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Top Family Games. 2004-2017

Igor Larchenko
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Ivanteevka
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✩✩✩ Links to all Tops ✩✩✩

2004-2017. BGG' the most played
Family games



In series Big dozen years I'm continuing to analyze popularity of games in 2004-2017 years, using data about total number of BGG players for every year. After Children games, War games and Party games Family games are the next ones (with awards nominations and total number of BGG players in all these years):

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You can download recent tops here.
Look at monthly users for the most popular games here (Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, King of Tokyo etc.)
Look at the most popular games of designers here (Alan R. Moon, Reiner Knizia, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede etc.)



Samo's comments

Samo Oleami
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Family games are probably one of the most bizarre categories/subdomains on BGG. I've run boardgaming workshop for kids for quite some years now (4, I think) and my experiences with kids and boardgames are completely opposite to BGG groupthink. First, we play much lighter games, SdJ picks like TTR are at the highest end of the spectrum. Especially my idea about gaming with kids is - kids come first. And it's best to pick games where their enthusiasm, their imagination, their excitement can come through, while the game still poses some challenges for adults.

Great in this regard are games geeks will never count as "family games" - flicking games (Ice Cool is worthy winner of Kinderspiel, probably better than Kingdomino - more engaging, more replayable, possibly deeper), stacking games (Rhino Hero IS a family game, adults love it for some reason, Villa Paletti is far from trivial as well), speed recognition games (can be far from trivial), memory games (ditto).

So, seems that "family games" on BGG should actually mean "those euros that my causal gaming adult friends won't run away from". But not really for kids, unless yours played Agricola at 7 at which point the joy of playing kids games will be forever lost to them. The best I can come up with is "SdJ games" - a type of games that can exist in Germany where it seems (according to Tom Felber) normal nongaming families play boardgames of the type that is accessible, somewhat social, somewhat exciting and somewhat challenging for adults. So if you look for a family game of this type SdJ winners, nominations and recommendations are the way to go. Plus some similar games that are verboten, because: direct conflict. These would be: King of Tokyo, Survive!, Bang! the dice game.

These three games would also belong to group similar to family games, namely "beer and pretzel games". Where "family games" means "lighter euro", "beer and pretzels" means "ligher ameritrash". And it would make all sense to treat beer and pretzel games - at least those thematically appropriate for kids, as family games. I can see people playing Munchkin with their kids, why not? (Well, I wouldn't because it's not translated to slovene). Or Monopoly Deal Card game - some kids (tweens) really warmed up to it. Also similar type of games - for causal gamers - from german publishers would work nice, like Kakerlakenpoker (lying through your teeth) orMogel Motte (cheating - sleight of hand). Or Win, Lose, or Banana for the lightest social deduction game around.

Another group of games to check are kids games - especially Drei Magier Spiele games (and some related publishers as well, such as Zoch) and other games winning Kinderspiel des Jahres. Spinderella, The Magic Laybrith and Enchanted Tower are engaging roll and move games that aren't trivial to adults.

Liar's Dice (1800) Got a copy for 2,5 eur (German mid 1990s Bluff), keeping it for the dice only. Not really getting this game, or maybe I haven't played it with the right crowd. Never clicked.
As far as "family games" go - this looks more like a pub game, a.k.a. beer and pretzels. SdJ win notwithstanding.

Can't Stop (1980) Have a PnP paper board printed. Will try soon! Honest! (It's embarrassing, really.)

Survive: Escape from Atlantis! (1982) A family game classic - if you have a fun family (i.e. evil family). Wonderfully thematic and immersive for such a light (euroey!) ruleset. One of those games that could have / should have won SdJ, if not for German aversion from conflict oriented games. In our boardgaming workshops with kids if was on high end of complexity.

6 nimmt! (1994) Meh. For some reason doesn't excite me - probably avoiding it as the local eurogamers had this as their collective filler of choice. Too dull to be a family game (themeless). Get bit! is better, but that one is actually to complex psychologically for kids to wrap their mind around, so, pick something simpler? Beer and pretzels game probably ("wine and sausage?")

