2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back >> Games Where You Must Yield/Give Ground to Advance
Jay Little
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Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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The idea for this GeekList has been percolating for a while, but I've had a hard time trying to narrow the focus so that the entries I could come up with were consistent. While this GL deals with game mechanics and elements, the actual implementation of this feature can vary quite a bit based on the type of game.

I'm looking for games where you have to "yield" at some point during the game to be able to proceed or succeed. You can't play these games ultra-aggressively or haphazardly -- eventually you need to give ground, pass for a few turns, move backward or do something else that seems counter to the end goal in order to advance.

It may seem kind of hard to gauge what does or doesn't fit here, but hopefully my examples help illustrate the concept. For example, I'm not looking for military games where you simply "bide your time" to surge or strike at a weakened opponent at the right moment... that doesn't quite capture the same flavor as the game element I'm looking for. I'm also not looking for games where you might pass to exchange tiles/cards/options (Scrabble, T&E) but which does't happen often enough to make it a part of each player's experience during each game.

What other games feature this sort of "yielding" game element?
Do these decisions offer more strategy, or restrict your decision making?
Do you enjoy this type of decision in a game?
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1. Board Game: Cartagena [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:845]
Jay Little
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Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Yield Position To: Get more cards

Cartagena is the single best example of this element I can think of. You begin the game with a small handful of cards, and will need many, many more to reach the exit. The only way to gain more cards, however, is to pull your meeples back along the track.

Since Cartagena is essentially a "racing" game where you're trying to get your entire team of pirates to the exit first, having to move some of them away from the exit presents some interesting choices. Knowing when and where to pull your pirates back and yield your position (or which icons to expose to create "potholes" for your opponents) is a key strategy in the game.
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2. Board Game: Marco Polo Expedition [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:3336]
Jay Little
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Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Yield Gold/VP To: Advance Spaces
Yield Turn To: Get more cards

Marco Polo Expedition is also a race game, of sorts, which also requires that you match icons on the spaces to advance. But that's about as close to Cartagena as it gets. Instead of physically moving backward on the track to gain cards, often you'll need to pass for several turns in a row and just draw a card to build up your hand strength. If you find yourself trailing, or there are "gaps" in the path along the way that you can't (or don't want to) fulfill, you can spend 1 Gold (VPs for the game) and move into that space without playing cards.

While this is a "bide your time" game with definite surges of activity, it fits the bill better than a wargame, since there is a very distinct, linear progression along the game board, and a defined end point, making Marco Polo a race game -- wait too long and you may trail by so much that it's nigh impossible to get back into contention.
 
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3. Board Game: Formula Dé [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:577]
Jay Little
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Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Yield Speed/Gear To: Safely navigate corners

Formula De may seem like an odd choice to include here, as you never really pass your turns, move backwards or come to an actual stop, but for me, it does fill the spirit of the GeekList when it comes to risk assessment for taking the corners.

If you try to hit the front end of a 2 stop corner in 4th gear and just fall short, you'll have to consider long and hard about yielding speed and dropping a gear or two so you can safely navigate the corner. Yielding a gear can most certainly have an effect on your position, as other players who hit their stride or play aggressively and roll well can overtake you -- however, remaining ultra-aggressive can have some dire consequences.
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4. Board Game: Condottiere [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:789]
Jay Little
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Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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Yield Combat Value To: Gauge enemy strength

This comes close to contradicting my military game restriction in the intro, but the inclusion of the Crow/Dummy cards in Condottiere make for some very interesting decisions. There may come a point during a large skirmish for territory that you realize you can't win, and want to use those Scarecrow cards to pull back what troops you can, salvaging those cards for use later in the turn.

Alternatively, there may be a point where you want to "test the waters" by cycling between low value cards and Scarecrows to see how your opponents commit their forces, trying to gauge their strength or what other special cards may be up their sleeves -- it can backfire if a player has the Surrender card, but it can put you in a good position to get them to commit a sizable military force, only to nix the entire battle by playing a Bishop card.
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5. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
Ryan McLelland
United States
Draper
Utah
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Power Grid is a game that you have to choose carefully when to slow down and when to go for the kill. The dynamic of going first in certain aspects of the game and last in certain aspects of the game really makes the decision of taking the lead a tough one. You get ahead, make more money, but in turn have to pay more for land and resources. Great game in large part due to this mechanic.
 
