I live on the main floor of a reasonably priced triplex in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto. Recently, a small fire on the floor below caused the place to fill with smoke, the fire department to be called, and the building evacuated. We really didn’t know the cause as the time and I feared the whole place might go up in flames. As we were ushered out I realized that my entire game collection could conceivably be wiped out and the thought filled me with dread. I wondered if I should grab any, but too late! No time! It turned out to be nothing and we were all back inside in under an hour, but that fear of loss however brief, was real. Games hold a real importance for me, not so much for their monetary value, but for sentimental reasons. Whether they were a gift, or I have an especially fond memory of them, or they’d be particularly difficult to replace, there are definitely games I wouldn’t want to lose.
My friend suggested that I make a list of the games I’d grab from a fire if I could only take ten. At first I worried that this would be a top ten favourite game list, but the more I thought of it, the more I realized that a list like this is more of a comment on your collection and the history you’ve had with physical copies of your games, rather than what your favourites are. Of course they’ll be crossover, but the game you’d save from your collection, very well may be different than the game you most want to play.
My friend Adam collects copies of Attika. I have mine because of him. I see this one from time to time on math trades or up for sale, but it’s not all that common. It’s a tile laying game where players try to expand their Greek city and its various buildings across the board until they connect two temples or build all their buildings. It’s simple to learn, fun, and puzzley. I’d save this one because where it came from is important to me, I have so many fond memories playing it, and I never want to not have it in my collection.
I don’t play Midnight Party nearly enough. Up to eight players can attend this party, where a ghost, Hugo, chases the guests around the mansion trying to capture them. It’s a delightful, silly, push-your-luck game that pretty much anyone can play. I have fond memories of playing game after game of this at family gatherings. I got my copy from the Snakes & Lattes archives. We were cleaning out a bunch of games, sending them to Goodwill, or the trash depending on their condition. The same day I got my copy of Razzle. Both amazing finds. What first drew me in to Midnight Party was the board. There’s tons going on in the different rooms of the mansion. This was the game that really kicked off my love and obsession with collecting Ravensburger games. I even have a copy of the board framed and hanging on my wall. Just couldn’t bear to leave this one behind.
Chaos in the Old World
I got into gaming with some close friends, but we formed kind of a closed system in terms of our exposure to new games. For years we played pretty much only with each other. We’d play the crap out of a game and become experts at it, before eventually moving on to something new. Not that that’s a bad thing, just the way I was introduced to games. Chaos in the Old World was one of the first titles I fully researched online, read reviews and decided was a game I needed to have. Me ma got it for me for my birthday one year (along with Dixit, what a pairing!). This game is dark and challenging and fun. My first edition copy is showing some wear at the corners, but the game retains its beauty inside and out, and I’d save it from fire if I could!
If nothing else, this one is small, so it could be grabbed easy in a rush. I first played Hanabi late one night at GenCon. Long before it was in North America, it was marketed with Ikebana, a competitive flower game played with the same materials. I remembered vividly the guy teaching us pulled out some of those curved wooden card holders which blew our minds. When it came to Snakes, it was the little tin version with the square cards. It quickly became a staff favourite and we immediately started ordering in card holders. The R & R version that seems to be the most common in NA these days is great. I’ll just always have a nostalgic feeling for the version I have. I spent countless nights playing with it at bars and pubs around the city, and although the 25 has still eluded me, or maybe because it has, I wouldn’t leave with this one.
I love Saint Petersburg, and it very well would make a top ten list of games for me. Played round after round,
players draft Workers, Buildings, Aristocrats, and Bonus cards with the starting position for each phase rotating each round. It is a satisfying engine building game that I love to play anytime I get a chance. I started playing this when some important to me was in the hospital and we’d play Saint Petersburg quite a bit as we killed the time. Maybe because it was a comfort during a tough time, or maybe just cause it’s such a great game, I couldn’t see letting this burn.
BMV Books is a big bookstore in Toronto. There are a couple different locations around the city. I’m not actually sure if they exist other places. The one in the Annex in Toronto is (in my opinion) the best. They have some many interesting different books that end up there, and all at pretty good prices. They even have a good comics section. For a really short period they sold some vintage games (I think due to an estate sale). I managed to pick up a few different 3M Bookshelf games including Twixt, Ploy, and Quinto. They’re all in perfect condition. I had no idea what most of them were, but I slid them out of their cases one at a time when I got home and I still remember how excited I was to open Oh-Wah-Ree and see the game inside. Really it’s nothing more than a Mancala variant, but the box folds open to form the board and there are tons of polished stones as the game pieces. I love Mancala in the first place and Oh-Wah-Ree is just a beautiful version of a highly replayable abstract. I’m sure I could track down another copy, but if I save it I don’t have to.
Yes, I know, I can get this anywhere, but not MY copy. This one I played a ton. I probably actually played it more online than anywhere else, but still a whole bunch at the tabletop as well. To me, it’s the perfect blend of tough decisions, anticipation, and luck. A lot can depend on the hands you’re dealt, but honestly that doesn’t matter too much to me. I don’t mind a little luck in a game that can be reliably be played in 30 minutes by people who know what they’re doing. Because I’ve managed to pack it in the Leaders expansion box with the Leaders, I’ll include them as well.
I haven’t had this game two weeks yet, but I have to be honest, it would be one of the games I’d haul out of an inferno. I’ll have a full review of this game up in the next few weeks, but I’m too keen on it not to mention it here. Energy Empire is a unique engine builder that is full of depth and complex decisions, while still being easy to learn. I haven’t played enough of this game to even start to dissect its different strategies. The game itself is beautiful to behold, with incredible resource components for oil, steel, and plastics and nice chunky dice, not to mention the art…Anyway, I could go on all day. The point is, there’s no other game I want to play more than Energy Empire, and when it just feels right you gotta go with it!
This is another one I could probably get my hands on if I wanted to, but I just love my version of it. It’s a first edition with
the rectangular box, not the newer square version. This was the game that confirmed for me my love of Antoine Bauza. If I was forced to pick my favourite designer of all time, it would have to be him. I always appreciated how different his games are. Bauza challenges himself with every game he makes and the results vary between brilliant, to strange, and even rarely mediocre. Takenoko fits in the first two categories for me. It’s fun game about a gardener growing bamboo, a panda eating it, and the expanding garden of the Emperor of Japan. This game pulls people in with its beautiful components and accessible gameplay. A+ would save from fire.
Settlers of Catan
Yeah, I know it’s just called Catan now, but when I got this copy back in around 2005, it was The Settlers of Catan, and this game blew my mind. It doesn’t make it to my table all that often these days, and so in terms of direct impact on my life, losing this game wouldn’t be a huge deal. However my copy has traveled the world with me. When I moved to Peru with three of my best friends, Catan came with me. We played 2-3 games a day for about a year…if you can believe it. Long ago losing the original box, my copy is held in a tupperware container with the 5-6 players expansion and Seafarers. Catan was my reintroduction to the hobby of gaming. I’ve played it countless times with great friends around the world, and although it’d be pretty easy to replace the game itself, my copy is irreplaceable.