MEEPLES AND MAPS

3: MISSION RED PLANET

Possibly one of the most casual games to quality for the Dudes on a Map category. Mission Red Planet exemplifies what the genre can be when it moves past both heavy complexity and combat focus. Because of that, it’s one of the few games I feel comfortable playing with anyone regardless of how casual they are. There are a few punishing situations with loading astronauts onto a ship, but for the most part dudes tend to stick once they’re put on the map. It avoids situations that would cause a player to be eliminated or set back significantly.

The game just oozes charm from every aspect. The miniatures are all bright vibrant colors, the turn resolution and the countdown is exciting and engaging. There is a ton of pleasure in picking up pretty tokens with colorful astronauts bounding about the red planet. The game ends shockingly quickly in 10 turns and never outstays its welcome.

It gives me the joy of spreading dudes across the map collecting resources in a fun a whimsical package. Finally, it avoids the more punishing situations of dudes on a map and uses a system that creates interesting decision space where I’m working with the game’s rules and not trying to play the other players.

2: CHAOS IN THE OLD WORLD

The progenitor of the modern non-space themed “Dudes on a Map” genre. Eric Lang’s birth cry into the board game design space. Before there was Blood Rage, there was Chaos in the Old world. CinOW is a fantastic game for its age and one of the best uses of the Warhammer IP ever. As a lifelong fan of Warhammer that recognized the miniature game has no place in my life, this is absolutely perfect for me. I get all the pleasure of the Warhammer universe in a package that can be played with anyone for a fraction of the time, space and cost.

When everyone is in the same mindset and skill level the game is a masterpiece of tight balance. The scheming nature of the gods is superbly captured. I know that getting a group of consistently skilled players is a big ask though. Gods have the unofficial responsibility of keeping down the other gods around them. When players don’t understand the game enough portals of imbalance can form leading to a confused experience. However, with the right players doing their best to keep everyone around them in check you can expect to enjoy an exciting drama filled experience that has few equals.

1: INIS

Welcome to Dudes on a Map the Euro version. One thing I hated about most dudes on a map games was how, in some player groups, it became more about playing the people than the games systems. Inis has such a deterministic, European interpretation of the genre that each game is an exciting exploration of fantastically crafted mechanics.

Drafting is a fun experience and I have yet to see an example of it doing anything but enhancing a gaming experience. Having abilities fixed to cards and only ever being able to pick less than a quarter of the potential actions means that tough decisions need to be made tactically. You can’t turn you mind off or expect the dice gods to ever save you, what happens happened because the players decided it was going to happen.

The theme shines through while the game unfolds. The locations are gorgeous and all offer interesting abilities, the god cards are psychedelic and powerful. The feeling of Celtic mythology is present in every visual the game has on offer.

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