Chris' Top 11 Games You Aren't Playing
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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I've tried to avoid the deliberately obscure; most of the games here are not too hard to acquire - I believe at least half are available through FunAgain and one direct through the manufacturer; a few may challenge you if you want to try to track them down, however. They're all worth the effort, though.
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1. Board Game: Breaking Away [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:1314]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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As I've often said, the race game genre is awfully hard (how do you have a game where players who are behind have a chance to catch up? How many ways are there really to strategically approach "going around a track really fast"?). Breaking Away is one of the very few that has really worked. It's all about drafting, teamwork, and pack positioning, and plus the sprint points give you a real variety of options - go for the early flameout or late-game finish points. An excellent game that is fundamentally extremely simple but very rich in play.
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2. Board Game: Blokus [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:367]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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There have been only a few abstract games that have really grabbed me - this, Siesta, and the next two items on the list. I'm not quite sure what it is about Blokus, maybe it's just a spatial thinking which I'm pretty good at, but it seems to have a nice combination of tactical (how to fit in your pieces) and strategic (whether to agressively claim space or protect the space you have) choices. And it looks good too, and is short.
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3. Board Game: Sumera [Average Rating:6.21 Unranked]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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This game is quite odd, but it masks a game which is both visually appealing and actually quite subtle. You need to jocky for position all the time. The one thing I always tell people is that the game always ends much sooner than you think, so every move is quite important. I'm not sure it's a truly great game, but it has the depth to keep drawing me back.
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4. Board Game: TAMSK [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1080]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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The other games in the GIPF-series have gotten more press (especially ZERTZ), but TAMSK is the one that strikes me as being the most truly unique and interesting. The use of time is surprisingly subtle, and games only last 15 minutes tops and give great bang for the investment of time an energy. A wonderfully tense, exciting game, which is like nothing else you've played.
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5. Board Game: Royal Tank Corps [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:5806]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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Wargames are hard to pick for this category because, quite frankly, I don't know how much any of them get played outside of the top 2%. RTC, though, is an overlooked classic (part of this may have to do with the horrendous production values and the rather hit-and-miss track record of MiH/CH). It's an area-impulse game in the tradition of Breakout: Normandy, but it's much streamlined to the point of being a very simple and approachable game, and the situation is facinating: the tanks of the RTC vs. the first employment of the Stosstruppen of the Germans, the first conflict of truly mobile troops in WWI.
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6. Board Game: Svea Rike [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2677]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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This is a very fun game, although it's awfully important to go in realising that this is not a game you are going to play for money. If you can get past that, this is a game rich in historical flavor and exciting in its chaos. It tries ot, but doesn't quite, achieve Republic of Rome's wonderful blend of player vs. player and players vs. system - if it could do that, it would go over the top. But it doesn't, so instead it's a fun, truly light game that actually works.
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7. Board Game: Lunatix Loop [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:6184]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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Here we go with the race games again ... this is really the only other race game that has been successful for me. It's got a wonderful flavor, and like Breaking Away ad Mississippi Queen it managed to inject enough strategy into the game to make the effort worthwhile. It combines a great fun factor with real tactical and strategic choice. A winner.
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8. Board Game: Polarity [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1419]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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This is a wonderfully bizzare game (or somthing). It's really not a strategy game, per se (although there is some), but a dexterity game, and a very good one. It's also definately part game and part somthing else (some kind of performace artwork, according to the designer/author/whatever), which it does succeed at and is worth playing for that alone. Definately a game worth playing, if only for it's rather arresting nature.
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9. Board Game: MarraCash [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1179]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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This is an excellent auction game which has the tremendous virtue of combining lots of tough choices with a very nice (<1hr) length and a very well-done theme. Very good game that I have gotten a lot of play value out of, and it is now ludicrously cheap from Adam Spielt.
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10. Board Game: Magic Realm [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:642]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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OK, so I'll grant you the complexity is problematic (although if you played games in the US in the 80's/early 90's, it should be no big deal). Get past that, and this is an amazing game, one with both tremendous tactical and strategic depth, immense replay value, and a game that also incredibly successfully carries the fantasy theme, a very uncommon occurence. Nothing has ever even come close to challenging Magic Realm in the fantasy boardgame arena for richness and subtlety of texture combined with excellent gaming value. It's got everything - strategy, tactics, cooperation and teamwork, negotiation, and special powers out the wazoo.
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11. Board Game: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:2026]
Chris Farrell
United States
Cupertino
California
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Is this an all-time great game? Ah, no. But it is simple, short, has strategy and tactics, and is wonderfully bizzare. Having been fed a steady diet of small-box card games like Mystery Rummy, Wyatt Earp, Vampyre, Sticheln, Ole, or even Mu, which are all OK to rather good but little more than knock-offs of traditional card games, it's always refreshing to play somthing in this genre which is utterly unique and fun to play.
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