Sackson classic line. Bazaar II was never published as I understand it, but most of it was re-tooled into Samarkand.

OK, time for a snake’s tail (and a nod to John Crowley). What would the other games in the following “five letter” series be titled? (Answers at the end of the article.)

#1 A game about Medieval battles and the Dogs of War: HAVOC
#2 A board game where you try to trap your friends in the gold mine while you escape: CAVOH
#3 A board game based on the movie Saw, but with a Russian theme: ___
#4 A party game where players try to sing songs and sound “just like the original artist”: ___
#5 A card game where players are working girls who clean offices on weekdays: ___

SHRINKING SERIES. These are games that started life as board games and were later modified, greatly or gently, into card games.

  • Elfenland became King of the Elves – I like them both, and they feel like different games. I’d rather play Elfenland, but it’s definitely bigger/deeper/longer.
  • Settlers of Catan became Settlers of Catan the Card Game – I like them both, and they feel like different games. The card game can take a really long time to play.
  • Puerto Rico became San Juan – I like them both, and they feel like different games.
  • San Marco became Canal Grande – I like San Marco, but have not played the other
  • Euphrat und Tigris became Tigris and Euphrates the Card Game – I don’t think the card game is better in any way except for portability.

FORMAT SERIES. I had not thought of these as series until Dave mentioned the Alea boxes and the Kosmos 2-player boxes. In this line, my favorite is a nostalgia vote for three classics by 3M.

  • The Bookshelf series, with Acquire, Bazaar, Feudal and Twixt to name a few.
  • The Butterbox Series, with Monad, Venture, and other Sid Sackson classics.
  • The Gamette series, with similar titles to the Butterboxes, including High Bid, Sleuth and Foil.

And here’s the answer to the "5-letter series" quiz. Let me know if you think of other possible titles in this same series.

1 HAVOC
2 CAVOH
3 HACOV
4 COVAH
5 HOVAC

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