Games I Haven’t Played – Abstract Edition

Last year, I did a series of posts where I covered games I haven’t played from the BGG Top 100. It was a fun series to do, and I thought about going up to 200. But instead, I’m going to cover games I haven’t played from different categories I’m interested in – themes, designers, mechanisms, etc. That’ll give me a little more flexibility when I need a filler post, and it’s not so limiting in the scope of what I can cover. Basically, I’ll just talk about the top 11 games I haven’t played, and go from there.

For this one, I’m going to talk about abstract games. If you don’t know, abstract games are low-luck, rules light games that often have no theme or story to them. Think Chess or Checkers (which won’t appear on this list as I have played both). So, let’s see what we get. All rankings were current as of March 6.

image from

Azul (Michael Kiesling, 2017) is the highest rated abstract game at BGG, currently ranked #50, but I have played that one. I even own it, it’s a great game. However, its sequels, Stained Glass of Sintra (2018) and Summer Pavilion (2019) are a little lower on the list, and I have played neither. Stained Glass is the lower rated of the two, at #306, while Summer Pavilion sits at #148. Both use the basic Azul tile drafting, though they add some extra mechanisms. They both sound interesting to me, and I’d certainly like to try them at some point, being a big fan of the original.

image by BGG user ManCorte

Go (≈2200 BC) is one of the world’s oldest games, and is still ranked #174 on BGG. That’s higher than Chess, by the way, which only comes in at #437. Go is an area control game, where you’re placing stones and trying to wall off territories and have the most territory on the board when the game is over. The rules are easy – you take turns placing a white or black stone anywhere on a 19×19 grid. I’m a little intimidated by the game because it has so much history, and it’s really a lifestyle game for a ton of people. But someday, I’ll play.

image by BGG user samoan_jo

YINSH (Kris Burm, 2003) is one of the legendary GIPF project games, and one of three you’ll see on this particular list. To date, I’ve still only played ZÈRTZ from the series, though I really would love to try all the rest. YINSH is the highest ranked, at #190. It’s basically a five-in-a-row game, where you’re pacing pieces to try to get that line. Getting a line causes you to lose a ring, which weakens you in play. It’s a beautiful looking game, as are all the GIPF games, and I need to try it.

image by BGG user russ

Samurai (Reiner Knizia, 1998) is part of Knizia’s tile-laying trilogy, along with Tigris & Euphrates and Through the Desert. This one is ranked #211 on BGG, and is about trying to gain favor in feudal Japan. Players are trying to surround different figures to gain control over them on a hexagonal map that represents Japan. I’ve made it no secret that I’m not a huge fan of Dr. Knizia’s game, having only played a few that really connected with me. But this is one that I think I should play, if just to say that I have.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

War Chest (Trevor Benjamin/David Thompson, 2018) is a kind of abstract wargame in the tradition of Chess, but not at all like Chess. It’s ranked #260. In the game, you have access to four different types of tokens that you add to a bag, drawing three each round. On your turn, you either place one, move a matching one using its special rules, add a new token to your bag, or take first player. It seems like a cool take on pool building games, and one I’ve been interested to try.

image by BGG user AEGTodd

Tiny Towns (Peter McPherson, 2019) is a city-guiding game where you’re making specific shapes with stones and replacing those with buildings. You’re working on a 4×4 grid, and each turn a different player names a particular resource. When you have arranged resources in the correct configuration, you can replace them with buildings that will later score. It’s a nice looking game, is ranked #319, and it’s one I should be getting off my haven’t played list VERY soon – I just checked out a copy from my local library, and I hopefully will get it played this very day.

image by BGG user stankewich

Calico (Kevin Russ, 2020) is the newest game on this list, and clocks in at #320, right behind Tiny Towns. This is a quilting game where you’re placing tiles to make color groups and pattern groups, as well as collect buttons and cats. It’s gotten a lot of buzz since it came out, and I expect it will rise much higher on the ratings list. It’s one I need to play sometime, just have to have the opportunity.

image by BGG user ArtEmiSa64

TZAAR (Kris Burm, 2007) was the final GIPF game before LYNGK came out in 2017. It’s ranked #427, and was the official replacement for TAMSK in the overall GIPF series. Basically, you’re trying to capture pieces so you have the most on the board when the game is over. Another beautiful game that I need to try, though I think I remember now that I have played this (and all GIPF games) online. I’m not counting that, however – I need to play the physical versions for the games to be ineligible for these lists.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Photosynthesis (Hjalmar Hach, Blue Orange Games) is a tree game, where you’re placing trees in different patterns so as to score points. The game is ranked #431, and your tree placements are done strategically so the sun shines on them as much as possible. The game is gorgeous, and I think my family would love it. We just haven’t had a chance to play it. Hopefully someday.

image by BGG user zombie god

DVONN (Kris Burm, 2001) is another GIPF game, this one ranked #474. You first place pieces on the board, then take turns stacking pieces. The goal of the game is to control the most pieces at the end of the game. It’s another beautiful game, as are all the GIPF games. It’s a series I have long been interested in, and it’s high time I start seeking them out. I saw a couple of the games in a local store recently, so maybe I’ll go get them.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Mandala (Trevor Benjamin/Brett J. Gilbert, 2019) is ranked #565. In the game, you’re basically building mandala patterns by playing cards. They can go into your own fields, or into the center. Scores are determined by colors you take, and which order you take them. It’s one I’ve been interested in since I first heard about it, and one I definitely want to play sometime.

That’s it for another edition of Games I Haven’t Played. I really do like abstract games, and I think it’s a testament to the genre that so many are in the Top 500. For comparison purposes, here are the ones I skipped on the list that I have played: Azul (#50), Patchwork (#89), Santorini (#169), Hive (#247), Onitama (#248), Ingenious (#425), Chess (#437), Through the Desert (#501), Torres (#531), and The Duke (#563). I hope to be back with another genre soon, but there’s other stuff planned before that comes around. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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