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30 of the Rarest Board Games

30 rare board games that every collector wants!
howchoo   (467)
September 29, 2023
85 minutes


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Board games may not be the first thing on your mind when you think of collectibles, and yet there is a deep and not-so-hidden world of board game hoarding, collecting, and trading as complex as that found within any other area of interest — perhaps deeper! There is a huge range of wonderful old games out there, limited edition runs, classics, and hidden gems that are worth their weight in gold to the right collector.

There are many factors that make a board game especially sought-after by collectors, from how many copies of the game were first made, to how many are known to exist, and how unique or artistically superior the artwork and aesthetic happen to be. As with any other genre of collectibles, the condition of the board games is a major factor in terms of their financial worth, though this is certainly a secondary aspect of what makes a collection valuable for many collectors. After all, certain games might exist in such a small supply that even a poorer-quality copy is going to be highly sought after.

But don’t mistake me: recent games can become collectibles as well, not just those dusty with history. Any limited edition run, even the alpha builds of now-popular games, can become collectible items. This can also happen with games that have special editions released for some purpose (perhaps an anniversary edition, or an edition released to coincide with some historical event). The genre of game can also have a major impact, with war games being one of the classic categories that draw in collectors.

Plenty of collectors will even go so far as to purchase copies of games that they think might be collectibles in the future, and then store them, waiting to see if their hunch pans out a decade or two down the road.

Board game collecting terminology

Now, I’m not going to go too deep into the world of collectibles, but it’s important to know a couple of common terms before continuing forward.

  • OOP: Stands for “Out of Print”. Games that are OOP are generally considered collectible in their own right, since (at least for a time) new editions of the game are not being printed. Sometimes, as with the board game Dune, games will find a renewed life with fresh print runs years or decades after they originally went OOP, but even so, copies from the original runs are likely to be highly prized (if they’re in good condition).
  • P / UP (Punched or Unpunched): Traditionally used in reference to items being hung on retail pegs but for board games, it refers to whether or not the pieces of the game have been detached from their original cardboard sheets. This makes them valuable to both collectors and people looking to buy a used copy of the game who wish to ensure that all the original pieces are included (since it’s easy to see if there are any missing (“punched out”) from the sheets.
  • Mint: A bit more commonplace, this refers to games that are still shrink-wrapped. However, be aware that plenty of unscrupulous sellers exist. “Mint” alone is not enough to clarify the new and unopened state of the game, so look for clarifications. The abbreviations MISB (Mint in Sealed Box), or MIB/MIP (Mint in Box/Mint in Package) are better indicators for the condition.
  • NRFB (Never Removed From Box): this is a handy way for a seller to indicate that the item comes in original condition in all aspects save that it is no longer shrink-wrapped. It would have all its parts in their original unpunched condition, and all pieces in their original baggies or containers.

These are not by any means the only terms you’ll come across, but they are a couple of the more common as you begin your deep dive into the world of collectibles.

1 – Bloc by Bloc

Estimated market value: $75-$100

Designer: R. D. Lee, T.L. Simons

Artist: T.L. Simons

Publisher: Out of Order Games

A smashing Kickstarter success story, Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game is a semi-cooperative game of social unrest and resistance inspired by the real-world uprisings of the Occupy and post-Occupy era. This one is actually looking at its 3rd edition release planned for spring of 2022, so it’s certainly not a discontinued or impossible to find game. But the limited run nature of the first edition definitely qualifies this one as a collector’s item, with a low enough price tag to appeal to novice collectors.

Bloc by Bloc also happens to be a really fun game, where the principal mechanic is area control: players try to hold back the riot cops and take control of the city by occupying specific sections of the city before the military arrives and quashes the rebellion. This one is a total favorite for me, with the historical linkage to real modern events, but without a specific tie to any single historical event — it explores the nature of rebellion in a really interesting way, and the frankly adorable artwork does a great job of creating a unified aesthetic.

It’s also a cooperative game, and y’all know I’m all about that.

