Home Top Ten Game Lists Top Ten Designers with free-to-play games on Yucata (and my favorite Yucata...

Top Ten Designers with free-to-play games on Yucata (and my favorite Yucata game by each)

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I love playing games online and while Board Game Arena gets a lot of love these days, one of the best places on the entire internet is the game site called Yucata. Yucata was created by Kay Wilke, a.k.a. Sparhawk, but he now shares the duties with a group of dedicated volunteers. Yucata, which has maintained its ethos of never charging anyone for access to any game for over 20 years, has an amazing lineup of awesome Euro games. It is a German website, but it is available in a complete English translation at https://www.yucata.de/en/.

To help you find your perfect “I gotta play that” Euro game for Yucata, I’ve identified my Top 10 Euro designers on Yucata and ranked them in terms of my enjoyment of their entire body of work. Plus, I give you my favorite of their games on Yucata.

Top 10 Euro designers on Yucata

10. Michael Kiesling

Palaces of CarraraMichael is probably best known these days for Azul and I recently reviewed another of his classics, Sanssouci, which he designed with his frequent collaborator, Wolfgang Kramer. Of the pair’s many excellent games, my favorite on Yucata is The Palaces of Carrara, a tile placement/set collection masterpiece. Players acquire different valued Italian marble via a cool spinner mechanism (where you sometimes help your opponents more than yourself), aiming to fulfill six different cities’ demands. Finishing a project for a city gets you points, but also one of the items you need for set collection goals that vary from game to game. Other Yucata games designed by Kiesling, Kramer, or both include Nauticus, Renature, Torres, Vikings, Hacienda, and Kramer’s best-known game without Kiesling, El Grande.

9. Stefan Dorra

VallettaDorra is an old-school Euro game designer like Kiesling and Kramer, with a design C.V. stretching back to the mid-1990s. He’s probably best known for the auction game For Sale, but I love playing his under-appreciated mini-deck-builder Valletta as often as I can on Yucata. Besides deck building and hand management, Valletta features a cool timing mechanic where you earn more points if Jean Parisot de Vallette, for whom the city of Valletta was (approximately) named, happens to be walking nearby when you build/upgrade. Different strategies work for different random starting configurations: lengthen the game or race to a finish. Other Dora games on Yucata include Hellas, Pergamon, Schweinebande, and Yucata itself, the game for which the website was named.

8. Mac Gerdts

NavegadorGerdts is most famous for Concordia, which is available digitally as a stand-alone purchasable app, but he also has several free offerings on Yucata. Gerdts’s games are usually very economic, and often feature a rondel for action selection. My favorite of his Yucata games is Navegador, where players square off as rival explorers in the Portuguese Age of Exploration. The rondel features prominently as players choose from the three next options on the wheel or sacrifice a ship for every space along the wheel they want to advance to beyond three. Points are based on how deep you can go down certain advancement paths, multiplied by your progress on related purchases. The game ends when someone reaches Japan. Other Gerdts games on Yucata include Antike Duellem, and Transatlantic.

7. Bernd Brunnhofer

St PeterseburgBernd another classic designer with great representation on Yucata. Early in his career he published under the nom de plume Michael Tummelhofer, which was a mashup of his own name and of his editor and publisher, but at some point, everyone recognized he deserved full credit in his own name for his efforts. My favorite is Saint Petersburg, a true paragon of the hobby, which you can play on Yucata with first or second-edition rules and art. Saint Petersburg is a drafting, set collection game with a side order of point salad, as players try to balance the points they earn from four different card suits, and time their pivot from a focus on income to a grab for victory points. The other Brunnhofer games on Yucata are his most popular game, Stone Age, and a Carcassonne variant, the Hunter & Gatherers where he shares the credit with Klaus-Jürgen Wrede.

6. Vladimír Suchý

Underwater CitiesSuchý is the first of these designers who is younger than me, but his recent output definitely earns him the right to be called a master of the Euro genre. I love playing his game Underwater Cities on Yucata. You’re building a city, which is also your engine, and to it, you’re using action cards as workers in a worker placement game, where cards also trigger their own actions at the same time they generate an action via the space you place them in. Combine it with fun artwork of a futuristic underwater city, filled with graft and technology, and you’ve hit my medium-to-heavy Euro sweet spot. Other Suchý games on Yucata include Praga Caput Regni, Messina 1347, and the kid-friendly Monster Baby Rescue.

5. Karen and Andreas Seyfarth

Thurn and TaxisThe first Euro game I really mastered was Karen and Andreas Seyfarth’s homage to the postal system of the Holy Roman Empire called Thurn und Taxis. I’ve played it well over 2,000 times on Yucata, usually in the plain vanilla version, but several expansion elements are incorporated as Yucata options as well. There are no other Karen Seyfarth games on Yucata, but Andreas is well represented with San Juan. San Juan is sometimes branded as Puerto Rico: The Card Game, but the card version is delightfully free of the explicit use of the little brown slave, err worker, meeples, which caused such trouble for the board game version, the game for which Andreas Seyfarth is probably best known.  So you can dive into San Juan without worry of being cancelled mid-way through a game. 

