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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
-FATFROG IV
-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:

18yo
Azul
Babylonia
Pax Pamir 2e
Carcassonne
Bananagrams
My Word
Scythe
Tikal
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.

16yo
Shogi
Babylonia
Siam
DVONN
Azul
Keyforge
Bus
Pax Pamir 2e
Dominion
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.

14yo
Azul
Babylonia
Pax Pamir 2e
Irish Gauge
Bus
St Petersburg
Dixit
Keyforge
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.)

12yo
Coloretto
Babylonia
Imhotep
Saint Petersburg
My Word
Dutch Blitz
Bonanza
Carcassonne
Traditional Playing Cards
Through the Desert

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

10yo
Babylonia
Bug Bluff
Zero Down
Elements
Hero Realms
Keyforge
Greedy Kingdoms
Northern Pacific
Hellapagos
LYNGK

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.

8yo
Hero Realms
Pit
Bohnanza
Carcassonne
Condottiere
Love Letter
King of Tokyo
Keyforge
PitchCar
Chess

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:

10s
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!

8s
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.

7s
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: Blue Moon City
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!

6s
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.

5s
Board Game: Blue Moon
Board Game: Samurai
Board Game: Too Many Cooks
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!

4s
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
Rheinländer
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
Eden
New York
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Microbadge: Age of Steam fanMicrobadge: Buffalo Bills fanMicrobadge: Buffalo Sabres fanMicrobadge: Buffalo Bandits fanMicrobadge: 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
vestal
New York
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Matt Connellan
United States
Binghamton
New York
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I am the white void. I am the cold steel. I am the just sword.
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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.

Shogi
Go
Magic: The Gathering
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Tigris & Euphrates
Tikal
Combat Commander
Blood Rage
Root
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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27 Comments
Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:05 am
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Knizia Top 10

Inspired by Chris Wray's post: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/89089/10-great-reiner-kni...

Here's my personal Knizia Top 10.

1. Tigris & Euphrates
2. Lost Cities
3. Through the Desert
4. Lord of the Rings (children's adventure game)
5. Cheeky Monkey
6. Medici
7. Blue Moon City
8. Times Square
9. Ingenious
10. The Quest for El Dorado

The Top 5 games in this list are all in my current all-time Top 50 list, which means that Knizia has designed 10% of my favorite games. That's great for a single designer. Medici is hovering around the 50 list, and it's still in my collection. The others either were never in my collection, or have left the collection because I've been so strict about culling the past few years (never strict enough, alas). I'd still be more than happy to play them whenever I get the opportunity. I am jealous of those who have the space to house an entire wall of Knizia games.

It's worth noting that two of my Top 5 are children's games. Knizia has designed other wonderful children's games as well. This aspect of his game design is probably not praised enough even by those of us who praise Knizia.

Kramer/Kiesling is a (two-headed) designer that comes close in my personal favorites, with three games (the Mask Trilogy) in the 50. The two have made a lot of good games together, but I think that Knizia has a much higher hits to misses ratio, even with Knizia's incredible output.

Also, Richard Garfield has 3 spots (Magic, KeyForge, KoT) in my 50.

There are other designers that are up there in my personal pantheon, but these three stand out in terms of games that I value enough to hold on to, with Knizia at the head of the pack in terms of overall consistently good games that demand space on my crowded game shelves.
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16 Comments
Fri Apr 26, 2019 2:23 pm
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