A Four and Score list
Chris Ferejohn
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Everyone does a five and dime, but let's face it, 5 and 10 are just arbitrary numbers that were picked because "five and dime" rolls of the tongue well. Well I reject your arbitrary numbers and substitute my own, using instead some words that rolled off the tongue of Abraham Lincoln, Four and Score (20). I like this better because:



* 5 and 10 always seemed too close together to have much meaning, but there's a pretty substantive gap between 4 and 20; it really separates "games I've played a whole lot" from "games I've just played a few times".

* In addition to the cool Gettysburg Address reference, you also get a 4-20 reference, so American history buffs and stoners can finally be joined under the big tent of board gaming. Or umm, something.

* Lincoln is way cool. I mean. Not WASHINGTON cool. But still pretty cool.

Washington Cool:

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1. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
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In a completely original and unprecedented turn of events, Race for the Galaxy tops someone's "what I played the most this year list". What can I say that hasn't already been said? An extremely well crafted and meticulously playtested game that you can knock out in 30 minutes once you know what you are doing. I just got the expansion for Christmas (yay for my wife!), and got in 4 plays with that before the end of the year. Early returns are that it took a game I already really liked and made it even better. The goals add variety and a bit more player interaction. The new start worlds are all interesting and well thought out. The only problem is playing it enough so they get as worn as my old cards so I can't tell that I've got a new one by touch.

First person to say "sleeve your cards" gets a "would you put plastic sleeves over your children?" Oh snap!

Most of my plays have been with 2. I'd like to get some more 3-5 games in this year. It's a pretty different game that way, and I'll probably fall on my face the first few times I play with more than 2 again.
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2. Board Game: Mr. Jack [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:413]
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My favorite 2-player game to introduce to non-gamers. My mom and my wife both loved it. While I have dragged my wife over the Race for the Galaxy hump kicking and screaming, she still likes to play this as well. My mom really liked it too, though it's hard to get time to play it with her as she is deeply involved in grandmotherhood with my sisters' 3 kids.
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3. Board Game: Bananagrams [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:1546] [Average Rating:6.34 Unranked]
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I have never played this game only once. The immediate response after a game has always been "let's play it again". My wife and I both like word games, but the last time we played Scrabble with more than 2 it dragged on for about 2 yours. Also to play Scrabble well requires a comical knowledge of obscure and unused words. And not fun long ones like "sesquipedalian" and "retromingent" but boring short ones like "qi", "de", and "ree".

Add on the totally unnecessary but somehow totally perfect Banana "theme" and you've got yourself a winner here.
 
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4. Board Game: Blokus Duo [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:770]
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This did in fact travel with my wife and I on several occasions. It's actually a pretty complex abstract game hiding behind the facade of its shiny, candy-like pieces. I seem to have turned a corner at it lately and I've beaten her pretty handily the last couple times we've played, which is fine with me really because it allows me to talk her into more Race for the Galaxy.
 
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5. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:294]
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It wouldn't be a "what games can I get for my wife/girlfriend and me" geeklist/thread if it didn't include this game. True to form, my wife likes this game a lot. It's probably her most requested. It is a neat, intensively interactive 2 player puzzle that incorporates press-your-luck, risk-and-reward management, and the joy of adding and multiplying 2 digit integers. Rarely are people less surprised than when I tell them that this game was designed by a German mathematician. In a dead heat with "Clay Aiken is gay" for the "most credible statements of all time" award.
 
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6. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:134]
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One of my favorite games to teach to folks interested in gaming. Usually people who have played Catan a couple times. In fact, one of the reasons I teach this is to combat the tendency for new Catan players to just want to play Catan over and over and over again. When I can get them into this the lesson changes from "Catan is awesome and different" to "Holy crap! There are all kinds of awesome and different games out there! Hey what happened to the last 4 months and that $1000 I had?"

Another Knizia title. The math is still there, though buried a little deeper under the surface than with Lost Cities. I think the mathematics background makes him really good at properly balancing press your luck games. Like Lost Cities the decisions can often be agonizing; do I draw another tile or start the bidding? Do I lay down this card now or discard something else that my opponent needs and draw from the deck one more time?

