Name a truly great board game from before 2008

This is certainly a danger. Especially if the gaming room isn’t in a separate area.

I’ve fallen in love with a lot of the older Knizia games: Tigris and Euphrates (1997), Samurai (1998), Ra (1999) and especially Blue Moon (2004) . I discovered these games in the last two years, introduced them to friends and we always had a great time with them.
And I second Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective.

I forgot a favorite. It’s maybe a controversial favorite, because it eschews complexity. I played a game over zoom back in the spring though, and had a blast with it.

It’s a space game called Starfire. It’s from Task Force Games.

The game itself was deceptively simple. Spaceship combat on a hexagonal grid in space.

What really made it special was the personalized ship design, combat, and damage systems. Which were an absurdly easy, yet awesome design thing.

Every ship design in the game could be written out as a series of letters in a line. G stood for guns. M for missile launcher. A for armor. S for shields, I for Ion engines. Simple. For every Ion engine in your ship, you got one movement point. You’d indicate that in parentheses after your ship build.

So a little escort ship with one shield, two armor, two guins, a missile launcher and five engines might look like this on your piece of paper (Escort hulls can only hold ten “things”):


If you got hit for 1 damage, you’d mark off the S. Shields are down.

If you got hit for two more damage, you’d mark off the two armor spots. You might keep taking damage in a big fight. You could lose an engine, or your weapons, etc.

The great thing was the fun of designing your own ships. a 5 movement point escort is speedy. Maybe you want one that’s more heavily armored though, and less fast. Or one with more guns. Or maybe you don’t care if you lose your escorts, so instead of putting the ion engines at the end, you put your guns and missile launcher at the end.

And then you get to things like freighters with holds, tractor beams, ECM, etc. The simplicity of everything lent itself beautifully to designing big fleet battles with massive dreadnaughts and frigates and carriers with fighters.

I dunno. Maybe it’s too much bookkeeping for today. But I can tell you that many a study hall was spent designing frigates and escort corvettes and suchlike according to these very simple parameters. (Typically game – you get $500 space bucks to build a fleet, I get $500 space bucks to build a fleet. Then we match 'em up and fight it out.)

Definitely Gaslands. All you need to get started with are just the rulebook, Hotwheels, and distance templates. A crude map setup decorated by household items as makeshift buildings or traffic obstructions is good enough to make the game as evocative as a fusion of Wreckfest and Mad Max.

@tomchick we used to play a ton of Ra and Tigris. Do you count all Knizia games as post revolution or is this 2008 divider working for you?

The point is to have fun playing, and these two games were crazy in a fun way.

Cool combat system redesigned into oblivion. The latest rules are unplayable, incomprehensible 300 page monstrosities.

Boy, that brings me back, Gordo!

I would say Ra is pretty obsoleted as far as bidding games go, and maybe even as far as Knizia bidding games? But I would still totally play Tigris and Euphrates, so long as I was playing with other people who sucked at it. For instance, I played a videogame implementation of Tigris with @Jason_McMaster in the last five years or so. Maybe on the iOS? I won, of course.

But they’re definitely examples of games that might be accidentally good despite being from before good boardgame design was invented. Knizia had a knack for that, even if I do demand good theming, and that was never his strong point. Or even something he seemed to care about, frankly. But Tigris is probably just unique enough that it hasn’t been entirely obsoleted.

When’s the last time you played either of those? Did you feel they held up?


Ha, who needs graphics!


I always liked Lost Cities as a quick little card game. And it’s a Knizia!

What obsoletes Ra? I don’t know of many pure auction games that come out nowadays, so I’m really curious what you’re thinking. Maybe QE?

Your theory on there being a time when board game design improved dramatically in a short period of time is correct, it’s just that you have the time wrong. Basically anything posted to this thread that’s about 1995 or later will be indistinguishable from something published today in terms of design quality. (Production quality has improved since then, of course). There’s a ton of games of similar quality as E&T from the same time period, and from a lot of designers rather than just Knizia.

While if you look at the stuff posted in this thread that’s from before that, most of it is really rough and won’t survive a group that doesn’t have nostalgia for a specific game.

Some of my favorites as a teenager in the 80s:

Speed Circuit
The Fantasy Trip (Melee/Wizard) RPGs, but really tactical boardgames
And the aforementioned Car Wars, Illuminati, GEV, Ogre, Panzer Leader, Diplomacy, Axis and Allies

All bought at Dibbles Arts and Hobbies - still serving San Antonio today.

This gets rave reviews on the board game podcast I listen to (So Very Wrong About Games):

OOPS: @Baconsoda beat me to it.

I haven’t played them since shoot club. I never really understood Tigris but I imagine it’s probably the more interesting design.

To be honest, I don’t think auctions are the defining part of Ra. (And I’d take Zavandor or Amun Re or Homesteaders over Ra any day as an auction game). The defining part of Ra is the push your luck part, which is also the kind of thing that doesn’t get used a lot these days.

Doe this count?

I don’t agree at all! The combo of variable round length and fixed bidding values are to me the defining cool parts of Ra. The push your luck towards the end of the round is not that interesting and done better by other pure push your luck games. (Zavandor is pretty great but I do not like Amun Re. I’ll give Homesteaders a look!)

Aw, that stinks. And it’s what happens when a company doesn’t understand what made the original design so good.

BTW, if you’re at all interested in the board game and comics business and especially how it impacts retailers and FLGS, Dave has done two great podcast interviews in 2020 for Why We Game.

Here’s episode 1, from June of 2020 (And hear Dave totally shut me down and totally endorse @tomchick by saying that games today are SO MUCH BETTER than they ever have been.)

And December, 2020: