Son of Best games A-Z You May Never Have Heard Of!
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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A few years ago I made a list of 'Best games you may never have heard of A-Z'. I wanted to update the list... some of it will be repeated, but maybe some new goodies will show up.

The list actually took much longer to finish than I expected, and is a bit light lower down in the alphabet.

For the most part, I'm trying to restrict the choices to games that are not the common ones you find on other lists or on the store shelves, except for my chance to take a dig at a couple games I particular have a negative feeling towards... Hey, I'm a curmudgeon, and that's what I do.

Feel free to let me know if I'm way off or missed something vital.
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1. Board Game: 18C2C: Manifest Destiny [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:4888]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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This game is enormous and long and exhausting, but simply the best 18xx I have played because of scale and sheer audacity. I would love to have a copy, but probably cannot happen. I will just have the knowledge that I got to play and enjoy it.

Three other great ones:

1830. Tresham at his greatest, another favorite rail game
7 Ages. Another monstrous game that is pure joy to play. Totally unbalanced and randomness and 'take that' galore, but who cares?
1989. A good twist on Twilight Struggle. Also plays relatively quickly with a very different scoring mechanism. The card driven conflicts are also interesting. Map much more abstract.


Worthy one you may not know:

2010 Swedish Parliment. This oddbeat game from Mondiani from Essen, only fifty copies or so (I have #4). Intriguing game about maneuvering the importance of your political party. Only if you have improved your position relative to the start of the game do you win: the small parties will never win the election, but can make some progress. Interesting how you have to help each other to get yourself moving forwards. Components not too bad, but I especially like the cards.


The duds:

1969 This game has no feel for the space race at all, and the theme is only a veneer for a standard Euro, albeit one with a horrible end game where the player order certainly determines who gets screwed.

20th Century. Just did not work at all for us. Runaway leader problem, and whoever is in last gets hammered by the pollution and only falls farther behind. Too fiddly for what it is as well. Tries to be deeper and more involved than it really is.
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2. Board Game: American Megafauna [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:2922]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Still the King. the best evolution game out there: i learn something new every time I play. An experience-style game where often you watch things unfold rather than forcing the action.

Some other goodies:

American Rails: Now with wider distribution, so maybe can come off this list. A much better version of Chicago Express as you have a more wide-open map to play with and starting locations are not fixed, allowing a lot more choice.

Age of Exploration: A great experience game from Tom Lehmann. Always tells a great story and plays relatively fast. It can even be soloed if you feel so inclined.

Age of Renaissance: Not very obscure, but not well-known these days. The original 'Civ Lite' game. I have always had a great time playing this one. While some people swear by 2 hour sessions, it generally takes me 5 to 6 hours to play the full game.

Ambush!: Known mostly to only wargamers of a certain age, this is a rollicking WW2 squad level game designed to be played alone. Think about the craziest WW2 film you know, and that is what you are enacting. Lots of heroic actions and intense firefights in the paragraph-driven system.


One you may not know:

After Pablo: Only got to play once so far, but the theme was very different and it mixed several mechanisms well.


Dud:

Ant Assault: Wow, this was pretty bad. Random as all get out, you could not plan for much, but mercifully it was over pretty fast.

Alcatraz: the Scapegoat: Fell mega-flat for me. Could not get into the theme via the gameplay at all.

Andromeda: The hockey puck was kinda silly, anyway.

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3. Board Game: Barbarian, Kingdom & Empire [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:5268]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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BK&E simulates the rise and fall of empires in a grand sweep of a game where you start as a nomadic barbarian tribe that reaches a critical point of expansion where you become a kingdom. After a time you develop into an empire until you get so bloated and unmanageable you dissolve into chaotic barbarians again. Great feel, can be played indefinitely. Players can enter or leave at any time.

Other good ones:

Battle of the Halji: Uber-weird, with a storyline that has to be read to be believed, a 'talking' rule book, diseases, sex, vomiting, acid rain and exploding minions. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Bios: Megafauna: American Megafauna Light. Still a very good game.

Blood Royale: Never get to play this, but always had fun when I did, back in the day. Never finishede a game, but developing the family was more fun than the rest of the game.


Duds:

Baseball Challenge: Having to reposition the fielders each pitch, as well as switching them in and out each inning- bleah. Also, Nolan Ryan throwing a knuckleball didn't feel right.

Blockade Runner: The basic game is ok, but it is doing the same thing over and over five times, and whoever manages to roll better and not have cards drawn that block you can win. There are some seriously overpowered cards in that deck. Essentially the actions you choose each turn are pretty much the same.

