My Top 20 Obscure Games (games I love with fewer than 500 ratings on BGG) - two years on
Charlie Sundt
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I last made a Geeklist like this nearly two years ago:

Past me wrote:
Obscure games appeal to me.

Don't get me wrong, popularity has its advantages, but finding an obscure game that's as much (or more) fun than the best-sellers is like finding buried treasure.

This list is a celebration of those games. It's all the games I rate a 6 or above, that fewer than 500 fellow Geeks have rated.

Thumb the ones you know!

Which are your obscure faves?
Since then, only two games no longer qualify for the list because they now have more than 500 BGG ratings:

1000 Blank White Cards (was #12)
Spaceteam (was #20)

And the following games have dropped off the list because they got muscled out by newly discovered obscure games:

Mister X (was #13)
Linkage (was #15)
Feed the ducks (was #16)
Pointless: The Board Game (was #17)
A Game of Gnomes (was #18)

I ranked my "obscure" games without reference to my previous Geeklist, so this represents a fresh take on the list.

EDIT: I started a trend! 20 Under 500- The 2018 Masterlist
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1. Board Game: Amazons [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:4206]
Board Game: Amazons
Charlie Sundt
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#1

Position last time: #1
Number of ratings: 248 (up from 216)
My rating: 9 (same as last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 8
Year released: 1992
Print status: Available from nestorgames, easy to make your own set
Reason for obscurity: BGG bias against abstracts

Past me wrote:
I don't understand why Amazons isn't a more popular game - it's easy to improvise a set, very simple to learn, beautifully elegant and profoundly deep. We play on a 10x10 draughts board with chess pawns and go stones. Reminiscent of Go, which is my #1 game.

Hey, That's My Fish! does a great job of reimplementing the gameplay, extending it to 2-4 players and making it visually appealing.
There are a lot of abstract games out there in the world, and their sheer number means that it's impossible to give most of them the time they require to uncover their hidden depths. Well, this is a rare one that's fun and fascinating right out of the gate. It's somehow so intuitive - to bastardise Lasker's quote: "the rules are so elegant, organic, and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe they almost certainly play Amazons."

PROS:
- You can play this now with bits you've already got lying around. (It works fine on an 8x8 board.)

CONS:
- I keep getting beaten.
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2. Board Game: Elven Castle [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:12629]
Board Game: Elven Castle
Charlie Sundt
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#2

Position last time: N/A (newly discovered)
Number of ratings: 23
My rating: 8
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 27
Year released: 2013
Print status: Available in Russia and nowhere else
Reason for obscurity: Not published outside of Russia

Past me wrote:
Elven Castle is a light 3D castle-building game with weather-proof pieces that comes in a smallish box. It has huge visual appeal, a simple rule set, quick to play yet manages to be an interesting challenge to play well at all player counts. And just fun. The scenarios that come in the box will keep it fresh for a long time to come. A total hit with everyone I've played with so far.

I've always played with the staircases rule.
I suspect it would grow old if you played it a lot, but as an occasional quick filler, or to hook in new players, it's fantastic.

PROS:
- Amazing table presence. Very tactile. I love that you can turn the completed castle upside-down and the pieces stay in.
- Perfect for playing outside - a good beach game.
- Small box.

CONS:
- Impossible to get hold of a copy, except from Russia.
- Chaotic with four players (best with two, still great with three).
- A certain kind of spatial awareness is essential to enjoy this game; you either got it or you ain't.
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3. Board Game: Mijnlieff [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:3464]
Board Game: Mijnlieff
Charlie Sundt
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#3

Position last time: #6
Number of ratings: 343 (up from 298)
My rating: 8 (up 1 from last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 25
Year released: 2010
Print status: Available from Hopwood Games (but currently out of stock)
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher, BGG bias against abstracts

Past me wrote:
I'm really impressed with this pocket-sized two-player abstract. Almost as easy to learn as tic-tac-toe (thanks to the intuitive graphic design), thoroughly satisfying to play, and pretty to boot.
When I'm packing for games night, this game often gets chucked in with the pile, mainly because it comes in a neat small fabric bag. And it's a great way for two players to pass ten minutes, whether they're seasoned gamers or total newbies.

