Bandwagons: Verkisto's Top 19* Outside the Top 200
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The great thing about bandwagons is that as they move further and further downhill, they start to pick up a lot of speed. Apropos of nothing, here are my top 20 games that (as of 5-23-2011) live outside the top 200 ranking of BGG.

Like all of these lists, the selections I picked are completely subjective. I looked at my top-rated games and made a list of the 20 that I wouldn't hesitate to play right now. There are some games a bit higher up in my rankings than some of the games listed here that also live outside the top 200 games, but those are games that don't always call me to want to play them, so I decided not to include them here. That should also be an indication that it's time for me to update my ratings, but that's just a nice side-effect of this sort of examination.

I was also surprised to find that a lot of these games are lower in the rankings than I expected. Some I didn't expect to find in the top 200, but I was really surprised to find that some of these games lived far outside that range.



*Because I appear to have miscounted, and don't feel like finding a 20th game.
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1. Board Game: Sluff Off! [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1086]
 
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My Rating: 10
BGG Ranking: 407


I know this game has a few problems. For one, a player who is significantly enough in the lead on the last round can pick the saboteur to ensure that he won't lose enough points to lose the game, if it's available when it comes around to his turn. Sure, another player can take it from him, but if he doesn't have the right hand to manipulate the wrong tricks to the right players, then it won't do him any good, either. Regardless, this is a game I enjoy playing, though it's been a while since it's hit the table. There's a bidding variant that I have yet to try that supposedly corrects this issue, but I have yet to try it; maybe when I get it out again, that should be the thing to do.

This is a game that didn't surprise me to find it outside of the top 200, but I have to admit that I was a little surprised that it was ranked as high as it was.
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2. Board Game: Battling Tops [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:5389]
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My Rating: 9
BGG Ranking: 4261


Now, I wasn't surprised at all that this game lived outside the top 2000, much less the top 200. There's really no skill at all to this game. There's even less finesse required to play the game than with other dexterity games (your choices really are in which direction to wind the string, and how hard to pull the twine off the top), but I'll be damned* if it isn't a total hoot to play this game.

The trick is to play it correctly. If you wind up your tops, send them into the arena, and then just stand there and watch them bink and bonk about until only one is left standing, then you are not playing this game correctly. The proper way this game is to be played is by shouting at your opponents' tops, encouraging your own, and mostly just being an obnoxious spectator to the events. Live it up, laugh it up, and get so worked up with your encouragement that you break a sweat, and you'll see why this game should be ranked higher than it is.


*Yeah, either way, I was going to survive the Rapture this past weekend.
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3. Board Game: Schotten Totten [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:368]
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My Rating: 9
BGG Ranking: 207


Two-oh-seven? Are you kidding me? This is an absolute classic game! I've introduced it to at least five other people who enjoyed the hell out of it, so why is it so far out of the rankings?

Such were the thoughts that went through my head when I discovered its ranking. I mean, I get it: 207 is still a pretty respectable rating. I was just a little surprised that it wasn't somewhere in the top 50. Is it because the first few cards in the game are placed more or less randomly?
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4. Board Game: Magna Grecia [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:2374]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 824


Magna Grecia is a game that I don't play often enough. The box is an awkward size, meaning that it doesn't fit in my tote bag to bring to game night (see Can't Stop), and the game is still obtuse enough to me that I probably wouldn't be able to teach it well to other players, anyway. That doesn't make a difference to what I think about the game, though.

This paragraph would be the point in the game where I talk about what appeals to me about the game, but did you see the word "obtuse" above? In my first game, I kept asking the same two questions over and over again because I could not wrap my head around the game. I remembered enough by the second time to play it without bugging everyone at the table every three minutes, but now I can't even recall much about the game, save for pointing the temples in directions and making connections. But I really enjoyed those couple of games.

I need to move this one up toward the top of my "To Play" list.
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5. Board Game: Trendy [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:4022]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 1802


I don't get this. I don't get this ranking at all. I see comments from other raters like, "This game is so light it just floats away," and I want to ask them what game they were really playing, because Trendy doesn't strike me as being that light. It's light, certainly, but more like shoebox-light; i.e., light enough that you could pick it up with a downward grip without hurting yourself, but heavy enough that it won't blow away when a fan is pointed in its direction.

I've played this game a couple of different ways, from a light-and-breezy "Oh, that's my designer, so I'll play my card so I can help it along, oh goody, we all got points!" style, to a tense-filled "Sonofabitch, he's trying to get me to play out my designer cards of that type because he knows most of them have played out, and he has the double-value card still in his hand!" style. They're both fun, but when you start looking at what's been played, what's left to play, and pay attention to how player count will affect how many points each player gets for a particular designer, then the game gets much more strategic and satisfying.
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6. Board Game: Carcassonne: The Castle [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:518]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 209


This is a nice, solid game in the style of Carcassonne that doesn't play a thing like Carcassonne. It has some typical Knizia mechanisms thrown in to make the game more thoughtful with just a simple idea -- the bonus tokens on the score track force you to think outside the "Score the most points with this tile" mentality, and the idea of scoring for the negative space at the end of the game is brilliant -- and since I like those kinds of oddities, I'm not surprised that I like this game as much as I do. Carcassonne by itself is pretty boring, but Carcassonne: The Castle is a great design.

