Name a truly great board game from before 2008

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:

I still have my copy. was a great writeup of the competitive scene for electric football.

I agree with Tom in a general sense – board games have gotten a lot better since we were kids. Especially non-wargames. I still have friends and family who think “board game” means roll-and-move games like The Game of Life, Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, etc. I don’t find those games interesting.

That said, I’m currently playing a wargame that debuted in 1985, World in Flames. It’s a terrific strategic-level treatment of WW2 on a global scale. And a couple years ago I was back into Advanced Squad Leader, another creature of the 1980s. These games still have obsessive audiences today.

I feel like board games got out of the Monopoly/hardcore-wargame duality after D&D blew up in the early '80s. There were a lot of designs after that which may not have been great but were at least aspirationally staking out new territory. I refer mainly to the US/UK markets as I don’t know what continental Europe was doing pre-Knizia. Much less Japan (are boardgames big in Japan?).

Never feed the trolls, they say, but its a fun thread to have, given how the completely BGG gets dominated by the “cult of the new”, so I’ll bite. Before 2008 is too easy, though, so I’ll bite with four timeless designs from before 2000:

Definitely not perfect, but a unique political game that no one else has ever come close to replicating (and not for a lack of trying). For gamers that enjoys political gameplay, there is really nothing that comes close to this delightful contest of achieving pre-eminence in Rome while the game system tries to crush you under the elephant’s foot.

The only game that I have multiple copies of. Card-driven games have become more or less their own genre, but perfection was achieved already with the second of the CDG - Mark Simonitch’s finest hour. Twilight Struggle isn’t even close. Fight me.

Not the best game I have, but definitely one of the most fun. One of the best beer and pretzels games ever made, IMO - I’ve had it along on company retreats almost every time I’ve been on those, and it has always been a success. Shoving an opposing player’s robot into a pit or seeing the perfect plan go wrong is never not going to be fun.

Biggest problem is that some of the reprints have “improved” the game. So much for progress…

It may not be 100% historical, because the game can be brutally unforgiving, but that is also what makes this Butterfield design an extremely tense experience, where every decision counts and you just have to play “one more turn” just to see what happens when you get that Squadron back. Which is one of the reasons why, IMO, this is one of the best solitaire designs ever.

John H. Butterfield also designed Ambush! (mentioned above) and has a strong claim, IMO, to being one of the greatest solitaire boardgame designers of all time. Anecdote: He also designed a little known 1979 game called “Freedom in the Galaxy: The Star Rebellions”. The game was originally intended to be a licensed Star Wars game, but SPI bungled it and it ended up getting rushed out without the license. The game mechanics were pretty clear inspiration for the later rather unique strategy game Star Wars: Rebellion (aka Star Wars Supremacy in the USA) - the computer game which served as the inspiration for FFG’s more recent Star Wars: Rebellion board game.

Candy Land. At first, you assume it’s simply a deterministic outcome based on the position of the cards in the deck and therefore there is no game. But peer deeper, and the true depths of the systems reveals itself.

As I first detailed in my ebook Next Level Candy Land (2011), the variety of fundamental ways the game teaches kids how to lie and cheat puts even the most sophisticated modern aimbots and wallhacks to shame.

I mean, sure, you can stack the deck to make sure you get the special card that puts you closest to the finish, thus ensuring your victory. But do that two or three times in a row, and your opponent will cry foul at your constant two-turn wins. Then you must move on to subtler but more difficult deck-stacking that gives you a beneficial color sequence rather than an outright win. Or you may even “take the L,” as the kids say, and post the occasional loss to throw your opponent off the scent while ensuring an overwhelmingly lopsided record. The more complex the stacking, the more advanced sleight-of-hand is required.

This is all fine and good, but what happens when your opponent has stepped up their game as well? What next, when you are faced with an opponent who also knows how to stack the Candy Land deck? You move on to the next level, of course! This is where the true depth of Candy Land is revealed, as you are no longer playing the game but are instead playing your opponent.

It begins with the simple “Thanks for shuffling, I’ll cut the deck” move, ensuring that you are the last one to touch the deck. This allows you to stack the deck, though it is easy to get caught in a “Deference Loop,” wherein both players endlessly offer to be the last one to touch the deck. Once it is clear that neither player trusts the other to handle the deck, then you graduate to the more advanced techniques, such as the “Oops I dropped my card, let me pick it up, (and replace it with the one in my sleeve)” or the “Sorry I bumped the table, which space were you on?”.

The Candy Land Pro Tour is a sight to behold. Players fly in from all over the world to show off their new tech. In the last tournament before Covid, the champion snuck in thin color e-ink displays instead of cards so that he had total control of the board at all times. In the finals, he narrowly defeated his opponent, who seemed to have devised some sort of quantum piece that automatically advanced when no one was observing it.

Wild stuff, and from the early 20th century! To suggest that good board game design was invented in 2008 suggests a perverse mind and a deeply diseased psyche.

Fortress America
Star Fleet Battles
War of the Ring
Kings & Things
Puerto Rico
Power Grid

I had this when I was a kid and yeah it had a very Star Wars feel - which is why I got it. However I was a bit young, maybe 9 or 10, so it was all quite overwhelming and I don’t think I ever fully finished a game. :P

I cannot speak to the design of this one, but goddamn we enjoyed the shit out of this game.

Snit’s Revenge
King of the Tabletop

I kid. Or do I?

Owned this one too, and it definitely had the Star Wars thing going on. And unfortunately, it tried to do too many things at once and ultimately just dragged the entire game into a spiral of dense rules and mechanics.

Looking forward to the 2031 thread “Board games before 2019 were all KRAP!”