I got some game money for my birthday last month but I've had to hold on to it since I was getting some games for Christmas too. Now I'm able to make my purchase. I've got a list of games I'm considering and I've grouped them into the following (I'm looking to pick up one from each group):
Dominant Species, Merchants and Marauders - this group is for a longer game with a good theme. I don't like the price tag on DS, but I do like that it plays with up to 6. I'm leaning toward M&M right now. Do these games feel really long?
Genoa, Troyes - Looking for a game with a good dice mechanic. I like the negotiation aspect of Genoa, but I've heard good things about Troyes. How are the dice utilized in Genoa?
In the Year of the Dragon, Glen More, Thebes - I'm looking at a game with a time mechanism. I think the theme of Thebes is probably best, but how do the variable player powers work in ItYotD?
Horse Fever, Eruption, Jamaica - Wanting a fun themed game. Almost definitely going to get Horse Fever as it sounds very interesting.
Taj Mahal, Condottiere, Witch's Brew, Mission: Red Planet, Jaipur, Finca - Not sure which of these to get. They all sound interesting. Are Jaipur and Finca similar except for player count? I may consider getting 2 from this group.
Please respond with any suggestions or comments about the games listed. Thanks in advance.
Merchants and Marauders looks like a cool game, I haven't played it yet but I got it for christmas so it will be played soon.
Jamaica I have played and it is fun and very simple.
Mission: Red Planet is a lot of fun. Taj Mahal was okay. I haven't played the others but I would vote for Red Planet.
Jaipur and Finca are nothing alike except they both have set collection as a mechanic.
We have both and like both a lot. Finca is newer to us and we play it 2 and 3p, both are superb. Jaipur is strictly for 2 and is fun but not near as much to it as there is to Finca. Finca has an extremely easy rule set but has a surprising amount of tension. Anyway, what I started to say is that maybe it's because it's newer to us, but I prefer Finca. However, I am happy to have both in my collection.
I haven't played any of the other games you mention.
I'd try to answer Q1, 2 and 5
DS vs M&M: Theme-wise, M&M is far more superior. But it's lighter and much less mentally demanding compared with DS. Personally I won't open these 2 games frequently as 1. DS needs lots of calculation, and the endgame is largely dependent on who gets the few powerful cards; and 2. M&M is thematic, but too little real decisions considering the length of the game. However, if I could buy only 1, DS is the choice as it integrates many different mechanisms into a single game seamlessly.
Genoa vs Troyes: You can't say Genoa is a dice game, as dice are only used to determine the starting position of the lead player which is a very minor part of the game. The selling point of Genoa is negotiation with other players, and it's still the best available in the market. So in order to enjoy Genoa, you need talkative partners (I prefer to play this game with 4). Troyes has an very innovative mechanism of utilising dice, but the turn order is too important in determining winner. I'd just skip it.
Taj Mahal is the classic euro from Mr Knizia. You could never go wrong with it.
Can't remember anything about Condottiere.
Witches' brew is a quick and clever game which shines with more players.
Mission red planet tries to combine role selection (citadels) and area control into a single game. I think this game is too chaotic and if I want to play a mechansim, I prefer a game which utilises a single mechanism instead of a mix.
Jaipur: never played.
Finca: A game that I think should win sdj instead of Dominion. So I think it speaks for itself.
Feel free to ask for clarification and hope that helps!