By Robert Florence on April 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 pm.
Never let it be said that I don’t listen to feedback. After the first part of my Top 50 list last week, quite a few people asked that I go into a little bit more detail on the games I selected. So, here’s the plan – the week after each part, I’ll do an analysis piece talking about the games that are in the list. That means that this week I’ll be revisiting last week’s video to look at my choices. Next week – the next part of the list. The week after – analysis of THAT part. The video will be for the reveal and the light description, and the follow-up piece will be for more talk about the games. You dig?
Also, I don’t need to be all PG-friendly in these in-between columns, because my wee lassie ain’t directing them. BOOM!
HEY, IT WAS YOUR IDEA.
50-41: The Breakdown
50: CONQUEST OF PLANET EARTH
Okay, son. Okay, baby. I’ve talked about this fun game twice before. Here’s my first take on Conquest of Planet Earth and here is me using the game as an example of when SUPERCOOL stuff happens in a board game.
Conquest is just such a fun, trashy, laugh-filled game. The art is great, in schlocky B-movie sci-fi style, and the plastic stuff is brilliant – well-sculpted little spaceships and robots and monsters. The rules are simple to get straight in your head, and then it’s all about the experience. It’s all about the stories at the table. And I love that kind of game. Sure, that kind of game can sometimes under-perform. Not every game will be a five star classic. But Conquest regularly spins some wild and wacky stuff at you, and has you hooting and hollering like a real old sumbitch. It’s an old-school, delicious dicefest, and that’s why it made it onto my list. Maybe it should be higher. See? I’m doubting myself now.
49: THE DUKE
Okay, kid. Okay, honey. Here’s my review of The Duke – and let me tell you – this is such a great game. From the wooden pieces to the cloth bag to the simple board, the ol’ Duke is a quality product. Here’s why The Duke is so great – if you were to hand the playing pieces from this game to any gamer, they’d probably be able to work out, more or less, how the game works. The movement pattern of every piece is printed on the piece itself. Each piece is two-sided, with a different movement pattern on each side. That must mean they flip, right? Probably after each move, right? Place those bad boys on a grid, and you can logically work out how the game is supposed to work. Could you do that with chess? Hell naw.
The Duke is a super-accessible abstract strategy game that still manages to stay tough and crunchy and fascinating. The game’s a total keeper. If enough people have a chance to play it, it’s the kind of thing that might stay in print forever. Maybe I should have placed it higher.
48: MISSION: RED PLANET
A reprint is coming down the line for this bad boy. That’s the GOOD news. It was a bit of a holy grail game for me for a while. It was out of print, from a designer I LOVED, and it took me some time to find it. I am so glad that I did. In the game you are firing colonists off to Mars in rockets. You have a hand full of characters with special abilities, and these characters can tinker with the rules of the game. They can fuck up your opponents’ plans, if you use them just right. (The Saboteur, for example, can blow up a rocket, killing all on board.) And using stuff “just right” is the tricky part of the game. It’s a game of risk, timing, reward and punishment. Did you hope to blow up that rocket? Too late, it left. Did the Travel Agent arrange for three of your little dudes to blast off? Bad luck, there’s no room on the spaceship.
The card play/character selection is SO TENSE. The area control element of the Mars landing stuff is SO TENSE. The game is SO TENSE. I love it. Maybe I should have placed it higher.
Stop ignoring this game. I mean it. EVERYBODY LISTEN TO ME. Stop ignoring this game. I first mentioned it in this column, where I focused on how effing gorgeous the game effing looks.
See, some people think I don’t like “Eurogames”. Those people are way wrong, as they’ll realise when they see the rest of my Top 50 list. I just tire of Eurogames with boring themes and settings. Trading in the god-damned Renaissance god-damned period. Loading emmereffing boats in the emmereffing Caribbean. Being an amazing ninja invading high security houses during the- WAIT, WHAT? HOLD IT. Yeah, that’s what Ninjato is. A slick, polished, mechanically brilliant action-selection Eurogame with a brilliantly rich setting. You’re not a cube being pushed beside a pile of other cubes. You’re a NINJA, and you’re doing NINJA STUFF. The highlight of the game is the push-your-luck ninja assault stuff, where you tangle with guards as you push further and further into the homes of distinguished Japanese citizens. Get this game. I should have placed it higher, really.
