"Nobody does it better..."

Now that you’ve all got a James Bond earworm, here’s my question.

Which games from before 2010 do you still believe are the very best examples of what they do, even though newer and prettier examples might have come out since?

It might be a mechanic (e.g. worker placement, rondel, push your luck), a theme brought to life, just something about the game that hasn’t been bettered even though it’s had a chance to be refined.

And more importantly, tell us why you think that’s true.


Container is a magical game for me. Ignorance likely helps, but if there’s a better closed market simulation out there with rules this simple, I don’t know about it. Auctions get nuts by late game.


Hmmm… Tough! Personal opinions incoming!

Forbidden Island For such a tiny tin this game is so easy to teach, and so easy to understand theme of it’s an instant hit with anyone I have played it with. Are there better Co-op games? Yes, but none I can think of that are as portable (damn near indestructable) as this.

Castle Ravenloft will always hold a warm place in my heart. Simple enough for my then 7 year old to play, but interesting enough to get us through the whole box. Great little dungeon crawler. Bettered? Oh yes, Gloomhaven! But Ravenloft is oh so simple… and we just started playing it again!

EDIT: I read this as IN 2010… so feel free to ignore my choices… but I’m sticking with em!


I can only answer this for roleplaying games.

RuneQuest II (1980) was a revelation to me; I had learned D&D, where better armor made it harder to hit you but didn’t protect you from damage, and greater skill at evading blows gave you more hit points but didn’t make you harder to hit, and the RuneQuest mechanics, where skill at Defense made you harder to hit and armor reduced the damage from a blow, just made so much more sense. Gaining increased percentages of skill in different abilities similarly made a lot more sense than class and level. I also liked the way the rules were integrated with the specific world, something that got lost in III. Later versions of Basic Role-Playing also did away with Strike Ranks, which I found a really elegant mechanic, compared to the crude reliance on straight Dex in later versions.

Mage: The Ascension, second edition (1995), offered an interesting philosophical foundation for its world and system, based on radical subjectivism; a really flexible system for improvised freeform magic(k); and the ability for mages to do all kinds of amazing stunts. I thought the revised second edition (2000) made a really serious effort to strip out all the wild and crazy elements that made the original second edition cool, changing the game world from one filled with wonder and terror (ta deina, to put it in Greek) to one where nearly everything was turning to crap. It also simplified the game mechanics, doing away with the distinction between how many dice you rolled (your ability), how high a number you had to roll over (the difficulty of the task), and how many successes you got (the magnitude of your success)—and I had liked that more complex structure.

Big Eyes Small Mouth, second edition (2001) did a great job of capturing, not just anime and anime tropes, but visual storytelling in general; I had happy results with both a Tolkienian campaign and one set on Barrayar, neither of which had anime elements. The root metaphor seemed to me to be “your character is someone who has been drawn in a visually vivid setting and can do whatever can be drawn.” I also liked how well the animistic elements from Japanese culture fit Middle-Earth. When the third edition came out, I felt that it had tried to hard to be customizable to different genres and styles with built-in switches in the rules that made them all but incomprehensible, in contrast to the elegant simplicity of the second edition.emphasized text


I’m not sure how old it is, but Dominion is the best deck builder I’ve played.


That was going to be my answer too, and I’ve played a lot of deckbuilders. It’s clean and fast and it doesn’t add any extra layers of unnecessary randomness on top of the plenty-sufficient randomness of deck order.

To this, I would probably add most of the games in my collection.

Napoleon’s Triumph is the best example of a non-random wargame, perfectly capturing all the drama of Napoleonic combat without any dice or charts.

Galaxy Trucker is the best real-time game out there, with an excellent theme and frantic play and a really high skill element and a ridiculous resolution phase.

Dungeon Lords is the best worker placement, because of the simultaneous resolution with the “second to pick the same spot gets the best result” mechanism, as well as the great theme.

DungeonQuest is the best everybody dies game, because the fights are rock paper scissors and it is just so snappy. At least one of the FFG remakes completely botched this aspect of the game.

