Charles' Top 20 Favourites
Charles F.
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As I've now rated well above hundred games and played a good many more, I feel it is now time to figure out which happen to be among my top 20 favourites.

As you may gather, I'm particularly fond of heavyweight eurogames, but also enjoy wargames and lighter fare.

My rating presents - much as the BGG rating guidelines - a mix of my esteem for the design as well of my own personal enjoyment of playing it.

While I doubt there are many eurogames out there which might yet make it onto this list, my card- and wargaming gaming experience is far more limited. Those titles I haven't yet played, but are fairly likely to feature on this list once I do, are indicated further below.

[13/06/2005]
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1. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:501]
Charles F.
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Diplomacy...

...isn't merely a game, but a whole game genre - and for some, such as me, a hobby. Its elegant mechanics, sophistication, negotiation and large dose of psychology amply justify its status as an enduring classic alongside Chess and Go.

There are literally hundreds of variants. The Standard map is excellent, but I'll argue that the 1900 variant yet surpasses it. Anyone into Diplomacy, owes himself checking out 1900.

That said, Diplomacy isn't for everyone. (But then, Chess isn't either). For the full experience, you have to have the right sort of players.
 
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2. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:135]
Charles F.
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Hannibal...

...happens to be my favorite wargame. Simple. Balanced. Lots of excitement and dramatic turns of events. Remarkably successful portrayal of the 2nd Punic War.

Some people object to the battle cards. I think they're great! I wish that some day some newer CDG titles will also employ this mechanism.

A great introduction to wargaming, which nonetheless makes veterans coming back for more.
 
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3. Board Game: In the Shadow of the Emperor [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:838]
Charles F.
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In the Shadow of the Emperor's...

...clever mechanics do a marvelous job in bringing the turbulent politics of the post-Staufer Medieval Holy Roman Empire to life in which the power of the Emperor was waning, whilst the electors and princes (Landesfürsten) became ever more powerful. Dynastic politics became the primary concern of both the current emperor and his grandees - at the expense of the ideals of the Holy Roman Empire.

Im Schatten des Kaisers offers a multitude of subtle balances and numerous viable and equally attractive routes to victory.

The game's elegance is compelling. There is no dice or card luck. Further, apart from the VP scores, players have perfect information. What is more, dynastic politics, marriages & all, are good fun. We always get to have our laughs.

This game belongs into the Pantheon of German gamers' games alongside El Grande, Puerto Rico and Euphrat & Tigris. And as far as I'm concerned, it deserves the place of honour.
 
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4. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
Charles F.
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El Grande...

...offers a lot of tactical and strategic depth for its swiftly explained rules. Kramer's influential masterpiece has inspired many other designs belonging to the shared area control genre.

The game's two major expansions further add a lot of twists and flavour (Großinquisitor & Kolonien) and increase control as well as strategic depth (König & Intrigant). Indeed, K&I strikes me as a mandatory expansion for anyone who's already once played the game.
 
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5. Board Game: Friedrich [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:469]
Charles F.
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Friedrich...

...is one of the most innovative designs to have been published these past few years. Its German elegance and simplicity is compelling, while delivering a remarkably convincing portrayal of the Seven Years War. Much as the pioneering We the People, I trust this will give birth to a whole new sub-genre.
 
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6. Board Game: You're Bluffing! [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1249]
Charles F.
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Kuhhandel...

...isn't merely my favourite auction game, but also my prefered choice to play with friends & family. Therefore, it amply deserves its high ranking, though it does presents a departure from what I otherwise enjoy most.
 
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7. Board Game: Princes of the Renaissance [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:585]
Charles F.
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Princes of the Renaissance...

...definitely oozes the popular Italian Renaissance theme. Its multiple paths to victory remind me of Puerto Rico, yet the whole condotierre soldiering and rise and decline of rival cities happens to be more exciting and immersive IMO. My favourite Martin Wallace. And that's saying a lot!
 
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8. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:416] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Charles F.
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Chess...

...my dutiful nod to the King's game. It had to feature somewhere on this list.
 
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9. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:114]
Charles F.
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Age of Steam...

...is generally considered Martin Wallace's masterpiece. Tile laying, tight money management, logistics, technological advances and competition for various privileges all combine into what is a challenging train game without excessive rules or playtime. 18xx for the 21st century gamer.
 
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10. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Charles F.
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Euphrat & Tigris...

...talking of masterpieces, this rightly is considered to be the one of prolific designer Reiner Knizia.

Not only does it offer a good helping of strategic options, but it also manages to portray the essence of the rise and fall of Mesopotamia's proud empires.
 
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11. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:100]
Charles F.
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Paths of Glory...

...ought to really feature further up on this list, were it not for the severe historical deficiences veteran PoGers exploit with wildly ahistorical strategies. Fortunately these problems are easily remedied by the means of variant rules.

In any case, PoG is one of the most exciting wargames out there and has been stunningly successful in proving that WWI isn't in the least boring to play out.
 
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12. Board Game: Struggle of Empires [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:328]
Charles F.
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Struggle of Empires...

...must be my favourite among the multiplayer empire-building games. Relatively short, very reflective of 18th century power rivalry and cleverly avoids the kingmaker problem which happens to plague many other games belonging to this category.
 
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13. Board Game: War of the Ring (First Edition) [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:82]
Charles F.
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War of the Ring...

...does a marvelous job in portraying its subject matter. A truly innovative and brilliant design well deserving of all the praise. Not a case of undeserved franchise hype.

Let it also be said that the game is by no means broken. This game is well balanced and robust and hasn't fallen victim to "perfect plans".
 
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14. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:119]
Charles F.
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Tichu...

...is my favourite classic-style cardgame, which always sees me calling for "one more play".
 
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15. Board Game: Kahuna [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:913]
Charles F.
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Kahuna...

...offers a quick yet tough 2-player gaming experience I thoroughly enjoy.
 
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16. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Charles F.
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Puerto Rico...

...is arguably the greatest common denominator on BGG. Deservedly so. Its elegance and depth make it an absolute winner. Yet it's not quite a perfect design, IMO, since some of the buildings don't deliver quite the bang for the buck I believe they ought to, e.g. the university. Better to replace it with the library from the expansion set.
 
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17. Board Game: Kremlin [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:853]
Charles F.
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Kremlin...

...what a wonderful goofy game about climbing the poltical ladder! True, one might well win without being present at the table, but so what? Experience is everything!
 
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18. Board Game: Dream Factory [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:575]
Charles F.
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Traumfabrik...

...is my favourite of Knizia's auction series. The theme simply rocks and makes the experience most enjoyable and accessible. RA might have more strategic subtlety and Modern Art more in the way of psychology (can't find anything much to like about Medici, I'm afraid), but grabbing those Oscars for my latest epic blockbuster movie just ensures that Traumfabrik wins the day.
 
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19. Board Game: Britannia [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:541]
Charles F.
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Britannia...

...is a wonderful tour-de-force through early British history. While it is long, it does offer tremendous epic playing quality. May the Picts reign supreme!
 
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20. Board Game: Die Macher [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:185]
Charles F.
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Die Macher...

...does a remarkably good job of portraying German party politics. While it might not be quite as streamlined as the game might have been if designed in 2005, this important design remains an enduring German classic.

Now that Schröder has de facto called for early elections, I expect we'll be playing this a good deal in the weeks before September 18. I'm looking forward to whacking PDS commies and Green whackos!
 
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