My New Favorite Store, and I Haven't Even Been There. Plus, Christmas Game Recommendations

In my high school days, I used to play a lot of wargames from Avalon Hill and SPI.  I once spent an entire summer playing one game of War in Europe, which had a 42-square-foot map of Europe and 3500 or so pieces.     Each turn was one week, so it was literally a full time job getting through it in a couple of months.

All that is to say I spent a lot of time hanging out at game stores, particularly Nan's in Houston (a great game and comic store that still exists and I still visit every time I am in Houston).  I play fewer wargames now, but I still like strategy games that are a bit more complicated than Monopoly or Risk.  But it is hard to find a game store with a good selection (if there is one here in Phoenix, I have not found it).

But I definitely want to try this place -- the Complete Strategist in New York City.  Click through for some good game pr0n.

His list of games is good, though I have never played Gloom and I have never been a huge fan of Carcassonne.  Ticket to Ride is an awesome game and is perhaps the most accessible for kids and noobs of either his or my list.  If you recognize none of these games, it is a great place to start (there is also a great iPad app).   To his list of games I would add:

All of these games tend to present simple choices with extraordinarily complex scoring implications.  In most cases, one must build infrastructure early to score later, but the trade-off of when to switch from infrastructure building to scoring is the trick.  Five years ago Settlers of Catan would have been on any such list, but it is interesting it is on neither his nor mine.

Once you catch the bug, there are hundreds of other games out there.  My son and I last summer got caught up in a very complex Game of Thrones expandable card game.  Recommended only for those who love incredible complexity and are familiar with the books.  There are also a couple of games I have liked but only played once so far.  My son and I last summer played a fabulous though stupidly complex game of Twilight Struggle (about the Cold War, not hot vampire teens).  This is considered by many to be one of the greatest war / strategy games ever.  We also tried Eclipse (space game, again not the teen vampires) which we liked.  I have played Le Havre and Puerto Rico as iPad apps.  They were OK,  but I think the fun in them is social and the of course does not come through in the iPad app.  In the same vein, tried to play Agricola with my kids and they were bored stiff.

Update:  When in doubt, research it on Board Game Geek.  Their game ranking by user voting is here.


  1. Nick P.:

    Wargames and board games are fun, but in my heart I'll always be a pen-and-paper RPG dork.

  2. John O.:

    I have some wonderful friends in Buffalo, NY who have these games you
    recommend which are played every Tuesday night. I'll have to take
    inventory when I'm there as there have been a number of new games
    played recently. My personal favorite is Ticket to Ride which we shorten to just "Trains".

  3. Eric Hammer:

    You might give Puzzle Strike a try. It is a lot like Dominion/7 Wonders, but with more interaction I am told. It is next on my holiday list, as my extended family didn't take to Chaos in the Old World too well. That's still my favorite :(

  4. norse:

    Ah :)

    If you liked 7 Wonders and Race for the Galaxy, chances are you'll also love the following: Citadels, Lords of Waterdeep, and, for really advanced gaming, Agricola. Merry XMas.

  5. Hawkeye:

    Avalon Hill and SPI! After all these years, suddenly there are more connections! I wonder if there is a fundamental connection between midwest roots, love of military strategy and libertarian leanings?

  6. Keith Casey:

    When I still lived around DC, I used to go to the Compleat Strategist in
    Virginia almost every week. There was a Thursday night Small Press
    Night which was RPG's with print runs of less than a few thousand. Since
    it was only 2-3 Thursdays of any given game, it worked out well.. the
    terrible ones were finished quickly and the good ones were savored and
    not overdone.

  7. David:

    I still think the acme of long-form strategy games is Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization, but that is a serious commitment from the players...