OP Mailbag – Game recommendation sought

Occasionally we get comments via email from readers of the blog.  Just this week, the following question was posed to us – and I thought it would be a good idea to run the question by the writers of the blog so that you could get opinions from many of us!

Name: Brent

Comment: Great site; I was looking for some advice and thought who better to recommend something I’ve never heard of and come out feeling optimistic that I’ll like/love it sight unseen!  In short, I really enjoy some lighter games such as:

– King of Tokyo

– Wurfel Bohnanza

– Keltis: Le Jeu de Des (the dice version)

– Piraten Kapern

– Las Vegas

– Fistful of Penguins

– Heck Meck

– Exxtra (Excape)

Given that, I was wondering if you had any suggestions of other games of similar ilk that my friends and family would enjoy.  I really appreciate your time and look forward to your insight if you can spare the time.  Thanks again for a great site!

Comments from the Opinionated Gamers

Dale: Well, you seem to love dice games – I will limit my suggestions to games that also use dice…

1) Yspahan from Ystari, 2006 – this is one of my favorite family style dice games.  Luck certainly plays a large role in the game, but the randomness of the dice keeps you on your toes.

2) Steam Park, Cranio, 2013 – is a quick game where you are vying to build the best amusement park.

3) Bang! The Dice Game, daVinci, 2013 is a great dice version of the classic card game – though a bit more streamlined, and it removes the chance that you will be eliminated without a turn.  Finally,

4) Blueprints, Z-man, 2013 – a fun little game about building buildings using the dice themselves as building blocks.

Finally, 5) Camel Up, Pegasus, 2014 – this most recent Spiel des Jahres winner is a nice little race game with the added benefit that it can take up to 8 players.

Mark Jackson: First, I’ll echo Dale’s suggestions of Yspahan & Bang! the Dice Game.

Then, I’ll add a few of my own that might be a little tougher to find (but will be worth the trouble)…

1) Nur Peanuts – this OOP game from Heinz Meister is a 45 minute gambling game with some vague abstracted similarities to Monopoly – but mostly just a great way to press your luck for 3-6 players.

2) Cheese Snatching (Kaseklau) – a small box Haba push-your-luck game with cute wooden cat & mouse pieces that works great as a short filler and/or a game with kids.

3) Abandon Ship – an overlooked Knizia game which (I think) is the best of the “you can move any piece – but you secretly want 3 of them to score” family of games. The very cool sinking ship board is a plus.

And if you haven’t played Can’t Stop (the King of Dice Games), you should fix that now!

Greg Schloesser:  While you have a proclivity for dice games, my recommendations will also contain a few that are light, but are not necessarily dice games.

1) Can’t Stop:  A Sid Sackson classic.  Push-your-luck fun that is not devoid of choices.

2) Liar’s Dice / Bluff – truly a classic.  Bluffing, odds and some luck all mixed into a tense, fun game.  It was briefly featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

3) Palast Gefluster – a wonderful card game that is easy to learn and play, yet has some nice nuances and subtleties.

4) Roll Through the Ages – a combination dice / civilization building game that is always engaging.

5) Cuatro – Yahtzee meets Connect 4 with some interesting twists.  This one is addicting and fun.

6) Linko – A novel and addicting new card game from the wonderful minds of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling.  This is the one that should have won the Spiel des Jahre, not the disappointing Camel Up.

7) Saint Malo – A dice game wherein you use the results to build your outpost while trying to keep the pirates at bay.

Joe Huber: I agree with everyone that the theme in the games that you list is towards light, quick-playing games, particularly those with dice as a key element.  I’d second Mark and Greg’s suggestion of Can’t Stop, but would also suggest checking out:

1) Extra – others would also suggest Exxtra, and I wouldn’t argue with it, but I find Extra a more enjoyable game.  It’s from the same designer, Sid Sackson, as Can’t Stop, but offers simultaneous play, and a very different take on push-your-luck.

2) Machi Koro – Machi Koro is being released this year in a number of languages, and again offers a different take on die rolling.  I think it would fit in very well with the games you list.

3) Dungeon of Mandom – No dice, but another cute, clever push-your-luck game, with some similar appeal to King of Tokyo.

4) Numeri – Enjoyable light race game, with interesting scoring.

5) Polterfass – Another dice game, but one with barrels as dice; nicely thematic, and seems to fit your preferences well.

6) Gelini Nightlife – Actually, I’m somewhat surprised Mark didn’t mention this one; it’s a less deterministic (and more fun) take on Tutanchamun.

7) Viva Pamplona – Long out of print, but not impossible to find, and great fun particularly with a full table.

