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Games Recommended

from the cabinet of Matt Leacock (contact me)

Last updated sometime in 2007.

This page contains lists of games that I both own and personally recommend. If you're here, it's probably because you've played a game with me and want to know a little more about it or where you can buy it. The games you see here all link to Funagain games. Funagain offers a large variety of new and used domestic and imported games as well as good customer service. If you buy a game off of this page, they give me a small cut.

Pass this link on to a friend. You're viewing leacock.com/games

See also my Want to Play List for other potentials.

Where to Start

I've divided up my top picks into four categories, each containing four games:

Lighter Fare -- If you like party games but don't play (or think you'll play) anything more involved yet, give these a try. Most of these games can be played in less than 30 minutes and can be played by more people.

German Games Starter Kit -- If you aren't afraid to try a game that'll last 30 to 75 minutes, check out these games. The games in this category form the heart of my collection.

Games for Gamers -- If you're a would-be gaming enthusiast, don't miss the games in this category. They're a little more complex but worth it. These games usually play in about 60 to 90 minutes.

Two-player Games -- Like the title says. Perfect for the honeymoon. :-)

Games for Kids -- For children 3 and up; tested by my daughter Colleen and me.

More Information

There's a wealth of additional information on these games on the Internet. If you'd like to learn more about any of these games, check out the following links:

Funagain.com
The product description pages at Funagain offer photographs and reviews of these games.

Boardgame Geek
A quick search on the Geek can reveal ratings, reviews, photos, translations, and descriptions.

The Internet Top 100 Games
Another great way to discover popular games.

Lighter Fare

Sick of Scattergories? Tired of trivia? Look no further, my friend. Impress the folks at your next party or get-together with one of the games below. These are easy to teach, don't take long to play, and don't have to be taken very seriously (winners can gloat lightheartedly, losers can blame their luck). These also make great openers and closers (appetizers and desserts) for a full night of games.

Liar's Dice
A great bluffing game where each player tries to determine how many dice are showing a certain number, based only on the five dice they have and the bids made by the other players. To add more players, add more dice -- the more the merrier.
Players 2 to 4, but as many as 7 or 8 can play if you add more dice and cups.
Ages 12+
Length 15 minutes
Publisher Endless Games
Related Games Call My Bluff, Perudo
Designer Richard Borg
Apples to Apples

Each player takes turns being the "judge" -- the player who reveals a card with a person, place, or thing on it. Players then frantically choose a card from their hand to describe it. The judge then chooses which card offers the best description. Sound simple? It is. The fun comes when you, as the judge, have to decide things like, what's more "Chunky"? "My High School Prom" or "Canadians"?
Players 4 to 10
Ages 12+
Length 20 to 30 minutes
Publisher Out of the Box
Expansions Expansion Set #1, Expansion Set #2, Expansion Set #3, Blank Cards
Designer Matthew Kirby & Mark Alan Osterhaus
No Thanks!

Every turn you're offered a card worth -3 to -35 points. If you don't want the card, simply say, "no thanks" and put a chip on it. That strategy works great -- until you run out of chips. Collect runs of cards to reduce your score, but watch out, not all of the cards are in play and noone knows which cards are missing. A cute little game of risk management.

Players 3 to 5
Ages 8+
Length 20 minutes
Publisher Z-Man Games (Amigo)
Designer Thorsten Gimmler
TransAmerica

It's a race to see which player can connect his or her five cities first by rail. Each turn players add one or two pieces of rail to their network. Because all of the players share all of the track, the players need figure out to how to help themselves the most, while helping their opponents the least. Perhaps the fastest-playing rail game ever made. Light fun.

Players 2 to 6 (the more the better; 6 is best)
Ages 8+
Length 30 minutes
Publisher Winning Moves
Designer Franz-Benno Delonge

More Lighter Fare

Bohnanza

Hey! That's My Fish!

10 Days in Africa

Mama Mia

Frank's Zoo

Once Upon a Time

Alles im Eimer

Carabande* / PitchCar

Quiddler

Squint

Wheedle

 


German Games Starter Kit

These games are some of the most-played games in my collection. I think this is due primarily to the fact that they're accessible to the largest audience. (Everyone from my grandmother to my propeller-headed friends enjoys playing them.) I attribute this accessiblity to three factors: low complexity, one-hour play length, and small amounts of downtime (that is, players are involved during all of the turns, or the time between turns is small.) They also have great production values.

The Settlers of Catan
Settlers started the German board game craze for many people. Players trade commodities such as wheat, ore, brick, and sheep to build settlements, roads and cities, all in an effort to settle the imaginary island of Catan. In addition to having a great balance of strategy and luck, each player is always active during the game -- players don't have to sit idly and wait for their turn. If you like the game, be sure to check out some of the expansions and related games.
Players 3 or 4
Ages 10+
Length 60 to 75 minutes
Publisher Mayfair Games
Expansions 5-6 Player Expansion, The Seafarers of Catan, Seafarers 5-6 Player Expansion
Related

Cities and Knights of Catan and its 5-6 Player Expansion. Adds complexity.

