Area Control Games: Your favourites and why
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I enjoy area control games, not least because of how it demands interaction and creates tension through constant shifts of power across the board. Geeklists on the subject of area control games have appeared before, but I figured it was time for a more current one, which could have the benefit of including recent games as well.

The BGG page for the area control category describes it as follows:

The Area Control mechanic typically awards control of an area to the player that has the majority of units or influence in that area. As such, it can be viewed as a sub-category of Auction/Bidding in that players can up their "bids" for specific areas through the placement of units or meeples.

In El Grande, for instance, players earn their score in a region by having the most caballeros in that region.


What are some outstanding examples of area control games? How well does this mechanic work in those games? And what is it that you like about it? These are the kinds of questions I'm interested in, and here's where I need your help and input.

Please add to this list any particularly good games with a strong area control element. If you add a game to the list, please share something about how area control works in the game in question, and what you like about it. I'll get things started with a couple of my personal favourites. I know that there are many other great area control games out there, but I'll leave them to be added by people who are more familiar with them and can comment on the game-play. If one of your favourites has already been added, please just comment under that item rather than having multiple entries of the same game.

I look forward to reading the comments and contributions from my fellow gamers about some great area control games!
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51. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:422]
Craig Newey
United Kingdom
British, but currently in Vancouver, Canada
British Columbia
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Thanks for this Geeklist.. my wife and I are fairly new to gaming and we're gradually learning that area control games are pretty much our favourite type of game to play... this list has brought up a fair few that we hadn't heard of!

Anyway... to the game in hand!

How it works:
At the beginning of the game, each player is given a secret "personality card" with their overall objective. For one this may mean trying to have a certain numbers of minions placed throughout the city, for another it may mean trying to have the most buildings... each player's objective is different.

Whilst trying to complete your own personal objective you are also trying to complete general objectives which include trying to: assassinate your opponents' minions, "cause trouble" and beg/borrow/steal or otherwise procure Ankh Morpork dollars.

With the occasional dice roll, there is also an ever so slight element of luck brought in, which determines things such as: which area of the city a fire starts in, how much money you win (or lose!) in a gamble and how many minions get "relocated". This only happens a few times throughout the game (just don't roll the number between 7 & 9!).


Why I like it:
Being a huge Pratchett fan, I love this game. I was unsure if it would be that engaging for non Discworld fans, but having played it with friends who haven't read the books, the theme and humour still shone through (although you might miss some of the 'in jokes' if you've never read a Discworld novel).
I love that you get to play as a Discworld character and the individual objectives really suit each personality used in the game. It strikes a great balance between going after your own individual objective, trying to figure out the other player's objective (and how to stop them) and also going after the general objectives.


It's a fairly light game, nothing too complicated, but it still holds a challenge and manages to be a thoroughly engaging game.

If you're looking to pick this up, I would recommend getting the collector's edition as it comes with a larger board/map and slightly nicer components (plus a a die with 7a in place of the number between 7 & 9!). If you're a Pratchett fan with a little extra money, the deluxe edition comes with the larger map and some brilliantly detailed resin pieces.


(ps... I haven't posted a photo of the game in process, I'm fairly new to BGG and wasn't sure of the protocol of using photo's from the game's listing... we may play today, in which case I'll post my own pic).
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52. Board Game: Wongar [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:4412]
THE REVENGE OF THE GOLDFISH
Greece
Thessaloniki
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Richard Borg
Alan R. Moon


A well hidden gem,one of my favorites area control games,give it a try and you will not regret it.
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53. Board Game: The Boss [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1245]
Agnieszka
Poland
Warsaw
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The Boss
author: Alain Ollier

It's a small game, played with cards and cubes. You fight with other players gangsters over domination in different American cities. The one who has the most gang members in a city at the end of a round gets the hidden card which is either a reward or a sanction (you're trying to deduce it from cards people play).

Why I like it? It's quite fast (about 30-40 minutes) and super fun - if you like bluffing, deduction and backstabbing devil
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54. Board Game: Cave Troll [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:1720]
Robert B
United States
Parsons
Kansas
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Thanks for the geeklist - surprised this title hasn't been added yet.

How it works: You add and move adventurers around in a dungeon. Rooms are worth a certain amount of gold (VP). Some adventurers have special powers. You can also add and control monsters that kill or move your opponent's units. Cards are played to add new adventurers and monsters. Some cards have hourglasses on them, and after 5 of those have been played, there is a scoring round. If you have the most adventurers in a room, you score its gold value.