Discussion question: Ra is not an auction game, but a press-your-luck set collection game with an auction mechanic. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
 
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7. Board Game: Backgammon [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1088]
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I played this with a friend of a friend at a wedding weekend trip, and was inspired to pull it out and play a few games with my wife when we returned (she has a set her dad gave her). The idea of learning the probabilities in this game well enough to actually be good at it does not strike me as particularly appealing, probably because I've already done that with poker, and while it got me through school, it also managed to make poker by and large not fun anymore.
 
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8. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
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Mostly towards the beginning of the year. My wife and I both like this game, but I'd usually rather play Race for the Galaxy, and she'd rather play Lost Cities or Blokus, so its had a hard time getting to the table. There are still a number of scenarios in the book that I haven't gotten to, to say nothing of the ones available online, so I do want to find a partner to attack them with me.
 
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9. Board Game: Carcassonne: The Castle [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:494]
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Hmm, quite the Knizia fanboy, aren't I? His 2-player version of Carcassone. Another one that has succumbed to not being Race for the Galaxy, Lost Cities, or Blokus. Adding the little bonus chips to the score track was a great idea to mix up play a little bit - he's also done this for Lost Cities: The Board Game.
 
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10. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:45]
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Its hard for me to get longer, multiplayer games to the table. Most of my multiplayer games are played either with very casual gamers or at the gaming event at a local cafe where games this long (and that take this much space) are often hard to get out. Yes, I know I could go play it to death on BSW, but playing board games online just doesn't do anything for me. Again, this might be because of all the online poker I've played.

Anyway, I really like Caylus despite not being very good at it. Last time I played I got some folks to come over on a weekday evening. The guy who just learned the game beat the rest of us (none of whom were terribly experienced, but still that seemed pretty unusual). He focused on just getting as much gold as possible and didn't do much turning said gold into prestige buildings. Hoping to get another 10-15 plays of this in next year.

While I'm at it, I'd like to lose 50 pounds, fix the economy and catch a fly with chopsticks.
 
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11. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
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The euro I have owned and played for the longest. One of the half dozen or so games I owned before going on my Tanga-related binge that got me back into board gaming a couple years ago. Still enjoy this game quite a lot.

Also took two separate shots at making a video about Puerto Rico, neither of which I am happy enough with to post. One of them was an entire game that I filmed and then edited together a "highlight reel". The other was a more casual review and critique. I found the edited play to be too niche, though I did so much editing work I might just put what I have up on youtube or something. The other one I liked better in terms of tone and accessibility, but I just haven't been inspired to edit recently. Really if I'm serious about it I need to get my own damned camera (I have to borrow one from the public access TV station where I work).

But I wander. I like Puerto Rico. I played it 7 times. Moving on.
 
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12. Board Game: Wits & Wagers [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:500]
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Quick, fun, easy to explain. A good combination of new things and familiar things. Just a well conceived and designed game all around. Plus Dominic was nice enough to send me the 2nd edition play mat.

The only time the game breaks down is if someone actually knows the exact right answer. This tends to happen most often on the date questions (I think there was one asking about the Kent State massacre for which my father-in-law knew not only the year but the exact date). Since I'm usually the one reading questions, I sometimes skip them when I think that might come up.
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13. Board Game: Duell [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3103]
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Another day, another Knizia. I picked up a demo copy of this at my FLGS for $2. My wife and I played it a few times, and I played it as a quick 2-player filler with another friend. I think its fine, but that's about it.
 
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14. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:327]
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Man: Hello, may I speak to Mr. Knizia?

Receptionist: I'm sorry he's designing a game right now.

Man: That's OK, I'll hold.

This one I quite like. Its another one that's easy to introduce to non-gamers (or at least people who are used to more traditional games - in this case dominoes). My sister found it "too mathy", but I rather like it, so nyaah.
 