Starfarers of Catan is the space-themed cousin of Settlers (recommended). Its 5-6 Player Expansion and Alien Figures are also available.

Die Siedler von Catan (Kosmos). The original German versio. Has all of the expansions above (and more).

Settlers of Catan Card Game and its Expansion. For two players only.

Designer Klaus Teuber
Carcassonne
A tile laying game where players build and compete to control cities, farms, roads, and monasteries in the south of France. Easy to learn, plays quickly, and has attractive components. Can be played cooperatively or more intensely, depending on the mood of the players.
Players 2 to 5
Ages 10+
Length 30 minutes
Publisher Rio Grande Games (Hans im Glück)
Expansions The River Expansion is now included with the basic set. The Carcassonne Expansion is sold separately and recommended. Traders & Builders is the second expansion. It can be played with or without the first expansion. Inns & Cathedrals further bloats the line.
Related Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers is another spin on the game which simpifies scoring; Carcassonne: The Castle is a highly recommended version for 2 players, and Carcassonnne: The City is a beautifully packaged version that captures much of the flavor of the Castle but allows for more players.
Designer Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Ra
An auction game where players collect tiles depicting "stuff" related to Ancient Egypt. Each turn players either add stuff to the auction block or put the stuff up for auction. Tension mounts as no-one really knows when a round will end. The player with the best score after three rounds wins. The simple rules combined with the different collection strategies and the tension created by the tile draws makes for an engaging game.
Players 3 to 5
Ages 12+
Length 45 to 60 minutes
Publisher Rio Grande Games (alea)
Designer Reiner Knizia
Ticket to Ride
This is an extremely simple game to teach and learn yet it's surprisingly full of tension. Each turn players either draw cards depicting train cars or use those cards to expand their routes on a map of the USA. Players collect points for completed routes and lose points for routes they fail to complete. My favorite of 2004.
Players 2 to 5 (4 or 5 recommended)
Ages 8+
Length 30 to 60 minutes
Publisher Days of Wonder
Designer Alan Moon

More for the Starter Kit

San Juan

Modern Art

Hacienda

Acquire

Blue Moon City

Beowulf

The Lord of the Rings

Saint Petersburg

Streetcar

Hase und Igel

Medici

Elfenland

Lunatix Loop*

Gnadenlos

Expedition

Adel Verplichtet

Big City

Aladdin's Dragons

Web of Power

Sindbad

Mississippi Queen

Formula Dé Mini

Evo

Eurorails

 

 


Games for Gamers

These games take on average about 15 more minutes to learn that those in the "German Games Starter Kit," and play lengths are extended a bit, but the time investments are paid off with the ability to form deeper strategies. Random effects have less of a role in these games, as they often affect all players, rather than just one player.

Tigris and Euphrates
Reiner Knizia's tile-laying game where players attempt to have the most influential leaders in the cradle of civiliation. Presents the classic problem: "what do you do when you have dozens of things you want to do but can only choose two?" Interesting scoring system where a player's score is equal to his or her worst score in one of four colors. My favorite game.
Players 2 to 4
Ages 12+
Length 90 minutes
Publisher Mayfair Games
Related Euphrat & Tigris (Hans im Glück) is the original German edition.
Designer Reiner Knizia
Puerto Rico
Currently the most-played game in several of the groups I play with. An excellent "production" game with many different strategies. Players produce resources on plantations, process them in the city, and load them on to boats for points. Great replay value: after each game I often hear players talk about all of their regrets -- that is, "Next time, I think I'll try that strategy differently..."
Players 3 to 5
Ages 12+
Length 90 to 150 minutes
Publisher Rio Grande Games (alea)
Designer Andreas Seyfarth
Domaine
Players compete for territory in this new release of Löwenherz by the designer of Settlers of Catan. Each turn players choose to expand their kingdom, add walls to neutral territory in order to form new kingdoms or add knights to their kingdoms in order to allow them to push into their opponents' territories. Nice bits.
Players 2 to 4
Ages 12+
Length 45 to 60 minutes
Publisher Rio Grande Games (Kosmos)
Related See also Löwenherz which is the older version of the game by the same author.
Designer Klaus Teuber
El Grande
Each player deploys Cabelleros onto a map of Spain, attempting to get "just enough" bits in each area to score the most points. Simple mechanics with cards that allow each player to break the rules each turn in a tactically advantageous way.
Players 2 to 5 (I recommend 3 to 5)
Ages 12+
Length 90 minutes
Publisher Rio Grande Games (Hans im Glück)
Expansions The El Grande Expansions by Rio Grande include Expansion #1 and Expansion #2.
Designer Wolfgang Kramer & Richard Ulrich

More Games for Gamers

Railroad Tycoon

The Starfarers of Catan

The Princes of Florence

The Traders of Genoa

Tadsh Mahal

Wallenstein

Power Grid

La Citta

Leonardo DaVinci

Volldampf

Ursuppe

Goa

War of the Ring

 

 

 

Two-player Games

 

Lost Cities
A classic two-player card game that is full of tension and suspense. Each player must constantly make trade offs and manage risks as time runs out. Will you attempt to fund many expeditions, hoping that at least one them will pay off, or will you concentrate on one expedition, hoping that your opponent choose the same?
Players 2
Ages 10+
Length 20 to 40 minutes
Publisher Rio Grande Games (Kosmos)
Designer Reiner Knizia
Carcasonne: The Castle

The Castle is a 2-player version of the popular Carcasonne series. In this version of the game, tiles are played within a castle wall that doubles as the score board. I enjoy the game more than the basic version because there seem to be more options for clever play each turn.

