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Two Player Abstracts Suitable for Tournament Play
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Each November at U-Con Gaming Convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, I run a tournament in which contestants play a wide variety of two-player abstract board games. I'm always open to suggestions for games to include in the tournament. I'd like to stay away from the most popular classics (e.g., Checkers, Chess, Go, Oware, Othello, etc.) and focus on lesser-played abstracts (e.g., Chase, Emergo, Lines of Action, Strata 5, etc.) with the idea that winning should depend more upon creative tactics than prior study.

Please feel free to comment or make suggestions for games I should consider for the tournament. Suggested games must be playable with two players, abstract (either no theme, or a superficial theme that doesn't affect game play), have perfect information, turn-based (not real-time, but simultaneous turn-based games might be OK), depend entirely on strategic skill (no random or dexterity elements), and must be able to be learned and played to completion within an hour.

Since its 7th year, my annual tournament has been part of the IAGO World Tour.
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26. Board Game: Ta Yü [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:811]
Jody Ludwick
United States
Indiana
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Keeping to within 1 hour playtime could be tight.
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27. Board Game: Traverse [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:4806]
Stven Carlberg
United States
Decatur
Georgia
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Like Chinese Checkers, a game where your goal is to get your pieces across the board and into the opposite home squares. In Traverse, though, you have four different kinds of pieces, one of which can be captured and returned to its home space. Easy to learn, fun to play. Oh, by the way, the original edition on a canvas-colored cloth board with red, blue, yellow, and green pieces is much more attractive than the current edition.
 
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28. Board Game: Calypso [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:6142]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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This is a recent addition to my game library, and it seems like an ideal game to add to this tournament. Comments?
 
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29. Board Game: Pente [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1042]
Greg Pool
United States
Carmel Valley
California
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Hard to find the old tube version, with the roll-up board, but still a good stone game.
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30. Board Game: Traboulet [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:4799]
United States
Saint Joseph
Michigan
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A marble game, similar to Abalone, but with it's own strategies and nuances. Quick to learn and games are short.
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31. Board Game: Batalo [Average Rating:6.14 Unranked]
Ray Jankowski
United States
Overland Park
Kansas
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32. Board Game: Terrace [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:2674]
Ray Jankowski
United States
Overland Park
Kansas
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And what about Terrace? One of my favs!
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33. Board Game: Antipalos [Average Rating:5.05 Unranked]
Rahm Blizbozin
United States
Unspecified
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A different sort of connection game. Players have a limited number of pieces. When they run out, they are forced to either reposition or rotate those on the board. Also interesting because opposing lines can sometimes cross each other. This game is difficult to find, but can be played on a Go or Pente board.
 
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34. Board Game: Fire and Ice [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:2828]
SH W
Singapore
Singapore
Singapore
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Well, this is certainly a worthy game to add to this Geeklist, especially with Dale's excellent idea to balance the gameplay. (see comments below)
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35. Board Game: Isolation [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:7612]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I have had Isolation as an available game in the past, but the game play seems somewhat limited, so I'm considering dropping it. Can someone tell me why I should keep it as a tournament event?
 
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36. Board Game: Outwit [Average Rating:4.92 Overall Rank:10343]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I only included Outwit one time, and it was very poorly received. The game is badly flawed, as written, in that it's very easy to prevent a win. With an updated rule set, it might come back, but not as published.
 
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37. Board Game: Duell [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:6490]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Duell went over really well at the 2003 tournament, and will almost certainly be back in future years.
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38. Board Game: Abalone [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:1134]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Someone recommended Abalone with the caveat that it can be drawish between strong players. With the default, as-published initial piece layout, yes, it can be a forced draw. However, some of the variant piece layouts that have been suggested are much less drawish, and I want to bring this one back to try them. Which two-player initial setups do y'all prefer?
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39. Board Game: Focus [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1943]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Focus is another classic that has been missing from the tournament for too long. This year, it'll be included.
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40. Board Game: Trax [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:2264]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Someone also recommended Trax, and I agree. I've played by e-mail, but don't own a set. If I manage to get one, it will definitely be on the list of possible tournament games.
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41. Board Game: Epaminondas [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:3361]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Epaminondas is another great suggestion someone made. I'm a bit concerned that the games may last longer than an hour, but the rules are fast enough to learn that it may be OK. I have a homemade set that I could include in the tournament.
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42. Board Game: Balanx [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:9943]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I'm a big fan of all of Kris Burm's games, and Balanx is a new one to my collection. It's a fast, interesting traversal game that simply needs to be played.
 
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43. Board Game: Input [Average Rating:5.57 Overall Rank:8600]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I've only played Input a few times, myself, but it's an intriguing and different abstract that plays fast. I can't think of any other programmed movement games that are anything like it, and it seems like an ideal game to include in the tournament.
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44. Board Game: Rex [Average Rating:5.55 Unranked]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Rex got played a lot in 2003. It needs a pie rule to be fair, or even just force the first player to play onto one of the second row. But it's fast and easy.
 
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45. Board Game: Cube Checkers [Average Rating:5.72 Overall Rank:8886]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I think Cube Checkers is a worthy Checkers variant that both speeds up play and helps reduce the likelihood of draws. It's also easy to learn, being very similar to Checkers, but would that give studied competitors an unfair advantage?
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46. Board Game: Kensington [Average Rating:5.31 Overall Rank:10346]
TOKYO Heartbroken
England
York
North Yorkshire
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Clark, Kensington is one of my favourite games and is easy to play. You keep referring to the learning curve and it does take a couple of quick games to get the best tactics, but surely that's true of all abstract games.

New players tend to forget to try to complete a hexagon and get hung up making triangles and squares. But if your tournament has players of equal knowledge or experience, it should even out.

It's long out of print, but you can easily make a copy. Follow the link to my webpages on Kensington.
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47. Board Game: Pylos [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:1957]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I recently got a copy of Pyraos, and it looks like an ideal addition to the tournament.
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48. Board Game: Cannon [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:3461]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Cannon was another that was included in the 2003 tournament, and was very well received. If you haven't tried this game yet, please do.
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49. Board Game: Chesstique [Average Rating:6.60 Unranked]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Chesstique really shines with multiple players, but it's still a very worthy game when played with only two. It's an interesting take on the Chess-like game, and different enough to warrant inclusion on this list.
 
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50. Board Game: Steppe [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:7559]
Clark D. Rodeffer
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I recently traded for a copy of Steppe. While I've only played it once so far, it seems ideal for an abstract tournament. The rules are easy to learn, almost intuitive. Oh, but the play! The PLAY!
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