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Un Chien Andalou

A gaming blog about nothing in particular -- disjointed -- although there will be much about abstract strategy, pyramid games, and Euro-abstracts.

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John Bohrer, International Man of Mystery

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There's been some legal hullabaloo around the ownership of the rights of Age of Steam.

This is not a post about that.

Instead, I'd like to take a hot second to talk about this quote from John Bohrer, proprietor of Winsome Games:

Quote:
So, yes, I use pseudonyms. I don't want any limelight and pseudonyms are great. I am Harry Wu, David V. H. Peters, Eddie Robbins and others. Game designing is easy for me and I can do it in different styles. I also use pseudonyms in magazine articles and other creative endeavors. I used the Martin Wallace pseudonym for his early train games up through Age of Steam.


Wait wait wait...

What?!

So perhaps I'm not deeply connected to the train game community and its intrigues, or perhaps I'm a little dense, but this is BIG news to me.

First, if Bohrer is Wu, Peters, and Robbins then that immediately thrusts him into the pantheon of all-time game designers (according to me). That is, in a addition to developing Age of Steam and designing Pampas Railroads and South African Railroads Bohrer has also designed Wabash Cannonball, Preu├čische Ostbahn, Samarkand, Texas Pacific, SNCF, Gulf Mobile & Ohio, Kansas Pacific, Baltimore & Ohio, and 1857. All of which rank in my top-150 games of all time.

FURTHER, he also implies that there are other pseudonyms that he's used, which prompts the question:

Just which designers in the Winsome stable are real people?!

* Dieter Danziger?
* Beni Seemann?
* Matthias Burtt?
* Han Heidema?
* Hanno and Wilfried Kuhn?

I'm pretty sure that Tom Russell, Franz-Benno Delonge, and David Watts are real people... but who really knows?!



Finally, Bohrer claims that he used Wallace also as a pseudonym at one point. This is a bombshell to me, though in reality even if none of the Winsome games were by Wallace himself I admire many of his later games.

I've never really cared much about the drama surrounding Winsome and Bohrer, instead I've always just admired the games as such. Still, this whole situation has been amazing.

The mind reels.
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Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:27 pm
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My 11 Favorite "Euros" (2018 edition)

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family-time Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my 11 favorite Euro Games. The term "Euro" is loaded, but I'm going to run with it.

Hoity Toity



Hoity Toity is one of the rare games that everyone in my family likes and even requests from time to time. This is huge for me. Any game that gets a unanimous vote of confidence gets on this list. The game definitely feels chaotic on the first few plays because the simultaneous player interaction is so high and the bluffing so furious, but hang in there because patterns for good play will start to emerge.

Sisimizi



Sisimizi is a game about ants connecting to hives and .... let's be honest -- it's not "about" that at all. Instead, it's a dynamic connection game for 2-4 players, though I've only ever played with two. The goal of the game is to have an unbroken line of ants connecting all of the same colored "ant-hills" each placed in a unique number of board regions. There's a little more to it than that depending on the player count, but that's the gist of it. On a turn, players can place up to 3 pieces, ants or hills, but only one may be a hill. After that the same play may move up to three pieces (only 1 hill again) to any free cell. Alternatively, a player may instead place a single ant on top of another ant. Depending on the player count this may be done once or multiple times per game.

Taluva



Taluva is a spectacular game. The game is a race to build a certain number of certain kinds of buildings on a lovely 3D terrain that's built during play. There is a lot of opportunity for nastiness in Taluva and if you're not careful then your carefully built villages can be split in a heartbeat. I need to explore this game more and thankfully I can thanks to its recent inclusion on BGA.

China



China is one of those games that seems chill at first, and it can be played as such, but there are fine opportunities for screwage with path cutting and majority stealing. The game is in the vein of "play cards of certain colors to play pieces into regions of that same color" with scoring around long paths and region majorities and such. It competes for play with Ticket to Ride around here and while my family would almost certain chose the trains, my choice would almost always be China.

