I watched one of the most entertaining top ten video’s the other day. I often try to spread the love about original creators for board game content. The Board Game Kaptain and crew are always entertaining and provide great insight into games. This week they offered their Top Ten Historical Themed Games and I honestly haven’t laughed out loud that much in a while. The challenge they provided was to respond with your own top ten. Instead of placing my list in the comment section I decided to post it here for public critique. I applied some extra restrictions on myself for this list. Firstly I had to own the game and play it, plus it could not be Twilight Struggle. I love the game and keep placing it on lists, so it needs a break. With that said, let's go into my Top Ten Historical Themed Games.
A few honourable mentions:
Once I got into looking at the topic I was surprised how many games I have in my collection that I just love and have a historical theme. A couple of games I had to cut sadly included Citadels, Tokenoko, Onitama, San Juan, Condottiere, and The Princes of Florence. Either I had not played these games enough or I just didn’t think there was enough in the game to warrant being on the list. The only game I thought could make it on the list is TIME stories. I know it is a sci-fi game, but as it is all about historical events I thought it should have made it. However, I do not own a copy of TIME Stories I only play my friend's copy. These are still great games and I think the deserved a quick mention.
Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
I know this may seem a little light on historical connection but I just love teaching Carcassonne in European Medieval History at school. It is great to see how the town developed its defensive technologies against some of the most threatening offensive forces in the known world. The fortified town is simply amazing.
Designer: Steve Finn
You are medieval monks putting your own library together. Who thought cataloging could be fun? Sorry librarians, no offense. I love the simplicity of this game that starts with a fascinating drafting system and then moves into auctioning. Biblios uses information well providing just enough to suspect what others have but never enough to leave you certain. It is a simple game to learn but provides a lot of interactive fun.
Designer: Dirk Henn
Set in 1278 Granada, Sierra Nevada, Alhambra tries to bring to life the architecture of the Spanish middle ages. Alhambra has lost a lot of prominence over the last few years but I still love to play it when I can. It has a wonderful puzzle element with trying to build your Alhambra to score the most points while dealing with a fun interactive purchasing system. I have taught this game to many younger players, some not even born when this game was released, and have had great success. It stays in my collection for a reason.
Designers: Phil Walker-Harding
Players compete as architects emulating Imhotep, one of the great builders of the ancient world. Imhotep has players compete for points through series of mini-games being played simultaneously. You are loading stones onto rafts to go to building sites, each with their own way to score points. Where you place rocks on the raft matters, and when you launch the rafts matters. This game provides a great deal of interaction without too many "take that" elements, I have a lot of fun playing this game.
Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in the world. This racing game will see you compete against other merchants to be the first to 5 rubies. Yet to say this game is about trading undersells it significantly. This game has a lot of fun interactive elements including some wonderful gambling options that can ramp up the risk/reward element of the game. This Kennerspiel winner will offer a load of replayability for your gaming group. Just remember that it's Istanbul, not Constantinople.
Designer: Peter Hawes
One of Australia’s best game designers Hawes is well known for his historical focus in his game designs. Royal’s brings together my favourite mechanic of area control and pairs it with even more area control. I love the simplicity of this game and how well people play even after just one game. It is great for teaching feudal hierarchy and kingdoms of the medieval world.
4: Century Spice Road
Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
You are a trader bartering species along the historic Silk Road that shared not only spices but technology and knowledge opening up the known world to cross-cultural exchange. I know it looks like yet another trading game, but it works. Matsuuchi describes this game as gaining a cube and trading a cube for other cubes. This fun way of describing the game is highly accurate but does nothing to truly explain why this game is hugely popular. It is as simple as trading cubes, but it brilliantly contains this mini-engine building element using a hand drafting mechanic. The game never feels too hard but will leave you scratching your head at times.
Designer: Reiner Stockhausen
Set in the medieval world, Orleans is a game of balance. There is a bit happening in the game, but you need to keep your finger on the pulse or you risk getting lost and overtaken. The game includes worker placement, bag drafting, and even a bit of area control. You would think this makes the game overly complicated, but it is amazing how quickly you pick up the flow of play. Throughout the game, you will use everyone from your medieval village to the best of their ability to score the most points.
2: Mr. Jack
Designers: Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc
This is a two player game that has one player aiming to capture Jack the Ripper while their opponent tries to help him escape the law. Both players will have access to the 8 Characters on the board but only one player knows which one is Jack. The artwork is a bit odd in this game. It is great artwork but does not really portray the nature of the content of the game. You are, after all, trying to capture one of the worst serial rapists and killer. Yet the artwork would make you think it is a great game for junior school kids. Despite that the mechanics are sound and the game is a lot of fun.
Designer: Peter Prinz
This game is about archeology set in the early 20th century during the race for discovery. The best part is that this is a historically themed game where you compete to uncover new discoveries about ancient civilisations. History wrapped in history, so meta. I love this game. The way it plays with turn order is clever. Turn order is simply based on the time tracker around the board. If you are last on the tracker it is your turn. Each decision you make costs time and as soon as your pawn moves along the board ahead of another person's pawn it is that players turn.
The bag diving for archeological digs captures the theme brilliantly. When you do go digging you will pay time and research to dive into a bag and pull out tokens. you might have to spend 3 weeks and several pieces of research to take 5 tokens out of the bag. In the bag is a mix of archaeological artifacts and sand tokens. Obviously the more tokens you can take the better the chances to find something valuable, no promises though.
If you like this list go and watch the very entertaining video by The Board Gaming Kaptain that inspired this list.
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