Saturday, February 6, 2010

Culling My Game Collection -- Part 2 (Top 15 Games)

So how do I reduce my overgrown board games collection down to just 50 games? This isn't going to be easy! I have to start somewhere, so I'm going to lay down a few basic ground rules at the start.


#1 = Don't count expansions to a base-game. If I'm going to keep a game, I want to retain all of its expansions as well. After all, that's why we buy expansions in the first place; to enhance the fun of the base game and expand its replayability.

#2 = Don't count miniatures wargames. In my mind, miniature wargaming is really a separate hobby from board-gaming. Miniature gaming requires a greater time investment, since it encompasses collecting, painting, army construction, scenario design, playing games, and sometimes even campaigning. It's definitely a more CREATIVE hobby. In reality, it's probably the bigger love of the two gaming hobbies to me, so I'm going to exclude it here and discuss it on its own merits at a later time.

#3 = Focus on games that you're still interested in playing, and not those that you're keeping around purely for nostalgic reasons.

#4 = Not all games serve the same purpose. Light strategy board games and card games often work well with family members and casual gamers. Adventure games are great for fantasy & sci-fi buffs. Co-operative games are perfect for less competitive folks. Wargames and head-to-head strategy games satisfy the tastes of many hardcore gamers. Party games and tongue-in-check "take that" games are crowd pleasers and laughter inducers. There are several niches that a game collection needs to fill, and your game collection should be diverse enough to cover them.

Trying to condense the wide variety of board games into a small number of categories is a highly tricky task at best. Here's a swipe at categorizing the types of games in my collection. I've lumped my games into 5 basic categories, and narrowed down each category into 2-6 subcategories. Agree or disagree all you want, but this is what I'm going with:

<> Adventure (Co-Op, Head-to-Head, Quest)

<> Strategy (Area Control, Abstract, Deduction, Economic, Negotiation, Set Collection)

<> Wargame (Abstract, Campaign, Tactical)

<> Sports (Simulation, Strategy)

<> Party (Dice, Negotiation, Trivia, Word)

With these key points in mind, let's brainstorm and eventually try to whittle my board games collection down to 50 games. By the way, for those of you who are interested, you can see what games I own by checking out user SultanSevy on BoardGameGeek.

The NO BRAINER LIST (Top 15 Games)

Everyone has their favorite games; their personal No Brainer List of games they love to play and wouldn't think of getting rid of (at least at the moment!). For me, those games are as follows (grouped by basic category):

Adventure games:

  1. Drakon = although not a true adventure game in the RPG sense, this Tom Jolly classic is perhaps my favorite 30-45 minute race-to-escape the dungeon game. The simple decision of whether to move your hero, or build a pathway to escape the dungeon, or screw your enemy is a truly delicious one. This has been a winner with my group of gaming buddies.
  2. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe) = think of a Lord of the Rings version of Stratego, but ten times better. A fast playing, thinky, and elegant head-to-head strategy adventure game from Reiner Knizia. Get Frodo safely to Mordor, or play Sauron's minions and try to eat him alive. LOVE IT!
  3. Dungeon Twister = this could also go in the Strategy games section, but I classify it as a head-to-head adventure game. It pits 2 players trying to get their team of fantasy adventurers to escape an ever-changing dungeon before getting killed by the other team. The rules are fairly simple, but the decisions on how best to plan your escape are numerous. Plenty of expansions make this an infinitely replayable game. Not everyone's cup of tea because it can lead some players into analysis-paralysis. My suggestion is to play with a sand-timer to limit that problem.
  4. Cutthroat Caverns = a much under-appreciated gem on BGG (at least from my perspective), this card-based adventure game is an interesting hybrid of co-op game and backstab-your-neighbor-to-win style of game. With a crowd of fun-loving gamers who don't take themselves too seriously, this game is a guaranteed blast. The back-&-forth TAKE THAT aspect of this game is second to none, and the creature card-art is gorgeous.
  5. Shadows Over Camelot = my favorite pure co-operative adventure game of the bunch. I love the King Arthur theme and it's wonderfully brought to life by Days of Wonder with top-notch game components. The game has the right level of challenge, the Traitor element keeps you guessing, and the Merlin expansion adds even more fun. Superb.

Sports games:

  1. Statis-Pro Baseball = this Avalon Hill classic is sadly out-of-print, but it was far and away my favorite baseball simulation game, and perhaps my most played game ever. Although I haven't played it for decades, I recently discovered an eBay store that sells new full-color player cards for the game. That really piques my interest!

Strategy games:

  1. Domaine = currently my favorite area-control strategy game, although I haven't gotten to play El Grande yet. This is one of those easy-to-learn strategy games that features tough decisions and excellent strategic depth, but doesn't lend itself to over-analysis. Klaus Teuber is to be lauded for a truly superb game design here.
  2. Ticket to Ride = collect sets of colored train-cards and place them on the board to build railway lines across America. The more railway connections and longer lines you build, the more points you score. This simple strategy set-collection game appeals to both hardcore and casual gamers alike, and should be in every true gamer's collection.
  3. Kingsburg = a euro-style economic strategy game of building up your kingdom with an innovative dice-placing mechanic and a slight dose of fantasy (defending against hordes of monsters). The board is really pretty, there's a neat "block your opponent" factor and plenty of decisions, but it's not an overwrought brain-burner. Highly recommended.
  4. Acquire = I have the classic 3M version from the late 1960's. This is probably my favorite pure economic strategy game. This Sid Sackson classic about hotel mergers and acquisitions sounds dry, but it's fun with competitive strategy gamers and still holds up really well today.


  1. HeroScape = easily the best light, tactical wargame in my collection. The pre-painted miniatures and hex terrain are terrific, making this game a beauty to behold. And despite very simple rules, there's surprising tactical depth here and enormous replayability when you factor in the wide variety of expansion sets. Great fun for all ages.
  2. Feudal = another classic from my youth, this abstract wargame from 3M is basically a medieval Chess-variant. It features beautiful medieval soldier pieces, which are still great by today's standards. Terrain plays a nice role in the game, as do archers, and you can vary the size of the armies and even play multi-player games. Elegant simplicity.
  3. Battlelore = Richard Borg's "Command & Colors" series of card-driven tactical wargames provide a very playable and interesting twist on land-based warfare across several different periods. Since fantasy is my favorite genre, this is the game in his series that I instantly gravitated towards. The minis are cool, the card-driven play is fun and introduces the chaos of battlefield command & control, battles play quickly, the war-council mechanic is neat, and the expansions are seemingly endless. What's not to love?
  4. Wizard Kings = the best fantasy campaign-style wargame I've played to date, although I'm hoping to be able to try out Runewars and Age of Conan sometime this year. I really love Columbia's block wargames. They provide a very cool fog-of-war element and an easy to understand attrition-based combat system. WK also leads the way here in a wide variety of terrain effects, a bevy of different armies and creatures, and a nice variety of campaign maps. It also lends itself nicely to creating custom game scenarios. This is probably CG's most replayable game and one I won't tire of anytime soon.
  5. Hammer of the Scots = Braveheart in a board game. Another Columbia block wargame (this one by Jerry Taylor), with easy to learn rules, nice chunky blocks, a fun card-driven events mechanic, and truly challenging game play (especially when playing the Scots).

You may have noticed that I didn't include any PARTY games here. Sorry, but none of them made my Top 15 Games list. That's not a genre that really captivates me as much as the others.

Fifteen down and 35 more games to go. Stay tuned for the next 20 games in my next blog installment. That list will include some games in my collection that I haven't even played yet.


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