Love you more than everything Loved it more than anything Loved everything more than anything: an attempt at commitment
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There's a 50 GAMES Spirit in the air. I feel which way this wind is blowing and I comply.

Here are my 50 games. The ones I would keep. The ones that I am actively culling my collection into becoming.

I've done this sort of thing for the past few years.
2018 - A Top 20 Tabletop Games List after 2,236 plays, 543 ratings, over the course of 12 years, 5 months, 5 days on BGG
2019 - 50 Alphabetical
2020 - The Compleat Gamester - trawlerman's Top 100 Games, May 18th-19th, 2020 Edition, to be completely revised on the morrow, weather permitting, and if he gets out of bed.

It's a useful exercise to take account of what games really matter. I'm finally at a point at which I don't think I need more than 50 games. 50 is an arbitrary number. I've still got at least a couple hundred games in the house, though most of those are now games belonging to the kids (which was my fault in introducing so many, many different games in the first place, and I keep buying them new games, sigh...).

Note #1: I'm going back to alphabetical in presentation this year.

Note #2: I could make a slimmed down <20 games version of this list. I'm going to add an * at the beginning of each item to indicate a game that is part of that '20 essentials' list.

Spoiler: Here's the Essential 20 as of today, slightly different tomorrow.
Abstracts: Bladder, Checkers, Chess, Go, Hnefatafl, Shogi
Cards: Boon, Haggis, Hearts, Oh Hell!, Plus-Minus, Vivaldi
CCG: Magic: The Gathering
Dice: Perudo
Modern: Carcassonne, Tigris & Euphrates, Tikal
RPG: DCC
Solo: Barbarian Prince
Word: Boggle


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1. Board Game: Ambiente Abissal [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Board Game: Ambiente Abissal
AA is one of the most recent games on the list. Like many others, I've been impressed by the inventiveness in trick-taking (and climbing like this one) games coming out of Japan in the last decade. AA is a very simple game with a simple idea: what if suits were also ranked? The rules are here on BGG for free. You could play this tonight with a Rage deck, a Tarot deck, or even a Schotten Totten deck. I recommend that you do so. Then, spend too much money importing a copy from Japan.

First played: 12/20/20
Last played: 03/20/21
Total # of plays: 9
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2. Board Game: Babylonia [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:1280]
Board Game: Babylonia
I got swept up in Babylomania last year. The truth, if you must know it, is that the game is very good. It's probably not quite as good as its fiercest cult followers would have you believe, but it's still better than pretty much everything else out there from the past few years.

First played: 03/22/20
Last played: 11/17/20
Total # of plays: 21
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3. Board Game: Bananagrams [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:1794]
Board Game: Bananagrams
Time pressure and pure word play. This is one of my two favorite word games (the other also featuring time pressure and pure word play).

First play: 12/19/09
Last play: 12/30/19
Total # of plays: 33
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4. Board Game: Barbarian Prince [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:4767]
Board Game: Barbarian Prince
*
This is a bit embarrassing. I have to confess that I've only played this 5 times and that those plays were concentrated into a brief time period over ten years ago. But I still want to play this game! Why haven't I returned to this game?!?!? Barbarian Prince is the perfect Choose Your Own Adventure book. I resolve now to play this in the next year or stop saying that I love this game. Mark my words. The Barbarian Prince shall die again!

First play: 02/04/10
Last play: 01/25/11
Total # of plays: 5
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5. Board Game: Battle for Moscow: Operation Typhoon, 1941 [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:4371]
Board Game: Battle for Moscow: Operation Typhoon, 1941
I have this dream that I'll play more wargames. In roughly 2009-2012, I did so, even attending GMT East. Then I had even more kids, my work scheduled changed, it was harder to schedule longer wargame sessions, etc. Battle for Moscow still represents this impulse and does so in a beginner-friendly package. I don't even think I should move back into more complicated games until I've played this a couple dozen more times.

