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Games with a broad strategic horizon
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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There's an important quality to almost all the games the grip me deeply. I'm not sure if I can put my finger on it exactly, but it's a feeling I get about certain games. I call it having a broad strategic horizon. It sorta means a few different things to me:

1. That there are many deeply different strategic possibilities - that the game is deeply open to different *styles* of play. I don't just mean that different little combinations or opening sequences - I don't mean, like, that there's "corn strategy" or "captain strategy" or something little like that. I mean that there's a real choice between playing aggressively and playing defensively, between playing opportunistically and playing with some big plan in mind.

2. Which brings up one of the most important things: these games are one where you can pull of grand schemes. Where there's not just turn-by-turn maximization of points, but where, if you wish, you can plot and occasionally pull of some *plan*, that takes, like, half or all the game to come together.

I don't just mean that you have to have some kind of long-term strategy and stick to it. I mean where you can come up, creatively, with some really interesting long-term plan and *force it upon the other players*. Where, if you play right, where you can *rule the board*.

I guess I mean - it's not just where you need a long-term strategy. It's where you can manipulate the shape of the whole game - engineering conflicts, or manipulating the market price, or whatever, for that spectacular payoff at the end. These are games where there's a lot of room for creativity.

So this is a list of games that I think have that property, and of my first, fumbling attempts to explain *why* they have this property.
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1. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:49]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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El Grande is the first game that comes to mind. A lot of people think this is a wholly tactical, wholly short-term game. I think they're wrong. People get the mistaken impression because unlike, say, Puerto Rico, the options you have for maneuver in each term aren't fixed and preset. This is a game, I think, where long term planning meets the vicissitudes of each turn's available actions, where good players have both the ability to concoct a long-term plan, and the adaptability to fit that plan to the options for every turn.

But it's a game that allows and encourages for strategic play for a number of reasons:

1. I think most importantly, *moving pieces is really hard*. The game board is relatively static, and changes on the board take place relatively slowly. This means the results of early-game choices linger for the rest of the game. When you commit to an area, you're frequently committed there for a long, long time. If you can get your opponents to commit to an area where you want them to commit (like where you're not) then it's going to stay that way.

2. There's the possibility of gambits which control the flow of the game in a big way. I mean, like, gaining control of the king and shaping where people end up putting their pieces. You can create conflicts between people, you can force certain areas to explode at certain times.

One beautiful king movement in the middle of the game, and everything can change the way you want it to change.

I win a lot at this game, and I barely do any math. Mostly I just engineer conflicts between my opponents, I use the king to shape the board so that I'm hard to attack.
 
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2. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:247]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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Taj Mahal is far more obvious about its broad strategic horizon - it's the other prime Eurogame game of long term plans meeting the vicissitudes of the current turn.

It's a beautiful game. The structure of the scoring requires that you create a long term plan - you win big when you concentrate in a particular area. You can see what order everybody's going to hit the various provinces. And then it's that beautiful, strange struggle to try to keep your plan afloat - to vaguely keep track of who's collecting what, of where they're likely going to try to play big, of what you have to get, of who you can play off against each other, of when you need to rest and recuperate your resources and when you have to win.

This is why this game gives me the shakes. This game *forces* you to creat a long-term vision, lets you have some power over the other players, and then just pummels your long-term vision from every corner until you want to die.

But if you actually fend off all attackers and do your thang and get it, get that last rice and ride down the road to glory... ain't it the best feeling in the world?
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3. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:220]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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A lot of my favorite auction games (like Ra), are pretty short-term and opportunistic. You have to adapt some sort of strategy, but mostly it's a matter of valuation and tactical cleverness. Modern Art is spectacularly different, I think because it's one of the few games that:

1. gives the players near complete control of when certain objects are auctioned.
2. gives the players a lot of those items at the beginning, and let's them hold those items from round to round, if they wish.
3. The way the market interacts with itself - the way artists that have been valuable in the past make for greater value in the future.

So you can really manipulate the market for a big payoff in the final round. If you can keep pumping one artist up early in the game, and hang onto some of those cards, you can make a freakin' mint late in the game selling them. Or buying a few, and then selling the rest, and play both sides of the market.

