An Elegant Game for a More Civilized Age
Shawn T
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Medford
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I love bits as much as the next gamer, and I can certainly enjoy depth, but my gamin' heart belongs to "elegant" games: smart, graceful concepts that, for the purpose of this list, tend to possess one or more of the following traits:

- streamlined rules that are easy to grasp, easy to interpret, and don't require law degrees or inspire frustrating debates that defeat the purpose of game nights; I love BGG, but I don't want to reference rules clarifications when my friends are over

- rely on fewer bits and pieces and have fast set-up and clean-up, so my friends don't start yawning or checking their Tweets

- store in clever, appealing inserts that I can use as the bank, pulling out or dropping in stuff as it's needed

- are highly portable because the box is small yet still able to neatly organize materials

- generally have a sense of packing plenty of fun into an easy to grasp, intuitive, game that arrives in a smart package

I'll list some of my favs here, but I'd love suggestions from you of others I could check out. Thanks for reading!
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1. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:353]
Shawn T
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Medford
New York
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Wow. A teeny, tiny package (including an expansion) that needs no alteration whatsoever. Coins, characters, and locations. Done. All the magic is in the players' heads, where it belongs. Rules are simple, with only occasional, easily resolved questions as to when powers can be used. An absolutely elegant winner that travels wonderfully and can be swiftly understood by newer players.
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2. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:241]
Shawn T
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True, it's a filler, and it's easier for fillers to be simple and elegant, but man oh man, what a great time in such a tiny, charming, draw-string bag. Easy rules (draw one, play one), and again, the complexity is in the brain, not in 20 more tokens, 6 odd exceptions to gameplay, and five more sub-rules, see paragraph D under subsection "Argh, My Guests' Eyes Are Glazing Over While I Read This."
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3. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:45]
Shawn T
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Medford
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This box is beautiful. The insert's design imparts respect and grandness to the three ages, and the Wonders are waiting, right there, to be taken and made great by new and experienced gamers alike. Gimme ma money, gimme ma deck, and let's do this.

Oh, and what's this? Recessed storage underneath the cards and Wonders, where I can stash said coins, tokens, and hey, toss in a pencil for next time, all with room to spare? Well done, 7 Wonders. Well done.

After about an Age of drafting and learning-as-you-go, non-gamers understand the game enough to have fun, and start earning points. I'll play this any ol' time.
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4. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:257]
Shawn T
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Medford
New York
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Roar! Me am Gigasaur! No am elegant!

Maybe not, but his game sure is. I bought this at my FLGS after reading good things and hearing better things on podcasts, watched a vid of gameplay, and went around the corner to my friend's house. Along with him, his wife, and his 6 year-old son, I had a blast getting all smashy-smashy. Yahtzee-style rolling, some fun choices, and a stack of easily understood and cool powers make this an easy win.

Plus, it's kind of fun to wonder how a giant lizard monster got his claws on a jetpack. And how does he refuel it?
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5. Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:52]
Shawn T
United States
Medford
New York
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This game earned its praise, then, like a young, rising movie star in her sophomore role, suffered some real backlash from the haters. Good news is it's out of rehab and just landed a series and renewed life thanks to its recent expansions (both of which arrive in one box--elegant, anyone?)

Some readers may be thinking, "I got you, OP! You said elegant means few bits and pieces, and LoW has lots of 'em! You fool!"

Well, yes, it does, but for a worker placement game, it's quite reasonable, and even better, the insert is The One Insert to Rule Them All. Finally, this is another game that can be learned as you go, with most newcomers feeling confident after a round. Simple and graceful--two qualities that can help anyone become a secret ruler of a fantasy city.
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6. Board Game: The Resistance [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:204]
Shawn T
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Medford
New York
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Okay, I admit it: I love social games where most of the play is in the brain as opposed to on the table. Nonetheless, I present another big game in another tiny package: Long live The Resistance!

