Bare essentials for traditional gamers
Moshe Callen
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Jerusalem
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One of the many things that my wife and I have in common is that our favorite class of game is the traditional perfect information two player abstract. The main difference is that my wife mildly prefer symmetric goals in games, whereas I mildly prefer asymmetric goals. We will also play games which do not use perfect information of course, but these are preferred because usually-- albeit not always-- the game characteristic is synonymous with being a pure strategy game.

Nevertheless this Geeklist is not about the "must have" traditional abstracts. rather this list concentrates on the items any fan of traditional abstracts should have in order to play the widest possible variety of games with a minimum of equipment. To give an idea of what I mean by this, one may look at my games collection. I am currently listed as owning 393 games. I consider this number to be technically correct because I can play at least this number of games with the items I own. Nevertheless, I actually own less than 100 sets, meaning items sold separately as a game. A very basic idea is that I own a Chess set and a Backgammon set (actually two), but I do not own anything sold as a draughts set. Nevertheless, I do not need to purchase anything else in order to play draughts and so effectively I own a draughts set as well.

Some of the sets in my collection could technically be eliminated without reducing my number of playable games. For example, I own Risk, Risk 2210 A.D. and Castle Risk. Now, classic Risk can be played on a Risk 2210 board ignoring water territories and using the territory cards. In order to allow six players, I could just use Castle Risk pieces so that I don't really need a separate set for classic Risk. Neverteless, I [i]like[i] having that separate set. So minimizing equipment is not what I'm talking about in this list either. Rather I'm talking about a core set of equipment that allows one to play a maximum number of traditional abstract games, especially when supplemented by printed rules and at most a simple board printable on standard A4 paper.

These are just the barest essentials for traditional gamers to reconstruct a wide varietyof traditional (and hence public domain) games.
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1. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:123]
Moshe Callen
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Jerusalem
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The first thing one needs are lots of pieces in two colors. A Go set is perfect for this. Personally I find Go stones a bit to large more often than not, and so I made a Go set with Pente pieces. The latter are more convenient because they're smaller. Nevertheless, Go stones can be made to work by printing larger boards.
 
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2. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:420] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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One of the most common types of boards used in games is that of the square grid, whether of points formed by crossing lines or by spaces. The most common by far is the 8x8 grid. If one has the Go board, one can cover parts to make any grid up to 19x19, whether square or rectangular. Personally, I prefer to have square or rectangular grids of all sizes and recommend this. Nevertheless, if one has just one size board, it should be a Go board; if two, one should also include a chess board.

To give an example of the utility, one can play Othello with a chess board and Go stones.
 
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3. Board Game: Yahtzee [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:15345]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Dice.

Although I prefer perfect information games, many traditional games also use dice. For modern ones, 99 times out of 100 these will be d6. With enough dice and imagination, systems can be found to represent throwing sticks and cowrie shells (used in older games) too-- such as odds and evens in lieu of up or down.

Throwing sticks are nice though. d4 is also handy for games that used knuckle-bones.
 
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4. Board Game: Poker [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:864]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Both the cards themselves and especially the poker chips can be useful. The latter are particularly good for scoring.
 
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5. Board Game: Dominoes [Average Rating:5.44 Overall Rank:15070]
p55carroll
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While they have features in common with dice and cards, dominoes are perhaps unique enough to rate a place here.

Among the games that can be played with dominoes (many of them traditional) are those in this list.

I've read that cards and dominoes may share a common point of origin, in ancient China. It's hard to say which came first. To me, it's interesting that both survived and remained popular. Cards are lighter and often more convenient, but dominoes are more durable (better suited to outdoor play) and often easier to manufacture.

There are some crossover variants too, such as domino backgammon.
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