The Highlander Collection >> There Can Be Only One!!
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I love seeing hot lists, favorite games and collections here on the Geek, or the fanciful daydreaming of questions such as "If you were stranded on a desert island with only 10 games...." etc.

So here's my twist on the classic conundrum. For whatever contrivance floats your boat (messy divorce, hot lava death, termites), you need to assemble a gaming collection from scratch -- with one iNsAnE caveat: There Can Be Only One Game Per Designer!!

That's it -- just one Reiner Knizia game... One Sid Sackson game. And so on. The real trick here is that you may not necessarily pick your absolute favorite game from a designer, because you also need a nice, well-rounded collection. If your favorite games from several designers are all auction/bidding games, the collection will become too lopsided.

So please join in and help me decide what the Ultimate Highlander Game Collection would include. One game per designer, as diverse a selection of formats, mechanics, playing times and interests as possible. And just to make it more interesting, only 10 games total can be included in the collection, and only from designers with at least 4 games to their credit.

What Do You Think?
What's the hardest game to leave off the list, and why?
What genre/style seems to be the hardest to pare down?
Which designer would you drop from the list? Who would replace him?
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1. Board Game: Dream Factory [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:542]
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Designer: Reiner Knizia
Roles Filled: Auction/bidding, 60-90 minute range, 2-5 player range, novelty (zero sum system, theme), easy to teach

Might as well deal with Reiner Knizia right off the bat. It's the most difficult decision for me to make, as I'm sure it would be for other Geeks, as well. Picking one is agony. I started out putting Samurai here, as it's easily my favorite RK game -- but there's too much competition for other area control games. So sadly, Samurai had to take a back seat. There are equally strong arguments to include Ra, Taj Mahal, Modern Art, Tigris & Euphrates -- heck, just about any game of his that's well regarded.

But I've got to go with Traumfabrik because it fills a great need in this list -- a strong Auction based game. Traumfabrik gets the nod over Ra, Modern Art or Medici due to the novel theme, zero-sum bidding style, sterling production quality and more easily evaluable bidding options (due partly to less money in circulation and clear goals via the movie script cards).

Reiner Knizia, There Can Be Only One!
 
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2. Board Game: For Sale [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:249]
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Designer: Stefan Dorra
Roles Filled: Filler, auction/bidding, easy to teach, under 30 minutes, wide player range, portable, playable with younger gamers.

This is actually a lot harder for me than I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong -- I love For Sale, but there are some other good auction games out there, and more good fillers. I'm also a big fan of Stefan Dorra's Bucket King and Marracash, but I think they both have more viable competition among other designers... So For Sale gets the nod.

Stefan Dorra, There Can Be Only One!
 
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3. Board Game: Union Pacific [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:447]
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Designer: Alan R. Moon
Roles Filled: Mid-weight game, stellar bits, hot theme (trains), stocks/financial game, 1-2 hour range, 4-6 player range.

I know a lot of people will harp on this, and if I'm going to pick a Moon train game, it should be Ticket To Ride... But if I've only got 10 games, I can't afford to put too many gateway games on the list, as I think their appeal quickly loses luster.

I'd really want to include San Marco, but since it's arguably a joint effort with Weissblum and geared so specifically for 3, it's too easy to pass on for a superior overall area control game a little further down the list.

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4. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:50]
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Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
Roles Filled: Meaty game, area control, 1-2 hour range, incredible replayability, 4-5 player range, seamless design integration

I know that technically this is a Kramer/Ulrich design, but I think it's associated so strongly with Wolfgang Kramer's body of work, and bears much of his trademark gameplay intensity, that it's warranted.

And El Grande is such an amazing overall game, with so many difficult decisions and clever nuances that it clearly earns a place here, and despite being an area control game, offers quite a different experience than the others on this list.

Sadly, this means no Princes of Florence for auction-driven games (one reason Traumfabrik gets the RK vote above) and no Pueblo for visualization and abstract games... While they are both great games, I think El Grande is a better overall design and offers so much depth to the collection it's just too good to pass up.

Wolfgang Kramer, There Can Be Only One!
 
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5. Board Game: Wallenstein (first edition) [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:308]
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Designer: Dirk Henn
Roles Filled: Hybrid game (wargame/eurogame), troop/resource management, direct conflict, 4-5 players, 2-3 hour range, novelty

The partially hidden information, action selection and random events (with their impact on harvest production) alone make Wallenstein a clever, engaging and immersive game. But it gets the nod over two other great Henn games (Metro and Alhambra) for providing a bit more meat to the collection, and there's still room for tile laying games later.

Oh, and the combat cube tower. That's enough reason to select this over other great games -- it offers a novel resolution system (which creates some very entertaining moments at the table) no other games on the list capture.

Dirk Henn, There Can Be Only One!
 
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6. Board Game: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:377]
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Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Roles Filled: Tile placement, 30-60 minute range, scales well within entire player range (2-5), portable.

