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You hate BGG so much, why don't you just go ahead and spend all your time on it???? Huh???

Sometimes, I complain about BGG.
But it's the only website I check daily (usually many multiple times a day) and it generally brings me a bit more joy than grief on the scales of Internet use.
The past few days, I've had fun throwing together some new geeklists.
Here they are all in one place:
Trawlerman's Top Twenty Trick-Takers Tabled
Crawlerman's Current Climbing Crushes
Orlerman's Other Options Outside of Obvious Ock-Ocking/Ombing (Ome Odding)
Postscript: Do you even OG, bruh?
Also, it's almost October, and that means Slashing Through Cinema 9! - Class of 1999 (Year 9 of the Annual BGG Horror Movie Watching Challenge!). I don't even consider myself a horror fan, and yet every year I get caught up in the madness. It's a fun way to stretch my (imaginary) cinematic muscles and be exposed to films that I wouldn't normally pick for myself. And I keep going back, because while the trash to treasure ratio is probably higher than usual in horror, when I do find a gem, it tends to shine bright.
Then, it's Noirvember and maybe I'll get back into BurrEato, which I skipped last year. I'm at this weird moment in which I'm excited for so much BGG online interaction, more so than I've been in a long while.
Then, maybe an Advent/Christmas break, because as excited as I am now, I also know how fickle I am, how my perception of my online use and abuse can shift suddenly and I can feel a stupid suffocating pressure at being online so much.
Anyhow, that's it. Enjoy the lists. See you around the 'geek.
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Mon Sep 18, 2023 12:02 pm
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May 2023 - "Ycladd in mightie armes and silver shielde, / Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine," -ES

Board Game: Carcassonne
Board Game: Chess
Board Game: Gin Rummy
Board Game: Hearts
Board Game: Scopa
Board Game: Sea Salt & Paper
Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates
Board Game: Tikal
Board Game: Acorns
Board Game: Tori Shogi
Board Game: No Mercy
Board Game: Strike
Board Game: The Royal Game of Ur
Board Game: Trike
Board Game: Turncoats
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel
Board Game: Dominion
Board Game: Meridians
Board Game: Noodlin'
Board Game: Pig
Board Game: UNO
Board Game: Disci
Board Game: Just One
Board Game: Qawale
Board Game: Yahtzee

 10   Carcassonne (27 all-time)
 10   Chess x4 (109 all-time)
 10   Gin Rummy x2 (6 all-time)
 10   Hearts (10 all-time)
 10   Scopa x2 (11 all-time)
 10   Sea Salt & Paper (8 all-time)
 10   Tigris & Euphrates x2 (23 all-time)
 10   Tikal (16 all-time)
 9   Acorns (2 all-time)
 8   Tori Shogi NEW!
 7   No Mercy x3 (24 all-time)
 7   Strike (42 all-time)
 7   The Royal Game of Ur x2 (8 all-time)
 7   Trike x2 NEW!
 7   Turncoats x4 (14 all-time)
 7   Unpublished Prototype x3 (22 all-time)
 6   7 Wonders Duel (6 all-time)
 6   Dominion (18 all-time)
 6   Meridians x2 NEW!
 6   Noodlin' NEW!
 6   Pig (3 all-time)
 6   UNO x11 (33 all-time)
 5   Disci x2 NEW!
 5   Just One (2 all-time)
 5   Qawale x2 NEW!
 5   Yahtzee (2 all-time)

A lot of great gaming. Look at all of those green boxed 10s. But even all of those lesser colors, those lesser numbers... I'm satisfied with all of my gaming this past month. It was a good month. I had 19 people show up at my chess club and that was wonderful.

Acorns is probably a 10. I'm just giving it some time. The best "game day" this month was playing cards with Abigail while waiting in line early at the Ithaca book sale. SS&P and Acorns. I'm hoping to make playing those two games with her a regular routine on the Saturdays that I don't have to work. She enjoys both of the games which makes me enjoy both of the games even more than I already do.


Ithaca book sale? Yeah, it was May. I bought a lot of new books.

I read a lot, but nothing really to report, bits and pieces of a whole lot of things. I'm okay with this, but it doesn't make for any tidy monthly reports.

Slow reading.

I'm close to finished with Moby-Dick and still think it's among the greatest things I've ever read. I'm reluctant to finish it, but I also think that I'm just going to immediately re-read, maybe a chapter a week or so, forever into the future. I'd be okay with that. It feels like hyperbole, but it really isn't. It's a capital-G capital-B Great Book.

I'm about halfway through my read of Brothers Karamazov and find myself crying at odd times. Enough about that.

I'm reading J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World, which was sardonically cool Climate Fiction before Cli-Fi was a thing. If pushed, I'd describe Ballard's prose as swampy, heavy, florid, and in this context I only mean that in the best possible way.

I'm also reading (and so far greatly enjoying) Richard Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster. Brautigan has been recommended to me a few times over the years. This "Gothic Western" finally caught my interest and got me reading.


As for motion pictures, I'll probably wait and write more later. In the meantime, here...

Top Ten Movies From Each of My Co-Workers' Birth Years

Without commentary. These lists are a mix of nostalgia, half-remembered appreciations from many years ago, and a strong handful of favorites that I either rewatch fairly frequently and/or already know forwards and backwards from past repeated re-watches. 1970 obviously defeated me. I'm not sure if it's a particularly weak year or if there are just a bunch of gems that I'm ignorant of.

Speaking of my ignorance, while looking up movies from each year, I inevitably came up against many, many films that I haven't seen, at least two or three, sometimes up to a dozen or so, from each year, that I think would have great chances of making my list if I had seen them.

But I haven't seen so much. One alternate timeline for me has me living on the streets, scrapping together money for movie tickets.

Here goes:

Ride Lonesome
North by Northwest
Rio Bravo
The 400 Blows
Day of the Outlaw
Some Like it Hot
Anatomy of a Murder
The Shaggy Dog

Eyes Without a Face
Comanche Station
The Apartment
The Time Machine
North to Alaska
The Virgin Spring
The Magnificent Seven

The Hustler
Blast of Silence
An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge
The Parent Trap
One Hundred and One Dalmations
Through a Glass Darkly
The Steamroller and the Violin
The Absent-Minded Professor
Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak

Claire's Knee
Five Easy Pieces
Even Dwarfs Started Small

F for Fake
Mean Streets
The Wicker Man
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Fantastic Planet
The Friends of Eddie Coyle
The Sting
Charlotte's Web

The Muppet Movie
The Great American Chase
Wise Blood
My Brilliant Career
Camera Buff
The Plumber
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro
Rocky II

Return of the Jedi
Local Hero
Sans Soleil
Pauline at the Beach
Tender Mercies
Superman III

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
The NeverEnding Story
Paris, Texas
Blood Simple
The Terminator
Stranger Than Paradise
The Brother From Another Planet
The Muppets Take Manhattan
The Karate Kid

Return to Oz
Back to the Future
Better Off Dead
The Stuff
The Breakfast Club
Follow That Bird
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
The Goonies
After Hours
Day of the Dead

The Fisher King
Rubin & Ed
Barton Fink
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
What About Bob?
Thelma & Louise
Toy Soldiers
Black Robe
Boyz n the Hood
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Fri Jun 2, 2023 11:33 pm
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Top Twenty Top Ten Lists I've Made in the Last Month or So.

