Top 5: Area Control
Jumping back into another board game list, this time going with another mechanic I like quite well. Area control is a fun mechanic because it really pushes conflict in the game, and the games that do area control well really encourage that conflict to happen.
5. Risk Legacy
Yes, I could have put normal risk on the list, but I think that Risk Legacy is a way more enjoyable game. You could win a game of Risk Legacy by conquering the whole world, but you don’t need to, so it takes a game that can be a long slog and having players getting knocked out early, and turns it into a shorter and more focused game where someone might be knocked out, but they won’t be out completely. The dice are still extremely fickle, and with all the games higher on the list, there are ways to mitigate the dice, if there are even dice. Spoiler, only one more of them has dice. I don’t mind dice in a game, and in a shorter game like Risk Legacy, it works. There isn’t a ton to unlock in the game, but what you do unlock is fun, and creates some interesting choices as to what to play.
4. Cry Havoc
A game that I’ve only gotten to the table once, and it has a bit of a euro game feel for something that is heavily focused on area control. It is fun because the different actions trying to get gems on the planet all work differently. The Pilgrims don’t care about controlling as many areas because they score points better off of gem production. Whereas in a four player game, the Trogs just swarm out over the board very quickly, but can get spread thin if the player isn’t careful. Each faction handles area control just a bit differently, but they all seem balanced which is great.
3. Star Wars: Rebellion
While arguably a better game tactically than the next game, Star Wars: Rebellion does have the downside of being a two player game. There is a lot more going on in Rebellion than just area control as well, but controlling certain areas, getting troops built and deployed in areas that you do control, especially as the Empire really helps you lock down the position of the Rebels. With that, you also have the option of trying to slow down production by sabotaging different planets. This game has a lot going on in it, but it works really well and feels like an epic Star Wars struggle between the Rebels and Empire.
The silliest game on the list, but Smallworld really has a nice streamlined area control mechanic. It really does push for a ton of conflict, and that’s fine, because you are swapping out race and power combinations throughout the game, Mary might attack Tom to start the game, but in a few turns, Tom will be attacking Mary and destroying all of her troops. It does a good job of making the combat and wiping another player off the board seem not personal. The goofy theme and fun combinations does really help that aspect of the game as well.
1. Blood Rage
To me, Blood Rage might not do area control the best, but put together in the package of the whole game play, it’s area control and everything work extremely well. I also like that it’s area control can be known in some ways, but there are strategies that are fine if you die because you get more points or because you can take something from your enemy as well and as the player you get to decide how you want to focus in on area control. But you can’t lose all the time because you’re letting other players get points for upgrading their troop totals, action points, and other things.
What games could fall on a honorable mention list, and I really only mention some of these because they have a little bit of area control:
King of Tokyo – Technically you are vying for control of Tokyo. However, this simple dice chucker could just have you win without going into Tokyo at all, and there is only one area to control.
Carcassonne – Another one that doesn’t have much area control, you could argue that the original farmer rules are area control, because it’s who ever has the most farmers in an area.
Smash Up – Definitely are control, but I just got rid of my copy. Not because it’s a bad game, but because there are a million expansions. Also, it’s a game that seems to sit with a sweet spot of three players and more or less makes for a less enjoyable experience with it.
What are some other area control games that I should check out? I have Scythe sitting on my shelf waiting to be played, so eventually, I wouldn’t be surprised if that makes the list.
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