Holy Crap! There are a lot of games with set collection as a mechanism. Many use it as the main mechanism and some just have it as an extra benefit at the end of a game for scoring purposes. I like set collection when done in a different and interesting way. Most of the time, set collection is just get as many as you can of this “thing”; the more you get the better it is. Many times you use them for currency to buy other things…..if you think about it anything you play with resources could be considered set collection! Most of the time though it is intended to allow for an option to score points at the end of the game. The games on this list use some of those ideas, but how to collect the sets or what you do with the sets are what’s highlighted in these games. That is really the difference when collecting sets….how you get them and how they are used. I “collected” this set of games to be the Best 3 Games with…Set Collection!
3. Biblios by Iello
We just played this during International Table Top Day and it just reaffirmed to me why this is such a great example of set collection. This is the first time I played it with 4 players, and at that player count, it makes a great game even better. You are trying to gain all kinds of sets in this game, but HOW you get them is the great part of this game. You are trying to collect the most “books”, “workers” or “inks” of five different colors. The game is divided into 2 stages. The first stage each player will draw cards equal to the number of players plus one…..ONE at a time. You have to choose to keep one, put one in the discard pile to be auctioned for later and the rest go into a row face up for the other players to take in order. You also need money to bet on cards during the 2nd part of the game where players bid on cards from the discard pile. You also have to worry about the value of those cards and that is where the dice pictured are used. These values can be increased or decreased from certain cards so this adds another tense element to the set collection as at first, brown might be worth 5 points but as the game progressed it could decrease to 2 and all of a sudden your sets are worthless! It is such a fantastic little game where decisions are so smooth yet tense and literally one card can make the difference. I just can’t say enough good things about Steven Finn’s design in Biblios.
2. Inhabit the Earth by R&D Games
There are a plethora of choices to be made in this set collecting mechanism in Inhabit the Earth designed by Richard Breese. It is a simple set collection of making sure you have plenty of the same animals AND icons to help them…..but then you should worry about the special ability also. It’s not as simple as it seems. When you add to your collection of species, you have plenty of decisions to make. Should I use the special ability and make it a new animal? Do I use it for just the Icons so it can migrate farther? Do I ignore the icons and the ability just to get another species out so I can draw more cards when they mate? But I need to discard another card to play this one….which do I discard…but I may want that for another species? It is so good. You also have the opportunity to get points at the end of the game for having the most of a specific type of animal…..if you use that ability. The AP in this game can really drag it down but man is it good.
1. Circus Train by Victory Point Games
On the surface this doesn’t seem like that big of a set collection game…..and at the core it really isn’t. BUT, the way Tom Decker implemented set collection in Circus Train is brilliant in that it blends in with the theme like a well mixed smoothie. In this game you are simply trying to recruit talent from bankrupt circuses to work for you in your circus. Most of the time, using the talent that you have gives you better reputation each time you put on a show. If you have a talent that matches a talent the people want to see in that city, you score that many reputation points. IF you have 3 of that talent, you are considered famous for that talent and then score double the points. You will get money based on your performances but when your performance score surpasses your last one, you get even more money. The thing that makes it even more unique is the fact that you don’t lose your talent unless you can’t pay for them. Most of the time with set collection once you use them you lose them, but in this game you keep them. At the end of each month you will score points if you have the most of any certain type of talent. It is a great way to make set collecting a strong focus without it being the entire game.