I played Hearts last night and it was fantastic. Hearts is always fantastic. Why do I play anything other than Hearts?

Related, I have a question to those of you have played a ton of Hearts. Do you think that Shooting the Moon is easier at 3p than 4p? Last night was my first time playing 3p so I could be completely wrong about this, but that was the feeling that I got.

This post is not about Hearts.

It's my blog and I'll do what I want to do to earn those unsubscribers.


A few of us at work have gone crazy with lists lately. Since this blog is no longer about tabletop games (until it is again), here's a list of lists without any further comment.

Feel free to argue with me about any of these. I'd also to see any of your own lists.


Top Ten Novels of the Last Ten Years Roughly Ranked
Treacle Walker
The Buried Giant
Anthropocene Rag
Station Eleven
Medusa’s Web
Universal Harvester
The Risen
Joan is Okay

(This is the list that started the list-making spree. What are the ten best books of the last ten years? I feel good about the top 5. I love Treacle Walker and The Buried Giant more than most others do. Anthropocene Rag is the only genre SF that I’ve really respected from the last 10 years. Station Eleven and Homegoing are my nods to LitFic, where I’m sure there’s still good stuff being written, but I hardly ever see it if it is.The next 5 on the list I could take or leave. I’m mixed on all of them, but they came to mind as stuff to fill out the list. I wouldn’t be upset if they all disappeared. I’m somewhat interested in Franzen’s current project and will read the next novels following Crossroads. Medusa’s Web is the last Powers book I enjoyed; I haven’t really cared for any of his novels since. Universal Harvester’s mood stuck with me, but I’m not sure if there was anything there. The Risen is Rash, who I like better as a short story writer. Joan is the last LitFic novel that I read and enjoyed, though it’s not something that I think I’ll want to re-read, which should be an automatic disqualification for any list, but there it is just the same. I don’t have enough current books to fill a list of ten. The #1 takeaway from this list is that I’m not a fan of contemporary literature. I don’t read much of it. I rarely love it when I do.)

Top Ten 2000-2012 In No Particular Order
The Knights of the Cornerstone
American Gods
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
No Country for Old Men
The Name of the Wind
Wise Man’s Fear
Singularity Sky
Echo Park

(Another weird list proving that I’m not your guy if you’re interested in contemporary literature. But I can at least justify almost all of these books. Knights of the Cornerstone is my favorite Blaylock, probably not Blaylock’s best, but the one that I find the most re-readable/loveable. American Gods is a book that I’m not even sure I like, but I’ve read it three times, and think that it’s among the most important sf/f books of the past few decades. Kavalier and Clay I loved when it came out, but I’ve never returned to it. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the Armitage translation, a bit of a cheat, but it has become my favorite version. No Country for Old Men is quite good. I’ve been meaning to read older McCarthy. I also like his Sunset Limited. I have a problem with some of the MarySue-ish-ness of the Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear among other things that bug me, but… these two books are the only fantasy books that I’ve read in the last twenty years that made me feel like a little kid again, just so happy to be caught up in a giant story. It has been a long time since I’ve read Singularity Sky so I don’t even know if it’s any good, but I bring up its central “Cornucopia Machine” premise fairly often, so I know that the book has stuck with me. I should re-read it. Similarly, I remember the “mood” of Tinkers but not much else. As for Echo Park, it’s a stand-in for the entire Bosch series. I don’t remember hardly anything about any of the plots, but I burned through more than a dozen of those Bosch books in the late 00s.)


The Twentieth Century
The Ten Best Novels

The Man Who Was Thursday
The Sword in the Stone
The Little Prince
The Broken Sword
The Lord of the Rings
The Sirens of Titan
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
The Devil is Dead
The Drawing of the Dark
The Book of the New Sun

(The 20th Century is what shaped me and is still where I spent much of my time in terms of literature/arts. I had a shortlist of at least 50 books for this list. I couldn’t figure out how to narrow it down, then I stumbled onto the incredibly stupid gimmick of only listing books that began with the word ‘The’. So, yes, this list is artificial and not entirely reflective of a ‘desert island’ list, but I still think it’s a great list. All of the above are favorites and I would recommend all of the above with no reservations (or minor reservations depending on the audience.)


Top Ten Anthologies/Collections
An Anthology of Famous American Stories edited by Angus Burrell and Bennet Cerf
Great Tales of Terror & the Supernatural edited by Herbert Wise and Phyllis Fraser
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964 edited by Robert Silverberg
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two A edited by Ben Bova
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B edited by Ben Bova
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Tales Before Tolkien edited by Douglas A. Anderson
The Rediscovery of Man edited by James A. Mann
The Man Who Talled Tales edited by The Books of Sand
The Complete Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson edited by Barry Menikoff
Bonus! The Year’s Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois (all 35 volumes)

(Confession: I have not read all of the stories in all of the above collections. But I’ve read a lot of them. And if I had to pick a collection of short story anthologies to take with me to a desert island, the above list would be 100% what I’d pick.)


Top Ten Video Games
Tower Fall
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
ToeJam & Earl
Super Mario World
Shining Force
Mario Kart
Street Fighter II Turbo

(This is a nostalgia list, but it isn’t just a nostalgia list. Video games have moved on without me. I’m not a fan of 3D worlds, first-person shooters, online play, or whatever else is popular. I mostly like my video games the same way I like my board games, played in person with other people.)


Top 10 Movies Aughts
La Moustache
The New World
Still Life
La France
No Country for Old Men
The Romance of Astrea and Celadon
There Will Be Blood
A Serious Man

(This is mostly based off of memory and a few previous lists. I would love take a few days off from work, rent a cinema, and re-watch all of these right now.)


Top 10 Movies All-Time
On the Waterfront
3:10 to Yuma
Blast of Silence
The Hustler
Minnie and Moskowitz
The Great American Chase
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Rubin & Ed
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Julien Donkey-Boy

(If the above aughts list is personal and idiosyncratic, this one is doubly so. I’ve made all-time top tens, top twenty-fives, top one hundreds, and I’ve toyed with the idea of making a top one thousand list. These ten here are all films that I’ve at one point or another used as the answer to “What is your one favorite film?” That question is even more impossible to answer than a list of ten, but all of these films (and more) are right there at the top, great for so many objective and subjective reasons.)


Top 10 TV
The Twilight Zone
Fraggle Rock
Sesame Street
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
Land of the Lost
The Outer Limits
Monty Python's Flying Circus
At the Movies
The Muppet Show
Star Trek: The Next Generation

(I miss intelligent television.)


Top 10 Hanna-Barbera Productions
Wacky Races
The Herculoids
Thundarr the Barbarian
Space Ghost and Dino Boy
Birdman and the Galaxy Trio
Hong Kong Phooey
The Pirates of Dark Water
The Smurfs
The Quick Draw McGraw Show
Scooby’s All-Star Laff-Lympics

(This was a bit of a joke list, but I stand by these choices. I haven’t re-watched most of these in years, but I did recently purchase a Herculoids blu-ray that I need to watch with the kids.)


