Board Game Thunderdome!

I don’t like top ten lists. I don’t even like rating games or picking out favorites (see my previous rant post). I don’t believe it’s because I’m indecisive, but it might be (or maybe not). That being said, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else and rank my collection!

I looked at my stupidly big game pile of games, considered how I’ve rated them, and how I should re-rate them, and how I’d need to redo it from time to time, and then make sure my ratings matched the ranking order… and then I hid under the bed.

I just can’t do it. I can’t subscribe to the idea of games being 100% locked down in terms of preference. Preference changes! Moods change! But everyone makes favorites lists!

So I did the only semi-unreasonable thing I could think of: I made my games duke it out in a winner-take-all, deathmatch tournament. It made sense at the time, I swear.


There are plenty of ways to run such a tourney. You could pull a random game and go down the line eliminating challengers until another game beats it. That’s not much fun because you could grab the winner early and fly through the competition. You could make a giant matrix spreadsheet and give a game 1 point for each other game it’s better than, but that seems like a pain the ass. You could group them into themed brackets or something.

But I didn’t want any of that bean counting nonsense. I wanted spectacle, pageantry. I wanted random, dramatic brawls. Here’s how I did it.

I downloaded my collection list in spreadsheet form from Board Game Geek and randomized the order. I then went down the list pairing up names and deleting the loser. So I compared the games on rows 1 and 2, erased the loser, and sent the winner to the next round. I then compared games 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc. Each round saw half the remaining games eliminated, and I re-randomized the list at the start of each round, to keep things fresh. Games that should have made it through got bumped off, games that should have been set on fire sailed into the next round. It was a glorious, chaotic, Board Game Thunderdome.

excel burst.png

There were some fascinating matchups, such as 1955: The War of Espionage paired against the venerable Twilight Struggle. A 30-minute, two-player Cold War game against a 2-hour, two-player Cold War game? That’s a fun coincidence. I also saw a crappy solitaire sci-fi game (Chainsaw Warrior) go head to head with a not-crappy solitaire sci-fi game (Space Infantry). Randomly drawing two games from the States of Siege series was neat – Soviet Dawn and Cruel Necessity share the same base system, but two different designers built on it in different ways. This is getting fun!

Most of the choices were automatic, but some were agonizing, especially when the pairs were starkly different. How can I compare Crokinole and Space Hulk: Death Angel? Onirim and Through the Ages? It doesn’t matter because one must die, and the survivor is probably living on borrowed time anyway. Don’t write out pros and cons, don’t weigh the differences, just go with gut feelings. If you’re leaning even slightly towards one over the other, that’s your choice! Hear the lamentations of their meeples!

Making decisions was tough when two really, really, REALLY good games met up. But it was almost as hard when two underwhelming choices competed, because somebody had to win (or in this case, not lose). This is how some favorites got knocked out early, while some clunkers stumbled deep into the tournament. It’s luck of the draw, and would play out differently with other random matchups. Today’s early exiter could make a serious run next week. It’s not fair, but it isn’t supposed to be. Fair is for war, not games.

Round 3 was particularly rough: Last Will and Brawling Barons edged past Frontier Stations and Star Realms. Poor Star Realms! Sebastien Pauchon’s two-player dynamo Jaipur went up against Keep, my favorite offering from Small Box Games. I love Jaipur, so I couldn’t keep Keep!

no keep.png

A handful of upsets aside, the way the tourney played out mostly made sense, with the finalists deserving to be there. Bernd Eisenstein’s PAX booted a few heavy favorites in Rattus and Summoner Wars to get to the final matchup. Core Worlds, on the other hand, had just one semi-tough fight, beating Wealth of Nations mostly due to WoN’s game length, but otherwise coasted to the final four. There were others who could have made it deeper, but it clearly wasn’t their day.

Out of the top eight, there was only one game that really surprised me. Everything else seemed legit. I had a sneaking suspicion before I started who would win it all, and it turned out I was right. I guess that makes it my favorite game, right? Isn’t that how this works? I dunno! Thunderdome!

Grrrrrreat 8

Core Worlds defeats Last Will
(Somebody notify the next of kin!)

PAX def. Astra Titanus
(a stellar effort from Chris Taylor and the Little Game Company that Could!)

Space Station def. Berserk: Knights and Villains
(a surprise contender from Hobby World!)

Metropolys def. Hull Breach!
(comparing Euro Apples and Space Oranges!)

Futuristic Final Four

PAX over Core Worlds
(Irongames storms the Stronghold to bring peace to the galaxy!)

Metropolys over Space Station
(Sebastien “Yspahan” Pauchon beats Fryx “Terraforming Mars” Games!)

Somehow Sci-Fi-less Finals:

Metropolys over PAX!

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