Topic of the Week: Your Jam

First things first: What jam is the best jam!?

Second, I’m going to ask you to look at your favorite 5, or 10, or 20 games and take a thought to what are the unifying factors? What is the mechanic, or theme, or element that characterizes your pantheon?

I ask because this thought recently flitted through my head and the resulting answer was not what I expected.

Third, as mentioned elsewhere, I’m not going to be putting up topics for a bit. Maybe four weeks. Maybe eight. I’m just not at a computer frequently enough and when I am there’s a fast run of things to get done. I’ll likely tag @Yashima to moderate while I’m silent. Or we can call it a summer hiatus.


Apricot jam for me: I know, boring. I do like other jams more but for brief periods of time (I get tired of them) but apricot jam is always second best.

For me, my jam in games is theme, theme, and more theme. Well implemented theme is something that definitely overrides all my favourite games. That why Brass: Lancs beats any other bland Euro to me, with Pillars of the Earth being the lower denominator for “beigeness” I can put up with.


I was surprised to see the dominant thread was “mind games.” Not, like, overt bluffing where it’s a “mechanic,” but more circular game theory where every move has a countermove and your objective is to guess where the wheel of fortune is going to stop. And put your peg one step further down. I get a real thrill from anticipating opponents and guessing right. And I think I enjoy guessing wrong, too? Either way.

Race for the Galaxy has the simultaneous role selection and piggy backing.
A lot of this feeds into auctions (but only some kinds of auctions) or worker placement where you are trying to anticipate how valuable something is to someone. Keyflower, Isle of Skye, Agricola, Cyclades.
Coup, Air Land & Sea, Flamme Rouge, Jaipur. LOTR: The Confrontation. El Grande. It’s a pretty bright thread.

I also seem to like spatial puzzles and/or area influence. I say “influence” because control is too overt. I like Neuroshima Hex, Samurai, or Tigris where you are often “attacking” empty space, trying to divide someone’s attention or imbalance the efficiency of moves. Again, it puts a psychological edge onto an otherwise mathematical puzzle.

I would have thought, before thinking, “engine building,” which I do love. But that alone isn’t enough, it appears.

I also rate laughter highly. If a game can make me laugh until I cry, consistently - 5 stars. (Anomia, Eat Poop You Cat/Telestrations, One Night Ultimate Werewolf…)


Strawberry preserves.

I am what Rahdo would call a “Care Bear.” I am fine with multi-player solitaire and indirect interaction. I like being able to focus on a specific strategy but knowing I may have to change if the card draw, player interference, or other factors block my “plan A.”


Raspberry conserve.

4 main themes seem to come up:

Map Adventure - Eldritch Horror, Fortune and Glory, LotR: Journeys in Middle Earth
Nature theme - Cascadia, Earth, Forests of Pangaia, Parks
Worker Placement - Viticulture, Everdell, Obsession
Abstract 2-player - Santorini, SHŌBU, Lost Cities

In games, like in life, I can’t pick just one theme :slight_smile:


The chilli jam my wife made once. Gorgeous.

I think I’ve said before that I became a racing game guy more or less by accident, what with Rallyman (+ GT + Dirt) and Flamme Rouge and Automobiles and Steampunk Rally and Lemmnge and… there’s competition but most of the time you’re not directly going after the other players.

I’ll do direct conflict games but they aren’t really my thing most of the time (but then, Ashes, Netrunner…)

I’m a sucker for a big map (Firefly, Xia, A Touch of Evil).


For me I think almost all of it is informed by the other player I will play with most. But there are some specific qualities that hang high in the things that do work

  1. can I be arsed to explain the full rule set. Sometimes I just dread speaking for an hour and knowing that the other person is struggling with this with their glazed look. I don’t like listening to anyone for more than ten minutes (unless it’s a good story) so that kind of infliction is something I have low tolerance for. I don’t see this as a fault of anyone to be honest. With this in mind I like games where you can do a thing fairly easily and perhaps teach as you play.

  2. stuff with no text. Point 1) above can be mitigated but sometimes it’s done by cheating and all the rules are secretly just spread across a million cards. Take something like Mind Bug which is notionally simple but also asks you to learn a bunch of keywords. Nope. For some reason low text suggests to me a limit on complexity spread across space but I don’t think that’s always true (eg burgundy’s appendix of special powers)

  3. there has to be a chance to feel cool or the game has to be funny. In fact when it feels like everyone can potentially troll the other person that’s usually good. This requires everyone participating to be able to grok rules and game state pretty easily but also be able to instigate the situations in which trolling can happen. I think Azul is my go to here but even Burgundy has this.

  4. co ops have kind of died for me.


Raspberry jam is definitely my preserve of choice, although (the right sort of) marmalade, lemon curd or marmite also make ideal toast toppings.

