Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Better Board Games Part 2: Exclusives

I think I'm writing this because I'm getting depressed that I can't find any local board-gaming couples to play games at our house. On Sunday we called about 6 families to invite them for dinner and games. The first 5 didn't answer their phones, the sixth couple said 'yes', but then canceled. Do they hate having fun? Don't they know how well I cook? Should I just take a hint?...

Anyway, as I've stated before in the first Better Board Games post (which is practically required reading around here), we have a large collection of designer board games not found in the average American household. To reiterate, a better board game has the following characteristics:

  1. Most important, it has to be FUN.
  2. It should be EYE-CATCHING. Just like with great cuisine, the gaming experience is enhanced if it's pleasing to look at.
  3. It should require players to make CHOICES. This is what draws people into games. No roll-and-move games accepted here.
  4. It should be EASY TO TEACH in less than 5 minutes. Any longer, and most people will shut off their ears. True story.
  5. It must be SOCIAL. In board games, you're meant to have fun with other people. The best games promote conversation among those playing.
I listed five examples in the first post. Here I'd like to highlight five more examples, but this time the games are rare finds even by collectors' standards. So if you'd ever like to play these games you MUST COME TO OUR HOUSE...please???


Crokinole is simple flicking game reminiscent of shuffleboard on a round surface. This is one of my three favorite games and we play it more regularly than anything else. I love the above photo because it really shows the spirit of Crokinole: generations playing together, a well-worn surface from MANY games, and excitement over every single flick.

Why it's rare: A typical board can cost $150-$500. I decided to make my own board instead of pony up the cost.

Mississippi Queen

Mississippi Queen was the 1997 winner of the 'Oscars' of board games: Spiel des Jahres. It's basically a steamboat race down the Mississippi River, but you don't know what's coming next on the river, and you have to slow down to pick up passengers on the way. I never know what to expect on this one (except fun). 

Why it's rare: This game has been out-of-print in the USA for many years. Boo. You can still find it internationally, but the price is much higher than when it was in print. I was lucky enough to find someone on Ebay willing to sell it for less than 1/2 of its value.


Go is the greatest game ever made. Let me repeat that, Go is the greatest game ever made. One philosopher stated that God's closet has one board game - Go. Simple enough to learn in 5 minutes, yet mastery takes a lifetime.

Why it's rare: Truth be told, this isn't a rare game but most Westerners haven't heard about it as it's of Oriental origin. Instead, we perceive a European game, Chess, as 'the master game'. I hate Chess, but love Go. Also, it can get pricey. Really nice sets can cost $10,000+ but my still-quite-nice set was 1/100 of that.

PitchCar / PitchCar Mini

Another flicking game like Crokinole, but this one has a building component. You build a race track out of various curves, straights, and jumps before flicking wooden cars around three laps. The best games come unbelievably close to the wire and have a few wild shots that jump off the table. Lots of funny moments here. I made some custom Nintendo character discs and a new rule set for my copy...I call it Mario PitchKart.

Why it's rare: Well, first of all, this isn't made out of cardboard. It's wooden and therefore, pricey. Second, the publisher of this game doesn't really make anything else so they don't have a great distribution system; it's hard to find in stock. We have Pitchcar Mini instead of the larger version because the full-size track wouldn't fit on our table!

Nexus Ops

This game is different from all the rest on this list in that it is an American game. Nexus Ops is a corporate battle for resources on an alien planet that always seems to turn into an intense game of 'King of the Hill'. And did I mention it glows under black lights??? Seriously, that makes it awesome by any standards.

Why it's rare: Nexus Ops used to sell for practically nothin' at Toys R Us. But the stores didn't keep the game on shelves long enough for it to become popular. Now that the game has a huge cult following, it's out of print. I had to order it from Australia.

I hope this convinces you all to answer your phone the next time I call. ;)


  1. You should have called us -- you just have to give us about 43 hours advanced notice (if we drive non-stop). :)
    We understand, though. Lately I've noticed Michael takes a different aproach to try to rope them in: we invite a new couple over for dinner or dessert, then after eating Michael asks them if they like games. We still haven't found our Hedgecocks and Kearls in New York yet. Oh well.

  2. Wow, so enticing! Wish we lived closer and we would be over at your house ALL the time!

  3. I would just like to say: it's your fault for moving. I've decided to be offended about that. Do you know how long it's been since I've had fondue? *sigh*
    My sister wants games for Christmas she said--preferably something she could play with her kids but still have fun doing. I know you have good ideas for that. (Only there's a spending limit on the Shepherd gift exchange so it's gotta be el-cheapo, too.)