Blackbeard (GMT): Took a good game from Avalon Hill and tried to mess with the mechanics, and it just didn't work for me. Both the theme and the historicity fell by the wayside in exchange for supposidly more player involvement and interaction.
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4. Board Game: City of Chaos [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:4440]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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The atmosphere produced by the game is like none other. Brilliant interaction between cards and paragraph book. Some of the most creative deaths anywhere, and brilliantly macabre artwork. A true gem of a game.

Other good ones:

Circus Maximus: Often imitated, never surpassed. Takes some time to play and it can be less fun if you are just out to win by racing around the track, but in the right situation with the right group a blast to play. Would love to try the campaign rules with skullduggery and drugged horses.

Conquest of Paradise: A great little Civ builder in two hours. Some fighting, some building, exploring and even tech advances in a unique setting.

Confucius: A lessr-known Euro with some nice mechanisms where you compel other players to pay you homage by owing you favors. Need more players to get it to work right.

Cave Evil: Wonderfully dark and brooding illustrations. Lots of evil nasties in an underground labyrinth with the goal to wipe everyone out, or be wiped out by the rise of the evil underlord of the game. Brilliant atmosphere. All black, all the time.

One very few know:

Chaos Arena: A wizard battle game with great components produced by a local.

Camelot the Build: One of my favorite, Wotan games, is back in business.

Duds:

Card City: Could not seem to wrap my head around the mechanics, and didn't care enough about the game to put much effort in giving it another go.

Cowboys: Way of the Gun: An attempt to 'update' Gunslinger was a total flop. Have to hit people multiple times to kill them, and it just lacked drama or excitement.

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5. Board Game: Divine Right [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:2517]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Divine right is my all-time #1 game. Love the artwork, storyline. It has all the fantasy elements I want: combat, events, magic, dragons, special units, special terrain, diplomacy. Some areas it is too simple, others too complex. But I love every play I get of this venerable classic.

Other good ones:

Dark Cults- Fantastic artwork to gtet the theme and a very interesting game device: you tell a story, but the good player trying to keep the character alive, and the evil player trying to kill him off. By the same designer as Divine Right. Wish I could play this more.

Deluges- Over-the-top production and a really nifty 'sinking continent' mechanic. Also love the morbid theme: trying to make the most memorable ruins for your civilization before you all drown. A delicately-balanced semi-co-op-but-not-really game.

Down With the King- My chance to play a Blackadder character. Tables galore, and tons of dice rolling. You simply must roleplay this to the hilt to get the fun, and also attempt wild things. Slow and plodding to victory should be scorned.

Duds:

Daemonibus- Wow, did this not work. I could see us as kids playing and fighting much of the afternoon over the rules.

Dark Emperor- I tried. I have tried three times to play but each time it was a total splat. The attrition was brutal, and I just could not get into the whole game with my stacks all falling to bits if i wanted to move more than like five hexes. Maybe someone who likes the game can help me understand what I need to be doing to enjoy it. Having to leave unded behind to hold cities also seemed to spread me way too thin.
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6. Board Game: Excalibur [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:5130]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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A but clunky with the written orders, but this has always been one of the better economic/war games I've played. I like how the lords have to be present to apply sword to peasant backside to get full taxes, else they will send you some small scraps and claim the harvests were poor. Weather influences the prodcution but you can work your territory to improve it. Knights and levees train and get more experience. Quite a lot to it, but mostly overlooked and forgotten. I gather there is a remake in the works from Wotan, but timing may not be so good as the new Fief is soon to arrive.

other good ones:

Empires of the Middle Ages- From way back in 1980, one of the best 'sweep of history' games. Each turn is a year, and you can really watch dymasties rise and collapse. The final scoring does not mean much because of all the turmoil and random events that happen in-between, but it is the story of the game that is interesting anyway. I mean, how many games differentuiate between like 5 language groups with dialects being important if you want to negotiate?

Erosion- Fascinating game by a geologist on the growth and decay of mountains. Sounds a bit dry? Quite amazing how the designer made both a fun and educational game about the topic.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space- To me, this has produced some of the more memorable and heart-pounding moments around the gaming table. Very simple setup, but the false alarms, the 'blips' moving speedily towards you, the pressure of finding a workable escape pod. Wow, I get sweaty thinking about it.

Duds:

Elric- If you know me, you know I love adventure games, and randomness does not scare me. but this went so over-the-top I am a bit leery to even try again.


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7. Board Game: The Fellowship of the Ring [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:6123]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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For me, still the best simulation of Tolkien out there. Bluffing, misdirection, the search, the slow sneak towards Mordor are all in there. War of the Ring focused too much on plastic and limited your choices. The dice mechanism in FotR useful but clunky, that is true, and once the fellowship gets far from the Shire, the Enemy player is going to have a rough go of it. Still, really enjoyed this one back in the day, my first real hobby game.

Other good ones:

Freedom in the Galaxy- Not much chance to play yet, but loved what I saw: big, sprawling adventure with both character and fleet actions. Very ambitious game.

