I like quite a few complex games but to me, complexity does not equal quality. Following the ongoing online criticism Spiel des Jahres gets for awarding very light games (just recently on Hungarian facebook forums), but not only because of this, I decided to make a top 10 list about games I love or really like and are "very light" by BGG weight votes (max. 1.5). I excluded kids' games that I play a lot; it will be only about games I (also) like to play with adults and gamers. On the average even I like more complex games than these, but all the games I mention in this post got at least a 7, sometimes an 8 or even a 9 from me.
KLASK (2017 SdJ recommended)
All right, so a dexterity game gets the top spot; I guess I lost all credibility here. This magnetic mix of air hockey and bar billiard is huge fun in a small size (compared to those) and in one and a half year it became my most played game (which, of course, was helped by the 5- to 10-minute playtime but still). It's hugely addictive.
I have no clue how this game ended up with an 1.27 weight rating while comparable games are around 1.5 or higher (maybe it's because it got a popular new edition that looked attractive even for those who play modern complex games?). Whatever, For Sale is one of the bidding/auction game classics, the most Knizian non-Knizia (by Stefan Dorra).
Codenames (2016 SdJ winner) (+Codenames: Pictures and Codenames: Duet)
What can I say? It's a great game where both the clue giver and the players who try to decode the clues try to avoid risk (especially that damned assassin) while they are pressed to take risks (giving clues to/decoding as many cards as they can) because it's a race between two teams. Add the interesting association feature which requires a different way of thinking than most games before.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple (2013 SdJ recommended)
I know, for many, Magic Maze (the one that got even a SdJ nomination!) is the Escape killer. While I admire the novel core idea of that one, well, not for me. Yeah, Escape is about frantically rolling your dice for ten minutes, sometimes shouting to each other, but it's stressful and cooperative in a positive way. (Cooperation in Escape: "Please somebody help NOW!" Cooperation in Magic Maze: "Hey, can't you see we're waiting for you? Wake up!") Also, here you can be the adventurer.
Coloretto (2003 SdJ recommended)
Michael Schacht's classic card game, just like For Sale, was released in a time when small-box card games had no chance to win SdJ. No wonder it got a blown-up board game version a few years later, and Zooloretto indeed won SdJ although it could not come close to the geniality and elegance of the card game. Both this elegant and clever classic and For Sale are card games I am still ready to play with gamers any day.
And another card game - is it a coincidence that its board game adaptation Keltis won the Spiel des Jahres a year after Zooloretto? (Probably yes; Knizia already made a board game adaptation of another one of his card games in a similar fashion two years earlier - see Tibet). It's a clever card game with clever Knizian features and clever illustrations. It's often called a "couples' game" which is not entirely untrue - I usually play it with my wife and quite possibly she prefers it over the Keltis follow-ups I love.
Fauna (2009 SdJ nominee)
Okay, so enter a trivia game as well. Well, but this is by far the best trivia game I know, adding a little Euro spice and tactics to the mix. Probably theme also matters; I like Fauna way more than Terra (partly because I did not really like the way Terra simplified the scoring even further). When it comes to Friedemann Friese, it's hard to decide if I like Fauna or Power Grid more.
PitchCar (1996 SdJ special award: Dexterity Game)
I'm not sure what's more fun, building the racetrack (with a few expansions added) or playing the game itself, but this flicking + race game is real fun with kids and gamers alike, and the more the players the more fun it is.
The Mind (2018 SdJ nominee) / The Mind Extreme
Yeah, I know many enjoy hating this one but... As you can see from my older blogpost I was even somewhat rooting for The Mind to win over Azul. While Azul is nice and clever and pleasure to play, The Mind was truly innovative in its approach and through its revolutionary gameplay revelations it becomes a game that works despite all odds. On the other hand I (and not only me) have still played Azul a bit more than The Mind since, so maybe the jury was right. However, for those who say "The Mind is too easy, you just have to count in yourselves" The Mind Extreme provides additional challenges. (How do you count in yourselves when the ascending pile is at 10 and the descending one is already at 25?)