Among my games collection and favourite titles, the most common mechanic is worker placement and the most common “theme” is horror although, off the top of head, I don’t think I have any games that span both: suggestions for such a mash-up are most welcome. A major requirement for my recent collection though is that a game is playable solo, as the chances of playing games with others has greatly diminished for the foreseeable future.


I don‘t eat jam. At all. It‘s weird. Why cook up perfectly good fruit with tons of sugar? There‘s already Nutella (et al). Nuts with sugar are fine.

So looking at games I find particularly satisfying there are several trends. So my perfect game made up of these trends has:

  • tons of different cards, each one unique. The source of this particular „jam“ is M:tG and it is found in games like Spirit Island, Gloomhaven, Terraforming Mars and Ark Nova and all those deckbuilders I like.
  • combos all day long (also MtG): Daybreak has the combos down like few other games I own. Tash Kalar does this. Most of those „lots of cards“ games do combos quite well.
  • „character“ development: the source being my love for RPGs. This is is shown in various ways by Spirit Island, Beyond the Sun, Gloomhaven and Terra Mystica. Sometimes as a literal character sometimes by the abilities you gain throughout the game. Deck building qualifies yet again.
  • space. My love for all things Science Fiction extends to boardgames obviously. Outer Rim, Leaving Earth, Beyond the Sun, Terraforming Mars all qualify.
  • Building „stuff“ especially with tiles. I really like games where I can build something for example the landscapes in Cascadia, the city in Oranienburger Kanal, Terra Mystica lets me build on the board, Carcassonne is the obvious one. Sprawlopolis and its siblings are in this category. Factory Funner.
  • Stories. I like games that let me tell people a story about how the game went. We‘ve discussed this about Oath before—I am part of the faction that says Oath let‘s me tell stories about a magnificent White Horse. So is Pax Pamir. And Daybreak. Today we lost a game of Daybreak because I—as China—decided to only take 2 of the 3 refugee communities that were trying to flee the upheaval caused by catastrophes in the Majority World. I could have taken another but didn‘t because I was being egotistical and kept back so I would have more funding for new projects in the next round even though I knew we would achieve drawdown easily and I wouldn‘t need the project card.
  • Associations and patterns (combos are also patterns). This is something I just enjoy in general. Finding patterns associating things with each other. Dixit does it, as does Codenames. But also Tash Kalar again. Deduction games like Cryptid qualify and lots of party games. This might even explain why I like polyominoes. They are patterns that need to be fit together just so. Route building is nothing but finding a connecting pattern…

I could probably fit every single one into the associations and patterns category somehow—except space. That‘s just my favorite theme.

Now I can explain why a game like Imperium:Classics is fun. I have a set of very unique cards for each civ. I am building up the landscapes and cities of the civ. I acquire new abilities, I need to combo those so I can win… there are even Martians for a dash of space-spice.


Pre XX century it was an easy way to sort of enjoy fruit out of season, I guess…?

PS: By the way, your perfect game looks like something I would buy. In concept, at least.


The underlying jam/preserve from my collection is: ‘the thing that you do on your turn feels like the thing the game supposes you’re doing’.


I have abstained from jam overall. I often have eggs with my bread.

My top games are pretty much Shared incentives - common space or games with very high interaction.


I forgot jam. I tend to say blueberry - for pie and jam - after a handful of amazing blueberry products. However, whenever I go back to that well, it’s just not as good. I think I had one amazing exemplar rather than categorically loving it.

What’s in my fridge is a melange of strawberry, raspberry, redcurrant, and cherry. That seems to knock it out of the park.

Side note: is “What’s your jam” an Americanism or do the British speakers use it too?

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I’ve heard it before, although I only qualify as living in Britain for 16 years…

I’ve heard more: What’s your poison? for what’s your drink of choice (albeit tea or coffee)


Does marmalade count? That would be it for me.


Came back to say everyone’s missing out on marmalade :slight_smile:


Oh no next some Aussie’s going to get on about marmite.


Only to tell us how inferior it is to Vegemite :laughing:


Raspberry, strawberry and marmalade are all fantastic.

However, I’m a huge fan of chutney - spiced apple, tomato and chilli, picalilli, onion marmalade etc.

I’d say I like games that are quick to teach with plenty of interaction.

However Great Western Trail and Race for the Galaxy would suggest otherwise!

Games that play well with different player counts matter to me; 2-5 is probably the sweet spot.

My top 20 is all over the place so it’s hard to pull themes together.

I like games with cards!


Boardgaming Jam:
I’m biulding something, and afterwards can go: look what I built! Double bonus points if it tells some weird narrative, not with writing on cards, but just in the way we talk about it.