It’s that time of year, with Black Friday and Holiday Shopping nearly upon us. That means that people are starting to think about the gifts that they’ll be getting for others or what they might want to ask for themselves. This list is basically the…
Tag: Star Wars Rebellion
Normally, this would be another Halloween article, because I’ve been doing those every Wednesday, tomorrow, since it is actually Halloween will be my Halloween themed article. Instead, you are getting more of my top 100 board games, which will wrap up on Friday. ***Disclaimer***These rankings…
Now, there are a lot of ways I could go with this. I could literally be talking about how heavy some games are, such as Gloomhaven which is over 20 pounds. I could be talking about how emotionally heavy a video game is like Life is Strange. But instead, I’m talking about the “weight” of a board game as to how complex it is. In particular, I’m going to talk about the different weights and what that generally means when someone talks about it.
Games can be split into four different categories in my opinion. There are light weight, family weight, medium weight, and heavy weight games. And for me, that goes from the least complex to the most complex games. I am sure that other people might have an extra category at the end of super heavy weight games for the 18XX games and Train Games (not Ticket to Ride), where you playing in a very heavy economic game and you might actually need a calculator to figure out what is going on, on your turn, not just to add up scores at the end of a game.
Let’s first talk about why games are split into these categories. There are a ton of ways to sort or categorize games such as by some mechanic in the game or the theme of the game, but where those tell you some about the game, the weight of a game is really to help you determine the complexity of the game. The heavier a game is, the more complex that it’s going to be, and the more time commitment is going to be needed for learning the game and possibly for playing the game. However, not all games that have a lot of rules have a high weight to the game. Gloomhaven, for example, on Board Game Geek, is rated at a 3.79 out of 5 for weight, which puts it at a medium heavy, and it has a pretty hefty rule book.
What is a Light Weight game?
A light weight game is going to be those filler sorts of games. Something Tsuro, is a light weight game because the rules are simple to teach and the game is easy to play. Party games also fall into this category as you can generally pull them out and get them taught and to the table in five minutes. People aren’t likely to have many questions either about them when you are playing them. And if there is a question that comes up, the rules are likely so simple that you don’t need to look up anything and can just answer it. Kids games would also fall into this category, though, not all of them. But simple games like Chutes (Snakes) and Ladders or Candyland, that people normally think of, are so simple that you really just do what the game tells you, versus make any decision in the game. That’s another area where the complexity of the game is pretty low, even in Tsuro, you have three tiles and while you have some choice at the start of the game, the choice doesn’t matter much then. And in the later part of the game, the choice matters, but you have an obvious choice so you don’t have to think about it much.
What is a Family Weight Game?
So just by thinking what is a bit more complex than the light weight games, you can start to figure out what family weight games are. The best way to describe it is that these are the games that you play with your parents if they aren’t board gamers growing up. Or growing up only played a few like Skip-Bo, Uno, Rummikub, and Yahtzee. The latter two would actually probably fall into the family weight category. But more modern games that are family weight would be things like Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, and Catan. These games have more complex rules than light games, but generally there aren’t edge cases where you have to remember that something only happens in a specific situation. These games also start to offer meaningful decisions. Yes, they are generally not that complex, but Carcassone gives you choices when you place figures like knights, farmers, thieves, and monks (if I have the terms correct). In Catan you determine where you start and where you build towards, and in Ticket to Ride, do you take those train cars you want or do you play a route before someone else can get it? But the decisions are still pretty simple and you can probably do either option and end up being fine in the game. These games also can still end up with a run away winner. Other games would something like Sushi Go! Party, Pandemic, Dominion or Welcome To…
What are Medium Weight Games?