Why I like it: Plays fast and it is Ameri-Trashy - randomness, theme and nice little plastic minis. Easy rules to teach new players, nice to get out when you have just a bit more time in the evening and aren't ready to quit gaming yet.
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55. Board Game: Gnostica [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:5890]
Carthoris Pyramidos
United States
Centennial
Colorado
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This Looney Pyramid Games game is easily my favorite area control game of all.

How it works: Gnostica is played on a growing/changing field made up of Tarot cards that serve as "territories." Pyramid minions can direct powers granted by the card on which they are positioned, or by cards discarded from the player's hand. "Control" of a territory is established by being the only player to have pyramids on it. Only three pyramids are allowed on a card at any time. A player can claim an attempt at victory if they control territories worth at least nine points at the end of their own turn (trumps = 3, court cards = 2, and small cards = 1 point). Then, play continues for a full round of players. If the declared player has less than 9 points at the end of the round, they are eliminated, otherwise they win.

Why I like it: The play is thoroughly abstract; there's no story being told here. But the competition is elegant and sophisticated. There is certainly randomness in the card draw, but all cards are useful, and effective play consists in managing one's hand, making the most of one's cards, and developing defensible positions on the table.
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56. Board Game: 1775: Rebellion [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:289]
Moe45673
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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Whereas 1812 had a distinct frontline and the attempt to occupy the enemy's territory meant you controlled that area, in this game all the territories are up for grabs and its anyone's game. Controlled areas are places you can place reinforcements as well as points at the end of the game.

This game is awesome. It's fun, strategic, social (when played 4p), accessible, relatively quick, and has beautiful components. Every game is a constant back and forth struggle, with clever playing of event cards and bluffing, in addition to calculating where to place your armies and units, makes this a winner.

I'm going to repeat it, this game does all the above and it's FUN to play too!
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57. Board Game: Louis XIV [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:600]
Richard Hills
Australia
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In his preface to The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien observed that his novel was too short. Likewise, that is the only (very minor) flaw in Louis XIV. Otherwise it is second only to El Grande as my favourite area control game, with a similar flavour of cunning card play mixed with moving one's myrmidons.
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58. Board Game: 1960: The Making of the President [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:168]
Aaron Cappocchi
United States
Los Angeles
CA
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Like its sister Twilight Struggle, this is a card-driven, 2-player, heavily-themed historical simulation with an area control game at its heart. There are 50 different territories with a varying number of Victory Points (which in this game are called "electoral votes" ). All available VP's are awarded to one of the two sides at the end - you can win this game by controlling fewer areas than your opponent, you just need a bare majority of VP's to win (the Blue player wins a 269-269 tie).
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59. Board Game: Power & Weakness [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:4531]
Paulo Soledade
Portugal
Leiria
Leiria
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This is a very hard to play area control game for 2 players. It's a brain burner. Very clever design from Andreas Steding in which players fight from each area in cycles. The number of cycles is not pre determined as the game ends only when a player gets 12 points. The hard part of the game is to focus on a changing strategy as gameplay is different depending on which side is playing: magic or military. Each side has a different strategy feeling and rules.

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60. Board Game: Manhattan [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1035]
Dan Wojciechowski
United States
Aurora
Illinois
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In some respects, Manhattan is one of the simplest and purest of Area Control games. You play one card from your hand of four cards to determine in which of the 9 posisitions in each city (areas) you are allowed to play. Play a card. Place a piece. Take a new card.

The goal is to control positions in cities by having the top piece, to control cities by controling the most positions in the city, and to control the tallest position on the board. The real trick is to manage your small reservoir of cards and to manage your different sized pieces to maximize your chances to pull off a scoring coup.

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61. Board Game: Reef Encounter [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:558]
Laurence Parsons
United Kingdom
Charfield
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Probably my favourite game. The game plays over a varying number of rounds, but 10 would be a good average. In your turn you are trying to lay claim to an area of the ocean floor. Different varieties of polyp tiles are placed and you plan to attack other players' tiles whilst protecting your own. When you have a big enough area, you can consume (or "cash in") the tiles, freeing up the board for new growth.
The key tactic with this game is that you can change which colour polyp tiles are dominant at any one time, both influencing which colours can attack other colours and which colours are worth more points at the end. The key to winning is therefore not who can consume the most tiles, but who can consume most of the best colours - or who can make the colours they have already consumed the most valuable.
(note that you don't actually consume the tiles - that would limit replayability )
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62. Board Game: Triassic Terror [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:2009]
Ralph H. Anderson
United States
Prospect
Connecticut
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This game was inspired by El Grande (as the designer Peter Hawes has frequently attested) and seeks to avoid some of the issues people have with El Grande (needing to be near the king, so many cards all doing different things each round giving rise to AP, etc.). And, this game has beautiful plastic dinosaurs!