I love manipulating the market.

Interestingly, I feel there's more manipulatory possibilities here than in Acquire.
 
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4. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:102]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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Go, of course, is the epitome of having a broad strategic horizon. There is, for example, a style of play where you play *big* - where you cede lots of small territories on the sides, letting yourself accumulate lots of walls pointed towards the center, and then suddenly you *go for it* and try to take over the whole center.

One of the major go players who advocated this style (which is very against the predominate traditional Japanese style, which is oriented towards tactically tight corner-battles), said, basically, "I play go for the pleasure and beauty of it, not necessarily to win every time. Playing on the grand scale is the most exciting, beautiful way of playing the game."
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5. Board Game: Princes of the Renaissance [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:495]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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Another great game for this is Princes of the Renaissance.

This is because the game lives and dies on the relationships between people - between who's invested in what, and when people have reason to cooperate.

Because the game is open enough that it allows players to finesse moves that encourage particular changes in these relationships - because you can have some control over who has shared interests and who doesn't - if you're sharp, you can control the shape of the game.
 
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6. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:10]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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WHAT DOESN'T HAVE IT

Of courses, purely tactical games don't have it. But I want to consider some more interesting cases.

Puerto Rico I think of as the primary example of a game that has lots of room for long-term strategies, but doesn't have this magical quality that I'm addicted to, of having huge strategic *possibility*. I think it's because there's not enough possibility in the scope of actions. In El Grande, you can pull of *beautiful* moves. The system is open enough for that. You can suddenly put the king in a certain location and now everybody is stuck over there, and...

In Puerto Rico, the system is too... tight. And interaction is lower, and along very constrained lines. Puerto Rico always struck me as a game high on careful analysis, and low on grand-scale, creative strategic opportunity.

The short way of putting it is: I've seen very clever moves in Puerto Rico, but I've never seen a flabbergastingly beautiful move, like I have in El Grande and Taj Mahal.

I think it's a tendency of games where everybody is playing on their own little board to discourage grand-scale strategic possibility. You have to be able to manipulate the other players for this sort of maneuvering, and that tends to happen when you're all on the same board.
 
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7. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:90]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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WHAT ALSO DOESN'T HAVE IT

Goa doesn't have it either. It's from a family of what Rick Heli calls "games of logistical fine-tuning." There is, of course, long term strategy - max out one of your facets, and then... etc. etc. etc. It's a game about efficiency, and making each move make your engine that much more efficient. The system, I think, is, again, one where you don't have a lot of power over your opponent's little machine (other than taking away what he needs for it), and where the machines are too... focused... to allow for really creative play.

There's quite a bit of strategy here. You have to keep in mind what you're opponent is doing, long term, and block it, etc. etc. But it's not as strategically... open and full of possibility as the games above.

When I finish a game of Goa, I may think that I played a lot of good moves; but I don't think I'm ever like, "and then the *coolest* thing happened... there was this *brilliant* move!"
 
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8. Board Game: The Bridges of Shangri-La [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1047]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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WHAT ALSO DOESN'T HAVE IT

Games that are wholly analytic, with a small number of options - minimalist abstract games - tend not to have a big strategic horizon. A lot of the Schact and Colvini games go here. The difference between a game like Bridges of Shangri La and a game like Go is that you can calculate as far as you can calculate in Bridges, and then... that's it. Beyond that there's a veil of darkness. In Go and Chess, there's a space you can see beyond the edge of pure calulation, where different moves have different powers - you don't know where you'll use them yet, but it has a strategic meaning.

The more puzzle-like an abstract game, the more you're restricted only to pure analytic number-crunching look ahead, the less broad the strategic horizon. The less puzzle-like, the more you can just make a move that has a meaning, where you can make a move that's simply aggressive, or inquisitive, that leans in a certain long-term strategic direction.
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9. Board Game: Pizarro & Co. [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1580]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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LATE ADDITION: THIS ONE HAS IT

A subtler game for the broad strategic horizon, and again a game that achieves it with a certain well-placed static-ness.

You're bidding on 6 different explorers, on being the person to invest in them. There are three rounds, and you have to have bid into an explorer on the first round to be able to bid on them in later rounds. And the number of people that can invest in an explorer narrows each round.