While almost all of Wrede's designs are Carcassonian, H&G stands above the rest in my mind with crisper rules, more balanced scoring options and the extra tactical decision making by virtue of the bonus tiles. Plus, the tile art is colorful and the game really unfolds beautifully as you play.

Tile placement games are such a part of the Euro-ization of the hobby that the Highlander collection certainly needs to have one represented, and I can think of none finer than Carc: H&G for the job.

Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, There Can Be Only One!
 
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7. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:356]
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Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Roles Filled: Trading, wide player range (2-7), portable, 30-60 minute range, playable with younger players.

While I personally prefer Klunker, I think Bohnanza is the better fit for the purposes of this list. It scales to accomodate a wider range of players, fits somewhere in between a "filler" and a "main course" game, has a light, fun theme and provides a much needed trading game.

Some of Uwe's other breezy card games would be worth consideration (specifically Mama Mia!) but I think the role of pure filler is adequately represented with For Sale.

Uwe Rosenberg, There Can Be Only One!
 
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8. Board Game: I'm the Boss! [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:882]
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Designer: Sid Sackson
Roles Filled: Negotiation, 3-6 player range, social game, playable with younger gamers, variants to tailor game.

This one is equally tough, as Sid Sackson has so many stellar games to his credit. I'm sure many Sacksonians (Chuckles, you there?) will quickly shout for Acquire, but I just can't justify putting that game on such a small list -- plus some of the gameplay Acquire offers can be found in the other offerings.

But I'm the Boss fills a definite need on this list for a negotiation game with lots of free wheelin' and dealin'. It can be a pretty loud, raucous game with a good blend of light strategic decisions tied to the negotiations, and a touch of chaos with the different card abilities. Plus the variants and optional rules help extend the replay value.

Sid Sackson, There Can Be Only One!
 
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9. Board Game: Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1566]
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Designer: Richard Borg
Roles Filled: Team play, campaign play, cooperative play, diverse theme (sci-fi theme), combat/conflict, 4-5 players, 90-120 minutes.

Only when taking a closer look at Borg's games do I fully appreciate how varied his designs are. He's created a lot of popular games that fill a variety of niches and fit a variety of themes and play styles. But Siege of the Citadels is a masterpiece in design -- when it hit the scene in 1993, it was unlike anything else developed in the US (rivaling the production/play of GW titles).

Top notch production quality that still stands up to modern games. Fast, exciting gameplay. Great rotating good guy/bad guy roles over the course of the campaign. A wonderful alternative to Space Hulk and Doom that really packs a punch.

Richard Borg, There Can Be Only One!
 
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10. Board Game: Cartagena [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:823]
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Designer: Leo Colovini
Roles Filled: Easy to teach, 2-5 player range, 30-60 minute range, high replayability, variants to tailor game, otherwise absent theme (Pirates).

I think Leo Colovini gets a bad rap for dry, themeless games -- but that's a disservice to the wonderful range of gameplay experiences his designs encompass. While I might usually give the nod to Carolus Magnus (probably my favorite Colovini design) or Alexandros (for its novelty and smaller player range) they're both area control games -- adequately covered elsewhere.

But Cartagena is a wonderful game for its subtelty and diversity. I've found 2 player games to be incredibly tactical and analytical, while playing with a larger number focuses more on managing the chaos and taking your shots at "targets of opportunity" when they appear. The double sided boards help ensure the value of cards changes from game to game.

Leo Colovini, There Can Be Only One!
 
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11. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1171]
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Sadly, since there's only room for 10 games, 1 each from 10 different designers, some game designers and some great games have to go Missing In Action. It's incredibly tough to keep folks like this off the list, but I felt adding one meant giving up too much in terms of overall game balance.

MIA Designers:
- Andreas Seyfarth (Puerto Rico, San Juan)
- Klaus Teuber (Catan series, Domaine/Lowenherz)
- Lawrence H. Harris (Axis & Allies, Conquest of the Empire)
- Tom Dalgliesh (Wizard Kings, Crusader Rex)
- Doris & Frank (Frank's Zoo, Ursuppe, Mü und Mehr)
- Francesco Nepitello (War of the Ring, X-Bugs)
- Christian Peterson (TI3, A Game of Thrones)
 
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12. Board Game: Villa Paletti [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1324]
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And there are definitely some genres of game that are missing... It was a tough call, as there are some great games in these missing themes/mechanics, but it was just too hard to include them at the exclusion of a game with broader applications.

MIA Game Styles:
- Manual Dexterity (Hamsterolle, Villa Paletti)
- Pure Abstract (Zertz, Abalone, Go)
- Card Games (Wizard, Tichu, Rook)
- Wargames (Hammer of the Scots, Hannibal: Rome v. Carthage)

 
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13. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:920]
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Designers: Darwin Bromley, Bill Fawcett
Roles: Longish, pick up and deliver, connection

This is my absolute favorite series of games. Any list of games I would absolutely keep would have to include this one, no matter the designers. Luckily for me, there are no other designs of note (outside of the crayon rails system) by these two guys.
 
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