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Board Game Spotlight

 

Top 10 Area Control: Seize, Control, Dominate.

Top Ten: Area Control

Hello and welcome! Today, I will take a slightly different approach in my review writing. Instead of writing a review, I’m going to briefly highlight the updates to my Top 10 Area Control games of all time! 6 months ago, I wrote an article detailing my favorite area control games. Since then, I've had the immense pleasure of playing new area control games to broaden my horizons. The old list looked like this:

10. Mission: Red Planet
9. Small World
8. King of Tokyo
7. Cry Havoc
6. Scythe
5. Forbidden Stars
4. Tyrants of the Underdark
3. Nexus Ops
2. Blood Rage
1. Star Wars: Rebellion

That's not a "bad" list per se, but my tastes have matured and I've played some of the better area control games on the market like Chaos in the Old World, Twilight Struggle, War of the Ring, etc. So, without further adieu, I present my NEW Top 10 list!

The Bottom Line Up Front

10. Mission: Red Planet
9.
Cry Havoc
8. T
yrants of the Underdark
7.
Scythe
6.
Forbidden Stars
5. Nexus Ops
4.
The Godfather: Corleone's Empire
3. Kemet
2. Blood Rage

1. Star Wars: Rebellion

 

10. Mission: Red Planet
2-6 players, 45-90 Min

Mission: Red Planet is an underrated gem. If you’re familiar with the card game Citadels, you understand the unique character powers and number system. If you aren’t familiar with it, each card is attributed a number. Players play each character in numeral order until all players have taken an action. Mission: Red Planet uses a similar mechanic and adds area majority.  Instead of drafting a character, each player is given the same deck of characters to utilize and each turn you choose from one of nine possible cards. It’s a brilliant strategy in a crowded genre. The steampunk theme is beautiful and truly unique. I consider this the underdog of my Top 10 list.

 

 

 

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9. Cry Havoc
2-4 players, 90-120 Min

The elephant in the room. Cry Havoc has received a lot of mixed reviews since its release. If you enjoy Area Control, you need to give Cry Havoc a chance. The Objective based combat is the most streamlined combat mechanic since the inception of dice. It’s brilliantly tactical and aside from the light deck-building mechanic, provides very little random chance. If you are willing to invest the time to learn the subtle synergies and tactics of each faction, this game is for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Tyrants of the underdark
2-4 players, 60 Min

Question: What do you get when you cross an area control game with a deck-builder? Answer: An incredible experience. While Tyrants won’t win any awards for its overall appearance and components, but it’s a beautiful hybrid; a fantastic blend that keeps me coming back for more. In Tyrants of the Underdark, players will play the villain as they use their influence to gain newer cards and power to place units to control key areas of the game. While Tyrants doesn’t bring anything overly innovative to the table, its simplicity is approachable for all gamers and it’s incredibly entertaining. Plus, who doesn’t like to play the role of a villain?

 

 

7. Scythe
1-7* players, 90-115 Min
*Adds 2 players with the Invaders from Afar expansion

I’m willing to entertain arguments over whether Scythe should be on this list. I’ll admit Scythe would be ranked higher if the combat were heavier and it involved more player interaction and are control elements but that’s not what the game is about and I’m perfectly fine with that. However, what Scythe lacks, it makes up for in rewarding players with a phenomenal engine-builder within an "light" Area Control structure. It’s a Euro dressed in a beautiful 1920s steampunk theme. Scythe will reward strategists who can plan multiple turns ahead while controlling key regions of the map. Whether you decide to play peacefully or aggressively, Scythe is one my all-time favorite board games and is certainly a top contender in the Area Control genre.

 

 

6. Forbidden Stars
2-4 players, 120-180 Min

Forbidden Stars is the first on the list to compete for the asymmetric, grand strategy top dog and it does not disappoint. It includes light deck-building and epic, grandiose battles. Each faction feels balanced and each has its own learning curve. Combat devolves into a dice rolling mayhem but is balanced through deck-building mechanics. Forbidden Stars is a heavier asymmetric strategy game and would not be suited for new gamers, though that should not discourage anyone from trying it. The “orders” action phase is one of the coolest mechanics I’ve seen in the area-control genre. What makes Forbidden Stars a truly remarkable game is that it scales incredibly well at all player counts. Check this game out sooner, rather than later as it's now out of print!

