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Subject: Hidden Gems! rss

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Jay Fraser
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Looking for light to mid weight euro that is 2-5 player (that is best with 3 or 4) that flew under the radar.

Preferably with a play time between 45-90 minutes. A game that maybe should of garnered attention but for whatever reason did not. I have played a lot of games. Our regular gaming group has a couple thousand games collectively, but I know there are many games I have yet to play that I would enjoy.

Our group are omnivores when it comes to games but the shorter, best with 3-4 player and with any of these mechanisms: worker placement, hand management, tile placement and card drafting are probably best. Please help me find a game I have probably overlooked that fits the bill!

Even out of print games I am interested in, who knows it may even be in one of the players in the gaming group collections and has just been sitting there and we never knew it was worth playing.

Thanks!
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Brian M
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If you look around, there are a lot of geeklists on this topic, with a lot of good suggestions!

I'm going to toss out Bombay, a fun, cute and fast-playing pick up and deliver game that never caught (possibly due mainly to a totally inaccurate complaint by a noted reviewer).
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Adam P
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This is what you are looking for:
Dwarves Inc.

Deeper than it looks, especially with gamers.
 
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A. Mandible
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Citrus, but read the rules carefully. There are a few details (such as "no two exits from a finca can have the same color tile on them") that make the game a lot worse if you miss them.

Mid-weight, goes up to 5 players, tile placement.
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Brian Franzman
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Nobody knows about Ultimate Scheme, but then that pretty much goes with the theme of the game...
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Joel Oakley
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Two that I consider hidden gems are:

Kings of Air and Steam -- programmed movement (with flexibility), pick up and deliver, simultaneous planning. There were some rules changes between printings I believe -- make sure you check the forum for the updated rules if you get the first printing.

The Walled City: Londonderry & Borderlands -- this one is really overlooked by so many people, but I love it. It plays only 2 to 4 players, but I think it is definitely worth considering.

 
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Michael Mench
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Automania?? Came and went off the radar kinda quick, but we like it. Tile placement for then worker placement. Don't let the art work fool you and do try and find the white box edition. That's 2.0 and fixed a few minor things. I think a lot of people were ticked that 2.0 came out mere months after the first edition. That could have hurt this game too.

But... judging by the posts above me, there sure are hidden and then HIDDEN!

Good luck.
M
 
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Adam Delikowski
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Rialto is a lesser known Feld with some interesting mechanics. A lot of people don't like it because is isn't like other Feld's, but if you take it as a stand alone I think it's pretty good. Plays 2-5--I've only played it at two.

City Hall is another dark horse fav of mine. It has an interesting auction mechanic going on and, if you let it, it really feels like the nitty gritty of getting stuff done in a political machine driven city. This only plays 2-4, but it's one of my favorite "lesser known" games.
 
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Bob Gallo
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Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas: Malleus Maleficarum - A race game over Tetris tiles that slide and rotate (less abstract than it sounds). My go-to game if I want to show a jaded group something they've never seen before. A little less rare after the 2015 reprint but still obscure.

Casa Grande - A well executed 3D construction game. A little abstract but it's quick.

American Rails - Vastly improved version of Chicago Express that never got US distribution.

Pret-a-Porter - Preconceptions about the fashion theme killed this hard-core engine builder. It's really about running a company in the fashion industry, has little or nothing to do with making pretty dresses.

Ninjato - Gamer's version of Stone Age with a cooler theme. Had the misfortune of being published by Z-man back when they were releasing tons of titles, some good, some really bad ... with no marketing behind any.

Spyrium- Neat little engine builder that could be picked up for around $15
 
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Daniel West
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Check out:

Scoville
Via Nebula
Kraftwagen
 
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Jānis Rudzītis
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Tribune: Primus Inter Pares
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Evan Dunn
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"...to excel above the common rate, in frivolous things, is nothing graceful in a man of quality and honor." - Michel de Montaigne
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I second Citrus.

Also take a look at:

Bruxelles 1893

a game where you have a grid of action spaces, and when you place a worker on a space you pay a bid along with him and then resolve the action. At the end of the placements, whoever wins the bids through the row gets a bonus card at the bottom of the row. In addition to that there are four action spaces on a separate board that don't require a bid, but at the end of the round whoever has the most workers there has to lock one into the court spot to explain what you were up to over there, being all shady and not paying money for things.