Ticket to Ride London (+New York and Amsterdam)
Ticket to Ride (Spiel des Jahres 2004) is probably still the best gateway game out there, and the small city versions are fine each. As the rules are practically the same I'm not sure how this one gets a much lower weight rating (okay, I agree it is slightly more luck-dependent) but whatever, I can't not list at least one of these in my top 10. And yes, New York and Amsterdam are also very good TtR fillers; I just find the London special rule might be the addition that fits the TtR spirit the most.
I chose my top 10(ish) but there are way more that I like to play with adults as well. This is a selection of some of the best ones. As you can see there aren't many strategy games among them; I love strategy/tactics but I don't believe only those qualify as board games or great games. There are lots of great party game, dexterity games, even speed (reaction) games out there...
As for party games, I did not list Dixit (SdJ winner) in the top 10 only because I've played it enough by now and don't really suggest playing it, but I'm still happy to play whenever my 10yo daughter asks. Just One (SdJ winner) is a fine mix of some ideas in Dixit and Codenames; indeed it's inferior to both BUT it's got some exceptional party game features: it's not only that you don't need a table to play, but it's also a game where anyone can join or leave the table mid-game and that won't break any strategies or cause any harm to the enjoyment of the game. Then there is Pictomania (Second Edition) which is a somewhat streamlined version of the original that got a SdJ recommendation; it is still a bit too fiddly for a party game but it's good fun. And yes, in the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s we played Time's Up/Word in Time quite a few times and I still think it's a fun party game (and it was a Deutsche Spielpreis nominee to schock those who prefer DSP over SdJ).
As for dexterity games, it seems I love flicking games: I really enjoy the western-themed, scenario-based Flick 'Em Up! (with focused players; otherwise it may get too long) and Crokinole. Stacking games like Animal upon Animal (SdJ recommended) and Junk Art (with lots of variety) are also great fun with anyone. And Bamboleo too, which is a kind of reverse stacking game: you try to take wooden pieces off the board.
I enjoy quite a few speed/reaction games as well; Spot it! is great fun even in pubs, Panic Lab is crazy while One Minute Game (Omiga/Flanxx) is a one-of-its-kind "speed shape recognition abstract strategy" or what, recommended for anyone.
And then there are lots of card games. Just like in case of For Sale, weight ratings feel a bit arbitrarily given by those who don't really play many card games to see the possibilities these offer. Of course there are really light ones like Love Letter (SdJ recommended) and Diamant/Incan Gold (SdJ recommended) that I enjoy, but I also think Linko!, Too Many Cooks and RevoltaaA are really good (and quite special) each.
And of course there are a few 'real' board games there as well, although few hardcore gamers would want to play a general toystore-game-looking roll and move: That's Life! (2005 SdJ nominee) uses the mechanism in a surprisingly clever way. I'm not sure why Indigo (2012 SdJ recommended) has a lower weight rating than Metro but well, it is listed as 'very light' and I think it's the best version of the Metro/Tsuro idea out there. And I'm ready to play FITS (2009 SdJ nominee) and its follow-up BITS any time.
Just a short note: in 2009,FITS was nominated for SdJ alongside Fauna - and Dominion, Pandemic and middle-of-the-road Finca. No wonder the award was split (into SdJ and KdJ) in the next year - not to award gamer's games, only to make a difference between simpler, beginner-friendly and 'next level' SdJ hopefuls.
Possibly I should also create a "my favorite complex games' list as well but BGG is full of these so I won't. If you'd like to list your favorite 'very light' games - even if you don't have ten - just use the 'advanced search (game weight between 1 and 1.5). Let me know your favorites!
Knizia. Spiel des Jahres. Some other thoughts, but only rarely. I'm not that much of a big thinker, you know - but I love games.
16 Sep 2020
- [+] Dice rolls