Master Class Series: Eurogames
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For a board gamer that wants to have a well-rounded collection, I am of the opinion that it is worthwhile to know what the leading contenders are for particular genres and mechanisms of board games. Further, to discover what the ideal games are in each category takes more research than simply running down the BGG Top 100 Ranked games.

For example, if you ask a connoisseur of "spatial, economic, worker-placement games" what the top examples in the genre are, you might find many mentioned that are out of the public eye. The currently top-ranked game in this genre, Caverna, is rarely mentioned in the present day as the finest example of its kind. Disagreements with the main public opinion can arise in many places when you get down to what defines a masterful example of a particular style or prominent mechanism.

Ultimately, it is nice to hear from people that have played many types of similar games about how each one stands out. What games should be bought before others? What games have become obsolete in their mechanisms? What older games still stand shoulders above the current hotness? And what games have so much disagreement around them that you will simply have to try it and form your own opinion?

Because of this, for my own knowledge and for the assistance of others, I would like to develop a discussion between people that consider themselves experts or nearly so for games of a particular type. To start off this forum, I would like to begin with mid-to-heavy eurogames, because it is often difficult to tell when viewing a euro for the first time what makes it stand out among its peers.

Obviously it is difficult to narrow down complicated games to a definitive genre, so I will be open to suggestions about moving games to and from categories, adding games that I have missed, and developing the results of the discussion into an easily readable format (probably a future geeklist). My own ignorance of certain games may have caused me to place them within strange places, so I'll be happy to hear corrections. It will be particularly helpful if you can contribute knowledge of games published longer than 5 years ago, as far fewer people will have played most of them.

I intend this to be complementary to the Essential Games By Category geeklists, because those are basically popularity contests where obscure titles never accumulate votes. This is a chance for people with specialized knowledge to inform those of us who maybe have only tried one or two games in a category.

In selecting the initial games for this discussion, I used the following criteria. To make it to "Fringe", a game must have a weight of >2.4 and contain a mention of the mechanism in its BGG Description. It may have also been unclear whether a game in Fringe should be considered a euro or part of the category. For "Top", a game had to generally be in BGG's Top 300 games and have a weight of at least 2.75 (some exceptions were made for genere-defining games, like Dominion). For "Under Discussion", a game just had to be known for that mechanic predominantly and have a weight of 2.75 or greater. Some games were excluded for being very unlikely to be considered mid-to-heavy eurogames (though some questionable ones were included as well). The fewer games fit into a category, the more I bent these rules. I stopped checking somewhere between Rank 1000 and 2000, but would welcome suggestions beyond those areas.

SUMMARY: The goal here is for people with extensive knowledge of both the popular and less-popular games in a category to share what they think about games that matter to them. On top of some light discussion about what belongs where (and whether things are eurogames or not), try to answer one or more of these questions:

What games in this genre are you experienced with?

What is the strongest game(s) in the genre, and why? Is it evergreen (never get tired of it), unique, or as tight as can be?

What games grow stale quickly, and are better to try than own?

What games in "Under discussion" are at least as good as the famous counterparts, and why? What should be brought back to the spotlight?

What games do you consider must-own, and why? Is this a genre where multiple games are needed to round out a collection?


Feel free to discuss one or as many games at a time as you wish. Thanks for your time, and I hope to compile the discussion into the Geeklist entries afterwards.
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1. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:15]
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Mechanism: Worker Placement

A game where a player selects actions for the turn by placing characters on action spaces. Often the games include some mechanism for blocking or dealing with spaces blocked by others. Here, we try to consider games where the majority of the decisions and control of the board involve the careful choice of where to place workers. Games where worker placement is a very small part of a larger set of mechanisms are downplayed here.

Current top-ranked: Caverna, Agricola, Robinson Crusoe, Tzolk'in, A Feast for Odin, Caylus, Fields of Arle, Russian Railroads, The Gallerist, Alchemists, Ora et Labora, La Granja, Viticulture, Village, Age of Empires III/Empires: Age of Discovery, Dungeon Petz, Anachrony, Dungeon Lords

Under discussion: Trickerion, Kanban, The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, Vinhos, Carson City, AquaSphere, The Colonists, Luna, Vasco da Gama, Yedo, Argent: The Consortium, Signorie, Vanuatu, Arkwright, Leonardo da Vinci, Ground Floor, Prêt-à-Porter, Castaways, Haspelknecht: The Story of Coal Mining, The Princes of Machu Picchu, Florenza, Yunnan, Greenland

Fringe considerations: Orleans, Le Havre, Keyflower, Dominant Species, Mombasa, Stone Age, Lewis & Clark, Yokohama, Archipelago, The Pillars of the Earth, Snowdonia, Last Will, Tribune, Belfort, Shipyard, Panamax, The Staufer Dynasty
 
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2. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:11]
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Mechanism: Dice-Based Worker Placement

Some worker placement games are defined by their use of controlled chaos: assigning workers based on their value given by the roll of a die. This is an offshoot of the worker placement genre, in that games here are able to incorporate mechanisms of chance into the eurogame fold.