Aside from that the game is crammed with clever mechanics and interesting methods of gathering endgame score category multipliers.

Dynasties: Heirate & Herrsche

At the start of the game, each player gets a hand of cards. Each card has three printed actions on it, which dictate what you are allowed to do on your turn. Already, we have a very flip-lucky situation. The game also features dice, which have some very powerful effects, including just get 6 points, get an extra meeple in a region, or take an extra 'get goods action'. The game also only goes for 3 rounds, so everything you do is tight tight tight. From just reading the rules I was sure that this game was going to be far too random for my taste.

Turns out, I don't know a good book by it's cover. This game turned out to be fantastic. With the multi-use cards, you can usually get what you want from a round if you plan carefully. Not to mention, there's mitigation in the fact that one of the cards activates these special once per round use tiles in the blue area of the board, so even if you don't have the black action in your hand, if you are clever, you can use the blue action to get what you wanted instead.

Another big plus to the game is that most of the actions have a mechanism where by one player splits a lot, and the other player chooses which lot they want. This is done with the goods collection, and it's done with the die roll results. This is a very fun mechanism, but most games I've seen that have used this suffer from massive downtime problems. Not so here. This game makes the splitting choices hard, interesting, and fast. Not to mention, that when you get those powerful die results, knowing that your opponent gets their pick of the results first, really evens out the randomness nicely.

Another big luck mitigation is the fact that at the end of the game, when you score regions for whoever has the most meeples + crests belonging to that region, if two players tie, they both get full points. This means that in general, if you are 1 up on a region, someone can get a lucky roll or do a last minute plant into that region, and you still get credit for your work. I can't emphasize enough how important this is in this game.

Yunnan

It's a really fantastic route building game. You first do a bidding thing to buy extra guys, buildings, skills, ect. Then you walk guys out onto the main board, and there's this interesting system where guys of lesser prestige (one of the skills you bid to upgrade) get punted backwards 1 zone. Then the big boss comes and punts the high of highest prestige in the highest production zone. Then the zones produce points and/or dollars (your choice) for each guy still standing in them, minus a penalty if some of your guys aren't in contiguous provinces after all that punting.

Yedo

The game round starts with an auction and then moves into a worker placement phase. In placement, nearly the same things from the auction are available, but of course before you could have gotten them for dollars, and now you have to spend workers AND dollars. Calculating the value of one vs the other is a really fun aspect of this game. The fact that major resources aren't spent and can be reused if you are clever/careful is fantastic. There's a ton of game here, and it's like nothing else.

Mangrovia

This is a wonderful, quick playing thinky euro, where you have that most wonderful combination of simple choices with complicated ramifications. Essentially what you are doing is either gathering cards in one or more of the three game currencies, or building huts. Huts do all sorts of wonderful area control at the end of the game depending on where you place them. One area gives you extra draws from a sack of spendable points, one area will calculate who has the most, another will calculate total huts in that area, and then it's combined with a Urban Sprawl style 'majority in the row and column'. To make things even more exciting, there is a single action spot available each round that lets you build 2 huts into a single spot, meaning even if a player thinks they are sitting pretty, someone can still upset the balance.

Heartland

In this game you lay tiles and score points based on contiguity of icons. There are two different criteria of scoring, one lets you claim areas that bank for only you, and the other scores you points that actually matter. Then players can sort of try to cut up your claimed areas with other tiles by playing things on top. It was like a fantastic cross between Kingdoms and Taluva, with short turns, high player interaction, and the sense of actually building something. Wonderful.

Liberté

In this elections game there are three political parties, the royals, the extremists and the moderates. You play cards to add vote tokens for specific parties to the board, and you want to ideally be the one who supports the winning party in the most spots, and also support the second place winner in the most spots. Ultimately you don't care which government is in power, you just care if they like you the best, as your success is based on having whichever side wins liking you best.

Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India

In this game, you are trying to be the first to build all your glass tokens in the cities on the board. Doing so, requires you to get money and that's where this game gets interesting. Each turn someone walks across a town on a road where they don't have a house, they pay a dollar to each player that does have a house. Additionally, each turn ONE of the cities pays out big time in terms of dollars. It is another majority scoring but it has at least some payout for each of the 5 players who could have built into that city. I said before the key to the game is cash, so it's critical to predict and try to control which city gets scored next. Each player has a dial where they lock in their actions and reveal in turn order and of the actions is change the order of scoring the towns. This game also has tiles players get that give them unique powers in the round. This game was so so impressive. A very aggressive and interesting twist on route building and area control.

Vanuatu

Fascinating worker placement and role selection game. The big design standout here is that you can be locked out of taking some of your action assignments if you aren't careful about placement. In general I'm not a huge fan of games that have action denial as a mechanic, but here it's almost something that you do to yourself by not paying proper attention than it is something one of your opponents can inflict on you. The essence is you have a few worker tokens you get to place. When you resolve your actions, you can only resolve an action where you have a majority of tokens, so you might need to plan and react if an opponent goes for the same action as you during the placement phase.

Endeavor

This is a really fantastic route planning & stat building game. As you build your routes, you pick up tokens along the route and add them to your board, to enhance the strength of your future actions. As areas become explored, decks of cards with more, and better symbol arrangements corresponding to those locations become available. It's a fantastic game of balancing your tableau building with your board presence and lots of player interaction as players vie to be the one to finish a route, or compete over tokens or knock other players out of locations.

Theme wise, I love how there are "slavery" cards that are cheap to get and give you an early boost, but if the slavery cards become too widespread, a card flips that represents everyone realizing how horrible it is, so all those cards count against their owner's victory points.

The Staufer Dynasty

In this game, you have 15 turns to get the most points possible by predicting which regions will score, when they will score, and how best to position yourself for bonus points from the three secret endgame cards in your hand. To do this, you have to take actions that grant you chests with useful powers, and then know when best to use the chests. It's a very complex game, yet on your turn, you make one simple choice. Get more guys, or place guys you have. This is not a game that gives you a turn to figure out things before stuff starts mattering. The clock on this is fierce. While the game has that puzzle like quality to it, the puzzle is not solvable, as you are competing with other players for chests, powers, and meeple spots. Additionally, for the first four round of the game, when a region scores, every meeple in a scoring spot gets removed from the board, which means they are no longer assisting you for endgame points. You only know half of the provinces that score each game for certain, the other half gets assigned if a certain criteria is met. It's a really fascinating game that grows on you with multiple plays.


Phew!
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Jonathan Challis
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quietcorn wrote:

Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India
In this game, you are trying to be the first to build all your glass tokens in the cities on the board. Doing so, requires you to get money and that's where this game gets interesting. Each turn someone walks across a town on a road where they don't have a house, they pay a dollar to each player that does have a house. Additionally, each turn ONE of the cities pays out big time in terms of dollars. It is another majority scoring but it has at least some payout for each of the 5 players who could have built into that city. I said before the key to the game is cash, so it's critical to predict and try to control which city gets scored next. Each player has a dial where they lock in their actions and reveal in turn order and of the actions is change the order of scoring the towns. This game also has tiles players get that give them unique powers in the round. This game was so so impressive. A very aggressive and interesting twist on route building and area control.

Endeavor
This is a really fantastic route planning & stat building game. As you build your routes, you pick up tokens along the route and add them to your board, to enhance the strength of your future actions. As areas become explored, decks of cards with more, and better symbol arrangements corresponding to those locations become available. It's a fantastic game of balancing your tableau building with your board presence and lots of player interaction as players vie to be the one to finish a route, or compete over tokens or knock other players out of locations.

Theme wise, I love how there are "slavery" cards that are cheap to get and give you an early boost, but if the slavery cards become too widespread, a card flips that represents everyone realizing how horrible it is, so all those cards count against their owner's victory points.


Not sure Endeavour is a hidden gem (more like very well known), but I certainly second both of these....
 
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Paweł Bedz
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Pax Pamir
Such a small box and it has so much poison in it... In my opinion much better than Game of Thrones when it comes to negotitions, betrayals etc.
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Jay Fraser
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Joakley815 wrote:
Two that I consider hidden gems are:

Kings of Air and Steam -- programmed movement (with flexibility), pick up and deliver, simultaneous planning. There were some rules changes between printings I believe -- make sure you check the forum for the updated rules if you get the first printing.