 

 

 

5. Nexus Ops
2-4 players, 90 Min

Nexus Ops takes all of the usual mechanics of Area Control, adds in secret objectives, BUGS, and removes the two aspects most players dislike about the usual Area Control genre – turtling and time. Nexus Ops rewards aggressive play and you’ve heard the saying the best offense is a good…offense? It’s quick, it’s painless (unless you’re a bug) and it is fun. Every time I play, I can’t help but reference Starship Troopers. Other than Kemet and Blood Rage, this is the next best light/medium weight game in the genre. If you’re like me and you regard number of plays and game length as a high priority, you’ll be hard pressed to do better than Nexus Ops.

 

 

 

 

4. The Godfather: Corleone's Empire
2-5 players, 60-90 Min

I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse. Um, well, The Don will. The Godfather is one of the best worker placement and territory control games I've ever played. Gathering resources to shake down and extort businesses, conduct drive-by shootings and/or use devastating car bombs, is more fun than should be legal.  Sending your thugs and family members to do dirty jobs for the Godfather feels immersive and thematic. You can bribe powerful allies to assist you in becoming the wealthiest family in hopes that you take over the business when the Don passes away. 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Kemet
2-5 players, 90-120 Min

In Kemet, players will take on the role of ancient Egyptian gods and wield powerful tiles and mystical power to destroy their enemies. Kemet is a fast-paced game of war and death. Players can choose 3 paths to victory through White, Red or Blue powers. Like Nexus Ops, there is very little turtling and players are incentivized to brutally attack one another because you win points for winning battles and not defending. Kemet stands the test of time and will not disappoint any fan of area control games. 

 

 

 

2. Blood Rage
2- players, 60-90 Min

Just drink the “cool”-aid already because this game does it all. Blood Rage contains card drafting, area control, epic monsters, Viking mythos, and bloody battles. I’ve yet to play with anyone who didn’t enjoy a game of Blood Rage. When I pull this out, game night is over. The first game becomes a second, oftentimes followed by a third. Players chant “Ragnarok” while they spill grog across the table. Beards instantly appear on the face of Blood Rage players. Blood Rage is, in my opinion, the best area control game for both new and veteran players. It delivers a rich experience for everyone at the table while staying simple enough for new players to learn. Blood Rage will keep everyone returning for more “RAGE!”

 

 

 

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1. Star Wars Rebellion
2-4 Players, 180-240 Min

Fear vs Hope, Empire vs Rebellion, Cat vs Mouse, Sith vs Jedi. Star Wars: Rebellion is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. This is the single greatest 1 v 1 thematic, grand strategy, asymmetric war game in the history of the genre. It’s Star Wars in a box. It delivers area control, dudes (and lots of them), beloved characters and Death Stars. My love for Star Wars is strong but Fantasy Flight has truly delivered a unique and incredible game experience. I’m convinced the game could be re-themed and it would still be amazing. The initial learning curve and intricate rules are its only shortfall. After a few plays, you’ll knock out epic campaigns in under 2.5 hours. Rebellion is the only exception to my priority of table time vs game length. If you feel the learning curve is too high, don’t fret! The game scales to 4 players, 2 per side. This gives veterans the opportunity to teach new players the intricate secrets of the Empire or Rebellion. Do not let your bias against Star Wars keep you from playing this game. Buy or play it; you will not regret your decision.

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Below are games I've played or have not played but would be worth your time! They could easily be in anyone's top 10 list, but they are just outside of mine. 


Cyclades
Chaos in the Old World
El Grande
Dominant Species
Tammany Hall

Inis

 

Conclusion

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed a look into my personal favorites. Be on the lookout for my next Top 10 list highlighting 2 player games!