Terra Mystica rules. I love a good long and heavy board game that requires long-term strategic planning but throws up a cloud of uncertainty that forces you to think about contingency plans and adapt to changing circumstances.
I always talk about this damn game, but Twilight Imperium is the best about this. You start with a secret objective that might take the full game to complete, and as the game goes on, additional public objectives appear that anyone can score points for. Because the game lasts like 10-12 hours, you can get a secret objective that takes like 8 hours to accomplish.
You form a plan right at the start of the game for how you’re going to pull this off, but you have to constantly adapt to changing circumstances. Your neighbor to your left may have created a giant militarized border that gets in the way of the wormhole you need to occupy, or all other players may have voted for a law at the galactic council that changes the rules so your massive army of dreadnauts is now slower to move around the board. Perhaps you planned to manipulate the player across the board from you into attacking your neighbor, giving you the chance to move to the crucial center hex. It’s total brain candy.
In contrast, I played Terraforming Mars for the first time recently and I wasn’t super impressed. I like the totally dry scientific terraforming theme. It hits the perfect so-serious-it’s-hilarious tone that is so unique to board games. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself felt dry too, but in the wrong way. It’s pretty much a combination of all the most common and basic board game play mechanics. You up your income of different resources and you use them to buy buildings and projects that give you victory points.
It seemed to me like the winning strategy was to just pick one of the game’s point scoring mechanics and really just constantly go hard on it. One guy was super focused on building balloons to float colonies on Venus (we were playing with a Venus expansion). I won by focusing relentlessly on heating up Mars’ atmosphere. The game never really threw up any surprises for me, and there really wasn’t enough player interaction.
It was fun enough to play once but it’s kind of a generic game imo.