Thursday, October 12, 2006

3 Players

The best board or card games for a group of three players...

Just missed the cut:

Also nominated:

For comparison, the top five games from 2002:

The Apples Pickers expressed a number of preferences here:

  • They liked "vanilla" Carcassonne & "vanilla" Settlers better for three players than utilizing one or more of the expansions - though not by a substantial margin.
  • Expedition & Wildlife Adventure finished in a dead heat.
  • The original Ticket to Ride was slightly more popular than Marklin... and much more popular than Europe.
  • And, no surprise here, Web of Power is much better liked than China.



Anonymous Dave Arnott said...

Typing fast to see if beat Mark here :)

Have never understood why people are crazy for both San Marco and Schnäppchen Jagd, though both are certainly okay. I think the end-of-the-round banishment is wonky in San Marco (also the banishments, in general, are no fun). And Schnäppchen Jagd has never offered me the really interesting choices and tricky cardplay that others seem to think it has.

Every time I play one of these - and I'm not against playing either of them - I think, "Okay, maybe this is the time I see it."

But enlightenment never comes.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Nick Danger said...

I'm going to climb out a limb and state I think most pickers picked games they think play best with three rather than great games that play well with three. That's a big distinction.

If someone wanted to come up with a buy list for three player games I'd suggest bypassing the "winners" and pick from the just missed and also nominated lists. There are far better games there.

Not to say the winners aren't good games, shoot I love Ra, but as a grouping I think the non-winners are a better whole than the winners.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Mark Haberman said...


I was just going to say the same thing. San Marco always gets picked because it plays so much better with 3 than 4. There are MANY games I would rather play with three. How is E&T not at the top? It's the second rated game on the geek and plays best with 3.

Also Like:

Tower of Babel,
City and Guilds,
Through the Desert,

I actually think there are more games that work well with 3 then any other #.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto to what Mark said (i.e., ditto to what Nick said).

9:28 AM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

Usually I'm the one griping, but on this occasion I like the list; mainly, because I think two absolutely teriffic 3-player games (Ra and Flaschenteufel) top it. The rest aren't exactly setting my world alight, but when you get two awesome games in such a broad and nebulous (as Nick mentions) field, that's good. I'd have like to see some non-Euros make the list, but what can you do. It's a euro-heavy elecorate, which is fine.

The 3-player game situation is tough for me for some reason. Every time I sit down with 3, I try to think of a 3-player game and draw a blank. Afterwards, I easily come up with 10 great 3-player games, and go "D'oh!".

Too bad Blue Moon City is so new. I think in a year or two it would have a real shot to make the list. I think it's a great 3-player game.

I should say I actually don't think much of either Settlers or Tigirs & Euphrates as a 3-player game. They're both great games at 4, but I feel that in both cases they lose a lot of tension with 3. That doesn't make them bad games at 3 - they're all-time classics at 4, after all - but neither is a game I would generally choose to play with 3 these days. However, there are some good scenarios for Settlers from Das Buch that are better with 3 than the core game. Some more recent Knizias like Lord of the Rings and Beowulf seem to scale to 3 a lot better than Tigris & Euphrates.

Some other good recent games for 3 that didn't get a mention: Palazzo, Tower of Babel, Ingenious, Hey! That's my Fish!, and Blokus Trigon. Also, 1825 and Age of Steam on some maps (like Scandinavia). Arkham Horror was surprisingly good with 3, and Doom: The Boardgame, once you get the Patch Kit, er, Expansion is rather fun with 3 also.

Even though I'm comfortable with the final list, this is one where games I nominated did poorly: of the games I nominated, only Ra made it to the final list.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

Continuing my trend of coming up with stuff late: Hacienda and Elasund are also both top-flight 3-player games (I even nominated Elasund and forgot about it). Also Reef Encounter is very good with 3.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Kevin_Whitmore said...

Some games are excellent AND demand a certain number of players. For example, El Grande is one of the highest ranked games on BGG - but I generally don't want to play it with 3 players. Ditto for Wallenstein.

Other games are excellent and scale nicely. Euprhrat & Tigris and original Settlers both remain good games when played with 3 or 4.

Some games reach their best at 3 players. Big City rapidly loses merit as a game as you add more players. But many of us like it fine with exactly 3 players.

I think Nick's point is valid. I personally think Flaschenteufel and Web of Power are very nice 3-player games. But I didn't vote for them - because even though they may be at their best with 3 players; I felt other games were even better (even if my selected games might be improved with a 4th player).

After 2 appearances on the winning list, I really ought to try Schnäppchen Jagd.

I find the drop of Carcassonne interesting. I suspect if there had been no Carcassonne expansions it might still be on the winning list. I hear a lot of sneers lobbed at Carcassonne anymore. But I remain a fan. I think it has become fashionable to diss the game. I guess success has its price.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

I hear a lot of sneers lobbed at Carcassonne anymore. But I remain a fan.

I actually rather like Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers as a 3-player game, and might have voted for it. The problem with Carcassonne these days is the morass of expansions. The way the voting was set up, you were voting for a game system with a preference for a specific instance. But, I like a specific instance (H&G), but I'm lukewarm on the system as a whole (I don't like vanilla Carcassonne much at all). So, I didn't vote for Carcassonne, even though I might have voted specifically for H&G.

I suspect that most people end up flavoring Carcassonne to taste, and are less enthused about alternate configurations, and all these configurations are bound together much less tightly than, say, Settlers.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

I'm thrilled with this list from top to bottome. While there are plenty of outstanding games for three in the also ran, the winners are great group.