The Walled City: Londonderry & Borderlands -- this one is really overlooked by so many people, but I love it. It plays only 2 to 4 players, but I think it is definitely worth considering.



I have played the walled city and did enjoy it but not Kings of Air and Steam, I will have to take a look, thanks!
 
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Chris Snyder
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Selinsgrove
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In the Shadow of the Emperor
 
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Jay Fraser
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CaptainMench wrote:
Automania?? Came and went off the radar kinda quick, but we like it. Tile placement for then worker placement. Don't let the art work fool you and do try and find the white box edition. That's 2.0 and fixed a few minor things. I think a lot of people were ticked that 2.0 came out mere months after the first edition. That could have hurt this game too.

But... judging by the posts above me, there sure are hidden and then HIDDEN!

Good luck.
M


Thanks, I have heard of it, never had a chance to play it yet. It looks quite good, Zee from Dice Tower seems to be a big fan of it...
 
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Jay Fraser
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quietcorn wrote:
I second Citrus.

Also take a look at:

Bruxelles 1893

a game where you have a grid of action spaces, and when you place a worker on a space you pay a bid along with him and then resolve the action. At the end of the placements, whoever wins the bids through the row gets a bonus card at the bottom of the row. In addition to that there are four action spaces on a separate board that don't require a bid, but at the end of the round whoever has the most workers there has to lock one into the court spot to explain what you were up to over there, being all shady and not paying money for things.

Aside from that the game is crammed with clever mechanics and interesting methods of gathering endgame score category multipliers.

Dynasties: Heirate & Herrsche

At the start of the game, each player gets a hand of cards. Each card has three printed actions on it, which dictate what you are allowed to do on your turn. Already, we have a very flip-lucky situation. The game also features dice, which have some very powerful effects, including just get 6 points, get an extra meeple in a region, or take an extra 'get goods action'. The game also only goes for 3 rounds, so everything you do is tight tight tight. From just reading the rules I was sure that this game was going to be far too random for my taste.

Turns out, I don't know a good book by it's cover. This game turned out to be fantastic. With the multi-use cards, you can usually get what you want from a round if you plan carefully. Not to mention, there's mitigation in the fact that one of the cards activates these special once per round use tiles in the blue area of the board, so even if you don't have the black action in your hand, if you are clever, you can use the blue action to get what you wanted instead.

Another big plus to the game is that most of the actions have a mechanism where by one player splits a lot, and the other player chooses which lot they want. This is done with the goods collection, and it's done with the die roll results. This is a very fun mechanism, but most games I've seen that have used this suffer from massive downtime problems. Not so here. This game makes the splitting choices hard, interesting, and fast. Not to mention, that when you get those powerful die results, knowing that your opponent gets their pick of the results first, really evens out the randomness nicely.

Another big luck mitigation is the fact that at the end of the game, when you score regions for whoever has the most meeples + crests belonging to that region, if two players tie, they both get full points. This means that in general, if you are 1 up on a region, someone can get a lucky roll or do a last minute plant into that region, and you still get credit for your work. I can't emphasize enough how important this is in this game.

Yunnan

It's a really fantastic route building game. You first do a bidding thing to buy extra guys, buildings, skills, ect. Then you walk guys out onto the main board, and there's this interesting system where guys of lesser prestige (one of the skills you bid to upgrade) get punted backwards 1 zone. Then the big boss comes and punts the high of highest prestige in the highest production zone. Then the zones produce points and/or dollars (your choice) for each guy still standing in them, minus a penalty if some of your guys aren't in contiguous provinces after all that punting.

Yedo

The game round starts with an auction and then moves into a worker placement phase. In placement, nearly the same things from the auction are available, but of course before you could have gotten them for dollars, and now you have to spend workers AND dollars. Calculating the value of one vs the other is a really fun aspect of this game. The fact that major resources aren't spent and can be reused if you are clever/careful is fantastic. There's a ton of game here, and it's like nothing else.