Current top-ranked: The Castles of Burgundy, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Troyes, Roll for the Galaxy, Grand Austria Hotel, Bora Bora, Alien Frontiers, Kingsburg/Kingsport Festival

Under discussion: Lorenzo il Magnifico, Euphoria, Madeira, Yspahan, The Oracle of Delphi, Discoveries, Roma/Roma II, Deep Space D-6, Colony, Praetor, Rolling Freight, Order of the Gilded Compass/Alea Iacta Est, Merlin

Fringe considerations: La Granja, Macao, Steampunk Rally, Panamax, Roll Player, My Village, Covert
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3. Board Game: Great Western Trail [Average Rating:8.28 Overall Rank:9]
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Mechanism: Hand Management

One could consider hand management to include any game where you have a hand of cards that have to be meted out as resources. Here, we will try to narrow down games that use hands of cards as their primary mechanisms for driving actions, especially if the cards themselves must be used as currency. For the most part, it makes sense to leave out deckbuilding games, since they are somewhat of a subgenre.

Current top-ranked: Terraforming Mars, Great Western Trail, Mage Knight, Concordia, Brass, Race for the Galaxy, El Grande, Mombasa, Goa, La Granja, Imperial Settlers, Lewis & Clark, Dungeon Petz

Under discussion: Here I Stand, Inis, Die Macher, Bruges, In the Year of the Dragon, Civilization, Macao, Maria, London, Millennium Blades, Taj Mahal, The Republic of Rome, Snowdonia, Belfort, Thurn and Taxis, The Colonists, Cuba, ZhanGuo, Age of Industry, Friedrich, Liberte, Tournay, Three Kingdoms Redux

Fringe considerations: Twilight Struggle, Agricola, Food Chain Magnate, Blood Rage, Viticulture, Trajan, The 7th Continent, Alchemists, 1960: The Making of the President, Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, Dungeon Lords, Clash of Cultures, Rococo, A Few Acres of Snow, Innovation, Deus, Euphoria, Last Will, Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, Yedo, World Without End, Triumph & Tragedy, Tribune, Reef Encounter, Web of Power/China/Han, Louis XIV, A Study in Emerald, Caylus Magna Carta, Lisboa
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4. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
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Mechanism: Area Majority

A difficult category, as there is much disagreement about what constitutes area majority versus area control or area enclosure. Here, we try to focus on games that allow scoring or control of areas based on building up the greatest influence in those areas. There are many games about which it may be necessary to split off a second category of area control only. I tried to contain these possibilities in the Fringe, but some could have slipped into the other categories.

Current top-ranked: El Grande, Samurai, Shogun/Wallenstein, Imperial, Samurai, Inis, Die Macher, Rococo, Tikal, Civilization

Under discussion: Nippon, Amun-Re, Archipelago, Belfort, ZhanGuo, Yspahan, Maharaja, Blue Moon City, Web of Power/China/Han, San Marco, Louis XIV, Mexica, Tammany Hall, Domaine/Löwenherz, Liberté, Java, Mykerinos, In the Shadow of the Emperor, The Staufer Dynasty, Carolus Magnus, Ys, Sun Tzu, King of Siam/The King is Dead, Porta Nigra, Tower of Babel, Kreta, Wildlife, The Walled City: Londonderry & Borderlands

Fringe considerations: Dominant Species, Mombasa, Endeavor, Notre Dame, Lancaster, Madeira, Ginkgopolis, AquaSphere, Luna, Torres, Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, Reef Encounter, Diplomacy, Age of Empires III/Empires: Age of Discovery, CO2, La Citta, Dogs of War, Strasbourg, Hansa, Amyitis, War of the Roses, Power Struggle, Helvetia, Leonardo da Vinci, Québec
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5. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.38 Overall Rank:5]
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Mechanism: Spatial Tile/Card-Laying

Many games involve placing tiles on a board of some kind, but here we distinguish games where the spatial arrangement of the tiles is key in how well they work together. Often, building a grid or a tableau takes careful consideration in choosing where to put each component, and for this genre, each game has to give players the agency to choose their own tile arrangements.