PROS:
- An excellent game to hook in non-gamers.
- When you get good at it you can change the shape of the board for a new challenge.

CONS:
- Game can easily result in a draw.
- If you're playing against the same person, it probably won't be long before you end up in a groove of doing the same first few moves.
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4. Board Game: Crosshairs [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Board Game: Crosshairs
Charlie Sundt
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#4

Position last time: #5
Number of ratings: 26 (up from 22)
My rating: 8 (same as last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 5
Year released: 2010
Print status: Available from nestorgames
Reason for obscurity: BGG bias against abstracts

Past me wrote:
Manages to be sufficiently evocative of dogfighting (with planes, not with dogs) that you can forget you're playing a combinatorial abstract strategy game. The learning curve is good, it plays quickly, and (thanks in part to the clouds) it has excellent replayability.
This game has recently been relaunched with an updated design and slightly less fiddly components. (Also, cheaper.) I can't comment on the new version because I haven't played it, but it looks similar.

I've played this at 2, 3 and 4 players and it's a much better game with fewer players.

PROS:
- Satisfyingly thematic for a game with an abstract soul, to the point that the theme makes the (already straightforward) rules feel intuitive.

CONS:
- Fiddly components.
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5. Board Game: Q.E. [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:3665]
Board Game: Q.E.
Charlie Sundt
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#5

Position last time: N/A (newly discovered)
Number of ratings: 167
My rating: 8
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 4
Year released: 2017
Print status: Out of print, extremely rare
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher

Past me wrote:
This is such a smart design. An auction game in which money is unlimited - sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does, brilliantly. Because of the simple twist that whoever spends the most money can't win, the game is self-regulating and escalates organically. You can bid anything from a dollar to a billion, yet you're agonising over setting your bid a few bucks this way or that.

I was thrilled to discover that it works almost as well with 3 players as it does with 4 (although I'm convinced it would be no good with 2).

And all this with just one page of rules. Not to mention beautifully overproduced wooden components. This is now one of my favourite auction games, along with Modern Art and Container.
This is a game I'd love to play more.

PROS:
- One page of rules, plays in comfortably less than an hour, beautifully hand-produced, with an original and compelling twist on auction games. What more could you ask for?

CONS:
- A couple of people I've played this with complained about the graphic design (although I think it's fine).
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6. Board Game: Circle the Wagons [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:1141]
Board Game: Circle the Wagons
Charlie Sundt
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#6

Position last time: N/A (newly discovered)
Number of ratings: 361
My rating: 8
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 3
Year released: 2017
Print status: Available from Button Shy Games
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher

This publisher (Button Shy Games) puts out a new 18-card microgame every month, via Kickstarter. A few months ago I went in for this, Sprawlopolis and Supertall - and this one is the highlight of the three for me. A charming two-player game with plenty of variability, that fits in a little plastic wallet barely bigger than a credit card. Brilliant.

PROS:
- Literally fits into a shirt pocket and takes ten minutes to play, yet feels like a complete and satisfying game.

CONS:
- A little expensive for what you get, when you factor in postage from the USA.
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7. Board Game: Pucket [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:11254]
Board Game: Pucket
Charlie Sundt
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#7

Position last time: #3
Number of ratings: 484 (Le Passe-Trappe, up from 417), 0 (Pucket)
My rating: 8 (same as last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 3
Year released: 2003 (Le Passe-Trappe), 2011 (Pucket)
Print status: Available from Et Games
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher

Past me wrote:
The "Pucket" version from Et Games is beautiful, a thing of art. The sound of wood on wood and laughter is the sound of happiness.

One of the BEST games for hooking in game-sceptics. Some people seem naturally very good at it (myself included!) and some rubbish, which can limit the appeal for badly matched pairs - but on the whole excellent.

In childhood we had a much beloved Sjoelen set. Pucket scratches the same itch, but its quick pace and portability make it a winner for me.
Better known as Le Passe-Trappe, although a new BGG entry seems to have been created recently for this version specifically.

Recently, this game has been more or less fired by Crokinole for me, but I'll hold on to my copy.

PROS:
- Quick and frantic fun. Much laughter.
- Feels like a traditional pub game.