Top 10 1950s Westerns
Johnny Guitar
River of No Return
Decision at Sundown
The Searchers
3:10 to Yuma
Night Passage
The Tall T
Terror in a Texas Town
Ride Lonesome

(It’s Chris C’s fault that I made this list. I should do an ‘all-time’ Westerns list, but I often freeze when options are too wide open. I need restrictions even if they’re self-imposed!)


1860-1968 American Recordings - Favorites
American Folksongs for Children - Mike & Peggy Seeger
The Complete Blind Willie Johnson - Blind Willie Johnson
The Complete Studio Recordings - Mississippi John Hurt
Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes - John Fahey
Devil Got My Woman - Skip James
His Folkways Years 1963-1968 - Dock Boggs
Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes - Elizabeth Cotten
The High Lonesome Sound - Roscoe Holcomb
My Rough and Rowdy Ways - Jimmie Rodgers
This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 - Woody Guthrie

(My initial response to an “all-time” albums list was to just refuse to do it and instead come up with my favorite “collections” of songs, all entirely American. I love lots of world music, but I am naturally most steeped in the Anglo tradition which is reflected above. It’s a tradition that I love.)


1968-2023 American Recordings - “Concept” Albums Kinda/Sorta/Maybe - Favorites
The Voice of the Turtle - John Fahey
Zaireeka - The Flaming Lips
1st Imaginary symphony for Nomad - The Music Tapes
69 Love Songs - The Magnetic Fields
De La Soul is Dead - De La Soul
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel
Surf's Up - The Beach Boys
Liquid Swords - Genius/GZA
The Gay Parade - Of Montreal
Amalgamated Sons of Rest - Amalgamated Sons of Rest

(This was an attempt to make a more honest albums list, but limiting the list to albums that I felt were doing something interesting as albums and not just as collections of songs. The Amalgamated Sons of Rest album is on there just because I needed to include Jason Molina, Will Oldham, and Alasdair Roberts and not because it’s a great album; in short, it’s what’s called “a cheat”.)


1990s - Ten Albums/EPs I Probably Listened to More Than You Did - Favorites
Deep Dead Blue - Bill Frissell & Elvis Costello (1995)
The Diamond Sea EP - Sonic Youth (1995)
Dusk - The The (1993)
Little Earthquakes - Tori Amos (1992)
Flood - They Might Be Giants (1990)
Mermaid Avenue - Billy Bragg & Wilco (1998)
The Mollusk - Ween (1997)
Ocean Songs - Dirty Three (1998)
So Tonight That I Might See - Mazzy Star (1993)
Violator - Depeche Mode (1990)

(Another list that could easily be doubled or tripled. The idea is right there in the title. I tried to pick only albums that I genuinely thought I had listened to more than anyone else who was going to see the list. And they’re all 1990s albums, when I was a young person with nothing but time, time, time.)


1990s - 11 Rap/Hip-Hop Albums - Favorites
3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of… - Arrested Development (1992)
De La Soul is Dead - De La Soul (1991)
Fear of a Black Planet - Public Enemy (1990)
Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai (Music From The Motion Picture) - RZA (1999)
Liquid Swords - Genius/GZA (1995)
The Low End Theory - A Tribe Called Quest (1991)
Music for the Advancement of Hip Hop - Anticon (1999)
Nia - Blackalicious (1999)
Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) - Digable Planets (1993)
Return of the Boom Bap - KRS-One (1993)
The Score - The Fugees (1996)

(More 1990s. The 1990s was when I still cared about hip-hop and cared about keeping up with music at all. I’m sure there’s still good stuff out there now, and I’ve found some of it, but I’m still mostly ignorant of what’s going on, and don’t like pop stuff at all.)


Top 10 Stouts
Old Rasputin
Strike Out Stout
Old No. 38
Burly Beard
Black Chocolate Stout
Milk Stout Nitro
Founders Breakfast Stout
Dragon’s Milk

(Self-explanatory. I’m sure I forgot something.)


Top 10 Breweries
North Coast
Cooperstown (before they were bought out)
Sierra Nevada
Oskar Blues
Beer Tree



RIP Dead Beers
Cooperstown Strike Out Stout
Brooklyn Pennant Ale ‘55
Galaxy Andromeda
Rogue Chipotle Ale

(Making the above lists made me realize that there are beers that I once loved that are now completely gone while so many worse beers remain. In general, I’ve been disappointed by the last decade’s move towards higher ABV, even while enjoying those higher ABV beers myself. Really great beers like Strike Out and Pennant Ale were low ABV and just eminently drinkable any time, any place. They were favorites. Also lost to me are North Coast’s Red Seal Ale and Old 38, both of which I remember loving. They’re still being made as far as I can tell, but they haven’t had distribution around here in at least over a decade. Anyhow, I know that there are at least five more beers that I could put on a list like this, but I gave up after four because the list was too sad.)


Top Ten Moonshiners
Roscoe Holcomb
Bob Dylan
Peter Rowan
Uncle Tupelo
Cat Power
Charlie Parr
PigPen Theatre
Jesse Stewart
Molly Tuttle
Tejon Street Corner Thieves


Top Ten Fish Including Shellfish

(This was written as a response to a Top Ten Phish Songs list.)


Top Ten Games I'd Rather Play Than Hearts Right Now

(This list remains blank. What a silly thing to try to list.)
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Fri May 26, 2023 6:48 pm
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Geeklists Greatest Hits

My BGG profiles shows that I've made 90 geeklists. I should probably wait until I hit 100 to do this, but I had the idea this morning, so here I am. What idea? The idea to collect all of my better geeklists in one post and link to them. Here you go:

Babylonia Reviewed by Board Game Community Celebrities
The Babylonia Century

NBW XIII - Getting Stopped at the Canadian Border with a Backseat Full of Board Games
GMT East 2011 - One Newbie's Experience
NBW - better than casinos AND cuban cigars
NBW - more fun than a barrel over the falls

A Celebration of Blogs
Recent Japanese Card Games That Can Be Played With a Standard Playing Card Deck (or other commonly available "systems" decks)
The Era of the Classic Euro - An Alternative BGG Top 100 Limited to the Years 1995-2004
Keep playing new games without buying any new games - play the games you already own that you didn't know you already own...
How many of BGG's Top Ten Games have you played?
This Game Ends NOW. -- Variable Timing Game End Conditions - Which games have them?
Blind Spots - Who has time for Cult of the New? It's Hard to Keep Up With the CULT OF THE OLD!
Wargaming: A Personal Journey, or A Slow and Indirect Path Around and Finally Toward the Wonderful World of Wargames.
Sneak Peek: 2008
From Glory to Glory: Development of a Block Gamer

New-to-me 2022 geeklist; In which I write a few sentences about new-to-me games after I play them in the year 2022.
New-to-me 2021; This list is for me, not you. It's okay. The problem is also with me, not you. You're still welcome to comment. Geeklist titles can get pretty long. Why does no one else take advantage of this?

