Theme and Story — two qualities that I absolutely love in board gaming and fortunately there have been a plethora of great examples of both in recent years. That said, there are some outstanding gaming experiences to be found amongst abstract titles. So today, for my Thursday Top 10, I will be counting down my personal top 10 of abstract games.
#10 – NMBR 9
I am not necessarily the best at this game, but the tactile play of stacking numbers and trying to get them to fit together so as to make a strong base for the next level is very fun.
#9 – Blokus
Tetris-style games are fun in general, but I love the criss-crossing that happens amongst players in this game and the forethought that a player needs to make sure they don’t get trapped. It feels good to use a diagonal that allows you to escape an enclosed area and move on to other scoring pastures.
#8 – Loopit
Loopit is like scrabble, but instead of creating words, you are creating connected loops — that part is easy, the tricky part is making the math work each move to maximize your points. Like Scrabble, play well for yourself, but watch out for setting up your opponent to grab a big multiplier. For an accountant like me, this is an enjoyable abstract game to get to the table.
#7 – BOO
I have done a review on BOO in the past, so go there for more info — this is an abstract with nice art, a cute theme, but the game play itself is so fun. Trying to place each card so that ghost flipping is the most beneficial is a great puzzle.
#6 – Sagrada
Sagrada is such a pretty game — beyond that, it does a great job of providing that nice crunchy-logic-brain-hurt that a good strategy game can do. It is a great competitive game, but the heart of Sagrada is the personal satisfaction of pulling off a stained glass panel that is full of dice at the game’s end.
#5 – Connect Four
Well, another week that Connect Four makes it onto one of my top 10 lists. To me, a great abstract game (especially an abstract strategy game) is about the back-and-forth battle of maneuvers, who can outwit or outmove the other player and Connect Four does it in a way that I have enjoyed from childhood to adulthood. It is classic, but still fun — still a good test of gaming skill.
#4 – Pizza Theory
At first glance, Pizza Theory looks like a shallow, pizza-themed game for kids to play. After playing it with my 7-year old, though, I discovered that this game has some very good depth. The pizza theme is just a nice paste-on for the interesting area-control and puzzling that this game utilizes. How do I slice the pizza so that my opponents’ cuts will still leave me with area control in my key portions of the pizza (the circle). Pizza Theory is great as a kids’ game, but the intensity can ramp up with competitive gamers at the helm.
#3 – Reef
Quick turns, fun components, and consistent objective completion and reset. I specifically enjoy that Reef, like many abstract games, requires focus. You can’t just get ahead and coast — it is too easy for an opponent to catch-up, so each move must be beneficial and moving your score forward.
#2 – The Rose King
I enjoy chess, but specifically love when games come along that capture that “chess-like feel” but with a better theme or more interesting gameplay — The Rose King is a great example. I love the simple movements that happen each turn based on the cards in your hand. Furthermore, the ability to catch-up and change the scoring momentum of the game with one well-executed placement or flip is outstanding. I really want to get more time at the table with this title.
#1 – Santorini
Santorini also falls into that “chess-like” category, but with beautiful card artwork, fun components, and great replayability with the large variety of god and hero cards. The core game itself creates a great and interesting PvP push-and-pull battle. I want to ‘go for it’ but have to make sure I don’t set my opponent up for a win in the process. What propels Santorini to the top of the list is the variety of powers that players can start with each game. There are so many, which makes wanting to “play again” so tempting every time Santorini hits the table. I love the puzzle of thinking about my new card’s ability, my opponent’s new ability, and properly assessing strengths and weaknesses toward achieving victory.
Like some of the other games I have mentioned, Santorini requires a lot of focus every turn and constant awareness of player location and potential future moves. Such a great game!
Well, there’s my version of a Top 10 Abstract Games list. Which title do you think is missing…what would you put at the top?
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