A Curmudgeon Ranks the Ragnar Games
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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I was sorry to hear with the publishing of their next game on Rome, the Ragnar Brothers are hanging up their coats and calling it a design career. I have always enjoyed stopping by their booth at Essen for a chat with the jaunty chaps, and appreciate their designs over the years, as they have demonstrated a good deal of originality, and even crossovers from Euro to wargame. I will miss their cloth maps!

I wanted to give a rough ranking of their games from my curmudgeonly perspective. I was actually a bit surprised to see I have played almost their entire crop! Perhaps you have a different opinion? Let me know, even if it is likely wrong.
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1. Board Game: History of the World [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:629]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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I have the Avalon Hill version. An excellent advance from Risk, with a grand sweep type of play, similar to Britannia games in the appearance and decay of different peoples. Interesting method to choose empires by handing cards around. Takes a long time to play with three, one of the few games playing longer with three than four. Additional card play mixes things up.
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2. Board Game: Angola [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:1775]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Only really scratched the surface with this one, but it really intrigued me. Two-on-two play most interesting, as well as the use of the cards. A rather unique gameplay, but in a quite extended playtime is the only thing slowing table time.
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3. Board Game: DRCongo [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:3530]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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A brave attempt on a difficult topic. I appreciated the programmed instruction, but it is more of a pain than help when you want to go all-in. Fight with insurgents while at the same time defending against the other players. Some added cards and player roles that change turn to turn contribute nice wrinkles. The governmental positions can also be quite nasty and I can imagine bidding gets harsh in a 4-player game. I also like the way the market works.
 
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4. Board Game: Promised Land: 1250-587 BC [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:4066]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Almost a Britannia style game from a very interesting era of history. Looks really good as well. Game play also reminiscent of History of the World but with very interesting scoring mechanics. Some of the rules took us some time to decipher but we think we have it right now. Also elements of their Kings and Castles design. There is some luck of the draw but the order the Kingdom tiles come out influence the game in interesting ways.
 
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5. Board Game: Kings and Castles [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:5688]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Quite abstract, but moves at a good pace, with some decisions to make. One of those tough to get going, but then you get the hang of it. Love the cloth map. Deterministic combat. Choose all your actions, or at least when you will do actions, way, way before you get to take them. Not sure of another game with the same system.
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6. Board Game: Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:805]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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There was a lot of space with 3 players, and it might be quite a bit more challenging with 5. We thought the cards were of appropriate strength, and I liked the movement. Love the look of the original game. No silly plastic! Some nice decisions to make, a bit of a story curve and in our game everyone had a different path and the victory (mine!) was decided by six points, so it was quite exciting! More about Viking Trade than Fury, though.
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7. Board Game: Canal Mania [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1479]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Pretty nice strategy game with some twists over Age of Steam. More approachable and shorter to play. Nice with 2 players, a bit longer with three. The games may be a bit same-y. Building longer, connected routes a big bonus. Has held up well as an advanced TtR or simpler AoS. Pretty easy rules but sometimes not always clear from the book.
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8. Board Game: Backpacks and Blisters [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:8164]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Charming would be the name of the game. A meander around the highlands, take-thating on your friends, and stopping to eat at nice places. Nice cloth map and quiet gameplay makes for an enjoyable time.
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9. Board Game: A Brief History of the World [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1699]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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A nice compacting of History of the World if you are short on time, but want to scratch the itch. Perhaps a great one to wean someone off Risk. Not so fond of the overrun rule, but otherwise works pretty well. I like the markers for the scoring regions being placed on the map, and despite the fact they were plastic, the army markers worked pretty well. Overall, it played much better than I expected.
 
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10. Board Game: Darien Apocalypse [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:9263]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Second 'quantum' game (I feel they misuse the term), definitely better than the first. However, it really felt like it took too long. We played for over three hours, and shortening it does not seem easy to do. Laying out the tiles at the beginning a pain. The Riders of the Apocalypse well used here, and their arrival hurts. Mthe building restrictions are really good. The leader/follow rules are pretty nice: you'd better take full advantage of your leading turns! The two currencies not a bad idea. We had some rules uncertainty in our play, though. The board is kind of nasty with that shine, and the stickers too big for the discs. The little riders are pretty ok, though. It was really close until the end when I got myself stuck, and also lost a shipment of goods. Leaned some really interesting history from the game. Who knew the Scots were in Panama?
 
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11. Board Game: Steam Donkey [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:3959]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Nice little card game, with an interesting card collecting mechanic and some choices to make. Not too taxing but enough there to keep it fun. gains momentum as it goes along: soon you have almost too many cards to handle. Timing is important, and your first built can be critical...make sure it allows you to attract a few passengers! The them is very silly, but the artwork is nice enough. Runs a bit longer than you might like but not so very long you long for the end.
 
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12. Board Game: Workshop of the World [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:6438]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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The board is pretty ugly and the cylinders a real pain, but there is some interesting stuff here, not at all a re-do of Brass as I feared it might be. Especially the second half of the game got very interesting. Lots of bidding. Quite a bit better with more players. The auctions can be nerve racking. Too bad the game looks so much like a prototype, because I think it affects people's desire to play.
 
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13. Board Game: Where There's A Will [Average Rating:5.07 Overall Rank:14244]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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The ratings are really terrible but I don't see why. I found this a very fun take that game that does not overstay its welcome. Cannot be played very seriously, there is still the slightest space for some clever play. The cards are not overpowered, and the changes in fortune cards are few enough to be jarring but not continual enough to be annoying. the artwork is pretty bad, but the little quotes on the cards are cute.
 
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14. Board Game: Monastery [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:4543]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Still on the fence. Some really neat mechanisms, but some things feel the same. Ok, but more complicated than it needs to be. Love the cover art and like Ragnar, but struggling not to send it to someone else.
 
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15. Board Game: Niña & Pinta [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:5723]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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A bit underwhelming, actually, which is disappointing. The 'hook' of the game, the alternate dimensions, did not really come to the fore at all. Just another area control game. Still, it was nice how the different regions will change each game. I think there were too many points scored, and we all got all out units on the board, so maybe you need to play with four instead to make it tighter.
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16. Board Game: Barking Up The Wrong Tree [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:12028]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Very light game from the Ragnars. No real surprises in the game. I wish we had used our cat tokens a bit more liberally: in the end, everyone dumped them in the final round so all the set collection I did was wasted in a big free-for-all, which was disappointing. Was not too thrilled by the representations in the artwork.
 
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17. Board Game: 1500 Gold [Average Rating:5.53 Unranked]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Surprisingly good little game despite the comments I've read here. Played in three stages, where what you do early can dictate how you finish at the end phase. Some interesting choices, multiple mechanisms, good theme. Play time a bit long at 90 minutes, but for such a simple game the theme really comes through.
 
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18. Board Game: Blooming Gardens [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:10574]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Very pretty cards and a nice, lazy atmosphere about the game. Not much to it: try and get lucky with big sets of the right cards in your hand. I absolutely crushed everyone, scoring more than double their points, but I cannot attribute it much to skill. As I said, good if you are sipping tea in the garden and want to not tax yourself too much.
 
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