5 Games You Should Play By Award-Winning Designer Rob Daviau

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Game the Game is Geek & Sundry’s tabletop board game show that airs every Wednesday starting at 4PM PT on  Twitch and  Alpha. Join host Becca Scott as she breaks out some of the best board games the industry has to offer, with new guests each week! This week, she’s playing Mountains of Madness, designed by none other than Rob Daviau.

One of the great things about playing board games is the ability to follow designers you like. If you’re not familiar with the rock stars of the gaming world, that’s OK, you’re probably familiar with some of their games.  Rob Daviau is an innovator of some great games in the last few years – in fact, he’s the man who created an entirely new genre of boardgames: legacy games. He’s been designing games since 1998 and has over 70 games credited to his name. He’s also the winner of five Golden Geek awards, four origin awards, and the French As D’or award and that doesn’t count all of the awards his games have been nominated for.

What makes his games award-winning? I picked five of his games to highlight some of the mechanics that make the games top notch.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill

Rob Daviau collaborated and co-designed this game with other industry greats: Bruce Glassco, Bill McQuillan,  Mike Selinker, and Teeuwynn Woodruff. In this game, you’re exploring a haunted mansion and building it as you go. Every game is unique because the layout of the house changes each time. In secret, one of the players is a traitor and it’s up to the rest of the party to defeat them. Once the Haunt has been triggered, the traitor takes their rulebook out of the room to read up on their specific scenario while the rest of the party reads the survival book. There are 50 scenarios to play through, so there is plenty of replay value in the game.

It won the 2004 Origins Award for Gamers’ Choice and was nominated for the 2005 Japan Boardgame Best Advanced Game.

Mountains of Madness

Co-designed with Miguel Coimbra and based loosely on the story by H.P Lovecraft, you’re explorers staving off madness while trying to explore a mountain and escape. One person gets designated as the leader and it’s their job to move the plane from space to space. Once the plane lands, the tile’s flipped, the sand timer’s turned over, and you have a minute to discuss how to defeat the challenge in front of you.

What makes this hard is the effects of Madness. Madness forces you to speak and act in certain ways, but you aren’t allowed to tell anyone what your Madness card says. This leads to hilarious antics as you try to communicate. Once someone plays an equipment card, all communication must stop and players can continue to play equipment cards until the sand timer runs out. If you have enough to beat the challenge, congratulations, you get a reward. If not, someone’s getting a Madness card or the leader’s rolling for a penalty.

Mountains of Madness recently released, so if you’re looking to learn to play it, our very own Game the Game host Becca Scott made a handy how-to-play video:

Pandemic Legacy

Co-designed with Matt Leacock, not only have we described this game as a “Best Game of the Year” back in 2015 (for season 1), this is also the #1 ranking game on Boardgamegeek. The first game plays very much like regular Pandemic with everyone cooperating to eradicate diseases before they overtake the world. The difference is that the game is broken down into months. Each month, you have two chances to achieve the objective. Succeed and you can move on to the next month. Fail and you get a second chance.

Throughout the campaign, you are adding new rules and components as well as permanently altering the game. You get to name cities, write on cards, rip up cards, and place stickers on different components. You may even have to tear cards up. It may seem abhorrent to gamers that like to keep their games in perfect conditions but makes each copy unique to the group that’s playing it.

It’s won a ton of awards: 2015 Golden Geek Best Innovative Board Game, 2015 Golden Geek Best Strategy Board Game, 2015 Golden Geek Best Thematic Board Game, 2015 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year, 2015 Meeples’ Choice, 2016 As d’Or- Jeu de l’Année Expert, and 2016 SXSW Tabletop Game of the Year. In addition, it’s been nominated for a few other awards: 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres, 2016 International Gamers Award – General Strategy: Multi-player, 2016 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game, 2016 Goblin Magnifico, and 2016 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.

Risk Legacy

While it’s not #1 on BoardGameGeek, this game, co-designed with Chris Dupuis, has the distinct honor of being one of the most popular (in terms of sales) version of Risk ever.

This game is very similar to Pandemic Legacy in that they game board changes with every game. Each game, players choose which faction they are playing and one of that faction’s powers. Once they do that, they put that power’s sticker on the faction card and destroy they other power card. Yup, you’re ripping up cards again. The rulebook has blocks of blank space so it can adapt to the changing rules of the game. Don’t skip ahead and open all the sealed packages in the box, those have conditions that have to be met before they can be opened.

Winning one of the first 15 games gains you a major bonus of naming a continent, founding a major city, destroying a country card, as well as others. The game can continue to change and adapt passed the initial 15 games, but even if it doesn’t, you have a unique copy of Risk to play.

It won the 2012 Golden Geek Best Innovative Board Game and was nominated for 2012 International Gamers Award – General Strategy: Multi-player, 2012 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game and Best Wargame, and 2012 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.


Set in the age of sail, players are mainland empires setting out to discover and explore new islands, send out raiding parties, develop trade, and take part in ship to ship combat. This game follows in the footsteps of Pandemic Legacy and Risk Legacy and evolves as the game is played. One of the cool twists about this game is that attacking is a limited resource, so you need to choose wisely when attacking.

It was nominated for 2016 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game.

Becca will be playing Mountains of Madness, Rob Daviau’s newest release tonight, Wednesday, November 1st, on Game the Game starting at 4 PM PT. Check it out starting on Twitch and Alpha!

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Feature Image: Dawn Dalton

Other Image Credit: Iello, Dawn Dalton, Sax Carr, Teri Litorco, Geek & Sundry

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