Fury of the Norsemen- Damn fun little minigame where the Vikings try to grab the women and animals and escape to their boats countered by the villagers and their proiests who can call down the wrath of God to smite the interlopers.

Duds:

Francis Drake- Actually, not an unknown game, but such a clunker I had to put it in anyway. Cannot believe the good press for this themeless drek where you play the game essentially three times in a row. Overpriced and overproduced, and overhyped.

Funny Friends- I appreciate the humor and art, but the gameplay trapped me into following a specific path, and I don't like that. No interest in a replay.
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8. Board Game: Gunslinger [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:1542]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Has become a go-to shorter game when we want to have a wild fun time. Nothing beats the stories generated from this game. Sometimes you are dead on the first turn, sometimes it goes a couple hours. Lots of detail, but it flows pretty smoothly once you get going. Great to set up your favorite historical or mythological confrontation and let the lead fly.

other good ones:

Gammarauders- Cybernetic giant animals and their troops in a fight for control of a planet. What could be better?

Geronimo- A simulation in which winning for the Indians is not possible, but only to delay the inevitable as long as possible. Absolutely gorgeous cards with photographs of representative tribal peoples and the capability of switching sides during the game make it a pretty unique representation of the era. I learned a lot as well.

Guerre et Frontieres- Well, I may have been the only one at the table, but I liked this game a lot. Interesting diplomatic system.

Gladiator- In the Gunclinger vein, a programmed battle to the death for two players. Great stories to be told in this bloody battle in the arena.

Guerilla- Actually don't remember too much except we were all surprised the game was as fun as it was. Totally overlooked by everybody, I think it came out near the end days of Avalon Hill, it is well worth the play, and now I need to get it out again.

Groo- We have played this a lot. Stupid simple fun of smashing down other's villages while trying to protect your own. Great art.

Guns of Gettysburg- Wow. Only game I have where I don't count movement points, but use the map terrain itself to determine my strategy. Brilliant.

Duds:

Get Nuts- Chaotic dud of a game with substandard art. But, hey, it came from the designer of Panic Station, so I should have known better.

La Granja- Another one I don't know where the hype comes from unless it is because the cost was so high. Nothing I'd not seen in a number of other games.
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9. Board Game: High Frontier [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:809]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Playtester and in awe of the design. Eklund has been a favorite for years and years. Great to see him getting popular, although it has translated into a change in his game design and not always in the way I like it, but kudos to Phil. You can have a great time at this just exploring what you can do: screw winning.

Other good ones:

Halls of Montezuma- Maligned and neglected, we have always had fun with this. the battle table can be very swingy. Interesting topic i did not know so much about as well.

Hero of Weehawken- Nice little solo game on an obscure history topic.

High and Tight- Another Victory Point game focused on simulating a baseball game one inning at a time, rather than per batter, based on the premise each player has one big chance to do something per game. Does not always feel right, but the game seems to work, and has been a fun diversion for me and my son.

Duds:

Hadronen- A card game designed by a high energy physicist, which is my background so I had to get it, but unless you are in the field, there is not much of a draw.

Hammer of Thor- I would never part with my copy. It is so hideously ugly, but so very much work went into it. It has not yet worked for me: maybe a future play will bring out the beauty, but I had to quit my last game as thor in disgust as he was getting his ass whupped by a g-damn owl.

Hansa- Another Scahcht, another dud. I gotta stay away from the guy.

Tha Haunting House- We gave it as a gift to a guy. I still feel awful about it.
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10. Board Game: Insula [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:8588]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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A semi-coop game with one winner accross a bizarre looking board and eerie looking tokens. Not the greatest game of all time, but the look, the bag the game came in, the novel mechanisms all make it a worthy try at least once game.

Other good ones:

Insecta- An Eklund game, good start. In this one you get to build all sorts of insect or arachnid monsters to go out and battle it out against either the other players or as a team against the hive. Have heard talk of a reissue, but I like my sets, Phil's own private copies.

Ironman Football- Another from Simulations Workshop. Playing football seasons from the earliest days in the twenties. Negotiate games and payouts, hire the top players, pray for a crowd and maybe get some ringers for the big match. Chock full of atmosphere, even if the presentation is a but plain.

Duds:

Imperial Governor & Strategos- True, maybe did not give a completley fair shake, but we played twenty turns or something without evn being allowed to confront each other in what was basically a two hour setup that should have been a predetermined distribution. Was so upset with this I traded it away. It might have some good stuff to it, but I am not inclined to go through the agony to find out.

In the Year of the Dragon- Yeah, I know, well known, but its my damn list. What is the point of this game? Linear and uninteresting, themeless, and generally a waste of time. So simplistic, almost embarassing. What choices are there? Man, Feld is not my thing.