The 30 Best Cooperative Board Games Ever Made
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2 – Discworld: Ankh-morpork

Estimated market value: $200-$500

Designer: Martin Wallace

Artist: Peter Dennis, Paul Kidby, Ian Mitchell, Bernard Pearson

Publisher: Treefrog Games

If you are not yet aware of the sheer and incalculable brilliance that is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, stop reading this review right now, go down to your local bookstore or library, and grab yourself every darned book in the series.

No. Seriously. Do it.

Discworld is easily one of my top-five book series ever, and for a good gosh-darned reason: Sir Terry Pratchett’s genius at storytelling was only rivaled by his genius at wit. The satirical humor of his books has had me cracking up more times than I could ever count, and so I naturally gravitated toward other avenues of connecting with this most beloved universe. Enter Discworld: Ankh-Morpork which, most sadly, is OOP now and rather difficult to find.

This is one game that I would happily shell out the $200 for simply because the design itself is drop-dead gorgeous. The artwork throughout the game is so totally and perfectly Discworld that it feels like it’s got a line straight to my imagination. But the fact that there will likely never be another run of this incredible game is a tough pill to swallow.

The game concentrates on the city of Ankh-Morpork where the city’s ruler, Lord Vetinari, has vanished. In his absence, the players take on the roles of the various factions vying for control. It’s a simple enough card-based game with rules that just about anyone can pick up in no time at all, so it’s just a matter of actually finding a copy and shelling out those hard-earned Morpork dollars to add it to the collection.

3 – Chaos in The Old World (2009)

Estimated market value: $200

Designer: Eric M. Lang

Artist: Tim Arney-O’Neil, Kevin Childress, Andrew Navaro, Brian Schomburg, WiL Springer

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Chaos game players had three ways to reshape the world to suit their twisted visions as they vied for dominance as one of the four gods from the Realm of Chaos. Players could kill, infest, change, and seduce their way to victory, unleashing hoards of demons and defending against not just the machinations of their fellow chaos gods, but also against those mortal denizens of the old world intent on forever banishing them back to the Realm of Chaos.

Okay, so this made a lot of waves in its early days but it eventually fell out of favor and many of the mechanics that were experimented with in Chaos were perfected later in other games such as Blood Rage. All that said, it’s still worth playing, but if a good playing experience is all you’re looking for there are other options around. No, what you want this game for is collecting purposes.

As a collectible, Chaos is not an impossible find, but getting a good quality copy (that isn’t in German) can be.

4 – Dark Tower (1981)

Estimated market value: $450

Designer: Roger Burten, Alan Coleman, Vincent A. A. J. Erato

Artist: Bob Pepper

Publisher: Milton Bradley

Easily one of the most delightfully ’80s games imaginable, Dark Tower combined “cutting edge” computer technology and a really nifty game design to provide players with a superb adventuring experience. Taking on the role of a knight, players led groups of warriors on an attack against the evil Dark Tower, moving and gathering gold, hiring troops, finding special items, and recruiting special characters along the way (while also encountering random events and enemy troops).

The Dark Tower itself sat in the middle of the game board and, via a digital number screen and several rotating slides, created the gaming experience. Players would push different button combinations on the tower to program the different moves they were making and to see what they would encounter along the way. There were a whole host of possible outcomes, each of which was accompanied by a uniquely ’80s special effect.

The game is one of those clear classics that just cannot be underestimated. Not only fun but innovative, combining early simple computing effects with an excellent aesthetic design. It’s a blast to play (luckily, you can find emulators that recreate the various conditions of the game without actually owning the original tower itself). As expected of something this unique and also fun, it’s extremely rare, with complete copies (opened and used, mind) going for nearly $500.

5 – Fireball Island (1986)

Estimated market value: $250

Designer: Chuck Kennedy, Bruce Lund

Artist: N/A

Publisher: Milton Bradley

I had a copy of this as a kid and by golly, I wish I’d held onto it. Alas, one move too many occurred and it vanished into the nether world (and probably the private collection of some overjoyed collector).