Noirvember 3: How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?
Noirvember 2: How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?
Noirvember 1: The Inaugural BGG November Noir Fest

Riffle Shuffle & Roll: New Games - Rooted in Tradition
Every Knizia Game I've Played In The Order I Played Them
David Parlett's Original Card Games
30 Years of Reiner Knizia - BGG's 100 Favorite Knizia Games in Chronological Order
Reiner Knizia Interviews/Appearances 2020
Reiner Knizia's Worst Games (according to BGG)
Reiner Knizia Geeklists Metalist
The Ragnar Brothers: A Reckoning
The Unstoppable Kramer/Kiesling Juggernaut
Columbia Blockgames Listed Chronologically

Top X Lists
My Ten Top Ten Games: 2000-2009
2p Games with Traditional Playing Cards (Trawlerman's Top Ten 2021)
Trawlerman's Top 20 for Two - 2021 Edition (w/ music too)
25 more 2s >2000 (A Deep Cat's Couples' Cuts)
Trawlerman's 10 Favorite Trick-Taking Games (Excluding Climbing/Shedding Games) 2021 Edition
Only 25 (unflashy great games I play repeatedly over the years)
Trawlerman's Top Ten Design Families
Love you more than everything Loved it more than anything Loved everything more than anything: an attempt at commitment
10 Games Everyone Should Play At Least 10 Times
The Compleat Gamester - trawlerman's Top 100 Games, May 18th-19th, 2020 Edition, to be completely revised on the morrow, weather permitting, and if he gets out of bed.
My Top Ten Games: 1999BC to 1999AD
My Top Games by Year: 2010-2019 "to perform an act / Whereof what's past is prologue"
Trawlerman's Top 20 Obscure Games (games I love with fewer than 500 ratings on BGG)
A Top 20 Tabletop Games List after 2,236 plays, 543 ratings, over the course of 12 years, 5 months, 5 days on BGG

The Rising Stars of the Trick-Taking/Climbing World
Trawlerman's 2022 Trick-Taker Watchlist
Trawlerman's 2021 Trick-Taker Watchlist
Top 20 Trick-Taking Games According To BGG
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Wed Mar 16, 2022 3:51 pm
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If I Could Only Keep 5 Reiner Knizia Games (June 2021 Edition)

After reading Martin's recent article, I felt inspired to make another list (it doesn't take too much to get me to make another list).

I've logged 332 plays of 71 unique Knizia games.

The following is a list of my Essential 5. I've still got other Knizia games in the house because the kids love them. I get it. I like those games too. But I'm at the point at which I could cull my Knizia collection (a collection within the overall collection) down to these 5 games (with the additional caveat that I'd also be keeping copies of New Tactical Games with Dice and Cards and Blazing Aces!: A Fistful of Family Card Games). These are the essentials.

1. Tigris & Euphrates
2. Babylonia
3. Schotten Totten/Lost Cities
4. High Society
5. Lord of the Rings (2003)

Yeah, yeah, you'll have likely already noticed that I've included six games in my Top 5 list. Plus two books, which brings the Top 5 to 8. Sigh. I might as well add two more to make 10. Through the Desert to stretch the Knizia Collection player count to 5 and to add a game that I think I still love? That sounds good. That's 9. But I don't know what game I would slot in to be #10. There are a dozen different games that could be there given mood and circumstance but none that feel essential to me in the way that the games above are essential to me.

I've already written in various places about why I love each of these games. Sadly, I was only inspired to make a list today, not to also add interesting comments. Sorry.

Now, I'll turn the comments over to YOU. What are YOUR 'essential Knizia games'?
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Thu Jun 17, 2021 5:26 pm
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2020 Geeklists

I made a lot of geeklists in 2020.
-My Top Ten Games: 1999BC to 1999AD
-This Game Ends NOW. -- Variable Timing Game End Conditions - Which games have them?
-The Compleat Gamester - trawlerman's Top 100 Games, May 18th-19th, 2020 Edition, to be completely revised on the morrow, weather permitting, and if he gets out of bed.
-How many of BGG's Top Ten Games have you played?
-Great and Terrible Games Give Away of 2020
-Reiner Knizia's Worst Games (according to BGG)
-The Babylonia Century
-Reiner Knizia Interviews/Appearances 2020
-30 Years of Reiner Knizia - BGG's 100 Favorite Knizia Games in Chronological Order
-Babylonia Reviewed by Board Game Community Celebrities
-Noirvember 2: How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?
-In the Wake Of Swimzania; Following Bootleby's Script: Redux - A Second Following Into Personal Top 50 Play Placements With At Least 10 Plays Instead of 5
-Trawlerman's Mindfully Not Spending Money On Games Challenge - 2021
-Keep playing new games without buying any new games - play the games you already own that you didn't know you already own...
-24h 'Blitz Gaming' Challenge - December 2020 Edition
-2020 Acquisitions - Reflections on the act of exchanging time for money for games
-David Parlett's Original Card Games
-Top 20 Trick-Taking Games According To BGG
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Fri Dec 4, 2020 9:54 pm
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Family Tens

Yesterday, I started going through games. I brought up games from the basement, rearranged games on our primary gaming shelves, moved some games that had been in my bedroom, etc. Lots of game movement. I'm trying to prioritize which unplayed games to play. I'm also trying to prepare for a purge.

I asked my children to list their Ultimate Top Ten Games of All Time. I gave them half an hour. Entirely spur of the moment and entirely unfair. I did not require ranking so consider each of these lists unranked.

Here are the lists:

Pax Pamir 2e
My Word
No Thanks
Gulo Gulo

I'm pretty sure that Gulo Gulo was a pure nostalgia pick. I was surprised that there weren't any social deduction picks on this list. Also, my oldest is the best at complex euros (she did better than me at T'Zolkin the day we learned it together at a public game day), but there aren't any on here since there aren't any in my house! Scythe is the closest, but she had a question mark next to it on her list. I don't know what that means (I never did do any follow-up questioning about any of these lists). Her and I played Scythe a few times 2p, but I guess it has been at least a couple years now. Two word games on the list means that I should teach her Movable Type and really should just overall have a few more word games in the house.

Pax Pamir 2e
Tigris & Euphrates

Siam was a surprise on this list as I barely remember playing it with her. With Shogi and DVONN also on the list, you can tell who likes the abstracts.

Pax Pamir 2e
Irish Gauge
St Petersburg
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Summoner Wars at Tadsch Mahal

I let her get away with that last cheat combo because it made me laugh out loud. Also, for the record, she actually wrote Tadsch Mahal and not Taj Mahal, which makes it even funnier. We own the original German edition.

