The Zen 10
These are the
ten twelve fifteen games I'd keep from my collection if I were required to pare it down for some unholy reason. This is a desert island exercise (granted one that maroons friends and acquaintances in addition to myself) to build an affordable game collection that emphasizes versatility, replayability, games for all occassions and tastes.
- Ticket to Ride Europe w. India/Switzerland expansion
set collection - a gateway game with so much depth
- Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers - tile laying - all ages, again with much depth
- Agricola - worker placement - infinite replay value, heavy, intricate
- Pandemic - the king of co-op's - for elegance of design, in my mind the Mona Lisa of game design
- Augustus - risk management - fast and light, slightly longer than a filler
- Heat - a quick and social card drafter (substitute Sushi Go for more traditional card drafting)
- Deep Sea Adventure - push your luck - quick, light but tactical (for an equally raucous dice chucker, substitute King of Tokyo)
- Firefly: The Game - ameritrash - long play, so much theme you forget it's pick-up and deliver
- Concordia - a thinky euro - smooth playing, sophisticated
- Ventura - 4X with a euro bent - underrated
- Mysterium - another co-op - for right-brained intuitive players intimidated by strategy games
- Garbage Day - a dexterity game with some game
- The Castles of Burgundy - another tight euro - excellent for two
- Love Letter - deduction – I was wrong, this is the Mona Lisa of gaming (Pandemic is The Last Supper), a quick filler
- The Resistance - bluffing - for large groups, highly social, for parties
Also note, this is not a shopping list. It's a meditation on my game collection, an examination of the classic categories of board games, and a jumping off point for others curious about the wide range of games out there now. Hop on over to BGG to learn more about these games and others similar to them to see if they'd suit you. I've also linked to my short reviews where they exist.
That being said, as of September 2015, this collection could be purchased from Amazon.com for approximately US$467.
If that sounds like a lot, remember how many plays come out of each game box, and how much fun each play involves. If one play of a game is equivalent to a night at the movies for four people (2 hours of fun for approximately $48 sans popcorn), this collection will pay for itself (in entertainment value) before you get a chance to play each game once. If you typically go to the movies once a month and decide to game instead of keeping up with the blockbusters, this collection will pay for itself (in actual money) in less than a year.
This collection is not only affordable, it's also compact — an often overlooked but important quality for any collection. It includes only 5 full sized boxes (if you re-box Augustus), 4 medium boxes, and 6 small (some very small) boxes. It could conceivably be packed in a couple pieces of luggage so that you'd actually have these games with you when your plane crashes and strands you in some deserted place!
In 2014, the Dice Tower, a popular collective of game reviewers, surveyed over 2000 of their viewers about their favourite games for their People's Choice Top 20 Games of All Time episode. I'm glad to report that 8 of those games are in the Zen 10. Here's that list:
- King of Tokyo
- Ticket to Ride
- Dominion - deck builder - the granddaddy of that genre
- Lords of Waterdeep - worker placement - medium weight
- 7 Wonders - card drafting - fun but with little player interaction
- Eldritch Horror - ameritrash, co-op
- Small World - area control - refreshingly light for this category
- Cosmic Encounter - negotiation
- Power Grid - economic
- Love Letter
- The Castles of Burgundy
- Android: Netrunner - living card game
- The Resistance
- Robinson Crusoe - co-op - difficult to beat
- Race for the Galaxy - engine builder - has a steep learning curve
- Descent 2 - dungeon crawler
- Caverna - worker placement - Agricola 2.0