For such a simple game, Fireball Island was a massive amount of fun. The premise of reaching the top of the island, grabbing the ruby, and getting away to your waiting escape boat felt like being literally inside an Indiana Jones film.

Comprised of an awesome and massive 3D board game, where the outcome of the game got decided by the actual spewing of lava-centered fireballs! Or, well, red marbles anyway. Players worked their way up the sides of a 3D island map, ducking into caves, searching for shortcuts, and hoping not to have their explorer figurine dashed asunder by the sudden and unexpected release of one of the marbles from Vul-Kar’s maw.

There is a 2018 re-release of this game that’s apparently a blast to play, so anyone who’s excited by this doesn’t have to miss out. But if you have an old copy hanging around, especially one that still has all its parts, be aware that you’re holding one heck of a sought-after gem (and we’re not talking about Vul-Kar’s jewel).

6 – Trafalgar (1973)

Estimated market value: $200

Designer: Tom Waterman

Artist: Auguste Étienne François Mayer

Publisher: Action Games and Toys Ltd

An action war games classic, Trafalgar features exciting naval combat with a huge range (ha!) of tactical maneuvering that can take place between the opposing fleets that fought in the actual battle of Trafalgar in 1805. You could do everything with this game, including simulate hits to your ship’s masts by removing the functional mast from the ship model!

There are newer editions, and prettier editions, than the original, so there’s no reason why modern players who find themselves interested in this can’t go out and get some great naval combat on, but for the collector, this is the one to grab. Of course, it’s in notoriously short supply. It’s not in as high demand as some other collectible games, so it might be possible to find a copy under $100, but usually, the price hangs out at around double that (assuming a copy is available at all).

7 – Capes & Cowls: The Superhero Board Game (2006)

Estimated market value: $230

Designer: Robin Spriggs

Artist: Kelly O’Neal, Robin Spriggs

Publisher: Wyrd House

Robin Spriggs is a fascinating guy, an actor and writer of horror-themed short fiction, and Kelly O’Neal, also an actor did some amazing work on this game. The design of the game is superb, providing a silver-age comic feel. This was an indie game but the design and production quality were extraordinarily high-quality, and the game features an entire mythos and in-game world experience. The scenarios and rulebook are both designed like comics, and the characters themselves all feel extremely unique.

Gameplay-wise, Capes & Cowls concentrates on tactical combat, doing away with much of the random factor often inherent in such games by highlighting the importance of placement on the game board. Different squares on the board provide different bonuses representing terrain differences, there are line-of-sight rules, and the various special abilities that the super-powered characters have creates dramatically unique play experiences.

8 – Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit (2000)

Estimated market value: $600

Designer: Rob Daviau, Alan Roach, Craig Van Ness

Artist: Clark Mitchell (I)

Publisher: Avalon Hill Games, Inc., Hasbro

Whether you like or hate The Phantom Menace there were some undoubtedly epic scenes in that film, like the final chapter featuring the huge battles in space and on land, and the epic final light-saber battle between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul (some great choreography there). And that’s the part of the film that The Queen’s Gambit attempts to recreate. The goal for the light-side folks is to capture the Viceroys, destroy all the battle droids, and kill Maul.

But to understand this game you really have to see how massive it is — it even recreates the palace of Theed in an epic three-story construct. With over a hundred and fifty plastic miniature, this game is not kidding around about giving you an epic Star Wars battle experience.

Unfortunately, the price isn’t kidding on this one, either, with copies going above $500 with relative frequency. Since Star Wars is such a notable field for collectibles, that sort of makes sense, though. Luckily, for those of you who are massively excited by the game and just want to play it, there’s a really cool mod for the great virtual tabletop Tabletop Simulator which recreates all of Queen’s Gambit in the virtual world


9 – Merchant of Venus (1988)

Estimated market value: $180

Designer: Richard Hamblen

Artist: Charles Kibler, George I. Parrish, Jr., Regina De Simone

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co

Twenty-five years ago an absolutely brilliant little space game called Merchant of Venus, an epic space economy control game where players compete as space traders for total economic superiority in the galaxy by delivering cargo and discovering new worlds open to trade.