I regret that I don't get to play 2-player games often enough. I really need to play this one more.
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7. Board Game: Container [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:584]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 272


Now, 272 isn't a bad number. It would be a good batting average, bowling score, or starting weight on "The Biggest Loser." But when it comes to, say, a credit rating, then 272 is a horrible, horrible number. This also applies to the ranking of Container.

I think the reason it's lower in the ranking than I expect it to be is because the economic system is so fragile. Players who don't understand that fragility and bid/spend more than necessary will look at that system and say, "This game is broken!" and rate the game accordingly. But play a few more times, and players will recognize the subtlety of that system as a restriction of the system that players have to learn to manage.

Is this a top 50 game? Probably not, because the economy is so fragile. But I'm surprised that it's not in the top 100. Other niche games (Indonesia, Roads & Boats) are, so why not Container?
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8. Board Game: Turn the Tide [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:955]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 450


There are a handful of card games that I played when I was first getting into Eurogames that I still have a fondness for (there are even three more of them in this very list!). I don't deny that nostalgia and early impressions keep the games high in my esteem, but they're also games that I think are pretty clever in one way or another, and besides, there are a lot of other games from that era that I got rid of many years ago. These have enough cleverness to keep them in my collection.

Land Unter is one of those games, and I still think the "Pass your hand to the next player" mechanism is what makes the game stand out. I don't know of any other game that plays that way, and the fact that the game is also a simultaneous-reveal game where you have to outthink your opponents just makes it that much better. I need to play this one more often.
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9. Board Game: Serengeti [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:3007]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 1525


I have a microbadge that declares, "I don't care what game is ranked #1." If you don't believe me, you can check out the link to the microbadge where you can find my name listed among the owners.

See? That'll teach you to call me a liar.

Anyway, while that sentiment is true, I always get a little shocked when I find some games ranked far, far lower than I would expect. Don is one of those games. I mean, it's a game where the more you score, the more you limit what you can take on future moves. It turns the thumbscrews a bit more tightly than one would expect for such a light filler game, and by the last few rounds, you can hear everyone's gears squeaking at the effort of making a bid.

The game seems to be very weird with 3 or 6 players (the bidding seems to progress at a rate where one player will quickly be shut out of bidding), which may account for its ranking, but with 4 or 5, this game is a gem.
 
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10. Board Game: Sticheln [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:828]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 358


This game is evil, I tell you. Evil!


Is it the confrontational aspect of the game that puts it square down in #358?
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11. Board Game: Cities [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:2326]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 1050


Is this game's ranking indicative of what BGGers in general think of multiplayer solitaire games? Because I find this game charming. It's challenging enough to make you think about how to place your tiles and your meeples, without being suffocatingly difficult, and it plays in about 15-20 minutes. By the time one game ends, you can either start up another one, or, if you've been waiting on that elusive fifth player to start another, deeper game, you can pack it in and play something else.

It's also a game that scales well, so that the player limit is equal to how many sets of tiles you have. Buy one set for four players, or spring for that second copy and play with eight! It doesn't matter!
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12. Board Game: Drive [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:3302]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 1345


By now, I'm sure you've heard about how Lost Cities is the ultimate game to play with your non-gaming spouse. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's all a big lie. My wife, for one, hated it, and besides, for the amount of math that the game requires, are you seriously telling me that non-gamers would pick this up as easily as chlamydia?

Crazy Chicken, on the other hand, offers up a lot more tension and choices than Lost Cities ever could, with a simpler rule set that requires much less math. Every time I play this game, I find another tactic to use, and since I've now played the game 24 times, I can tell you that there are a lot of secrets hidden in this deck of cards. While my wife isn't as interested in playing games as she used to be, when she was, this was a game she would ask to play.

So, 1345? Give me a break.
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13. Board Game: Blokus Duo [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:805]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 258


I'm a little surprised at how many 2-player games I have on this list. I used to play games with my wife fairly frequently, but it's been months since we've sat down to play a game, and years since we've done so on a regular basis. We played this one once, and I was blown away by it. It was the same game, but the smaller board made it harder to get your pieces in, and there was almost a cooperative aspect to the game, since if one player got into the mindset of just getting the pieces down and not trying to plan for fitting future pieces into the grid, it would lock out both players. It felt more constrictive, and I loved it.