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6. Board Game: Hare & Tortoise [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1072]
Lawrence Barry
United States
Rochester Hills
Michigan
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This one can be filed under the "Yield Position To: Get more cards" category. You move backward in order to get more Carrots. Moving forward costs Carrots.
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7. Board Game: Mammoth Hunters [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:3140]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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This was one of the first games that came to mind when I saw the title; players must play cards that benefit others in order to be able to play "selfish" cards.
 
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8. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
MK
United States
Coshocton
OH
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If Mammoth Hunters fits, I'd say this one could fit too. Almost by definition, you cannot play this game aggressively or haphazardly and expect to win - you must carefully calculate what role to take that will give you the most benefit and others the least benefit. But many times you are simply forced to take something that helps everyone - and specifically, at some point you have to choose Craftsman. When you do, you almost never get the benefit of the crafted goods first - someone else gets to grab Trader or Captain before you do. But if you don't craft those goods, you won't have anything to sell or ship. You can wait for someone else to do it only for so long, before it becomes imperative that you take that role (often when it's got cash on it). Same with Mayor - if you want to staff your Factory and generate cash, or get your coffee production going, you're going to have to take Mayor to get the colonists. At the same time, you're likely letting your neighbors staff their harbour, staff their corn plantations, etc. which you'd been hoping to avoid.
 
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9. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:367]
United States
Houston
Texas
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Yield cards to: Change hand order, control planting

There are many times in this game when you must give someone a favorable trade (or even just give them a card) in order to plant more favorable beans the next turn.
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10. Board Game: Friedrich [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:469]
Steve Hope
United States
Woodside
California
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I know it's a "wargame" of sorts, and I haven't played it, but my understanding is that Friedrich plays very much like this. Battles are resolved by cardplay from the hand, and you can stop a battle at any point when you are losing. It is apparently often better to LOSE a battle by an amount you can control than to "shoot your wad" trying to win, only to have your opponent (or another player) take advantage of your bare cupboard to deal your army a devastating defeat.
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11. Board Game: Evo [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:756]
Halloween Jack
Belgium
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You win genes by bidding with your score-points
 
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12. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:306]
M. Shanmugasundaram
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Taj seems like the perfect addition to the list. The entire game is based on yielding. It's a very subtle concept, but it's pervasive.

If you completely yield on your turn, you get a choice pick of cards, plus an extra card. If you yield after bidding, you can walk away with key influence markers, key resources or extra points, or even long-term positional advantage.

Since you can't make the top bid every turn, the entire game revolves around your tactical adroitness w/r/t stepping out of conflicts.
 
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13. Board Game: YINSH [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:131] [Average Rating:7.70 Unranked]
Seth Ben-Ezra
United States
Peoria
Illinois
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In Yinsh, whenever you score a point by forming a line of five markers, you must remove one of your playing pieces from the board. This has massive implications for gameplay, as each point that you score automatically handicaps your ability to move effectively against your opponent. It's a beautiful mechanism, actually.
 
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14. Board Game: Blue Moon [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:877]
Seth Ben-Ezra
United States
Peoria
Illinois
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Blue Moon might also fit here, as an important part of the strategy is knowing when to give up a battle so that you can win the overall war. Skillful yielding is the path to victory.
 
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15. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:217]
Thomas Eager
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Yield: Territory to Gain: a BETTER territory. In Tikal, players may find themselves abandoning earlier low-point temple hexes to seize higher point temples revealed later in the game.
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16. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:709]
Ben Vögel
United States
Golden Valley
Minnesota
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I've been on this site for 15 years now, and I'm far from sick of games, but I think I prefer a better balance of favorites to new games. I'm also tired of playing 4+ hr multiplayer games, but I'll still happily play really long games 2 player.
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Market booths are the key to Hansa.
1) You need plurality in market booths to purchase goods for free. Otherwise you will be paying your opponents or the bank to purchase goods.
2) You need market booths in cities at the end of the game for presence VPs and majority VPs. These VPs are very important.
3) Building and re-building market booth stacks costs goods. These are goods that are a lost opportunity to sell for VPs.

