Monday, September 21, 2015

And the field winnows....

One of the biggest questions as the Republican presidential field swelled to an almost unheard of 17 candidates was how the field would winnow down to one.  In previous primaries, candidates fell out of the race as their support fell but more importantly as their money dried up.  During the 2012 primary, the first one since the disastrous ruling in Citizens United, anti-establishment candidates were propped up by their own personal billionaires.  After yet another ruling weakening campaign finance laws or strengthening free speech (did you see how I presented both sides of the issue?) it was understandable that the question in this election would be how many billionaires would be supporting their personal candidates and for how long.  The idea being that if one billionaire candidate can single-handedly finance a surefire loser like Rick Santorum for months or rescuing the floundering evil genius Newt Gingrich, a candidate in a similar position could withstand low polling numbers, low favorability, campaign mishaps, gaffes, or being a terrible person.  So far two candidates have dropped out.  One was a long shot for the nomination (and prevented the greatest comeback story ever) and the other was seen as the modal champion of many primary models.

Anti-matter errr...Romney

The 2012 primary saw Tim Pawlenty and Thad McCotter drop out in August of 2011.  Herman Cain was really the only challenger who actually suspended his campaign prior to the Iowa caucus.  Rick Perry fell out of favor with Republican voters for wanting undocumented immigrants to have in-state tuition but he made it to Iowa.  Michele Bachmann brought the crazy until Iowa.  It's just had to imagine that Scott Walker is more Pawlenty than Perry in 2012.

Mitt Romney started as the clear favorite for the nomination.  He led almost every major national poll in 2011 until August of 2011.  That's when the rise of Rick Perry happened.  And as quickly as he arose, he faded away (led major national polls for about a month).  He stops showing up in polls in January of 2012   Herman Cain came and went, is that a sexual harassment remark?  Then Gingrich did well for a few weeks.  Santorum led for a few weeks but other than that Romney won start to finish.  I know, I know Romney didn't win every primary but 43/55 is pretty damn good.

Because of his stranglehold on the Republican primary, there was a display of who would be the anti-Romney and who could push the eventual nominee further to the right or further explore issues that backers and supporters wanted Romney to.  Santorum and Gingrich both enjoyed support from financial backers out to displace Romney as the eventual nominee.  Each found their own way of doing so.  Santorum helped push a more evangelical Christian notion on the eventual nominee which was important since many did not feel that Romney was a true Christian.  Gingrich helped flesh out where Romney stood on protecting Israel and his time at Bain which were both important.  Of course this is post hoc rationalization for their runs and their financial support.

The truth is that since Romney was such a favorite for the nomination, financial backers and primary voters were able to coalesce around one or two candidates.  In a field without a true favorite, say if Rick Perry kept his initial gains in August, we would have seen either Santorum or Gingrich drop out sooner.  That is counter-factual history and doesn't teach us much.  But it may not be best to compare 2012 to 2016 on the main basis that 2012 had Romney and 2016 hasn't allowed us to have a true front-runner who everyone is trying to unseat.  Except, maybe Trump.

The Trump effect

Once you get past the racism and the bombastic idiocy, Donald Trump is unlike any other candidate that we have seen since at least since the modern primary system has been implemented.  Trump is a self-financed candidate that doesn't seem to have a limit to how much he will be willing to spend to secure the nomination.  This wouldn't appear to be a problem for Scott Walker and his Unintimidated Super PAC.  His Super PAC had raised more than $20 million.  On the Republican side of the primary, this is the second most raised.  His Super PAC lagged only behind Jeb Bush's Right to Rise Super PAC which has raised over $100 million.  Rick Perry, the other candidate who had to drop out raised a cool ten million dollars for his Super PAC, which was called Opportunity for Freedom.

Contrary to popular belief, outside money is well ahead of where it was at a comparable point in the 2012 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  All this money is currently laying in wait, as they have stockpiled 94% of the money that they have raised and have not touched it yet.  So what are they waiting for?

It's important to note that I am in no way saying that these Super PACs are coordinating with the candidate as that would be a violation of campaign finance law.  When I say it's a candidate's Super PAC what I mean is that the Super PAC is primarily responsible for donating money to that candidate.

The spending has greatly increased since the 2012 cycle in terms of total dollars spent but how much of is it is dedicated to trying to get their candidate to the front of the news.  Or more importantly, how much of it has been spent trying to get their candidate into the top 10 in polling, in order to show up to the primetime debates.  This is the easiest way for free media.

What Trump has shown an ability so far is to get free publicity.  Because of his bombastic egocentric style with a heavy dose of racism, he has surged to the top of the polls.  From his perch, he has been able to command attention from Fox News and rightwing news sites (if you believe Buzzfeed, it's in part because of a financial stake that he has in Breitbart).  Beyond that, he has engaged in Twitter fights and commanded the most attention during the debates.  All of this allows him to save money for ad buys later and gives the desired affect of media attention.  This media attention is getting him around the traditional method of gaining popularity from elected officials.

What happens next

Scott Walker was able to convince the Ricketts family to give his Super PAC millions and just won the Koch Brothers (ahh scary, I'm a progressive blogger) straw poll.  Why didn't this translate over to convincing voters and why did he suspend his campaign?  Why does Rick Perry continue to lose relevance in September?  I feel terrible for asking these questions that I'm trying to answer.