Cartagena



Cartagena is a thinly-veiled mechanic disguised as a game about pirates escaping from prison. Bear in mind that I do not mean to classify it in a derogatory way. Indeed, as a lover of abstracts (especially the 2-player combinatorial flavor) I'm used to this kind of situation. What's so interesting about Cartagena is that the mechanic is quite elegant:

* On your turn take up to 3 actions
* Play cards to move to the next unoccupied symbol matching the card
* Move back to get more cards

The first player to remove all of their pirates from the prison wins. Simple no? Indeed. But therein lies depth and tension.

Corto



Since the first moment that I saw the Dice Tower review of Corto I've been fascinated by it. I was initially excited by it's interesting blend of abstract-ness and beautiful artwork and neither aspect disappoints. That said, the game is quite thematic. I've read my share of Corto Maltese, but I'm in no way an expert on the subject matter. However, the use of comic panels and character cards (not to mention the brilliant use of onomatopoeia) added a thematic dimension to the game that I've rarely experienced in others. The use of "friends" and cross-over characters and such was wholly (AFAIK) faithful to the stories in which they appeared. Indeed, the very game itself is effectively the building of thematic threads (i.e. controlled panels and connected groups) throughout the very tales depicted on the game board.

Pueblo



Pueblo is a classic Euro-Abstract by Kramer and Kiesling. I loved the idea of "sight" as a scoring mechanism and the tactile beauty is a joy in and of itself. While the game is unbelievably simple, there are agonizing choices and a chance for real screwage lurking around every corner (pun intended).

Fjords



Fjords is a very fun game that mixes aspects of Carcassonne with Go. During a turn players draw a tile, connected it (or not) to the expanding map, and optionally place a house. Once the map is complete, players then take turns connecting farms to their houses in an attempt to gain control over portions of the map. When I think of the term "super-filler," Fjords is the game that jumps to mind.

Bohnanza



Bohnanza is my favorite explicit trading and negotiation game. We haven't played much over the past year (instead playing The Duel instead), but every time that we do it's been a total blast. Bohnanza is among the very few games that I could spend an entire weekend playing back-to-back -- if only the opportunity presented itself.

Finca



Finca is a beautiful game not only in its presentation but also in its mechanics. The game is quite straight-forward in its play -- collect fruits and ship them for points. However, the action is driven by a rondel where the jockeying for position makes the game a joy to play. Careless and thoughtless rondel play is a sure path to defeat in Finca and new players never appreciate its subtlety -- but long time players know.


Modern Art



I really like auction games... no I mean I REALLY like auction games. Therefore, for a long time I've had my eye on the Knizia classic Modern Art. While I have rarely met and auction game that I didn't like, Modern Art adds the amazing dimension of allowing the choice of auction type as a tactical consideration. When I first looked at the game it didn't strike me how the differing auction types would affect the flow of the game, but wow did they present some juicy choices throughout the game and every game is interesting from the first moment to the last.

So that's all for this YEAR! A few that just barely missed the cut include Ra, Catan, and Gipsy King.

Thank you for reading the entries in the series and for all of the thoughtful comments along the way.

What are your favorite Euro Games?
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Fri Nov 16, 2018 4:03 pm
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My 6 Favorite Solo Games (2018 edition)

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family-time Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my 6 favorite Solo Games. These are not necessarily games that are designed for strictly solo play, but indeed any game that I've found works well for me (and only me).

Europa Universalis



Europa Universalis is a true beast of a game and indeed it stands out on this list for that reason. Whereas the other games on this list can occupy (at most) a small corner of my working desk, EU requires the occupation of my entire ping-pong table. While most of the games on this list are very rules-lite, EU has a manuals set that approaches 200 pages. Despite this disparity EU is a near perfect historical simulation "experience" that can occupy me for months on end. The game is currently packed away, but I'm feeling that urge to break it out again. Sorry kids... table tennis is out for a while.

Color Wheel



Color Wheel is a great game to have on hand at my work desk and is simply put the antithesis of Europa Universalis. The game is a simple little puzzle game somewhat reminiscent of the Rubik's cube for the Looney Pyramids system.

Agricola: Master of Britain



Agricola: Master of Britain is an incredibly frustrating game, but I don't mean that in a bad way. The game is all about defeating ongoing threats, manipulating your fate, and marshaling forces to achieve a final (quite difficult) win condition. All of these concerns work to cause much conflict in way of building an executing a plan. The game is fun and takes up very little table space, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart.

