One of the things I find cool about Stronhold’s recent game Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War is how it develops interesting and severe information asymmetry as the game goes on. When you’re making the final push to get the briefcase to your opponent’s baseline, you get into a situation where you’re using just a few pieces about which you know a lot because you’ve had to move them frequently to get them into that position. Meanwhile, your opponent is likely defending with a number of pieces about which he knows almost nothing, but you know everything. This makes for interesting opportunities to bluff and makes the situation very tense for the defender.
I like this particularly because Confusion goes through these very different game phases – development, dueling for control of the briefcase, endgame push – completely organically, without any explicit or coercive rules. While I like some 18xx games (1825 is my favorite these days), I’ve come to dislike the way it does phasing, with lots of rules and explicit game parameter changes as the trains are bought through. It’s a fair bit of rules complexity which trips up new players. Power Grid is similar, although less severe. I now much prefer it when a game can go though its phases organically, as with Confusion, Diplomacy, Container, or Rivals of Catan.