Punchboard Media: The Big List of Games
Brandon Kempf of What Did You Play This Week here. As a member of Punchboard Media there are a lot of perks. The biggest one is the wide variety of people that I get to interact with on a day to day basis as a part of this wonderful network, and the ability to gain insight from them about life and gaming. Everyone is unique and in board gaming this is clearly evident by the plethora of game styles and just number of games in general. As the board gaming community grows more diverse, our styles of gameplay and our games that we play become more diverse as well. So what I am doing with this project is that I want to highlight what our friends and colleagues here at Punchboard Media feel are games that are essential to them, games that they feel are important enough to share with you, the reader and feel that you should play at some point in your gaming life.
The project itself was brought up after a conversation with friend Chris Wray, who writes both for What Did You Play This Week and the wonderful Opinionated Gamers website. A couple years ago over on the OG website, all the writers contributed games that they felt were important enough to them that everyone should play them, 138 Games. Now, they did a lot more curating of their list than I am planning on doing, I want to highlight each person's choices, I don’t want to not include titles someone picked just because others have not played it as I feel that is kind of what this list is supposed to be highlighting, we want everyone to play these games, us included.
We’re going to start a bit easy here -- we've gotta warm up a bit, right? Some of the games you're going to see in these articles you'll likely already have played, and while you may love them or hate them, just know that someone at Punchboard Media thought of that game enough to consider it a necessity. I would love to encourage some discussion about these articles, and our comments section on each posting is a wonderful place to do that. But note, just because you haven’t seen your favorite game yet, doesn’t mean it’s not coming, there are going to be a lot of these entries to go through and there is no better time than now to get started.
Ticket to Ride, published in 2004, designed by Alan Moon
(Nominated by Chris Wray)
Chris Wray (WDYPTW): Ticket to Ride is the most famous creation of legendary designer Alan R. Moon. In this cross-country train adventure, players compete to connect different cities by laying claim to railway routes. The game is set collection to the core, but the real goal of the game is to place track and complete “destination tickets” connecting various cities, while avoiding being blocked. The game can be expanded with dozens of different maps, taking players on adventures through four continents and dozens of countries.
As I wrote a few years ago Ticket to Ride is beautiful in its simplicity. It is a game that virtually anyone can learn — there aren’t many rules, and the ones the game does have are intuitive — yet there is enough depth here for both non-gamers and gamers alike. Ticket to Ride is a versatile game, one that fits in a variety of gaming situations, everything from a family game night to a tournament setting. Throw in the amazing production value — beautiful artwork and plastic train pieces — and it is easy to see why Alan Moon’s most famous design is so beloved.
I — and many in our hobby — consider it the greatest family game ever created.
Brandon Kempf (WDYPTW): There is something about trains makes board gamers just go crazy. Ticket to Ride is a perfect example of this notion. The game is a wonderfully easy to teach gateway game that does a fantastic job of introducing new board gamers to set collection and route building in the simplest of ways. There is nothing fancy here, on your turn you draw cards or you lay track building routes trying to connect the cities on your tickets in the most efficient way possible so you can score more points than your railroad baron wannabe friends. The ease of teaching and the interactive nature of the game made it an instant hit that just kept growing in stature and in expansions.
Charles Hasegawa (Things of No Interest): I think the reason behind the success of Ticket to Ride lies in how low the barrier to entry is - you can learn the game in minutes from someone that has played and/or from reading the one page of instructions. Despite the simplicity of the game mechanics, the game itself still offers interesting choices for the players, which makes it great for both gamers and their non-gamer friends and family. And that’s the beauty of the game - mass appeal. Rarely can a game check off all those boxes. In fact, the game only really adds any modicum of complexity once you start exploring the expansions or map sets. Even then, they too follow the same model by not overwhelming players with a large number of changes. But those small changes make the game interesting in whole new ways while still being familiar.
Marti Wormuth (Open Seat Gaming): Ticket to Ride: Europe was one of the first games that I was taught when I was starting to dip my toes into the hobby, and, even with the “advanced” rules that are in the Europe edition, I understood what was going on fairly quickly. And I think that this is one of the things that makes Ticket to Ride as a system really appealing. You start with base Ticket to Ride, which is very straightforward - and it has the 1910 expansion, which adds more destination cards (and gives you bigger destination cards to replace the ones in the base game, thank goodness). But, once you start getting into more “gateway plus” games, you’ll find that there is a Ticket to Ride game that fits how you want to play it. The base is so simple, but Days of Wonder has made it into a whole series, and that’s why even the base game is so loved and well-regarded.
Links to Reviews for Ticket to Ride
Isle of Skye, published in 2015, designed by Alexander Pfister
(Nominated by Joe Sallen)
Joe Sallen (GBU): Whiskey and Sheep on your own Scottish Isle. Need I say more? Isle of Skye features a player-determined economy and pairs it with a tile-laying system full of interesting decisions. Each game will have different scoring goals that are well-communicated, making it at once extremely robust while still easy to learn with a lightning quick play time.
Brandon Kempf (WDYPTW): Isle of Skye is a throwback game of sorts, designed by Alexander Pfister and published in 2015, it feels like it could have been a much older game. Complexity wise, Isle of Skye is a fairly easy game to teach and learn, the rules are straight forward, but Isle of Skye teaches something very valuable in board gaming, and that is the art of valuation. In a round of Isle of Skye each player will draw three tiles. You are going to choose one to get rid of, and then you are going to put a value on the other two knowing that if you value it too high, you will be stuck paying for it, and if you value it too low, it’ll be purchased instantly and you will not make much money off of the sale and thus limit your buying options. You have to keenly be aware of everything that is going on in the game at all times, what your opponents are building, what is going to score this round and so on. It makes for a wonderfully interactive and interesting game. Personally, this is my favorite Pfister game, by far.
Links to Reviews for Isle of Skye