The basic move mechanic is pretty simple, but the complication comes from which items can be traded and purchased in different systems and what sort of upgrades can be made to the player’s ship. It reminds me a bit of the Firefly board game in this regard, actually, though the mechanics in Merchant of Venus are more complex.

Now, there was a 2012 2nd edition that featured almost an identical system of play, and I would love to be able to send excited players off to buy it… but, sadly, it too appears to be OOP, and nearly as expensive as the original in the few places I could find online. I guess this one really has become a permanent collector’s item!

10 – Advanced Civilization (1991)

Estimated market value: $300

Designer: Lauren Banerd, Jim Eliason, Jeff Groteboer, Bruce Harper

Artist: Rodger B. MacGowan

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co

An expansion for the original 1980 game CivilizationAdvanced Civilizations provides players of the original game with a large number of enhancements for furthering play, like expanding the technology tree and a few convenient rule changes including some major alterations to victory conditions.

The whole point of the Civilization game is to develop an ancient culture from around 8000 B.C.E. to the middle of the 3rd century B.C.E., vying with other players to carve out a permanent niche for your unique ancient world culture. Still considered one of the best games of this type, the base game is actually still pretty easy to find at cheap prices and mostly intact. The expansion, however, of Advanced Civilization is a very different matter with the limited-run making this a very difficult and expensive game to find.

11 – Dune (1979)

Estimated market value: $200

Designer: Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Peter Olotka

Artist: Jean Baer, Linda Bound, Fabrice Lamy, Mick Uhl

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co.

So this is a bit like the great grandfather of the strategy game world. It is EPIC, and I really do mean that, but it’s also utterly unforgiving and incredibly intense. Players take control of one of the Great Houses of the Dune universe and attempt to exploit the heck out of Arrakis, with the Emperor presiding over everything but only gaining power from the acquiescence of the whole… I mean, there are just so many delightful and potent mechanics at work, building up a massively complex political network and an intense military mechanic where a military campaign can be made or broken by a sandstorm.

But this one is a bit of a doozy because, due to the forthcoming Dune film franchise reboot, there’s a whole new release of the game. That makes it great for people who want to just play it and have a great time, but really, really lousy for people who want to try and sift through to find a collectible copy (especially if you’re newer at the collecting game, or aren’t interesting in collecting for its own sake but just really want some collectible Dune memorabilia).

12 – Titan (1980)

Estimated market value: $150-$900

Designer: Jason B. McAllister, David A. Trampier

Artist: Mike Doyle (I), Kurt Miller, Kenn Nishiuye, David A. Trampier, Chris White (I)

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co

Titan is an absolute treat and happens to be such a great game, with so much dynamic range in the tactical approaches possible, that it maintains a dedicated player base even today, over forty years after its release.

More of a wargame than a fantasy adventuring game, Titan is all about… Titans. Players control a mythical Titan, recruit armies, and send those armies into battle against other players and their Titan avatars. The last Titan left standing (and, boy, are they hard to kill), is the winner.

There are a bunch of elements to Titan that I really love, like how players who have fewer points than others can win — because it’s last Titan standing rather than a score-based victory condition. The way the game is played, too, spread between two different map types (the master board and the battle boards) is excellent, and the battle boards vary depending on the location a fight begins on the master board, creating some great tactical range.

There was actually a re-release of the game by Valley Games in 2008, but it is now also an OOP collectible. Expect versions of the 1980 version to go from anywhere between $400-$900 depending on condition, while the 2008 version can be found in okay condition to MIB for $100-$250. Anyone who wants to play the game for fun and owns an iPad, however, can grab Titan from the iPad app store.

13 – 1830: Railways & Robber Barons (1986)

Daniel Cherney

Estimated market value: $100-$300

Designer: Francis Tresham

Artist: Mike Atkinson, Jared Blando, Charles Kibler, James Talbot, Mark Zug

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co

Take on the role of the villains of capitalist America’s 1800s in 1830, where the goal is to amass the greatest fortune by buying and selling the stocks of 19th-century companies in the Eastern United States. Maximize profits through private railways and vie for the greatest hoard while risking bankruptcy every step of the way.

