5. Ascending Empires
The actual combat resolution of this game is simple: do you have more than one ship in range of your target? Boom. Target destroyed.
The trick is actually getting there. Because in Ascending Empires, your ships are powered by the flick drive. And by that I mean, you literally flick your ships around the board. Yes, it’s a dexterity mechanic in a civ-building strategy game which sounds gimmicky in theory but in practice it is so much fun.
This combat mechanic is an Odd Couple of determinate combat and skill, with a tiny amount of luck mixed in. Yes, if you have the ships in range, you automatically win. There are no dice rolls. But since you have to flick your ship in place, there’s always a level of uncertainty. Sure, you can do your best but those disks are small and the board’s surface is smooth. You might accidentally not flick quite hard enough, or way too far. You might break under pressure and send your own fighter flying off the edge of the board. Or, you might land the perfect shot just when you need it, and feel the exhilaration of victory!
In short, victory is exciting! If you fail, it’s not because of the whim of a die roll.
To seal the deal, Ascending Empires gets the whole expansion and tech upgrades facet of the game just right. Your ability and speed in waging war will grow as the game progresses, escalating conflict at just the right pace until you hit the climax and the game ends in a flash of glory.