Intrigue- I heard so much about how nasty the game was. At the time it was out of print and I had to go to extraordinary lengths to get a copy. And the game died on the vine. Nobody had fun. Out it went.
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11. Board Game: Junta [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:965]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Probably more known than many others on this list; at least, has gone through several reissues. But for a chance to use bad accents and screw your buddy, not much better than this.

Other good ones:

John Carter, Warlord of Mars- As a game, if you are trying only to win it is probably too frustrating and not worth your time. It plays like an experimental game with tables for about everything. I spent most of the game slogging halfway accross Barsoom because I wrecked my damn speeder, and James lolled about palaces, never quite able to enter the right room. And just when I met the enemy... He transports to the other end of the planet. Maddening. But also fantastic. Probably will be tough to ever play again, but I would never part with it.
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12. Board Game: Konradin oder Interregnum [Average Rating:6.62 Unranked]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Way under radar game, a pretty good recreation of the economics and atmosphere of middle ages Germany. The rules are pretty shoddy for the most part. The economics are brutal: make a mistake and you can be royally screwed. Also, the victory conditions can be extremely unfair. But the art is hand drawn and charming, reminiscent of actual period drawings, and the components are excellent, although I missed the dice tower in my copy.

Other good ones:

King's Bounty- Fun game about being a bounty hunter in a fantasy realm.

Kings and Castles- a Ragnar cloth map only adds to the look. Interesting mechanism for choosing when you will play, and trying to max your score for your eventual few moves.

Kriegbot- Anotehr Eklund game, but this time from his son, Matt. Build science-possible high tech vehicles and try to blow the others away. Plays much faster than expected, and I like how a lot of the capabilities of the machine only become obvious upon engagement.

Kremlin- Oldie but very goodie. Lots of luck but some strategy and tactics possible, and for anyone who survived the Cold War will appreciate the tottering leader as you pary he lasts long enough to wave one more time at the Mayday crowd.

Kolejka- Kind of unknown? A game about queueing for goods in Communist Poland... But fun!

Duds:

Kalua- A little uninspired. Actually, I would as soon be playing Poo instead of this one, which seems to add some complications without adding much to the 'feel' of the game. I like 'take that' we'll enough, but this just didn't seem to get me excited.

Kensingtom- the guys who designed this apper to be rather pompous twats judging by the schlock they wrote on the cover about how great the game is. Its a stndard abstract that got slipped back in its dust cover and has sat there for the past decade.

Kill the Hippies- Well, I tried to warn them in the playtest phase. The jokes were one time only, and even then not too good. Crap game.

Koplopers & Dwarsliggers- Or Dwarflickers ans we call it. Not terrible or anything, but it just kind of sits there. The map graphics are really substandard, which is a pity as there was so much possibility. The box art good. A pity they only used the abbreviations on the map. Some chance to interfere with your opponents, but could suffer from analysis time, if you bother to put such effort in. Runs a few turns longer than we cared it too.
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13. Board Game: Lords of the Sierra Madre (second edition) [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:6883]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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More like a sandbox or Lego set. There are so many directions you can go in this game it is even hard to describe. Want to raise ostriches using local Indian slaves? Gun run with the help of a German spy? Run for the US Presidency? It is all in here. The rules are atrocious, but with some of the help documents you can muddle tour way through. Some bizarre choices, like 40 round tactical turns. The game can be full of riches or can be very constricted: the variability is huge and you have to go into it knowing that it may go fast or take hours. Brilliant.

Other good ones:

Last Frontier: the Vesuvius Incident- Still my favorite Aliens-based game. Generates the most tension of any of them, and I can feel the stress, exhilaration and terror when the nasties show up and I find bits and parts of my marines as we search the ship.

Legend of the Lost Dutchman- excellent sim of the search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Starvation, thirst, rattlesnakes, cave ins... Not much goes right as you struggle to come up even with a ghost of a gold nugget. You even have to watch out getting shot in the back by your opponents!

Legend- Labor of love game of racing older autos through Italy. Lavish production.

Leaping Lemmings- Great into wargame with its own humor and twists. Played this to death with my son when he was younger.

Lords of the Renaissance- Many of the comments to the title game of this list apply here, but with an even more obscure rulebook.

Duds:

Lankhmar- Ask the writer of a fantasy series and a buddy to get together and design a wargame, and what do tou get? Gad, what a disaster this game is. Scale totally screwed: archers can fire like thirty miles. You spend most of the game with your coolest dudes, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser chasing after earthworms somewhere. Round counters not the best idea, and they were too large for the map. Stick to writing, fella.

Legie- just because it is an obscure game from a small Czech company doesn't mean it is worth the spit spent railing how crummy the game is.

