Chaddyboy's Top 20 Games Published Before 1995
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As the cult of the new is generally all the rage, I thought, as someone that's a relative dinosaur (at least a Jurassic period dinosaur; I know there are some Triassics around!) in the gaming hobby, it would be fun to take a look back at the older games I still love!

For other dinosaurs like me, this might be a trip down memory lane through games we consider to be classics. For many others, this might be a chance to discover some old hidden gems that will rarely pop up on the radar these days.

I plan to do a series of these lists, with a list for:

Top 20 Games Published Before 1995 (this one!)
Top 20 Games Published 1995-1999
Top 20 Games Published 2000-2004
Top 20 Games Published 2005-2009

I determined my rankings using the pairwise method, which means I took all of my most highly rated games from this time period, and threw them into a system that continually asked me "Would you rather play this game, or this other game?", until it had the necessary data to output a ranked list. Of course, this means it's a reflection of which games games I prefer at this moment, but it was a really fun exercise.

I also stuck with only published hobby games for this particular list, so I skipped over games like Crokinole, Cribbage, Go, etc.

For those that have favorites from this time frame, feel free to add them to the list, and tell me how crazy I am to not include them!
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1. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:234]
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Sid Sackson is really the man when it comes to older, hobby-style games. The man was way ahead of his time in terms of game design.

Despite Acquire's very simple mechanics and good dose of luck, I really enjoy this one. Really, all you do is place a tile and buy some stock on your turn, but the development of the game board and the hope that hotel mergers will go your way really has a high fun quality for me.

Also, it's nice to play things from before the era of every game being won by victory points. Cash is king in Acquire, which is refreshing to return to.

Overall, just a fun, light stock/economic game that's surely a classic in the gaming world.
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2. Board Game: Formula Dé [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:639]
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Formula De was one of my first loves in board gaming, occupying a spot in my all-time top 10 until recently.

I'm a big fan of race games, and this is no exception. At it's core, Formula De is really a push-your-luck resource management game; you're always gauging risk vs. reward, trying to push your car as hard as you can without crashing and burning.

You really need to play a multi-lap race with pit stops for the full enjoyment, and if you really love the game, it absolutely shines with league play. I really just don't have the time for a league I used to play in, so the game has dropped over time just due to not having the time to fully enjoy it in that way.
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3. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1081]
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I love me a good pick-up and deliver game, and this definitely fits the bill. For how simple your available options are, it's very brain-burny as you try to organize efficient routes of picking up goods and delivering them for cash, based on the deliveries shown on your cards.

There's also something satisfying in these old school crayon rail games, where you actually draw your own routes on a map, rather than being forced down predetermined paths.

The game takes longer than it seems many people have a tolerance for these days, but it just flies by for me.
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4. Board Game: Die Macher [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:238]
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Definitely a bunch of difficult decisions packed into a great game design. Managing your campaign is no easy task, and the multitude of choices lead to a fairly meaty game.

However, the game isn't the monster game people seem to make it out to be. There are a lot of steps to every turn, but none of them are complicated, and the game is rather straight-forward overall.

It's a shame that a nice English edition of this has never been released. The Valley Games edition makes the game playable in English, but the choices made in the production of that version were pretty terrible; bad enough to keep me from fully enjoying the game. I'd kill for a version of this game that's up to modern standards. I'm afraid the theme of German politics probably isn't something that's going to attract that reprint though.
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5. Board Game: Tally Ho! [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:2687]
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I really have no explanation for why I like this game as much as I do. It's very chess-like, which I typically hate, but the introduction of a lot of luck turns it into something that's just plain fun for me.

One player plays the humans, and one player plays the animals, with all the tiles face-down at the outset. Then, players just take turns either flipping or moving a tile. If you;re the humans, you'll be shooting animals and chopping down trees for points. If you're the animals, you'll be eating the humans and other animals for points. Super simple, and just a fun game.
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6. Board Game: Battling Tops [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:5798]
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I can't help it, this game is just a blast every time I play it, and always gathers a crowd wanting in. It's not so much a game as it is an activity, but it's the funnest of fun activities, screaming at your top to fight, and cursing it when it fails.

Pro Tip: Do not buy any version of this game other than the 1960's Ideal version. Any newer version is garbage.
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7. Board Game: Ave Caesar [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1202]
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The second racing game on the list, and this one is super simple. Rather than dice, this one is card-driven, where you simply play a card and move your chariot around the track. The trick is in managing your hand, having the right cards to block other players, while avoiding getting blocked by them as well.

Really simple, but really fun if you like racing games.
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8. Board Game: 6 nimmt! [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:617]
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The first appearance of Wolfgang Kramer on my list, who was once considered a gold standard designer. I'm not even sure most modern gamers would recognize his name, but back in the day, his name meant a lot, with people buying a game on his name recognition alone.

