This is the fourth installment in our series called Games That Deserve a Reprint. This article walks through #5 to #1. These are the games with a high degree of consensus among us: in fact, it took at least 6 of us voting for a game to make this list!
In short, this project aims to highlight 20 games that we think deserve a reprint. To make the list, we had 17 Opinionated Gamers vote, with precisely 50 games receiving votes. Our only criteria were that (1) the game had to be out of print for at least a couple of years, (2) the voter had to think that the game was good enough to be reprinted, and (3) preferably these games would be difficult to find on the secondary market, so that a reprint would be justified.
The first article discussed the background behind the series and our methodology. We’ve have an additional article every day this week, and tomorrow we’ll end with some interesting statistics and a “what we missed” discussion.
Without further ado, here are the games that we think deserve a reprint.
— Chris Wray, March 2019
#5: UM REIFENBREITE (6 VOTES)
Designed by Rob Bontenbal, Released 1979
Mini Review by Chris Wray
Along with Adel Verpflichtet, Um Reifenbreite is the other Spiel des Jahres-winning game that made this list, having picked up the award in 1992. We discussed a history of the game in our SdJ Re-Reviews series, and it has one of the most interesting game histories I’ve heard of, featuring a fire and a legal battle.
Um Reifenbreite is a dice-driven race game played in a series of rounds. It incorporates many of the key elements of bicycle racing, everything from different terrain types to drafting other racers. There are basic and advanced rules. Players are actually controlling a team, and the most clever aspects come not from the central mechanic — it is just roll-and-move — but from the racing risks they take and how they maneuver their team.
Um Reifenbreite is a clever and refreshing entry into the time-worn racing genre. The team race mechanic adds considerably to the game’s strategic depth, and many of the thematic rules make for an interesting decision space. The energy cards — which can be used in lieu of a dice — greatly reduce the game’s randomness, and between them and drafting, I’ve found that roll-and-move is more of a sideshow than the main attraction.
The game is out of print in Germany, where you can often buy a used copy at Essen for a few dollars. But outside of the early original version called Homas Tour — most copies of which were destroyed in a fire — there wasn’t an English-language release, a rarity among Spiel des Jahres winners.
Um Reifenbreite – Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Erik Arneson, Mark Jackson
- I like it. Chris Wray, Tery Noseworthy, Fraser, John P
- Neutral. Brandon Kempf
- Not for me…
#4: LORD OF THE RINGS: THE CONFRONTATION (6 VOTES)
Designed by Reiner Knizia, Released 2002
Mini Review by Chris Wray
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation was created by legendary game designer Reiner Knizia in 2002. It immediately received critical acclaim, winning the 2002 Meeple’s Choice Awards, and the 2003 2-player International Gamers Awards. In the years since, the game has received numerous additional printings in nearly a dozen languages, but it is currently out of print.
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation features asymmetrical play for two players and is based in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe. One player is the Fellowship of the Ring and controls its nine characters; the other is Sauron, controlling nine evil minions. The Fellowship wins if Frodo gets to Mordor. Sauron wins if he defeats Frodo or gets three of his characters to the Shire. On a player’s turn, he simply moves a character, and if the character lands on the space of an opponent, card-driven combat is initiated. The catch is that each character has a special ability reminiscent of their characteristics from the books/movies.
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is one of my favorite two-player games. The game offers tense and fast-paced gameplay that is high on both strategy and interactivity. You must constantly watch what your opponent is doing, trying to guess the identity of the pieces they are moving, all while planning your own route to victory.
What I like best about The Confrontation is how it captures the tension of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings perfectly. The game is brimming with theme, both in terms of each player’s ultimate objective and in terms of each special ability of each character within.
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation – Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray
- I like it. Erik Arneson, Brandon Kempf, Matt Carlson
- Neutral. Michael Weston, Larry, John P, Mark Jackson
- Not for me… Fraser
#3: FAST FOOD FRANCHISE (WITH EXPANSION) (6 VOTES)
Designed by Thomas Lehmann, Released 1992
Mini Review by Larry Levy
So you think there’s no hope for the humble property game, the genre of roll ‘n’ move designs who’s most famous (and infamous) example is Monopoly? Tom Lehmann would beg to differ. Back in 1992, when he was still trying to establish himself as a game designer, Lehmann’s first design was Fast Food Franchise, in which he added skill, cleverness, and considerable variety to the ol’ property game. There are no set properties on the board; instead, when players buy a space, they get to choose between the markets of different fast food companies, whose costs, income, and capabilities differ greatly. Instead of building houses, you expand your property by adding franchises, which snake across a grid representing the U.S.. If the franchise chains of two of your markets join, each benefits from the other’s franchises, which greatly increases your income prospects. Of course, your opponents can get in the way of that by using their franchises to block yours. Then there’s advertising, which you place on a space and when a gullible opponent lands there, he must advance to your next market space to buy some of your delicious fast food–this not only adds a lot to the game, but is wonderfully thematic. The game is chock full of good ideas and, thanks to its victory conditions, rarely overstays its welcome. And because the different fast food companies are so very different, there’s lots of different strategies to try out. Those strategies would only be increased with the proposed expansion (which featured two new companies) that, unfortunately, was never published. All in all, this is a property game that Rich Uncle Pennybags would scarcely recognize–and I think we can all agree that that’s a good thing.
