We Need More Dry Fantasy Games

If there’s one thing the tabletop world has plenty of, it’s fantasy games. Often they’re sprawling games. Usually, they’re dungeon crawlers, deck builders, miniatures, and card games. Where are all the dry, mechanics-based fantasy games? Why must most Euro-style games feature bland, period-piece themes with drab covers of bored-looking people? I know some people might like trading coffee, corn, spice, and textiles, but sometimes I’d like a bit more flare while still keeping a solid set of mechanics in place.

We’ve seen plenty of fantastic games like this over the years. Lords of Waterdeep comes to mind, so they’re out there, but not in any abundance. Do the majority of people not want this? Recently games like Empyreal Spells & Steam and Tidal Blades have moved the needle a bit, and I’m hoping we see a lot more like them soon. Some older games like Iron Dragon are out there, but damn if they aren’t pricey now.

Of course, I may be wrong, and there may be a ton out there, but in over ten years of writing about board games, I can’t think of more than a few thematic fantasy Euro games that pop out at me. What we need is more games like Shifting RealmsLegends of Andor, and even Elfenroads. Please give me a version of Power Grid where spells power the world. Maybe a game similar to Puerto Rico where a fantastical island theme is used instead of a real-world place. Century: Golem Edition will always win out over Century: Spice Road for me.

Who wants to start a new publishing company where all we do is create super dry fantasy games, like a good red wine. We’ll take the best mechanics out there and slap some elves, orcs, and dwarves on top. Need some resources? Swords! Spells scrolls! Random monster parts!

Then again, dry Euro games do well for a reason. People buy them. Isn’t that what it’s all about in the end? Supply and demand. If a frumpy guy who never smiled in his life holding a clay pot on the cover of a box sells copies, it’s hard to argue with that. If clay, saffron, wheat, and sheep trade so well, who I am to argue? With thousands of games released each year, indeed, there’s something for me.

The real answer is, there’s so much out there it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Hell, there’s probably a fantasy game out there about separating the wheat from the chaff. So maybe what I want is a better way to find dry fantasy games. There could be hundreds of them out there waiting for people to find them. 

Perhaps I need to dig for them and help shine a bit of light on them. Until then, I’ll cry into the 600+ games on my shelf. The guy with the clay pot in some random European setting can catch my tears and trade them for some wool. If I looked to space a bit more, I’m sure I could terraform Mars or help the Spice flow or something.

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