Lorrein- The game seemed to have some potential, but is underdevelopped and has some of the worst graphic design I have seen for some time. The box art is really unattractive: remember, you have to compete with LOTS of other games, and with art this off-putting, how do you get people to pick it up to read the back? On the table, the color scheme was awful, and really hard for me to quickly glance and find the farms on the board. Quite fiddly, picking up bits, replacing bits, drawing cards, replacing cards. It all felt very disjointed: the farm placed willy-nilly, some cubes here and there, some stars here and there. The pot for the marbles was too shallow and things kept falling out, and not always immediately obvious what was in the three holes. A couple bad marble spins and you could be put out of the running. With some more development, this could have been interesting: maybe adding continuity requirements for farms to connect to castles, or some time of road system. As it is, we did not enjoy it much at all and abandoned our game.
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14. Board Game: Mad Monks and Relics [Average Rating:5.78 Overall Rank:11867]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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A great game? No, but I lve it for what it is, and what you get to play: a wandering monk in the dark ages trying to piece together knowledge from musty tomes in a quest to find the Holy Grail. Will you make it? Probably not: prowlers for heretics, the plague and other nastiness dogs your every step, and the unmarked grave is much more likely than a throne of splendor. Simple artwork is evocative: another Moorehead winner.

Other good ones:

Medieval- Richard Berg game, mostly overlooked. I have always had a good time with this, and like how the board gets slowly eaten away from the Mongol invasions.

Merlin- Another Wotan games production. Really cheap counters, but the map is coloful, and I like how you play a court magician trying to play the various kings against one another on your stairs towards real power. Random events and treachery go together well in this one.

Middle Sea- Great theme, a flooded North America split into warring factions. I need to play some more.

Mythology- Who doesn't want to play a God? Forget those damn Euros where you keep having to collect crap to impress some higher being (Deus, I am looking scornfully directly at you) and insted force those damn mortals to divvy it up TO you. Don't like your opponent's heroes? Open the ground beneath their feet! Call out a plague! Sick the Minotaur on them! Now, that's a game.

Duds:

Mage Master- Well, this may be unfair. My son and I had a good time, but the game really is not very good. Imagine Talisman without the flavor text. Oh, nad it takes a lot longer to play. Yeah, that sort of game.

Marchia Orientalis- A bit of Alhambra with bidding. Unfortunately, we totally broke the economy taking away any stressful decisions. The buildings were very, very difficult to tell apart at a glance, so it was hard to tell how you were doing. Bare bones production. Despite all this, it almost had something to make it good. Also, it has some rules that make it possible for two players to totally lock out a third player, which is not fun. Could have used some more development.

Medievalia- did not work card game. Too afraid to attack, ended up just being a battle of attrition. Giochix not one I have a lot of faith in after this and several other duds.

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15. Board Game: Nemo's War [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:2970]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Great solo game, especially if you are somewhat familiar with Verne's book. Very nice in how you can determine the motivation of Nemo in several different tracks, with one chance to alter. Hard to get a win. Great atmosphere.

Other good ones:


Namibia- A somewhat overlooked Essen release froma few years ago. Has quite a tight economy, although near the end it is a bit too delicate, perhaps, but the turn order bidding is the mospt brutal of any game I have played.

Navajo Wars- unique solo game with lots of history and many choices. Pretty tough to win it appears. Looking forward to more plays of this.

Duds:

The New Science- I really wanted to like this game as the theme is excellent. The play left me, well, underwhelmed. It feels a very standard worker placement game with the added chaos of a random event deck. The problem is, the game is so finely tuned the events end up being overly-important with very little capability to prepare for or mitigate their effects. The character cards are beautiful but largely useless, as the little chart on there is very difficult to read, and it is much easier to just look at the board. This game was crying out for more differentiation between the scientists, more discoveries, a more intricate way to handle research and discovery. As a scientist myself, I was taken aback by how simple it was to conduct successful experiments, with no wrong directions along the way. It needs like a deck of research cards, where you can play to gain some bonuses, but still keeping progress slower, maybe gaining a +1 bonus with each failed attempt or something. I thought I would need to have this, but I was so disappointed.

Northern Pacific- Surprised this game was so poor. The basic premises and mechanisms were ok, and perhaps it was the small board, but the nuMber of choices were few, and most of the second half for two players were maneuvering who would win. One player, in particular, out of the game basically decided the winner with no way to really help themself. Had the feel of a 'toss in' game to meet the Winsome Essen set requirements without really being a seriously tested game.

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16. Board Game: Origins: How We Became Human [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:2523]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Perhaps I am biased, having been a primary playtester and the guy who wrote the rules, but this is an amzingly ambitious game about the emergence of intelligence in the earliest human prototypes. Another sandbox type game that is tough to figure out for the first few games, but rewards those that persevere with a really unique experience.

