As I was writing this, I noticed that there is not much difference between variable player powers and asymmetrical powers in gaming.  I tried to think about how they are different but they seem to me to be very similar.  Variable player powers are actions that I am able to take that another player can’t take through out the game.  Then again, that’s what asymmetrical means to me also.  Anyway, I really enjoy playing games where I feel different from other players.  Many times thinking their power is better than mine.  I do not like when games kinda tell me what to do each round or turn, but I, for some reason, like when games give me a direction to go into with player powers.  For instance, I don’t like when games tell me I will get more points for doing this action this round.  But like it if I am given more points through out the game if I do this action more often.  I know it doesn’t make sense.  Anyway, before I talk myself out of this list….here are the Best 3 Games with…Variable Player Powers!

3.  Battlelore Second Edition by Fantasy Flight Games

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Not only does Battlelore have different player powers but they even have different Unit powers.  Both sides of the battlefield will have different unit types.  The types are ranged, melee, and Elite.  Each of these types of units have special abilities associated with them and are unique to each Race.  Archers on the Daqan Lords can fire multiple times if they did not move while the Archers on the Uthuk Y’llan, can poison their enemies.  Each side plays very different and each unit on each side is distinguished from the other side.  Not only that but each Race has their own Lore card decks that they can use Lore to activate another power through out the game.  These special cards have have huge impacts, giving you extra Victory Points or healing a Unit.  Richard Borg has done a great job in the design of all areas of Battlelore to make each Race feel different and unique.

2.  Terra Mystica by Z-Man Games

Courtesy of djdano of BGG

I could not believe all the different player powers in Terra Mystica.  I must admit, that it is not one of my favorite games.  I like it, just don’t love it.  BUT, the thing I do love about it is all the different player powers.  The fact that they were able to make so many different powers and still keep balance in this game is remarkable.  There are 7 factions that come in the game and each one has two different powers for a grand total of 14.  I have played this game three times now and every single time I have felt different playing.  Each time I really felt that my power is guiding my strategy and actions through out the entire game.  Some games I have ignored terraforming or traveling.  Other games, all I did was travel and terraform putting out as many buildings as I could.  I am blown away with Jens Drogemuller and Helge Ostertag’s ability to make such a fantastic variable player power mechanism in such a big game.

1.  Forbidden Stars by Fantasy Flight Games

Forbidden Stars is similar to Battlelore as in each faction has their own deck that makes them unique and different.  One of the actions that you can take in Forbidden Stars is to Strategize.  When you Strategize, you go through your factions deck of cards and purchase one of them.  Each card has two copies of it.  So you will take each and put it into your deck.  But you have to take out two that you don’t want that are already in your deck.  This makes the variable player powers so unique and exciting.  Not only does my deck have cards to differentiate it from other decks but I can choose which cards I want to use and what order I want to get them.  Maybe a certain card will help me at the beginning of the game but another card will help me later in the game.  Samuel Bailey, James Kniffen and Corey Konieczka’s spin on variable player powers makes me think even more when deciding how I want to play each game and round.  Not only are there variable player powers but I get to choose which and when to get them…..fantastic!

-Tim