Games That Need Regular Plays and Experienced Players to Enjoy
Jimmy Okolica
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Washington Township
Ohio
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I was tempted to put this as a blog post and then decided to make it a public geeklist.

I'm a heavy gamer. I love my 18xx, Splotter Spellen and Martin Wallace games.

In fact, as I look at my collection, my games fall into one of several categories: heavy games, kid games, a few classics, and a lot of churn.

The churn games are the games that come out each year that are the "solid medium weight game" and "nothing new but takes existing mechanics and combines them in interesting and innovative ways". Most of them also fit into the "several well balanced paths to victory" and "quickly accessible but will take 5 - 10 plays to full explore." These games are great. I can pick them up, read the rules, teach them to new people in about 20 minutes and by round 2 or 3, everyone can be more or less competitive. The churn games are the ones we play the most. The ones we keep acquiring and than getting rid of after the 10 - 20 plays as a new one comes along. Occasionally we come across one that really grabs us and we pull it out of the current and keep it as it becomes an old favorite. The churn games are not what this list is about.

Churn games can be picked up, played once, put down, picked up again 6 months later and played at (almost) the same level of competitive play. For those of us who play games in public groups where new people come and go, these are great games because we can always add new people and no one has to feel lost. But there is another group of games. These are the games where the mechanics may be able to be taught in 20 minutes (or 30 or 40) but where once the mechanics are taught, the start player looks at the board and says, "Now what do I do?". These are games where by round 2 or 3, everyone is still asking that same question. These are games that at the end of the game, everyone is saying, "if I had it to do over again, I know what I'd do different."

However, unlike the churn games, when played a second time, that thing that they'd do differently doesn't work. Instead it gives another "aha!" moment and again they think they've figured out what they'd do different. Unlike the churn games, this discovery process keeps going, possibly forever. What players don't realize is that even though they're still confused and still discovering all the new knobs and gear, they're getting better. When these players play an experienced gamer who hasn't seen this particular game, they crush him. The learning curve is steep and long and playing these games at public gatherings where people keep coming and going just doesn't work.

Also, unlike the churn games, many of these games have the capacity to produce bad gaming experiences. These games are often not balanced in themselves. They require the players to balance them. That works fine if the players are experienced, but if they aren't, the game can go down in flames. It isn't even that they produce a runaway leader. They can produce a game where midway through every one is looking at everyone else and thinking, "do any of you really want to finish this?" If people do persist and play them regularly with the same people, the games reveal their beauty. But it takes a commitment of regular plays with a group for it to happen.

Feel free to add games that you think fit.

My basic criteria:
1. most (all?) new gamers won't "get it" the first (or even second or third) time
2. has the capacity to produce bad plays if the players don't self-balance.
3. have lots of gears and knobs that take time to discover and then even more time to learn how to use.

I'm also curious how many of these games do you think someone can effectively own and dedicate sufficient time to for them to make sense.
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1. Board Game: Numbers Up [Average Rating:5.30 Overall Rank:12856]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Poll
How many "Regular Plays/Experienced Players" games do you think one person
can effectively own and dedicate sufficient time to
1 - 5
6 - 10
11 - 20
20+
      253 answers
Poll created by Butterfly0038
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2. Board Game: Container [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:583]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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The game that initially prompted this list. After a few plays, it felt like a player can tank this game if he wants to.

I'm still not sure if this game requires group think in order for it work.
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3. Board Game: God's Playground [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:1382]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Same thoughts as for Container.
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4. Family: 18xx
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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The heavy (family of) game that I dedicate myself to. If at all possible, I'll play at least one a week.
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5. Board Game: A Study in Emerald [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:593]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Probably it comes as little surprise to most people that Martin Wallace shows up twice in the first five. His games seem to have a habit of being rough around the edges and requiring experienced players to shine.
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6. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:378]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Arguably this is Eklund's first game (and everything before it is a simulation).

I happen to like High Frontier and really want to give Origins another try but back to that poll question, how many games is too many?
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7. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:34]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Lighter than several previous entries but still a heavy game. This is the first one that I will not play face to face with someone who has never played it.
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8. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Another game that really shines with repeated plays. Probably the easiest to learn of any of the entries up till now.
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9. Board Game Publisher: Winsome Games
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I'm always amazed at how low people put the depth for these games. Most of the time they at least get a depth of 3.0, but I've seen some where the depth is even lower. Perhaps it's because the rules are so simple that people think the game is too.
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10. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.35 Overall Rank:4]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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This is a game that I am a neophyte at. I can see the beauty but can't yet fully appreciate it.

side note: there are 23 people with logged plays in the 100s for this. :head shake:
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11. Board Game: Sticheln [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:808]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Really more of a placeholder for the trick taking and climbing games (a group of games I really want to explore more).
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12. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:415] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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and a placeholder for the abstracts. While I rarely play Chess anymore, in my youth I logged 1000s of plays of it, playing speed chess 5+ times during my lunch/study hall periods.
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13. Board Game: San Marco [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:512]
Davido
United States
California
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This area majority game uses the "I divide, you choose" mechanic to divvy up cards. Play balance is tied to correct valuation of the lots. Without understanding how the cards work and interact with each other, divisions tend to be crude and obviously valued. Lot prep thus ends up being stuck with the worst of the bunch.

With experience, it is possible to make apparently even lots and create lots that help the other player(s) while keeping the lot you want for yourself.

San Marco is a subtle game that definitely rewards experienced players.
Also, include: Dragon Valley which uses a similar divide/choose mechanic.
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14. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
Davido
United States
California
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Another area majority game. Really needs 5 players. Benefits from experienced players who know how to use the action cards to more than just place caballeros and score points, but instead really manipulate the board/game space.