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15. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
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I've got this one friend who is totally obsessed with this, to the point where he doesn't want to play anything else. He plays it online and live as often as he can. I introduced him to Ra. He said "That was neat. Can we play Settlers now?" We can only hope its a phase he'll outgrow. Not that I hate Settlers. Settlers is fine. Toast is fine too. I don't want to always eat toast. Of course, it's better than starving.
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16. Board Game: Apples to Apples [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:3152] [Average Rating:5.90 Unranked]
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Unlike some, I don't hate this game. I don't mind the ambiguity. I don't mind people picking the "wrong" answer. I like playing it with my family and friends while having a few drinks. Like Settlers, some folks want to play this to the exclusion of all else. My tolerance for it is pretty much exactly 2 and 1/2 games.
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17. Board Game: Boomtown [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1408]
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An auction game with some fairly nasty "take that" to it. You are pretty much forced to screw *somebody* fairly often. Not for everyone, but quick and easy to teach.
 
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18. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
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A friend brought this to Ferecon, an annual 2-day gaming event my wife and I throw in our apartment between Christmas and New Years. He brought it still in shrink on Saturday. He left it overnight and I opened it and read the rules. On Sunday I don't think it ever stopped being played from about 10AM until about 9PM. I got in 5 games, mostly 4 player. I think one three player.

When I first started playing magic, we would make 3 and 4 color decks that had 120 cards in them and had a great time. Then of course someone read some articles and created a "real" deck and proceeded to wipe the floor with us until we cottoned on to the idea of making your deck as small and efficient as possible. I'm sure this is going to happen with Dominion as well, but what is cool is that you can control the environment, so if the same kind of deck (i.e. Chapel deck, Garden deck) is winning every time, you can remove that from the mix and see what happens. Definitely looking forward to more of this one.
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19. Board Game: Hera and Zeus [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1410]
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Stratego meets Magic: The Gathering (but with a preset deck). I still really like this, but its rarely the first choice. I just have a lot of 2-player games at this point, so its hard to play them all very much, especially when Race for the Galaxy is on the table.
 
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20. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:179]
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I'm surprised I even played this that often. Stop me if you've heard this before, but it's a 2-player game that I like well enough, but it just doesn't get to the table that often with all the other 2-player games I have to choose from right now.
 
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21. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:710]
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A pretty clever little game. Tough for the colorblind though, and two of my most common opponents just happen to be colorblind, so I feel bad bringing it out (though for some reason I have no problem making them sort M&Ms before allowing them to eat them). Its a good cafe euro. Doesn't take too much space, not hard to teach, and plays in about an hour. Aquaduct and Buy Low - Sell High fit in a similar niche.
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22. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:257]
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All four plays were actually in the same session at a local gaming event. Pretty cool Stratego analog. I'd be happy to play it again, and I'd be thrilled to get it as a gift, but given my obvious overload of 2-player games in my collection right now, I'm probably not going to run out and get it myself.
 
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23. Board Game: Quelf [Average Rating:5.31 Overall Rank:15192]
Chris Ferejohn
United States
Mountain View
California
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Plays: 4 Four!
My favoritist party/drinking game. Yes none of the cards explicitly say to drink, but it is pretty obviously implied. The best part of the game is easily the Rule cards, which force players to do things like "speak like a preacher", "be a cheerleader for another player", or "end every sentence with 'Hear me, for I have spoken'" or pay the penalty (ostensibly move their piece back a couple places, but also drink).

No I don't have a problem.
 
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24. Board Game: SET [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1220]
Chris Ferejohn
United States
Mountain View
California
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Plays: 4 Four!
A clever little puzzle with some game rules tacked on. The puzzle is pretty cool though. Kids are often better at this due to adults as their minds are young and agile, not dulled by years of school, work, alcohol, drugs, and broken dreams. We are now entering the cheery part of the geeklist.
 
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25. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Chris Ferejohn
United States
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California
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Plays: 4 Four!
What better way to end than with yet another Knizia. This one widely acclaimed as his best, and almost certainly his most intricate. I actually played this quite a bit online with a friend who was overseas for about half the year, but I only log face to face plays. Despite actually having played this a few dozen times, I still have only the vaguest of ideas what I am doing at this game, but I don't really mind that.

Kind of a running theme here really. I like games I don't fully understand. Probably because I made a living (or at least a half-living) playing poker, and I understand that game so thoroughly that the fun has gotten sucked out.
 
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