Current top-ranked: Terraforming Mars, The Castles of Burgundy, Caverna, A Feast for Odin, Keyflower, Castles of Mad King Ludwig/Suburbia, Ora et Labora, Railways of the World, Steam, Age of Steam

Under discussion: The Princes of Florence, 1830, Samurai, Dungeon Lords, Glass Road, Tikal, Glen More, Ginkgopolis, Carson City, The Colonists, Chinatown, Torres, Shipyard, Reef Encounter, Coal Baron, The Palaces of Carrara, La Città, Keythedral, 1846, Hacienda, Java, Arkadia, Medina, Patchistory, Murano, 1856, Stephenson's Rocket, Expedition: Northwest Passage, Wealth of Nations, 20th Century, The Bridges of Shangri-La, Urban Sprawl

Fringe considerations: Dominant Species, Tigris & Euphrates, Inis, Trickerion, Antiquity, Amerigo, Archipelago, Vasco da Gama, Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Attika, Akrotiri, Peloponnes, Viceroy, Strasbourg, The Golden Ages, Automania, Walnut Grove
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6. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
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Mechanism: Route/Network Building

Games where controlling a spatial pathway is paramount to either scoring or moving resources. This can involve personally laying transportation routes, or gaining control of pre-existing paths. Because this is a less-common mechanism, we will consider any game that has it as a core part of the experience, regardless of what other mechanisms are present.

Current top-ranked: Terra Mystica, Power Grid, Food Chain Magnate, Brass, Railways of the World, Steam, Age of Steam, Hansa Teutonica, Yokohama, 1830, Macao, Roads & Boats

Under discussion: Taj Mahal, Deus, Thurn and Taxis, Chicago Express, The Great Zimbabwe, Myrmes, First Class, Age of Industry, Through the Desert, Maharaja, Attika, 1846, Railroad Revolution, Hacienda, Gold West, Yamatai, 1856, Stephenson's Rocket, Eurorails, Inca Empire, Hermagor, American Rails, 1870, 1860

Fringe considerations: Keyflower, China, Yunnan
 
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7. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:135]
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Mechanism: Auction

Many games have auctions inherent in distributing goods early in the turn. However, here we look at games where the auction is a major part of gameplay. Bidding on auctions should occur every round or be the climax of the action. The action you take or items you receive should be almost totally defined by what you bid on. Obviously, there are plenty of gray areas to decide how important auctions are for a given game.

Current top-ranked: Power Grid, Keyflower, Steam, Goa, Age of Steam, Princes of Florence, Ra, 1830, Modern Art

Under discussion: Amun-Re, Taj Mahal, The Great Zimbabwe, Medici, Homesteaders, Dream Factory, Princes of the Renaissance, Container, The Speicherstadt/Jórvík, 1846, 1856, Age of Renaissance, Three Kingdoms Redux

Fringe considerations: El Grande, Dungeon Petz, Cyclades, Die Macher, Indonesia, Lancaster, Bruxelles 1893, Archipelago, Vikings, Chicago Express, Colosseum, Cuba, Yedo, Shakespeare, Tammany Hall, Vanuatu, Planet Steam, Peloponnes, Liberte, Strasbourg, Patchistory, Giants, Ys, Hermagor
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8. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:71]
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Mechanism: Rondel

A rondel is a wheel (not always circular!) of action choices or resource pools that can only be accessed in a specific order. Many eurogames use a rondel to force less-than-optimal decisions due to the action limitations, opening the games to tactical play. The classification is fairly simple here: most games either use a rondel, or they don't.

Current top-ranked: Tzolk'in, Trajan, Ora et Labora, Imperial, Navegador, Macao

Under discussion: Glen More, Shipyard, The Palaces of Carrara, Antike/Antike II, Hanburgum, Kraftwergen, The Princes of Machu Picchu, Walnut Grove, Il Vecchio, Helios, Queen's Architect, Serenissima, Merlin

Fringe considerations: Terra Mystica, Great Western Trail, AquaSphere, Finca, Vikings, Antarctica
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9. Board Game: Orléans [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:27]
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Mechanism: Deck-or-Bag Building

Starting players off with a weak set of actions, represented as cards or tokens, while allowing them the opportunity to purchase new, stronger powers is often called deck or pool building. The challenge of managing a randomly-ordered assortment of your actions involves careful selection and culling of your deck. This is more often a minor mechanic in eurogames, so titles with less emphasis on it are listed in Fringe, along with a few borderline wargames.