Rick Perry isn't quite the candidate that backers would like to support.  Perry's wide stance at the first debate should disqualify him for everything but yet he sucks people in.  His ability to govern Texas was legitimately impressive.  His performance at debates and general policy know-how was lacking. His supposed appeal to the South, evangelical Christians, and business leaders should make him a shoe-in for nomination.  His lack of policy chops and choice in glasses prove that he wasn't ready for prime-time.  His pro-immigrant stance is obviously not going to play well with voters seeing as how they turned up for Trump.  His endorsement would not carry any weight and would not help seeing as he is from the very red Texas.  Despite my consistent belief that Perry should be a presidential contender, he just isn't.

Walker should have been a contender.  He had the background.  He was from a purple state.  He was a governor.  He crushed unions.  He talked about how crushing the unions being a moral imperative.  He was fairly sufficiently anti-immigrant.  He had a weird Ronald Reagan obsession.  He really should have been contender.  Unfortunately, much like Perry he just seemed ill-prepared for the national spotlight.  He seemed stiff and lacked enthusiasm.  I can't believe I just typed that.  Let's move on.

A primary is how you push a political party to the direction that you would like them to go.  If you want the Republican primary to move more to the right on a certain issue or on all issues, you vote for the candidate who is more conservative.  For some reason, Democrats have a hard time with this concept although it's been used on the right for 50+ years.

More unfortunately for Walker, he doesn't seem to move the needle on where the Republican Party is going to stand.  There's already an anti-immigrant white guy there (Donald Trump).  There's already a Governor who won a purple state (Jeb and Kasich).  There's already someone who may appeal to independent voters (Rubio).  There's already a guy who is sufficiently anti-labor (oh wait, that's all of them except maybe Trump).  There's already a guy begging for cash (see the previous statement).  There's already someone who appeals to the TEA Party (Cruz and Trump).  As we go through it, we see where Walker could conceivably fit in.  He appeals to a bunch of different groups in the Republican Party.  But the problem is he just isn't the best with any of those categories.

If a Republican doesn't win 2016, Walker still has a shot.  I'll also still be rooting for the Rick Perry comeback at that point.  But for 2016, go with the smart money.  A Ronald Reagan hologram.








Friday, September 4, 2015

Top 50 boardgames (plus one)

My girlfriend and I play way too many board games in our spare time.  It is probably our favorite thing to do with each other, as we both really enjoy them.  At any rate, as we play through the games we try to list the ones that worked for us and ranked the games to include a top 50 (plus one because I forgot a game while I was editing this list because I'm not very bright).  Like my previous list, this only includes games that I feel like I can explain without having to look up the rules.  So, again, sorry Settlers of Catan, I don't play you.  The list is geared towards playing with two players as Amanda and I typically play with each other the most.  The games are also focused on strategy games as opposed to party games.  The links for the reviews are included (if I managed to write one) with the game description and a quick blurb of why it should be higher/lower.  If you don't see your favorite game on here it's either a) I haven't played it or b) it's Agricola and I am terrible at it and really dislike the game.

Rankings like this are entirely subjective and clearly are biased towards easy to learn games with simplistic mechanics.

Games just missed, in no particular order: Vinhos, Rialto, Hey, that's my fish!, Machi Koro, Camel Up, Eight Minute Empire, Pandemic, Sushi Go

Games that missed due to only playing a few times: Concordia, Cuba, Jambo, and Race for the Galaxy (which is debatable for the reason why it is not listed below)

51. Steam Park
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 30-45 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style: Dice rolling/dice manipulation/set collecting
Why it should be ranked higher: It's good old-fashioned fun.  Your turns are taken at the same time and you try to roll the dice quicker than your opponent to be able to build your amusement park.  The rides are fun to look at and it's just a silly little game with more strategy than you think.
Why it should be ranked lower: It just isn't played that often, for whatever reason.  I suspect Amanda doesn't like it as much as I do.  My least favorite aspect of the game is the random aspect of the bonus cards which affects the game negatively, in my opinion.  The game doesn't play as well with two players as I would suspect it would play with more players.


50. Ascension
Number of players: 2-4
Time: ~30 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style: Deckbuilding
Why it should be ranked higher: The game is a little bit different than the other deckbuilding games.  You can spend your runes to get better cards in your hand.  To win the game, you have to get honor points by defeating monsters.  Some of the cards you acquire can be used to get more cards or defeat monsters (similar to Legendary, all the way up there).  There are cards that stay in play for the bulk of the game (moreso than in Dominion or DC Deckbuilding Game) which can allow you to plan your turn and strategize.
Why it should be ranked lower: It's a lot harder to sustain long combinations to build up your strength to defeat multiple monsters.  This is kind of a nerdy complaint but one of the best parts of Dominion is sustaining a long turn and then being able to purchase multiple victory cards.  The game is easy enough to play and teach, although, comparatively Legendary does a lot of the same concepts much better and much easier to teach.

49. Ice Cream
Number of players: 2-5
Time: 15-25 minutes
Complexity: Low
Style: Set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: It's a very similar game to Coloretto, which I love.  Your goal is to be able to sell the most ice cream.  It gives you a little bit more strategy than you'd first think as you have to balance the different ice cream flavors that you want to open/use this round as opposed to saving it for next round.
Why it should be ranked lower: Despite initial similarities to Coloretto, trying to entice your opponent to take a different ice cream cone is much different.  Opponents can only take the ice cream cone if they have all of the flavored scoops or have all of them except one.  Being able to grab new ice cream flavors ruins the strategy for placing the ice cream scoops for the most part.