I'm generally not a huge fan of simultaneous selection (which generally involves guessing and double-guessing what other players might do), but 6 Nimmt is light enough where the tense moment of the card flip is really what makes this entire game.

Another super simple game, where there are several rows of cards, and you're trying to avoid being the player to play a 6th card in those rows. If you get stuck playing that 6th card, you take the row, which contains points. Points are bad.

A good game where you're on the edge of your seat on every card flip.
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9. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:377]
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A programmed movement game, where players program their robots to do stuff based on their hand of cards each turn, and then run them to see what happens! The goal is to race your robot around the board to several checkpoints, doing so before the other players.

Of course, there are a lot of tricks to prevent you from doing this very efficiently! You might end up on conveyor belts, getting spun around by gears, and even pushed around and shot by other players. Even the hand you are dealt sometimes will severely limit your ability to do anything productive for a turn. All of these things severely mess with your plans, so often a winning player is the one who has the least amount of unfortunate stuff happen to them, but it's a fun ride regardless.

I haven't played the brand new version of this, but it looks like it would improve the game a bit by reducing some frustratingly bad card draws that were possible in the original, and allowing you to more easily give your robot fun upgrades, which is, well, fun.
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10. Board Game: Bausack [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:953]
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A classic dexterity stacking game where the simple goal is to be the last person with a standing structure. The bidding element is great, where one player nominates a piece to be used for the round, and players then bid to either use or refuse the piece, based on the type of auction chosen.

It's really fun trying to force opponents into pieces they really don't want, wreaking havoc on their towers.
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11. Board Game: Um Reifenbreite [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1286]
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Racing game #3! This one is back to a dice-driven affair, but has a lot more emphasis on positioning and risk-management, as there's a bunch of ways you can move without rolling the dice if you position yourself well.

The main frustration some people have with this one is the crazy swingy event deck, which seemed to be a hallmark of pre-2000's game design. On a roll of 7, a player has to take the effects of an event card, which can be anything from getting to move extra spaces, to having to cause a mass fall which can cause half the field to miss their turn.

I'll admit, that part of the game can be frustrating, but overall, it's a really neat game that simulates a bike race pretty well, with the field breaking into pelatons, and riders having to choose when to break away, and when to ride along with the group.
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12. Board Game: Take it Easy! [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1483]
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This one is commonly referred to as "bingo for gamers", as it is very much a multi-player solitaire game.

Players are all placing tiles on a hex grid, trying to place them in a manner that scores the most points. One player draws a tile, and and announces which tile they drew, with everyone playing that same tile. This continues until everyone's board is full, and then points are counted. So, the game boils down to who best solved the puzzle, probably aided by some luck of the draw.

It sounds boring when explained, but I've always thought it was a fun activity solving the puzzle, and crossing my fingers for good tile draws.
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13. Board Game: Crude: The Oil Game [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:2049]
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I'm a sucker for financial games, and McMulti is a fun one in that vein. You'll spend your game investing in infrastructure to drill for oil, refine it into gasoline, and then sell that gasoline/oil to various markets.

There's a bit of Catan-style die rolling here to activate the infrastructure you've built, which is kind of funny to say since this game pre-dated Catan by a good bit. It adds a lot of fun unpredictability to the game, as you hope for certain rolls to activate the things you've built. There's also a system by which the economy changes; in some economies, it's favorable to buy infrastructure, and in others, you can even sell your infrastructure off for profit if you time it right.

I still haven't played the newer Stronghold Games version of this game, but definitely want to try it at some point!
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14. Board Game: Executive Decision [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:5719]
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Speaking of financial games, this one is pure money, and is a bit of an odd duck that I find satisfying.

Each round players will secretly write down how many of various raw materials they would like to buy, and what price they're willing to pay for those goods. They also write down how many finished goods they plan to sell (by combining raw goods they've bought), and what price they plan to sell at.

Then, players all reveal. Each thing starts the game at a fixed price, but then fluctuates based on how many (or few) players are buying and selling those things. So, one raw good might start the round at $20. I might write that I want to buy 3 of that thing at $18, which means I don't think many other players want to buy that thing, in which case the price would drop. However, it's a gamble, as the other players might have all thought the same thing and tried to buy as well, sending the price up past the price I said I was willing to pay.

It's somewhat chaotic, and very number crunchy, but I've always had a good time with it.

I still remember the first time I played it, when my friend bought it on a lark for $2 or something ridiculous at the Gen Con auction. We started playing it almost as a joke, because the game looks so bad, and were all pleasantly surprised. We shouldn't have doubted Sid Sackson!
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15. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:680]
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Sid Sackson again! A classic push-your-luck dice game. If you're not familiar with this one, and you like light, dice rolling push-your-luck fillers, you should find yourself a copy of this one.
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16. Board Game: Daytona 500 [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1551]
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And Wolfgang Kramer again! Daytona 500 is similar to Ave Caesar in a lot of regards, as you're playing cards to advance your car(s) as far as possible, while screwing over the movement of your opponents.