Let me take you BACK IN TIME. Kingsburg is pretty special to me. It was bought for me by a friend. It was a gift. It was one of the first games on my board game shelves in this SECOND ERA of my obsession with this stuff. It was a real eye-opener of a game for all of us who played it. You roll dice and then you DO stuff with those dice? I can put a 6 and a 5 over here, to use the character in THIS spot, and put the 3 here to use THIS character? Or do I put all three dice on this 14 value character here? DECISIONS. Wow. Cool. That core mechanic is BEAUTIFUL, and all these years later it still stands up. It’s still beautiful. It just works. Collect stuff, build buildings, roll dice, choose actions. Perfect.
And what a lovely game it is too. Colourful and light and airy and breezy and essential. Still essential. What I would call a CLASSIC. Should probably be higher.
45: NEXUS OPS
Sometimes, you just need THAT game. You know, that game where you all want to feel like you’re 14 again, and in control of mutants and monsters and dudes with guns. That game where you chuck dice and KILL and KILL and KILL again. And in and out in an hour, easy.
You have a board made up of hexagonal tiles, arranged differently every time you play. These tiles show different types of terrain – terrain will affect movement, combat, everything. In the middle of the board is the monolith – control that sucker and you are on your way to victory. As your units explore the map, you will find additional units or mines that provide “rubium”, the currency used in the game. Rubium will let you churn out more units, and battles will earn you points. You’ll try to complete secret missions for more points. And that’s the game. You and your opponents scurrying across the map, attacking each other, battling over mines and the monolith, until someone takes the big win.
Nexus Ops is just my kind of game. Great combat, a tight map and easily understood objectives. It’s just fun. F U N. That’s it. It should probably be placed higher, to be honest.
I still find it funny that this game is called “TRAINS”. Just TRAINS.
“Hey, what you playin’?”
But TRAINS is what it is. Here’s my review of the game.
If anything, I like it more NOW than I did THEN. Sure, sure, sure, it’s pretty much Dominion with a board. But hey – DOMINION NEEDED A BOARD. And I think the game looks beautiful. I really do. Sometimes I take the game out just to look at the cards. They have that beautiful Japanese Densha De Go! look to them. It’s a quality product for sure. There’s NO WASTE HERE.*
*A joke for people who already own the game.**
**Which should maybe be higher.
By now, everybody knows about Dixit. What more can I say? Let me sling some negatives at you, because all I ever say is positive stuff about this classic.
Real talk – I don’t think Dixit is one of those home-run, slam-dunk, Ric Flair In That Royal Rumble board games. I don’t think it’s a winner every single time. I think, with certain players, Dixit could be a FLOP. If you’re an introvert or not hugely creative (or not comfortable with BEING creative in front of a group) then this game can easily DOIA (Die On Its Arse). And some gamers might find it boring too. “We do what? We look at a fucking picture and do WHAT?” So I’d bear that in mind before you buy this one. There are other games on my list, further up, that are safer bets.
You think you have the right kind of players, though? Prepare for magic.
Another Eurogame. Another interesting setting. The Plague, y’all. The Black Death, kid. The big PLAGITO. The Rat Fever. The Deathly Suck. The Grand Kaputo. The Big Deid.
Call it what you like, there’s something fascinating about a plague. For people like us, privileged arseholes like us, there’s something delicious about the notion of a devastating plague. And Rattus is the game that lets you run from it, spread it, and enjoy it. You choose a role card, use that card’s special ability, shift some tiles and cubes around, and watch as the plague spreads. As the game progresses, rats start to spread fucking EVERYWHERE. Rats appear in areas full of your people, and you’re all like “OH SHIT, WE GONNA GET PLAGUED!” And so you plan to choose a role that can save some of your people, or shift some plague action onto an opponent.
When a plague gets triggered – OH BOY. Sometimes a whole area can be completely wiped out. All those cubes just swished off the board. It’s beautiful. Lovely lovely death. It’s a weird game, because you never directly kill your opponents’ people. You just duck and weave the rats, pushing them around. It’s the RATS that kill your opponents. So there’s never a huge amount of animosity. Just a lot of death. A LOT of death.
It’s a great game. Could have been higher.
41: THUNDER ROAD
Oh man. The highest placing on the first part of my list is good old Thunder Road. I covered it a little bit back here.
It has maybe the best board game cover ever. It’s car combat on an endless post-apocalyptic freeway.
It. Maybe. Should. Have. Been. Higher.
THE REVEAL of 40-31.