What makes a game rate a 10 for me...
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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For a long time, I defined my 10 rating as my single favorite game. I've since relented slightly, and define it as my favorite games; still 10 ratings account for only slightly more than 1% of the total number of games I've rated.

I have expectations with a 10 rating - I try to play every game I rate a 10 (or 9) every year, and have been succeeding at this quest the past three. I generally won't give a 10 rating to a game I've played less than 10 times; one of the hallmarks of a 10 rating, in my mind, is durability. And I won't give a 10 rating to a game that doesn't stand out prominently for me in some way - there are many games I own and enjoy, such as Vinci, that I can't imagine giving a 10 rating to because they aren't the best of their type, or have subtle flaws or mismatches to my tastes.

So, then - why I find these games worthy of a 10 rating...

(Just because I think it's interesting, I've put this list in rank order. I'm clearly on my own, or nearly so, in support of some of these games...)
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1. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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While I've playtested many games (247 at present count), there's only one that I rate a 10 - Race for the Galaxy. Now, that's not entirely fair - I don't rate a game 10 without playing it a fair bit (typically ten times or more), and won't rate my own designs, both of which cut the pool of candidates significantly. But still, even in that pool, RftG stands out.

So what makes it a ten for me? The variety of decision (no shock there) and the ability to control one's actions. Knowing that I can always Settle if I want is very reassuring - I can look for ways to take advantage of what the other players wish to do and to prevent them from taking advantage of my choices, without the worry that someone else will eliminate the choice I wish to make. Add in tons of paths to victory and the ability to play in 30 minutes or less, and it's an easy addition to this list.
 
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2. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I was reluctant to try Euphrat & Tigris right away, because I'd heard so many positive things about it that I was concerned it would disappoint. I need not have worried. Euphrat & Tigris does the best job of any game I've seen at visually showing the rise and fall of civilizations and the effects of conflict, while strongly rewarding good play without eliminating luck elements. In general, I enjoy games that provide the players with difficulties to overcome above and beyond each other; E&T does a wonderful job of this, and the best players I've seen are those who are best at using the tiles they've received.

Note: I prefer to play E&T with open scoring whenever I can. Having said that, I have good groups to do so with; if I didn't, I might feel differently.
 
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3. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:124] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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For the better part of a decade, Alan Moon designed games that were almost, but not quite, entirely not to my taste. In 2003 this started to change - I enjoyed New England quite a bit, and found (and still find) King Lui to be brilliant. That still didn't prepare me for Ticket To Ride, which I think is a wonderful game. While it's certainly sufficiently different from Santa Fe to stand on its own, in some sense it's the ultimate realization of the ideas Alan first found published in that game. Focusing the game on building routes and finishing tickets rather than on claiming cities simplified the system tremendously, without detracting from the experience; in fact, just the opposite, it made the game feel closer to its theme. I've only played Europe once so far, but it seems to add just a bit to an already wonderful game.
 
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4. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:229]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Saint Petersburg surprised me. I enjoyed my first play some, even though we goofed a rule or two. My second play didn't really give me a hint as to the game's real strength. It wasn't really until my sixth play or so, when I was on a 4 game losing streak and doing worse every game, that I really fell in love with the game. Since then, I've gotten much better at it, though still by no means great. I think what makes the game work for me is the seeming simplicity of the tradeoffs crossed with the nasty hand management issues and complexities of money management. I've heard the game suggested as a good travel option, and I can see that; I'm quite tempted to buy an extra copy and make a decent box for just such a purpose.
 
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5. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Die Siedler von Catan was my introduction to German games; it's the first German game I owned (a birthday gift from my parents; my father bought a copy in England when he was there on business), and a game I've spent more time playing than nearly any other over the past decade. And while none of the expansions or offshoots has fully captured my heart, I still love to play the original game. The things that made it feel so innovative then may feel dated now, but the game remains very involving and intuitive; it's still among my first thoughts for someone new to German games. In many ways, my well-worn, pre-SdJ franckh edition is the jewel of my gaming collection.
 
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6. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:366]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I'm a sucker for good trading games. Which is odd, since I don't care for negotiation games very much. I guess trading goods just interests me moreso than arguing over boundaries...

Bohnanza earns its 10 on my list by combining trading with a strong hand management element. It also one of the few games I've actively collected expansions for; I've played all of those I own save for Dschinges Bohn and Telebohn, and while only High Bohn has stood out enough to really earn repeated play, they've all been pleasant takes on the system, and I'd be happy to play any of them again - including poor La Isla Bohnita, which I rather enjoyed even if no one else seems to have.
 
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7. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:489]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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The ultimate four player trick taking card game. While I have played many games many times over the past decade, I have played no game nearly so often as Bridge, have read far fewer books about any game than Bridge, and have spent far less time thinking about any game than Bridge. And for all that, I'm not a good Bridge player - I've never played duplicate, and like to psyche at a frequency that would drive many partners to distraction. But the game fascinates me - in particular, the mechanism by which squeezes work. Bridge also offers an element of limited communication, a mechanism I particularly enjoy and wish were more heavily utilized.
 
