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Top 5 Favorite Abstract Games

Since we're talking about theme and genres of games, how about the genre of no theme! Many games have "pasted-on" themes, but there seems to be a subset of games that you can call abstract, because the theme is either truly non-existent, or only exists to make the game prettier. These tend to involve moving pieces around a board, and usually (not always) feature a discrete win condition, rather than a "highest score wins" style end game. These are my favorites!

  1. #Santorini - I believe this should be in everyone's collection. It's such a simple game to learn, but the gameplay is so deep, and the replayability is pretty much endless, especially when using the God power cards. This is truly a top 5 game for me. I've preordered the sequel #Santorini New York, and will likely buy whatever rumored deluxe version of this that comes out next year.
  2. #War Chest - I just acquired this game after having it on my wishlist for several months, and I was not disappointed! I have one play session under my belt (3 plays), but I could see this becoming my #1 overall. It's not a 1 minute teach like Santorini and several other abstract games (probably 5 minutes), but MAN is it fun.
  3. #Hive (Pocket) - this is such a great little game. Very simple rules, but tons of room to think tactically. This one is the most "chess-like" game on this list, but I enjoy this one so much more. The Pocket version is nice and portable to boot.
  4. #Onitama - I only have a couple of plays of this one as well, but it's a lot of fun. Again, simple rules, but lots of room for tactics. Excellent components, as well.
  5. #Azul - a modern classic, and a wonderful game with a fairly simple ruleset once you get past how scoring works. Most people here will know about this one. It's different than the rest of the games on this list, as it doesn't really involve a spatial element in the same way. There's no moving pieces around a grid, just placing tiles in columns/rows. I haven't played either of the sequels yet, but they look fun as well, especially #Azul: Summer Pavilion

Do you have any favorite abstract games that would fit on this list? Here are some I'd like to try but haven't had the opportunity:

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4 months ago

#Dixit is a great abstract game, all about guessing what image each person thinks fits each particular theme - but not making it so obvious everyone gets it. Best played with family or close friends for inside jokes I think, but a brilliant abstract game for any age.

4 months ago

Good one!

Owner4 months ago

When I first heard about it, it was described as a picture only version of#Apples to Apples and I quickly dismissed it, however I played it a couple months ago and really enjoyed it!

4 months ago

Never heard of Ninja Camp. Looks fun!

Supporter4 months ago

I don't feel very experienced with abstracts. But I do enjoy several. However, you mentioned them already...

Hive, 

Onitama 

Azul

And, of course, Go.

On another note. I saw you new avatar and before I even read your post, I went and checked out the new avatars and bought a new one. 

4 months ago

Ha! I love it! Lookin good

4 months ago

the #War Chest art looks like it was made to be avatars, lol

Owner4 months ago

Yes indeed :)

Let me know if there are other ones you'd love to see and I'll reach out to the publishers. I suppose I should contact Dominic from North Star Games about Oceans hahah

4 months ago

That would be awesome too! But then what would I pick???

Supporter4 months ago

☝️☝️☝️☝️

Supporter4 months ago

It's so beautiful. 

4 months ago

I had a hard time picking one. I bought 3 and I might buy the rest, lol.

Supporter4 months ago

LOL

4 months ago

I really like 3, 4 & 5 on the list, haven't played the others. I really like #Food Chain Magnate as a heavier abstract

Owner4 months ago

Does FCM have zero element of luck then? Never played so I have no idea!

4 months ago

No luck, no hidden information, just other players screwing you over

4 months ago

Didn't realize FCM was abstract! I take it the theme is a pretty thin coat?

4 months ago

It is abstract in that it has zero chance and zero hidden information but the theme is actually pretty solid, all your employees powers make sense and the advertising/purchasing mechanics fit really smoothly with the theme. I am sure you could retheme it but it feels like you are trying to run a business and it is brutal

Owner4 months ago

I share your appreciation for abstract games and have the same problem of not having the right group (or person) to play them with. First off, here are the abstracts I've played (I think I got them all??): Chess, Go, Janggi (Korean variation of Chinese chess), Santorini, Hive, Azul, Chinese Checkers, Onitama, and I guess I should include Tiny Towns here since most people seem to call it an abstract.

It's hard to order them because they serve a different purpose, but I'll try. This list assumes that I'm playing with a competitive opponent who's either my equal or better:

  1. #Chess - It's a classic and never gets old for me.
  2. #Santorini - Expanding the world of tic-tac-toe with fun powers! If I didn't consider the god powers, this would drop several positions.
  3. #Hive - You get to play with chunky tiles and the idea of the different bugs' movement patterns is brilliant.
  4. #Azul - Satisfying pattern building and you get to play with great tiles. I just don't enjoy it as much if I feel like I have to make sub-optimal moves so that I'm not being mean to a beginner.
  5. #Tiny Towns - Deceptively deep and difficult, fun spatial management, and surprisingly brain burning... Tiny Towns has a lot to offer but isn't one that I find the most relaxing.

Why Go didn't make the cut:

I considered placing this at #2 but ultimately didn't. I have fond memories of playing this a bunch of times throughout my elementary school days and even attending lessons, but it's not one that I'd gravitate toward at this stage in life. Even though it has deep tactical elements (probably the deepest game out of all games mentioned here) and zen-like appearance, the game also presents you with constant moments of tension and one bad placement can have devastating consequences. I think I now just want something a little less involved metally/emotionally.

Abstracts I'd love to try the most:

  1. #War Chest
  2. #Shobu

4 months ago

The tic tac toe comparison is interesting, I don't really see it, TBH. You're just trying to get to the third level, and it doesn't matter who builds what.

Yes I suppose Tiny Towns should count if Azul counts. I might actually rank it above Azul, depending on the day.

Phil I'd love to play War Chest with you someday, haha. This just reinforces the need for a BGA convention!

Owner4 months ago

Yeah, I only use that description in a shallow way, where Santorini gives me similar feels of "checking" or blocking each other's moves constantly.

I think I prefer Tiny Towns overall because it has more replayability. So today, I'd place that above Azul xD

And yes!! That would be a blast :)

4 months ago

Yes there is that aspect to it! By the way I just pre-ordered #Santorini New York yesterday :D

Owner4 months ago

NICE! Looking forward to hearing how that goes for you. By the way, were you saying that War Chest could potentially become your favorite game of all time? That's awesome :)

4 months ago

I think I was saying it could become my favorite abstract, but that would put it pretty near the top of my overall list, since Santorini is already a top 5 for me.

4 months ago

I second a convention, or a BGA day of gaming would be fun!

4 months ago

Bob would you come to the US for one? Big trip, haha. Not as big for me since I'm only a few hundred miles from where they are in central CA.

4 months ago

probably not just for that, but my spouse has family in California, so if the stars aligned might be able to squeeze both into a trip. I would definitely turn up to a virtual day of gaming though!

4 months ago

Ah there you go! That'd be fun.

4 months ago