The three oldest agree on Azul and Pax Pamir 2e! Azul is a game that they have played a lot, both at public game days with our friend Becca, and at home with each other and with cousins and friends. If I don't really love Azul, it doesn't matter. PP2e saw play at home, but it also saw play at public game days/evenings, so they've played it with others who have played more often. The fact that three teenaged girls list PP2e as one of their favorite games surely says something about what is or isn't appropriate as a family game. I've been saying for a while that the reason I love recent new-to-me games like PP2e, Irish Gauge, Bus, and Babylonia is precisely because they are great family games, deeply interactive with simple, intuitive rules. I have not played Wingspan, but I have read the rules. I honestly believe that the rules to PP2e are simpler (more elegant) than the Wingspan rules. Not only are they simpler, but the emergent gameplay allows for players playing against each other instead of playing against a puzzle. (Dang it, I feel like I'm trying to talk myself into breaking my no new Cole Wehrle game rule. We'll see what happens when the John Company reprint is announced. I may break down.)

Saint Petersburg
My Word
Dutch Blitz
Traditional Playing Cards
Through the Desert

My 12yo loves card games and regrets that she had to leave off many small card games.

Bug Bluff
Zero Down
Hero Realms
Greedy Kingdoms
Northern Pacific

All of these lists have some recency bias, but this one is probably the most guilty as she only played LYNGK for the first time the day before she made this list. She beat me three games out of five. For that matter, her first Babylonia play was the same day. But who doesn't instantly love Babylonia, right?

My 10yo is probably the most avid gamer in the house right now. There are many days in which the first thing she does in the morning is get one of her siblings to play a game with her and the last thing she does before bed is the same.

The observant reader will have already noticed what ALL FIVE of these lists have in common. Babylonia!

When I had them do this, I really wasn't planning on this being another Babylonia commercial. The purpose of these lists was to identify which games I definitely should not purge. Well, guess what? Babylonia is nowhere near the list of games to purge. I'm actually still semi-seriously considering buying a second copy. The 12yo and 10yo asked me if they could play it 2p on their own last night. I said no because it was 10 minutes to supper time, but I also gave them an unasked-for lecture about caring for games and not leaving them out after playing where their little siblings can play with them in their own ways. Last week, I found Potato Man cards floating all around the house. Sigh. This is what happens with games and kids. It's mostly okay, because I'm happy they're enjoying the games in the house. It just takes that repeated training to take care of items (and vigilance against the younger agents of chaos).

Also of note is seeing Keyforge on a few lists even though I haven't played it with any of the kids in over a year. Seeing it listed so many times really makes me wonder why I have not pulled it out more often. Of course I know why. Always new games. I need to stop the new games. Play more Keyforge instead. Well, as we all know now, I have one solid year of burning through my own Great Unplayed, then I hope to have a real focus on the games we all already love.

Hero Realms
Love Letter
King of Tokyo

No Babylonia because I haven't taught him yet. I don't know that he would play well, but I have no doubt that he could easily learn how to play (and learn to play well after a few sessions). The box age of 14+ is a terrible lie. If I had been in charge, I would have put the box age at 10+ (with most parents understanding that of course 8-year-olds can usually play games listed as 10+). I could even see kids younger than 8 playing if they have patient teachers. My own patience stretches at this point and I'd rather just play other, simpler games with younger children.

Also, what's funny about this list is that he's never played Keyforge. I bought him his own deck, but I told him that he can't play until he can read well enough to do so. I guess that hasn't stopped him from considering the game a favorite! He can't read the cards in Hero Realms or Love Letter or King of Tokyo either, but his 10yo sister has a lot of patience with him and will read out all of the cards for him. He has a lot of them memorized.

I did not ask my 6yo, 4yo, or 3yo to make lists.

I should see if I could get Abigail to even make a Top 3.
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Wed Oct 7, 2020 7:10 pm
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100 Ranked

I did 20 two years ago.
50 last year.
I figured I'd finally go for the 100. The ranking is almost arbitrary, but it is based on desire to play again right now and not some notion of how objectively great the game is. Yes, this year I once again include games that I haven't played in a decade, but I think I'm getting better about this. They're on the list to prompt me to play them. If I repeatedly don't play them, they'll likely leave the collection and leave the list.
The Compleat Gamester - trawlerman's Top 100 Games, May 18th-19th, 2020 Edition, to be completely revised on the morrow, weather permitting, and if he gets out of bed.
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Tue May 19, 2020 10:06 pm
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Ranking the Good Doctor's Games

I have logged 134 plays of 33 unique Knizia designs. That's not a lot by the standards of the most ardent Kniziaphiles, but I figure that it's enough for me to have graduated from Neophyte to low-level Acolyte. You can argue with me, you can definitely berate me for not being worthy, but I'm definitely in the Knizia Kult, and I'm not going anywhere.

Here are some thoughts on the games that I've played:

Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates

Tigris & Euphrates (1997)
# of plays: 16
First play: 2006-05-17
Last play: 2019-04-26

I'm convinced that Tigris & Euphrates is one of the greatest games of all time. The play rewards skill, but there can be so much direct (and indirect) conflict that it often feels like the skill needed is something like surfing a chaos wave. You want to stay on and pull off that perfect ride, but it always feels like you might lose the board from under you!

Board Game: Lost Cities
Board Game: Through the Desert
Board Game: Lord of the Rings

Lost Cities (1999)
# of plays: 13 (always play 3 rounds, total score)
First play: 2006-01-03
Last play: 2015-10-18

Through the Desert (1998)
# of plays: 12
First play: 2006-01-12
Last play: 2018-06-16

Lord of the Rings (2003)
# of plays: 8
First play: 2008-04-26
Last play: 2016-11-19

I recently posted about the difference between a '7' and an '8' rating. I do think that that's the huge dividing line. The line between '8' and '9' seems fuzzier. Lost Cities was a '9' for a long time. It's dropped simply because it hasn't been played recently. Same with Through the Desert. When TtD got played last year, I wasn't excited about it mostly because the other players weren't as excited about it. I still love the game, but I think that it's a bit out of step with what other gamers want right now.

Lost Cities was the first game that I logged a play of on BGG, January 3rd, 2006, after having been on the site for a couple of months. I'd have a soft spot for it even if it were a terrible game, which it most certainly is not!

I purchased T&E, Through the Desert, and Lost Cities in early December '05 through Thought Hammer, one of my earliest "modern games" orders from an online retailer. (That order also included Gulo Gulo, Hammer of the Scots, and Bohnanza, all of which have followed me through several moves and are still in my house to this day, with HotS being an all-time favorite; the order also contained War of the Ring, which I sold or traded unplayed, and Pass the Pigs, the pigs of which have long since run away. All things considered, this was probably my best games order ever in terms of Hits to Misses!)

Lost Cities has delicious tension, featuring sometimes agonizing decisions in such a simple little design space.

Through the Desert is a rare 3+ abstract game that plays really well at every player count. Plus it has cute pastel camels.

Lord of the Rings is the perfect "Overland Adventure Game." It's a luckfest. It even has a spinner!!!! Thematically, it doesn't make any sense that the different hobbits are competing with one another and actively trying to stop the others winning. Sure, the co-op makes more sense, but this one is soooo much more fun, pretty much the perfect kid game.