An important entrant in the 18XX series of games, Railways & Robber Barons is still one of the most beloved games from the line, made especially interesting for its chanceless mechanics which, like with a game of chess, offers the same outcome for any move during any game — meaning that playing the same moves across different games will result in the same outcomes.

There have been a few different editions of this game, all of which now appear to be OOP, and all of which are worth a fair penny — depending on condition and edition.

14 – Up Front (1983)

Estimated market value: $200

Designer: Courtney F. Allen

Artist: Charles Kibler, Rodger B. MacGowan

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co

One of the most famous and playable wargames around, Up Front offered an innovative card-based gaming mechanic that completely eschewed the use of a game mat in favor of “terrain cards” which provided the sense of being in the world, and “range chits” which did an incredible job of creative relative ranges between opposing sides without a single hexagon in sight.

I’m not often a fan of straight-up wargames on the tabletop, largely because of the massive amount of set-up time they can take and the relatively slow rate of play. Board games with wargame components, sure, but I’m more likely to go for Twilight Imperium than I am some of the others (TI being a game where trying to go the full military route isn’t likely to end well).

But Up Front changed all of that. The card system is ingenious, allowing set-up and play to take place in about the space of a lunch hour, but with campaigns and scenarios that can extend gameplay out to as much as a week. There’s even an international league of Up Front players that hold tournaments.

There have been a few different editions, but the Avalon Hill Game Co edition from 1983 will run a collector anywhere from $150-$250 depending on the condition.

15 – Here I Stand (2006)

Estimated market value: $100

Designer: Ed Beach

Artist: Rodger B. MacGowan, Mark Simonitch

Publisher: GMT Games

The game designers went out of their way on this one to create a system that could capture all the political intrigue and backstabbing machinations of the 16th century during the period of the Protestant Reformation… and they did a really fine job.

A point-to-point game, Here I Stand utilizes point values on cards to undertake actions, and various events provide a sense of narrative progression through the time period. It’s complex enough to give even hard-core players a run for their money, but the underlying mechanic is simple enough to allow for deep and engaging play once that initial learning curve has been overcome.

This is one of the games that integrate some classical wargame components with a truly detailed historical setting, placing diplomacy, finance, and political maneuvering just as high (if not higher) on the list than the ability to field troops.

There are a bunch of different editions floating around but the first edition of Here I Stand will look good on any collector’s shelf.

Princes of the Renaissance (2003)

Estimated market value: $75

Designer: Martin Wallace

Artist: Michael Christopher, Peter Dennis, Richard Hanuschek

Publisher: Warfrog Games, Mercury Games

The Renaissance provides a great thematic background for game designers, given its inherent elements of war, intrigue, and economic and political upheaval. Players in Princes of the Renaissance enter this world as one of several rival condottieres (leaders) who are fighting to control the most stakes in a number of Italian cities and dominate the world.

The game is heavily biased toward the auction mechanic, and both money and influence are used to bid for different outcomes in the game. This combines with the intrigue mechanics to make for some great elements of political maneuvering.

There have been a couple of re-releases since the game’s initial 2003 release, so it’s possible to pick up a copy to play for fun relatively easily, but copies of the first edition are absolutely a collector’s item now. The price is low enough on both editions to make this a great introductory purchase for a collector just looking to start out.

17 – Robert the Bruce (1978)

Estimated market value: $150

Designer: Kenneth Clark

Artist: N/A

Publisher: Fusilier Games

A hex-grid-based wargame, Robert the Bruce is thematically centered in the late middle ages during the Scots Wars of Independence. A seriously classic game that drove straight at its battle-mechanics point, Robert the Bruce offered straightforward rules, quick and deadly combat, and some neat extras along for the ride like “The Fuzileer” an in-box accompanying magazine that provided additional historical information on the period.