First play: 06/04/11
Last play: 01/24/17
Total # of plays: 2
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6. Board Game: Bladder [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:11287]
Board Game: Bladder
*
Bladder was my favorite game for a long time. It still might be #1 depending on the day and my mood. This is such an unpopular position on BGG that no one else on this website holds the same opinion. I am the only one on this entire site who loves this game enough to repeatedly name it as my #1. Trawlerman contra mundum. The game is great. It's a combinatorial game that is fairly slow-paced and deviously attritional. A new player will rarely win against an experienced player (the only exception I've seen is a long-time chess player who approached the game carefully and methodically). Unlike other games on this list, this is one that I've pretty much stopped recommending to others. It's a shame.

First played: pre-BGG
Last played: 07/21/18
Total # of plays: 55+
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7. Board Game: Boggle [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:2339]
Board Game: Boggle
*
Boggle (along with Big Boggle) is one of my most played games of all time. And somehow I hadn't played it in over 15 years. There are reasons. In retrospect, none of them are good reasons. I'm glad that I've finally re-discovered my love for this word game, one of the simplest and one of the best.

First played: pre-BGG
Last played: 04/12/21
Total # of plays: 1+
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8. Board Game: Boon [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked]
Board Game: Boon
*
Boon is Sheepshead with a marked-up deck. I've only played Boon once and I only played it 3p (which I think might be better than the 5p game I haven't played even if 5p is more popular). I want to play it more. I've pretty much learned the Sheepshead ranks and points, but I'll probably keep playing with the Boon deck in the future because I live in NY and not in WI or MN.

First played: 10/18/20
Last played: 10/18/20
Total # of plays: 1
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9. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:184] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Board Game: Carcassonne
*
Gateway game is a funny term when the game in question is a satisfying settlement in which any gamer could dwell for a lifetime. Carcassonne may be a gateway. It's also the destination itself. No need to move on. It's better than most other games still today.

First played: pre-BGG
Last played: 10/05/20
Total # of plays: 23+
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10. Board Game: Checkers [Average Rating:4.89 Overall Rank:20802]
Board Game: Checkers
*
BGG users love to hate Checkers. I don't understand it. I always loved Checkers as a kid. I've been glad to rediscover it recently. At the very end of last year, I bought myself a nice double-sided board, one side an 8x8 grid and the other side a 10x10 grid, to play International Checkers (flying kings!!).

First played: pre-BGG
Last played: 02/16/21
Total # of plays: 7+
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11. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:438] [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked]
Board Game: Chess
*
Hundreds (if not more than a thousand) of plays pre-BGG. Hundreds (if not more than a thousand) of plays online over the years. I learned Chess in elementary school. I expect to still be playing it at whatever ripe old age I make it to.

First played: pre-BGG
Last played: 03/16/21
Total # of plays: 58+
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12. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:471]
Board Game: Chicago Express
I've flirted with train games off and on since I first played AoS in January 2006. I've dabbled in 18xx and tried at least half a dozen Winsomes. I debated whether to include any here and if so, which ones. I'm defaulting ro Chicago Express, which probably is the best of them all.

First played: 01/20/17
Last played: 06/04/19
Total # of plays: 4
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13. RPG Item: Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game [Average Rating:8.30 Overall Rank:16]
RPG Item: Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game
*
DCC is just my current favorite system. This entry represents pretty much any OSR game. My preference is deadly slapstick dungeon crawls.

First played: 09/14/18
Last played: 09/18/20
Total # of plays: 6
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14. Board Game: Earthshine [Average Rating:6.34 Unranked]
Board Game: Earthshine
I like the idea of push-your-luck games, but I'd rarely pick to play one. If I were picking one, it'd be Earthshine. I love that the game presents itself as a traditional game passed on from generation to generation because it actually has that feel to it, as if it could be true.

First played: 04/30/20
Last played: 04/30/20
Total # of plays: 4
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15. Board Game: Friday [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:423]
Board Game: Friday
I'm not much of a solo gamer, but I've got a soft spot for Friday. It's probably my favorite deck-builder and my second favorite solo game after Barbarian Prince. It doesn't feel like it's been over 3 years since I've played this, but I guess it has been.