Board Game: Ingenious: Travel Edition
Board Game: Ingenious
Board Game: Schotten Totten
Board Game: Medici vs Strozzi
Board Game: Royal Visit
Board Game: Cheeky Monkey
Board Game: The Quest for El Dorado
Board Game: Medici
Board Game: Loot
Board Game: Desperados
Board Game: Ra

Ingenious: Travel Edition (2006)
# of plays: 8
First play: 2007-12-09
Last play: 2019-06-06

Ingenious (2004)
# of plays: 6
First play: 2006-12-14
Last play: 2015-12-11

Schotten Totten (1999)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2016-10-11
Last play: 2016-10-11

Medici vs Strozzi (2006)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2018-04-06
Last play: 2018-04-06

Times Square (2006)
# of plays: 4
First play: 2018-04-06
Last play: 2018-04-06

Cheeky Monkey (2007)
# of plays: 9
First play: 2008-04-07
Last play: 2018-03-05

The Quest for El Dorado (2017)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2018-03-12
Last play: 2018-07-21

Medici (1995)
# of plays: 3
First play: 2006-05-27
Last play: 2017-12-22

Loot (1992)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-08-18
Last play: 2019-08-18

Desperados (1990)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2019-05-05
Last play: 2019-05-05

Blue Moon City (2006)
# of plays: 5
First play: 2006-10-19
Last play: 2007-12-27

Ra (1999)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2007-08-23
Last play: 2007-08-23

Most Knizia games fall into this category for me. Solidly Good games that I enjoy playing, but that I haven't felt the need to push on other people to play. That said, I can see any of these moving up to an '8' given more plays.

I really like Ingenious (and prefer Travel as a 2-player option) as a relaxing game. Schotten Totten is a game that I really need to try again as I think that it has the potential to reach Lost Cities heights. The two times that I played it with my wife, I stupidly messed up the special power cards rules. I need to try it again without those cards in the mix at all.

I played Medici v Strozzi and Times Square with Matt (user=Pintsizepete; how does one insert a BGG user avatar into a post? that seems like something I should know how to do!) on a Friday night, which was a blast, and something that we should do again. One is a 2-player auction game, something which shouldn't work, but does work perfectly. The other is a marvelous push and pull dueling game, which I now like better than Duell (see below).

Cheeky Monkey is one of the best simple push-your-luck games that I've played, and push-your-luck style games should be simple.

The Quest for El Dorado is better than most deck-builders and better than most race games. I'd never say 'no' to it, but I did give away my copy because I found that I just wasn't itching to play it at all. Medici might be my favorite auction game, and I love that it works so well at 6, which is sometimes a tough player count to fill with a serious game. I think that it's just a little bit too crunchy/fiddly in the board aspect, which is what keeps me from bringing it out as often as I would otherwise.

Loot and Desperados were both a ton of fun to play as family games. They would probably both have suffered in the ratings if I had first played them with serious gamers instead. Silly, but true. Since they got played first with family, they're keepers. I only played Loot once when I taught my kids, and they've gone on to play it a lot without me, which is always good to see.

Blue Moon City was probably my favorite light game of 2007. It was our go-to agreed-upon game when no one could decide what to play at Mark's game nights (username bob_the_goon; how do you do that inline avatar thing?).

It's weird that I don't really remember much about Ra besides that I had a pretty good time. Someone please invite me over to play it again!

Board Game: Duell
Board Game: Looting London
Board Game: Blue Lagoon
Board Game: Quo Vadis?
Board Game: Reiner Knizia's Decathlon
Board Game: Qin

Duell (2004)
# of plays: 8
First play: 2006-07-28
Last play: 2013-11-29

Looting London (2008)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2009-02-07
Last play: 2009-02-07

Blue Lagoon (2018)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-05-28
Last play: 2019-05-28

Quo Vadis? (1999)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-05-07
Last play: 2019-05-07

Reiner Knizia's Decathlon (2003)
# of plays: 4
First play: 2019-05-23
Last play: 2019-05-23

Qin (2012)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2016-10-21
Last play: 2016-10-21

Most of these fall into the "one and done" category. Play once, not impressed, meh, not so excited, but I'd like to try again to see what I'm missing.

The exception here is Duell, which is a game that I loved, and which I still remember fondly, to the point that I've almost bought it again. It was a favorite over a decade+ ago, but I played it again in '13 and was underwhelmed, so got rid of it. Now, looking back, I'm regretting that, and wonder why I really dropped my rating. Maybe I was just having a cranky day and hated everything that day!

I have no memory of Looting London (I do remember the guys from Maryland that I played it with at NBW, but I don't remember anything about the game itself!). Blue Lagoon was a horrible disappointment. I enjoyed the play, but hated the point salad scoring complete with scorepad. Ugh. Quo Vadis was good, but suffered from one player who didn't understand the relative value of things, so kinda wrecked the game (in my favor) which always sours me a little bit. That and the drab design just made it so that I didn't really want to play the game again. I traded away both Blue Lagoon and Quo Vadis. Probably unfair, as I should have given each a few more plays, but the truth is that I didn't want to play them, and even now I think I may have been too generous with a '6' rating.

I need to play Qin again. I remember liking it, but not feeling any need to rush out and buy it or play it again.

Board Game: Blue Moon
Board Game: Samurai
Board Game: Foodie Forest
Board Game: Age of War
Board Game: Tower of Babel

Blue Moon (2004)
# of plays: 4
First play: 2006-10-05
Last play: 2013-08-19

Samurai (1998)
# of plays: 3
First play: 2006-05-03
Last play: 2018-04-09

Too Many Cooks (2002)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2008-04-11
Last play: 2008-04-11

Age of War (2014)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2019-05-23
Last play: 2019-05-23

Tower of Babel (2005)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2006-04-12
Last play: 2006-04-12

Blue Moon and Samurai are both favorites of friends and fellow Knizia admirers. I want to like them more than I do. I want to be astounded by them. But Blue Moon always underwhelms me by not being a Richard Garfield game, and Samurai usually disappoints by just not being Through the Desert. Completely unfair, but I can't help it.

I don't remember anything about Too Many Cooks besides that Jenna taught it to me at The Gathering (the only year that I went), which was overall an extremely positive experience. I'm sure that I was being unfair to Cooks. I know that I was harsher on more traditional card games at the time. Looking at this one now, I'd love to try it with my kids.

Age of War went over well with my children, but it's really just a dice rolling luckfest, fine to pass the time, but nothing special.

I don't remember much about Tower of Babel besides that Joe taught it (and again I would tag Joe and Jenna, and Ben, whom I haven't mentioned yet, but can't do it!). I actually played it the same night that I played LotR (see below). Joe was (and is, though i hardly ever see him!) one of my favorite people to play games with, and he introduced me to Age of Steam, so I can't begrudge him introducing me to a couple of so-so Knizias!