Fast Food Franchise (with Expansion) – Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Mark Jackson
- I like it. Tery Noseworthy, James Nathan, Michael Weston, Larry, John P
- Not for me…
#2: STAR WARS: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (7 VOTES)
Designed by Rob Daviau, Alan Roach, & Craig Van Ness, Released 2000
Mini Review by Terry Noseworthy
Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit is a 2-player based on battles in The Phantom Menace. The set-up is impressive; a 3-story palace structure as well as two additional boards and about 150 plastic minis. Each player takes a side – either Naboo or Trade Federation- and has their own deck of cards. Players choose 4 of 10 cards in their hand and put them in order; cards are then played and resolved in order, alternating sides. Cards let you move, manipulate and fight; all of which are different based on the board where your action is taking place. Dice determine the outcomes of attacks. The Naboo player wins by destroying the Trade Federation Control Ship and having a majority in the palace throne room The Trade Federation player wins when he destroys all but 2 of the Naboo pieces in the palace.
I am a very casual Star Wars fan, but I still love the game. There is a lot going on with the 3 different boards; you are making tough strategy decisions every turn. Sure, there is some luck in the card draw and the dice rolls, but you have to factor that into your strategy. It’s fairly long, but I feel engaged the entire time I am playing it. I don’t care much about the theme, but it, combined with the art and components, adds to the game.
I don’t know how likely this is to get reprinted, but I am a bit surprised it hasn’t been. It’s a good game, there seems to be a strong market for used copies and Star Wars is still popular.
Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit – Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Erik Arneson, Tery Noseworthy, Mark Jackson
- I like it. Fraser, John P, Matt Carlson
- Not for me…
#1: SAN MARCO (10 VOTES)
Designed by Alan R. Moon & Aaron Weissblum, Released 2001
Mini Review by Chris Wray
Consensus is rare among us here at The Opinionated Gamers, but San Marco was easily the top vote getter in our poll. It had 121 points from 10 voters. For comparison, the second-highest game above had 73 points from 7 voters.
Designed by Alan R. Moon and Aaron Weissblum, San Marco is an area-control game driven by cards which are allocated via a “I split, you choose” game mechanic. It takes place in Venice in its heyday, and the game board is divided into the six districts of Venice, which is split up by the Canal Grande and other canals. Each district is scored at various points in the game, and players split up card offers to place their aristocrats in the districts, replace and banish other players’ aristocrats, and score the regions. Along the way, they’ll build bridges to help them move their aristocrats before scoring.
San Marco is a great family game, and I admire its brilliant use of the “I split, you choose” game mechanic, which is cleverly mixed with area control to create high player interactivity. The gameplay is brilliant and the components — especially to the little bridges — are astoundingly beautiful.
San Marco won the International Gamers Award back in 2002, and there is a 2-player card version called Canal Grande that is also worth trying.
San Marco is currently out of print, and has been for a while, but here’s hoping for a reprint so the next generation of gamers can enjoy this brilliant design.
San Marco – Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray, Erik Arneson, Tery Noseworthy, Brandon Kempf, Larry (with 4 players)
- I like it. Larry (with 3 players), Fraser, John P
- Neutral. Michael Weston
- Not for me… James Nathan, Mark Jackson
Fraser: Of these five, I own two (and have even played them), I have played one and would probably buy it, I have played another and am would definitely not get it and the fifth I would be an instabuy based on what I have heard about it over the years.
Mark Jackson: Fast Food Franchise is incredibly math-y… but I know that Tom L. (the designer) has thought through ways to make it less so while retaining the goodness at the heart of the design. Queen’s Gambit was re-imagined and released as Star Wars Risk – it’s shorter, less beautifully produced, and has some balance issues, but they did give it a try. I believe it’s OOP now as well.
Matt Carlson: LOTR: The Confrontation has that mystery of unknowns like Stratego, but in a much tighter board. Sure, there’s a bit of luck in figuring out bluffs, but it is short enough to not matter much. I believe it’s been done in a non-LOTR theme, but I think the theme adds enough to the game that a retheme wouldn’t hold my interest. I have played (and owned) San Marco. It is a good enough game but eventually left my collection. I continually hear how it is a great 3 player game, and I could see that but it is a bit too aggressive for most of my gaming groups.