Other good ones:

Oregon Trail- build up a wagon train and head West, dealing with stampedes, Insians and starvation as you try to maintain your control of the train and not be left stranded with only a canteen in the desert by the disgruntled settlers.

Duds:

Of Mice and Lemmings- Awfully expensive game for what turned out to be a hidden partnership game thta too soon becomes very obvious who is who.

Old Men of the Forest- I thought the orangutangs deserved something better than this.
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17. Board Game: Dynasty League Baseball [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:3480]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Actually aslo stands in for Dynasty League Baseball, its successor. Best baseball sim I have played, and I have played a lot of them. Fence height, umpire strike zone, jump ratings, bunt for hits, wind speed, and player temperment all come into play in the game. Not much of real baseball is left out, but the game plays in just a half hour. The best tabletop ball you can get... Have played hundreds of games.

Other good ones:

Pancho Villa: Dead or Alive!- Sierra Madre, again. Wild and woole with brutal event tables covering a very interesting encounter between the Americans and Mexicans. Chock full of theme, as you might expect from Eklund.

Pax Romana- Great sweep of history game of the early Roman era, with 25 year turns. You get to do the big events of the era, with enough cardplay and other teicks to keep your opponents guessing.

Polis- fantastic war/Euro hybred. Plays pretty quickly with a real emphasis on logistics: how do we keep the people fed?

Pro Football Fantasm- Best football sim, but takes a looong time to play. Even the offensive line has about ten individual ratings, and with over a hundred plays to choose from, there is plenty of variety. Evn playing defene is inteesting.

Duds:

Panic Station- Yeah, not so obscure, but If I can save someone suffering through this I will have done my duty. The game makes no sense whatsoever...we are Marines trying to rid one of our own ship of nasties, but we have no idea of the layout? And we have no weapons? And what's with the robot/human thing? No, it just flopped on so many levels.

Paranoid Delusions- Loved te premis, and we had some very amusing conspiracies, but as a game it didn't really pan out. Glad to have been able to play, however, and don't regret my play, but doubt there will be a follow-up.

Der Pate- Surprised to see such a bomb from Kosmos in a big box. Our wimming Don basically made money making pizzas. How dull is that?

Perpetual Motion Machine- Probably the biggest box obfuscation of the actual game of all time. The box actually sounded very interesting. It wasn't.
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18. Board Game: Quirks [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:5408]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Perhaps would have a limited replayability if I played it more often, but since I only get to my games once in a while, it works great. Fun developing your names bizarre hybred creatures and pitting them against each other accross the changing environments. Just got the two expansions as well, so I'm set for many decades to come, I imagine.

Duds:

Quebec- People raved about the map, but I thought the round spaces and colors awful. About like the rest of the game, now forgotten.
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19. Board Game: Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648 [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:1291]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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No luck, tense, involved, another Tresham masterwork. Beautiful board and tokens. Pretty much beginning to end in four hours, but you have no idea the time has flown, you are so intent on the game.

Ther good ones:

Reich: The Iron Dream of German Reunification- Needs a play with more players, but I really liked how the diplomacy and aggression interacted. A bit of an oddball from Chaosium worthy of more plays.

Rus- Britannia in Russia. Lower quality components, but with Moorehead behind it, it usuallu comes out pretty good. A nice take on the standard engine with some additional goodies thrown in.

Roadkill- A more abstract Mad Max type game but quite a lot of fun. Big box without much content, though.

Duds:

R'Oc- Man, I paid a ton for this. It looks great, too, but the game is just not there.

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20. Board Game: Scandinavia [Average Rating:6.91 Unranked]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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This choice a Bit tenuous given my limited play but I loved every second of it. Sprawling wargame with the need for economics and diplomacy. Man, I need to get this out and played again soon and write up my thoughts about it. Took me an age to find a copy.

Other good ones:

Safe Return Doubtful- Artic exploration at its most desperate, especially the early scenarios. Stark and unforgiving, I have more than once presed my luch a bit too far. Amazing what those early adventurers accomplished, and what odds they faced.

Saladin- Labor of love. I have one of 60 copies of this 15+ hour opus, each hand made and weighing a ton from the dozens of dice and piles of components. Ambitious to the extreme, I rewrote the rulebook to something (I hope) is now playable, but we desperately need to develop some scenarios.

Siena- It got a.lot of bad press for the rules, and Schlosser panned it without really understanding the game. The board is drop dead gorgeous, and the gameplay is actually quite strategic and clever.

Silverton- Railroad game of a different ilk. The commodities board a bit clunky but severes the game well enough. Lots of ways to adjust the game to taste and time, and the solo version is not bad, either.

Source of the Nile- No better exploration game out there. Also brutal and harsh, and sends you crying home to mama unless you get scarfed down by crocs first.

