The State of Games, Ep. 125: The One About the Absolute Essentials

stateofgameslogonewFrom time to time it’s good for us to reflect on those games that are a cornerstone of our hobby or our personal collections. Even though many of you dear readers are experienced gamers, there may be a few great designs that you’ve missed over the years. We’re here to set that straight!


planetariumImportant things mentioned on the podcast

Unpub Network

Cold War: CIA vs KGB



My Father’s Work

Pandemic Cthulhu

Race for the Galaxy


Terraforming Mars


Broom Service



Puerto Rico

Stone Age


Can’t Stop



Ticket to Ride




No Thanks


Giant crabs


Empires of the Void II

Dinosaur Island


Tavarua (Don’t forget to enter into the Collector’s Edition Tavarua giveaway mentioned in the podcast!)



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2 Responses to “The State of Games, Ep. 125: The One About the Absolute Essentials”
  1. Peter Ellis says:

    Recently found this Podcast, here are my Essentials:
    For me “essentials” does not mean my favorite games. Everyone has their tastes and some of my favorites are hated by other people (i.e. Race for the Galaxy). I think that essentials are games which most people are willing to play. Ideally they would be easy for new players to learn, but still offer some challenge for experienced players. Those two points would disqualify many longer/heavier games. It is not that I don’t like longer/heavier games, but it is sometimes harder to “bring them out”. I also think that essential games should be adaptable to both large and small groups of players.

    With all that said my first pick is “Incan Gold”. This is a game that I have played with everyone from experienced gamers to six year olds. All players choose at the same time to cash out or push their luck. Handles 3 to 8 players (according to the box). The only player downtime is if you “chicken out” early.

    My second pick is “King of Tokyo” (with the “Power Up!” expansion). This game narrowly beat “Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age”. While both are custom dice games, when playing with a larger group “Roll Through the Ages” has significant downtime. “King of Tokyo” plays quicker, and even when not your turn other players choices can effect you, so it feels less like downtime. Handles 3 to 6 players. The “Power Up!” expansion adds customization and additional tactics to the game. It is interesting to me that two of my essentials use a push your luck mechanic, although in different ways.

    My third pick is “Citadels”. I wanted a card/tile tableau game with different roles. “Race for the Galaxy”, “Roll for the Galaxy”, “Puerto Rico”, and “San Juan” all fit that description, but the first 3 have a steep learning curve for new players. I almost went with “San Juan”, but it seems to have less building variety, and compared to the new 2016 edition of “Citadels” there are a lot fewer roles to choose from. Also “San Juan” only handles up to 4 players, while “Citadels” handles 2 to 8 players (according to the box). Admittedly “Citadels” can sometimes have a downtime problem, especially with larger groups of players, but I don’t feel that prevents it from being essential.

  2. dicehateme says:

    Peter –

    Incan Gold is, and always will be, an absolute classic. I agree with you 100% on the accessibility and replayability.

    King of Tokyo is an interesting pick because it is another press-your-luck game. I love the simplicity of play and the variability that comes through the power cards. The only problem with King of Tokyo as an essential for me is the downtime; because of player elimination it wouldn’t make my list. But it is definitely on my A-Team shelf, and is crazy fun to play.

    I love Citadels! It does have a downtime problem, as you mentioned, so I would put it on the bubble as an essential for large groups. I don’t mind it, but some players get a bit fidgety.

    These are all great picks, and games that I have played many, many times and introduced to so many gamers over the years.

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