Current top-ranked: Great Western Trail, Orléans, Dominion, Lewis & Clark, Rococo

Under discussion: Hyperborea, A Study in Emerald, Firenze, Copycat, Tramways

Fringe considerations: Mage Knight, Food Chain Magnate, Concordia, Roll for the Galaxy, Mombasa, A Few Acres of Snow, D&D: Tyrants of the Underdark, Aeon's End, Argent: The Consortium, Core Worlds, Too Many Bones, Shadowrun: Crossfire, City of Iron, Star Trek: Frontiers, Mythotopia, Mistfall, Archon: Glory & Machination, Colony, Hands in the Sea, A Handful of Stars
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10. Board Game: Railways of the World [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:97] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
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Mechanism: Delivery

A delivery game requires that resources be brought to a certain location for their ultimate use. Sometimes paired with route/network building, delivery games usually focus on overcoming the difficulties in terrain, traffic, and competition for space.

Current top-ranked: Railways of the World, Steam, Indonesia, Macao, Roads & Boats

Under discussion: Panamax, Coal Baron, Genoa, The Oracle of Delphi, Container, Leaving Earth, High Frontier, Merkator, Murano, Giants, Eurorails, Serenissima, Magnum Sal, League of Six, Iron Dragon

Fringe considerations: Keyflower, Istanbul, Merchants & Marauders, Freedom: The Underground Railroad, Merchant of Venus, Akrotiri, Hansa, Fire & Axe
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11. Board Game: Die Macher [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:185]
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Mechanism: Negotiating/Economic Cooperation

As eurogames are not always focused on player interaction, it can be rarer to come across heavy games where trading, negotiation, and temporary cooperation are encouraged or even allowed. Here, we try to choose games that involve either mechanics dictating alliances with other players, active trading of goods, or some form of bargaining.

Current top-ranked: Die Macher, Indonesia, Civilization, Maria, Archipelago, Chinatown

Under discussion: Virgin Queen, Friedrich, Triumph & Tragedy, Genoa, Tammany Hall, Feif: France 1429, New Angeles

Fringe considerations: Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, Here I Stand, Santiago, Princes of the Renaissance, Viceroy, Patchistory, Warrior Knights, Power Struggle, Junta, Castaways
 
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12. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:18]
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Mechanism: Exploration/Discovery

A game with exploration involves turning over tiles of the game board to see what resources are available nearby. Not a common eurogame mechanic by any means, there are nevertheless several heavier games that include the uncovering of land as a key component.

Current top-ranked: Mage Knight, Robinson Crusoe, Navegador, Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game, Clash of Cultures, Endeavor, Tikal

Under discussion: Hyperborea, Expedition: Northwest Passage, Magnum Sal, Tikal II, SeaFall, Conquest of Paradise, Entdecker

Fringe considerations: The 7th Continent, Above and Below, Archipelago, Francis Drake, Near and Far, Akrotiri, This War of Mine, Inca Empire, Ships, March of the Ants
 
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13. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
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Mechanism: Abstract Strategy

Most abstract strategy games don't really fit the genre of eurogames. A few have been created by regular eurogame designers, however, and are classified as such by their themes. This is a rare enough category that it requires a fairly flexible interpretation of euro to bring in enough for discussion.

Current top-ranked: Tigris & Euphrates, Samurai, Torres, Through the Desert

Under discussion: Dogs of War, Medina, Pueblo, The Bridges of Shangri-La, Rheinlander, Photosynthesis, The World of Smog: On Her Majesty's Service, UR, Ekö

Fringe considerations: Mexica, Tak, 504, Ponte del Diavolo
 
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14. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.38 Overall Rank:5]
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Theme: Personal Economic Development

Almost all eurogames involve some sort of economic development. However, there is a brand of game that focuses on the personal conversion of resources into points at the exclusion of most other sorts of activities. These games often encompass the management of production, conversion, and possibly the trading of material resources for points, and the most appropriately-built economic system will usually secure a win. This category may need to expand into further subcategories. We try to avoid games that have scope well beyond that of primarily resource management (area control, conflict, etc.), otherwise everything would end up here. I'm not sure whether or not to exclude worker placement games from this group, so they are mostly listed in the Fringe.

Perhaps this could be split to form a category Mechanism: Engine Building?