Mangrovia

This is a wonderful, quick playing thinky euro, where you have that most wonderful combination of simple choices with complicated ramifications. Essentially what you are doing is either gathering cards in one or more of the three game currencies, or building huts. Huts do all sorts of wonderful area control at the end of the game depending on where you place them. One area gives you extra draws from a sack of spendable points, one area will calculate who has the most, another will calculate total huts in that area, and then it's combined with a Urban Sprawl style 'majority in the row and column'. To make things even more exciting, there is a single action spot available each round that lets you build 2 huts into a single spot, meaning even if a player thinks they are sitting pretty, someone can still upset the balance.

Heartland

In this game you lay tiles and score points based on contiguity of icons. There are two different criteria of scoring, one lets you claim areas that bank for only you, and the other scores you points that actually matter. Then players can sort of try to cut up your claimed areas with other tiles by playing things on top. It was like a fantastic cross between Kingdoms and Taluva, with short turns, high player interaction, and the sense of actually building something. Wonderful.

Liberté

In this elections game there are three political parties, the royals, the extremists and the moderates. You play cards to add vote tokens for specific parties to the board, and you want to ideally be the one who supports the winning party in the most spots, and also support the second place winner in the most spots. Ultimately you don't care which government is in power, you just care if they like you the best, as your success is based on having whichever side wins liking you best.

Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India

In this game, you are trying to be the first to build all your glass tokens in the cities on the board. Doing so, requires you to get money and that's where this game gets interesting. Each turn someone walks across a town on a road where they don't have a house, they pay a dollar to each player that does have a house. Additionally, each turn ONE of the cities pays out big time in terms of dollars. It is another majority scoring but it has at least some payout for each of the 5 players who could have built into that city. I said before the key to the game is cash, so it's critical to predict and try to control which city gets scored next. Each player has a dial where they lock in their actions and reveal in turn order and of the actions is change the order of scoring the towns. This game also has tiles players get that give them unique powers in the round. This game was so so impressive. A very aggressive and interesting twist on route building and area control.

Vanuatu

Fascinating worker placement and role selection game. The big design standout here is that you can be locked out of taking some of your action assignments if you aren't careful about placement. In general I'm not a huge fan of games that have action denial as a mechanic, but here it's almost something that you do to yourself by not paying proper attention than it is something one of your opponents can inflict on you. The essence is you have a few worker tokens you get to place. When you resolve your actions, you can only resolve an action where you have a majority of tokens, so you might need to plan and react if an opponent goes for the same action as you during the placement phase.

Endeavor

This is a really fantastic route planning & stat building game. As you build your routes, you pick up tokens along the route and add them to your board, to enhance the strength of your future actions. As areas become explored, decks of cards with more, and better symbol arrangements corresponding to those locations become available. It's a fantastic game of balancing your tableau building with your board presence and lots of player interaction as players vie to be the one to finish a route, or compete over tokens or knock other players out of locations.

Theme wise, I love how there are "slavery" cards that are cheap to get and give you an early boost, but if the slavery cards become too widespread, a card flips that represents everyone realizing how horrible it is, so all those cards count against their owner's victory points.

The Staufer Dynasty

In this game, you have 15 turns to get the most points possible by predicting which regions will score, when they will score, and how best to position yourself for bonus points from the three secret endgame cards in your hand. To do this, you have to take actions that grant you chests with useful powers, and then know when best to use the chests. It's a very complex game, yet on your turn, you make one simple choice. Get more guys, or place guys you have. This is not a game that gives you a turn to figure out things before stuff starts mattering. The clock on this is fierce. While the game has that puzzle like quality to it, the puzzle is not solvable, as you are competing with other players for chests, powers, and meeple spots. Additionally, for the first four round of the game, when a region scores, every meeple in a scoring spot gets removed from the board, which means they are no longer assisting you for endgame points. You only know half of the provinces that score each game for certain, the other half gets assigned if a certain criteria is met. It's a really fascinating game that grows on you with multiple plays.


Phew!


Nice list thank you, my group has Bruxelles but it has not hit the table yet, it looks vg. Also Heartland and Staufer Dynasty both excellent games!

Vanuatu looks vg I will have to check it out. Yedo has been one I have wanted to play as well good to hear it is a good game.

I have never heard of Liberte of Mangrovia I will check those out they really sound like my type of games especially Liberte!

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