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5 Awesome Analytical Games

Here are five facts for you:

  1. With most amino acids, if you pass polarised light through them the light will twist left. With most sugars it will twist right. This is referred to as being “laevorotatory” or “dextrorotatory”.
  2. It is a tradition for all astronauts, travelling from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan to the International Space Station, to urinate on the wheel of the bus that takes them to the launch platform before they take off. This is apparently for good luck. Likewise, it is unlucky to watch the Soyuz roll out.
  3. When you roll two six-sided dice, it is in your favour that at least one of the sides will show either a 5 or a 6. The odds are 20/36.
  4. No-one can seem to decide how long the Appalachian Trail should be, as it keeps fluctuating throughout history. That being said, Google clocks it in at around 2,200 miles. The highest point is Clingmans Dome, which has its peak at 6,643 ft.
  5. This article is really a list of 5 awesome analytical games…starting…now…

Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends

Okay, a somewhat silly start to an article about some serious(ly good) games for players who prefer their games on the analytical side. Number one on the list, let’s talk about Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends.

The odds are, if you’ve played Tash-Kalar, you will think one of two things. Either it is a work of genius, and a fantastic game from one of the world’s best board game designers (Vlaada Chvatil)…or you will swear yourself off ever touching it again.

Within the board game world, there is a versatile game mechanic known as pattern recognition. There are only a few games I can think of that put pattern recognition at their very core – Mysterium, Dixit, and Onitama – and each time it is different. None of them do it in quite the same way as Tash-Kalar. Instead, Tash-Kalar is right up there as one of the champions of the mechanic, requiring both skills in recognition, as well as spatial awareness and the ability to play/adapt around seven turns ahead. It is a long term strategy game and one often enjoyed by more those who like analytical games.

Tash-Kalar pitches players against each other as they summon monsters into an arena to fight; however, monsters require certain patters to be in play. It is this that makes it enjoyable, but also a challenge to play.

Read: On Tash-Kalar – Vlaada Chvátil (Relatively) Unsung Strategic Masterpiece

Tyrants of the Underdark

One of the things we tried to do when discussing this list was to choose games that all revolve around different core mechanics, and this is where Tyrants of the Underdark comes in. Tyrants of the Underdark is a card drafting and deck building game, which also has an aspect of area control.

Tyrants of the Underdark is a game set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe in which you play as rival Drow (Dark Elf) households looking to gain control of the Underdark – the realm beneath the surface of the world. It is a difficult and often unforgiving game, but it can be rewarding and enjoyable at the same time. The challenge is part of the fun.

So, what makes this an analytical game? Well, ultimately, Tyrants of the Underdark is about synergy. It’s about finding the perfect combinations of cards and finding cards that help amplify different aspects of the game. You may pick one card up early on in the game, and then spend the rest of the game looking for ways to augment that card, or the specific action types that card allows. It is because of this aspect that it requires a lot of lateral thinking and analysis.

Read: How well does Tyrants of the Underdark capture the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons?

Onitama

It’ll to no surprise to regular readers of this blog that Onitama is on this list. My love for this game has been well proclaimed throughout the past year and we continue to love it/play it to this day. In fact, according to the app BG Stats (again, a great tool for analysing your own playing habits) I have played Onitama coming up to 40x this year. It’s awesome.

Onitama is what chess would be if Chess was innovative again. Each player starts off with five pieces on a 5×5 grid. Your goal is to take your opponent’s master piece, or get to their temple square. You do so by moving, positioning and taking your opponent’s pieces based on cards denoting the moves you can make each turn. Once you’ve used a card it rotates round, meaning your pool of potential moves is always varying between five cards. It’s a fast paced and fantastic game that I would recommend to everyone.

So, why is it an analytical game? To really master Onitama you need to become aware of everything on the board, what cards you have, what your opponent’s options are, and what you are most likely to end up with in your hand if your opponent reacts the way you think they will. It is about thinking around five turns ahead and trying to outwit your opponent.

Read: Onitama Review – Simple But Amazing

Sagrada

Sagrada is an interesting game, themed around the creation of stained glass windows. It is hugely compelling and is focused around maximising limited drafting options with dice

In Sagrada you take it in turns to roll 2N+1 different coloured dice each round (where N is the number of players going from 2-4). The first player picks one and places it on their 4×5 board. The second player picks one and places it on their  board. Third player then goes – fourth player picks two – then it goes backwards. The third player picks again and so on.

Sounds simple, right? It really isn’t.

There are placement restrictions. Colours and numbers can’t be placed orthogonal to each other. Some squares have numbers on them, some are blank, and some have colours. These denote the prerequisite required for placing a dice in that space. On top of that there are different ways of scoring, with three methods revealed at the start of each game. These vary each time you play.

What this means is that Sagrada is a uniquely complex game that is something akin to Soduku with dice. It is one of those games that is easy to learn, but surprisingly difficult to master.

Read: Sagrada Review – Stained Glass the Board Game

Escape From The Aliens in Outer Space

This brings us to our fifth and final game today – Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space (or EFTAIOS for short) is a hidden-role survival game based around a hexagonal grid.

The players are split into two teams by dealing cards out randomly – aliens and humans. No one knows which team you are on and you don’t know anyone else. The humans have the goal to escape, meanwhile, the aliens have the goal to hunt the humans. Every human the aliens successfully hunt becomes an alien so it gets progressively difficult for the humans to survive.

Each turn you draw a card which tells you if you (a) have to declare where you are on the grid (b) can declare somewhere else or (c) don’t have to declare at all. Again, no one knows what card you drew (unless you don’t declare). Humans move one space per turn across the grid to their escape pods, aliens move two spaces (hopefully) towards the humans.

There are a few other rules, but it is a relatively simple game to play. That being said, it is highly analytical because it has a lot going on. You need to track where you are each turn whilst also trying to figure out what roles everyone else has. Once you’ve figured that out you need to figure out where they are, and also understand your best route to victory.

It’s a difficult game, but I heartily enjoy it and recommend it to everyone, not just those who like analytical games.

EFTAFOS comes with whiteboards and pens so you can track where everyone is relatively easily. It also comes with several maps, varying the challenge each time you play.

Read: Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space Review

So, there we have it. Five games that are great for analytical players. These are games that I personally enjoy and hope that you do to.

What analytical games would you recommend? Do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

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