I got a weird kickstarted game called Imperius earlier this week. After a few plays, I’m really digging it. The game is inspired by Dune - intending to evoke the violent political maneuvering of that setting with a really small set of cards.
The twist in this game is you draft people to play from a set of cards containing your faction’s cards and your opponents’ cards. When you play your opponents’ cards, it’s still their card, giving them points or power. But by drafting it you get to choose where and how they’ll use it. It’s incredibly confusing in your first hand trying to figure out what you’re even supposed to do with other player’s cards, but it builds into some really interesting situations.
So maybe at first you’re playing opponent’s cards to bad places just to make sure they don’t score, but mostly you’re still trying to grab and use your own cards. Then you’ll see a basic combo where you draft your own assassin and an opponent’s noble. This way you can guarantee your assassin will kill a noble, which gets you points. Next you might draft your opponent’s military to shut down a different opponent’s commander, guaranteeing you still have military control of a planet at the end of a round. Then when you’re really in it, you’ll intentionally pass opponents your own cards because you’re pretty sure you know how they’ll play them and confidently work off that assumption.
It’s a weird game that sometimes feels super chaotic and impossible to control, and at other times plays off exactly the way someone planned. Because it jumps between these two states, it makes the high of your plan succeeding so much higher, like Paul Atreides looking through all the possible futures and choosing the one he wants. But the lows can also really burn. The game is played to 20 points and I’ve had a round where an opponent scored 11 points and I scored -1. Personally, I really like drama, so it’s worth it for me.
I also like games that feel out there. This reminds me a bit of Millenium Blades, Archipelago, or A Study in Emerald in the sense that it feels different from most board games, will probably have strong detractors, and probably won’t be copied because of how confusing it is. Unlike those, though, it’s only a 45 minute game played with a couple dozen cards.