The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Games & Movies

Eduardo Loureiro Jr.

August, 2002

A friend of mine asked me if Puerto Rico deserved to be first on The Internet Top 100 Games List. I immediately thought that it would be as hard to answer as: "Does The Godfather deserve to be first on the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) ranking?"

Movies (mainly American) and games (mainly German) are very alike when you have to decide which is the best among them.

First of all, it's almost impossible to play or watch all of them, due to their overwhelming numbers. I haven't seen The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (fourth on IMDb) nor played Euphrat & Tigris (second on the Top 100 Games). I have played Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan, Torres, Tikal, Modern Art, Taj Mahal... and I've watched The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Memento, Pulp Fiction... Though it's hard to say which is really the best, it is possible to say what you think is the best, and why.

If there was some kind of "ludo density" (complexity divided by simplicity in board games), I guess Carcassonne would deserve the title of "Best Board Game". It has simple rules, simple mechanics, and a lot of choices. Carcassonne could be compared to Iranian movies such as The Children of Heaven or Through the Olive Trees: a low budget but a wonderful result, inexpensive and charming.

Settlers of Catan is the best game I've ever played, just as Modern Times and Dead Poets Society are among the best movies I've ever seen. One can find much in them: comedy, romance, drama, irony... Settlers of Catan has everything a good game should have: beauty, genius, strategy, tactics, interaction and emotion rising up until the final turn.

Puerto Rico is like Citizen Kane, Before the Rain or Memento, one of those films that you keep thinking about long after they've finished: "If I had only... I would have won!" You can't stop asking yourself: "How could someone create such a tremendous game of ingenious complexity?" However, the lack of player interaction in Puerto Rico is one of the things that make Settlers of Catan a more complete game in my opinion.

We usually think that the best movie, and also the best game, is the one that doesn't please many people, simply because most people don't understand the "idea" of it. When a film director or a game designer does an exceptional job, pleasing the crowds while maintaining quality, I guess this game or movie should be considered the best.

So, answering my friend, Puerto Rico doesn't deserve the top spot, Settlers of Catan does. The popular choice for Settlers of Catan and the critic's choice for Puerto Rico. Perhaps not for too long though, lovers of games are just like lovers of movies: their top 100 list has about 3313 items, and the best among them changes "as time goes by".

- Eduardo Loureiro Jr.

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