First played: 10/18/15
Last played: 11/24/17
Total # of plays: 6
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16. Board Game: The Fury of the Norsemen [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:13795]
Board Game: The Fury of the Norsemen
It's true that I've technically never played this according to BGG. The only times I played it were solo, about ten years ago, when I was getting into wargames, and I didn't log any solo plays at the time. This game and all of the other small wargames on this list fit together in one plastic ziplock bag. It takes hardly any space to store them and I keep thinking I'll get back to them all some day.

First played: ---
Last played: ---
Total # of plays: 0+
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17. Board Game: Gettysburg [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:4936]
Board Game: Gettysburg
Another one in the small wargames ziplock. I found this one to be really satisfying, packing a punch well above its small game weight class.

First played: 01/19/19
Last played: 01/20/19
Total # of plays: 2
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18. Board Game: Giro Galoppo [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:3744]
Board Game: Giro Galoppo
This should be in print. It's currently my favorite racing game. I've never considered myself a designer, but I'm tinkering with some ideas for a game based on this game's 'system'.

First played: 02/23/08
Last played: 05/11/20
Total # of plays: 10
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19. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:176]
Board Game: Go
*
Only 10 face-to-face plays is pretty sad. When I first became obsessed in '16, I played dozens of learning games via app. I'm still learning, but I'm just not an app or online gamer, less so now than I was in '16. I'd like more face-to-face play. I've been seriously considering the possibility of starting a local American Go Association chapter if public spaces ever open up to a greater extent.

First played: 04/23/16
Last played: 07/31/20
Total # of plays: 10
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20. Board Game: Haggis [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:960]
Board Game: Haggis
*
If you haven't played Haggis, you should dig out a traditional deck and give it a try. You'll probably love it.
2p Rules: https://thespiel.net/files/haggis.pdf
3p-6p Rules: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TnqNYOWd4jdq25dWoQgVRdbk...
Aid for playing with traditional deck: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2286957/article/33079951#33...
All cards are worth 1 point: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/105179/playtesting-reques...

First played: 12/07/20
Last played: 03/19/21
Total # of plays: 4
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21. Board Game: Hearts [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:1878]
Board Game: Hearts
*
I've come late in life to traditional trick-taking games. For whatever cultural/geographical reasons, these games were not a part of my childhood. I'm glad to have discovered them now. Hearts has become one of my favorite family games. I've only played it with 4 and am sure that it's best with 4, but I'm looking forward to trying 5+ variants such as Cancellation Hearts.

First played: 03/15/20
Last played: 01/03/21
Total # of plays: 5
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22. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:470]
Board Game: Hammer of the Scots
I played this solo a lot when I first got it in early '06. It took me several plays through by myself before I even understood some of the language in the rulebook. It's pretty standard wargame stuff, but standard wargame stuff was entirely new to me at the time. Besides teaching me how to read wargame rulebooks, HotS introduced me to Blind Harry, for which I'm grateful.

First played: 05/01/06
Last played: 05/21/18
Total # of plays: 11+
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23. Board Game: High Society [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:566]
Board Game: High Society
This one hits all the right notes for me, delivering what I want from a vicious auction game in a small, quick-playing package.

First played: 02/25/20
Last played: 01/01/21
Total # of plays: 11
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24. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:250]
Board Game: Hive
It has been a little while since I last played. I'm in the awkward position of being too good for local players willing to play and not good enough to seriously compete with the online sharks.

First played: 05/24/06
Last played: 07/10/18
Total # of plays: 58
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25. Board Game: Hnefatafl [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2774]
Board Game: Hnefatafl
*
I first came across Hnefatafl in '02 or '03. I have a set (that I really should post photos of) that came with a book about viking culture that I bought at the time. I should look up more about that book. I half-remember that it came in the same line of books that came with hackey sacks at one point. Klutz? I don't know. Hnefatafl (in all of its conflicting rules variations) is great.

First played: pre-BGG
Last played: 01/01/21
Total # of plays: 11+
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