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Blue Peg, Pink Peg Patrick's Top 50, 2016
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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As Blue Peg, Pink Peg Listeners know, in 2015 my gaming resolution was to finally sort my favorite 50 games of all time. I know, I know; this is yet another idea that we have co-opted from The Secret Cabal, but it seemed like a fun and worth while activity. (Note: Edited in late 2016. Will edit again at the end of 2017.)

It took me months of sorting and tinkering, and to be honest with you, I am not sure it is complete, but you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. So in light of our most recent episode where we break down our top 3 games of all time, I decided to finally pull the trigger and lock my 2015 list in.

I will update or revise the list on a yearly basis, but for now these are the 50 games that I will play anytime they are offered. (Time permitting, of course.) Some are games that I was lukewarm on when I first played them and others were instant hits. But they are all games that I continue to love to play, after the gloss of their newness wore off.

There are many games that I would rather play right now, but they haven't got enough miles on them to warrant inclusion here.
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1. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:58]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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This is may favorite engine building game, bar none (pardon the unintended pun). Deciding how you want to optimize your options is a taxing choice, but when it pays off, the reward is so satisfying. The game is bristling with choices and point scoring opportunities, but it can burn you if you take a high risk/high reward choice that doesn't pay off. Their are cool ways to shape your game, that open up throughout the game play. This makes the race element of the game feel pressing and requires planning for alternate routes (again excuse the pun) to victory when things do not work out as you hoped. Add to this the remarkable German Railroads expansion that breaks the game wide open and this game has admirable depth and re-playability.
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2. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:29]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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This game is a perfect mix of punishment and reward. If you plan carefully you get to pull off great moves that are infinitely satisfying. If you back yourself into a corner, you will be crushed. You have to diversify and specialize in perfect balance. The card play is efficient but effective, the loan track makes for great pivot points, the resource acquisition is novel, the shipping is clean and fun. All this wrap in with a puzzly route building core. Every session of this game is a brain burning joy.
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3. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:46]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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The most hateful game on my list. No question. This game is mean. Everyone goes on and on about Diplomacy, but in this game, the back stabbing occurs time and time again and unlike Diplomacy, unless you have played this game a lot, you may not know, that is just how it does. The asymmetrical powers are wonderfully balanced. The placement of resources for domination is brilliant. It is incredible to watch the effects of a single move cascade across the board. The Domination cards can be game changing, in the best possible way, since everyone knows that they may be coming and can guard against their impact. A solid, beautifully designed game (though aesthetically, not great) that incorporates theme in a subtle by significant way.
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4. Board Game: Shogun [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:112]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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As noted below, I like the way that this game mixes tactic with luck. The cube tower for combat resolution is brilliant and makes for satisfying combat results. I also like how the area control is broken down into tiers that key off of how you develop lands. Also, the event resolution makes each round unique and requires to players to constantly assess the board state when planning out their moves for each round. A tight, balanced game with excellent pay off. A longish game that remains engaging throughout.
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5. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.29 Overall Rank:6]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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So many choices and so many challenges. First and foremost are the race powers, made all the better by the expansion that provides for a drafting feature. The impact that buildings have upon area control and production are unique and wonderful. The efficient deployment of power and the decision as to when to burn power are key choices that can drastically impact play. The clan track race and the expansion of geographic influence create a neat tension, that can be hard to balance (or if you choose completely ignore). Upgrades will give you advantages, but at what cost. Every choice in this game is key, but the game rarely slogs down. Probably top three in design, but a little lower on the fun factor. However, I would not argue with anyone that names this as a top title.
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6. Board Game: Orléans [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:27]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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Orleans is a game that continues to grow in my esteem. I initial believed that that some of the buildings were overpowered; however, as I poked and prodded at this mechanic I came to realize that most of the buildings can be employed to powerful effect. While some are easier to employ than others (and some are admittedly weak on their own) most of the buildings can be used to create a powerful engine that most players can ride to victory. This is a game that you think shows you all it has to offer after a half dozen plays, but as you continue to play you realize it has been hiding some of its best features. You can play the games in balance and win, you can "spam" one or two key mechanics and win, you can respond to your opponents and choose "the path not taken" and win. Of course, you can lose (and lose terribly) doing each of these things, as well. It is all about finding tactics that will work against a certain set of challenges and maximizing them to your advantage. Moreover, because the game features an element of randomness you must prepare for various eventualities in your game play. While a lucky player can defeat an unlucky player, generally speaking the probabilities of a careful player being defeated by a foolhardy one are very low. Moreover, for reasons that I don't entirely understand, this is a game that people are able to easily comprehend and play, notwithstanding it's seeming complexity. A great next level game that is lovely to look at and a pleasure to play.
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7. Board Game: Blood Rage [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:16]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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This is a more recent addition to my list, but it has earned its place in my top 10. While many people love this game, there are many (some of whom I know very well) who would take strong exception to it's top ten ranking. But for me, this is a game that continues to engage and interest me after scores of plays. Now it should be noted, my assessment includes all of the expansion materials which add to Blood Rage's re-playability and variability (which in this instance are related to one another). The great components factor into my ranking, though they certainly do not predominate as the reasons for my love of this game. What makes this game work for me is they way that the various elements meld together in order to make for a dramatic and strategic game play experience. This game rewards careful planning and forces players to make difficult choices. The draft mechanic lets every player reliably deduce the cards held by their opponents. As a result, chance plays a smaller role in this game than some assert. The beauty of Blood Rage is the way it allows players to read meaning into their opponents actions in light of the limited information that they have. Holding and sorting what you know about your opponents, based upon their prior actions, allows the careful player to make bold moves or engaging feints. Sometimes you are deceived and other times you are correct, but all in all Blood Rage is a pleasure to play, even when you lose.
 