CONS:
- The fun wears off quick if you're playing someone much better than you, and some people are naturally good.
- A bit bulky to carry to your game night.
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8. Board Game: The Mushroom Eaters [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:5945]
Board Game: The Mushroom Eaters
Charlie Sundt
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#8

Position last time: #2
Number of ratings: 147 (up from 123)
My rating: 8 (down 1 from last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 2
Year released: 2013
Print status: Out of print (probably permanently), very expensive 2nd hand
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher, niche theme

Past me wrote:
Heavy, man.

I really admire the designer for realising such a truly independent and rigorous vision while still succeeding in making a good game. This ignores the hype and commercial momentum of the board game industry and manages to be like nothing else. Deeply thematic, utterly strange, and borderline genius.

I can love an ugly game (I'm looking at you, Modern Art), but I strongly appreciate good aesthetics, and this game has an incredible aesthetic. A game about taking a spiritual hallucinogenic trip that is so absorbing and surreal that you actually feel like you've taken one.
This has dropped a few places in my personal rankings mainly because it runs a little long, which makes it hard to get to the table.

PROS:
- There's an interesting game here, but this is more about the whole experience.

CONS:
- See pros.
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9. Board Game: Aronda [Average Rating:5.86 Overall Rank:13136]
Board Game: Aronda
Charlie Sundt
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#9

Position last time: N/A (newly discovered)
Number of ratings: 103
My rating: 7.5
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 35
Year released: 2008
Print status: Out of print (probably permanently), but available to play online at Yucata
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher, BGG bias against abstracts

Past me wrote:
Beautiful area control abstract. Deceptive, in that it seems solvable, but turns out to be pretty darn hard to solve.

It has hidden layers - one of those games where every now and then something “clicks” and you find yourself playing a level better.
This is still a go-to wind-down 10-minute abstract at the end of a game night. I'd say this was half a degree more complex than Connect Four, but much prettier.

PROS:
- Despite it's beautiful simplicity, I still can't quite figure out how to consistently win.

CONS:
- Some games are lost because one player just made a mistake; it's hard to come back from that.
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10. Board Game: Orchard: A 9 card solitaire game [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:1255]
Board Game: Orchard: A 9 card solitaire game
Charlie Sundt
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#10

Position last time: N/A (newly discovered)
Number of ratings: 75
My rating: 7
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 23
Year released: 2018
Print status: Available as a PnP or from The Game Crafter
Reason for obscurity: Print 'n' play (not released by a commercial publisher)

Past me wrote:
The perfect airplane solo game. Each game uses just 9 cards and a handful of colourful dice (which are not rolled, but used to keep track of your score), and yet there are agonising decisions every time.
I've not tended to bother with solo games, but something as bite-sized as this is great for long journeys when you've got no more than a tray-table's worth of space.

PROS:
- The version from The Game Crafter is very pretty and fits in a standard playing card sized box (although it is a bit expensive for what you get).

CONS:
- There's nothing to do but keep trying to beat your own highest score; I imagine once you manage to get 50+ points it'll be less interesting to keep going. Having said that, the BGG community are posting challenges on the game's forum to add a competitive element! (https://boardgamegeek.com/forum/2477968/orchard-9-card-solit...)
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11. Board Game: Cornerstone [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:4997]
Board Game: Cornerstone
Charlie Sundt
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#11

Position last time: #7
Number of ratings: 205 (up from 190)
My rating: 7 (same as last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 12
Year released: 2008
Print status: Out of print (probably permanently), very expensive 2nd hand
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher, BGG bias against dexterity games

Past me wrote:
Similar to The Climbers but with a dexterity element and a more interesting first few moves. Beautiful to handle and to look at, strategic, and viciously cut-throat (which is a plus for me).

KOSMOS printed a version with half the pieces called Cornerstone Essential or Turmbauer.
Stacking/balancing games have fallen out of favour with my gaming group for the time being, but this is still the apex of that type of game for me.

PROS:
- More about smart play than stacking and balancing.
- Sometimes moves that just shouldn't work, do. "NO! Don't try to put that piece there, the whole tower will collapse! Wait, HOW DID YOU GET AWAY WITH THAT?"

