31 October 2019
Looking for unbalanced, slightly whacky fun where one player is endowed with more power than others at the table? If so, this list of off-kilter games will scratch that lopsided itch
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You get to be the shark. Isn’t that enough? In Ravensburger’s extremely popular movie tie-in one player plays as the shark while the rest play as the unlucky land-dwelling heroes of the film. You need a bigger boat you say? Don’t worry, the game also flips the board. The first is half played on the sand while the second is set on the Orca, allowing for a sense of narrative progression (and boat chomping) that matches the beats of the film itself.
Evade capture as Mr. Jack, or attempt to track him down. Using a series of clever environmental puzzles and traps, such as hiding in the dark or barricading an exit, you either subtly try to escape as Mr. Jack – or corner the titular character. While both players move all counters, there is only one murderer to catch, and only one player knows the truth.
Pursue Dracula as a team of vampire hunters or play as the dark lord Vlad himself in this tabletop murder/hunting romp across a gloomy, gothic Europe. Playing as Dracula sees a strategic attempt to gain influence across the board while the hunters are engaged in a tough tactical game of cat and mouse.
With the recent re-release of this classic, it is now available for everyone to slip down the sandbank into the maws of its complex set of rules. Different for each faction, all the rules mesh across other mechanics. This means playing the game is a little like a group of acupuncturists working in a circle to cause pain to their neighbours while hoping the one holding a needle to their nerves doesn’t give it a flick. If you want a game to get deep into the weird characteristics of a world and its clans, telling your own story of epic scope, then Dune is just that. Remember, “he who controls the Spice, controls the universe!”
Ca$h ‘n Gun$
Survive as the rat in a high tension, but extremely fun, mobster fall-out over recently ‘earned’ loot. Or, play as the boss and use your influence to redirect another player’s muzzle in the stand-off. It’s a game of bluffing from all sides, but these elements of unbalanced power offer a real treat across the table. Exceptionally good when played with family. There’s nothing quite like having a foam gun very seriously levelled at you by your aunt. Give it a shot.
A recent and beautiful addition to the pile of skewed-power war games. Each of the cute factions of, it turns out, murderous, woodland critters have their own objectives whether that’s control, revolt or loot. And every side is played by an entirely different set of rules. Because this game uses so many interlocking and unique systems, it can feel like you’re watching a real ecosystem clash and tear itself apart. If the joy of an asymmetrical wargame is in giving each player a different perspective on the action, then Root offers us a kaleidoscope.
It’s hard to build a list about asymmetry without mentioning Android: Netrunner. As each faction in this cyberpunk card game you’re trying to engage in different goals. As the Corp you’re trying to force the Runner to discard their hand or advance Agendas, whereas the Runner is looking to steal as many Agendas from the Corp as possible and empty their deck. Because it’s a living card game, and the cards rotate frequently, the community remains fresh and the game opens up options for new play all the time. Meaning that if you’re picking up a lopsided game for the novelty, Android: Netrunner will give you this for years to come.
2 De Mayo
Based on the uprising of May 2nd 1808 in Madrid against the occupying French imperial army, this game represents the uneven nature of colonising and insurgent forces. Each side has different movement styles and actions which can be carried out. For example, retreat is not an option for the French, while the rebelling Spanish can flee, leaving some comrades behind (ready to be outnumbered and defeated). While the sides have different goals – one of survival and one of annihilation – they find a common point in conflict, making the game feel very whole despite its unbalanced nature.
In space, no one can hear you scream, well, nearly no one. In your broken down spacecraft you await the intergalactic AA beside a planet, which you begin exploring. Of course, when The Creature gets wind of your presence the hunt is on. This card game of survival sees The Hunted explore locations and try and confuse or throw off the monster that is tracking them, while The Creature attempts to wear down their somewhat delayed dinner until they can pounce.
It’s good to talk, to the dead, when you’re trying to solve a crime. One player plays as a silent amnesiac ghost, handing out vision cards to the arranged mediums, helping them whittle down witnesses to this terrible crime. It’s a game of interpretation and slowly building up a case with a helpful ghost. There is a great collaborative feeling as you all work against the clock to unlock the ghost’s memories enough to identify their murder so they may, finally, rest in peace.
This article originally appeared in an of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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