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8. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:59]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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Many count this as Feld's greatest title to date, and I can't disagree with them too fervently. For one, the mancala action selection tool is ingenious. It requires players to think several moves ahead in order to keep essential actions open at the right time. Plus every one of the action spaces has strengths that can be leveraged toward victory. Some say that this game has traps, but I disagree. I have seen many routes to victory prevail. Unlike other Feld games, Trajan feels like it is suited to specialization. While all (or most) actions must be employed in some measure in order to remain viable. It seems that players who use the game's actions in support of a preferred strategy that focus upon one action find the most success when playing this game. While the game could find some players settling into preferred strategies, there is enough randomness in the game to disrupt this approach, at least occasionally.
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9. Board Game: Bruxelles 1893 [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:235]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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This is my action selection, well selection. The core choices in the game are actually fairly limited, but the sub-selections that flow from those decisions are significant and interesting. The game packs a lot in, in a smooth and nuanced way. There is area control, set collection, resource management, work placement, and action selection (while the later two are interchangeable in most games, here the difference actually matters). Every task impacts scoring and the game is usually nip and tuck throughout. There are also great take that moments, that gives the game a little bit of an edge. For a Euro of this style that is a unique feature, that take it over the top for me.
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10. Board Game: Fields of Arle [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:53]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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11. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:35]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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How are you going to score, is really the most important choice you have to make in this game. But that is a decision that has to emerge over time and once it is made, keeping that choice concealed while also creating the circumstances that will allow your choice to pay off is a cool challenge. This is a game that is best played when you strategically feint one way, while you prepare to move another. However, you can't leave your choice hiding in the weeds too long or time will run out or the cost of getting to where you want to go will be too high. The hand management aspect of the game is novel and engaging. There is a slight push your luck element that applies to the execution of certain actions. This is another title that was great as designed, but truly blossoms with new boards and the Salsa expansion.
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12. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.36 Overall Rank:3]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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Long the top game on BGG and I can see that, though I think that overvalues this game, a bit. The game is elegant. It is wonderfully balanced. It is brimming with depth. The game has many play style options. It one were so inclined they could spend hundreds of plays refining tactics. The board is laid out perfectly in order to make movements in one direction the source of vulnerabilities in another. The event cards can be useful however they are used, circumstances and timing dependent. There is no doubt a lovely title that is the product of careful design and care to the development of a compelling theme. But sometimes, it's not much fun. When things go downhill, they can keep going downhill. At the game can be long, so trying to stop the bleeding can be frustrating. Of course, you have no one to blame but yourself, but still, it hurts.
 
