I thought I'd return to my list of games, and see how my tastes of changed, and what else has been entertaining me, as well as maybe looking at a few lefter-of-centre games that I wholeheartedly still recommend.
Scythe - has been a big hit with my friends, and continues to be. The relatively short play time, and the extremely tactile nature of the deluxe edition (along with the lovely art) makes for an appealing experience. The threat of war, and the ability to see who is doing well with the placement of stars makes for some interesting table/trash-talk too. I generally like 'worker placement' as a game mechanic, and this nods its hat to that.
Snowdonia - A worker placement game themed around building a railway. It should be clear this was never going to be a very aggressive game, but it is always satisfying and gently entertaining. You never have enough labourers (actions) and you just wish you could just do this or that, before the weather turns. Classic worker placement frustrations, in a lovely package. There's the new deluxe edition with all the expansions coming out soon - so maybe a good time to pick up either of the first two edition (there's no appreciable difference in 1st or 2nd editions).
Race For The Galaxy - I just come back to this again and again. Probably my most played game (especially if you count the excellent digital version with the "Keldon" AI). Tableau building, and it is a race, the ending comes so quickly. Generally I'm only playing with the first couple of expansions, and only then for the extra cards. The less favourable aspects of this game are it's slightly 'tacked on' theme (the sci fi setting, and cards making sense mechanically, but hardly being integral to what's going on) and the initially impenetrable iconography on the cards. This isn't anything like as bad as it first appears, and the more complex cards have words explaining the card abilities anyway. The card-as-currency/action/goods is a really elegant game design too that leads to horrible 'spend the card, or keep it for its action' decisions. I've mainly played this in its two player variant, finding it harder to follow with more players and try to guess what they might be planning (in order to choose the phase I wish to have introduced optimally). This last sentence will mean very little if you've not played the game, apologies.
7th Continent - I feel cheeky putting in such a new game (to me) in my list, but this choose-your-own-adventure cum card management game has really impressed me. The fact that it's not quite (just) the explore-a-thon that it first appears is appealing to me, actually - and that the card management/combo-ing skills in order to replenish the action deck appeal to the same part of me that really enjoys...
Mage Knight - It has so many systems, and every time I play I need the instructions to remind me what I should be doing when I do something because there are a lot of different things to be doing. And it makes your brain ache. But the card/hand management! Ooh, it's great. Just great. Cards having their multiple uses, and trying to maximise the effectiveness of mana... It feels so good when you pull off a clever way of using the cards to defeat a monster (or similar). That feeling is what makes this game worth playing. I've now tried it with other people (but not PvP). One day, perhaps ... but for now it is mainly still a one player experience for me.
Epic Card Game - Despite Mage Knight and this being here, I'm not actually a big fan of high-fantasy/DnD style settings. It is more of a tribute to MK and this as games that make me see past that and still love them. So Epic... this is my go to Magic The Gathering alternative. To call it derivative of MtG would be understating it. It is highly derivative. However it's not got a massive meta, and it isn't full of overpowered banned cards, and can be played incredibly satisfyingly from one box (costing just over a tenner) for two people in a number of constructed/random ways. (It'll actually play up to four people, but I've found that less satisfying). Each of the 120 cards are either Events or Champions in one of four 'colours', and each card cost either nothing or 1 gold to play. Rather than MtG's mana cards, you have 1 gold each turn to spend. And the creatures are generally ridiculously powerful, and you'll be sacrificing them in order to block attacks, or banishing the opponent's over powered monstrosities. It's great fun - either in dealing off 30 random cards each, or both choosing one or two colours and focusing on those. If you are playing with a MtG nerd, they can get a bit 'well why can't I... or you can't do that...' because the rules aren't exactly the same as MtG. I'd argue it's potentially a better (or at least more fun) game, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg.
V-Commandos - This has recently been reskinned, I think, as an Assassins Creed tie-in but I've not got that. I've got the WWII version - lovely co-op that really evokes the stealthy feeling of playing Commandos Behind Enemy Lines on the PC. I mean, essentially that's what it is. Assemble a team, infiltrate and try not to set off alarms. And it you do, silence them quickly! I've played this both solo and multiplayer, and despite being co-op the multiplayer doesn't seem to have the same 'alpha player' problem I've seen in Pandemic. (Could have been who I was playing with, though).
