With so many new games being released nowadays, a lot of older games get lost in the mix, and we are finding some of them being re-released as 2nd editions, featuring new content (or including previous expansions) or in some cases, altogether new versions (or spinoffs) that change a lot of mechanics. Some truly feel like the name of the previous game is just put on the box to help sales (like Popular Board Game: The Dice Game!), but sometimes the spinoff game comes off far more superior than the original. So here we go: I’ve compiled a list of 5 spinoff games that are better than the originals. No 2nd editions here, the game must be different from the original (whether its a 2 player variant, re-themed with new mechanics that change the gameplay or a dice/card version of the original). So sit back, relax, and let me know what you think in the comments, and if you have a favourite spinoff!
5) Carcassonne Gold Rush
Carcassonne was my very first game that got me into the hobby. It’s a Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) winner, and it’s got one of the best expansions ever made. It’s had numerous spinoffs (including a awesome Star Wars one), but one of my favourites is the wild west themed Gold Rush. Some of the mechanics are similar, but it includes a fun press-your-luck mechanic with the mountains replacing the cities and mining for gold, the addition of locomotives on the rails (replacing the roads) for extra points, and the farming being made a lot easier with the use of horses and tepees on the board scoring points instead of the cities. Combined with amazing art, this version feels a lot more fun than the original version.
4) Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride is a legend, another Spiel des Jahres winner and loved by so many. The original includes a map of the USA, but some of the routes are way more powerful than others and blocking someone can really hurt. Enter Europe: it has a far superior map, includes normal size cards for the game, and has the amazing addition of stations, which allow you to use someone’s route at the expense of losing some end game points for using it. The stations alone make this a better game, but with nicer artwork and including full size cards without the need to buy an expansion, this is the definitive version of Ticket to Ride.
3) Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Another classic on the list, the ever popular farming game Agricola is a well designed but very punishing game in which starvation is always a threat and holds you back from building the best farm you can. Well, this 2 player version removes the need to feed your people, and allows you to build the best haven for your livestock possible! Not that it’s easy, you have very limited actions, and nowhere near enough resources to do everything. However, the extremely tight gameplay and optimizing your every move make this one of the best 2 player games around. It’s recently been re-released as a big box, which includes another set of amazing expansions with the base game, so if you’re going to get this now you can get it as the complete and essential package in one box,
2) San Juan
Puerto Rico is one of the ultimate gamers games, sitting at #1 on BoardGameGeek for years, and it totally lives up to its legendary status. However, it’s little card brother San Juan is no slouch. Taking the role selection mechanic from Puerto Rico, it’s a tableau builder in which you try to produce and sell goods while building lots of buildings to not only give you powers, but also end game scoring. Both Puerto Rico and San Juan have the awesome role selection mechanic where everyone gets to do the action, but the leader gets a bonus. But San Juan does it at a faster pace, is easier to learn and has the added benefit of being able to be played with 2 players.
1) 7 Wonders Duel
Ah, what more can I say? I’ve already reviewed both 7 Wonders and its 2 player only spinoff, 7 Wonders Duel, and Duel already has the benefit of being co-designed by my favourite designer, Bruno Cathala. Card drafting doesn’t always work in 2 player games, but 7 Wonders Duel does it in such an ingenious way that I can’t think of a better way to do it with 2 players. It becomes a lot more cut-throat and tactical than the original, and the multiple ways to victory (including early ways to end the game) keep both players on their toes and force you to keep a balance in the cards you choose. I can’t think of a better spinoff game, or even possibly a better 2 player game.
There you have it! If you agree, or feel theres a game I missed, feel free to sound off in the comments!