8) Tante Tarantel – Very enjoyable escape-the-web game, with wonderful artwork from Doris.  Recently packaged with Igel Ärgern, which you might also enjoy.

9) To Court The King – A very closely related game to those you list; a smidge heavier, but still seems a good fit.


Matt Carlson:  I have less breadth of games in my background but have to second many of the games mentioned above.   Also, my recommendations are more “classic” games still in rotation rather than some of the newer games mentioned above.

Dice games include:

1) To Court the King – love the special powers but can take a bit longer than some.

2) Airships – this seems to go faster than than To Court the King and has a stronger theme, so it is very comparable

3) Roll Through the Ages – probably my favorite dice game on the above list.  I’m a sucker for “build an empire” games

4) No Thanks! – push your luck in its purest, but still fun, form.

5) Kingsburg – a full-on Eurogame, but does use dice and has a tad of randomness if that’s still your thing.  It could make a good gap between the games you listed and deeper Eurogame fare.

6) Liar’s Dice/Bluff – a fun larger group game that is easy to put together, just scare up a pile of 6 sided dice!

Other Games with “Push your luck” elements:

7) Incan Gold – a great game for larger groups.  Just don’t use the silly hidden decision cards – I do a thumbs up/down call for decisions and the game really moves out.

8) No Thanks! – a sort of reverse auction card game that easily fits in your pocket and yet has some new twists that are playable with gamers completely new to non-mainstream (ie. “vanilla”) gaming.

9) Lost Cities – a classic 2 player rummy collecting game that has card management but with a nice dash of risk/reward.


Lorna: Lots of great games suggested here but I’ll add a few that seem out of your box if you want to expand your gaming experiences.

1) 6 Nimmt aka Category 5 – card fun for everyone, easy and quick with simultaneous card selection

2) Coloretto/Zooloretto – Coloretto is the card game if you need something portable and Zolloretto is the board game version if you have a nice table top available. Has a push you luck element to it, easy and quick

3) Händler der Karibik aka Port Royal – another push your luck card theme with exploration and pirates

4) 23 – play cards in ascending order, seems easy enough but your opponents can make this game a challenge


Mary Prasad: Here’s a few more to consider…

1) Valley of the Kings – a nice deck building/deconstructing game with a pyramid theme (I plan to write a review of this sometime in the next few weeks).

2) Star Realms – another nice deck building game with a space theme (ditto on the review).

3) Rampage – fun board game based on the old video game; has a mix of dexterity elements, some set collecting, and a little strategy. See my review of Rampage here http://opinionatedgamers.com/2014/04/07/mary-dimercurio-prasad-review-of-rampage/

4) Qwixx – quick playing dice game where everyone gets to participate no matter whose turn it is. The active player gets a possible extra action (i.e. to fill in another box on his score sheet).

5) Mosaix – another dice game where everyone gets to participate no matter whose turn it is. The active player gets to arrange the dice. Dice are arranged spatially in a small pattern; each player decides the orientation of that pattern on her board.


Karen Miller:  And some more suggestions…these are some of my favorite fillers that haven’t already been mentioned elsewhere in this article. I have given an extremely brief description…please refer the the full game descriptions (on BGG) for complete rules.

1) Zooloretto: The Dice Game – Zooloretto in a small box and it keeps with the dice theme.

2) For Sale – No dice in this one, but fantastic game. The first round is an auction for properties; the second round, you use the properties to try to claim checks. Whoever has the most money is the winner.

3) Piece o’Cake – This is a game in which Player A literally divides up a pie into sections for the number of players, but Player A gets last choice of the sections. The person who collects the most of each type of pie scores points. Love the decisions you have to make…and who doesn’t like a damn fine piece of cherry (or gooseberry??) pie!

4) Sushi Go – newly republished, this is a card drafting game that features cute art and fun game play. Each player chooses a card and simultaneously plays it down in front of him and passes his hand to the next player. You score based on the sets you manage to collect. Plays very quickly…


Jonathan Franklin

Knights (Michael Schacht) – A portable dice game that is better than its rating and fits in your niche.

Ra: the Dice Game (Reiner Knizia) is quite a good conversion of Ra into a dice game.

Age of War (Reiner Knizia) is a retheme of Risk Express, which is worth trying.

Aquadukt (Berhard Weber) is a game of irrigation using zones and a d20

Finito (Hartmut Kommerell) – I am not a super lover of it, but am surprised it has not already been mentioned several times.

Co-op dice game – look out for Pandemic: the Cure coming later this year.  If you like Cthulhu, have a look at Elder Sign and Shadows over Arkham

I particularly second Yspahan, Zooloretto: the Dice Game, and Airships.