Bohnanza (1997) A.k.a. "They don't make 'em like this anymore". Back in the day when euros were simple, streamlined family oriented games with pronounced interaction, trading games were a subgenre. Quite ingenious idea, really: take negotiation and remove anything nasty. Out of these Bohnanza is probably the most accessible, even if explaining is a bit of a chore, but hey, at the time they expected people to try a game a few times before giving up and hopefully playing it repeatedly. After you chew your way through the rules explanation, there's a light talking game in there. By talking I mean: shouting at a bazaar and extorting people. The games has slowly crept up my rankings as it proved succesful with kids and elderly and anyone not too intimidated by rules explanation. My copy is a pnp of carthangian's redesign as I just couldn't warm up to the original illustrations. Heiko's aren't bad either. And yes, should have won SdJ instead of Mississippi Queen.

For Sale (1997) For such a light game it retains all the qualities I consider crucial for auction games - it's possible to overbid and thus groupthink can enter play (and one can exploit it). And then there's my ingenious sale's pitch to teenagers "It's like Poker and Monopoly - In 15 minutes!" (beat that). Good illustrations have proven to be crucial to the game's success - they need to give people some lighthearted properties they can imagine. Not sure if family game - i.e. not sure if kids really get the level of doublethink/groupthink and their manipulation.

Lost Cities (1999) The holy grail of "spouse gaming" a.k.a. "which 2 player game with no attacking would you recommend for me and my SO?" My GF bought me Slovene edition, back when there were few games to be bought. She never was fond of it though, a friend I tried to play it with got bored, so I chalked it off. Yet, some years later I've tried playing it online against an AI and went, hmmm, there's more to it then I though. Afterwards I've tried it against a player who played the heck out of it with her BF and yeah, got schooled (once, I nearly won, nearly!). So it stays in my collection awaiting for a suitable playing partner. In the meanwhile I'd probably have to try the pnp of Battle Line I've finally assembled. Family game? NO! Spouse game. Different genre. Plus for kid-adult pairing I'd recommend something more thematic and/or viscerally engaging. The Enchanted Tower's pretty great actually.

Carcassonne (2000) A game I encountered before entering the hobby - nongaming friends had it and told how successful if has been amongst nongamers. And it's no surprise - it's accessible, simple, engaging - has a sort of card game style interaction and looks nice on the table. Especially if you like to see something being built as the game progresses. I'm not a super fan of it because it's not engaging enough for me - and I do play it as "evil" as possible. I do think I still like the original game better as it's more cutthroat, but it's not the one I own. I'm mostly meh about it, no, not sure if new versions of it would help. Is there a more cutthroat, similar game out there?

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (2002) The Carc I own, because, wife likes gentle pastels (the original edition). Appears to me less cutthroat than the base game, but okay.

Alhambra (2003) I borrowed this from my nongaming friends who were a bit surprised that they loved Carcassonne, but weren't enjoying this one. I set it up to solo and it immediately stuck me: "Oh, it's a set collecting tile laying MPS". It was one of the first games I came across where the idea of competing is in comparing scores and supposedly this is interactive. At least with nongamers I played with it seems Slovenians like their games to be more interactive - maybe in the meanwhile hobbyist culture is changing this, but this was the state of affairs a few years back. Another thing about the game I don't get is why different currencies are necessary. The redeeming quality of the game though is that the tiles look quite neat on the board. A family game for err.... boring families (can we play Survive! instead?).

Coloretto (2003) The game that got ruined again and again - by bigger versions of it that sacrificed readability for cuteness factor and doubled the playing time. But find all version of the game definetely meh, and definitely not deserving SdJ win (Zooloretto). Currently we're playing a somewhat related Animals on Board game with kids in our workshops. Hmm, maybe need to try Zooloretto for comparison at least once. I find it too dull to play with kids.