Spanish Main- Another Tresham work with unique gameplay that on paper did not look like it should work, but it plays great. Also like how the person in last wins if someone makes a mistake placing tiles but nobody notices it.

Symbioz- Really cool game of trying to dominate ecosystems with wonderfully whimsical art and critters.

Speed Circuit- My favorite single car race game: Thunder Alley has emerged as my favorite race team game, so between the two And Legend I have auto racing covered.

SPQR- Wow, who thought I would ever play a game like this? Was intimidated, but then decided to just get it out, push counters around and enjoy myself. And enjoy myself I have... Wonderful to see the beautiful lines slowly disintigrate as the ferocious battles wage on. I get real insight into how the conflicts went and after having played them, understand more of what I read in the historical accounts, and almost have the impression I was there.

Duds:

S-Evolution- Had high hopes, and the game came close to working, butm in the end nobody wanted to play a second time.

Save the President- Played once, and never laughed so much, basically because the rules were so ambiguously written, and the board so wonderfully horrible. I love the charts on the board that are only useable with the expansion (which was never made)!

Star Explorer- I like making things up and using imagination, but even this one is so bare bones that without a great effort at adding color by the players it is pretty flat. I think they rely a bit too much on the players.

Steam Noir: Revolution- Man, maybe there is a game in there but I did not find it. Random guessing with a surge of points at the end over which you have no control. The only thing I see you can really do is try to win for the empire and try to lose yourself, which isn't so much fun. Negotiations never really went anywhere, and the 'three, two, one' pointing at a pile was a bit lame. Random cards made it tough to do anything strategically. Totally without theme as well. No, I don't need to revisit this anytime soon.

Sumo Basho- What happens when a miniature manufacturer thinks they can also make a game.
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21. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:807]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Every criticism gets thrown at this one: dice used for movement and combat, the odd board, time to play, cover art, downtime... and yet it still persists and for those that have learned to embrace the game, there is no other like it. Amazing design. Always something to learn. Despite all the rolls, the best players usually win. I espouse the Avalon Hill version because I love, love, love the counter art.

Other good ones:

Throneworld- What TI:3 wanted to be. Until Space Empires 4X came out, would be my go-to Space game. Still well worth playing as it has all you need in a single box without the silly plastic stuff.

Time Agent- Seizure-inducing board but the best time travel game I know. Great to see how the twisted timelines effect all that follow. You can play cautious or go all-out and pray for the best. Can play out in fifteen minutes or over several hours.

Title Bout- One of the best boxing sims. Yeah, sometimes things run on autopilot, but still great fun to match up Ali and Marciano.

Trans-Siberian- Didn't let me down! Thought it might be a bit too simple and dry after the first turn, but it really showed its colors as we got going and we got quite involved. Nice, easy rules and straightforward gameplay. I really like the trading mechanism.

Duds:

Tenjo- Many others have described it more eloquently than I could. What a waste of nice art.

Texas and Pacific - Kind of a 'yet another Winsome train game'. Nothing really makes it stand out, but the addition of the ranches kind of ok I guess. Felt a little bit like the author ran out of new ideas and went with the treid and true. Simple rules got us up and runnign fast, to its credit.

Tide of Iron- Maybe it was the scenarios I had but this game fell flatter than Kate Hudson. All the plastic covered up sub-par gameplay.

Treasure of the Lost Temple- Strange little game about racing into a temple to get the treasure before time runs out. Plays with two, but there is absolutely no interaction. Combat extremely simplified. Random map. I was disappointed with the game, in that it was too simplified, although it did come down to the wire for the escape, which added drama. But a lot of the potential color was missing.

The Trojan War- This is a Rahmann game?!? Unfortunately, game play seems more frustrating than fun. Seems impossible to easily kill an opponent: first you have to panic him, then wound him, then try and catch him to wound again. Lots of markers everywhere and tons of rolls, but not much leaving the map, and even these swiftly replaced by reserve units. May try again, but not a gripper.

Tulipmania 1637- Not much to the game. It feels decisions are pretty obvious, and it is too short, and a bursting bubble not nearly as disasterous as I would have thought/hoped. The cards feel very, very thin, and the two sets with different languages is just silly. At least the box is smaller. Some of the rules not very clear, either.
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22. Board Game: Urland [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:2424]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Not widely known, I guess, in the same vein as Urland but with its own surprises. Not the greatest game ever, but some interesting aspects to it.

Other good one:

Urban Sprawl- My gfavorite city builder. Wild game where you have to take advantage of the situation but overall strategy also comes into play. Much more satisfying than Suburbia and other such builders.

Dud:

Urknall- A nice idea but seems too random to be of any strategic value and the scoring is enough of a pain as to make a quick tally hard enough that you are not sure where you stand. Player aid would have been very useful. Not so easy to mark your claims either. Can definitely live without another play.
 