48. Love Letter
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 10-30 minutes
Complexity: Low
Style: Deduction/hand management
Why it should be ranked higher: It's ranked #112 by the community at Board Game Geek.  It's a simple game and easy to teach. We taught this game to an eight year old and he seemed to enjoy it. You choose one of two cards to play on your turn.  There are a few other rules but your goal is to end up with the highest numbered card.  It's a great game for determining who will go first in a game.  The game is usually around $10 on Amazon and is on sale all the time.
Why it should be ranked lower: The game drags on for what it is, if you play to completion.  The game can go on for a while completing round after round.  Additionally, there's very little strategy, which makes it seem even longer.

47. Hanabi
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: Low
Time: 15 minutes
Style of game: Co-operative/hand management/set collection/memory
Why it should be ranked higher: Unique game in that you can either give one piece of information to another player about a card in their hand or play a card from your hand.  Easy to teach, easy to play, and encourages teamwork (which some might find overrated).
Why it should be ranked lower: We don't really like co-operative games.  Amanda and I are too competitive with each other to be able to play them consistently.  Also, Amanda has a terrible memory so when we play, I have to remind her what she knows and which cards she has any information on.

46. Blueprints:
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 20-30 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Dice rolling/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: Interesting mechanic in how to build your building.  You can focus on a number of different areas in each round to try to maximize your points.  For instance, do you want to build a tower to try to get the tower bonus or do you want to try to complete your building to score more points and achieve the blueprint achievement card?  These different choices allow the game to flow smoothly and removing the die allow you to mess with your opponent.
Why it should be ranked lower: Amanda doesn't seem to like it.  In a certain sense you are victims of the dice roll and even your well thought out turn can come to a screeching halt if the dice that you need at the end of the round just isn't there.  There's not a lot of mitigation to the luck of the dice roll which can be frustrating.

45. Pagoda
Number of players: 2
Time: 20-30 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Hand management
Why it should be ranked higher: The game offers more strategy than what you would think, at first glance.  You can manipulate how you are able to build your pagodas by looking at your opponent's face up cards and wisely using your bonuses.  It's a fairly quick game to play and learn.  We learned how to play and played the game for the first time in less than 45 minutes.
Why it should be ranked lower: I'm not very good at this game and I'm a sore loser.  More seriously, while it offers more strategy than I first thought there's not a lot I can do to help mitigate luck if you are unable to get the cards you need to complete.

44. Colt Express
Number of players: 2-6
Time: 20-30 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Hand management/programmed action
Why it should be ranked higher: Only game I've played with this mechanic/style and it's a lot of fun.  You plan your actions by playing cards in the scheming phase.  During the stealing phase, the cards are played and actions are carried out in the order of the cards being played.  Each of the different characters provide special abilities.  Also, there's 3D train models and desert themed landscape to place near the trains, so there's that.
Why it should be ranked lower: It doesn't play the greatest with 2 players as Amanda and I found out.  I probably overrate games that I think are plain fun with limited strategy (like Camel Up last time) and move the game down the rankings after subsequent plays.

43. Morels
Number of players: 2
Time: 20 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Hand management/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: We do enjoy games that are specifically designed for 2 players.  The game is easy to learn, teach, and play with just the right amount of strategy.  you do need to be able to manage your hand to keep your cards underneath the hand limit and maximize your points.  It also taught us a new phrase to say when things aren't going well, "oh, honey fungus."  It's a small board game so it wouldnt take up much room if we decided to brig it somewhere else to play.
Why it should be ranked lower: When we first got this game, we really enjoyed playing but the fun and strategy has worn off a bit.  Even with the foraging sticks allowing you to go after the cards you really want, we still have yet to complete a set of Morels to score points.

42. Ticket to Ride: The Card Game
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 30 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Hand management/set collection/memory
Why it should be ranked higher: The game is just the right amount of aggressiveness for two players.  You are able to block your opponent from placing the cards in their railroad.  There is enough luck mitigation with that and being able to grab more destinations to make up for any problems that happen by not being able to get the rail cars that you need.  The cards are easy to shuffle which is nice for set up.
Why it should be ranked lower: It's basically a giant memory game, in terms of trying to remember if you have enough cards in your railroad to be able to complete all of the routes that you have taken.   So, it's not really great for when we are playing and drinking on the weekends.  Plus, as previously mentioned Amanda doesn't have the greatest memory.  The game could probably be too aggressive with more than 2 players.

41. Asante
Number of players: 2
Time: 15-30 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Set collection/hand management
Why it should be ranked higher: Our first couple of plays of this game did not go so well.  Luckily, with more plays we were able to get through more of the cards in the game and were able to develop better strategies.  At first, we thought that we were victims of luck and didn't know what was going on.  If the first couple of plays don't go so well, hang in there, it gets better.  Maintaining your actions and using the bonus cards allow for a deeper gameplay than we initially thought.  Being able to draw more cards by getting an artifact is a great way to a) get more cards and b) get rid of the luck factor.
Why it should be ranked lower: Despite getting through more of the cards, there are a number of cards that we've never seen.  Despite efforts to try to make it less luckbased, a lot is still determined bywhich cards you end up with in your hand (if you're unable to get an artifact which allows you to draw more cards).  The game imposes limits in the number of actions you can take, cards you can draw on a given turn, and wares you can hold.  These limits can feel stifling at times.

40. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Number of players: 2
Time: 30 minutes
Complexity: Medium-high
Style of game: Worker placement
Why it should be ranked higher: Like its parent game, Agricola, this game is heavy on strategy and allows for almost no luck.  It's easier to learn and play than its parent game which should make it be played more.  In the expansion, there is an insemination center so that always cracks me up because I am a child.  Like all worker placement games, there are a number of ways to block your opponent from being able to build different buildings or claiming the animals that they need. Unlike its parent game, I don't have to feed my family which is good because I'm terrible at it, in the game.  
Why it should be ranked lower: I'm not the biggest fan of worker placement games. Despite being a quickish game to play heavy in strategy, we almost never play.  Maybe it is the fact that I have bad memories of Agricola that I have a hard time suggesting that we play this game.  Also, I lose this game almost every time.  Maybe I really am a sore loser. .

39. DC Deckbuilding Game
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 30 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Deckbuilding
Why it should be ranked higher: It's fun and easy to teach.  There's no real management for your cards, in terms of limiting the amount of cards you can play or any silly rule about entombing cards to score victory points at the end of the game.  In addition, the superheroes chosen at the beginning of the game, change the game's strategy completely and match thematically.  For instance, Batman, gains power for each equipment card played or Superman gains a power for each different superpower played.
Why it should be ranked lower: I'm more of a Marvel fan, myself.  To build your deck, you recruit heroes, villains, supervillains, and equipment which some people say it ruins the theme.  There's a little interaction between the players.  Only the supervillains have an attack or any real effect on the game when they are flipped over.  The other villains don't, necessarily, attack another player.

38. Splendor
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 30 minuts
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: Truth be told, I used to really like this game.  I thought it was going to be in my top 10.  It's very simple, you can either take gems that you later trade for cards, take a card from the card area, or play a card either from your hand or your card area.  There is one page of rules.  We've taught multiple people very new to games how to play this game and they really enjoyed it, so it can be done.  This is Elsie's favorite game.  She likes to play with the poker chips with the gems on them.  She really likes diamonds.
Why it should be ranked lower: Despite my initial love for this game, afte rwe've played it a few times the level of enthusiasm has significantly waned unlike many of the other games on this list.  I also thought that the game played better with more than two people, which we rarely play.

37. Cappuccino
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 15 minutes
Complexity: Very low
Style of game: Area control
Why it should be ranked higher It's an incredibly simple game, taking about 20 minutes in all to learn how to play the game, set up the game, and play it.  It used to be one of our favorite short games to play because of how simple it is.  Also, it's fun to stack the cups with cute designs on the bottom of the cups.
Why it should be ranked lower: It takes longer to setup than to play.

36. Trains
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 45 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Deckbuilding/routebuilding
Why it should be ranked higher: Dominion + Ticket to Ride? Sounds like a great game.  It is really good.  Unlike Dominion, you are able to purchase as many cards as you can afford instead of being limited by the number of buys that you have.  Your routes that you build end up scoring you more points than your actual deck which makes it a bit more interesting.  The balance of what routes to build, when, and where while maintaining a deck presents lots of interesting choices.  Despite some of the complexities of the game, it is easy to teach. Like all deckbuilding games, there is a fairly low luck factor.
Why it should be ranked lower: It's kind of a pain to set up.  The box isn't as well put together as the Dominion box which slows the time that we have to play the game.  With the other deckbuilding games in our collection, this one often gets overlooked.  Unlike Dominion and other deckbuilding games, it is hard to thin your deck which is especially important given the number of waste cards you possess by the end.

35. Mr. Jack
Number of players: 2
Time: 20 minutes
Complexity: Medium-high (very low in terms of learning how to play)
Style of game: Deduction/grid movement
Why it should be ranked higher: There's no luck involved.  One player is Jack the Ripper and the other is the inspector trying to catch Jack.  Each player can control a total of two of the four character cards flipped over in the round.  Each move is designed to try to stop Jack from escaping, if you're the inspector, or escaping, if you're Jack.  It's incredibly simple to teach and learn how to play but is heavy in strategy.
Why it should be ranked lower: This game is extremely stressful.  Like Chess, every movement has a lot of significance which can lead to analysis paralysis.  We usually play two games back to back allowing each of us to be Jack for one game.  Unfortunately, by the end of the two games, our brains are fried.  

34. Targi
Number of players: 2
Time: 45-60 minutes
Complexity: Medium-high
Style of game: Worker placement/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: There's a little luck involved in the game with the different tribes or goods that will show in the card grid.  The different tiles that you place your meeple on allow for different actions to help mitigate the luck.  It's a much more complex version of Stone Age or other gateway worker placement games and can be had for fairly cheap.  If you're cramped for space, Targi does not take up much room.
Why it should be ranked lower: I'm going to sound like a broken record by the end of this, I'm not a big fan of worker placement games.  So why do I play them?  Amanda likes them a lot more than I do and she is way better than I am at them.  The game takes a lot longer than we think so we don't have as much time as we would think to play other games if we decide to play this one.  Also, the cards that you collect for your tribes and goods intersect in a grid which I have a hard time deciphering or figuring out which cards I'll get.

33. Jaipur
Number of players: 2
Time: 15-20 minutes
Complexity: Low
Style of game: Set collection/hand management
Why it should be ranked higher: It's one of the first two player only games that we owned and is still a lot of fun.  It's a quick, easy, and fun game with a surprising amount of depth.  Even in a low complexity game, there's not a whole lot of luck and mainly is dependent on your ability to balance selling your wares for high bonus tiles or collect wares that are more valuable but rarer.  You're also able to mess with your opponent's strategy.
Why it should be ranked lower: The bearded man tile seems kind of racist.