4. Acchittocca 

Grand Austria HotelYou probably know that the Euro game movement started in Germany, but arguably the best Euros these days are being designed by an ensemble of Italian designers known as Acchittocca plus a few other great Italian designers they work with. The name is a pun, as it is pronounced in Italian like the way you would say “Whose turn is it?” and it captures not only the in-game question you might ask, but also their penchant for swapping design partners to great effect, among Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli and their non-Acchittocca  collaborators Simone Luciano and Daniele Tascini. The game Egizia is the Yucata game credited specifically to the entire Acchitocca studio, but my favorite of these designers’ options on Yucata has to be Grand Austria Hotel, the best game ever made about using pastry to lure people into spending the night in your hotel room. The game uses a huge handful of dice to create five possible choices of actions, and the more dice still on the board for a given action the more powerful the move. But each time a player uses an action, one die goes away, so actions weaken over the course of the round. GAH, as it is affectionately known in Yucata chat, offers tremendous replay value and on Yucata the game plays super-fast if you can find another player who wants to play live.

3. Inka and Markus Brand

Rajas of the GangesInka and Markus Brand are a married-with-children design couple probably most famous for the games Village and Exit: The Game, which are not online anywhere, but Yucata hosts three of their other great games. It’s hard to pick my favorite since they are all great, but I’m going to give the nod to Rajas of the Ganges. According to their biography page, Rajas is the 100th game the Brands designed together. If you’re a fan of the two score tracks in Ark Nova, you definitely need to try Rajas because Ark Nova simply (to be polite) borrowed it from Rajas. Rajas is a dice-as-worker placement game, where you use dice to buy tiles for your tableau, advance along several tracks, and also to get more dice/workers. The interlocking parts work well together even though my friends Adam and Jim always beat me. At least I tend to beat them at the roll-and-write version of Rajas, called Rajas of the Ganges: The Dice Charmers, and I dominate much of Yucata in the Brands’ take on the glass-making island of Murano.

2. Uwe Rosenberg

Fields of ArleUwe Rosenberg takes second place and I will pick as my favorite of his Yucata games Fields of Arle, which is advertised as Uwe’s most autobiographical game, as it takes the worker placement concept he perfected with games like Agricola and Caverna but shrinks it down to a very tight duel game set in the little East Frisian region of Germany he grew up in. The game is also a fun solo challenge and Yucata has it implemented for 1 or 2, so you can hone your skills solo before taking on others. Choosing Arle was a tough call because I also love the two other Rosenberg games on the site, At the Gates of Loyang, which is a one of Uwe’s best (and very underappreciated!) farming games and also Sagani, which captures Rosenberg’s more recent turn towards making cool tile placement games, which Yucata also offers as a solo challenge. You can’t go wrong with any of these fun games.

1. Stefan Feld

MacaoAnd my favorite Euro Designer on Yucata is, no surprise, Stefan Feld. If you know one Feld game, it’s probably Castles of Burgundy, the ubiquitous point salad game you can play all over the internet, including on Yucata. But as a connoisseur of the Feldian genre of games (I literally own a physical copy of every game he’s made for adults), I really recommend you get past his mainstream hit and explore more of his well-designed, point-salad Euros. The choices on Yucata are almost overwhelming, but I am going to pick Macao, which I love so much it inspired me to design my own Feld-like game, . Macao is a twelve-round game driven by a roll of six dice each round. Players each select 2 of these dice for their income, using a wheel that requires them to wait six turns for their income if they take six cubes (by using a die that was rolled as a 6), five turns for choosing a 5, etc. As the game winds down though, large dice get turned into 1’s so that by the end, everything is a 1 and all income is skimpy but immediate. Players also draft 120 cards over these 12 rounds, plus a 13th card at the start, and work (and sometimes struggle) to use their cube income to buy their cards and then put those cards to good use as the means of winning a pick-up-and-deliver/ race game where you’re also working to acquire goods and ship them to Europe. It’s a classic Feld point salad game, but the multiple interlocking mechanics make it a Euro Gamer’s Euro Game.

There are so many good games on Yucata that limiting this list to just ten designers was very difficult. To make it a bit easier, I limited my list to actual European designers (ruling out Americans and Australians, for example) and required they have at least two games on Yucata. Those twin criteria eliminated these awesome games and their designers from the list, but nevertheless, honorable mention is owed to Carl Chudyk, whose Innovation with all expansions is on Yucata (alas, not Glory to Rome though!); to Phil Walker-Harding, whose Imhotep and Imhotep Duel are both on Yucata, to the Terra Mystica team of Jens Drögemüller and Helge Ostertag, and to the Lost Ruins of Arnak team of Mín and Elwin (another married couple), both of which are the only games of their oeuvre on Yucata.

Signing up for Yucata is free and (fairly) easy. Just head the website and make your always-free/never-any-premium-games account. Once you’re signed up be sure to add “andyhre” to your buddy list. I’m always up for a good online Euro!

Andy is an antitrust economist with a subspecialty in sports economics. Andy has served as the case manager for the NFL and for a series of plaintiffs’ classes suing the NCAA. He was one of the initial sponsors of California SB206, which helped restore college athletes’ name, image, and likeness rights in the state of California and launched the NIL moment. Andy’s latest project has been to combine this passion for college athletes’ rights with his equal love of all things Euro board gaming to create the board game Envelopes of Cash. Andy holds an M.B.A. from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA as well as an A.B. in history from Stanford University, and an M.A. in history from Johns Hopkins.

2 COMMENTS

    • ty! I agree that Valletta fell of people’s radars. I even bought 2 extra copies to (someday) give as gifts when they were on sale for $15 each.

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