Hey, That's My Fish! (2003) The game we've rediscovered on our boargaming workshop this year and it has rose up my ratings. Simple, yet complex, not necesarily deep, just a lot of multiplayer chaos going on. Families we tried it with loved it. It also teaches important life lessons - penguins are dicks. Indigo is also a fine family level "abstract" game - this one is more straightforward, but comes with shared incentives, which is a nice way to teach kids about flexible partnerships (i.e. not just helping your best friend all the time).

Ticket to Ride (2004) Surprisingly after playing the base game more (being used to TTR:E) I've hated it, the more I've played it. Unlike the Europe version which I feel is more about tickets and thus pushing your luck (exciting) the base TTR is about getting points for routes, thus it's more open information, it's counting and hoarding cards and other tedious strategic behaviours. And this version doesn't yet have the splitting of long and short destination tickets. Even if TTR:E has a bit more rules, it's the one I'd go with.

No Thanks! (2004) Yes, please! Printed myself Kilgore's redesign which looks better than all the published versions so far (it's not a hard feat) and I can also play Kobayakawawith it. It's a game about outguessing groupthink and trying to take your chances against it. One of the rare themeless games that worked with (some) teenagers, and one of the best go to game for elderly who are familiar with card games. (Translation - tried it with mother-in-law who understood it immediately, grabbed all the money, beat the crap out of us). Would deserve a nice looking edition. With theme. As for family games, I'd say more of casual gamers game (adults).

Saboteur (2004) Never understood the cult following this one has. Sure, it looks really nice on the table, especially for the price, but it's basically a clunky combination of take-that with hidden social roles. Maybe this is the next step for Munchkin lovers? Not a family game at all - beer and pretzels (and it better be a good beer and some fancy pretzels).

Ticket to Ride: Europe (2005) One of the rare low interaction games I will play and often suggest. It's supper accessible, and yet, it has a dramaturgy, a narrative. Every similar game that came after, just doesn't come close - Blue Moon City has a nonsensical, arcane theme, T&T is too brainburny and dull and brown, Takenoko too complicated, VPSish and lacks a narrative. The Europe version of TTR is the one I've played the most, because: Europe. We have geography - seas you need ferries to pass, mountains you need to tunnel through and pesky neighbours which you need stations to abuse (err).

Diamant / Incan Gold (2005) One of the most popular games in our boargaming workshops with kids. Give kids diamonds, or even better, give kids plastic diamonds made in china and offer them a (false) hope to get them with no skill or effort required and they'll scream with glee, fall on the floor while looking at diamonds (happened) and generally fill the gaming room with joy and ruckus. A classic that should sell at least as much as TTR. But really, you need kids at the table for the exciting loud screaming potential of this game to be manifested.

Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (2006). A less interesting TTR clone. Seriously, get TTR. This game gets way too much geek cred for such unoriginal premise.

Zooloretto (2007) Okay, so Coloretto had no theme (why not?), but was readable and short, while Zoloretto sacrificed readability for cuteness and became longer in the process, because of the time needed to read the other player's boards. And the core itself isn't that exciting to start with, sure it's a simple set collecting, but not a lot happening above the table. Poster child for sacrificing usable graphic design for the emotional one. Just make Coloretto with nicer cards. Or pick some more engaging game.

Thebes (2007) Was initially disappointed with it as I expected a thematic game, but got a thematic euro (not. the. same. thing.) But yes, it's an enjoyable (somewhat) thematic MPS ride with a random element of pulling the tiles out of a bag (archaeological digs). I like my family level games more interactive, but hey. At least you can do a talking tour about your finds (fun with roleplaying) and there's a sheet that explains what the dug out treasures actually are.

Felix: The Cat in the Sack (2007) Kinda like For Sale, but more stupid (in a good way, I hope). Have a copy, need to get it played. Not sure if family game, same reason as For Sale - not immediate/intuitive enough.

Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age (2008). Oh my. So happy I got rid of this - a themeless MPS made entirely out of wood. Ugh. The main problem (aside from visuals, white bakelite please!) is publisher wanting to make the game shorter and lighter and made it even more forgettable than it is. The free expansion "the late bronze age" - a.k.a. designers cut - is the only way to play as then at least some sort of narrative progression comes trough. Would also need some illustrations on the scoring sheets. Or just, play something else. If you're after a family game, maybe Pickomino?

Jaipur (2009) Quick and painless and easy. And forgettable. And pointless. I did find it to be a better version of Jambo. A has thus traded Jambo away,.not eager to play Jaipur either. Not a family game, a spouse game.

Finca (2009) A game of clever interactions which are completely opaque and I totally ignored them and won anyway by juggling mechanics better than everybody else. This. Is. Stupid. Basically: a set collection where you turn sets into points and the then the points tiles also form sets that get turned into points (why?!). Looks neat and evocative with no tension, no narrative and drenched with tactical play. JASE. (Also see no family in game in here).

Tobago (2009) Original. Nice looking. Clunky. Does. Not. Work. Pity.

Forbidden Island (2010) Pandemic with half the rules and more evocative and inviting theme and visuals. Err. Yeah. That's it. Would buy this over Pandemic actually. I see this working as a family game, on our workshops this is the high end of complexity scale (playable only because adults play with kids).

Hanabi (2010) The only good Bauza. Because Bauza experimented and didn't really know what he was doing. B side of Ikebana that exploded onto the scene kinda like Ice Ice Baby. Has the interesting feature of being a double think cooperative game. It's all about precise information, little information and a leap of faith. "Hey why didn't you guys told me any-thing for last two turns" "We told you everything you need to know." "Oh?... Oh! Right!". Another nice feature of it is building up of collective understanding with a new group - this is what I expect of co-ops. To be about being together. Yes, the conventions inventors are nuts - if you want to play a game is such a serious competitive effort, why did you pick this benign co-op? Go play something else. Like Bridge. Not sure if family game, more causal players game (for adults).

King of Tokyo (2011) The golden standard - of family games and the staple of our boargaming with kids workshops. A light, direct, interactive and thematic ameritrash (sure, it's AT) which made player elimination fashionable again! Yay. The design is more clever than usually given credit for - in between yahtzee and life points (a MtG trick) lies a core which is neither. A game balances between two end conditions (points, which ask for commitment in rolling sets) and player elimination though its centrepiece - king of the hill dynamics - a way that involves groupthink where it often pays to do the opposite of what others are doing. I recently lowered rating a bit as I got a bit burned out of it (workshop). One of Richard's best designs which achieves a lot with little. And can survive completely random deck of cards he threw in there. As Tom Felber .- SdJ head of jury admitted - best game never to have won SdJ (because monsters fighting for Tokyo reminds Germans of Stalingrad or something).

Takenoko (2011) The game with the most insane premise ever. Ever heard of japanese gardens? It's an art form, a philosophy, a dedication and meticulous deliberation. But then an Emperor throws a Chinese panda in the middle of your garden in the name of Japanese-Chinese relations or something. The hell? What have you been smoking Bauza? This shit ain't funny, you know how much time that bamboo took to grow? The whole scenario makes no sense. Otherwise pretty generic family type fare, except too rules heavy than competition. And a lazy design, to be honest: let's put scores on cards and cards tell you what you do; here there are actions you can do, and here are cards which reward these actions. I don't see anything that would tie the game together, on the mechanical level at least. It's just pieces put together in the same box. Which is probably why: panda. It's a focal point to bring the game together and forgive all its shortcomings. Wouldn't recommend it to families (too many rules upfront).