Israeli Independence



Israeli Independence is also an exercise in frustration, but again I do not mean this as an insult. The game is very much luck driven, both in the die rolling and card draw, but it plays so quickly and cleanly I never mind losing (which I do... often). Again, II doesn't take up much table space and a complete game can be played in the time it takes for a software deployment to complete.

Neaderthal



Neaderthal has the biggest footprint of the games not named Europa Universalis, but even still it's reasonable for my desk. The game is all about balancing species advancement with immediate dangers given a meager set of starting resources coupled with a tight in-game economy. The theme of species survival is well known, but where this game stands out is that the game concerns species culturalization and puts a whole philosophy of such at its center. Whether or not you buy into the core philosophy the game is a tense brain burner that is sure to satisfy.

Tetrarchia



Tetrarchia is the cream of the solitaire crop and I find it so interesting that it's an offering from nestorgames, a well-known purveyor of portable abstract strategy games. The game is mildly reminiscent of the previously mentioned Israeli Independence, but the differences are quite vast. That said, the game sits nicely in the space between Israeli Independence and Neaderthal in time-to-play, complexity, and overall control of one's destiny. This game has been going strong for me for over a year now and I don't see my enthusiasm abating any time soon.

So that's all for this entry. A few that just barely missed the cut include Shephy, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and Chrononauts.

In the next and FINAL installment in this series I'll cover my top-11 "Euro" Games.

What are your favorite Solo Games?
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My 5 favorite Game Systems (2018 edition)

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family-time Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my 5 favorite Game Systems. I am an admitted game-system junky. I believe that this obsession resides in the same part of my brain responsible for an obsession with programming languages. There's never been a game system that I didn't like, but some stand out above the rest.

Orion



Orion is a really odd system. It comes with pieces of 4-colors but truly the oddness comes from the board itself. That is, the play field is effectively a 5x5 grid but the cells are interconnected via a system of dials. Therefore, moving any piece requires the turning of a dial which will move any other pieces attached to the same dial. Thus, the game adds depth to the 5x5 field through the virtue that any move causes a rippling effect on various pieces. There are about 20 (give or take) games in the rule book and the system (like all great systems) cries out for the invention of more.

Spiel / Spiel-Mini



Both Spiel and Spiel Mini are pyramid games built from dice. How could you possibly go wrong?! The larger of the two sets comes in varying sizes including 301, 281, 166, and 121 dice sets of differing colors, while the mini version has 20 mono-colored dice. Interestingly, there was even an expansion for one of the larger sets called 55 (a grail for me) that contained rules for a game designed by Tom Lehmann! All sets come with rules for dozens of games and indeed the sets themselves are a sight to behold and an inspiration in design and in inspiring designs.

Shibumi



Shibumi is a system that's truly right in my proverbial wheel-house -- a lovely pyramidal stack of balls with a compact conceptual footprint. To me Shibumi system screams out for game invention, and even fosters a general naming scheme... "Spthis" and "Spthat". The look and feel and an inherent simplicity begs for simple designs.

Looney Pyramids / Pyramid Arcade



The lovely Looney Pyramids game system hosts a wonderfully rich ecosystem of games. These small crystalline nesting pyramids are a joy to handle and inspire design. The flexibility of the system is such that it can support games of deeper quality ... or as I prefer ... heavy pyramids. From Zendo to Homeworlds to Gnostica to Pikemen to Branches & Twigs & Thorns to Undercut to Volcano, the landscape supports a player of my particular proclivities. The system has evolved over time and the latest incarnation exists as a mega-set called Pyramid Arcade that includes rules for 1-billion (give or take) games.

Playing Cards



Oh those "protean pieces of pasteboard!" Is there anything more purely pleasing then the perfectly provincial playing card? I say ... puh-lease! In my life I've pawed more playing cards than any other playing piece probably. Playing card pastimes have been plentiful in my past and to ponder a parallel universe without them is preposterous. I postulate that when I perish the paramedics will have to pry them from my positively petrified phalanges.

So that's all for this entry. A few that just barely missed the cut include Decktet, Dice, and Esagek.