Incursion - An asymmetric two-player action-point spending world-war-weird game. This sits very much in the Doom / Space Hulk mode, if you're familiar with those. One of you will be lobbing hoards of Zombie Nazis onto the board as the others pilot a team or Allies to get somewhere. It's actually cleverer than it sounds as units without line of sight go into overwatch mode, making for some tense battles. There's a new edition of this with loads of minis, but I've got the first one with standees. I think I sometimes prefer standees to be honest, as the art is nicer (and I'm not/never going to be a mini painter).
Heroes of Normandie - still playing this. A lot. One-on-one WW2 minis games, without minis. Confused rulebook should be ignored, translated /errata corrected one from bbg should be used. The scenarios are great. There is loads of game in the box, and the card play and dice rolls makes for a much sillier version of ww2 than some of the chits and tables wargames out there. It does mean there is luck involved, but using suppressive fire and good placement will minimise this, and make for a tactical game where winning means something.
Twilight Struggle - I'll reiterate how good this game is. Two player, card driven cold war era battling for dominance of the world. This isn't great if you're playing someone of an unequal skill, as the strategic depth and knowledge of some of the cards being in the deck is going to mean the more experienced player will win by a mile, but in my experiences (with the same person, over and again) we always have a great, brain burning times with this. It's not quick to play though, if you suffer from analysis paralysis.
Some others that pop to mind
Above And Below - A beautiful worker placement with elements of paragraph (choose your own adventure) gaming. It's not perfect, but is so charming it wins you over anyway. The paragraph element doesn't quite pay-off nicely, with just rewards given, rather than any narrative ending which is an oddly dis-satisfying end to any encounter.
Tales of the Arabian Nights - gloriously daft non-game of stuff happening. But it'll make you laugh, as long as you don't mind winning/losing/being willfully frustrated by a game that keeps you locked up. I also acknowledge the perhaps lack of PC sensitivity in this game.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective - you verses the designer of the puzzle, and enjoying a choose your own adventure book really... but it's great while you've still got new ones to play. I'm deep into the first edition, and the Gumshoe sequel-of-sorts set in the hardboiled PI world of1930s America.
Jaipur -still great two player fun, buying and selling goods and camels in the market.
Fugitive - this gets more play than you'd imagine - just a number game of playing sequential cards, and the opponent working out what you've done. But the nice Ryan Goldsbury art lifts Tim Fower's game.
Cosmic Encounter - It's nearly always great fun, with lots of stupid powers and teaming up. But some combinations of alien powers/people can occasionally make the game fall flat.
Letters From Whitechapel - there is something a bit broken about one of the elements of this, that I won't detail here (for fear of ruining it for those playing it). Suffice to say that it's not really possible for me to play as Jack now, because to use the exploit feels like cheating - but to not means I'm only half playing to win. I can still enjoy it as the police, though.
Libertaiia - I enjoy this, as there is more game here than appears initially. If anyone watched Wil Weaton's tabletop with this game it shows exactly how someone not-playing (randomly playing cards) can ruin the enjoyment.
Fiasco - a tabletop RPG that I've just though off that was also completely ruined on Wil Weaton's youtube video thanks to a player playing the ending narrative 'to win' which just shows you need the right people for the right game!
City Of Horror - with the right people this game is a blast. Stab one another in the back as you go back on deals you made to save the team from zombies by sacrificing them in a vote. Ideal.
Dawn Of The Zeds - A solo game of saving the city from invading zombies. The theme may be tired, but this becomes a clever puzzle of trying to efficiently trying to use the actions available.
Codeword Cromwell - A weird one this, and probably not on many people's radar. A solo simulation of a German invasion on a small English village in 1940. The board is too large, the cards are inefficient (having just a number on them, that you then look up in a book, rather than printing the text on the cards). The Characters are unique, but again you're looking up their skills in a book. But the story it tells, as you try to save the village, and find the traitor (there's also a slightly redundant 'person of interest' mechanic that I think was abandoned in the design when it made things too hard)... is greater than the sum of all the problems. A curate's egg of a game.
Sprawlopolis - just 18 cards that you (solo/co-op) are tasked with laying out in a way to maximise scoring as determined by some randomly selected rules of combination. A great fun head-scratchy filler this one, and cheap. (Though some of the combinations of rules you can draw are harder to play together than others)
Notably I've grown tired of social deduction games. I don't mind hidden roles (Dead Of Winter, with it's potential betrayer etc.) but pure social deduction has lost its appeal somewhat.