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8. Board Game: La Città [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:554]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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La Città was a game I was reluctant to play for a while, because the game seemed to be lasting _forever_. When I finally tried it, and discovered that it need not last longer than ~25 minutes/player, I was hooked. I particularly enjoy the balance between desire to grow and ability to feed, the small random element of the voice of the people, and the civilization building aspects of the game; I also really enjoy how economically limiting the game is, and the consequences of these limitations.
 
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9. Board Game: Jenseits von Theben [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:1941]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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The first game to be added to my list of 10s since Saint Petersburg, Jenseits von Theben arrived there slowly in no small part due to the fact that I didn't own a copy for quite a while. Since acquiring one late last year, I've been able to get in sufficient play for the game to rise to a 10 for me; it's still going up. I love how well the mechanisms of the game convey the theme, and have come to actually view as very positive the luck of the draw in the game - it's an archeological dig, after all. Luck may make the difference between winning and losing, but enjoyment of the game has nothing to do with luck.

Side note - this makes the 3rd game released in 2004 I rate a 10, tying 2004 with 1997 for having the most 10 rated games for me.
 
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10. Board Game: Fresh Fish [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1998]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Expropriation. Not the most common game element, but the one that drives Frisch Fisch onto this list for me. Visualizing road building in Frisch Fisch is difficult, but really enjoyable, in no small part because there's typically too much to track to consider all possibilities. I'm particularly impressed by how simple the rules are - usually, such complex effects require complex rules. Friedemann managed the trick with just two.

Note: We always play Frisch Fisch with money as a tiebreaker only, rather than subtracting it from scores. This has the effect of making auctions much more dynamic. The game is still quite good without the change, but for me at least that change is a necessary element of the 10 rating.
 
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11. Board Game: Bargain Hunter [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:2057]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Just as Bridge is my trick-taking game of choice with four players, Schnäppchen Jagd is my choice with three. (FWIW, with five the answer is Mü; with other numbers there no game I'm sufficiently fond of to stand out so well.) Never having appeared in an English edition, Schnäppchen Jagd isn't nearly so well known as Bohnanza, but in my opinion is every bit its equal. New ground is broken in the world of trick-taking games with the introduction of the collection of one type of card, and setting aside of others for later disposal. While not as deep a game as Bridge, by any stretch, Schnäppchen Jagd has the advantage of ready familiarity; by the end of a player's first game she usually has a more coherent strategy for her next play - and in my experience, the desire to get to the next play soon.
 
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12. Board Game: 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:2623]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I learned the 18xx system in 1995, and have been enjoying it ever since. Unlike many 18xx players, however, I'm not exclusively or primarily an 18xx or train game player. I'm also not enamoured with the whole of the series, but instead have found favorites I return to and others I avoid. Among the games in the series I've played, 2038 is simply the most enjoyable. I'm not particularly good at the game - among other things, I enjoy running corporations too much to resist the lure of opening corporations when I can - but love the changes Tom has made to the general system, and their effects. Drawing tiles at random prevents the predictable openings of some 18xx games, and injects a bit of welcome randomness into the system. At the same time, it's not too much randomness; even the worst tile draw can be made useful by an active corporation owner. That, in turn, leads to the most important element of the game in terms of my enjoyment - corporations have things to do. In 1830, corporations really only need to worry about trains and the occasional mountain. In 2038, to be efficient companies must build bases, refueling stations, and make claims, in addition to watching ships and using pilots effectively. Combining these effects raises 2038 to the top of the 18xx crowd for me.
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13. Board Game: Freight Train [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:3196]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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This game was described to me as a version of Get the Goods / Reibach & Co. with more choices; the description was dead-on, and the result was me discovering one of my very favorite games. What makes the game really stand out for me is the number of choices presented to the player - a common element on this list. Freight Train offers players a wide range of choices every turn, which from my point of view is ideal - while I'm sure I make some of them incorrectly, so will everyone else, such that the game resolves around making best, rather than optimal, use of one's choices while having lots of things to do rather than simply repeating the same action over and over.
 
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14. Board Game: Res Publica [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:4197]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Res Publica has the strictest rules of any trading game I play around how offers can be made and countered. This has the effect of emphasizing the limited communication aspects, and forces players to both pay attention and be creative in making unappealing counter-offers. Of course, I was fortunate to discover the game back in the Hexagames edition, upgrading to the Queen edition when it became available; I've now played with the Avalanche version, and while it worked it definitely detracted from the experience. While all games - even those among my favorites - are best when played with the right crowd, Res Publica in particular needs to be played with a group who understands the need to trade, particularly when you're getting the better end of it.
 
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15. Board Game: Advanced Civilization [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Most of my 10 rated games I've discovered since 1995. Civilization (and Advanced Civilization) is a notable exception. While I've sold of or otherwise disposed of most of the long games in my collection, I still make time for Civilization. Some of this is undoubtedly nostalgia, but I wouldn't devote 8+ hours to the game purely for that reason. The growth of civilizations, the need to effectively deal with neighbors and calamities, the trading element, and the ability to effect things within the game make it a clear winner for me. Using my happiness metric (hours spent playing the game times (rating-5)), Advanced Civilization places 8th since 1996.
 
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