It’s not easy to find copies of this little beauty around anymore, and there is no information on how many were produced in the first place. That said, used and even unpunched copies do emerge from time to time, always drifting back and forth between collectors (or at estate sales).

There are better wargames to play from modern designers that feature the same theme, so go elsewhere if you’re looking just for gameplay, but if you love the historical material or are a true collector then this is a good find.

18 – The Longest Day (1979)

Estimated market value: $$200-$400

Designer: Randall C. Reed

Artist: Rodger B. MacGowan, Randall C. Reed

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co

Here is another war game for our list, and an absolutely massive one at that. The Longest Day depicts the first three months of the invasion of Normandy and provides two modes of play: a set of scenarios that are partially intended as primers to the rules and gameplay, and a campaign mode that can literally take months to play.

This is probably one of the largest games and most complex games ever produced by Avalon Hill, and it did a great job of capturing the total feel of the Normandy invasion and the slog that the allies had to grind through. It’s not the rarest of games, but copies in high condition can fetch a really solid price. However, considering that it has over 2,600 game pieces, finding a copy in good condition is probably not the easiest thing.

19 – Risk: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (1999)

Estimated market value: $250-$550

Designer: Albert Lamorisse, Michael I. Levin

Artist: N/A

Publisher: Parker Brothers

Risk is one of the first games I played seriously as a kid and easily one of my favorites to this day, providing players with an immensely satisfying strategic war game experience simplified down to the bare basics. I remember being so totally addicted to this one that I’m certain I annoyed the heck out of all my friends with repeated arguments for spending the whole day playing it (while they were more interested in playing Battlefront II).

The game itself didn’t change for this one: the 40th edition of Risk is simply a special collector’s edition release, made intentionally in limited number and accompanied with a certificate of authenticity. You could certainly play with one of these sets, and considering the incredible quality of the redrawn board and the die-cast minis, it would be easy to want to, but for the price of just one of these you could probably buy ten copies of a more basic version.

20 – Case Blue (2007)

Estimated market value: $600

Designer: Dean Essig

Artist: Nicolás Eskubi, Dean Essig

Publisher: The Gamers, Multi-Man Publishing

Wargamers tend to think of this one as one of the big blockbusters of the genre, with enough complexity to be considered almost a simulation game more than a wargame. The content here is seriously massive and the basic rules are… well… complex and equally as massive as the game itself. We’re talking a combined rule book of over 60 pages, over a hundred pages of scenario booklets, and well over 3,000 counters.

The sort of game that gets set up in the basement (I mean… “command center”) and can last players many months, Case Blue takes the Nazi invasion of Russia to a whole new level of intricacy, allowing players to simulate the strategic level of the historical events to an unprecedented degree.

You can find copies of this game floating around, sure, but it was already expensive when released. Grabbing a full copy for anything less than $500 is a total miracle.

21 – Age of Renaissance (1996)

Estimated market value: $100

Designer: Don Greenwood, Jared Scarborough

Artist: Stephen Langmead, Kurt Miller

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co, Descartes Editeur

Age of Renaissance follows the same compelling concept as the Civilization game, with lots of trading, research, and territory control. Players encounter events, leaders, and various reward cards in a deck of cards, and the order of draw determines a massive amount of how the game plays.

One of the main reasons why the game likely never took off in the more mainstream range of play is due to the tracking complexity of the various component elements of gameplay. It’s not as easy a game to pick up and play as Civilization in other words, even if it does run off of some of the same themes.

Despite all that, it does have a dedicated following and there are certainly still plenty of playable copies in circulation. Copies that are in MIB condition, especially if still shrink-wrapped, can fetch a higher price, however, and it seems likely that picking one up now will lead to a real collector’s item in a couple of decades once fewer remaining copies are floating around.

22 – On to Richmond! (1998)

Estimated market value: $250

Designer: Joseph M. Balkoski, Ed Beach

Artist: Charles Kibler, Keith Rocco

Publisher: The Avalon Hill Game Co

An operational war game, On to Richmond! covers the 1862 Peninsular Campaign from the American Civil War. It’s the 6th in the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series, each of which concentrates on a different important operation from the Civil War.

