Favourite Long Games

Top 10 lists are a depressingly cheap and easy way to get traffic and reactions without having to spend much effort performing analysis or creating actual content, and it’s unsurprising that popular websites and television shows use them extensively. While they are mostly shallow and superficial, The Dice Tower (the one boardgame-related podcast I listen to) does a better job: multiple presenters give their top 10 of the particular category, and discuss why they chose them, provoking some discussion.

While there are many topics that are irrelevant to me, the “favourite long games” list got me thinking – my favourite games are 90 minutes or less; anything over 150 minutes gets me grumpy and takes an immediate hit to its rating.

So what are my least objectionable long games?

  1. Arkham Horror is a gigantic mess of mechanics, cards and chits representing god-like entities and monsters descending upon the town of Arkham. Encounters, items, spells, and special powers abound; the number of expansions is legendary and there’s soon to be an expansion for the expansions. Despite doubting that I’d get past the messy, rather sloppy design, I had an unexpectedly good time, and I’d like to do it again regardless of playtime.
  2. Greed, Incorporated is amazing in the way the satire permeates the game mechanics: converting housing into loans via securitisation, generating the highly value-variable “blah blah” via consulting, extorting your supply chain, wheeling and dealing in order to manage earnings, structuring uncommercial transactions within collusive groups, and running companies into the ground for your golden parachute in order to buy status symbols before the market crashes. It’s three hours long but fairly clean; however I have doubts on replayability (running two companies is extremely powerful, and the scoring system is extremely harsh).
  3. Dune is considered a classic integration of theme and mechanics, despite originally being set in ancient Rome. Each side has extremely significant special powers that are deeply connected to the core rules (for example one side takes the money paid when buying cards), and the flow of information and bluff through the game is very interesting.
  4. Le Havre is commonly seen as the engine-building heavy Euro, but while I’ve played it once, we got the rules wrong. I’d like to try it again in a more leisurely setting.
  5. Battlestar Galactica is a game with an extremely interesting setup (semi-cooperative with traitors) and an interesting sci-fi theme. The social element of accusation and counter-accusation are what make the game, but layers of mechanics obscure that. I tend to avoid games nowadays, but I’d like to try the latest expansion.
  6. Twilight Struggle appeared to contain significant luck for such a long game. It is 2-player only, which I like less, but on the other hand it means that you’re involved more of the time. I expect that repeated play would yield its depth.
  7. Shipyard (or “rondels galore”) is actually a mostly tactical game, after you’ve decided what contracts you’re aiming for. In a shorter game this would be fine, but it’s a solid three hours.
  8. Runewars treated me to an excruciating hour of setting up the map, but the game itself had many interesting elements. The influence bidding was dumb, but the order cards incorporated a very Euro-influence, and I liked the unit special powers and the simplifying use of the resource dials.
  9. Brief History of the World reminds me of Vinci or Small World on a grand scale; my concern was that the fidelity to history would script the game somewhat.
  10. Civilization is a recent release that I had quite a negative reaction to, based on its running time. There are lots of systems and subsystems that manage to cover a great deal of the source PC game.

It’s interesting to note the high representation of theme-reliance in these games, in fact Arkham Horror is an utter mess in terms of game design, attempting to import an RPG experience into a boardgame, but was a lot of fun to play precisely because of the Lovecraftian setting and flavour. I suppose I don’t have the stamina for a 3-hour test of intellect in the form of a tight, unforgiving Euro, so I might as well relax and enjoy the ride.

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