Area control board games are nearly as old as board games themselves. Classic examples include Go and Othello. These two games are nearly timeless and the former is basically in a category all its own, when it comes to quality. But, while there are great games, they lack a certain appeal to all but the most academic of game players. Modern area control games tend to be more inventive, and even more importantly, allow for more than two players. With that in mind, the following are top five area control board games.
5. Hansa Teutonica – This game is pretty much the definition of a Euro game. It mixes area control with worker placement and utilizes just about every game mechanic that is traditionally associated with Euro games. Up to five players can play at a time, and the competition for spaces actually makes a higher player game even more exciting than a game with fewer players. The mechanics will seem downright arcane to casual board game players, which is the biggest drawback of the game, but anyone experience with Euro games should love it.
4. Age of Empires 3 – Age of Empires, like Hansa Teutonica, is both a worker placement game and an area control game. The main difference between the two games, in terms of mechanics, is that the mechanics of Ages of Empires are more intuitive and thematic. You control a civilization that is trying to explore, colonize, and reap the resources of the new world. Beautifully sculpted pieces help significantly to limit the learning curve of this game and it has just the right amount of interaction to make it competitive without being overly frustrating.
3. Small World – Small World is one accessible area control games on the market. New players will tend to pick it up quickly and games can easily be completed in under an hour. The game has a lot more competition and battle for territory than most area control games, but that is taken into account in the mechanics that allows you to swap powers and abilities between turns. Overall it is a slick game that is fun for both beginners and experienced players alike and, due to the many expansions, has nearly infinite replay value.
2. Terra Mystica – Terra Mystica is relatively unique among area control games because it has absolutely no form of battle, tearing down, or stealing area once something is controlled. This fact does not make the game any less competitive. In fact, it often makes decisions that much more critical since they cannot be unmade. You take the part of one of seven races that is slowly terraforming a magical world in order to build cities and control various cults. Game play is quick and tight, allowing experienced players to play five player games in as little as two hours. It isn’t the best game for casual gamers, but has few enough complications that you can reasonably introduce it to new players.
1. Carcassonne – If you were going to design a perfect area control game for casual and hardcore gamers alike, this would be the game. The mechanics of the game are simple enough that they can be taught in less than ten minutes, but the game is nuanced enough that even the most experienced player will enjoy playing. Games can easily be completed in about half an hour and each game feels different enough from the last that it is perfect for playing multiple games in a row. Also, despite being such a simple game, there are multiple legitimate paths to victory. You can try to conquer cities, control roads, or build the largest field. No game is ever the same and no strategy wins every time.