The game does try to simulate the historical conflict accurately, while still allowing players to make new decisions and tackle the scenarios in innovative ways. This is pretty common with war games, where players are often looking for simulation-level material from real-world conflicts, but the Great Campaigns series overall does a good job of it.

It’s very possible to still find copies of this game that run only around $150, so it’s worthwhile even just for players who are looking for something from the era to play. But it’s also drifting into solid collectibles territory now as well.

23 – Operation Typhoon: The German Assault on Moscow, 1941 (1978)

Estimated market value: $130

Designer: Joe Angiolillo, Joseph M. Balkoski

Artist: Redmond A. Simonsen

Publisher: Hobby Japan, SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.)

Yet another war game, this time one simulating a specific action from WWII — the Nazi attempt to take Moscow in 1941. There’s a lot of game to unpack here, and it’s rightly considered a “monster” game due to its sheer physical size, and it also happens to be the first game using this system to include variable unit strength based on size, moral, and fog of war.

This one never seemed to make it into the high-demand arena of some of the other war games from the late 1970s, but that makes it a good buy for collectors who love war games, or for anyone who really just wants to play a war game using this system since relatively intact copies aren’t liable to run out the wallet.

Do note that there’s a 2009 game of the same name floating around as well, and that one is absolutely not the same game (though it’s also OOP, so maybe not a bad purchase either).

24 – War in Europe (1976)

Estimated market value: $200-$400

Designer: Jim Dunnigan

Artist: Redmond A. Simonsen

Publisher: Hobby Japan, SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.)

A monster wargame, War in Europe is now firmly in the realm of collectibles, unlike a fair few other similar games. This is partly because updated versions exist (many of which are themselves collectibles) and that other games concentrating on the same time period and concept have been designed. Still, this one could absorb players for days at a time as they dived deep into the initial conflict of the Second World War.

Finding the game in really good condition will run a collector around $200, with a mostly unheard of MIB copy possibly going for double that.

25 – Union Pacific (1999)

Estimated market value: $50

Designer: Alan R. Moon

Artist: Franz Vohwinkel

Publisher: AMIGO

I like trains and I’ve written a bit before about why trains are so cool, it’s likely not a surprise to anyone who reads my work that I’m also a fan of a board game centered on trains. There’s also a reason why the later version of this game (which ran essentially the same rules and re-implemented the theme as airlines did little to arouse my attention).

Union Pacific is a very simple money collection game, where players attempt to increase stock market shares in their train company and the winner is the one with the most money at the end of the game.

Decidedly OOP but with plenty of copies still floating around, UP is a great game for someone who likes train-related games and wants to find a copy to play, or for the discerning collector with an eye toward the future when fewer of these little gems are still intact and on the market.

26 – Abtei der wandernden Bücher (1993)

Estimated market value: $1000-$2000

Designer: Thomas Fackler

Artist: Thomas Fackler

Publisher: Thomas Fackler

What a game, boy-howdy! Not an ordinary game by any means, Abtei der wandernden Bücher is a work of brilliant art, designed and personally created by the German visual artist Thomas Fackler. The premise of the game, where the abbot of a monastery hides the pieces of a word throughout many books, and the other players (the monks) have to hunt down the books and figure out the complete word. If they can’t, the player playing the abbot wins the game.

I love the idea of a word game married with a logistics enterprise. The books the players need to read can be blocked by the abbot, or only accessed at specific points in the game day, and there are additional elements that further complicate the game. This is one I’d personally love to own since the art is absolutely incredible, but auctions for it are very rare and the price is no poor man’s entry.

27 – HeroQuest (1989)

Estimated market value: $100-$800

Designer: Stephen Baker

Artist: Gary Chalk, Max Dunbar, Les Edwards

Publisher: Games Workshop Ltd., Milton Bradley

This has to be one of the most elementally classic board games around, taking the Dungeons and Dragons experience and implementing it on the board in a delightfully iconic and fun way. I love RPG games and games that are heavily themed, so this one is an absolute favorite of mine. I also contend that it remains highly playable despite all the modern alternatives, and since I’m also a sucker for nostalgia I think this wins out on some of its more modern and complex inheritors.

