The Essential Game Closet (nominations)
Goo
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Yorba Linda
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We had a journal discussion recently about making a list of the essential games to build a well-rounded, representative collection (The Essential Game Closet (EGC). The original discussion tried to list the mechanics, players needed, designers, etc. that should be represented in the list, then plug in games to fit those criteria. We soon realized that it was fruitless to come to this list via that path and decided to back into the list of games by starting with the games we agree would be on such a list, find out what is missing and add games accordingly.

My goal for this project is to build a list of games that make up the Essentials of well-rounded, representative closet. The list should help beginners as well as long-timers who may have been pigeon-holed into one or two genres and would like to expand their gaming horizons and try a variety of well-loved and well-designed games. At this time, we do not know if the list will be comprised of 5 games or 20 games or somewhere in between.

The list is to be broken into 2 (possibly 3, but probably 2) compartments. The first is an entry level compartment while the second is to be of games that are best tried after some experiences with the entry level games (a new gamer could possibly be doing himself disservice by making E&T or PoF his first game—possibly). So, the second compartment of the list is to have games that you might want to try when you are ready to move beyond the first list.

What I am asking for are nominations of games that you feel should be in the Essential Game Closet*. We will then discuss and maybe vote on the final list. For each nomination, I would like to see:

1. Why this game?
2. Which mechanics, # of players (if pertinent), genres, etc. does this game well represent?
3. Why this game over others in its class, genre, mechanics, etc.?
4. Is this entry level, or should it be played after some gaming experience is accrued? (1 or 2 [or even a 3 if it is a game to be tried after both entry-level and more advanced list compartments are satisfied])

What I would not like to see:
1. Flavor of the month games (aka: flash in the pan, all hype, no substance); I expect a game should have a history of success before being laminated on the EGC list.
2. Fanboy-elevated games (i.e. LotR Uno)
3. Games that are rare or little heard of, but you want people to know that you own it and that you are way cooler than top-rated games and only play deep pretentious crud (for more info, read the recent journal entry on game snobbery).
4. My pickle-eating grandma juggling chainsaws in a bikini (this has nothing to do with the list, but I just really, really don’t want to see that either… ever).



-goo

*I am fully aware of the subjectivity of the data and the subsequent final list. This list is, of course, all in fun and intended to aid the new gamer and help all of us to expand our scope of games.
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1. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Goo
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Yorba Linda
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I'll start the list with this.

1. Settlers is hugely popular all over the world, and for good reason. It has single-handedly converted many a gamer. Gameplay is simple elegance, fun, interactive, and often close right to the end. The modular board and settlement placement rounds make for new experiences with each play.

2. Mechanics: trading, modular board, city building

3. I don't know others in this class very well

4. 1, entry-level
 
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2. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Ed Sherman
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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Puerto Rico:
1) Puerto Rico has been a very huge game since if first cam out and has proven staying power.
2) Mechanics: variable powers, trading, resource management, building
3) Few other games that use this wide array of mechanics, plus the use of the "one person chooses role, everyone acts" mechanic
4) This is a more advanced game.
 
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3. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:206]
Ed Sherman
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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1) This game has been around for 60-odd years and is still one of the most elegant business/stock games out there.
2) Buying stock, money management
3) Classic in the field
4) Entry level game
 
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4. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:124] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Steve Wagner
United States
Wood River
Nebraska
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Ticket to Ride is a great game for anyone. Like Settlers, there can be a good deal of luck, but the ease of playing and the enjoyment from it is worth it.
 
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5. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
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Mississippi
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1) One of my personal favorites; Tigris and Euphrates balances skill and luck in precisely the right way. It's a brain-burner, yet at the same time it feels light. My friend Tim describes it as "so simple we can't understand it's complexities."

2) Mechanics: tile-placement

3) This game owns all other tile-placement games in terms of strategy.

4) This game is not entry level, but at the same time does not require a huge amount of experience in gaming.
 
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6. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:366]
Matthew Arrington
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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Bohnanza!
1) A highly rated, relatively inexpensive (and still widely available) card game. Not too serious, but there's enough game for most game players.
2) Mechanisms: Hand Management, trading. Sits 2-7 players, and often serves as a "party game" with it's silly theme and raucous trading. This game does reward good planning, but not to the degree of paralysis (mostly)
3) Why? Bohnanza is simple, so the game is up and running quickly even with new players. The game, with the strange "do not rearrange your hand" mechanism will be unlike about anything a new gamer has seen. Consequently, it teaches hand management more specifically than many games. Bohnanza is almost always fun, relatively fast-moving, and highly portable (card game...sorta redundant).
4) Entry level
 
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7. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Ido Magal
United States
Seattle
Washington
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1. The perfect introductory game. each player's turn generates discussion about the pros and cons of tile placement and positioning, making it very easy for new gamers to develop a sense of strategy and prevents them from having a bad/losing experience.