CONS:
- Bulky box.
- Can run a little long.
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12. Board Game: Basari: Das Kartenspiel [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:4953]
Board Game: Basari: Das Kartenspiel
Charlie Sundt
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#12

Position last time: #4
Number of ratings: 268 (up from 200)
My rating: 7 (down 1 from last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 9
Year released: 2014
Print status: Readily available, and cheap!
Reason for obscurity: Only in German (but English rules are available on BGG)

Past me wrote:
This is a wonderful small-box bidding game, with a side order of negotiation. It's comparable with For Sale in terms of simple rules leading to satisfying tactical interplay. So cheap, and so portable, it should be in everyone's collection.
This is another one that has fallen out of regular rotation with our gaming group. I plan to resurrect it.

PROS:
- This is the kind of negotiation I enjoy in a game: here's the offer, take it or beat it. No discussion.

CONS:
- A bit annoying that you have to have a pen and paper to be able to score the rounds.
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13. Board Game: TAIJI [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:9426] [Average Rating:6.37 Unranked]
Board Game: TAIJI
Charlie Sundt
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#13

Position last time: #10
Number of ratings: 107 (up from 99)
My rating: 7 (same as last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 4
Year released: 2007
Print status: Available from nestorgames
Reason for obscurity: BGG bias against abstracts

Past me wrote:
This game is so simple and with such a timeless feel that it could have been invented thousands of years ago. A clever two-player abstract in which every move you make risks benefitting your opponent more than you.
For us, this game has been somewhat superseded by Aronda of late, but I look forward to revisiting it.

PROS:
- Almost couldn't be simpler to learn and play, yet challenging to play well.

CONS:
- It can sometimes be clear halfway through the game who will inevitably win, although since games are short this is not a big problem.
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14. Board Game: Meander [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:10526]
Board Game: Meander
Charlie Sundt
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#14

Position last time: #8
Number of ratings: 134 (up from 125)
My rating: 7 (same as last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 4
Year released: 2001
Print status: Out of print (probably permanently)
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher, BGG bias against abstracts

Past me wrote:
Along with Connect Four, this is the best non-dexterity game to use gravity as a core mechanic. It's a mini marble run - how cool!

The beauty of this game is that your skill is tested against the laws of physics - and even if you expected the marble to take a different route, the physics is consistent every time. (Although if you change the variables even slightly, the marble may follow a different route e.g. starting the marble from a different height above the channel or rotating the board between tests if the table isn't 100% flat).
Rather unfairly, the main reason this game doesn't get brought to gaming nights more often is that we tend to play in pubs with wobbly/uneven tables (which can make the game not work properly).

PROS:
- An elegant implementation of an excellent idea, with robust components.
- Very tactile and visually appealing.

CONS:
- It's essential to control for the slightest physical variations if you want to make sure the game is fair, which can be a bit annoying in the context of a boisterous game night.
- You need the variants suggested in the rulebook for this game to have long-term replayability.
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15. Board Game: Whacky Wit [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:7617]
Board Game: Whacky Wit
Charlie Sundt
United Kingdom
London
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#15

Position last time: #9
Number of ratings: 125 (up from 111)
My rating: 7 (same as last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 4
Year released: 2013
Print status: Out of print (probably permanently), extremely rare
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher, very expensive

Past me wrote:
Roll-and-move games would have a far better reputation if they were all like this.

As well as being a wall-worthy work of art and wonderful nostalgia, this Pacman homage is well balanced and FUN. For me, worth the hefty price tag.

I love that people who don’t normally play games see the board and want to try it. And then want to play again!

You can buy a budget version from http://spielquader.de but for me the incredible aesthetic of the maxi version is what makes it so wonderful. The clicky pills! The floppy disc eyes! The thrill of resetting the board with all its little magnets KA-CHUNK!
My copy of this has had a little too much love from my children, and one or two of the clicky pills has broken. The game came with spares, but I haven't got around to the (fairly epic) job of fixing them.

I don't think we'll be able to take this with us on our next move, so if anyone wants to buy my beaten up old copy, message me!

PROS:
- Captures the arcade spirit remarkably well.

CONS:
- Big and very heavy!
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16. Board Game: Run For President [Average Rating:6.30 Unranked]
Board Game: Run For President
Charlie Sundt
United Kingdom
London
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#16

Position last time: #11
Number of ratings: 5 (up from 3)
My rating: 7 (same as last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 2
Year released: 2003
Print status: Out of print (probably permanently), extremely rare
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher

Past me wrote:
And the prize for the most obscure game goes to...