Kingdom Builder (2011) The game many eurogamers couldn't get. Including those I've played with so I only tried it once. Bummer. Becuase there are no choices if there's only one card in your hand! Aaaa... [goes banging my head against the wall.] [but not for long] Anyhow - interesting spatial game which I'd love to try some more. But boy is it charmless. The visuals are that pedestrian generic mimetic realism of Queen Games, probably at their worst. The game isn't really viscerally engaging as there's some thinking involved, some counter-intuitive manoeuvres. And I'm not a fan of Vaccarino's "core structure" + "data" approach. Would need to play again. Probably more complex than TTR, so wouldn't say a family game.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue (2011) This co-op was all the rage at the time - similar to it's thrice removed cousin Pandemic, but more thematic. The theme was more tangible and easier to relate to - rescuing people from a burning building you can see is different that imagining spread of diseases over the globe in visuals close to a Power point presentation. The game was also more random (not as clever as Pandemic) and had some modules to increase difficulty. I was pretty meh on it as I'm on all co-ops. Funnily enough - nobody talks about this anymore, it has completely disappeared from the map. Now it's all about Pandemic again - which morphed itself into a product line.

Love Letter (2012) Somewhere in between beer and pretzels game and a family game - some take that (sorta), some deducing (kinda). Or: something like Munckin but shorter, cleverer, and more thematically inclusive. Accessible theme, simple gameplay (that proved too complicated for stag's weekend, even if appropriate, we stuck to Pairs which asks for just 3 braincells). A family game for sure. But do get the version with original visuals - also has an alternate princess and a prince. However at their heart LL and other microgames are causal gamers games - adults, students, people who don't take gaming seriously. I read the whole microgames movement and social deduction resurgence happening at roughly the same time (Resistance and co.) as a reaction to arcane complicated clockwork euros.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple (2012) We played this with kids in our workshop and it works. It's relatively simple, it's really fast. it's just quite expensive for what it is and I'm not sure about replayability. Curious about Magic Maze (this years SdJ nominee) we bought for our workshop - have to try it.

Sushi Go! (2013) MPS for families! Yay! But it's not only MPS it's VPS as well! Yes if you block the highest sushi-wasabi combo (as you should!) then everything will get you 2-3 points. How clever (read: how bland). We used it in our gaming workshops just for the .

Splendor (2014) If social deduction and microgames were rebellions against the faceless euro empire, Splendour is the empire striking back Hey let's make a game as dull as all MPS engine builder euros, but make as simple and accessible as it gets by cutting anything remotely interesting from the game. Including theme and visuals.

Camel Up (2014) The deserving SdJ winner of 2014. This game engages everyone, mostly casual gamers. All public events we had it at, this was a hit. Might be too complicated for kids, but works at higher player numbers and good for sorta party kind of vibe (students, adults). It gets really bad rep at bgg, because people think the game is something else than it is. You don't have a horse (camel) to be on, you're not supposed to be in any control. What you're doing is trying to notice patterns emerging faster than anybody else at the table. And I find this fun. (and my results are not too shabby)

Red7 (2014) Family game? Oh, my. More arcane than Hanabi. As as thematic. This is gamers take on beer and pretzels game, meaning that the game instead of being lighthearted social fun is glued to special powers and combos and never soars above the table. Red7 is just a sum of its gamey bits and nothing more. Even as a game for casual gamers I find it too gamey.

King of New York (2014) King comes to America. And gets fat. That's pretty much it. It's bigger, it's fatter, slower and clumsy. Who needs hobby gamer version of games for causal gamers? Hobbyists have their own games? Is this another ploy to "lure" casual gamers to heavier pastures?

Kingdomino (2016) We currently use this for kids who tend towards a bit thinky games. It's pretty themeless, no narrative (unlike quite similar drafting tile/card laying Dream Home), but seems to have some variety. It's a MPS though. In a way Splendour won, but at least Kingdomino isn't an engine builder and at least asks for some nongamey skills - spatial positioning.