What does this do? It quickly turns the game into a series of specific contests between specific people. So, neatly, you can start figuring out things like - "i'll have to fight this person here and here, but not fight that person, so if I can somehow make it so *those* two fight first then maybe they'll exhaust they're resources before they get to my fight..." (A similar sequence of specific fights comes up in Taj Mahal, it's much more explicit here.) Every first round sets up a different set of relationships that you can, later, maneuver around and manipulate.

This game isn't nearly as broad as El Grande or Taj, but it's surprisingly broad given how constrained the actions seem to be - bidding on 6 figures, and nothing else.
 
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10. Board Game: Mare Nostrum: Mythology Expansion [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Philip Thomas
United Kingdom
London
London
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I would say Mare Nostrum qualifies, especially with the Mythology expansion. While you do have to react to circumstance, particularly which country you are, the Heroes and Wonders allow plenty of scope for cunning strategems and combinations. If you play with the optional win condition (3 roles is a win), then preparing to seize all 3 roles in one round can be an exercise in finesse and deceit of considerable skill. Broader matters, such as economy vs military, short-term advantage of a god vs long-term of a more permanent item, are also present.
 
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11. Board Game: Die Macher [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:143]
Ray
United States
Carpentersville
Illinois
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So many different ways to build your hand to change those parties...
 
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12. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:384] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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You missed the 'other' grand daddy of all strategy games. Go might be the deepest game I have played or maybe the deepest game out there?, but chess is one of the all-time great games for strategy.

Quote:
1. That there are many deeply different strategic possibilities - that the game is deeply open to different *styles* of play. I mean that there's a real choice between playing aggressively and playing defensively, between playing opportunistically and playing with some big plan in mind.


There are books of different strategies for this game, I have only scratched the surface and I think I know 20 different strategies, there must be 200 or more good ones.

Quote:
2. Which brings up one of the most important things: these games are one where you can pull of grand schemes. Where there's not just turn-by-turn maximization of points, but where, if you wish, you can plot and occasionally pull of some *plan*, that takes, like, half or all the game to come together.


Most definitely, half the game, the whole game.

Quote:
I don't just mean that you have to have some kind of long-term strategy and stick to it. I mean where you can come up, creatively, with some really interesting long-term plan and *force it upon the other players*. Where, if you play right, where you can *rule the board*.


Absolutely no question

Quote:
I guess I mean - it's not just where you need a long-term strategy. It's where you can manipulate the shape of the whole game - engineering conflicts, or manipulating the market price, or whatever, for that spectacular payoff at the end. These are games where there's a lot of room for creativity.


This is THE strategy game in my mind. I mentioned there are books on different strategies, some are short term and some will take the whole game. To be exceptional good at chess you have to be able to think probably 20 or far more moves ahead on top of that, this is where I get beat by veterans but nothing practice and some reading couldn't change.

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13. Board Game: Dungeon Twister [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:680]
Houserule Jay
Canada
Mississauga
Ontario
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Here is another great strategy game. Some say deeper than chess, I think there very well may be more move possibilites. I am still very early into playing this game but it has become a strategy favourite. Adding the expansion will add even more strategic options in your overall game plan as there will be more choices. This is another you where have to think very far ahead to be able to play well. Long and short term strategy it is all here in spades. Some very brillant moves can be engineered and pulled off in this game, not for the faint of heart.
 
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14. Board Game: Shogi [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:981]
Eliot Hemingway
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Everything that was said for Chess also applies for Shogi, except that draws are less common and the first move is a much smaller advantage than in Chess. The board is larger but because of the drop mechanism a tactical skirmish on one side of the board may have huge effects on the situation on the other side of the board. Shogi also has a very effective handicap system.