2. also an excellent introduction to tiles, territorial conquest, victory points, risk management; plays great with 2 to 5 players.

3. it's simple to get started and play. the scoring is a bit convoluted, but that's easier to explain during the game, as situations arise.

 
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8. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:698]
David Brain
United Kingdom
London, UK
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1. I think this is an extraordinary achievement. I understand why some people do not consider this to be a "game" so much as a puzzle, but it deserves an essential spot for a combination of factors:
2. The co-operative concept, the story-telling format, the huge range of permutations that ensure it has long lasting possibilities and last, but not least, the gorgeous boards which you almost want to hang on a wall.
3. There's just nothing quite like this out there. There are similar "player vs system" games, but this one has a genuine narrative feel with some seriously tense moments.
4. This is probably a level 2 game. Although I have found complete non-gamers with no preconceptions handle it OK. What I like most is that if the game becomes too easy (yeah, right!), there are countless ways to toughen the challenge, from adding the extra scenarios to the dark tiles etc.
 
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9. Board Game: Mü & More [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:824]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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1. It's the best trick-taking card game around, especially when you eliminate all those partnership games (since you go it alone in this game).

2. It's about the only trick-taking game that's best with 5-player. The changing partnerships adds quite a bit to it. And it's fresh every time--a new game every hand, almost.

3. Handles 5 players well (in fact, no good for other numbers). Don't have to play partnerships who have their own "conventions." Works well for newbies, but works best for those who've played lots of trick-taking card games.

4. I've seen it work well with newbies, as long as they're familiar with trick taking games. But I'd say it should be for the more advanced gamers.
 
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10. Board Game: Scotland Yard [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1056]
Olive Me
United States
Unspecified
Oregon
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1. Scotland Yard is under-rated!
2. 3-6 players, mechanics- partnerships, deduction.
3. Why this game? Because being a detective is fun and so is running away from people as Mr. X, the criminal!
4. Entry level
 
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11. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:53]
Play Games - Interact - Have Fun!
United States
California
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I can't believe no one has added this one yet.

1. This is the best German game of all time. I love a lot of games, but this one is truly a classic.

2. I love the area control (and limited at that) aspect and the variable action card element. Best 5 player game. Period.

3. All of the unique mechanics combine to make this a truly awesome game. You have the cool area control, the limited regions around the king to access, the many variations of action cards, the bidding for turn order, the staging area (the courts) for your men (basically two turns to get them on the board), scoring only every 3rd round, and the grand daddy of them all the CASTILLO! (and it's hidden placement of the men inside).

4. I'd say this is a solid 2 (intermediate) to learn, but it plays more like a 3 as far as pure satisfaction and enjoyment. When I win a game of EL grande, I feel I have accomplished something - not that I've just been lucky or my opponents have made mistakes to allow me to win.

 
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12. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:413]
mads l. brynnum
Denmark
2400 Kbh. NV
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1. This is a game I've become very fond of in a very short time, and people I play it with tend to feel the same way. It's easy to learn, fast to play, and requires lots and lots of strategic thinking. Furthermore the theme and the special powers add lots of flavour to the game making it more than just advanced Stratego.
2. Hidden unit deployment, two-player, and direct confrontation - the game is about killing your opponents pieces.
3. It's a great two-player game for much the same reasons as mentioned above - but foremost of all because it's easy to learn, but hard to master. Don't know that many other games with same mechanics.
4. Entry-level. But the handicap rule makes it a game that can be played between a novice and an experienced player.

mads
 
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13. Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:232]
Dwayne Hendrickson
United States
Oklahoma City
Oklahoma
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1) This game easily introduces several mechanics that weren't normally found in mass-produced games
2) Board-building, end-game determined randomly by tile removal, hidden values on pieces
3)This game does have a lot of replayability because of the constructed board and the hidden values on the pieces. This opens up a lot of strategy, do you save a lot of pieces, or just conctrate on your high value ones? Save yourself, or destroy the other guy? Sacifice one of your pieces in someone else's boat or hope they have low value pieces? Hit the water & swim for it early, or wait for a boat and have the island blow up?
4) This is definately entry level and provides a great introduction to these mechanics used in other, deeper games.
 
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14. Board Game: Capitol [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:1374]
Kirk Thomas
United States
North Kansas City
MO
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1. Easy to learn / explain, but very deep.

2. 4 players, territory control

3. The combination of how you acquire your resources with how you use them to control territories is extremely well balanced - you have to think thru what is available, how you can use it, pay attention to your opponents' situation. Unlike some control games, it does pay to look forward, but is not so complicated that you get bogged down in over-analysis. I don't know of many games that are this well balanced, easy to explain, and fast-moving.

4. Probably a 1+ - it wouldn't be the first game I'd use for a newbie, but it would be one I'd steer them towards very quickly. Also appeals to much more advanced gamers.
 
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