The Top 10 Area Control/Influence Games
I started doing Top 10 Lists last week to talk about my top 10 deck building/deck construction games. This time, I’m continuing that with some area control. I like area control games and I think that there are some good ones out there, but there are also some old ones, that you’ll have to see if they make my list.
While putting together this list, I found it more challenging than putting together the deck building/deck construction list. I think that while I enjoy area control or area influence, given their more confrontational nature, they don’t tend to get to the table as often so it’s harder for me to come up with them off of the top of my head. And toward the bottom of the list are games that I’ve enjoyed, but might not be in my collection anymore.
10 – Smash Up
This is a game that I actually dropped from my collection for a few different reasons, but I don’t think that it’s a bad area control game. The idea of pairing two random factions together, finding their synergies, and creating a strategy to get points and have the control of these locations when the score works really well. And the game play itself is simple which made it pretty easy to get to the table quite often. It’s a good sort of game for people who are intimidated by the bigger games later on in the list, but want more than just a simple take that style game.
9 – Carcassone
Yes, technically there is area control, and it’s in two parts. First it’s for a city, if you are in a city and someone places down a connecting piece, they can’t also place in that city. But the farmers are also area control for scoring at the end of the game. While I don’t think the area control comes across heavily in the game, there is a bit of that, especially with the farmers, that can make a difference in end game scoring. But when most people thing for Carcassone, they rightfully so consider it more of a tile laying game. Did I mention this was a harder list to make?
8 – Risk Legacy
I don’t have regular Risk on here, pure control all the areas for the game to end is not enjoyable to me. But with Risk Legacy you still get more resources for controlling more areas. And by controlling your opponents HQ, that also brings you closer to victory. The legacy nature of the game is fun as well, while it isn’t as heavily a story as some of the more modern board games, it does provide enough to open up and the games are fast enough that it’s a good time. If you want to play the first (or at least one of the first) legacy games, Risk Legacy is really enjoyable.
7 – Root
There is one major downside to Root, and that is that teaching it takes a while, won’t be the last with that, because each faction plays asymmetrically. But it’s a good area control game where you are fighting over the woodlands, but that isn’t purely how everyone wins. The different factions get points by doing different things, all the while needing to keep the cats in check who are really about area control. Each faction plays so differently that without playing it often you’ll need to do the teaching of the rules, but if you can get it to the table, it is really interesting and lots of interesting options
6 – Cry Havoc
The other game that can take a bit longer to teach. This game is also asymmetrical, so you need to explain some of the players what their factions are best at. But this game is all about controlling games, and the more that you control on the alien planet, the more points that you get. It makes an interesting game because while the faction that’s the Pilgrims doesn’t care much about having many areas, they still need a few to be able to produce games to score points, but they can bunker down. The combat in this game is interesting as well and actually has a tiny bit of deck building to it. While it has some of the looks of a dudes on a map games, it also has some strong euro style mechanics.
5 – Small World
This is the intro to area control game. I like this game for it way better than Risk because Risk can go on a long time, Small World plays fast and is a lot of fun. In it you mash up a race and power combo and start taking over the lands. However, the board is small enough for each player count that soon people will start attacking you, so you need to put your race into decline, the next turn grab another race and start attacking with that one. This game is a ton of fun and simple to teach because you aren’t counting up troops, building a die pool, playing cards, and rolling dice to determine a winner, it’s just if you can put down two more pieces of cardboard than area already in that space. It works well, it’s a lot of fun, and while the game can last a little while if you’re playing more than three, turns are still pretty fast, it’s just that there are more of them, and it’s not a heavy strategy game, so the time goes faster because you can chat.
4 – Lords of Hellas
So, this one wasn’t in my top 100 when I did that at the end of last year because I hadn’t played it yet. It was a bit of a trick to figure out where I wanted to slot it, but this seemed like the best spot. Lords of Hellas has a bunch of different ways to win, but two of them deal with area control. First you can control two regions which can be up to eight smaller areas, or you can control five temples. There’s some interesting combat in this that is done through card play, and while there are other ways that you can win, you definitely need to be paying attention to areas that you are controlling or other people are gathering up, because when various events happen in the game, you can really benefit from controlling temples. This is again a dudes on a map game, but one that doesn’t have all the ameritrash feeling to it with dice chucking.
3 – Star Wars: Rebellion
Probably the most ameritrash game I have on the list, besides Risk Legacy. It’s a two player game where one side is the Empire trying to find the Rebels base, and the Rebels are trying to do missions to subvert the Empire’s control and if they can weaken it enough they win. But a lot of the game is big land and space battles for areas where you are trying to wrest control of a planet from the other side so that they aren’t able to produce as many ships and troops. The game has a good cat and mouse feel to it as the Empire spreads out trying to find the Rebels, and it feels like Star Wars original trilogy. Just the pieces that we weren’t seeing because the movies are so focused on a handful of characters, this is the stuff that was going around that.
2 – Hanamikoji
Another two player game, that surprised me, and I was also surprised when I realized that this is definitely an area influence game. In Hanamikoji you are trying to put influence over various Geisha and win their favor by giving them gifts. If you can get either four to your side or eleven points worth of Geisha you win the game. It’s a fast game and an interesting game because it’s played with a small deck of cards. And each player only doe four actions per round, and the same as the other people. You either pick a card to keep face down, discard two face down, put out three and your opponent picks one, or put down two sets of two and your opponent picks one. It is interesting because in some ways you’re forcing your opponent early to make decisions for you because there’s enough hidden information to make a fully puzzled out decision.
1 – Blood Rage
I think that this game would top a number of peoples lists, as it’s been a game that’s been hard to find for a while. In this game you are fighting over and around the world tree to improve how many action points you get, how much glory you get in battle, and how many troops you can have on the board. The game does a whole lot more than that as well because you are also upgrading your troops and drafting cards at the start of each age. So it might be possible that you don’t want to actually have any of the areas with a Loki strategy, but you do want to bump up some stats, probably, because that gives you points as well, so there is a good reason to do some area control.
Looking at the list, I think that Small World is the only one that is purely area control, though I should say as people will think of it. I think that Hanamikoji is also basically just area control. Looking at what Board Game Geek has for area control, I know that there are some more that I want to try. Twilight Imperium is a massive game with a lot of area control in it, though not just that, that feels like something that I’d like. I also have Scythe on my shelf that I haven’t played yet which seems like a fun game with some area control in it as well. Same with Cyclades, a game that I picked up a while ago but haven’t been able to get to the table yet.
What are some of your favorite area control games? Based off of the ones that I’ve rated in my Top 10, what are some that I should checkout?
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