In other words, it's like Chess but has a better chance of rewarding the better player. I can't think of any higher praise to give a game than that.
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15. Board Game: Liberté [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:591]
Mark Aldridge
United States
Moore
Oklahoma
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It does seem to me that Liberte is an obvious addition. There is an apparent amount of chaos during the game, but I wouldn't say it was any more chaotic that Taj Mahal can appear to the neophyte. Just the other day, I play playing Liberte with some friends. One person started with some strong blue personalities and had a few good draws and took a steady and strong lead in VPs while a second was getting poor personality draws but was mopping up with the battle box and had a strong hold on second with the possibility to catch up with the right plays. However, myself and two others, who were all getting smoked in VPs, started making some hinting moves. For example, myself and one opponent both had 3 block personalities for the Paris region, and we both knew we had the card (we both played in Paris the last turn and neither of us advanced). He took the initiative to play the reds in other provinces and let me have Paris. Along with the help of the other friend getting pummelled in VPs, we pulled up a radical landslide. The player that ceded Paris won in a very close race (all three of us TIED for number of red blocks, *amazing*)
 
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16. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:144] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Zachary Woolever
United States
Unspecified
Illinois
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I feel Magic has a large amount of strategy in building your deck i enjoy it more trying to make a deck than i do playing the game.
The only limitations really are ones you would put on youurself.
The game may cost a bit and if you want to see your strategy come to life you might spend a pretty penny.
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17. Board Game: MarraCash [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:1483]
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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Is it nutty to nominate this? The rules are so simple -- you get two choices per turn. Move and move, or auction and auction, or move and then auction. That's it.

But each game of MarraCash I have ever played has had a fundamentally different character, and each time it's because the play of a particular player has transformed the feel of the game.

In the last game, one player employed a highly manipulative strategy of aggressively non-bidding in the auctions. The rest of us were picking up shops cheap, but we didn't adjust to his ways quickly enough. Driving down our cash reserves, he swooped in and scooped up some key yellow shops for a song late in the game. The endgame was a fury -- the rest of us should have switched to commission-hunting earlier, but we failed to grasp the implications of his strategy. And in the rush of end-game profit-making, there was no catching him. So now we have a new set of things to ponder before the next game begins. . .

Yet I have had other games feel ever so different, stately, gradual, even quiet, because of the choices players were making.

Obviously this game does not have the breadth and scope of available moves that does El Grande. But it does allow each player to try to nudge the game into a different style -- aggressive vs passive bidding, cooperative vs each-for-himself movement, vs confrontational, defensive movement. And the beauty of it is that there's no one best way to win. You have to adjust to the new things your opponent is hurling at you.

To me, this one seems like it qualifies, but feel free to delete if you disagree.
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18. Board Game: Reef Encounter [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:419]
Chester
United States
Temple
Texas
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Reef Encounter HAS IT, I believe.

One big aspect of the game is timing. You have enormous flexibility in your approach to growing/attacking and harvesting coral. But each player can also have influence on triggering one of a variety of endgame conditions...which also impacts everyone else. So you wind up having a beautiful opportunity turn the cogs of a machine which loads a spring - your scoring opportunity. You can hide your intentions (and retain flexibility) or you can try to blitz some quick scoring chances. Once you've scored, you can also influence the value of your points "in the bank".

What I'm trying to say is that the array of choices is mindboggling in a way similar to El Grande.
 
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19. Board Game: Totaler Krieg! [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:2046]
Victarus Magnus
United States
Stevens Point
Wisconsin
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Perhaps other "grand-scale" wargames have this, but Totaler Kreig! is the one that I've played thus far that fits into the list's theme the best.

Even assuming that the Standard Campaign is played (rather than the random, which of course invites a greater variety), there are several long-term effects that must be taken into account with every move made. At least for Germany (the primary controler in terms of the game's general direction), if not for the other powers to a lesser degree, a plan is made with the first deployment of units concerning the course of the entire game should all go perfectly.
A picture of the perfect situation is made in the mind of the Axis player - a swift victory in Poland and France, an Axis Spain and Italy fighting alongside Germany to boot the Allies out of the Mediterranean, and a strong Northern thrust in the Soviet Union to a swift victory.
The Perfect Plan is toned down slightly to avoid overextending limited resources - a contingency plan if Spain remains neutral, a little pressure applied on Romania so more forces can be diverted north should Leningrad hold out, and holding back the Luftwafe for one turn in case the Allies decide to attack in France instead of in Egypt. A bit of waste is accepted - unused support, armies and Option Cards - in favor of not having the plan turn to mud.