Board Game: The Lord of the Rings
Board Game: Modern Art
Board Game: Pickomino
Board Game: Gold Digger
Board Game: Monkey Madness
Board Game: Mago Magino

Lord of the Rings (2000)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2006-04-12
Last play: 2006-04-12

Modern Art (2017)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2006-01-11
Last play: 2006-12-28

Pickomino (2005)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-08-14
Last play: 2019-08-14
Gold Digger (1990)
# of plays: 1
First play: 2019-05-14
Last play: 2019-05-14

Monkey Madness (2001)
# of plays: 6
First play: 2007-01-08
Last play: 2008-01-09

Mago Magino (2004)
# of plays: 2
First play: 2008-02-23
Last play: 2015-06-09

A '4' definitely seems harsh for any Knizia game. Just remember that a '4' means "but could play again." I want to be convinced that I'm wrong about these games. I'm waiting for the right person to come along and show me how terribly wrong I am.

Lord of the Rings was my first co-op experience and the game that convinced me that I hate co-ops (I've made my peace with a few of them since, but this is still generally true). It felt very mechanical at the time with the theme feeling like it was only there as much as you wanted it to be.

Modern Art might be my most controversial rating. The first time I played it, I thought that it was one of the greatest games of all time. The second time I played it, with a different group, I swore that I would never play it again. I hated it. I've found that I'm pretty sensitive to these fragile 'closed economy' games that depend on everyone at the table fully understanding what it going on at all times. All games are group-dependent, but these types of games seem to shine or suffer better/worse than others.

Pickomino is my most recently played Knizia. It was pretty disappointing. I had fun with my younger kids, but I don't want to play it again.

Gold Digger suffered from being played at game night. I still haven't played it at home.

Monkey Madness is a game that I sort of have a soft spot for and wish that I hadn't traded it away. There's really no game to it at all. No decisions. But it was great for very young children and it was stupid goofy fun for an adult if you're willing to submit to it.

Mago Magino is another one that I have a soft spot for, even though I don't want to actually play it again. It's still in the family collection. I feel like I've played it more than twice, but that could be because of times that I've watched the kids or helped with rules, but wasn't actually playing. It's a beautifully produced game and it does provide a specific sort of board game adventure. Getting turned into a frog feels appropriately terrible!

Unplayed Knizia Games on my Shelf of Shame:
Bucket Brigade
Great Wall of China
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Lost Cities: To Go
Res Publica
Stephenson's Rocket
Taj Mahal
(Lots of good stuff on this shameful list. I'll get to it. I'll get to it.)

Okay, this is already a long post, but I just looked up how to do the avatar thing. Here are some of the people on BGG who have been important in playing Knizias with me over the years:

Joe Geerkin
United States
New York
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Microbadge: Age of Steam fanMicrobadge: Buffalo Bills fanMicrobadge: Buffalo Sabres fanMicrobadge: I was here for BGG's Twentieth Anniversary!Microbadge: Ice hockey player
Jenna Sunderlin
United States
Niagara Falls
New York
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Microbadge: Road Trip fanMicrobadge: Night OwlMicrobadge: PhotographerMicrobadge: Calvin and Hobbes fanMicrobadge: I sleep in whatever corner the dog leaves for me
mark camp
United States
Lesser Binghamton Area
New York
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Microbadge: Ameritrash fanMicrobadge: Wraith: The Oblivion fanMicrobadge: Platinum Board Game CollectorMicrobadge: Changeling the Lost RPG fanMicrobadge: Platinum RPG Collector
Benjamin Lainhart
United States
New York
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Matt Connellan
United States
New York
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I am the white void. I am the cold steel. I am the just sword.
Microbadge: Coheed and Cambria fanMicrobadge: Sirlin Games Yomi Contest participantMicrobadge: Girl Power!Microbadge: Mmmph!Microbadge: Chaos in the Old World fan

Thanks to each of you!

And I just added some inline images to make this whole thing a little prettier. I'm done. Now it's your turn to tell me why my 4s should be 8s and 7s should be 5s and/or whatever. It is pretty great that we can all love Knizia and all have completely different favorite games!
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Sat Aug 24, 2019 6:25 pm
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The One Game --> Ramblin' 10 Games Exercise --> Pax Pamir 2e Non-Review

Long post. You've been warned.

I've always been a little bit envious of those who have found their game.

The Chess and Go players. The ASL players. The Magic and Warhammer players. The D&D and Powered by the Apocalypse players.

You know who they are. The people devoted to One Game. The people who meet regularly with other people to play their One Game.

They might dabble in other games, but their heart belongs to the One Game. The majority of whatever spare "hobby time" they have set apart is set apart to that One Game.

I don't have One Game.

If you're here on BGG, I suspect that you don't either.

I like learning new games with new rules. I am (perhaps cursed to be) always interested in the Next Game.

But I also do have definite tastes, my own tastes, that are not identical to the tastes of the gamers around me. One purpose of this ramblish post is to begin to attempt to identify just what sort of gamer I am with what sort of taste.

Can I sum up my tastes in one sentence?

I'll give it a go.


I love deep games with simple rules that provide for direct player interaction and reward repeated play.


This morning I worked my way through a "you can only keep ten games-- what are they?" exercise. I went with my gut.

Here's the list of Ten.

Magic: The Gathering
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Tigris & Euphrates
Combat Commander
Blood Rage
Age of Steam

What do all of these titles have in common?

That's right. Direct player interaction. Deep with simple rules. They encourage and reward repeated plays.

The 2 player games are obvious. Your moves in Shogi and Go directly influence my moves. Likewise with Magic and CC. The difference in the former two and the latter two is obviously the luck element. Shogi and Go are perfect information games with no luck element. Magic and CC both depend on the draw of the card. Because of this, there is uncertainty, which can create swinginess, but uncertainty is also the magic ingredient in great narrative moments, which the latter two provide in ways that the former do not. The key, though, is that what I do always affects what you do, and what you do always affects what I do. Sometimes I crave the Narrative, sometimes I don't need it at all, but I always want the direct player interaction.

Dungeon Crawl Classics majors in narrative swinginess, embracing both the messy chaos of player agency and the unbendable decision of the dice. Player choices matter. A lot. So do the dice rolls. A lot. Importantly, the game does not exist at all without high level player interaction.

Tigris & Euphrates is my favorite "German Game" (back when "Euros" were, wait for it..... Elegant), followed closely by Tikal. What do these games have in common? Player interaction. A shared board that players are creating and fighting over. T&E has that feeling of riding the chaos, surfing through other's actions, trying to survive into the future, not as any particular Civilization, but as the Spirit of Civ that can succeed through rises and falls and more rises and more falls. Tikal has a vicious opportunistic streak, as one acts to build and control something worthwhile, or maybe even better, muscle one's way into someone else's work and make it one's own, regardless of the feelings of the original occupant. It's all about maneuvering and counter-maneuvering. Direct interaction.

Blood Rage and Root are each variations of Dudes on a Map. Dudes on a Map pretty much means Direct Player Interaction. Your Dudes have something that I want. I send in my Dudes to try to take that something from you so that it's now mine. Root is better at the deliciously shifting emergent alliances. Blood Rage is better in its impressive Thereness. Maybe the miniatures shouldn't matter, but they do. The gameplay is strong. The Toy Factor is just as strong. Root is cute and aesthetically pleasing, but Vikings and Monsters win when I want to send in my toys to bash your toys. The interaction in the draft is more subtle than other direct player interaction, but the interaction is definitely there, and what was indirect and subtle in the draft becomes direct and explicit in the following turn.