Now, this is a good example of a collectible game that can confuse early collectors, largely because there are so many different expansions and the difference between an open and used copy and one that’s MIB is pretty huge in terms of price.

It’s absolutely possible to pick up a copy in relatively good condition with all the parts for around $100, maybe even cheaper if you’re thrifting. An NRFB copy will run somewhere around $250 from what I’ve seen, and a MIB copy could run for double that. Start adding the expansion in and the price will just keep climbing.

28 – Hotel Life (1989)

Estimated market value: $100

Designer: Urs Hostettler, Hermann Wieland

Artist: N/A

Publisher: Fata Morgana Spiele, Schweizer Hotelier-Verein

Hotel Life has become something of a cult game among collectors. It’s a funny game, a surprising game, and a well-crafted game, though, so it makes sense that it would endear itself to players.

In the game, players take on the operation of different hotels, trying to sate the needs of their guests while dealing with increasingly complex interrelationships between those guests and the ever-present danger of a war breaking out someplace and creating cause for the army to billet its troops in your hotel rooms. Players need to maintain amenities and guest satisfaction in several ways.

Wonderfully complex, Hotel Life is a series of extended chain reactions set off by the arrival of new guests and can be a bit of a long play, but it remains a very fun and surprising game as well with both a theme and a quality of gameplay that a really surprisingly wide range of player personality types are sure to enjoy.

29 – Big Boss (1994)

Estimated market value: $200

Designer: Wolfgang Kramer

Artist: Wolfgang Kramer, Franz Vohwinkel

Publisher: KOSMOS

A game of financial oneupmanship, Big Boss is all about investing and building – literally – a corporate dominion. One of the coolest aspects of the game is that, as a player invests more and more into their company, the skyline literally grows upward on the three-dimensional board, making the experience of winning a decidedly visceral one.

Big Boss is really easy to learn and play (players who aren’t as fast with maths as others can use a calculator when the deep game emerges), but the game also unfolds in a very similar way each play-through despite the limited randomization factors built in. Because of that and the fact that it’s hard to pick up a copy with all the pieces for a non-collector price, this one is pretty firmly in the collectibles-only category.

I have seen people do some pretty cool things though, like create their own boards and pieces, so if you’re really excited by the premise and have a 3D printer handy maybe Big Boss isn’t out of your reach.

30 – War of the Ring: Collector’s Edition (2010)

Estimated market value: $1,500

Designer: Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello

Artist: Paolo Ciurli, John Howe, Matteo Macchi, Fabio Maiorana, Bob Naismith

Publisher: Nexus Editrice

A different take on the classic wargame, War of the Ring offers players the opportunity to take part in the grand and sprawling battlefield challenges presented by the Lord of the Rings canon… and it does this very, very well. War of the Ring is probably one of the best-known fantasy wargames for a reason: it excels at recreating the strategic experience that every Lord of the Rings fan has imagined.

That said, the game itself can be picked up for around $100 and is still in print (and the $100 is pretty good considering the literally massive size of the game). Here we are considering the special Collector’s Edition of the game, which ups the presentation and quality of the game to a really lovely artistic level.

Really this just highlights how the artificial scarcity of something works: you don’t need this edition to have blast playing War of the Ring so it only makes sense to keep an eye out for this if you are a massive collector who just totally loves Lord of the Rings. Otherwise, go pick it up from your local gaming store and make the store’s owner very happy with their daily sales goals.


The 30 Best Card Games of All Time

Old classics and new giants collide in this list of 30 of the best card games!
howchoo   (467)
September 29, 2023

I grew up playing games like Cribbage with my dad. Despite a dive into D&D in his 20s, he never really went deep with the variety of board games that would eventually become such a passion for me, but his love of the classics was strong. My Mom, too, loved card games, and I have

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