Nick while I see your point, I'm not sure I totally agree and don't find it to be a big distinction. Ra and Web of Power in particular play well with four and five and I will happily drag those out with any number. This is one of the reasons why Ra and Web of Power are classics in my opinion because they do have great flexibility when it comes to numbers.

San Marco is clearly better with three than four - enough that it feels like it was designed as a three player game.

I'm guessing it would have been a different ballot if we were all thinking of games that were designed for three.

Oh and I'll second Reef Encounter as a terrific three player game.

2:33 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Like Craig, I think this is a great list. And I not only agree with Nick's point, but I think that's the way it should be. We all have enough games that it makes sense to play games with their optimal number. The fact is, when ou group has three players, we most often play the games on the list. Even if you love Settlers, why play it with three if you think it's better with four? There will be an opportunity soon enough to play a four-player game.

Flaschenteufel, Schnappchen Jagd, and Web of Power are all great games and all play best with three. I'm one of 6 1/2 people who actually prefer to play San Marco with four (it's much more fun to split for two than for three), but it's still a great three-player. I don't care for Ra with any number, but if I had to play it, three players would be my choice.

I actually did choose one great game that plays well with three: Caylus. But that's because I think it plays best with three. In addition to Flaschenteufel, Schnappchen Jagd, and San Marco, I also chose Carolus Magnus, which I think is a fine three-player game. Reef Encounter was one of my nominated games and its omission is a bit surprising to me. I also picked Hansa, another excellent game (I'd pick it over WoP). My other nominees were Cartel and Um Krone und Kragen.

And while I think that three is no longer a number to be feared, I still think Mark Haberman's contention that there's more games that work with three than any other number is just a little bit loony.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Mark Haberman said...

I should clarify that I do love Web of Power and RA with 3, and would have voted for both of them. In fact they are both 10's in my book.

5:28 AM  
Anonymous Nick Danger said...

In reference to Larry's remark: "We all have enough games that it makes sense to play games with their optimal number."

For the vast majority of the people Mark chose to partake in this exercise this is probably true. But for people that buy or play most every game that makes its way into publication is this list even relevant? I go into this thinking how best to help the gamer that doesn't have a weekly game group and attends cons three times a year.

For the guy that gets together a few times a month with a couple buddies wouldn't the knowledge of some great games for three players be more usable then telling him what games play best with three?

And that's why I call it a big distinction. While Schnappchen Jagd is a good game and does play best with three how many people's top ten list do you think it shows up on? I'd guess you'd be hard pressed to find it on many if any.

What games play best with three can make for an interesting list and discussion in itself but that really wasn't the question posed by Mark, but I think that is what a lot of the pickers read into it and answered accordingly.

7:06 AM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Nick, your point is correct and certainly this list would look very different if we had been instructed to aim it at one particular audience or another. But there's all kinds of groups we could have tailored this for and none of them were singled out. To be honest, I'm glad, as it's tough enough figuring out how I feel about the games in all these categories without having to step outside my own brain and decide how my choice will influence Group X. So I'm content with this simply being the views of our little group as a whole. I don't think Mark necessarily cared about utility too much; it was just a fun exercise. Maybe it's an opportunity lost, but I expect many more categories than this one would have changed if our intent was to assist the casual gamer.

2:25 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

Schnäppchen Jagd, Sticheln, Carolus Magnus, Big City, and Kardinal & Konig are among the games that do work best for three players, and I guess that's why they're on this list. Daytona 500, Siesta, Palermo, Queen's Necklace, and certainly Katzenjammer Blues belong on the list as well. We've also listed some that I think DON'T work best with three players: Puerto Rico, Ra, Ticket to Ride, and a number of other borderline cases.

Generally speaking three is the EASIEST number of players to fit into a game. There are a number of strictly two-player games, a number of games wanting more than four players, and a few that want exactly four for one reason or another (partnership games, Silberzwerg, Tonga Bonga, Blokus, Lowenherz, and Um Reifenbreite come to mind), but most games that take multiple players take three and work fine.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

but I expect many more categories than this one would have changed if our intent was to assist the casual gamer.

I dunno, when I voted, the question of "what game would I recommend to someone who is reading this web page", i.e., someone who knows something about gaming but is not hard-core, was always in the back of my mind. I mean, if you're not doing this to help people out, what was the point? I'm certainly not doing it for my own amusement or because I enjoy reading through lengthy lists of games. I already know what I like.

As for Nick's question of whether people were responding to the question of "what games are best with 3 players" or "what are the best games for 3 players", Mark was pretty explicit in the nomination email: "This category is for the best board or card games for a group of three players". If people were nominating games that played best with three, they misread. Personally, I find it unlikely that was the case.

I think Schnäppchen Jagd made it because it was simply perceived as a good 3-player game. I personally think that it's a game whose time has come and gone - it didn't even cross my mind during the nomination process - but what can you do. I'm generally not a card game guy anyway.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Joe Huber said...

Nick writes:

And that's why I call it a big distinction. While Schnappchen Jagd is a good game and does play best with three how many people's top ten list do you think it shows up on? I'd guess you'd be hard pressed to find it on many if any.

Well, it's on mine, for whatever that's worth.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Nick Danger said...

Joe says:
"Well, it's on mine, for whatever that's worth."

I follow:
Joe, your take on games is so often the exception in so many areas that I think it being on your top 10 list pretty much makes my case!

I say that half in jest and half in seriousness - if that is analytically possible.

6:28 AM  

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