Again, we’re taking it up in complexity of game play and learning. These games still aren’t too difficult to learn, but there are going to be more moving parts. Xenoshyft: Onslaught would be a good example of this. Where Dominion is just a deck builder that is pretty easy to each, Xenoshyft actually has you doing something more in the game, and you are faced with more decisions than just buying a card worth points, a card worth money, or a card that draws you more cards. Another game that would fit into this category is Seven Wonders. Much like Xenoshyft builds upon the fundamentals and adds in more to deck building, Seven Wonders is a more complex card drafting game as compared to Sushi Go! Party. You also start to get edge cases in the games where certain cards together interact in a way that you can’t just naturally figure out. But there aren’t so many of these that once you’ve played the game a few times that you won’t know what is going. I actually think that Gloomhaven falls into the heavier side of Medium Weight games. There are certainly a good number of rules, but once you know them, you can play without looking things up, and it doesn’t take too long to know the rules once you start playing. I’d also put a game like Pandemic Legacy in a medium weight game. The rules don’t vary greatly from base Pandemic, but since the rules are changing, you need to remember everything that is going on.
Finally, What are Heavy Weight Games?
Again, not too difficult to figure out, but these are the games that you have a lot of text on a lot of cards, there is a lot of complexity in these games. I would put games like Cry Havoc and Root into this category where you have asymmetrical powers. Because of this, each person has edge cases that are different than other people at the table. And you need to teach each character separately. These games also have a lot of what I’d call book keeping. That doesn’t always mean taking notes, but it means that there are a lot of phases and some of the phases are resetting things to a starting turn point. Two good examples of this are a couple of cooperative games from Portal Games, First Martian and Robinson Crusoe. In these games, there are certain game events that happen at the end of every turn or end of every round that you need to do. Star Wars: Rebellion is also a heavy game with asymmetrical goals going on, though the actions of the players are pretty similar. But there are a lot of decisions that you have to make in the game, and if you mess up a single decision that can cost you the game. Even a game that is generally panned like SeaFall can fall into this category because the rules are complex (some do to poor writing), but the game offers a ton of tactical decisions that you have to think about.
Finally, let’s talk about what this means for your gaming collection. Do you need a game(s) of each type? I don’t think that you do, if you know your gaming group will never want to play a light filler game, why do you have one of those in your collection or go out of your way to buy one? The same goes for very heavy games, if I know that I don’t want to play a highly tactical war game, I don’t need one in my collection just so I have one just in case. That said, I would try and keep a good variety in your collection that makes sense for the gaming group that you have. For example, according to Board Game Geek, out of the 253 games that I’ve rated on the site (or own), 3 of them are over 4 for weight, so pretty heavy. 23 of them are at 1.25 or lower (1 is the lowest possible number) and all of those are extremely light. That means that I have a lot in the middle, though I tend to skew lighter as those games are easier to get to the table with my gaming group.
So, what does your collection look like? What’s the average weight of the games that you like, do you skew more towards heavy games or do you find your collection to have a lot of filler and party games you can pull out any time?
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Between campaign building, I want to go back to some of the board game lists. And this is probably my favorite mechanic for a game, where people can do things just a bit differently than other players. 5. SmallworldThe lightest game on the list by far,…
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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So another mechanic that I like a good amount is area control. Area control is the mechanic in which you get a bonus for having the most figures in the area or the only figures in the area, so, you have control of the area. Area control is a very common mechanic for war based games but has made it’s way into a number of other games as well. Primarily, though, I’ve played the combat focused area control games.
There is a grand-daddy of all area control games, and that’s Risk. Probably as I was describing area control, that’s what popped into a lot of peoples heads, trying to control the continent so that you can get the bonus troops. So while you might be getting the two bonus troops from Australia, how do you get out of Australia so you don’t have to try and take over Asia, because that will never work. However, if that’s what you’re thinking of for area control, you might not be a big fan of area control games. Risk has one major issue that cropped up in it and other older area control games. That being the one that I might have one troop and you might have twenty, but because I’m the defensive players and win ties, I might be able to deplete your troop if I get lucky rolling the dice.
Risk also has one more fairly large issue besides the dice, and that’s the length of game and the fact that a player can be eliminated and then might have to sit around another four hours if they want to see how the game ends. Thankfully, that’s a part of a lot of area control games that has since gone away. In every game I mention below, if you are knocked off the board, you are always able to come back, or in the case of Star Wars: Rebellion, if that was to happen, that would likely just end the game, especially if the Empire did that to the Rebels.
Modern area control games do several things to try and mitigate die rolling, though some of them still use that as the luck for the game so that doesn’t because a complete strategy game.
