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Going Boardless: Defining a Strategy Card Game (SCG)
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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The idea behind this list to group together all of the boardless card games that in their mechanics actually function more like a strategy boardgame. Let's call them Strategy Card Games (SCG) for the sake of having a name. So what defines a game as strictly a card game versus a card game that for all intensive purposes plays like a board game? And how do you define games in the gray area between the two?

First of all, how am I defining a boardless card game? Basically, any game that uses cards as its primary component and does not have a central board where actions take place. The game may have other components such as tokens, dice, scoring tracks, player mats, etc. The game may actually have a physical board as well, as long as the board is superfluous to the overall design or solely acts as a way to track game states (Through the Ages or St. Petersburg are good examples of this). In addition, the mechanics of the game should involve heavy use of the cards (they should not be peripheral to the design).

I have created the following categorizations to gain insight into this question and provide a means to classify card games into one of the following 5 levels.

Level 1 - Traditional Card Games - Level 1 is set aside for all traditional card games such as Bridge, UNO, Hearts, Poker, etc. There is no confusing this type of game for a board game, pure and simple. Primary mechanics for this group include trick-taking, climbing, set collection, and betting/wagering. Also any party-style games that use cards would fall here.

Level 2 - Light SCG - Level 2 comprises the multitude of take-that style or light card games. For example, a game such as Bang!, Kung Fu Fighting, or the Mystery Rummy series. This group provides only a vague feel of playing a board game, rather it feels more like a card game with interactive possibilities. Primary mechanics for this group are set collection and hand management.

Level 3 - Medium SCG - Level 3 indicates games that somewhat match the feel of a strategy board game, but fall short in some form or fashion. They feel more involved than a card game using such mechanics as auction/bidding and dice rolling as well as those used in levels 1 and 2. These games tend to be medium in weight. An example of a medium SCG would be Citadels or Boomtown.

Level 4 - Heavy SCG - Level 4 are the card games that involve all the deeper mechanics of strategic board games such as variable play order, variable player powers, card drafting, action point allowance as well as those used in earlier groups. This group tends to offer a heavier and more strategic experience than those games in level 3. An example would be Through the Ages.

Level 5 - Imitation Boardgames - Level 5 is reserved for those games that incorporate movement or pick-up and deliver aspects into a card game setting. This might be accomplished by having the cards act as locations that player's visit. In this way, players feel like they are playing a boardgame even though there is no actual board.

Ignoring Level 1, I have categorized the games that I have played based on the above scale. If I felt that a game does not squarely fit in any one category - I used a 1/2 rating. I have listed several other SCGs that I have not played. Please supply a ranking based on the supplied scale if you have played the game.

Last Updated: October 16th. Based on received additions and ratings - I have reordered the list. I will continue to reorder the list as more comments come in.

Thanks for your contributions to this list.
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1. Board Game: Up Front [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:196]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Hand Management, Campaign/Battle Card Driven

SCG rating: 5
 
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2. Board Game: Caylus Magna Carta [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:438]
 
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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The card game version of Caylus.

SCG rating: 5
 
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3. Board Game: Dungeoneer: Tomb of the Lich Lord [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:1965]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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The Dungeoneer games use cards to create a map on which players move around. There is strategy involved with the peril/glory system.

SCG rating: 5
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4. Board Game: Plunder [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:2598]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Similar in nature to Dungeoneer, except players are pirates navigating their ship across cards that make up the map.

SCG rating: 5
 
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5. Board Game: Before the Wind [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1077]
 
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Pick-up and Deliver, Card Drafting

SCG rating: 5
 
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6. Board Game: King of the Elves [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:1921]
Paul
United States
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This is the card version of Elfenland. You use the cards to build a landscape for the players to travel around.

SCG Rating: 5
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7. Board Game: HellRail: Third Perdition [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:3851]
Angela Lammers
United States
Sheboygan
Wisconsin
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Cards as locations and as tracks, plus pick-up-and-deliver.

SGG=5
 
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8. Board Game: Im Auftrag des Königs [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:3961]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Card Drafting, Set Collection

SCG rating: 5
 
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9. Board Game: Ice Pirates of Harbour Grace [Average Rating:5.80 Unranked]
Founding Fathers: try your hand at being President.
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The cards are used to form the map on which pickups and delivers occur.

SCG rating: 5
 
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10. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:4]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Action Point Allowance System, Card Drafting

SCG rating: 4.5
 
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11. Board Game: Battleground: Fantasy Warfare [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1083] [Average Rating:7.01 Unranked]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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This game does for 2-p fantasy warfare, what Dungeoneer does for dungeon crawls. Cards act as miniatures and players use them to maneuver, fight, and track info. No board required.

SCG rating: 4.5
 
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12. Board Game: Nature of the Beast: Farm vs. Forest [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:4443]
Teh Slipperboy

Allen Park
Michigan
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I think this one and the related City vs. Suburbs game would rate about a 4.5 on the scale. The expandable game involves variable powers, deck construction and movement through different vectors associated with each card.
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13. Board Game: Meuterer [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:521]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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The board is constructed in a circle with cards. Based on reading about this game it appears to have a high strategic content.

SCG rating: 4
 
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14. Board Game: Verräter [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:902]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Cousin german game to Meuterer with similar components/mechanics. Why have these not been reprinted?

SCG rating: 4
 
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15. Board Game: Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:2354]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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The card game version of Tigris & Euphrates.

SCG rating: 4
 
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16. Board Game: Blue vs. Gray [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1998]
terry chilvers
Australia
Osborne Park
Western Australia
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At least level 4 - cards form the map, control events and are used to describe the command structure of the armies
 
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17. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:181]
Alex Wiebe
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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Clearly we need to fit this in here somewhere. Personally I'm having trouble deciding if it's a 3 or 4... maybe 3.5? What do people think?
 
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18. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:160]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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A card game adaption of Puerto Rico, San Juan has a high level of strategy for a game with no central board. It accomplishes this by having the cards used for multiple purposes.

SCG rating: 3.5

 
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19. Board Game: Catan Card Game [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:530]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Trading, Hand Management, Card Drafting

SCG rating: 3.5
 
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20. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:214]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Citadels is an obvious inclusion. Each player is selecting roles, earning gold, purchasing districts, and building their own city with cards. Aside from having no central area of action, the game still evokes a boardgame feel. The take that aspects are manageable.

SCG rating: 3
 
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21. Board Game: Jambo [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:325] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Another 2-p card game with CCG like mechanics. The use of tokens adds to the feel of playing a board game and there is quite a bit of strategy in this one.

SCG rating: 3
 
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22. Board Game: Roma [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:577] [Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Another 2-p in the vein of Battle Line, but the use of dice and more options give it more of a feel of a board game. On the other hand, there is more luck which lowers the strategic feel a bit.

SCG rating: 3
 
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23. Board Game: Odin's Ravens [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:784]
Paul
United States
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You use the cards to build a changing landscape for the ravens to travel across.

SCG Rating: 5
 
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24. Board Game: Boomtown [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:989]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Boomtown would certainly apply here. It combines card drafting with auctions and dice rolling for a strategic experience without use of a board. The use of the mayor tokens and the dice give it a higher board game feel.

SCG rating: 3
 
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25. Board Game: Funny Friends [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1194]
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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Auction/Bidding, Card Drafting, Hand Management, Role Playing

SCG rating: 3
 
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