Triassic Terror has only six actions to choose from each round:

*Environment (which lets you place dinos in a new environment)

*Herd Growth (add dinos to two of your existing herds)

*Hatching new dinos in existing herds (plus moving the Pteradactyl to feed on your opponents)

*Migration (which lets you move dinos to new locations including drafing some of your opponents into your herd

*T-Rex which lets you do a major thinning of opponents herds while giving you a temporary additional presence

*Raptors which let you eat opponents dinos and spread dinos (usually your own) in two separate areas

The actions are always the same and all are very powerful given your own game state each turn.

The catch is, because the actions are randomized in placement each turn, they also affect your turn order when you select them. So if the Raptors are on space 1, you will go first in the turn order if you select them. If you want to go last (which is almost always more advantageous), you may have to choose another action that may be less optimal for your current situation. This tension of turn order versus action selection is very, very good.

The board is simple: 4 Environments with three Areas in each environment and 3 Habitats in each area. Only the top two habitats score points in each Area. The 12 Areas create three concentric rings which makes the areas very close to one another which provides a lot of options of how to most effectively use your action(s) for the turn.



Scoring is done three times in the game (basically every 3 turns): by occupation of the best Habitats and by Presence in all Environments (in early scoring) and by Dominance of Environments (in later scoring).

Triassic Terror is a very tight and easy to play (in terms of learning the rules and the actions available) but complex in the interaction of the parts and the tactical and strategic decisions you must make.

All of this and beautifully executed game components as well, (especially the plastic dinosaurs!), make Triassic Terror well worth a look.

It can be very quick to play with experienced gamers but can also be prone to some AP for those so inclined, especially on first play.

I hope you will give it a try!

Full disclosure: I currently work for Eagle-Gryphon Games as of late June this year. However, I fell in love with Triassic Terror well before that when I first play tested it back in 2010 and all the years since as Peter evolved the game into its current state.

Edited to add image of board
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63. Board Game: Bison: Thunder on the Prairie [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:2609]
Gabriel Kuriata
Poland
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How it plays: Three area and resource types. Temporary presence (hunters) and permanent camps or boats that are much stronger. The board is built as you play. Six available actions, players pick four in their turn. The game lasts a fixed number of turns, depending on the number of players. First in an area gets all, second half, third a fourth part of a resource.

Why I like it: for its basic simplicity, close to a purely abstract game. It works well with two players. Area control generally doesn't work with two, because of the zero-sum aspect, but here it's good: you outsmart your opponent by using your resources and actions wisely. There's room for bluffing (lure a player into establishing a camp somewhere, than move to another place). I also love the artwork. I like the theme very much. Wild west's browns, greens and reds are very exotic to me. It reminds me of an old computer game "Colorado" by Psygnosis.
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64. Board Game: History of the World [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:668]
Eugene Ko
United States
Lakewood
Colorado
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Three pages and no listing yet for HOTW?

How it works: In each of the game's seven epochs, players control an empire from that period of history, conquering as many lands as possible. The majority of a player's points come from how much territory their current and past empires occupy in each region at the end of each of their turns.

Why I like it: I love the theme, and the feel of replaying (or subverting) the rise and fall of historical civilizations. While runaway leaders can be a problem (especially in games with fewer players), there are mechanics in place that can mitigate that more often than not.
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65. Board Game: Mexica [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:551]
United States
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A bit more influence control than area control, but.... I prefer this to Tikal.
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66. Board Game: Britannia [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:612]
alex w
Singapore
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Area control through warfare. Better yet, you get to control different factions that fights over that same piece of land!

Secondly, you get VPs for staying there longer than hospitality!
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67. Board Game: Station Fall [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Gary Dahl
United States
Wisconsin
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I really like the balance between offensive and defensive strategies in this area control game. Because units (dice) only attack when they are first deployed, pacifist deployments may protect you from neighborly retaliation. I should also admit that I am biased in this choice, as the designer of this game.
 
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68. Board Game: Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:1489]
zoran
United Kingdom
London
Middlesex
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I like it for the theme. The dice pool mechanism, the Kingdom cards, miniatures, Strategy cards, the Conan piece and the Adventure cards.

