Heavy strategy/Euro games make you think. Each of these games do just that in their own way. Whether it’s a “point salad” game, area control, worker placement, deck building, or any number of other mechanics, these games force you to solve a puzzle – namely, how best to use the game’s rules and resources to win over your opponents.
This year’s nominees are as diverse in theme and gameplay as they are in the experiences they provide. Despite all the lockdowns and other COVID restrictions, publishers produced some superior and unique boardgames this year, ironically making 2020 a year that is worth remembering after all. Which will get your vote?
Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun
It is 4,000 years ago and you are trying to build the great Temple of Amun-Ra. Through dice drafting, you will take actions to both generate resources that keep your population healthy and happy and build structures that will earn victory points over the course of the game. The board is divided into six areas, each representing a different god, and these areas can either be in daylight, partial shade or shadow depending on where the sun is in relation to the central obelisk. The color and value of the die, and the section from which it was drafted, determines how it can be used, and presents players with unique challenges and strategies.
Paris is an economic, tile placement, are control game. Each player takes on the role of a real estate mogul looking to develop the city of Paris and earn the most victory points by the end of the game. On their turn, players take actions to earn money, build and purchase buildings, obtain resources, gain control of different districts, and claim bonuses. With only four pages of rules, the games’ mechanics are quite simple and easy to learn. But while the mechanics are simple and easy to master, the heavy thinking comes from the different choices, and therefore strategies, you must employ to achieve victory.
In this game you are the chief astronaut of a company trying to develop the largest and most successful colony On Mars. The more you can develop your colony, the more Opportunity Points you will earn. One of the unique features of this game is that the board is divided into two main areas: the surface of Mars and the Space Station orbiting the red planet. You use shuttles to travel between these two sites but can only place your workers to take actions on the side of the board you currently occupy – the colony on the surface on Mars or the station in orbit. The player with the most Opportunity Points when the game end is triggered wins the game.
Merv: The Heart of the Silk Road
Players vie to become the most powerful and influential merchant in Merv, a city in the heart of the Silk Road, while also amassing personal wealth. The stunningly beautiful board has many distinct areas where players can take actions to earn victory points. You can make donations to the mosque, send courtiers to the palace, build walls and deploy troops to defend the city against Mongol incursions, study at the great library to obtain scrolls, send out caravans to bring back spices, obtain valuable contracts and more. The game offers many choices and some unique mechanics that will ensure no two games will play out the same.
As a member of one of the Great Houses of the Landsraad, can you gain control of the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune? It is the only planet in the known universe where the spice mélange can be found, the key to folding space and making interstellar travel possible. Based on the bestselling books by Frank Herbert, one movie, and another movie that has yet to be released, the object of this highly thematic game is to gain victory points through the combination of deck building and worker placement. Players will use a combination of combat, alliances, and intrigue, and the careful husbanding of vital resources, to win over the other Houses.