This is a tactile game of deduction and calculated risk based on the Electoral College. At first glance it might seem too simple to be satisfying, yet we keep coming back to it, and it's always a pleasure to play.

It's fun to call yourself President when you win.
Hardly played this one recently, but still very fond of it.

PROS:
- Tactile, educational, straightforward fun.

CONS:
- You can sometimes be screwed by bad luck.
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17. Board Game: Xalapa [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:8765]
Board Game: Xalapa
Charlie Sundt
United Kingdom
London
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#17

Position last time: #19
Number of ratings: 84 (up from 59)
My rating: 7 (up 1 from last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 2
Year released: 2014
Print status: Readily available
Reason for obscurity: Unknown

Past me wrote:
Puzzly, brain burning but plays quickly and simply, which sounds like a contradiction but this game pulls it off. Fun.

Some people struggle to understand the challenges that have no stones, but one of the neat things is that the difficulty is so easily adjustable.
This is one of very few games on this list that has gone up in my rankings since last time, and deservedly so. I actually sold my copy to a friend and I'm considering buying it back again...

PROS:
- A very unusual combination of hardcore puzzle and super-quick playtime.

CONS:
- The icon-based challenges can be a little confusing.
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18. Board Game: Yellow & Yangtze [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:933]
Board Game: Yellow & Yangtze
Charlie Sundt
United Kingdom
London
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#18

Position last time: N/A (newly discovered)
Number of ratings: 237
My rating: 7
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 1
Year released: 2018
Print status: Readily available
Reason for obscurity: Only just released

I'm really impressed by this game. Tigris & Euphrates is one of my all-time favourite games, partly because there are no other board games quite like it. More than two decades after designing that masterpiece, Reiner Knizia returns with a game that scratches the same itch - an itch that no other designer has come close to satisfying.

Yet this game is different to its predecessor. Its rules are arguably more in line with modern sensibilities - you might even call it "streamlined" - but this is not dumbed down, there is still a rich tactical and strategic depth to explore.

I look forward to the thrill of playing this again, and I'm fully prepared for my estimation of this title to go up and up as I discover its nuances.

PROS:
- Highly interactive and dynamic. No multiplayer solitaire here.

CONS:
- The rules take some getting used to, partly because they're similar to T&E and yet completely different. (The rules would take some getting used to for a newbie as well!)
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19. Board Game: Blockhead! [Average Rating:5.42 Overall Rank:18823]
Board Game: Blockhead!
Charlie Sundt
United Kingdom
London
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#19

Position last time: #14
Number of ratings: 255 (up from 238)
My rating: 7 (up 1 from last time)
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 0
Year released: 1952
Print status: Readily available
Reason for obscurity: BGG bias against dexterity games

Past me wrote:
There are many games that involve stacking things on top of other things, because it's a fundamentally satisfying activity - even more so when you're competing against other players. This game is the simplest (and one of the oldest) of its type. The boldly coloured wooden pieces give it a great aesthetic, and the natural tension of adding just one more piece can't be beat.
This got fired by Bausack, which in turn seems to have been fired by Cornerstone for me.

PROS:
- Satisfying stacking in its simplest form.

CONS:
- Nothing more to it than that, which limits its longevity except as a very occasional diversion or a game to play with kids.
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20. Board Game: Sprawlopolis [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:477] [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked]
Board Game: Sprawlopolis
Charlie Sundt
United Kingdom
London
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#20

Position last time: N/A (newly discovered)
Number of ratings: 373
My rating: 6.5
My number of plays in the last couple of years: 3
Year released: 2018
Print status: Available from Button Shy Games
Reason for obscurity: Tiny publisher

This is fun for solo play (can be played co-op with up to 4 players as well), although some of the challenges turn out to be very easy and others almost impossible. An impressive amount of game considering it's only 18 cards in a shirt-pocket-sized plastic wallet.

PROS:
- Extremely portable. Can be quite a brain burner.

CONS:
- Difficulty of challenges is wildly variable (and because you create the challenge by picking cards randomly you can't set the difficulty beforehand).
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