But a market booth chip must be given up on the stack to sell goods for victory points. When you give up a market booth chip, you are either taking yourself out of that city entirely, or reducing your presence - which means you are giving ground in 1) and 2) above.

Balancing all of these concerns and giving ground carefully - while trying to maximize your VP progress for sold goods throughout the game and leaving youself well off for the city scoring VPs at the end of the game - is what make Hansa such a delightful tactical game.

(And what hopefully makes it a good fit for the topic of this list.)
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17. Board Game: Tongiaki: Journey into the Unknown [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:2187]
Dick Hunt
United States
Orlando
Florida
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In Tongiaki, you're playing the part of Polynesian natives, trying to migrate to new islands. But you can't do it without taking your opponents along with you! It's not the number of boats that let you use the higher-numbered sea routes; it's the number of colors in the migrating group of boats! And since every player is a different color, you have to take opponents along with you in order to spread your boats out to more islands.

The trick is trying to kick your foes back off the new island you've just discovered. That's done by forming a migrating group of boats that doesn't include any of your own. Usually, you try to send that group back where yours originally came from, keeping your opponents from gaining any points from this "yo-yo" migration. Tons of fun, and much deeper strategy than you'd expect when you first play the game.
 
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18. Board Game: Goldland [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:1677]
Stven Carlberg
United States
Decatur
Georgia
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In Goldland the game map gets constructed a little at a time by players "exploring" on their turns by adding a square next to the square they're standing on. Some of the squares have prices that must be paid in terms of items in your backpack you have to give up -- for example, to enter a "canyon" square you might have to spend two ropes. Naturally you try to carry extra stuff around so that you're prepared to enter the next square that comes up, but you can't have everything (where would you put it?) and you do wind up frequently spending a turn to retrace your steps to where you can get the stuff into your backpack you need to keep moving forward.

I always quite liked this game! Interestingly, I knew one guy who didn't care for it, and when I asked him why, he would always say, "It just feels like two steps forward, one step back!" As if that were a bad thing!!!
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19. Board Game: ZÈRTZ [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:477] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
Christopher Hinsz
United States
San Jose
California
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I think Zertz would meet your criteria. To really succeed at this game you need to give your opponent balls in order to get balls yourself. In fact you're often giving your opponent 2-3 balls to get 1 ball for yourself.
 
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20. Board Game: Nuts! [Average Rating:4.94 Unranked]
Steffan O'Sullivan
United States
Plymouth
NH
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In this game everyone must go back at one point during the round. The secret is in the timing of it!
 
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21. Board Game: Total Attack!! Soccer [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked]
Steffan O'Sullivan
United States
Plymouth
NH
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I frequently find myself having to pass the ball back to pieces closer to my own goal in order to keep my opponent from tackling.
 
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22. Board Game: En Garde [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1871]
Steffan O'Sullivan
United States
Plymouth
NH
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Anyone who has ever been a fencer knows that you can't win without occasionally backing up!
 
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23. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:698]
Douglas Buel
United States
Hollywood
Florida
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This, for me, is the ultimate "one step back for two steps forward" game. I will move a little bit closer to Sauron (i.e. death) so that we don't suffer that bad event. I will use my cards to keep you alive. I will use up my items to get us out of here. This whole game is about sacrifice.
 
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24. Board Game: Top Race [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1580]
Mike West
United Kingdom
GUILDFORD
SURREY
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Yop race does this really well. At first we played this by trying to get to the front and hold on to win. This invariably never works as you got spun out near the end. The new tactic is to push enemy cars into the lead hoping that they'll be spun off and then charge through the pack at the end to win. Obviously every now and then it backfires, but this definately fits the list as you'll be moving enemy cars forwards almost every turn!
 
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25. Board Game: Genoa [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:497]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Would Traders fit your criteria? Really, this would be for almost any economic game. In ToG, for example, cash is the victory point equivalent - whoever has the most money at the end wins. In order to make money, you have to spend money - you buy things from the bank or from other players.
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