Current top-ranked: Terraforming Mars, Puerto Rico, Concordia, Brass, Le Havre, Indonesia, At the Gates of Loyang

Under discussion: Nippon, Antiquity, Automobile, Cuba, Container, Planet Steam, Lisboa, Hamburgum, The Scepter of Zavandor

Fringe considerations: Uwe Rosenberg games, Scythe, Terra Mystica, Castles of Burgundy, Power Grid, Food Chain Magnate, Orleans, Tzolk'in, Keyflower, Mombasa, Russian Railroads, Trajan, Goa, La Granja, Bora Bora, Navegador, Yokohama, In the Year of the Dragon, Kanban, Macao, The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, Roads & Boats, Amun-Re, Archipelago, Vinhos, Lorenzo il Magnifico, Madeira, The Colonists, Age of Industry, Vasco da Gama, Shipyard, Shakespeare, Brew Crafters, Panamax, Homesteaders, Genoa, Princes of the Renaissance, Signoire, Vanuatu, Arkwright, High Frontier, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Helvetia
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15. Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.63 Overall Rank:3]
Nick Zube
United States
Santa Cruz
California
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Theme: Civilization Management

A civilization game involves developing a limited set of resources for a country over time into a world-reckoning force that exceeds all competing forces. This can often overlap with area control or games based on economic development. Here, I will try to focus on games that are clearly similar in the role of steering a country through cultural, economic, and militaristic development, and offers physical or spatial representations of resources, population, and technology. The primary mechanism should be turning resources of a government into advantages over other players.

Current top-ranked: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, Scythe, Nations, Imperial Settlers, Age of Empires III/Empires: Age of Discovery, Sid Meier's Civilization, Clash of Cultures, Civilization

Under discussion: Antiquity, Struggle of Empires, Mare Nostrum, Polis: Fight for the Hegemony, Hyperborea, La Citta, Antike/Antike II, Peloponnes, The Golden Ages, Rise of Empires, Olympos, Age of Renaissance, Historia, Inca Empire, Three Kingdoms Redux, Assyria, Olympus, 7 Ages, Phoenicia, Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas

Fringe considerations: Terra Mystica, Eclipse, Tigris & Euphrates, The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, Roads & Boats, Deus, The Colonists, The Great Zimbabwe, Core Worlds, Britannia, Patchistory, City of Iron, The Ancient World, 20th Century
 
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16. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.35 Overall Rank:4]
Nick Zube
United States
Santa Cruz
California
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Theme: Historical Conflict

Historical conflict games focus on the critical decisions made by groups of people that were at odds in pivotal points of human development. These game re-create a political situation that actually happened and allow players to guide the political decisions of the nations or factions in question. Sometimes called wargames, we will try to distinguish these from the classical definition of true military-focused wargames that focus on strategic, operational, and tactical conflicts in the theater of war. These games should have some element of euro-ness, be it mechanics or a economic/political bent, that distinguish them from that larger genre. They should also involve actual events during the real conflict somehow influencing the board state.

Current top-ranked: Twilight Struggle, 1960: The Making of the President, Here I Stand, Maria, Labyrinth: The War on Terror

Under discussion: Freedom: The Underground Railroad, The Republic of Rome, 1989: The Dawn of Freedom, Fire in the Lake, Virgin Queen, Friedrich, Triumph & Tragedy, Cuba Libre, Wir sind das Volk!, 13 Days: The Cuban Missle Crisis, Andean Abyss, Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs. York, In the Shadow of the Emperor, Liberty or Death, Founding Fathers, Revolution: The Dutch Revolt, God's Playground, Byzantinum, Machiavelli

Fringe considerations: War of the Ring, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, Die Macher, Dune, Pax Porfiriana, Churchill, Tammany Hall, Liberté, Feif: France 1429, Kremlin, Empires in Arms, Junta, Pax Pamir, Cold War: CIA vs KGB
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17. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:15]
Nick Zube
United States
Santa Cruz
California
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Theme: Agriculture

Creating produce, feeding families, providing the world with food. Agriculture is a prevalent theme in eurogames, and it is interesting to discuss which games best capture the feeling of managing food production. Here, the Fringe games are lighter weight euros.

Current top-ranked: Caverna, Puerto Rico, Agricola, Viticulture, Tzolk'in, Fields of Arle, Goa, La Granja, Village, At the Gates of Loyang

Under discussion: Glen More, Egizia, Madeira, Cuba, Hacienda, Key Harvest, Key Market

Fringe considerations: Keyflower, Myrmes, Santiago, Scoville, Fields of Green, Walnut Grove, Haspelknecht: The Story of Coal Mining
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