Gears and interlocking pieces? check:

caballeros in provinces --> Courts --> Board
balance of power cards (high gets you initiative in choosing action cards, low gets you more caballeros to the court) and action cards (higher more pieces to the board, but less powerful actions, lower fewer pieces to the board, but subtle and often very powerful actions).
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15. Board Game: Space Alert [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:147]
Mark Sautman
United States
Evans
Georgia
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I ultimately traded this game because you need a group of players who all know the rules well. If one person is pretty inexperienced, they can mess up one of their plays which can ripple and affect other players' plans and cause the team to lose. Everybody has to be able to think fast and integrate their plans with each other.
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16. Board Game: Serpent's Tongue [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:5505]
Mark Sautman
United States
Evans
Georgia
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First, you need to understand all of the spells in your codex. Then you basically need to learn an alphabet, a new language, and how to pronounce the casting words. And if you go all the way, you also need to learn hand gestures to cast your spell. Then the spells are pretty linked together so you often can't cast one without casting others beforehand. I have not been able to dedicate enough time (nor convince anybody else) to really play this game.
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17. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:156] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
J. M.
Belgium
Tongeren
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This really needs competitive play for me to be interesting.

If you don't have/want to give the moneyz to buy a competitive deck, play pauper or peasant. The meta-game is interesting, games are slower and decks are cheapish.

edit: doesn't score well on your first criteria, as newer players do "get" it on their first play.
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18. Board Game: Polis: Fight for the Hegemony [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:511]
Io Vasiliadis
Germany
Heidelberg
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At first you don't know what to do. New players can't grasp the concept of paying victory points for military actions or when it is time to end a round. With experienced Players you get a chess like feel, where every move is important.
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19. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:501]
Da van
United States
Naperville
Illinois
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Seems self evident to me. Liking the game can be an acquired taste along with the acquired gaming skills! There has been a lot of ink spilled on openings and tactics… but these are all conditional on the players.

I know a group that plays bimonthly.
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20. Board Game: Imperial [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:140]
Samo Oleami
Slovenia
Ljubljana
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Is this one already covered by 18xx series?

This is one opaque package. And the rules themselves aren't really that complex. For this "weight" level, rules aren't hard at all. Quickly explained, elegant, all that.

Trick is: what the hell to do with them?

Game gives several levers and these influence the whole board. And while the levers are simple and elegant looking, what they do really isn't obvious.

Playing just a few games I've seen several thresholds encountered and overcome by new players and I suspect I still have some of them to overcome. And while I think the game isn't that fragile, it will play out differently depending on the experience of players.

My guess as to the nature of this game: long development. Took years with core group, then the game got serious changes for the mass market (and acquired several official variants in the process). A small group of initial players means their groupthink developed this game and drove it away from trends into something original, yet opaqueness was a collateral damage. On top of this, any game that's different from the rest, will need new players playing a few games to unlearn some of the concepts they arrive to the game with (In case of Imperial this is surely: owning an army).
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21. Board Game: Advanced Squad Leader [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:209] [Average Rating:7.95 Unranked]
Andrew N
United States
Rochester
Minnesota
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I've seen it said many times that this game needs to be played regularly to maintain proficiency. I would tend to agree.
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22. Board Game: The Scepter of Zavandor [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:841]
Brad Goodson
United States
Oakland
California
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It's certainly playable with new players, but ideally people have a general idea what certain items are worth. Despite the fact that I really enjoy this game, I have found it to be more work than it's worth to continue teaching this one to new players.

I suppose this might be true for other auction games. But with, say, Ra players pick up on what everything is worth pretty quickly because they see the same types of tiles through the game. Whereas with Scepter, they only get to see an item twice and they're gone.
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23. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:26]
Chris Wilczewski
United States
Folsom
California
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I dread teaching this game and it can be a savage brutal game to learn. But when played with people who know the game, it is an amazing experience.

I know I was new at it once as well, so I appreciate the folks who taught it to me. I think this game belongs on this list
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24. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:18]
Chris Wilczewski
United States
Folsom
California
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Vlaada's epic games seem to fit the bill for this list, and Mage Knight is the perhaps his most epic. I had the experience of teaching it to two new people at once and it took 4.5 hours to play 3 rounds. I don't regret it because the game is so good, but boy is it rough to play with learners.

Tons of depth and hidden deep tactical play.
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25. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:39]
Jacek Wieszaczewski
Poland
Wrocław
Poland
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Most customizable card games are enjoyed best when players are experienced. Knowing the card pool is required to be good at predicting possible threats and react accordingly.

Netrunner has one extra feature. When learning to play, you are afraid of doing anything. The feeling is more or less "OMG I'm going to die horrible death right now." Although this feeling is a bit right as indeed there are numerous ways to die horrible death in Netrunner, both for the runner and the corp, it leads to the most common beginner players mistake: losing tempo due to being afraid of your opponent and his possible actions.

It takes a while to get used to this and play calmly (although the fear stays, you only get a bit used to it). There's a great core set review: Fear (A Review of Nothin' but the Base Set) which sums this up quite well:
Aurendrosl wrote:
What makes Netrunner tick is how all these elements blend to create fear. It is one of the only boardgames where I truly fear how my opponent might behave. That fear lessens if you're facing someone of less experience than your own, but playing against someone who is equally-familiar with Netrunner (or, taken a step further, someone who has built a deck with cards you may not have yet seen) is scary.


The good thing is that most people seem to enjoy this fear even though it paralyzes them when learning to play, which makes them stick with the game and learn to act despite death looming out of every corner.
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