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Great games in disguise

Did you ever see or hear about a game that and think that the game has no appeal, but after playing it, you found it to be a great game?

I was recently listening to an episode of the Secret Cabal Podcast recently, and one of the hosts explained how he had avoided Concordia for a long time.  After playing it, he realized how great the game was.

I have felt the same about many games over the years, so I thought I’d make a list. Feel free to let me know about others that you encountered that ended up being a great game despite your initial judgment.


concordia box
Concordia – So many gamers have probably backed away from this one just due to the box art. The artwork does this fine game injustice.  With a geek rating of 7.84 (at the time of this writing), the game is very highly rated.

coal baron
Coal Baron – “has players sending meeple miners underground to dig tunnels and acquire coal, which comes in four levels of quality and which is used to fulfill contracts.”   Oh my – that doesn’t sound good.  Luckily the game play is much better than it’s there.  The theme of running a mining operation wasn’t one that I would have expected to like, but after a few plays I found this game to be a great medium weight euro with a strong worker placement mechanic.

 goaGOA  – ” a strategy game of auctions and resource management, is set at the start of the 16th century: beautiful beaches, a mild climate, and one of the most important trading centers in the world. Competing companies deal in spices, send ships and colonists into the world, and invest money. Are you on top or at the bottom? It depends on how you invest your profits. Will you make your ships more efficient? Enhance your plantations? Recruit more colonists? Only a steady hand in business will help.”  If that’s not bad enough, the box art is very bland too.   As it turns out, the game is actually a great auction game.

Agricola – “In Agricola, you’re a farmer in a wooden shack with your spouse and little else. Onagicola a turn, you get to take only two actions, one for you and one for the spouse, from all the possibilities you’ll find on a farm: collecting clay, wood, or stone; building fences; and so on“.   Surprising, the theme absolutely works for this game, and eventually you’ll find yourself proud of how you scrapped by and built a fine little farm.   Agricola is one of the top rated board games on BGG.   As a gamer, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

endeavorEndeavor by Z-Man Games is a game that looks bland based on the board design and components.  When one of my gaming group set the game up to play, I thought to myself here comes another dry euro – I was pleasantly surprised to find such a great game.   This one is currently out of print, so might be hard to find, but worth a play if you have the chance.

hoity toityHoity Toity – possibly the worst named game of this list.  I’m guessing it was somehow a translation issue.   Hoity Toity is a fairly simple game about set collecting sets of old ‘junk’ that you players will be showing off.   If you can get past the unfortunate name, the game is pretty fun, especially with larger player counts.
It’s a game designed by Klaus Teuber of “Settlers of Catan” fame.

The next great game in disguise is my favorite game, Bruges.  When a friend picked this up a brugesOrigin’s a few years back, I took one look at the dour looking folks on the box and thought “Oh No…this looks awful”.  After a play or two, I realized that this was such an amazing game.  In fact, I’m hoping to visit the city of Bruges at some point based on how much I have enjoyed this game.
The moral of the story, is look beyond the art and components before throwing a game aside.