A Love Declaration to the Refined Gaming Experience
Andreas Roth
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I love a lot of different games. In truth, I love playing just about any game, as there is almost always something to entice keep you focused and interested (I might not play it again, though).

However, I've come to understand what I rate as one of the top qualities of a game: not being more complex than is necessary.

In a way it's about streamlining - making sure that rules, mechanics and bits are in line with the experience you get from the game. Sure, a lot of rules and choices add depth and variability; but it also make a game prone to AP and extends the game length a lot without necessarily adding to the experience.

I summarize this in the word refined, in the sense that they are excellent in their minimization. A common trait for these games is that you are able to explain the game in one key sentence, which captures most of the game.

In a way, these games works sort of like a best of-list for me; if you add in a few games with more choices such as Race for the Galaxy, Paths of Glory, Cuba, Container and RoboRally. It's "gateway games", it's "light games", it's "fillers" - but really it's just the essence of gaming.
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1. Board Game: Blokus [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:584]
Andreas Roth
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First up: Blokus.

Choose a tile and place it diagonally from the corner of one of your existing tiles, without it being adjacent to any of them. That's about it.

A beatiful and quick game, that still has that something that will want you to play it over and over again in search of that perfect game where you end up with placing the 1-tile as the last tile.
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2. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:154] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Andreas Roth
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A classic in it's geniality, bashed by some but at the heart one of the greatest there is. It's basically a puzzle, with some added features. The mix becomes irresistable.

Put your tile where it fits and, if you want to, put a meeple on some part of the tile. Sit back and watch the French country-side come alive, then repeat for yet another game, and another...
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3. Board Game: Perudo [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:622]
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Ah, dice and bluffing. Our favourite filler for years, opening and closing every boardgame night. "Let's just play one more...!" whistle

Roll your dice, and decide if to call or raise the current bet. As simple as it comes, but as nerve-biting, tense and INtense as it gets. Marvellous game!
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4. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:379]
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My mum's favourite. In a way, the theme might be something only a mother can love...?

Collect cards, play them one by one to make a linked route and cash them for points as you see fit. Another easy and quick game, with lots of tactical considerations and indirect competition. A truly worthy SdJ.

I saw it at Essen 2011 for only 9€ - must have been the bargain of the fair!
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5. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:58]
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One of Wolfgang Kramer's many delightful creations. It's a area-majority Euro, that's been stripped to the core in a way you wish a lot of Euros since then would've been.

Choose a card earning you bits and a turn-order, and choose another card for a special-action and the chance to place your bits.

An old gem, that not only was influental in its day and been inspirational since then; it still gives you a fuzzy warm feeling playing it. It might seem a bit more advanced, but in reality a really straight-forward game.
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6. Board Game: 6 nimmt! [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:612]
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More Kramer, and my absolute favourite. It's the essence of gaming - social, quick and instantaneous, it plays 2-10 giving different experiences and game-play depending on the number of players.

Nervously pick a card and hope to come out of the resolving phase alive, then do it nine times more (...and the cards you save for last will always be your worst).

Oh, all those points you pick up, cursing yourself for choosing one card over another. But the finger-pointing and obligatory laughing when somebody else picks up a pile of Hornochsen-points, makes you forget that quickly. Devastating.
 
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7. Board Game: Top Race [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1812]
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Another Kramer masterpiece.

Choose one of your cards and move the cars depicted in order.

That's about it. Add tight corners and blocking, car auctions based on your resources (your cards) and betting; and your in racing heaven.
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8. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:682]
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Risk-taking and strategic planning all in one package! Roll your dice and put them on the board, then decide if your willing to risk rerolling.

I've made my own version with a set of 100 dice and a drawn board on a paper, perfect for travelling. Been playing this for years, battling my friend Johan all over Asia, Africa and Europe.

As a two-player game where you go to 4 (rather than the original 3) won numbers, this is near perfection - a raw mechanic acting as a thin filter between you and your opponent, as you roll dice in frenzy until you're on the brink of madness. devil
 
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9. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:331] [Average Rating:7.19 Unranked]
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Another great game that is a classic for a reason.

Roll the dice, pick resources and, if you can and/or want to, trade and build something.

A gateway game for me as well as most gamers around me, and still the one to introduce people to in order to get them to meatier games. It's still as good as ever, it never wears off. Like most people I play it more seldom nowadays, but the time's I do it's always a real treat.
 
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10. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:859]
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I had a weak spot for this for years, especially as a 3-player game. It's starting to wear of a bit, but it's still one of my favourites.

Play a card, make a bet and check if any monster is knocked out. Plenty of "take that"-moments, but there's comeback bonanza in (almost) every game. Mid-game and onwards gets really tense, and the final rounds is usually a test of who planned better.
 
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11. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:369]
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For once, a Knizia game without a shallow theme pasted on it. It's arrangement of bricks in different colours, and it's a great game.

Place a brick, trying to match it colour-wise to make long lines, making sure to not defer your lowest-scored colours. It plays well with 2-4 players, is tense throughout and it looks good.
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12. Board Game: Pastiche [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1339]
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A new experience to me since Essen 2011, which captured me instantly.

Put down a tile and pick up the colour-cards that you create; if you have the right colours trade in your card for a painting. Once again, quick and simple at the heart of it, but with a lot to hold in your head and a constantly changing game-board Pastiche makes you sit on the edge of your seat the whole game.
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13. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:495]
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Another new release from Essen 2011. Only played it once and would like to try it again to verify, but it seems like a quick, straightforward and intuitive game:

Pick a card and place three houses on hexes corresponding to the colour of the card. Remember to obey three placement rules and keep an eye on those variable victory conditions, and you're ready to go.

Hoping to play this in 10-15 minutes with the right crowd.
 
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14. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:101] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
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I guess I might as well include the TTR-series as well, although I'm not the biggest fan. Great in its simpleness.

Collect cards in different colours and trade them in for points, placing trains claiming routes. TTR Europe puts in some more elements, but at its core it stays the same.

An immense hit due to its easy and fast (a bit AP-prone though) gameplay, and the presentation is really neat (goes for the whole series!).
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15. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:308]
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It's all about risk management and tactical assassments.

Evaluate and place a card, draw a card, repeat. That's about it.

Nerve-wrecking.
 
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