Finally, Age of Steam. AoS is the outlier here, and I haven't played it enough to know if it's truly a favorite, though I have enjoyed each play. Maybe the main thing is that right now I want to spend a lot of time exploring it. But it's definitely the outlier. In all of the other games above, there are rules in place that allow me to use my pieces to harm your pieces. There are no rules in AoS for blowing up your opponents' trains or rail network. There's no way to steal their money. I admit it. There is no strict player interaction in the sense of destroying the opponent. But even so, AoS has some of the meanest, nastiest indirect player interaction possible. The auctions can be brutal. The track building can easily shut someone out of what they have been working on.

So, yeah. Direct player interaction. I love it.

But interaction isn't the only shared attribute of these games. Another one is a simple, elegant set of rules. CC probably has the most "fiddliness" in some little exceptions depending on scenario, but the core rules are fairly simple.

It's pretty obvious to me that I like games with a fairly low rules overhead, games in which the complexity emerges from the gameplay and not from conquering the rules. Each of these games demand MEANINGFUL decisions that matter Right Away, but also have lasting consequences into the future of that game play. Some choices are more important than others, but every choice always matters. This element distinguishes these games that I adore from simple "take-that" style games with obvious choices and dull gameplay.

Another common attribute is playtime. I do enjoy some long and epic games, but my normal time preference is between fifteen minutes and four hours, with an average of 1.5 to 2.5 really being the sweet spot for any game for me.

One last common attribute that I'll identify is that all of these games provide me with some sort of clear identity with pieces belonging to me that represent my control on the shared board and my influence over the board and over other players. (The one almost exception to this is DCC, which is "theater of the mind" with no real board or pieces except as occasional visual aids; but this being noted, it is very clear in everyone's shared "theater" that each player controls a distinct character -or group of characters- that takes up space and exerts real influence in its imagined world.)

The "Ten Games Exercise" was inspired by a thread on the BGG Minimalism Guild which was in turn inspired by geeklists of the same idea, which can chase their inspiration back to ancient campfire listmakers.

Ten games is too few for me. But, somewhat surprisingly to me right now, not by much. I could be very happy with only the above ten games and, importantly, willing opponents, even if it meant never playing another game besides these ever again in my lifetime, which it wouldn't. The biggest omission in the list is the lack of card games. If I could cheat and add a #11, it would be a deck of playing cards (If I could cheat further than that, it'd be a board game sized box full of several different types of decks).

What's my personal Minimalism Threshold, the cap on the collection that would be "Just Right"? I'm not sure, but I suspect that it's less than or around 50 games. When I made my Top 50 list earlier this year, I already knew that it included games that I could live without owning, games that I like but that I'm okay with the idea of never playing again. The 50 list had plenty of fluff in it. But I think that something like 20 or 30 would still be too few. I need a couple dozen spots for the heavy hitters, but I also need a couple dozen spots for filler card games and other important family games.

I currently own 180+ games (which number includes my kids' games, which I have mostly for them, not me). I'd like to get that number down below 100 by the end of the year. No more purchases. Cull more games. Play what I love.

Which brings me to the true topic of this post.

Pax Pamir 2nd Edition.

It's a new game. I shouldn't have bought a new game.

What's worse, I'm going to keep it. I should be culling games instead of keeping games. I should be playing games that I already love instead of chasing the Next Thing. And yet.....

I wrote all of the above as a sort of oblique defense of Pax Pamir 2e. Because I think I kinda love it.

I still need to explore it much more, but it seems to be the type of game that fits right in with all of the "keep only Ten" list of games above.

I haven't played PP 2-player yet, but I suspect that it will play well at 2. Like Shogi and Go, there is no luck involved. Like Magic and Combat Commander, there is the random input of the cards, in which you need to re-assess the board state and respond appropriately. There is also the similarity of building for card synergy and exploiting powerful card combinations. There isn't the freedom of improv of DCC, but there is a strong narrative that is developed in PP, which to a large extent is crafted entirely by player choices. Like T&E, the board state can change drastically from turn to turn. It's about anticipating and outmaneuvering other players, constantly reading the board state while also reading the mental state of the other players. Like Tikal, PP is about taking several turns of positioning for a decisive move that will lock in points for you alone. Short of that decisive move, it's at least about maximizing your own position while doing your best to harm your opponents. Like in Blood Rage, PP is about gaining cards that work well with other cards to execute a plan that affects the board state. Like Root, PP encourages emergent alliances, but only to a certain extent, with betrayal in the near future always a safe assumption. Like AoS, PP can be as much about blocking your opponents actions, with your optimal action sometimes being the slightly suboptimal action that hurts your opponent while doing something to help yourself.

I've only played Pax Pamir 2e once. That was just last night. I've been thinking about it ever since. Unfortunately, the regulars at my weekly gaming group didn't care for the game as much as I did. And they are the three guys in the group MOST likely to enjoy the game. So it goes.

The game doesn't stand a chance with too many others locally (with one exception, another local gaming friend that I'm currently trying to schedule a session of PP with; also, maybe it's weird, but I think that I may get the privilege of being the first dad to write a session report of playing Pax Pamir with his three teenage daughters if all goes well and work in the garden gets finished soon--it'll happen sooner or later, but the summer is tough).

So, that's it. I definitely haven't reviewed Pax Pamir 2e. I haven't really told you anything about it at all. What I have told you is that I like certain games and I like Pax Pamir 2e. Pax Pamir has a reputation as a "heavy game," which it is, but it's heavy in the same way that Tigris & Euphrates is heavy. It's not an efficiency exercise. It doesn't feel like work. Once you've got the rules down well after a couple of plays, it feels very much like a rowdy game that you can play with your friends while drinking beer (which is an important attribute that I enjoy in games that I didn't mention above)!

If you like any of the ten games that I've mentioned, give Pamir 2 a chance.

If you like direct player interaction, give Pamir 2 a chance.

If you like meaningful decisions, give Pamir 2 a chance.

If you don't mind the tactical nature of responding to a whirlwind of cascading chaos (such as the external conflicts in T&E), indeed if you actually enjoy it, give Pamir 2 a chance.

If you like a rich background setting and don't mind contributing some shape to a developing narrative, give Pamir 2 a chance. (It can be played abstractly without any attention to the theme, but the theme is perfectly achieved.)

If you like a simple set of rules which lead to complex game depth, give Pamir 2 a chance.

If you like emerging alliances or you just like screwing over your friends and gaming buddies, give Pamir 2 a chance.

Finally, and this is no small thing, if you appreciate a well-produced game, in which the components are lovely to look at and to handle, functional and beautiful, give Pamir 2 a chance.

After one play, Pax Pamir is not my One Game.

It didn't make its way into my "only Ten games to keep" list.

But, significantly, after only one play, it has wormed its way into my ongoing "50 to Keep List". It's not leaving my collection any time soon and I'm eager for repeated plays, soon and often.

It has all of the marks of a game that I'm likely to fall in love with.

I'm already falling for it.
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Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:05 am
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