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23. Board Game: De Vulgari Eloquentia [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:800]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Nice Euro game that has taken a very difficult theme and fit it into some good strategy and long-range planning. Similar to his previous Siena, there is a fine choice to make as to when (if?) you progress from a merchant to a friar. Do you try to be the Pope? Where do you invest your limited actions?

Other good ones:

Viceroys- Almost a rolepay. Very ambitious game. Love the 'roles' you can have and the benefits gained- the expansion assigns one player as 'waiter' to bring the drinks for tips! The map is gorgeous but leads to arguements as to where settlements are placed. If played a bit in the spirit of free-wheeling adventure it can be great fun.

VOC!- Lesser-known Splotter game which can soar or bomb, depending on the group. The blind navigation can be hilarious.


Duds:

Valkenburg Catle- I wanted to like this, but it was so spartan on any flavor I could not even get into using Marines attacking a Tyrannosaurus.

Veuils of Verdandi- I will start by saying I commend the designers for following their dream and producing a boardgame. It has a quality map and cards, and the storybook is nice. But the game has just too many negatives. First, you can only play it one time. There are not enough paragraphs to give the game any staying power. The paragraphs are hard to find and not very gripping. I like the idea of the day/night cycle, but there is not enough difference to motivate me much. The die roll for movement more of just a bother, and terrain seems to have no effect. Battles are just tossing a lot of dice. The game needs about four times more paragraphs to keep it interesting. I like the idea of linking games, but after one evening of play I've exhausted the first game, and that cannot justify the cost, or of me buying the next installment. I hope some more time is put in writing a lot more text to keep this 'choose your own adventure' going, otherwise I see no added benefit to playing on the board (for a lot higher price) than just reading one of the old books of the same style.
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24. Board Game: W Zakładzie: Lubelski Lipiec '80 [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:11454]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Bought for the theme and art originally, as I could not read the rules. However, they were provided by a nice member of BGG and so we got to give it a run. I feared the game would be too simple given an initial reading of the rules, but was most pleasantly surprised. There is quite a fun game inside. Several take that mechansims, and all the victory conditions feel difficult when you start. Bluff and double bluff, four currencies and excellent, Eastern European dark humor make this a winner, and for only 18 Euros a steal.

Wizards- Bizarre-- was this really Avalon Hill? The game looks fascinating, but what a New Age designer note section. No offensive spells, a semi-cooperative game. Oddball stuff, especially the rulebook illustrations. Cannot take too seriously.

Wizard's Quest- Also Avalon Hill- what I wish I had been playing as a teen rather than Risk.

Other good ones:

Wabbit Wevenge/Wabbit Wampage- Play out those Warner brothers cartoons! Order a flying skateboard from Acme nad bwast that wascally wabbit. Takes a half hour too long to do what it should, but still whimsical fun.

William the Conqueror- Very interesting combat mechanism that relies of position rather than cards or dice. Two battles. Gorgeous box, nice map, but crummy counters (they separate too easily). Interesting combat slide rule.

Wir Sind das Volk!- Is it unknown? Not sure, but probably will not be so for long. Lighter CDG game with great color and interest.

Workshop of the World- Bottem basement graphics plague this decent game by the Ragnar Brothers. Seizure-inducing bidding. Tense.

Wrasslin'- Stupid fun. Wrestling from the 80's.

Duds:

War of the Ring (SPI)- Too bad the character game comes down to a slugfest between a steroid-pumped Frodo and 9 Nazgul. I like many elements up to that point, but it fell a bit short of the mark. I still want to find a copy, however.

War Stories- Awful game of 'memory chess'- what a terrible idea. A nice board and peices tricked me into playing. I won with ZERO strategy by drawing a knight tile that automatically checkmated my opponent's immobile king, an action he could have no response to. Really, really bad. This is what happens when you allow a non-game-playing team of design students make a game.

Warchon- Didn't quite work for me, although the idea ok. The lack of 'color' at the locations probably the biggest disappointment. All the wandering around seemed a bit of a waste of time.

Warlords in Europe- Not that I didn't have some fun playing, but the game got ridiculous. I'm not sure the economics were ever worked out. Here I was in turn 5ish making 50 coins/turn and I get a card I can play on someone to force him to pay me 1/turn? Stacks of 35 spearmen? Buying warlords just to get the money spent? A nice effort, but didn't seem to work.

Wohrom- What a bad game. The rules translation is really atrocious, and while the first few turns move along, the game slows to a crawl. Nice graphics for the most part. Fun for half a game as kids, now owned for the nostalgia. Am glad to have gotten the copy though. Awesome cover.
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25. Board Game: YN [Average Rating:7.15 Unranked]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Not really into abstracts, but this was stunning to look at and was decent enough to play. Wow, 'Y' is severely lacking in options!
 
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