Games I Probably Shouldn’t Buy

I’m constantly on the lookout for games to read about, to purchase, and yes…to even play. Many games are totally misaligned with my tastes, others look interesting but I can’t see myself owning them, others are a great fit and I put them on my want list immediately, and still others look so tantalizing, have high ratings, and yet, I just can’t bring myself to buy them…or should I.

Die Macher
Okay, the theme doesn’t grab me. Controlling the national political parties of Germany through seven sequential political races sounds darned dry. The weight of gameplay is a rotund 4.4 with a length of play stretching past four hours which means it would probably take about three weeks for my group to finish a game. It’s just been reprinted and is widely available for less than $30 at Game Surplus…and it’s the 8th highest rated game on the geek at 8.18 out of 10. My collector gene wants to get it simply for its status as a classic but I know I’d never play it with my group. With Die Macher, the urge to buy is pretty low and I’m okay with not having a copy gathering dust on my shelf. A classic game, held high by those that love heavy games, but this one is not for me.

A Game of Thrones
Weighing in at a hefty 3.44, this game for 3-5 players lasts about three hours and depicts a medieval world of political intrigue as players vie for dominance over the land. The game uses a cornucopia of mechanisms including simultaneous action selection (one of my favorites), variable player powers, auction/bidding, area movement, and campaign/battle cards. As if that’s not enough, the game borders on being uncategorizable falling into the bluffing, negotiation, wargame, medieval, political, and novel-based categories.At first blush, I’d discount the game as a total misalignment like Die Macher but the theme is one I enjoy. I have a hard time putting down historical fiction set in the medieval time period and this game, coupled with what appears to be superb production quality makes me wonder. Now, would it ever get played in my group? Not on your life.

I’m not a wargamer but some wargames appeal to me in spirit and in looks. I have to admit Friedrich has been on my radar for quite a long time but like Die Macher, I just can’t ever see finding anyone to play it with. The game has a unique aspect where one player plays Prussia and the rest play Russia, France, and Austria. It’s an all against one game trying to defeat Prussia. From the geek, the game presents itself with a slim set of rules (for this genre of games at least) uniting standard wargame mechanics and cardplay.Friedrich’s is of lighter weight than Die Macher at 3.35 and it does clock in at taking slightly less time (3.5 hours) but those numbers would do little to encourage it to see the light of day at any table in my house. I suspect I’m being suckered in by the wooden bits and the great map art but it makes no sense to purchase it and then have it sit on the shelf.

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
Weighing in at 3.24, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage is held up by the wargame community on the geek as being the game to have in your collection. It’s ranked a whopping 8.2 and takes about 2.5 hours to play. The game uses a card-based system to decide the victor in the struggle between Hannibal and the Roman Empire in 200 B.C.This two-person, head-to-head game sounds like something Days of Wonder would produce a plastic miniature game system for but alas this game has been around a long time and was out of print for years. However, Valley Games recently announced that a reprint was in the works and the game with new artwork will be on the shelves in the not to distant future.

Would one or two people in my group be up for a lengthy head to head game? I doubt it.

Hammer of the Scots
Weighing in at 3.07 and at two hours, Hammer of the Scots is another two-player wargame retaining a high 7.89 rating on the geek. HotS, a ‘block’ wargame depicting the rebellion of William Wallace (Braveheart), is held up as one of the top, if not the most playable block wargame. The rule book is only 8 pages, slimmer than some heavier Eurogames!I’m very inclined to purchase this game to have at least one good block wargame in my collection. I’ve read many historical fiction novels set in this time period and I can easily see myself immersing myself in the theme (well , as much as one does in a boardgame). This game seems to have it all including the ‘fog of war’ where your opponent doesn’t necessarily know who their up against since units are drawn randomly from a supply and their type and therefore their abilities for attack and defense are known initially to only one player.

Would others in my group player HotS? If coaxed enough…then maybe. I’m tempted to place this one in my next order regardless.

Bonaparte at Marengo
Okay…I’ve cheated a little bit here because I actually own this title. Has it ever been played? Unfortunately no, it has not. BaM is of a higher weight than Hammer of the Scots and is, by most, considered a more cerebral experience than other games in its class garnering the title of the “chess of wargames”.The game depicts the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte as he was taken by surprise and attacked by the Austrian army near the town of Marengo.

The game plays in about two hours and uses a unique blending of action point allowance with the advancement of time ticking away the rounds of the game adding realism from the actual battle. The fog of war exists in much the same fashion as Hammer of the Scots but there are no card-driven mechanics that add random elements to the game. The game is truly a battle of wits for two.