Paul's comments

Paul Agapow
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King of Tokyo
King of New York

It's hard to remember what a revelation King of Tokyo was when it first came out, it's now such a part of background radiation of the boardgaming universe. It cleverly tapped into the zeitgeist (kaiju), mixed things up with the usual Vaccarino combinatorial randomness (the powers), got a good bit of visceral gamblers excitement from repeated dice rolls. And - let’s not forget - the game itself was well done For a while around here it was the beginners / gateway game du jour. Games move steadily towards an end and finish in a reasonably predictable length of time. Nobody is left sitting on the sidelines too long.

It’s faded now, but that's more to do with time, the cult of the new and the existence of its successor. Which is more problematic: I’ve met no one who prefers KoNY to KoT and many who feel it’s a step down. Why? Some of it is no doubt due to most of the good ideas being used up. (No fingers pointed - there’s enough stuff in the base game that coming up with a wholly different set of powers is a tough, tough ask.) And the tweaks made to the base game were well-intentioned, targeting things that could arguably be improved in the base game.

I’d propose instead that the two King Of game lie on either side of the great transformation of the gaming market. KoT is a solid family game. KoNY is a gamers game, from a time of where there are more and more games. And so the later game suffers by a shift in audience and intent, and also from the wider choices available at the time of release.

Too wordy? Let me try this: KoNY fixes problems that aren’t really problems. A game, especially a lighter, family game, need not be a perfect game qua game. It has higher priorities.

Century: Spice Road
a.k.a. Splendour, but not shit. C:SR is certainly not the greatest, deepest gaming experience but it does what it does so smoothly, and so … pleasantly, that it’s hard to object to the game. It’s easy to explain, does a wider number of players and experiences and finishes before wearing out it’s welcome. Lessons that many other games could learn from.

Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride: Europe
Ticket to Ride: Märklin

That there was a time before Ticket to Ride is remarkable. I was playing boardgames for years (decades) before TtR and yet I can’t remember my first game of it. It’s always been there. And it seems to have worked out the expansion / sequel game schtick from the start: make something with a just enough rule changes that the game plays differently and yet not so many that anyone who has played other TtR will be lost. Certainly some variants work better than others (I'm slightly unconvinced by Marklin but that may be down to fewer plays) but TtR remains a strong constant force for gaming good.

TtR: the little engine that could.

Tongiaki
The dark horse of this list, I’m always surprised when I meet someone who’s played this game. I came across it by accident and us fans greet each other like members of a dark cult.
For those who haven't played (which is, like, all of you) Tongiaki is about Polynesian migration and colonization, where you send rafts out to find other lands. There's a board that grows from randomly drawing tiles as you explore, and "migrations" are triggered by filling beaches (harbours) on islands. Which leads to this wonderfully cascading, uncomputable and dickish game where you land boats on an island, which fill the harbours and trigger another set of migrations, to trigger even move. And you plot your migrations to send your ships to other islands, or into the blue hoping to find a new island. And to empty islands of your enemies. sending them on doomed trips from which they will never return.
One of the few times I'll use that tired phrase: "It needs a reprint". Just so more people can play this gem.


Splendor
Camel Up

These were the two light weight hits of the year they came out and I had a negative reaction to both. CU was chaotic, Splendour was a dour game with shiny components. I've warmed to CU - it's a decent racing game for shouting and cursing at ridiculous turns of fortune - but Splendour remains bland and undercooked. Century: Spice Road takes the same idioms and makes a much better game out of them.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
Like Carcasonne except improved. By which I mean that a clean and simple game has had a lot of gamer-crap piled on top. And it's difficult to read / see all the information you need. Gamers: ruining perfectly good things since 3500BC.

Snow Tails
ST is another outlier for me. Racing seems like a good theme / model for a game but it's so difficult to implement it as a game: the results tend to being either random or deterministic. The Powerboats / Missisippi Queen / Snow Tails is for my money one of the few working solutions, modelling a race as a sort of risk / resource management that makes sense and is a decent game. Nonetheless, I'm surprised to see Snow Tails here. It was largely unremarked upon in my circles and Powerboats seemed to be the implementation that was more developed, had more colour and more possibilities. While ST has some interesting variations (e.g. the need to run two dogs), it’s never quite different or interesting enough to warrant playing more. Can’t help but feel that with a few tweaks and more variety, this might be a lot more interesting.

