Find out what games from other designers the members of the League of Gamemakers admire. Tell us what your favorite game is below in the comments!

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I drool over Small World, designed by Philippe Keyaerts. It just always makes me happy. Every designer wants to be able to say “my game has great ‘replayability!’”, but Small World actually has great replayability. Every time I play, it’s a new experience. Strategy must change each game and within the game. Of course, the fact that I win 90% of the times I play helps. I like to win.


I may have said something about Vegas Showdown previously, so I’ll mention For Sale by Stefan Dorra instead. This game is divided into two phases, an auction where players bid coins for properties and then a simultaneous bid of those properties for checks. The game is simple to learn – so much so that you can wait to teach the second phase until after you’re done with the first. For Sale is quick and fun and works well with non-gamers or as a filler for meatier gamers.


Red November by Bruno Faidutti and Jef Gontier is one of the first games I remember becoming actively, emphatically excited about. The mechanics really nail the panic of disaster aversion in cooperative play and there’s a fun traitor mechanic for people who dig that. I’ve played a lot of cooperatives since (Forbidden Desert, Space Alert, Flash Point, Pandemic, etc.) where everyone is dying of dehydration or disease or zombies, and it’s always depressing to lose. But in Red November, you get to explode in a bad Russian gnome accent by botching the codes to the “nuklear wessels”, and somehow that makes all the difference.


I love the evolving narrative in Robinson Crusoe, by Ignacy Trzewiczek of Portal Games. Here are just three ways this game introduces storytelling into gameplay (and there are tons):

  1. Certain cards “come back”. For example, let’s say you read a card that says you find some mysterious berries. Or maybe you spot a panther. You are usually given a choice. In certain cases (eating the berries, letting the panther escape), the card is shuffled into the main deck, and when it when it reappears, you read part B. This makes for a great, evolving story.
  2. Weather increases gradually from turn to turn. The game includes custom scenarios, that might say “no weather in turns 1-4”. But then on turn 5, it begins to rain. And then pour. And winter creeps in. Pretty soon, you’re all scrambling to get inside whatever makeshift shelter you’ve built. The foreshadowing rocks!
  3. Tools have prerequisites. So you can’t make a shortcut, until you know how to craft a map. The dependencies are great, and they solidify in your mind that you’re starting with a campfire before you are able to cook with a pot.


Twilight Struggle by Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews, published by GMT games. It is such a brilliant experience to play. The rules are fairly simple, and a huge amount of depth comes from learning the decks, and adapting your strategy to cardplay by you and your opponent. Your first game will be fun. After you get a few games under your belt, and start to learn the decks, you’ll find one of the most intense strategy games I’ve ever seen.


I’m going to go with Tokaido by Antoine Bauza. The reason Tokaido stands out for me mostly is theme and the way a person wins. You win by having the most pleasant trip. That’s a totally different feel than most other games that are competitive. For other games, stopping to enjoy the scenery would be a wasted turn, but you gain points for it in Tokaido.

Mechanically it’s very simple to learn with simple choices on your turn, but like most great games, the choices have strategic impact. I’ll be honest, I’m not very good at it. In fact, I lose a great deal more than I win, but I still enjoy the game.

As a side note, the expansion adds to the game well, but I don’t know if it’s needed. I still play with it, but it’s not a must-have.


Freedom: The Underground Railroad has gotten my attention lately. The positive spin on a potentially controversial subject and my interest in historical themes drew me to the game. The game mechanics are simple but yet the Slave Catchers’ movement and the Abolitionists cards provide for constant decision making challenges. I’ve pulled it out several times lately because it’s scaled very nicely for 1 to 4 players. I’ve played it 4 or 5 times in the last couple of months solitaire. In the same period of time I’ve played 2 player version 3 to 4 times and the last game with Brad was the first time to succeed. The first time I played was a 3 player version. I have not played with 4 players yet, but I’ve enjoyed playing all the versions of different number of players. It’s a hard game to achieve the victory conditions, but there are a few suggested variants to make it easier.
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Brad Brooks

iOS Developer

Brad designed Letter Tycoon (a word game for capitalists) which won the 2015 Mensa Select award, and the upcoming Rise of Tribes. He is currently in need of a time machine to address his idea vs. execution imbalance.

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  1. Pat Marino on September 8, 2014

    I always cringe slightly when I explain my interest in tabletop games to someone and they inevitably ask “what’s your favorite game?” I could probably write an entire post on the challenges of answering that question, depending on context and my personal preferences. However given the context of this post already I would have to say that Carcassonne by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede would be my answer for two reasons.

    First, Carcassonne hits the table in my house fairly often. This is because it is a lighter game and works well with only two players which means I can convince my wife to play. It also has lots of expansions, so even though we play fairly often, we can have different experiences depending on which extra rules we use.

    Second, the expansions highlight for me the mechanics of the game and as a designer shed some light on the design process behind Carcassonne. I can almost see where the basic mechanic of meeple placement was created and then a flood of ideas (many of which likely led to the first expansions) followed. Often as I have designed my own games I tend to think about what extra rules or mechanics I can cut by reflecting on Carcassonne. Sure the game is great with several expansions added on, but it also holds up well as just the base game. I would also argue that playing with all the expansions (which I have seen described online) makes the game too long and complicated for most players to enjoy. For that reason cutting back some of those ideas, as exciting as they may have been, ultimately led to a better, more accessible game; something I try to do with my own work.

    Strictly as a player though, I love the complex euro style board games with lots of bits and fun artwork. For example, I am always happy to dive into a highly replayable strategy game like Agricola by Uwe Rosenberg or my newest addition Ground Floor by David Short, but often find them to be a hard sell with the gamers I have quick access too. Based on the comments above though Robinson Crusoe also sounds like something I will need to try when I can get the right group together!

    • Peter Vaughan on September 8, 2014

      Pat – I know, I know – just 1 favorite is impossible really. 70K games out there. Just one? We were not treating this as any formal, official thing – just passing on respect for a design for something in it. Thank you for chiming in and adding!

      I definitely appreciate Carcassonne too, and it’s high on my top games list.

      • Pat Marino on September 8, 2014

        I hear you Peter, I appreciated the approach of the question here and happily responded to this post, as picking one game of current interest from a designer perspective was far easier than trying to pick one all time favorite game. Though as I commented previously I am already envisioning an entire post about how to answer the ‘favorite’ game question. 70k…wow, I never looked at the total number of games before – that seems like so many, yet google estimates almost 130 million published books in existence, so I guess there is plenty of room for us to grow.

    • Nathan Cornelius on September 8, 2014

      I would completely agree Pat. Carcassonne is, at this point anyway, my all time favorite game. Much for the reasons you mentioned. I didn’t have the time available to chime in on this one, but if I had, that would have been my pick.

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