Gateway Games: Territory BuildingJanuary 8, 2019
Gateway Games is a series of articles aimed at helping you find the games that are right for you. Today, I’m going to talk about games where conquering or building territories is the primary gameplay mechanic.
Risk was the original game of this kind, a game that many of us grew up playing. In Risk, players use troops to conquer territories. When attacking another player’s territory, each player rolls dice to compete for the land. Other board games take this concept and tend to move away from relying on the luck of a die roll to win.
There are a lot of really good territory building games, but I’m going to focus on some that are good for beginner players and experienced players alike. If you are looking for more in-depth games like these, I recommend checking out Power Grid, Scythe, and Terraforming Mars.
Small World is by far my favorite game in this genre and is one of my favorite board games of all time. When I first played this game, I felt like everything I didn’t like about Risk was fixed. Plus, the art is super adorable and the fantasy thematic elements are hilarious. In Small World, the troops that you use will vary throughout the game. At the start of the game, players select a fantasy race that is paired up with a special power. One of the best features of this game is that the pairings change each time you play. Sometimes, a special power paired with the right race can be broken and lead to a win, but it’s completely random every time. From there, you try to conquer as many areas on the board that you can with your troops. Once you feel like you’ve gone as far as you can, you get a new set of troops to work with. Players get points each round based on how many territories they have at the time and points are hidden. This means that you never really know who is winning, which can lead to interesting debates over who to attack.
Carcassonne blends territory building with tile placement. Players draw tiles each turn to build a shared city, comprised of cities, roads, cloisters, and grasslands. Tiles can only be placed connecting to adjacent tiles of the same type, similar to how dominoes are played. Players each have a set of meeples that they can place on a tile at any point to try to claim the space as their own, but you have to be very strategic with where you place your meeples. You only have so many meeples to work with and you only get points at the end of the game based on completed areas. Carcassonne is easy to learn, but tough to master.
Much like Carcassonne, Kingdomino is a tile placement game with elements similar to dominoes. However, in Kingdomino, each player is responsible for completing their own 5×5 grid kingdom. Players draft the tiles they will add to their kingdom each round. Players attempt to build a complete kingdom in which all tiles are connected to matching landscapes. But that’s not all, players are also fighting over getting the most crowns, which multiply your points at the end of the game. Games play very quickly, usually lasting less than half an hour.
I hope this article helps you find new games to try!