However, in this one, you get a hand of cards at the outset, and then bid for the ownership of each car with the knowledge of the movement cards you have in your hand. Hopefully, you can score a car or two that you have high movement cards for, but for a reasonable price. At the end of the race, each car gives a payout to its owner based on its finish position.

Overall, just a neat, light, auction/race game.
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17. Board Game: Perudo [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:614]
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Another guy that's been around for a while as a respected designer is Richard Borg, and I consider his all-time classic to be this dice rolling bluff game.

I'm generally not a huge fan of bluffing games, but in this one, you have enough information to base your decisions on that I don't mind it and can still enjoy the game.
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18. Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:258]
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I always have a hard time believing this game was designed in the year I was born, and yet I spent my first 18 years of life playing shitty games, oblivious to a world of great games I knew nothing about.

There's not a lot to Survive, but it's a fun game of struggling to get your dudes from a central island that is slowly sinking away, to the safety of islands in each corner of the board. However, there are whales, sharks, sea monsters, whirlpools, and a host of other things standing in your way, and your opponents are more than happy to screw you with them. You may even find yourself in a boat that's at the mercy of another player at the helm.

Just a fun game of screwage and survival.
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19. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:218]
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Speaking of well-known designers, Reiner Knizia is probably the king of them all. It's astounding to me how few people these days have heard of him, as he was the absolute titan of hobby game design in the late 90's into the early-to-mid 2000's. Not only was he a prolific designer, churning out game after game; his games were very good more often than not! This list is a little before his time, for the most part, but he'd soon become a real force.

Modern Art is a really neat auction game of amassing art collections via a host of different auction types. However, my issue with the game is that it can be very fragile. If there's a player in the game that can't properly evaluate the potential values of the art, they can really throw the game to a player, with nothing the other players can do about it. It's a tricky one to play well, for sure, but someone playing really poorly can kind of wreck the game.

However, neat stuff if the group all groks it!
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20. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:134]
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The classic partnership ladder/trick taking game. I do enjoy Tichu from time to time, but the more I've played it, the more I feel like it's mostly a game of just getting dealt good hands.

Yes, there are people that can play at a higher level due to memorizing various conventions that can convey information to their partners, and give them a better chance to win, but I prefer more casual play. Most of the game lies in knowing when to call Tichu, but you still need to be dealt a good hand to make it happen.

Still, an enjoyable game every time it makes it to the table!
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21. Board Game: Tales of the Arabian Nights [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1937]
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I've never been a giant fan of this one, but I've always thought it was a fun one to pull out every couple years. It's just a game where you "see what happens", and make entertaining decisions to see what story happens. I've never played this game to win; it's always just about enjoying the story, and laughing about what events your character endures.

It just does a good job at what it does, and that's telling a story.
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22. Board Game: Quirks [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:5969]
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While Quirks isn't a great game, I always really liked the way you build the head, body, and tail of your creatures, and the artwork is pretty darn cool. It's very unique, and I wish a really good game could be made out of the concept. It's on my short list of games I'd like to design if I have had the patience to design a game again.
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23. Board Game: Dallas [Average Rating:6.98 Unranked]
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While I haven't gotten this one back to the table, I was really surprised by this game. A neat game of auctioning off properties, and trying to pile up the most money. While I don't remember a ton of specifics on this game, I do remember really enjoying it. I even enjoyed it enough to make custom pieces for it to make it easier to play the second time around!
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24. Board Game: Kapitän Wackelpudding [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:6646]
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A really fun little dexterity game, where you draw a mission, and then must fulfill it by pushing a little boat around that is loaded up with cargo, without any of that cargo falling off. I'm guessing 99% of folks have never heard of this one, but it's a pretty neat take on dexterity.
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25. Board Game: Hotel Life [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:5014]
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I really enjoyed my one play of this, and really wish it were possible for it to be picked up and spit-shined by a modern publisher. A pretty neat financial game of trying to run a successful hotel, with some really great thematic flavor in the guests that show up.

For example, you might have a band staying at your hotel, and the drummer decides to start practicing at 1 AM. This pisses off the professional wrestler who you have roomed right above him, which then causes him to storm down the hallway, and mistakenly punch an innocent guest that wasn't making any noise. Now, you'd have really screwed up your bookings if this scenario happened to you, but it's a thing that can and does happen in this game, which is wonderful for a game that is largely economic in nature.

It's not worth the price it commands due to its extreme rarity, but man, I wish it could be re-released in a modernized edition.

Side note: One of my funnier gaming stories occurred with this game. The box says 1-5 players, so we sat down with 5. Come to find out when we start reading the rules, if you want to play with 5, one person gets to be the banker, while the other four players actually get to play the game. Five-player game indeed.
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