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13. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:127]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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Until recently, my favorite Feld (Trajan has overtaken it.)I am surprised more people don't give this game more love. I love the way that players use dice rolls to select their actions, even more so than in Castles of Burgundy, with which this game has a great deal in common. What vaults this game to the top is the worker activation element and the absolutely unforgiving objective scoring that guides game play. I love how every player has a task or series of tasks they have to attend to for each round, all while do the many things that they have to do to set up immediate and end game scoring. Having to problem solve how to engage with the game on those different levels makes this one unique and very fun to play.
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14. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:184]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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This is my favorite simultaneous reveal game. Picking your actions while trying to predict what others will pick is a cool mental exercise. The game gives you opportunities to both reveal your course and discern the choices your opponents will take. I like how this game rewards thinking outside of the box. I also love that this guessing game is backed against a multi-layered resource management game, with tiered development opportunities. Creating synergies that set up big end game scores is a lot of fun. It has the DNA of Caverna and Agricola, but it is cleaner, faster to play, and more engaging than these two better known and more highly touted titles.
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15. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:24]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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Ah, Eclipse, my wonderful problem child. This game can be long and occasionally too long. It is as fiddly as any game that I can imagine. It is seemingly designed for king-making. Bad roles can ruin. your. day. But oh how I do love this great big wonky mess. The upgrades are a blast. The resource/economics/tech management is ingenious. Every game is completely different from the last. Every game features key battles that are fun to watch and even more fun to participate in. The game encourages alliances, that have to be broken. The powers are widely varied, but wonderfully balanced. Exploration is actually fun and conquest a great challenge. You can find a play style that fits your temperament and mood. It is an AP bear, since players fussing over late game plays will invariable leave you tense as you wait for them to either decide to take a move you are dreading or the one you have been setting up for over the last 3 turns. All this said, with the right group and in the right setting there are few games that can challenge Eclipse for thoughtful fun.
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16. Board Game: Kemet [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:70]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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This is my son and my game. He adores playing it and even now as he is cooling on board gaming with his dad, it is still one that he will reliably agree to play with me. I can see why. The game is a great mix of upgrades and conflict. The core actions are pretty simple, but there are just enough directions to go, that the choices aren't evident and each player can customize their tactics in a unique way. While the game is built to avoid "turtling" players can still make moves designed to avoid devastating clashes as they prepare for a few critical combat. The game is designed to ensure that each battle is fairly balanced and will allow a player who was ultimately forced to retreat from the battlefield to exact costly damages (thanks to this game, my son knows what a Pyrrhic Victory is). The game is also the perfect length. It gets in, does what it needs to do, and then gets out before it has outstayed its welcome.
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17. Board Game: Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:139]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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Until I get a chance to play Through the Ages, this is my civ game. Of all game styles, civ builders are my favorite, due in large part to the computer game upon which this game is based. I love the sandboxy feel of Civilization. For me it give just enough freedom of choice, not to little, not to much. The game has several routes to victory, and every one is viable. The asymmetry is significant enough to make playing different cultures fun, but not so much that one civilization will reliably dominate the others. The battle mechanic is novel and effective. The challenges of exploration are considerable, but surmountable. The culture track is at least a little engaging. Oh and then the tech tree. Love, love, love the tech tree. It is diverse and regardless of which route you choose to go, you can make use of your development. A little long and a tad fiddly, but a great title none the less.
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18. Board Game: 1960: The Making of the President [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:144]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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My favorite two player game of all time (at least for now Fields of Arle is a pretty incredible game too). While I love Twilight Struggle, the theme of this game makes it a better gaming experience for me. GMT are masters of weaving history throughout their games. Playing the game never feels like you are creating an alt-history timeline, you are just causing the impact of the events to either increase or decrease. The card play is remarkable. Playing this game is a tense stand off of move/counter-move. Endorsements, advertising, get out the vote efforts, triggering of key events. There is so much to balance, including which electoral college path you want to take to victory. The set up is a bear, the game is on the long side, but for me, a great game and experience.
 
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19. Board Game: Guilds of London [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:1077]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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20. Board Game: Star Wars: Rebellion [Average Rating:8.53 Overall Rank:5]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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21. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:88]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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Swingy, un-balanced, luck driven, and clunky. But oh how fun. This game is a laugh factory. The races are incredible and the challenge of dealing with a specific power or figuring out the best way to use your own power is a cool mental challenge. Plus you get to negotiate, form alliances, betray friends, lay down stunning upsets. This game is rife with flaws and perfect at the same time.
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22. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:22]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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Yes this game is mondo-mathy and probably the most AP prone title in my top 50, but the economy simulator built into this game is brilliant. Moreover, the nature and costs of the connections ensure that the board will be incredibly tight, incredibly fast. This is a game that requires careful attention to timing. Grow too big too fast, and you're toast. Wait too long to make a surge, you're toast. Spend heavy in an early auction, you're toast. Let certain plants go to other players during early bidding, you're toast. You have to keep a close eye on where connections are being made. You have to keep a careful eye on what resources are being bought. You have to keep a close idea on both your own and your opponents revenue and reserves. The game can reward to slow and steady builder and the late surge hoarder. So many way to play and win. But also a ton of ways to play and be trounced squarely and embarrassingly. Notwithstanding its surprising weight and heft, my son loves this game and has outperformed my expectations more than once. A great game that I think gets some unfair hate.
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23. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.39 Overall Rank:8]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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24. Board Game: Mombasa [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:56]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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25. Board Game: The Manhattan Project [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:174]
Patrick Kelly
United States
Roanoke
Virginia
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A surprisingly engaging and tight action selection game. The challenge to build facilities under the threat of attack or meddling makes this a tense game of preparing for the worst, while building for the best. The game features open information (with some exceptions) making it a open contest. Moreover, the absence of turns makes the decision about how and when to deploy workers to various action spaces a difficult choice. Surprising depth in an oddly themed game. One that I enjoy playing, even with the available expansions (only played Nations) which add nice variability and asymmetry.
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