My wife? Well, she disliked the game for the same reasons I mention. We never got around to playing it again, but damn. I need to schedule some time for some 2-player games with my gaming buddies.
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14. Board Game: Bus [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1894]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 1074


This ranking surprises me the most out of all the ones in my list. I've only played the game twice, both times online, and I know that I have a lot more to understand about this game before I can play it well, but it's a game with depth, and I'm surprised that the hardcore gamers aren't rating it better than they are. Then again, I haven't played the game enough, nor do I understand the game well enough, to know if there are any concerns about the lasting appeal of the game.

Regardless, after two games, I could see a worthwhile game with Bus. It reminded me a little of Age of Steam, and folks who know me should know that this is almost like a seal of approval for me. If the box had said "Recommended for players who like Age of Steam!", I probably would have played it a lot sooner.
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15. Board Game: The Bottle Imp [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1098]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 513


My favorite number of players for games is three. Typically, adding more players to a game increases its chaos level, but then again, two-player games can become frustrating exercises if one player is much, much better at the game than you are. With three players, you keep the chaos down, but the interaction up. It's my perfect number.

Flaschenteufel says that it plays up to four players, but it's a lie. I mean, yes, it's mechanically possible, but this game was clearly designed for three players. The card-passing mechanism alone works perfectly for three players, so why go mucking up the system and trying to add too many players to it? Just leave it at three, and enjoy the game. Just be prepared to play it several times before you get how you should be playing your hands.
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16. Board Game: The Game of Life Express [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:10331]
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: unranked


Ask a gamer which game is their favorite light, civ-building dice game, and you'll probably hear "Roll Through the Ages" a lot. And while I totally get that, I hate that gamers haven't had the chance to play Levensweg Express yet, because I think they'd find a game that's a bit closer to what people imagine when using the term "civ-building," just without the whole civ-building theme.

I think the problem this game has with breaking through to new players is that it's associated with the Life license. It's a horrible game, to be sure, but the express version of the game does a great job of balancing out risk and reward when rolling the dice. The civ-building aspect of the game is there because players get a chance to accumulate more dice as they accomplish certain goals in the game, and doing so increases both the risks and the rewards. It's not a perfect game, by any means, but of all the express games I've played (including Risk Express), Levensweg Express tops the list.
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17. Board Game: Around the World in 80 Days [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:1373]
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
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The results of a five yeer studee ntu the sekund lw uf thurmodynamiks aand itz inevibl fxt hon shewb rt nslpn raq liot.
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 694


I'm not a fan of race games in general. I think it's because I like games where you can look at your relative position by the endgame score, so that even if you don't win, you can still take satisfaction in not being last, or improving your previous score, etc. Race games tend to be "Whoever wins wins, and the rest of you don't even need to bother looking at your placement" experiences. Since I rarely win games, I like to be able to say, "I took second!" Such are my victories.

Anyway, this game is a race game, but it's also a card management game with some neat choices to make on how quickly you get around the board. The chips that sit next to each city, going to the first person to get there and the last person to leave, offers up some different incentives, but most importantly, you don't have to be the first one across the finish line, but the first one who finished in the fewest days. So finishing the game third can still be good, so long as it didn't take you 217 days to do it.
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18. Board Game: Relationship Tightrope [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:3088]
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
United States
Greer
South Carolina
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The results of a five yeer studee ntu the sekund lw uf thurmodynamiks aand itz inevibl fxt hon shewb rt nslpn raq liot.
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: 1244


Apparently, there are two ways to play this game. One is to reveal cards one at a time around the table, allowing players to adjust what number they want to play based on what others are playing. When I learned it, though, we played so that everyone picked a card, and then revealed their cards at the same time. I've played both ways, and much prefer the simultaneous-reveal aspect of the game.

The crazy thing is that in that group, I was the minority. Everyone else disliked the lack of information using this method, and preferred having more control over their turns. Me, I felt like it hosed the first player in the "trick," unless he had the high/low card that couldn't be beaten. I much prefer the uncertainty of trying to guess what other players are going to do, and juggling the cards in your hand to stay balanced.
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19. Board Game: Undercut [Average Rating:6.25 Unranked]
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
United States
Greer
South Carolina
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Entropy Seminar:
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The results of a five yeer studee ntu the sekund lw uf thurmodynamiks aand itz inevibl fxt hon shewb rt nslpn raq liot.
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My Rating: 8
BGG Ranking: unranked


Auction games are so prominent in Eurogame circles that if they were to be our standard of currency, then we would be issuing these puppies in denominations of millions, instead of ones, fives, and tens. It's like designers have heard the complaints of the gamers who want near-perfect information games with built-in replayability, and they respond by saying, "OK, then, have another fucking auction game!" Thus, we wind up with games like:


Anyway, Undercut is the exception that clearly isn't getting the love it deserves. I mean, it's not even ranked! Are you guys saying that a game where you bid with pieces you have to get pieces you need, all while trying to avoid certain combinations of pyramids, isn't even worth your time to play?

Feh. You guys don't deserve this game.
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