I'm on an ocean cruise, when suddenly the ship encounters an enormous school of angry sawfish. They proceed to slice the ship to ribbons, and I find myself the only person in a rowboat. The rest of the passengers, in their motorized lifeboats, are putting merrily onward toward Jamaica, while I must row toward the nearest small island. Fortunately, I can see that the island I am heading toward is populated with almost a dozen intelligent castaways who are starved for games to play. Even more fortunately, I see the remains of my cabin drifting toward me, and I see I had the foresight to bring all of my games with me on this cruise! (Okay, it's a REALLY BIG cabin!) I know that my cabin will sink soon, but I can zip all my games up in my enormous, waterproof suitcase, so they may be safely salvaged later. But then I notice that I have room for exactly ten games in the lifeboat with me (with size and weight differences making no impact on the ten game limit). It may be weeks, months, even years before I am rescued, so I must decide which games to bring with me.
Without thinking, my hands automatically reach out and grab my Cosmic Encounter game. It's an almost complete Eon set, with a few dozen extra homemade powers, edicts, and etc. This is probably the game I have played most in my lifetime, and I still find it fresh and exciting. There are so many different combinations of powers, tactics, and unexpected changes of fortune that it will never go stale. Hesitantly, I grab the new Mayfair Cosmic Encounter (complete with More Cosmic Encounter expansion), and try to fit it into the single game space with my Eon set. I sigh with releif as the boat expands to accommodate it. It is the same game, and almost as good. (Besides, Mayfair included one of the powers I invented.)
Next I see a large stack of railroad games. I control my urge to grab the whole stack (I would sink immediately) and think carefully. Finally, I grab Avalon Hill's classic Rail Baron. It was the game that started me off on railroad games, and it remains the best of the lot (in spite of the hard to read payoff chart). There are still lots of strategies that I haven't tried with this one, so with a heavy heart I pull it out from under Freight Train, Express, Santa Fe, Eurorails, 1830, and all the rest. If I have to live with just one, Rail Baron is the best.
Civilization (with Advanced Civilization and the western map extension) is the next to find its way into the boat. A long game but thought-provoking, and combat is only a minor part of advancing your civilization. With lots of time and lots of people, this one is a must.
Another must with lots of time and people is Diplomacy. This one has all the backstabbing and cruelty that Civilization lacks, so we can choose a game to suit the mood. Since allying with other players and depending on your allies is essential to the game, the backstabbing is so much more fun ... or painful, depending on which side of the dagger you are on.
I have just noticed that at least five of the castaways on the island are people I know very well, so my attention goes to the "how much do you really know about your friends" games. I almost take Therapy, Ego, I Think You Think I Think, First Impressions, and True Colors, but I finally turn them all down in favor of Personal Preference. After all, what can be more interesting than finding out whether my friends prefer turnips or Ronald Reagan? The only regret I have about this game is that it went out of print so long ago that Jim Carrey and Hillary Clinton aren't in the cards. Still, it's a terriffic light timekiller.
Next, some card games catch my eye. Scan, Gang of Four, and even Plum Crazy go untouched as I reach for Hols Der Geier, the great little German mouse and buzzard game that's as much a "psyche out your opponents" game as it is a quick strategic card game. A short game, but worth a lot of replays.
Then I consider financial games. In spite of the attraction of financial games like Acquire, Fast Food Franchise and Modern Art, as well as financial-feeling games such as Freight Train and Tutanchamun, I decide without hesitation to take Rollout. This frequently-ignored game from the creators of Supremacy has big-time decisions, stock manipulation, hostile takeovers, and dirty deeds galore. Yet the game mechanics are pretty simple, and it won't take too long to teach my fellow castaways how to be dirty-dealing Wall Street scum.
I see some Alan Moon games in the next stack, and I find that I can't decide between the struggle for most of a particular type of card in Freight Train and the dynamics of route expanding in Santa Fe, so I decide to go for the best of both worlds and choose Airlines.
Oh no! There is only enough room for two more games, and I haven't taken any word games, trivia games, gambling games, fantasy games, and games where you fling things across the room! Oh, well. I have to ignore these types of games because there are two more games that are too much fun to leave out.
Bazaar (the Discovery Toys version) is a beautiful game, and a great game for when we don't want to get into anything heavy like Civilization or Rollout. Quick moving with a good amount of player interaction (just try telling someone that Bazaar doesn't have enough player interaction after you have just stolen the card they have spent the last six turns saving for), Bazaar is a winner.
The last game into the boat (but certainly not least - I would have left out almost any of the other games to make room for it) is Wildlife Adventure. Fast and frequently frustrating, I consider this one of the best games ever invented. Beautifully produced with a Ravensberger-quality board and lots of cute little plastic arrows, the most annoying thing about this game is that it was taken off the market so long ago. Two-player games are just as fun as six-player games, (although the game feels vastly different), and I have played games in as little as ten to fifteen minutes. Wildlife Adventure is a true gem!
So, with Airlines, Bazaar, Civilization, Cosmic Encounter, Diplomacy, Hols Der Geier, Personal Preference, Rail Baron, Rollout, and Wildlife Adventure safely tucked into my lifeboat, I carefully seal up the rest of my games and wave goodbye as they sink into watery storage. Then I start rowing toward shore with renewed vigor, thinking eagerly about the games I have with me and trying to decide which one I want to play first. And if it takes a few months to rescue me, I might not even notice. Although with all the great games sitting on the ocean floor, I may sometimes be tempted to figure out how to create scuba diving gear out of coconuts and palm leaves (hey, they did it on Gilligan's Island) and launch a premature salvage operation.
Kris Gould is an avid collector of games and anything else fun. He is the founder of WATTSALPOAG Games, which publishes his game, Legend of the Moonsword.