32. Zooloretto
31. Railways of the World

30. Takenoko
Number of players:2-4
Time: 30-45 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Dice rolling/action based turns/tile placement
Why it should be ranked higher: Probably the cutest game that we own.  A panda bear is prominently involved and part of your goal in the game is to feed the panda.  I don't mean that as a euphemism.  There's quite a bit of strategy involved in the game in terms of what actions you should take each turn.  The end of the game is also strategic, in that you want to end the game at the mos topportune moment for you to win the game.
Why it should be ranked lower: I'm a sore loser.  The objective cards that determine who wins the game are largely luck based and can be completed as soon as you draw the card which means that you might not have been the one to complete the objective (in the case of the bamboo tile placement).

29. Village
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 45-60 minutes
Complexity: Medium-high
Style of game: Worker placement
Why it should be ranked higher: There is no luck involved, it is just pure strategy.  Unfortunately for me, I'm not very good at the game.  We've played the game twice and have developed completely different strategies which is fun.  It would take a lot of plays to completely exhaust the strategies of the game which should make it rank much, much higher.  Using time as the most precious resource in the game is something that I really enjoy.
Why it should be ranked lower: This is basically a less intense/complex version of Agricola which I didn't rank in this top 50.  While it's not a straight worker placement game, it follows a lot of the same mechanics and/or style of game.

28. Thebes: The Tomb Raiders
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 30 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Set collection/hand management
Why it should rank higher: I really enjoy the mechanic where the person last on the time track will go first.  This allows whoever is behind on the time track to plan multiple turns in a row without being interfered with by the other player.  The other ways the game handles luck mitigation is also very goo, whether it is a card that allows you to look through a tomb or the thief allowing you take a card from an excavation stack.  The balancing of when you should excavate versus gaining knowledge adds a nice balance to the game.
Why it should be ranked lower: I've only played the game with two players which allows you to play with the maximum amount of excavation cards per player.  With more players, you would have less excavations to play with making the balance to excavate not as great.  The other issue is that the cards are so small that they're hard to shuffle which is annoying for a card based game.

27. Lost Cities: The Board Game
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 30-45 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Set collection/hand management
Why it should be ranked higher: A little more complex version of Lost Cities, which is one of my favorite games.  It's a very easy game to play and learn which definitely helps its ranking here.  There is an added element of strategy to the game as you are trying to move your explorers to maximize the number of points you get.  If you're able to move your multiplier explorer, you can score a lot more points but you also need to collect artifacts to score at the end of the game so there is a nice balance to the game.
Why it should be ranked lower: While it does add a layer of complexity to the game, a lot of what is added is luck.  In the two player game, 30 cars are taken out of the deck at random which makes the game a lot different.  The other issue is that you can only score a multiplier on one fo the colors that you choose to explore instead of as many as you want with Lost Cities.

26. Bruges
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 45 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Dice rolling/hand management
Why it should rank higher: While it is a pretty simple game to learn, there are a lot of different actions that can be taken and a lot to think about each turn.  Additionally, each of the cards are used for different actions being used as action markers.  You do need to decid when you would like to build a house to be able play more cards, when to build a gondola, or when to take more workers.  You also need to be able to plan several turns in advance to play your cards properly.  As we become more familiar with the cards, we can strategize more.
Why it should rank lower: With a two player game, you end up taking out a lot of the cards preventing you from getting too familiar with the cards.  I really like Stefan Feld games so I could be overrating this game.

25. Ticket to Ride
Number of players: 2-5
Time: 45-60 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Route-building/hand management/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: It's the best gateway game out there.  We've taught a few people how to play this game who weren't into game and at least two of them really loved it (the other being my parents who didn't like it near as much).  It's an easy game to learn with very simple mechanics.  You're able to mess with your opponent's strategy and prevent them from completing their routes.  This can be really frustrating and I think could potentially ruin more friendships than Monopoly could, given the same number of people playing the game.
Why it should be ranked lower: The US map, which is the base game, does not play the greatest with two players.  It is considerably more fun with more than two players.  The cards that come in the base game are very small and nearly impossible to shuffle.  That's incredibly frustrating to have to buy an expansion to get normal sized cards.  The expansion includes more routes which makes it totally worth it, but still.

24. Rum and Pirates
Number of players: 2-5
Time: 30-45 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Meeple placement/action based turns
Why it should be ranked higher: It's an easy game to learn as most of the game is based off of learning what each of the tiles on the board represent.  Additionally, it's a fun theme since it's pirate themed.  There are ways to mitigate the luck involved in the game and there's a significant amount of strategy that I don't think we've scratched the surface of, just yet.
Why it should be ranked lower: It reminds me of the game Tokaido for some reason.  Maybe it's that each tile on the board allows for very specific actions.  I like Tokaido much better and should probably not overrate this game.  Additionally, I may overrate Stefan Feld games as I like his designs more than most people. While it plays alright with 2 players, I think it would play better with more players.  There's more than my share of luck involved with the various pub tiles or having to draw the tiles from the board game box.

23. Valley of the Kings
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 30 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Deckbuilding/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: I love deckbuilding games.  The game is quick and easy to learn but allows for a lot of decision.  Each person has to weigh a lot of decisions during each turn.  Do you want to entomb a card removing it from the game, should you use the action text on the card, or use them for currency to get new cards?  It is a challenging game to master.  It helps that I win this game a lot of the times that we play.
Why it should be ranked lower: I love deckbuilding games which may mean I overrate deckbuilding games.  For some reason, we don't play this game as many times as I would like for some reason.  There's only one of each card in the deck which may make the game excessively confrontational if someone is hellbent on destroying cards.

22. Puerto Rico
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 45-60 minutes
Complexity: Medium-high
Style of game:Role selection
Why it should be ranked higher: The game is a classic.  It was considered the best board game on Board Game Geek for a long time.  It's rated as the #5 board game of all time so take my ranking with a grain of salt.   Despite my categorization as a medium-high complexity game, it's not that difficult to teach and doesn't last too long.
Why it should be ranked lower: There are a couple of favored strategies that will allow you to win almost every game.  If you're playing with more people, you can potentially counter it.  I'm not going to ruin it for you.  The two player variant that Amanda and I play is fun but is not listed in the official rules and took us some time to find.  Additionally, the spawn of this game, San Juan, has the same theme and concept is much more enjoyable to both Amanda and I.

21. Star Realms
Number of players: 2
Time: ~10 minutes
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Deckbuilding
Why it should be ranked higher: Unique deckbuilding where you attack the other player to reduce their health points to zero.  There are four different factions that allow you to build bigger combinations to attack your opponent with greater force.  It's a quick game, easy to teach, and full of strategy.  The different bases in the game allow you to protect yourself and can be used to help build different combinations.  The base game costs about $10-15 which is a really good price for a game that is this good.
Why it should be ranked lower: With the random cards being turned over for purchase in the card row (the mechanic used by almost all non-Dominion deckbuilding games) are heavily luck influenced as the cards in the card row are replaced immediately.  The only real other issue is that the theme is in space which is not really appealing to Amanda which makes us less likely to play.
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20. Stone Age
Number of players: 2-4
Time: 45 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Worker placement/dice rolling
Why it should be ranked higher: It is the definitive worker placement game, especially for gateway gamers.  Beyond that, each turn gives you a number of different options for where you can place your worker to help maximize your points at the end of the game.  Do you need resources, food, or do you need another member of your tribe?  The set collection aspect with the cards gives you even more strategy, as there are some cards that will score more points (exponential points) or cards that score as multipliers to other factors such as your strength or your harvest points.  These multipliers also may determine your strategy for placing your workers throughout the game.  Despite the amount of strategy in the game, it is very easy to teach/learn.
Why it should be ranked lower: All my talk about mitigating luck in board games applies here.  I have rolled my dice trying to get the resources I need to get the card I need and to build my hut and falling just a few numbers short.  While there is the strength to help with that, I still fell short which is incredibly frustrating.  Amanda doesn't like this game as much as I do so it doesn't get played as often as it should.  Also, I'm not the biggest fan of worker placement games.

19. Cartagena
Number of players: 2-5
Complexity: Low
Time: 15-20 minutes
Style of game: Racing/hand management/meeple placement
Why it should be ranked higher:It's a really easy game to learn and to play. The mechanic to catch up requires a lot of strategy and a lot of thought to plan out your move for something that is so easy to learn how to play.  The best part is that you're never really out of the game if you can successfully plan out your turn.  It's pirate themed so that's a plus.
Why it should be ranked lower: We've mainly played this game two players which is not as much fun with 2 players compared to playing with 3 or more players.  There is a two player variant out there that we haven't tried, yet, we'll try it.  I tend to overrate racing games.

18. Tokaido
Number of players: 2-5
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Point-to-point movement/set collection/racing/meeple placement
Why it should be ranked higher: The game is really easy to learn as it is just memorizing what each of the tiles may do.  It's an easy game to learn but a difficult one to master.  I do like different games that allow for each action scors you different points.  I also enjoy the mechanic involved in this game where the person in last goes first.  This allows for more strategy in planning your turns so that you can really maximize your points.
Why it should be ranked lower:  While some disagree, we do not think that the game works that well with two players and need more players to really shine.  With more than two players, though, it has become one of our favorite games.  There is some luck element to the game but we haven't run into it, as of yet, where you might not be able to get the souvenir cards or encounter cards.

17. Seasons
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: Medium
Time: 30-45 minutes
Style of game: Card drafting/hand management/dice rolling
Why it should be ranked higher: There's a quite a bit of strategy in this game.  From the very beginning with the card drafting, you have to constantly be thinking about turns much later in this game.  While there is quite a bit of luck involved with the dice rolls, you can help mitigate the luck with your card play.  There's not a clear strategy to win every time which makes the game more interesting.
Why it should be ranked lower: This is the game I forgot to rank making this a top 51 instead of a top 50 list.  Amanda doesn't seem to like this game that much, I imagine it's because there's not that many cards to choose from to play throughout the whole game.

16. Patchwork
Number of players: 2
Complexity: Medium
Time: 30 minutes
Style of game: Tile placement
Why it should be ranked higher: It's a two player only game which makes the game seem more competitive.  It's an interesting concept where you place the different patches of the quilt on your individual game board.  You have to balance the time element, how many buttons you'll receive later, and how it will fit on your board which make sit full of interesting choices.  This game operates with a similar feel to Tokaido or Thebes where the player in last on the time track gets to go.
Why it should be ranked lower We've only played the game a few times so I'm a bit worried that the game will get a little stale with more plays.  I'm also terrible with spatial games such as this or Blokus which makes it less enjoyable to me.

