This is a fun idea!
This is Reiner Knizia’s best game. It’s a combination of great parts from Through the Desert, Tigris and Euphrates, and Samurai, but with super powers added (something far too rare in Knizia’s games). It plays in about 60 minutes at all player counts, and is a fantastic but very different experience at 2, 3 and 4 players.
Babylonia is a tile placement “surrounding” game where you get points when parts of the board are totally surrounded. All the different elements of the game score differently which concocts a soup of math that drastically changes what strategies are valuable based on how people are playing. For example, one super power benefits rushing city scoring. If someone is using that power, cities are going to be worth way less points since they will score before players can set up their scoring chains. If no one takes that power, however, cities are likely to be the highest scoring element of the game. In this way, how to play well shifts pretty radically from one session to the next. It’s a fascinating game to play 3 times in a row to see how much this game shifts.
Res Arcana 2019
In Res Arcana, you are dealt 8 cards at the beginning of the game which make your deck. You look at these cards, come up with a plan, then shuffle and draw 3 of them. You won’t get any other cards for the whole game. You’re goal is to use those cards to generate and convert elements (fire, water, death, life) to create 10 victory points before everyone else.
Res Arcana can be taught in 10 minutes and then played in an hour at 4 players (30 minutes at 2). Each play feels like a unique puzzle as you work out how to use the random cards you’re given plus the victory point goals in the middle to make something work. It’s mostly solitaire, but with some key moments of timing your opponent you can completely shut down their core strategy. This focus on your own board makes the experience relaxing, and the quick play time keeps the sting of randomness down.
It’s got a similar depth-to-playtime ratio to Race for the Galaxy, but is so much easier to teach. I’ve also found the inclusion of attack cards like Dragons makes it more palatable to my rambunctious board game friends who need to hurt someone at the table to feel they’re really involved.
Rangers of Shadowdeep 2018
Is this cheating? It’s listed on BGG so I’m calling it a board game.
Rangers of Shadowdeep is the first “miniatures” game I’ve played. It’s a co-operative game where you and some friends build bands of Rangers to go do fantasy heroics stuff. It’s got a mission set in the back of the book that you can play through in any order, leveling up along the way. It’s not really a campaign game in the traditional storytelling sense, but does have progression and suggested level bands for missions.
Gameplay is super simple. Each turn you move all your rangers and then attack with them, rolling a d20 and doing some quick math to determine damage. It plays very fast. We’ll get through a dramatic drawn-out fight in about an hour. The pacing is a big part of what I’m loving about this game, it just zips by with no tough decisions and lots of exciting dramatic moments.
But really, the big reason I love this so much is preparing each mission with my wife. This game has been a huge creative outlet during the pandemic for us. Every month or two we’ll pick a mission to play. It lists all the enemies, so then we’ll sort through all our board game minis to find appropriate stand ins for the foes. Then we’ll break down who’s painting which enemy. Next is the terrain (my favorite part)! How can we make this mission look like it’s in a forest? What are we going to put down to represent the river? My wife works in theater and as such is way more skilled than me here right now, but I’m learning. I never realized how much I was craving this sort of creative outlet till we started playing this game. And it’s just icing on the cake that after we make everything, we get to play through a dramatic fight!
Marvel Champions 2019
Feels weird how much I like this game. I don’t like crafting decks in games. I’m also not particularly a big fan of the Marvel universe (though I love the Black Panther movie!). But I’ve got Marvel Champions on subscription, getting something new every month to play and experiment with.
A big strength of Marvel Champions is that it’s not a campaign game. Every mission is released as standalone (some are released in packs with campaign rules that I’ve always ignored). Anytime I want to play I get to choose which mission and hero combo I want to try this time. And now, as Marvel movies are coming out, I actually know who these characters are. The decks do a fantastic job telling the heroes stories.
Even with limited knowledge of these characters, I’ve learned a lot about them before watching a related movie. Recently I started reading the Ms Marvel comics because I love her character in this game, and it felt like reading a comic about my board game character. Transmedia, man. It’s a powerful thing.
Carpe Diem 2018
It’s probably overkill to call this my favorite Feld game, but it is the one I most want to play at the moment. In this astonishingly ugly Euro game (that makes Hansa Teutonica look beautiful), you’re building a Roman… uh… estate, I think. Heck I don’t even know what you’re doing in this game.
Anyway the core here is you’re drafting tiles from a rondel with buildings on them. Most buildings require two or more tiles to finish. What this means is it is incredibly obvious what each player at the table needs to make progress on the game, and you can see clearly on the rondel what they want to go for. This makes the drafting super tight and super punishing. A player taking just a single tile you needed first could literally halve your endgame points (known from experience). This all plays into a simple scoring system where what scores changes each game and each round, which makes it even easier to screw over your opponents. This is a very mean Euro game when you start to get the hang of it, but it’s also really satisfying to cut out your opponents strategy from under them.