And then the unthinkable happens. You are caught off guard, something occuring that you did not (and could not) plan for. Perhaps the Allies invaded Normandie prior to West Africa, leaving a smattering of second-line divisions to defend the Reich until forces can be diverted from other fronts. Perhaps the advance towards Moscow is slow and the Soviets are granted a respite to rebuild during the winter before you can continue. Perhaps a luckly roll has Greece joining you without struggle, throwing plans of invasion to the wind but granting more divisions to work with (although not likely positioned perfectly). Perhaps France fell especially quickly and England simply screams out to be occupied, costing resources from later planned struggles but taking you multiple steps closer to Victory. Perhaps the Northern Soviet Union is heavily fortified and the Ukraine left relatively undefended, making a Southern Thrust more strategically sound.
Regardless of for good or ill, the Plan must change. Any player who goes into a game like this with a static plan will lose, as will any who simply grabs whatever opportunities he can without planning ahead on how he will use them. Granted there are bits of math to get the odds of combat *just* right, but all the victories in the world count for nothing if the armies that fought them cannot get back in time to defend Berlin.
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20. Board Game: 1856 [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:737]
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
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The class of 18XX games fit your description more than any other set of games I know of. Each game consists of many phases: the searly game, the begining of the train rush, the middle of the train rush, possibly the second train rush, the token war (which can cover several phases), holdings consolidation, etc, and the number and variety of potential approaches as well as the depth of planning that can be done is simply massive.
 
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21. Board Game: Torres [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:362]
Martin Deslauriers
Canada
Montreal
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I'm pretty sure that this game is a good example
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22. Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:42]
Matt Epp
Canada
Winnipeg
Manitoba
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This game has what I consider to be a good balance between opportunistic play and long term planning. Just about any style of play can lead you to victory. Although some styles of play arguable suit some races better than others. You plan carefully how to complete your secret objective while looking for means to immediately claim the public objectives. Through the use of bribes, political rhetoric, action cards, and strategy cards, you can really turn the tide and manipulate the play of others around you. And after the game everyone discusses they're moments of strength and weakness. What they could've done, should've done, and were going to do if only they had one more turn. A lot of people say it's 'broken' and that 'if you can't play it out of the box, it's not worth my time'. That's quitter talk, get off your lazy butt and tinker a little. This game can really be anything you want it to be.
 
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23. Board Game: Fifth Avenue [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:3309]
Steve Perucca
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
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Deep strategy in this one!

Let that player put out businesses; I'll just take the necessary cards to win the skyscraper auctions. Move those commissioners to prevent players from big scorings. Fill Central Park with only 1 or 2 business types when your opponent is building there. Bid low when you know your opponent doesn't have the right cards. Bid high and put a stoppage to that one district others have strived earnestly to build, and score regardless of your lack of skyscrapers. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I think this game is often overlooked because of the complexity and broadness of the strategy. The rules aren't that simple either, scaring some away. Nevertheless, I give this game a "10" for depth (but only a "9" overall for other shorcomings).
 
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24. Board Game: TAMSK [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1322] [Average Rating:6.77 Unranked]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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I'll drop TAMSK into here also. Although it's a quick-playing game, and so by it's nature not capable of a super-broad horizon, it's quite possible to play a wholly strategic, unified game, and pull off some crazy stuff.

Like all of the other GIPF-series games, there's the possibility create choke-points, and totally alter the game that comes afterwards. UNLIKE the other Gipf-series games, there isn't the mind-numbing, mind-altering level of massive board re-arrangement or shifting. Whereas in GIPF, YINSH, and DVONN, there's a certain limit to even strategic lookahead, and one is just *confronted* with the opportunity to pull off a huge move, which arises from the game play, in TAMSK there's the opportunity to sculpt such an opportunity.

TAMSK is just more geometrically stable than the other Gipf-series games.
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25. Board Game: War of the Ring (first edition) [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:66]
Fredrik Sievert
Sweden
Helsingborg
Unspecified
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This is definately such a game. Maybe at first it doesn't seem so for everyone. But go read the discussions about strategies in the game forum, and you will find that some people have played it hundreds of times and still new strategies show up.
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