I must admit I purchased the game on hype, or rather I put the game on my wishlist and my wife gave it to me as a Christmas gift in 2005. Earlier in the year, I had been walking through the Origins conference floor and back in the corner I stumbled across a thin man at a booth hawking his wares. As it turns out, I had been granted a quick run through of the game from a 50,000 foot view by the designer Bowen Simmons. After some investigation into the game that evening, I thought I’d give it a shot.

…and there it sits gathering dust. But I really want to play it and I’ve almost convinced one of my group members to give it a shot at an upcoming extended gaming retreat I’m planning.

Age of Steam
Age of Steam is an older (2002) game for 3-6 players. Train game aficionados are passionate about their games much like wargamers and the geek is rife with different factions sparring over what is and what is not a train game. The closest thing to a train game that I have in my collection is Stephenson’s Rocket (Reiner Knizia) which is not even considered a train game by those that know since it doesn’t involve the shipping of goods to increase wealth. I inflicted Stephenson’s Rocket (purported to be in the process of being reprinted) on my group two or three years ago and haven’t been able to convince them to try it again.Weighing in at a belt snapping 4.0, the game is considered complex. Money is tight throughout the entire game of two or more hours and players are challenged from many different angles in a intricate balance between wealth and resources. Age of Steam rates an amazing 8.07 on the geek and many hold it up as the only game they’d retain on their shelf if they were forced to liquidate their collection.

However, even being that good, would it get played in my group? Maybe once, maybe twice at most but reluctantly. Even being the best in its class…it doesn’t make sense to own this title.

This tile laying game looks similar to Java but plays in what appears to be half the time. It’s got exploration, tile laying, territory building, and a modular board. The game supports 2-4 players, weighs in at 2.32 and is ranked 7.16 on the geek. With playtime at only 40 minutes…my gosh what’s not to like about this game? GameSurplus doesn’t list it but it looks like you can preorder it from ThoughtHammer for less than $20.Hmmm…

And now for something completely different. Fjords is at the complete other end of the spectrum from the previous games. Nonetheless, it’s still on my radar screen as a good game for two. It seems silly to not pull the trigger on this one. At $13 at Game Surplus I should just get an order together and throw this in to fill in the empty spots in the box.I’m a sucker for tile laying games and when you slap that together with an area control game, nice wooden bits, and a short play time I think you’ve got a winner for the family, the office, and as a filler for game night. This one is definitely going into my next order.

Trias is a light (2.46) game for 2-5 players that rates a 6.86 on the geek. This tile and card-based offering depicts the rise and fall of dinosaurs on an ever changing Pangaea. Being a fan of Carolus Magnus, the modular board is what caught my eye initially. The direct confrontation might be a little bit of a sour note in my group as some of the members tend to feel picked on a bit.With a playing time of only 45 minutes and currently listed for only $16 at Game Surplus, it seems silly to not throw this one in the cart as well.

Tal der Könige
Okay…I’ll grant you that this one is a little silly but the woodworker in me just screams out to own it. The game is fairly meaty clocking in at 3.2, mid-to-highly ranked at 6.89, supports 2-4 players, and is over in about an hour. The game involves an auction/bidding mechanism to build pyramids and to garner control over them but the look of it…my gosh is it ever beautiful. I can see myself even building a coffee table with the game board inlaid into the top and the bits stored in drawers underneath.Unfortunately, the game is out of print and runs at least $50 plus shipping on the open market. Would it get played…maybe…but who cares; I want it! Maybe I should go ahead with the coffee table idea. I have been getting the urge to build something again…

El Caballero
El Caballero is one of those games that I’ve had blinking on my radar for years now. If I’m not mistaken, it’s been out of print ever since I go into boardgaming some six years ago. The game, as you can tell, involves laying tiles in an exploration theme but it’s my understanding that the theme has little to do with this quite cerebral abstract. The game is the brainchild of Wolfgang Kramer (6-Nimmt!, El Grande, Gulo Gulo, Hacienda, Die Händler, Maharaja, Mexica, Tikal, Torres, Java, …) and Richard Ulrich (El Grande, Die Händler, Princes of Florence) and was tagged as the sequel to El Grande but I really can’t see the resemblance.For a tile laying game, you wouldn’t expect the brain burning 3.37 weight stamp but there you have it. The 6.82 rated offering supports 2-4 players and takes about 90 minutes so would my group give it a shot? I suspect they would but I have a few reservations: price and analysis paralysis. This out of print title runs about $50 in the marketplace and the brain burning choices will cause it to be played at a snails pace sucking all of the fun right out of it. Although I’d like to have it…I doubt it would get played.

All images by BGG

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