My Top Ten Surprising Games
Alex Ansari
United States
Temple City
California
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As a follow-up to my list of disappointing games, I thought I would offer up ten games that surprised me in a good way. These aren't necessarily my favorite games, but I enjoyed them much more than I thought I would considering either how they looked or what I had heard about them. In most cases, I ended up buying the game because I had such a good experience.
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1. Board Game: Hawaii [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:529]
Alex Ansari
United States
Temple City
California
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Tom Vasel infamously binned this game, but when I had a chance to play it, it wasn't actually that bad. The theme is pretty weak, even though everything looks nice, and the game is purely about getting points for anything, but it was enjoyable to play. The setup and between rounds resets were pretty also annoying, but Hawaii is a very solid game.
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2. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:134]
Alex Ansari
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Whew, if there were ever a game that didn't look exciting on the table, this is one. The game just looks boring. However, I found the bidding for tiles and the scoring pretty interesting. It can also be a bit random, but I enjoyed the decision of whether to wait for a tile or use a high bid to get something right away. It has a nice amount of depth and doesn't take long to play.
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3. Board Game: Dungeon Petz [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:136]
Alex Ansari
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Here is another that I was skeptical about going in, even though it looked pretty cool. The idea of Dungeon Lords wasn't very appealing so I didn't think this would amount to much either. I was surprised to find out that this was a pretty good (and extremely funny) game. It has all of the good things that you want in a worked placement game, but also some thinky resource management. I have considered picking this up for awhile.
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4. Board Game: To Court the King [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1413]
Alex Ansari
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From the cover, this game doesn't look very appealing. After getting it set up...still not very appealing. But right away I was taken with the Yahtzee-esque dice game combined with special powers from the people you can recruit. Pulling off a good combo is very satisfying and I appreciated that this game had a small footprint and played quickly. I searched high and low for an inexpensive copy, but with no luck. There is a re-themed (and bloated) version coming from Bezier so hopefully I can finally play this game again.
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5. Board Game: Maharani [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:2458]
Alex Ansari
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Maharani doesn't look very exciting even though it is quite colorful. This was one of my biggest surprises though. I enjoyed the tactical nature of the game and even though the tiles were random, I still felt like there were enough options each turn. I eventually purchased this game and have a had quite a good time with it. A very fun game that is probably a bit underrated.
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6. Board Game: Völuspá [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1671]
Alex Ansari
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I wasn't sure what to think about this one because it looked cool, but it also seemed like dominoes. Immediately I latched onto the math-y side of things and enjoyed finding the high-scoring combos. While I enjoyed this with 3 and 4-players, it really shines as a 2-player game. This is definitely one of my favorites and the expansions add even more variety. The artwork is pretty amazing too.
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7. Board Game: Viticulture [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:121]
Alex Ansari
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"The Strategic Game of Winemaking." Pass. I was finally forced to play this and...it was actually a lot of fun! Nevermind that the production is out-of-this-world good, the game plays extremely well. I've only played the second edition so I can't speak for the original, but it seems to all work very well. The cards are situational, but it shouldn't detract from what is overall one of the best worker placement games I've ever played. A great addition to my collection.
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8. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:29]
Alex Ansari
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I actively avoided this game for the longest time. The box and board looked bland and the idea of running an energy economy wasn't exactly thrilling. Even after my first couple of plays, I wasn't completely sold. However, at some point things clicked. I suddenly saw the depth of carefully pricing each plant and resource and it made for a fascinating experience. There isn't one part of the game that doesn't involve some sort of strategic thinking. Even turn order is a carefully manipulated commodity. I very much enjoy this game and it is one of my biggest surprises.
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9. Board Game: Guildhall [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:707] [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Alex Ansari
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I didn't even know what this game was about when I sat down to play. The rules explanation didn't inspire much confidence. When I started to play though, the game came to life. While the theme isn't exactly engaging, the card combinations are very fun. There is also a great deal of interaction so what seems like a very dry game actually features a good amount of table talk. I bought this game the next day and it has become one of my favorites, a real treat to pull out when we want a fun, quick card game.
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10. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:198]
Alex Ansari
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For awhile, Stefan Feld was synonymous with boring, complicated Euro games. This game doesn't really look that great either, but I saw some dice and decided to give it a shot. Wow! One of my favorite mechanisms in board gaming is cards with a variety of uses and Bruges is one of the best at featuring it. While the game is pretty random (obviously), I still really enjoy it. I'm no longer as fearful of Feld as I once was and like all of the games of his that I have played so far, all thanks to this game.
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