The emphasis on attacking neutrals in the first age is a negative.
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69. Board Game: For the People [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:764]
Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
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The Union is tasked in converting the Confederate states as well as the neutral border states back to union control to gain the political will and cause the Confederate political will to fall. In order to convert a state the union must either garrison a city in a state (at the end of a turn)or have an army spend an extra movement point in the city when passing through it. Each state will have a certain number of cities to be controlled in order for the state to be controlled by the union again. Once a state becomes a union state it can never switch back to Confederate control again.
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70. Board Game: Urland [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:2687]
Aurèle
Switzerland
Vaud
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How it works: Players have creatures living in the sea and which need to get out of water to grab the majority on some island. Each turn, one player is choosing the island where the majority will be counted but cannot play himself, while the other players have two actions and are trying to guess which island was chosen.

Why I like it: The theme fits well, with those creatures moving, breeding and evolving (a few genes can be acquired through the game). Besides, the mechanic of one player choosing and the others guessing is really nice.

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71. Board Game: Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:577]
Eric deRuiter
United States
Englewood
New Jersey
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A classic area control game this one has no randomness—just hidden action selection that includes altering the order that areas score and swapping roles that have special abilities and determine turn order.
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72. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:223]
Michael B. Hansen
Denmark
Odense N
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"duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck" Ralph Wiggum .....
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This might raise an eyebrow or two, but i have always felt that Acquire was much more related to Area Control than the other mechanics it is listed as belonging to.



You create the areas during play, and you control the areas through stocks. If you play with open stocks, these could just as well have been cubes on the board.
If you play with hidden stocks, you might consider it a covert slant on the conflict. This brings me to the last argument for this being an AC game; if the theme had been a traditional warlike conflict game i think it would be obvious that it belongs in this category.

In this particular case, i think Monopoly has done much more damage than it is considered to have done in general. Many people, even somewhat experienced gamers consider Acquire a kind of Monopoly+, which imo is close to libel.

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73. Board Game: Canterbury [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:2350]
Zack Stackurski
United States
Mankato
Minnesota
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I love almost all games, play Boardgames with my wife, have three kids, generally enjoy cats and understand and like those bumper stickers with the little fishies sprouting legs.
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This happy cat is excited about new board games!
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I feel a bit weird listing this as its kickstarter delivery isn't expected until next month... but it seems like a strong area control game I'm excited to play.

How it works: Players either build buildings on the grid, collect money to buy buildings or both on each turn. Those buildings provide services and there is a Alhambra-esque scoring for your rank of different service provided... but there is also a strong area control score based on your majorities in each block of the grid.

Why I like it: I suppose I may not... but I expect I will. I like the idea of city building games though I haven't found one that I consider a favorite yet. I also like low luck abstract-ish Euros... and this seems to fit the classic design of those early Euros that were so good we still play them today. Certainly worth a look for fans of Area Control.

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74. Board Game: Kreta [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1543]
Anni Foasberg
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This one is out of print, so I'm not too surprised not to see it here. If not quite a favorite, it's certainly one I'd like to play more often (publishers, take note!)

How it works:

Each player has a hand of cards which allow certain pieces to be played on to the board. Pieces might have different values, but there are also other things that differentiate them. Interestingly, some pieces are played between regions. However, any card that you play will not come back into your hand until you play the castellan, a card which allows you to manipulate the scoring. Meanwhile, there is another set of cards which dictate in which order various regions of the board will be scored. The near term is visible, but the later cards aren't. These cards refer to corners, so a given region may score more than once.

Why you like it:

Well, it's just so clever. I like how it balances short term goals (making sure that you get points when the next thing scores) with slightly longer-term planning (there is some goods scoring which I didn't describe, and also, of course, the budgeting of your cards). The fact that different playing pieces have individual "personalities" is unusual for an area control game and, I think, works quite well. It's a small board and a fairly quick play time, which I think is very appropriate for the kind of game it is.
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75. Board Game: Nothing Personal [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:892]
Adam Guarino-Watson
Australia
Parramatta
NSW
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This is a new one from Tom Vasel and Steve Avery of Dice Tower. This is one of my favourite games at the moment.

You play gangster families vying for control of the mob. The more influence you exert over the various gangsters, the more control you have over how the mob does its business and the more respect and money you acquire. There is one primary driving force in the game and that is negotiation. You must both form alliances, which tend to morph and change as the game progresses, and you must also exert the power of intimidation over your rivals. You can work your way through the organisation by shaming and indeed whacking your rivals and succeeding either will gain you more respect and another step closer to winning.

If you play with a competitive group, the best kind for this game, then you can expect to go for 2 hours, maybe more. Otherwise, most games are around 90 minutes. Highly recommended.

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