Star Wars: Rebellion is a game that has more going on in it than just area control, but there is that aspect where if you have more planets and certain planets you’ll be able to build more ships. The combat is based on a die pool that you build with the troops you have. There are a couple of things to make this not just a die roll to see who wins. First, you have the ability to negate hits by playing cards or add in additional hits by playing cards. You have a limited number of cards, but you can possibly get more as you go through combat. Also, the ships or troops you bring in do damage of certain types, depending on the color of dice, and same with how ships take damage. While there is some universal damage, it means you could easily out number someone, but if your troops can’t hit their troops as well, they can come in and wipe you out. This is one that is still primarily die rolling through, but it’s not longer just pure luck.
Smallworld is probably the most Risk like in terms of area control on the list, because the game is purely area control. You get points for controlling certain areas and any skills that you might have. But Smallworld removes basically all luck from the game. The luck comes from correctly using your race and special ability and being able to find one that is working well. However, when taking over an area, the rule is simple, you need one more piece of cardboard, the troops are cardboard, than is on the spot you are trying to take over. Where there is a tiny bit of luck is that you can push for a final take over at the end of your turn. So if you have one guy left and you want to take over a spot with one guy on it, you can roll a die that hope to get two or better. The downside is that this isn’t a normal six sided die so there are multiple blanks and multiple ones that are going to stop it from succeeding most of the time.
There are some games that just do away with die rolling for area control. Blood Rage and Cry Havoc are two examples of how this can work very differently. In Blood Rage you have an action point economy that is helping you put troops onto the board into areas. The areas have a certain number of spots for troops, so you can try and totally control and area, but if you out number your opponent in the area or you have good combat cards, you can try and take over an area to get the reward while it is contested. The luck in this combat comes from playing a variety of combat cards, though only one per combat. Some of the combat cards just add a large combat value, others may cancel other combat cards or steal some of their rage, which are your action points. So while winning a combat is generally the best, there are strategies where you can play without controlling too many areas.
Cry Havoc, a game about collecting gems on a crazy planet. In fact it reminds me a lot of Avatar. This is extremely unique area control. So you score based off of having the most gems at various times, but to have gems, you must control the areas with the gems. So you’re in conflict with the other players over the areas. Instead of doing a straight swap of troops or rolling to see if you kill, there is a combat board. There are three areas of the combat board, you can control the area, kill the other persons troops, or take prisoners. What’s interesting with this is that even if your troops in the control the area are killed later in combat, if you have the most there, you still control the area. So the combat has a bit of a puzzle feel because of the order of combat. Then there are cards you can play that allow you to adjust combat once you’ve seen what your enemy is doing as well. It is an extremely unique combat for area control and one that seems fairly polarizing.
Now, all of these are games where area control is a huge part of the game and you are looking to keep control of areas throughout the game. Area control does go into other games as well.
An interesting example of this is a combat game still, but is handled differently than most games like it. The game is Sword and Sorcery. It’s a pretty standard dungeon crawler, but it looks like a lot of fun. I haven’t played it yet, but it’s a game that I might track down for live streaming at some time. In the game there are a couple of different options for controlling spaces while fighting an enemy. If you have more characters than the enemy does in the area, you might get a special bonus, if you have twice as many characters, then you get an even better bonus. However, the same is true if the enemies out number the troops. This means that you have to go in with force yourself, and you may not want to divide and conquer in some situations, but you might also want to divide and conquer in others to keep the troops from all rushing to a single injured party member.
Area control is a mechanic that can show up in a number of games. Clearly I have it focused more on combat games. I think that there are some games with area control that might have more of an Euro aspect to them, but a lot of them are more the Ameri-thrash games. The reason for that is that a lot of area control does rely on luck, so it is less planned than a lot of euro games are. However, there are likely some games out there that are handling it in a Euro game, and even Cry Havoc has some Euro tendencies for a combat area control game.
What are some area control games that you like? For the most part I like all of the games I’ve talked about with the exception of Risk, and even Risk I’ve had plenty of fun times playing it. Area control games can be fun, but you have to be willing to be cut throat.
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