Frank's Faves
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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This list is constantly changing. Moods, playing time, player composition, and new games that flame and die, keep this list in flux.
My top 10 games must meet the following criteria:
1) high tension (angst - the sweaty palms experience)
2) aggression (territorial expansion and opportunities to "harm your neighbor")
3) simple mechanics (takes less than 10 minutes to explain)
4) strategic and/or tactical depth (requires thinking, planning, outwitting, outmaneuvering belied by the simple rules)
5) multiple choices and agonizing decisions
6) minimal luck (some luck is enjoyable and actually presents a greater challenge to strategy & tactics)
7) great bits (though this is mitigated if the above criteria is met).
8) short playing time (preferably 45 mins, but definitely under 2 1/2 hours)
The order of the choices below reflects this bias.
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1. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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This was my first German game, and has been at the top of my ratings from my first play in 1998. An absolute classic. Tile laying with angst that provides a wargame like feel. (This one has all of the criteria/biases I enjoy most in a game.)
 
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2. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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I've probably had more pure gaming enjoyment playing this one than any recent release. It is currently flying high due to a 4-player game at the 2004 EuroQuest. It was one of my most satisfying gaming experiences in recent time. An outstanding game that has it all - auctions, buying & selling, expansion, resource management, strategy & tactics.
 
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3. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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This is the classic that started it all for German gaming in America and it was my second German gaming purchase. I've played it tons of times and still enjoy it, though the lustre of discovery has faded. Still, along with its offspring (Seafarers, Canaan, Stone Age, etc.), it has offered me many hours of pure gaming pleasure - and still does - despite the important role (roll) of dice!
 
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4. Board Game: Attika [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:565]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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This one has fallen a bit on many people's lists (mine as well). It may not have staying power. Although it has held pretty steady with me (but has dropped a couple of spots since the first 50 plays). I really enjoy it as a 2-player (where I think it shines best). However, it is certainly not in the same category as the first two very rich board games. What I enjoy, however, is the simplicity of the game - but the surprising depth of choices it provides. Meets most of my criteria/biases for a great game.
 
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5. Board Game: Union Pacific [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:468]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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Another classic IMO. Simple mechanics (and thus easy to teach) but with lots of angst and provides a very fulfilling experience - especially if I win. Alan's best, I think. Even though Ticket to Ride, simple as it is, grows on me and is better suited to my family. Still, it has more depth than Ticket, and so gets the nod for now.
 
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6. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:107]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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The best of the class of 2004, IMO. I'm not sure how this one will stand the test of time, but so far it is a hit with our group. I enjoy the many levels of scoring that constantly leave you with the feeling of needing to do more than you can each turn. A multi-faceted game, yet simple. A great combination.
 
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7. Board Game: A Game of Thrones (first edition) [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:312]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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The best "German style" wargame IMO (I know it's not a German game). It would rank higher, but for two weaknesses: a glaring imbalance in starting positions, and it is too complicated to explain quickly or to appeal to my non-gamers and family. But, for 6 blood-thirsty gamers who have the time, this one (and its CoK expansion) is about as good as it gets if you want a lighter war-game.
 
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8. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:125] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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This one succeeds where A Game of Throne is weak: 1) simple, uncomplicated rules; 2) will appeal to the non-gamer and family. Why do I rate it below AGoT? Because I prefer "thinking" games more than light-hearted games. Not that this is lighthearted. It is light, but not lighthearted. It requires planning and has a good bit of angst...wanting to connect that black, or red route before someone else does! 2004's SdJ winner is definitely one of my best. Just a bit light to make my top five.
 
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9. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:16]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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I know - it is almost a sacrilege to place this game this low! Yet, for some reason, this has never been one I valued as highly as others. I can only think of two reasons this one doesn't grab me like it does so many: 1) Turn angst isn't there for me; and 2) I have never been able to get a handle on the strategy & tactics in this one. I sense that it is a game as rich as E&T and PowerGrid - but it falls flat for me in the above two areas. It makes my top ten only because I recognize it's rich, finely balanced mechanics.
 
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10. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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My favorite "True-2" (2-player only) game. It satisfies my wargaming itch, and would be much more highly rated but for 1) the time it takes to set it up; 2) its 2-player limitation (I know about the Multi-player ability); and 3) it's failure to suite my family profile (wife and two daughters) But it is a great game when I want to play a wargame and thus makes my all-time favorites list.
 
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11. Board Game: 15 Love [Average Rating:4.33 Unranked]
Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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Actually - there is a game called 15 Love. But I only used it's title to list fifteen more games that are very good to excellent and from time to time jump into my top ten (depending on mood, playing group, situation, etc). They are as follows (not necessarily in order of preference):
* Amun-Re (serious, complex, longish)
* Liberte (serious, complex to explain)
* Princes of the Renaissance (serious, complex explanation)
* Ra (lighter, auction at its best)
* Wallenstein (excellent war game)
* Princes of Florence (good in many areas, not great in any, IMO)
* St. Petersburg (light, easy to teach, limited depth)
* Crokinole (light game of skill - I love it)
* Santiago (one that gets overlooked; a tad too abstract)
* Maharaja (serious, complex, a bit chaotic)
* Capitol (serious, turn ANGST; flies under the radar; could be one of my all-time favs, but can't get it to the table)
* San Juan (light version of Puerto Rico; in many ways I actually prefer playing it - but recognize it doesn't have the rich game-play of PR)

And, when I'm more interested in just having fun:
* Boomtown (light & fun; some of the card art is NOT appropriate me, for my family, and for many of my friends)
* Pirate's Cove (luck with fun - when you just want to kick back enjoy a game of luck and aggression)
* Citadels (bluffing and fun, fun, fun). This one could easily make my top ten - depending on the mood.
 
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