In my next installment in this series I'll cover my top-6 Solo Games.

What are your favorite Game Systems?
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My 8 Favorite Family-time Games

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family-time Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my 8 favorite Family Games. These game are not all generally "family" games as the categorization on BGG goes, but with my family they are all popular.

The Big Idea



The Big Idea is a fun family game where players use a hand of cards that describe a random (but usually funny) "product" that the players must make a sales pitch for. With the right group this game can be magical, but even with kids it's interesting to see the goofy things that kids come up with given their hand of cards.

Grand Slam Baseball



Grand Slam Baseball is yet another triumph for Joli Quentin Kansil! While this game was at the forefront of my favorite baseball games, it's since been surpassed by a different game later on this list. That said, Grand Slam perfectly blends the core mechanism of Marrakesh with the framework of Card Baseball which makes for a very quirky but interesting experience.

Goita



Goita is a shedding "card" game played with Shogi-like pieces (though not exactly Shogi pieces pieces). The game is simple to play, but with some surprising subtleties and has completely obviated games like UNO and its ilk for us. The game is a simple 4p partnership game with a few limited opportunities for information exchange. The basic premise is that players take turns laying out two pieces: a response and a play. Responding players must play the same piece or a King as the previous player's play and if they can then they choose another piece from their hand to use as their play. If they cannot follow the last play then they pass and the next player tries to respond. Eventually, someone will shed their hand earning points for the last piece played, pawns being the least and Kings the most.

Fluxx



These days I often find myself strapped for game time and so the need to play a game that takes very little time is high on my to-play pile. Despite my demanding work and family schedule, each day has at least a few 20-minute stretches available for downtime. Whether it's time to stand in a line, waiting for a deployment, waiting for food, or waiting for a baseball practice to start, I often have those spare moments to play something quick and fun. The kinds of games that fall into this category are plentiful, but some of our favorites are the various Fluxxen. The kids love it. It's easy to teach. And it silly fun.

Koi-koi



Koi-koi is a Japanese fishing game played with a deck of Hanafuda cards. The goal of the game is to build important sets of cards before your opponent(s) do. That simplified goal doesn't do justice to the game because there is a balancing act between trying to build a set before your opponent and getting more points. I haven't quite memorized the possible sets but many scores will revolve around a small subset of all possible sets. The game is the best fishing game, hands down.

A Fake Artist Goes to NY



A Fake Artist Goes to New York is the best party game that I've found since Why Did the Chicken, but with much broader appeal. I'm not a huge player of party games, but when the opportunity arises I'll likely reach for this before anything else. This game is pee-your-pants funny.

Marrakesh



Marrakesh is a blast to play and is called "Psychic Backgammon" around these parts. The matches start quite random with some wild swings, but as the match progresses you start to gain more information about the cards left in play. I really like that about the game. Marrakesh is truly an oddball game, but I find it quite endearing.

Baseball Highlights: 2045



As an avid fan of baseball, it was only natural that I would be drawn to Baseball Highlights: 2045 and wow did it deliver. While not terribly immersive (said by an old Strat-o-matic player), the gameplay is fast and furious. Now I've played a lot of Harry's Grand Slam in my time, but 2045 is better. The game scales well from short matches to longer tournaments and series, something that the aforementioned Grand Slam Baseball doesn't handle as well.

So that's all for this entry. A few games that just barely missed the cut include Aquarius, The Mind, and Loonacy.

In my next installment in this series I'll cover my top-5 Game Systems.

What are your favorite Family-time Games?
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My 5 Favorite Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games (2018 edition)

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my 5 favorite Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games. For reference, combinatorial games containing no luck, support 2-players only (or at least optimally), have alternating turns, and operate with completely open information. "Theme" or "Setting" is irrelevant. Therefore, this list contains games that play best with a little luck, but do not carry the albatross of "theme" or "setting."

Quantumgame



Quantumgame (aka Quantum) is as bizarre a game as you'll ever see. From a pure gameplay perspective the object is simple: connect two sides of the board (never happened for us), or occupy the center-4 squares. The pieces have different move characteristics (like a King or like a Queen) but you don't know what each piece does until you turn it over (they will start upside-down). The game is an interesting balance between gradually revealing more information or making aggressive moves and I really like it right now.