Players 2
Ages 8+
Length 30 to 45 minutes
Publisher Rio Grande Games (Hans im Glück)
Designer Reiner Knizia, Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Memoir '44
Reinact battles from WWII in this highly accessible and expandable gem of a game. Memoir '44 comes with a slew of little army men, tanks, and artillery that you command using a deck of cards. The set comes with 15 scenarios, you can complement these with the expansion or create your own online.
Players 2
Ages 12+
Length 45 minutes
Publisher Avalon Hill
Designer Richard Borg
Expansions Terrain Pack, Eastern Front, Winter/Desert Board Map
Related Battle Cry, Command and Colors: Ancients
Starship Catan
This is a big game in a small box. Fans of Settlers and Starfarers of Catan should check this out. Unlike Settlers, one of the keys to the game is buying and selling goods rather than simply trading them. Players slowly amass knowledge about the four different sectors in the galaxy, then use this knowledge to buy and sell goods, found colonies and trade planets in a race to get 10 points.
Players 2
Ages 12+
Length 60 to 90 minutes
Publisher Mayfair Games
Related

Based on the board game, Starfarers of Catan and the Settlers of Catan Card Game, both of which are based on Settlers of Catan.

Designer Klaus Teuber

More Two-player Games

Battle Cry

Balloon Cup

Caesar & Cleopatra

Hera and Zeus

Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit

The Settlers of Catan Card Game

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

Wooden Games

Although these are often a bit too abstract for my taste, I keep them around because they don't take long to play, are fun with kids, and because many of them are simply beautiful objects.

Score Four*

Connect Four

Cathedral

Chess

Sac Noir

Games for Little Kids (Colleen's Shelf)

Description goes here for this category.

The Secret Door
A fun combination of memory with a cooperative aspect and a count-down timer. Help your kids find the secret treasures before time runs out.
Players 1-8
Ages 5+
Length time
Publisher Family Pastimes
Designer Jim Deacove
Cariboo
Each turn you draw a card showing a color, number, or shape and "unlock" a trapdoor picturing a matching symbol. If you're lucky, you'll find a little rubber ball underneath. Collect 6 rubber balls and a treasure chest will magically open, revealing a purple gem. Colleen adores this game. Comes with beginner and more advanced cards.
Players 2-4
Ages 3+
Length 20 minutes
Publisher Cranium, Inc.
Designer (Uncredited) Forrest-Pruzan Creative
Go Away Monster
Each game players draw differently shaped tiles out of a cloth bag, hoping to find furniture to complete their bedroom. If you draw a monster instead, you shout "Go away monster!" and throw it in the box. Already have a teddy bear in your room? Share it with another player. A well-designed cooperative game of self-empowerment. Sturdy bits and box to boot.
Players 1-4
Ages 3+
Length 15 minutes
Publisher Gamewright
Designer Ann and Monty Stambler
Kids of Catan
Start your little one off right on the island of Catan. Take turns collecting wheat, bricks, and wood in order to complete your settlements in this gorgeously produced game.
Players 2-4
Ages 4+
Length 15 minutes
Publisher Mayfair Games (Kosmos)
Designer Klaus Teuber
Related A kid's version of the popular, Settlers of Catan.

More Kids' Games

Hullabaloo

Don't Break the Ice

Don't Spill the Beans

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game

Whack-A-Mole

Other Games

I limit my game collection to whatever will fit in my 6' x 3' x 2' game cabinet (36 cubic feet of games). Thus, as the better games come along, I have to kick out the weaker ones -- sometimes at the expense of an old favorite that never seems to get played any more.

I've classified all of my games by shelf. The games in the Top Shelf get the most play and form the core of my collection. The games featured above roughly fit this category. The second-shelf games roughly correlate to the games in the sidebar above. (A good portion of the Top Shelf games are in the sidebar since I limited myself to four featured games for each category.)

I've listed my Third and Fourth Shelf games below for reference. Although many of them are quite good, for one reason or another, they don't see as much play as the games above. "Third shelf" games are those that don't see much play, but I'm not ready to part with. If a game makes "Fourth Shelf" status, it's packed in the garage or about to be kicked out of the cabinet if something better comes along. You can consider the Fourth Shelf to be my "For Sale or Trade" list. Games that are striken through have been given away, sold, or scrapped for parts.

The Third Shelf
The Fourth Shelf

©2007 Matt Leacock. Images used with permission of Funagain Games.