From My Radar to Yours?
I've been watching the following lesser-known games with great interest. I'll pass them along to my readers in case you might have missed any of them.
Ascendancy: I'm not a huge fan of 4X games, but this one has grabbed my attention. It claims to be playable in an hour. It has a variable phase order, asymmetric races, and secret "focuses". Some of the playtest images look very striking. Are those glass beads filled with colored sand?
Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! - Russia 1941-1942: The first of the Conflict of Heroes series, this may be the most accessible and gorgeous hex-and-counter wargame ever made. In a mere 12 pages (including cover, index, and unit/card description page), the stunning rulebook includes infantry, machine guns, mortars, artillery, trucks, tanks, hidden units, close combat, spotters, mines, smoke, fortifications, barbed wire, arcs of fire and unit/vehicle facing, elevation, opportunity fire, and unit/vehicle hit counters (eg suppressed, pinned, stunned, immobilized). Almost everything you need to know is printed on the ¾" counters. This is the game that might bring all the wargame-curious folks into meatier wargaming in a way that even ASLSK #1 could not. The designer has solved the IGOUGO problem without over-simplifying the system (Memoir '44) or abstracting opportunity fire into something unrealistic (Tide of Iron).
Ideology: The War of Ideas: This is far from new, but its upcoming reprint prompted me to check out the rules. Each player controls a nation with a different ideology (Capitalism, Imperialism, Fascism, Communism, and Fundamentalism) and appropriately different advantages and disadvantages. Each home nation competes to control other independent nations through cultural, economic, and military means. The amount of conflict in a nation determines its value. Players can attack and/or withdraw from nations, which might result in loss of control and subsequent changes in value. Players can also develop advances including WMD (worth a VP, unless you use them against another player).
Municipium: If it was only the terrible Valley Games rules and the suspiciously poor Mike Doyle board, I would have no interest in this game. The fact that it's a Reiner Knizia design and that there has been some interesting feedback are the only things keeping me on the hook. I'll probably end up re-writing the rules from scratch.
Neuland: I'm not a fan of Roads and Boats, but this one sounds fun. I did re-write the rules for this one already. The original rules were confusing and described the game's systems incredibly poorly. I feel bad for the average person who might buy this game and have to learn it from the rules in the box.
Senji: 6-player Diplomacy in 90 minutes? I have a feeling that most people who play this game will choose not to use the 4-minute sand timer to limit the negotiation phase, particularly since you might want to talk to several opponents and that you can do it in secret. The interesting twist of this game is that each player has cards for family, military support, and trade. You can offer cards--even those you have acquired from other players--as collateral for your deals. You can hire various samurai each of which has a special ability. A lot of potential here.
The Traders of Carthage: A light card game (with a board) with some planning and a little bit of screwage. Could be a good filler for our group.
Wealth of Nations: Another gorgeous game and rulebook. This is a raw no-luck commodity game. Players build industries to produce commodities, which are used to build other industries and to produce other commodities. Players can buy and sell commodities from the markets, or buy, sell, and trade with each other. Buying from the markets increases the price (a la Power Grid). Selling to the markets decreases the price. Competition for industries is spatial.