15. Coloretto
Number of players: 2-5
Complexity: Low
Time: 10 minutes
Style of game: Set collection
Why it should be ranked higher:You have two choices on your turn so it goes pretty quick.  This is the easiest game we have to teach.  We've taught more people to play this game than any other game, probably combined.  Even so, there's a lot of strategy in this simple game.  Making the card rows more tempting for an opponent to take to maximize your points is a little bit of a skill.  Plus it's a silly little game.  The cost of the game is around $10 but there's a lot of game there.
Why it should be ranked lower: The game doesn't play that well with two players.  There is a way to play with two players, limiting the amount of card rows and cards in the card row but it just doesn't work, as well.  Some people may complain that it's too easy/simplistic.  I don't believe it's colorblind friendly.

14. La Isla
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: Medium
Time: 30-45 minutes
Style of game: Hand management/meeple placement/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: There are dodo birds involved; how many games involve dodo birds?  Each turn you determine how you would like to play the cards that you receive, they can do one of three things.  You can also choose to place your meeple during that phase of the round or take a resource of your choice.  In order to collect the animal tokens, you need to control various areas of the game board.  It's just the right amount of decision making to make you feel like you can actually plan your turn.
Why it should be ranked lower: There is quite a bit of luck involved as you may not be able to get the resources you need to for several turns to take the animal tokens that you have set your meeple to take on the game board.  Also, one of the extinct animals is a moth which we think is a mosquito.  Another Stefan Feld game, so probably overrated by me.

13. San Juan
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: Medium
Time: 30 minutes
Style of game: Hand management/tableau building/role selection
Why it should be ranked higher: After we got this game, we learned how to play this game quickly and played immediately.  It is one of our most played game.  It's a great tableau builder to teach you how to play these style of games.  This is a better version of Puerto Rico, in our opinion.  On your turn, you take a role to select which action can be used during that turn.  The role you select gives you a bonus.  You can build various buildings to help you earn victory points.  There's a lot of choices each turn in terms of which role you want, what actions to take, or which buildings you want to build.  To learn and play the game with this amount of depth, it took 45 minutes.
Why it should be ranked lower: According to BoardGameGeek, there is a way to break this game but we haven't found it, yet.  The only reason I don't like this game is because I'm not very good at it.

12. Bora Bora
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: Medium-high
Time: 45-60 minutes
Style of game: Set collection, dice placement/worker placement
Why it should be ranked higher:IT's a very strategic game with almost all of the luck from the dice rolsl being mitigated.  There's a lot of thinking and planning involved in each turn which only consists of three actions.  You have to plan wisely and be able to count out your turns for the whole game to be able to win.  Also, you score points for nearly every action (which can be a con for some people) but is something that I really like, as it forces me to try to maximize my points.
Why it should be ranked lower: The version that we got, the Alea version, does not have any spare pieces which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on us to not lose any pieces.  It's a chore to set up and clean up, meaning it just adds a lot of time to an already fairly long game.  Also, the game ha s a limited amount of rounds which makes the game fairly stressful.

11. Through the Ages
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: High
Time: 90 minutes/per player
Style of game: Hand management/civilization building/card drafting
Why it should be ranked higher: This is probably the best game that we have in terms of strategy.  It's incredibly challenging and there's no luck involved.  It's also the most rewarding game that we own.  It reminds me of my favorite computer games (because I'm a nerd) and follows very nicely.  If you want to know more of my thoughts on this game, click on the link above.
Why it should be ranked lower: Time.  We don't have three hours to play a game.

10. Kingdom Builder
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: Medium
Time: 30 minutes
Style of game: Area control/route building
Why it should be ranked higher: The most misunderstood game that we've played.  In fact, I misunderstood the game the first couple of times that I played.  You play the card from your hand and place your settlements.  You try to set yourself up the best way possible for the next turn and the turn after.  It's an easy game to teach but fairly difficult to master.  The different terrain tiles that you have in the original game allow for a different game each time you play so the same strategy won't work each turn.  The different objective cards change it up quite a bit, as well.
Why it should be ranked lower: It's misunderstood a bit in the gaming community and after the first time you play you may think that there wasn't a whole lot to the game.
9. Rivals for Catan

8. 7 Wonders
Number of players: 2-7
Complexity: Medium
Time: 30 minutes
Style of game: Card drafting/tableau building/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: The game offers quite a bit of strategy in terms of maximizing your resources with building wonders or building buildings for later in the game.  The simultaneous play allows the game to go quickly so that there is no downtime while waiting for another player to finally choose their card.
Why it should be ranked lower: Card drafting games like this and Sushi Go don't typically work with 2 players.  The game works the best with 3 or more players (ideally 4 or more).  In addition, the game has a lot of symbols on the cards that might confuse new players who are learning how to play.

7. Lewis and Clark: The Expedition
Number of players:1-5
Complexity: High
Style of game: Deckbuilding/worker placement/racing/hand management
Time: 45-60 minutes
Why it should be ranked higher: It combines a number of different mechanics to make a really fun and rewarding game.  Each turn you are presented with a number of options that can seem a little overwhelming at first.  Because it's a racing game, you can keep track of your progress in real time as opposed to secret victory point totals at the end.  The different cards can be used for a number of different things which is always a good way of using cards.  The balancing act each turn makes each turn incredibly stressful but fun.
Why it should be ranked lower: It's a brain burner.  At the end of the game, I am mentally exhausted.  Also, Bartholomew Hunt is not involved in the game.

6. Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game
Number of players: 1-5
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Deckbuilding
Time: 30-45 minutes
Why it should be ranked higher: It's my second favorite deckbuilding (my favorite style of game) game behind Dominion which is my favorite game.  I'm a Marvel fan.  It allows for a semi-cooperative mechanic that allows you to potentially work with your fellow players to defeat the mastermind.  Each of the cards give different actions either coins to recruit more heroes or strength points to defeat villains or the mastermind.  Recruiting heroes builds your deck and allows for various combinations.  Beside Dominion, this game allows for the best combinations in a deckbuilding game.
Why it should be ranked lower: This is going to sound pretty nerdy but the game doesn't allow the easiest way to thin your deck to build the most efficient deck to defeat the mastermind.  Technically, the only way to win the game is to defeat the mastermind which you and/or your other players can do.

5. Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Number of players: 1-4
Complexity: Medium
Time: 30-45 minutes
Style of game: Tile placement/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: The master builder mechanic gives the master builder quite a bit of strategy to setting the tiles under the various costs.  This can be tricky as you want to get money to purchase more tiles but don't want to give them any tiles that they really want or need.  Building the various castles provides a bit more fun than Suburbia as you can talk about the rooms that you are building and compare the problems with having say a torture room next to a bottomless pit.  Scoring points in this game is easier than in Suburbia and doesn't negatively affect you as it does in the very similar Suburbia game. The bonus cards also are a bit more diverse and are only there for most of, or most square footage of a room, or having all of a room type, etc. as opposed to having the least of a certain tile.
Why it should be ranked lower: Basically the game is Suburbia with the added twist of having a master builder who gets the coins from each player, as opposed to the bank.  It also takes a while for the game to be set up and taken down.

4. Suburbia
Number of players: 1-4
Complexity: Medium
Time: 45 minutes
Style of game: Tile placement
Why it should be ranked higher: More complex than Lost Cities.  There's less luck involved in this game and you have more of a chance to screw over your opponent.  The city that you build actually becomes kind of a story to talk about during the game.  The scoring track discourages someone from getting too big of a lead in the game early as they will be negatively impacted later for their income and their reputation.  It's brilliant how it discourages behavior to score too many points before your city is properly built.  The tiles really flow together, as well.
Why it should be ranked lower: The goals that are assigned for the public can contradict what you have as a private goal.  For instance, the public goal could be most blue tiles and your private goal may be to have the least amount.  This impacts the total amount of points you may be able to score.  This is somewhat negated by drawing multiple private goals and choosing to keep one of the private goal tiles.  It bothers me still.  The game is a little long to setup and need quite a bit of room to play.

3. Lost Cities
Number of players: 2
Complexity: Low
Time: 15-30 minutes
Style of game: Hand management/press your luck/set collection
Why it should be ranked higher: It's one of the easiest games to learn that we own.  It's the best two player only game that we have found, so far.  Despite being so easy to learn and how to play, there is quite a bit of depth to consider.  You have to be able to determine when you want to start your expedition and what cards you need to collect or discard.  The game can be pretty confrontational while you watch your opponent struggle for getting their expedition to 20.
Why it should be ranked lower: The theme is entirely lacking (if that's something you look for in a game).  There is quite a bit of luck in what cards you end up, unfortunately, but by playing your cards right you can mitigate most of the luck.

2. Castles of Burgundy
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: Medium-high
Time: 45-60 minutes
Style of game: Dice manipulation/set collection/tile placement
Why it should be ranked higher: It is a more complex game than Dominion and requires more strategy than Dominion.  The game also requires dice rolling which also makes games more fun.  The various tiles that you place on your play area all have different powers and can trigger different actions.  So you want to make sure you think through your turn and plan out turns ahead of time which is something you can do in this game compared to Dominion.
Why it should be ranked lower: The game is best with two players, in my opinion.  In theory, it would work fine with more than two players; however, with people who are not as familiar with this game can take a long time for the game to go on.  I lose this game a lot unless I've been drinking heavily.  It encourages me to drink more which seems unhealthy.

1. Dominion
Number of players: 2-4
Complexity: Medium
Time: 45 minutes
Style of game: Deckbuilding
Why it's #1: I love the mechanics of deckbuilding.  The very basic deckbuiling in Dominion is what got hooked me on board games in the first place.  Having your own deck that you build from the very beginning is very appealing, as well.  Every game of Dominion is going to be different because of the cards that are selected as the action cards.  Because of this, your strategy is going to be different each game.  I love that.  There are different ways to counteract whatever strategy your opponent is trying to pursue.  There is not any one card that will guarantee you victory.  We have played this game more times than I can count and not just because I can't count very high.  This is our go-to game when we can't decide on what we want to play.  At $30 for the base game, I can't recommend it more highly.
Why it should be lower: Deckbuilding games are not for everyone.  You buy cards so you can buy more cards so you can buy more cards.  Some people just don't like the concept.  In addition, the strict rules of five cards in your hand, one action, and one buy can make people feel stifled in their turns.  Some of the cards might be annoying to some people.  We rarely play with some of the cards as we think it changes the game too much and not for the better, such as the Gardens card which gives extra victory points for every 10 cards in your deck at the end of the game.  This makes the decks too large and drags the game.  The only other issue is that it can be fairly hard to trim your deck or trash unwanted cards, depending on the action cards you select at the beginning of the game.