Most often, I play this with my high school students, and they devour it immediately. Reading each other's comments, glances, and decisions is just too much fun, and I've seen that same enthusiasm at family gatherings when I've busted this out.

Want to step up the complexity a bit with the included power cards, or even go for character powers as in The Resistance: Avalon? Feel free, but I think there's more than enough game with the basic (oh so wonderfully basic) rules, and the insert is another winner.

And if you don't agree, then I say you're a corporate spy. And you know what we do with spies? We don't let 'em on our missions. So there.
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7. Board Game: Timeline: Inventions [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:928] [Average Rating:6.71 Unranked]
Shawn T
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Tins. Love 'em or hate 'em? I love 'em, and this one is small enough to pocket in your cargo shorts, assuming you haul cargo in your shorts, as I do.

I'll make this brief. Filler? Okay. But I taught this to my parents, who are the sad faces at the far end of the gamer to non-gamer spectrum. They picked it up instantly and had a blast.

So simple, so fun, and it grows well with a crowd. Plus, there are different Timeline products available, so you can buy to taste, or build a mega timeline capable of ripping apart the very fabric of reality.

Will I do that? Nope, because then I'd have to sort it all out later, which, say it with me, is not e-l-e-g-a-n-t.
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8. Board Game: Dixit [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:218] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Shawn T
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I love sci-fi and fantasy. I love playing the epic hero on a mission against impossible odds and occasional evens. But sometimes, you guys? Sometimes I just want to be a yellow bunny.

Enter Dixit.

The box is the board. You hear me? Oh, how awesome, the box is the board! Gorgeous cards, simple scoring, artsy-fartsy gameplay to appeal to crowds both artsy and, depending on provided snacks, fartsy.
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9. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:395]
Dan Shields
United States
Santa Cruz
California
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To me, Bohnanza fits this bill just perfectly. With only a stack of cards, you can get an awesome game for up to 7 people. The insert does its job of holding the cards (but I will admit I've got it stashed in a bag, tucked inside another game).

Newer players have been able to pick up what to do even before it gets to their first turn, just by seeing and interacting with the other players. The only tricky bit on this one is getting persistent hand sorters to keep from shuffling.
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10. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:187]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
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Okay, I add some. Pure elegance, rather abstract, but almost infinitely deep.
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11. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:215]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
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THE auction game.
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12. Board Game: Through the Desert [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:446]
Laszlo Molnar
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The game doesn't look very elegant but the mechanism is. And it's a tense game from beginning to end.
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13. Board Game: Metropolys [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:695]
Laszlo Molnar
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Another brain-burner, however simple the rules are.
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14. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:786]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
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Play it 2-player - then it's a fantastic and elegant game.
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15. Board Game: Medina [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:828]
Laszlo Molnar
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Simple rules, spectacular game pieces, deep and tense game.
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16. Board Game: Intrigue [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:1965]
Charlie Sheppard
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Seattle
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Think this one fits the bill.
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17. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:388]
Charlie Sheppard
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My favorite auction game, narrowly beating out Modern Art. Not as accessible though.
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18. Board Game: HellRail: Third Perdition [Average Rating:5.88 Overall Rank:6081]
Charlie Sheppard
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Light but fun pick up and deliver game with a fun sense of humor.
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19. Board Game: Trias [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1868]
 
Charlie Sheppard
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This one fits the bill too.
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20. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:448]
Charlie Sheppard
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The original version definitely qualifies, not sure about the later big box edition. My favorite filler. A lot of Knizia titles would qualify for this list.
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21. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:251]
Charlie Sheppard
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Seattle
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How could I forget San Juan? Not the same level of replayability as Race for the Galaxy, Dominion, etc but much more streamlined and portable and still plenty of plays before it's wrung out.
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22. Board Game: 0·1 (Zero Point One) [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Jim Wickson
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Of course I'm biased because I'm the game's creator, but based on my extensive research on the history of Chess variants, I would have to say this is perhaps the most elegant Chess variant ever created.laugh
 
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