Race for the Galaxy is the best fast tableaux builder, with the excellent system of simultaneous phase selection and the way that the cards you want to play are also the currency to play the cards you want to play.

Space Alert is the best coop game, with a great theme and tense real-time puzzling. “No-one wiggled the mouse?” the ship diverts the power from the lights to the corporate sponsor screensaver and the players stumbling in the dark act a moment slower than they intended to.

Through the Ages is the best civilization game, only possibly bettered by itself in the recent update. The lack of a map means everyone borders everyone else and the game can focus on the card drafting.

Twilight Struggle is simply the best two-player game. Still. Hand management, bluffing and suspense make for an intense game of intuiting when to push and where.

Tigris & Euphrates is the best tile-laying game, with really intense and dramatic game-changing moves available to all players. No easy moves at all.


I could answer way more of this for videogames, but I think hobbyist boardgames as a medium have been seriously flowering for less time and I honestly can think of very few games that old that I don’t think at least have newer equals, many of which have been outclassed.

Tales of the Arabian Nights (I dunno, sometime in the 80s?): it has real problems, especially completely unnecessary homo/transphobia and misogyny, and it’s barely a game. But I think its story-and-status structure is barely explored by the medium at large, and the only direct equivalent I am aware of is Agents of SMERSH, which is a bit more of a game and a whole lot less of an experience. For starters, the writing just isn’t as good. There’s even less logic to when skills apply. There’s tons of typographical and other production errors. Etc.

Chaos in the Old World (2009): I won’t swear this is unequaled, but so far it’s still my favorite dudes on a map game and my favorite Eric Lang. And nobody else has the theme of playing Actual Chaos Gods.

Arguably, Agricola (2007): I’ve never played another worker placement game that feels as tight yet varied as this one, and even though the theme is fairly mundane, it’s still probably the strongest theme I’ve encountered as well. I know some people claim other later Uwe Rosenberg designs upstage it (especially Caverna). I can’t comment, I haven’t played anything else he’s made. But it does not appear to me that any of them have the occupation/minor improvement decks, which are the absolute core of Agricola’s appeal for me. And Caverna in particular not only doesn’t vary its closest equivalent from session to session, but adds the huge cognitive load of having all of them available immediately to have to consider.

Race for the Galaxy (2007): I absolutely love the “pick an action and everyone gets to do it but only you get all the benefits” mechanic that’s the core of this game. The use of the same cards you play as a resource for playing them is very clever. It’s just so elegant, so good. And it’s very nearly the only game under an hour that I like enough to be up for playing virtually whenever.

…I only own Chaos in the Old World, of the above. >.>


How easy would this be to play in the forum? :grinning:

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I had considered the same question! I honestly don’t believe it would be difficult but would likely require a moderator, at least to handle bids.

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Also, I have resisted the urge to post Partridge.

I don’t understand the reference

Taking notes furiously…


I have this and Pets both on my wishlist from years ago. I remember at the time people said they were very complicated, do you find that true?

I haven’t played a WP with that “second pick gets best results” mechanic before, it sounds great.




That’s a really good game! Unfortunately the friends I used to play it with are in San Diego, 1700 miles away. It’s not really C’s style of game, and it’s more fun with three or more players. But if I knew local board gamers I might try to find fans of it . . .

I’m sure there are public boardgaming groups in Lawrence – but they may trend towards the college crowd.

I know at least one person in Lawrence travels to Overland Park for TableTop Games and Hobby’s (one of the largest gaming stores in the KC metro area) Boardgame Night because I arranged to meet him there to complete a BGG auction transaction.

Of course, all of that said: none of it’s likely for the next 12+ months

My bar for very complicated is probably higher than for most people =)

Pets is easier to pick up, but Lords is the better game, I think. It is a lot to teach, with understanding the “adventurers come to wreck your dungeon phase” essential to being able to play the building phase, but there are just a lot of things to explain, and it’s an unforgiving game, not a complex one to understand.


FWIW, the app is very good.

The implementation on BoardGameArena seems pretty solid too, at least on the basis of having played it once. (The core game is in its free tier; expansions need a subscriber to set up the game.)

As a nondriver I’m limited in mobility.

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