Quadropolis
Ah - my short and slightly bitter love affair with Quadropolis. It was a summer romance, over in less than a week and four games. I was drawn by her promise of a city-building game, captivated by her play length but then brutally betrayed by the unbalanced scoring pushing everyone towards samish strategies.
It is dead to me.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Hey, remember that time when it seemed like everyone was trying to make the next big coop game? (After Pandemic, Shadows over Camelot, etc.) I think there was a dual realisation, on the part of manufacturers that that co-ops aren't as easy to design as it seems and on the part of players that co-ops can bring the dick out in other players but now you have to work with them, and not smash them with your crowning victory.
'round these parts FP:FR was a bit of a flash in the pan, losing to other coops. However, I recently picked it up and was quite charmed. Arguably it's not as rich or complex as the alternatives, but it's a solid entry and I think makes for an excellent solo game. It also probably suit younger groups due to a slightly narrower set of choices and actions.
There's got to be lots of secondhand copies out there. Pick one up for your kids.

6 nimmt!
Veteran LoBster Soren maintains that there's no strategy to this game and plays games by just randomly playing cards. He got to the club finals with this approach. Take that for what it's worth.


Zooloretto
Coloretto

President LoBster Paul Lister used to be a champion of Zooleretto, holding that there was a deeper game behind its cuddly exterior. For my part, I've been bewildered by the antipathy many have for Zooleretto. "Coloretto does everything that Zooleretto dioesm without all the bullshit".
Well, yes. If you regard an actual game and human interaction as "bullshit", I suppose it does.

Hanabi
A boot stamping on the face of Eurogames forever. Simple, elegant, solves the alpha player problem utterly. About the only disappointing thing about Hanabi is the contortions some players will go through to try and cheat the system or avoid cheats. Jeez - it's a coop. You could just throw the cards up in the air and declare victory if you wanted to.


Forbidden Island
Forbidden Desert

There's a good argument that FI improved upon Pandemic by stripping almost all of it out. Certainly, I think I'd prefer to play FI over vanilla Pandemic these days, partly because of length and partly because FI has a better luck-skill balance. (As said before, after a while playing Pandemic, if you lose, it's because you were unlucky not because you made the wrong decision.) I also have grand memories of teaching FI to a group of 10-year-olds, who then took over the game for several sessions, negotiating and reasoning amongst themselves like seasoned gamers.

Kingdom Builder
In its electronic form, my public transport time-passer du jour. I've clocked up 100s of games of this. It's increased my admiration for the design - it is remarkably tuned and balanced - but also underlines some path dependency in the first few moves of the games. Get the right (or wrong) first few cards and the rest of the game is laid out for you. It's short enough such that this is not a greta problem, but here's one well-functioning game that I'd like fixed.

Can’t Stop
I am an incredibly late bloomer with this one, having only played it for the first time two years ago. And, holy crap, it’s awesome. While I‘ve making excuses for a lot of classic games, excuses that a game can be good even if it’s not a good game qua game, but CS has solid gameplay and is still accessible and super fast. It’s a crime that it’s dropped off more recent hot lists.

Liars Dice
I maintain this game is not really about maths or the odds of rolling dice, but about avoiding calculating odds by making sure the point when people start questioning the number of dice is far away from you. It's a mind game. Which couples into a wonderful set of tactics in bluffing about what you have in all sorts of ways. Easy to teach, easy to appreciate, tactile and raucous, a best of breed party game.

Machi Koro
You know, I enjoy MK but there seems like there something a bit broken about it. A few bad dice rolls, you get hammered badly by another player and you can be out of the game. The expansions have corrected this to some extent (by opening up the choices available) bu the basic game seems undercooked.




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