Wu Hsing



Wu Hsing (aka The Domino Bead Game) is also an odd game, but it's very simple in nature. The basic idea is to place your domino-like pieces (the original game is played with a truncated double-6 set) such that they continue two existing patterns of pieces on the board. Once the patterns are matched the players score points for the length and such. There's an open-information ruleset included with the game, but I actually prefer the tiles overturned and playing from a hand more.

Quinto



Quinto is a relatively new find for me even though it's been around since the mid 1960s. The game is likened to Scrabble played with numbers and that's certainly a fair way to introduce it. The idea is to build lines of numbers such that their sum is equal to a number that's a multiple of 5 (in later versions the multiple can change). It sounds super-dry, but there are some interesting patterns of play that develop. I'm actually quite surprised that this game isn't more popular. It seems like a natural inclusion in the annual Mind Sports Olympiad.

Entropy



Entropy (aka Hyle) is Eric Solomon's masterpiece (followed closely by Corporation). The game involves two players, chaos and order, who thematically... BAH... it's just an abstract. However, the formation of palindromes for scoring is a master stroke.

Blockers!



Blockers! (aka Uptown) is a vastly underrated game. There are, IMO, a few reasons for its obscurity. First, the game is an abstract which is usually enough to kill most game's prospects. Second, the game looks like a bizzare Sudoku variant. Third, the overall presentation is not very exciting -- perhaps by nature. Regardless of these factors Blockers is easily my favorite luck-filled abstract. While the game certainly contains a luck factor, the hand size is large enough to mitigate much of the luck ivnvolved. At the same time, the hand size is small enough to add a delicious tension your blocking prospects. I enjoy Blockers most with two players, though the 3 player game is quite fun.

So that's all for this entry. A few games that just barely missed the cut include Gute Nachbarn, Xe Queo, and Take it Easy.

In my next installment in this series I'll cover my top-8 Family-time Games.

What are your favorite Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games?
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My 7 Favorite Combinatorial Abstract Games (2018 edition)

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my 7 favorite Combinatorial Abstract Games. For reference, combinatorial games containing no luck, support 2-players only (or at least optimally), have alternating turns, and operate with completely open information. "Theme" or "Setting" is irrelevant.

MeM



Aside from Go and Shogi, the combinatorial game that I've played the most over the past year is a little gem from the late 1960s called MeM. This is a thinky game of pattern building and matching that's somewhat hard to find these days. The components are quite easy to replicate, but sadly the rules are quite difficult to find outside of an original set. The capture mechanism is quite unique.

Chess



I've played many hundreds of Chess games in my life and these days I tend to play often with my kids. It's been a while since I really studied the game and my skills have atrophied, but I find the game more fun than ever.

Catchup



Catchup never seems to go away. Every time that I think that I've topped out in the depth that the game offers, another layer peels away. I like Catchup so much that I even wrote a post about it on my "other blog." The game had a rule change 1-2 years ago that I was VERY skeptical about... but I've come around and learned to appreciate the change in temperature that the rule brought about.

Dameo



Like most Draughts-likes, I'm actually a terrible Dameo player. That said, my interest in this was ignited by Nick Bentley's gushing and I must say that it's leapt to the front of the Checkers-list!

Char



On the meatier end of the n-in-a-row sub-genre of abstract games is a very odd game called Char -- a 3D n-in-a-row game with interesting emergent patterns. The game is very difficult to find but it's worth the effort (and cost IMO) if you find the opportunity.

Shogi



Shogi has vaulted past Chess as my Chess-like of choice. The game is reminiscent of Chess with generally weaker pieces but with two elements that add a level of complexity that blows Chess out of the water. First, the promotion rule is enough to make my mind smoke. However, leaving even the promotion rule in the dust for complexity, the drop rule is a mind rending addition. Imagine in Chess, if at any time, you could drop a captured piece back onto the board -- how much depth would that add? My estimate is a crap-ton. Shogi makes me feel like a Chess newbie again which is something that I haven't felt in a long time.

