Lots of great games – even some of the best – fall into clear categories. Worker placement, trick-taking, auction games. Sure, they bring their own twist or provide new and interesting choices, but the core idea clearly borrows from previous titles. But that’s not always the case.
Some games decide to strike out with entirely new and interesting mechanisms – things the gaming world hasn’t seen before. Sometimes those catch on to become their own genre. Here are three of the most mechanically unique games, that are also awesomely fun to play.
In Tzolk’in: the Mayan Calendar, the players are different tribes attempting to grow corn, please the gods, and build great structures. Through the game, you’ll gather and spend resources, use special abilities, and even acquire crystal skulls at Chichen Itza. But you’ll do it using the strange and marvelous gear system.
You see, you can’t just place your worker on the corn space and get corn. That’s already been done. Instead, in Tzolk’in you place your dude on the bottom space of the corn gear. Each round, the gear gets a twist and that moves your worker up to the next place on the wheel. Each space on the wheel is better than the one that came before it. So, over time, that worker gets access to better and better options. And each turn, you can either take workers off or put workers on. But not both.
The game then, isn’t just about putting your dudes in the right place to reap rewards. It’s about putting them there at the right time and letting them grow toward the space you really want. Rather than the build order you see in most worker placement games, you instead have a whole gestalt. You have to take the entire board in and divine when it’s best to take your actions and when you wait just one more turn for something a little better.
Dungeon crawlers are ubiquitous in gaming. We’ve all delved into dark caverns seeking to slay monsters and chasing chests of gold. Typically, you move your figures around, roll dice, and see who dies. Dungeon Fighter has a similar idea. It even has dice. But you don’t really roll them.
A cooperative game, each round the players must face a new monster. But the dice don’t have pips. Instead, the players have a large target board. To hit the monster, they toss the die onto the target. If it lands, it does however much damage the target says with larger numbers toward the middle. Easy right?
The catch is that the die has to bounce at least once on the table before landing on the target. This makes it a superb dexterity challenge. A little too much zip and it goes sailing off the target. Too little, and it might not hop on at all. Plus, as the game continues, harder monsters show up that might require you to throw with your off hand, with your eyes closed, or even while jumping. Dungeon Fighter is hilarious fun and always a good time.
There’s a lot going on in Burano. You can collect sets of cards for points. Dominate the area control game of lace-making. Move your fishermen around. And, of course, build the eponymous city of Burano by placing cubes and attaching roofs. But you can’t just do whatever you want. Instead, your actions are constrained by the pyramid.
The players start with fourteen pastel cubes in six colors. They use these to build a pyramid with a 3×3 base, 2×2 middle, and a single cube on top. Each pastel cube also corresponds to one of three actions. In order to take an action, you can grab a cube from your pyramid. But you have to grab an exposed cube – generally meaning one on top.
With each round, you have to determine what actions you’re hoping to do and in what order. Then, you build your pyramid accordingly. But other players are bound to get in your way and compete in the lace factories or on the islands. When building your pyramid, you have to also insure that you leave enough flexibility that you can react to what others do. It’s a fantastic challenge and totally unique in the board game world.
What are the most unique games you’ve played? Tell us about them in the comments.
Image Credits: Czech Games Edition, Horrible Games, and EmperorS4 games
Featured Image Credit: EmperorS4 games