I am so glad you like A Fistful of Penguins!


Larry:  Let me second the recommendations for No Thanks, Airships, Mosaix, Nur Peanuts, Roll Through the Ages, and the Zooloretto Dice Game.  And let me add my voice to those imploring you to check out Can’t Stop–it truly is the King of Dice Games!

By the way, if you’ve never tried Bohnanza, you really should–it’s a very interactive trading game that’s been delighting players for almost 20 years.

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Commentary. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to OP Mailbag – Game recommendation sought

  1. shigadeyo says:

    For what’s worth, I will cast my vote for the following previously mentioned games (in alphabetical order):

    • 6 nimmt! (Category 5) – This is a good go-to game to play with a sizeable group. It’s fun and can be enjoyed while having a conversation. That’s not to say that the game is on auto-play, but it’s light enough that the decisions don’t require 100% concentration on the game itself.

    • Bang! The Dice Game – I have never played the original Bang! game, but this game actually replaced King of Tokyo for me. It uses the familiar Yatzee dice-rolling mechanism, but includes unique player abilities, a bit of secret team stuff, and more team interaction. Even better, the game plays very quickly, so people aren’t sitting around for more than a few minutes if they get eliminated early.

    • Blueprints – This is a dice drafting and building game that works really well. Actually, it’s a bit like Sushi Go! in that there are different scoring possibilities based on the different types of dice, but unlike that game, the collection and assembly of the dice structure is done in secret by the players behind player screens.

    • Yspahan – Unfortunately, this is one game in my collection that really doesn’t get enough play. It is an interesting combination of mechanisms that offers several paths to victory and good strategy decisions without being too complex or lengthy.

    • Zooloretto: The Dice Game – This game really captures the theme and feel of the full Zooloretto game in a small, fun dice game. For something with just a bit more complexity, I would definitely recommend Zooloretto as well. Luckily, the newest edition has just been released, so it is widely available again. If you’d like a card version, check out Coloretto, but it isn’t nearly as thematic or captivating as the animals in the Zooloretto series.

    I will also humbly recommend the following additional games (again in alphabetical order)::

    • Chronicle – If you have any interest in trick-taking games, then I would highly recommend Chronicle. It combines trick-taking with changing goals and a lot of strategy, but doesn’t take a very long time to play. For a couple other lighter trick-taking style games, also take a look at Bottle Imp, Bucket King, Clubs, David & Goliath, Little Devils, and Potato Man.

    • Finca – A wonderful rondel game with ton of beautiful bits. People are immediately engaged and want to play it as soon as they see all of the colorful wooden fruit pieces. This has been the game that I used to interest friends and family in designer games and has worked way better than both Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride. Sadly, this game is out of print, but I would encourage you to get it if you can do so via a REASONABLE trade or purchase. I am hoping that it will get a reprint someday soon.

    • Keltis: Das Kartenspiel (The Card Game) – About the only game my wife enjoys playing is Lost Cities, but it’s only for two people. Keltis: Das Kartenspiel is very much like that game with a couple extra mechanisms and can be played with 2 to 4 players. It is my favorite of the Keltis games I have played.

    • Out of Sight – This a dice-rolling, card fishing game in which the active player frantically rolls dice to claim cards. There is a sand timer running, but the player is unable to see how much time is left. It’s really exciting and nerve racking to push-your-luck against a clock that you can’t see! Although this game is out of print, it can usually be easily found for sale online at really reasonable prices. I believe that I got my copy new from an Amazon seller for around $12.

    • PAX – The main mechanism is like that of Biblios in which on your turn you must draw three cards from the deck one at a time and decide what to do with them. However, PAX has no auction and includes additional mechanisms that make it far more interesting and engaging than Biblios. For a card game that isn’t too large, too expensive, or too long to play, there is quite a bit of strategic depth.

    • Roll for It – This is a super simple dice rolling game that’s really a stripped down worker placement game combined with a bit of push-your-luck. It’s very quick to teach and play which makes it great to play when waiting for people to arrive for game night. By combining both the Red and Purple versions of it, the game can also accommodate 2-8 players.

    • Straw – This is another really simple game that we play quite a bit when waiting people to arrive for game night or the very last game at the end if we have 5-10 minutes. It’s super fast to teach and plays quickly, but there is a just enough strategy to make it fun. AEG picked this up and released it last year, so it should still be widely available.

    I’ve probably gone over the limit on recommendation, but my Honorable Mention is Innovation. It’s one of my favorite games and isn’t necessarily very heavy, but it can play a bit long, especially with 4 players. However, it’s fairly inexpensive and a ton of fun to play.

Leave a Reply