Go



Having now played well over 100 games, I can safely say that I still haven't even scratched the surface of the possibilities in Go. It's the quintessential "lifestyle game" -- requiring a lifetime of study and play and easily supporting it. I know many people who don't play board games at all, except Go, and they're fine with that. It's depth of strategy makes for that ever familiar pattern found in the play and study of strategic games -- sudden clarity followed by plateaus of understanding.

So that's all for this entry. A few games that just barely missed the cut include Corporation, Morelli, and Cannon. Another missing game of note is the amazing Homeworlds which would have totally made this list if not for its inclusion on an earlier list in the series.

In my next installment in this series I'll cover my top-5 Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games.

What are your favorite Combinatorial Abstracts?
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My 5 Favorite Train Games (2018 edition)

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my favorite Train Games, that happen to not include 18XX games. I'd like to separate these games from the "Economic" and "18XX" categories because there are some interesting entries in the genre that standout above those other categories.

Northern Pacific



A single game of Northern Pacific can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, but I've never played a single game in a sitting. Around here we play multiple games in a row to meet some score and I feel this is a more interesting way to play.

Dutch InterCity



Dutch InterCity is an odd game. While not as distilled as Northern Pacific above, Dutch Intercity is one tick above N.P. in its level of "theme" but still manages to distill key attributes of train games into a clean and quick package. While NP's notion of shares is abstract to a fluchtpunktian degree, D.I.'s implementation is very real, yet its driving forces are half-auction, half-combinatorial.

Chicago Express



Chicago Express is my favorite Winsome game and a much deeper game than you might expect if you simply read the rules or play it once or twice. There is a lot of non-obvious opacity to the game's play that I'm still discovering even after nearly 20 plays. I don't foresee exhausting its depths any time soon.

Stephenson's Rocket



Stephenson's Rocket is reminiscent of the classic Acquire and feels like Knizia through and through. There are tough decisions galore and you're constantly teetering on the edge of conflicting interests. I liked it very much, so much so that it's completely obviated the aforementioned Acquire.

Age of Steam



Age of Steam, like Power Grid, is a game enhanced greatly by expansions. While I think that I could play the base map dozens of times without boredom, the fact that hundreds of more maps exist is a real draw for me. I'm not really an expansions fanatic per se; instead the draw of Age of Steam is that it's a non-obvious-game-system as evinced by its proliferation of maps. As my regular readers probably know -- I'm a total sucker for systems (more on that later).

So that's all for this entry. A few games that just barely missed the cut include Tramways, First Class, Russian Railroads, and TransAmerica.

In my next installment in this series I'll cover my top-7 Combinatorial Abstract Games.

What are your favorite Train (non-18XX) Games?
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Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:38 pm
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My 4 Favorite 18XX Games

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my favorite 18XX Games. I'd like to separate these games from the "Economic" and "Train Game" categories because in all likelihood they would overshadow other great games in those less specific groups. As it stands, the cream of the crop in economic and train-centric games lies squarely in the 18XX camp and while I've yet to play one that I've truly disliked, but a few stand out above the rest.

1825, Unit 2



1825, Unit 2 is a small and shorter game than many in the 18XX genre. There are two aspects that I enjoy about the game. First, the game plays very well with two players which is a consistent concern for me. Second, the game is largely an "operations' type 18XX game. Whereas 1830 and others in its sub-tree of the family are strong in stock manipulation and company/train shenanigans, 1825U2 is a game where running strong companies works best.

1817



It's a rare occurrence to find a game that one could legitimately regard as a "lifestyle" game. There is so much going on in this game and the resultant interactions so deep and far-reaching that one could spend years exploring its nuances. I suppose that the same could be said about many 18XX games (e.g. 1830, 1841, and 1837), but its seems that 1817 outstrips them all. I'm not ready to make 1817 one of my life-style games yet, but wow is it an incredibly brilliant game.

Harzbahn 1873



Harzbahn 1873 is on the surface an 18XX game, though after playing it I'm not entirely sure. Certainly there are recognizable elements, but so far I've managed to be a competitive player without the ownership of a single train company (though I've yet to win). I'm tempted to say that Harzbahn is a mining game with some train-stuff going on. There are of course some fine synergies to explore between the mines and the trains, and in a perfect world I'd be able to undertake such an exploration. The game takes a significant amount of time to play and is thus relegated to the conference scene for me.

