I'm a professor, writer, and (as time allows) an amateur game designer.
Games that I recommend playing, in order of preference.
A. Autumn Ash:
This has overtaken Evacuate as my favorite. It's actually more complex than Evacuate, as for as the depth of strategy and the decisions one has to consider. There may be a lot of options for players, but the rules don't seem overly complex.
This is one of my favorites. The mechanics seem unique and fun, and the theme, while absurd, fits well enough with the game play. There are a lot of details in the rules, but that's mostly because I took care in explaining it. Once learned, it's not a game that requires constant reference. (This game is complete and in a final state for two to three players. I haven't play tested a four-player game yet. Thus, the only thing to do is to decide if minor tweaking is necessary for those games.)
C. Latent Binaries:
With a little tweaking and a few rule changes this game has come together quickly. Overall, the game was more fun than I expected--a good combination of luck, strategy, and deduction. I'm looking forward to playing again soon. It will remind some of BlackIce, but it is a strategy abstract too.
D. Traffic Tyrants:
Here I use a mechanic influenced by a "Green Light"/"Red Light" children often play. The narrow board and limited movement stash size hopefully make it interesting. I am still trying to find the optimal starting position (as it makes a difference in how the game plays out).
I like this game; I just haven't played it much of late. It makes for an aggressive chess-like game and yet there's enough going on that there's room for a lot of strategy and misdirection. (The game is in a near final state. I doubt that there be any significant tweaks, but I reserve the right to make them.)
'Untested' or 'Unrated' PyLiPo:
I am looking forward to a satisfying gaming night where we can try out this literary game, designed in the spirit of the French literary school. (Because of the nature of the project, simple rules don't suffice, and there is a lot more writing involved than usual. Thus it will be some time before it reaches its final state.)
I recommend trying this game. It seems solid, but I haven't played it out enough to get a sense of how much I like it yet.
I have played the following games to date (listed roughly in the order of preference, and seemingly ever changing). There are some games listed low on the chart because, honestly, I haven't played them enough and which I feel may go up in the rankings after a third or fourth play (or perhaps with more players). Any of the games in the top sixty are ones that I consider really good games. I'd need little persuasion to play any of those. There are also some really stand out game up through the seventieth ranking (games that could easily go up in the ranking). Because judging games is difficult, I've put a grading system after each ranking, showing which games I consider roughly on a par with each other.:
I've taken my own games out of the rated list to eliminate bias.
To Play Soon
On the "to play soon" list:
Reviews and Notes
Hexano-Duel This is one of my favorite Mega Volcano-like games. The board itself is a nice change of pace from the normal volcano board. However, where the game becomes interesting as a Volcano alternative is in both in the various constraints that it adds to the games mechanics and the minor alterations to its end-game conditions. Having the players use their own Volcano caps returns real strategy to cap movement for veteran players (a weakness of the original Volcano rules). Between the immobile pieces and the personal caps, there are plenty of possibilities for defensive play that aren't in the original Volcano. The game feels remarkably balanced, which makes for a satisfactory gaming experience.
IceFrogs: I played this game with two other players because I thought that it would turn out something like a three-player game of Moscow Ice (a game that can only be played with two or four players). However, I found it very different. I played IceFrogs once, and I found that it ended way too quickly for my tastes, as it only take one minor mistake to allow another player to march right into an opposing player's home space. It seems that aggressive play is risky, and that the best way to proceed is to build up a defense that will stop the other players. That said, I'm not sure how fun it will end up being. It's one of those games that will take two or three plays to work out a decent strategy, but I'm not sure when, or if, it will get played again.
Invaders of Mars: This is a fun game of doing yourself the least amount of harm. The strategy is to pick your poison smartly and to force your opponent into doing more damage to themselves than they would like. It's one of those games that gets more strategic as the rounds progress. o mend the rules, players should, as Brilk suggested, have a queen seek out the drones when possible, instead of landing on players pieces when no babies are left. If she isn't ovulating, then her interest would become the drones anyway. I think it's safe to say that running out of drones would be an issue though, as there would be enough queens on the board by then, but it might be a problem on some rare occasion.
Moscow Ice: This is a really good game for two or four players. The four-player version, Multi Moscow Ice plays really well and looks really good on the table. I look forward to trying Mega Moscow Ice, with its special nest of pieces.
Lunar Invaders: We played this interesting game once, in a group of three people. We tried it with RPS, which seemed generally like a good idea (and made the game kind of novel for us). The two other players ganged up on me immediately, which was fun (especially for them). Once I was easily dispatched, the two remaining players played for a long time before getting stuck in playing the same two moves and RPS ad nauseum for their final moves. The game seemed to lose some of its strategic and general play value when left with only two players, and they lost interest in playing it out to its conclusion. Thus, I feel that it would play best with four or five, and I can't imagine playing it happily with two players. On the plus side, the theme was interesting and, when there were enough players, there were interesting things to consider. I'd try it again as a light game that uses a lot of luck but also provides players with enough options to dish out to keep it interesting.
Pylon: This was one of the first games that I learned, so it feels like an old friend of sorts. I like it better than Ice Towers, but it's not so easy to articulate why that is so. I like being more deliberate about my moves and strategies for both the placement and movement phases seem intuitive to me. It's one of those games that I can turn to boost my confidence if I'm on a long losing streak, and who doesn't like that.
Quicksand: This is one of those very satisfying games that I often lose. It's a solid abstract strategy game that alters the usual mechanic of jumping games in a way that is pretty challenging and fun. Like most good abstracts, you need to be able to think at least a few moves ahead, and, with the rotating coasters, you have to make decisions concerning the state of boards that you will leave your opponent. The game rewards a good balance between offensive and defensive play. There are configurations that make for a good defense, and the game often consists of setting up territorially defended configurations and various strategies of penetrating those defenses.
Timelock: This game gets played more than most other games in my top twenty; it hasn't gotten old. The reasons are that it's fun, aesthetically pleasing, and challenging. Even though I don't usually like luck in games, the luck in this game doesn't usually determine the game, and, indeed, the games are usually long enough that the luck balances out. The decision tree is large enough that there are a number of strategic options at any point to make it interesting. However, the game isn't a huge brain burner, so it can be played while you are downing a pint.
Twin Win: This is a game that most pyramid players should try and most probably have. Once you've played it a few times with two players, you'll find that you'll get to a point of proficiency that games will go on forever. At that point, the fun of the game can be restored by playing with three players, which is the only way that my group plays it now.