1830: Railways & Robber Barons



1830 is representational of everything that's beautiful about the 18XX system and is flexible enough to support shorter and longer play scenarios. While the game is not supportive of additional games in the same sense as other games on this list, 18XX is a great example of a non-obvious game system, allowing for a bevy of possibilities as shown in the vast richness of the ecosystem.

So that's all for this entry. A few games that just barely missed the cut include 1822, 1861, and 1889.

In my next installment in this series I'll cover my top-5 Train (non-18XX obviously) Games.

What are your favorite 18XX Games?
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Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:16 pm
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My 5 Favorite Economic Games (2018 edition)

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I've created various yearly lists including top-100 lists and contexts lists and such, but I've never gone category before. Therefore, for 2018 I've going to share my favorites in various categories with a total of 100-games presented.

The categories under consideration are:

{ 18XX || Breakfast Games || Combinatorial Games || Dice Games || Economic Games || Euros || Family Games || Game Systems || Icehouse Games || Japanese Games || Non-Combinatorial Themeless Games || Proprietary Card Games || Solo Games || Traditional Card Games || Train Games || War Games || Word / Story Games }

Today I'll continue the series with my favorite Economic Games. Like any classification of games, "economic games" is rife with ambiguity, contradiction, and disagreement. That said, I'm going to focus on non-train-game economic games -- train games and such will have their own categories. Onward!

Food Chain Magnate



I recently played Food Chain Magnate and was reminded how much I liked the game. I had won my previous two games by turtling but was thoroughly hampered by some slick anti-turtling moves. Now that my "tried and true" method has been thwarted there's an opportunity for exploration along other vectors of play. The great thing about this game is that it can easily support many other strategies for play and I suspect that it's an "onion" game that could support sustained study.

Neue Heimat



There are few games nastier than Neue Heimat (So Long Sucker is one). This is an amazing game! The rules are super-simple (though there are many variants). Additionally, this is a wonderful game to play with a group of friends who you no longer want to be friends with. Nasty nasty nasty.

Container



Container has a notoriously fragile in-game economy, but honestly that fact is a draw rather than a repulsion for me. The few times that I was fortunate enough to play we didn't run into trouble, but I could sense the path to trouble was nearby. Regardless, the games went smoothly and were amazing experiences. There was a recent reprint with near-to-scale boats that I have yet to play, but I've read that the number of pieces provided ruins the game at higher player counts in some way (I forgot how).

Sidereal Confluence



Sidereal Confluence was the winner of the 3rd annual Lead Geek Award winner in the heavy Games category. In the announcement post I stated:

Quote:
Sidereal Confluence hearkens back to an age of gaming when the bulk of the complexity in a game came from the dynamic interaction amongst its participants. The game is very much akin to classics such as Quo Vadis?, Diplomacy, Civilization, and Advanced Civilization (with a sprinkle of Sackson's Bazaar) in that with a well-versed group of regular players there are no limits to the depths of play that the game can support. In addition, the asymmetrical nature of the game is such that different mixes of alien societies should feel very different indeed, adding additional depth and longevity.


The half-dozen times that I've played it since have worked to solidify my praise of this masterful game. This is an all-time top-10 game for me at the moment.

Imperial



The games listed in this post are examples of what I like to call "economic-war games" and Imperial stands at the pinnacle of this classification. An "economic-war game" is a game that obviously involves some sort of economic mechanical underpinnings. The most obvious examples of E-WGs are many 18XX games -- specifically those in the 1830 branch of the family tree. These games are defined by the use of in game economic mechanics for the purpose of mentally bludgeoning one's opponents. As an added bonus, Imperial also has as its setting a war-torn Europe, so in some ways it's also an example of an "economic war-game" though you'll likely lose badly if you play it strictly as such.

So that's all for this entry. A few games that just barely missed the cut include Indonesia, King Chocolate, and For-Ex.

In my next installment in this series I'll cover my top-4 18XX Games.

What are your favorite Economic Games?
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Fri Oct 26, 2018 2:35 pm
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