Real-time games are one of my favorite genres. Sadly, they’re pretty rare too, with a game of real note only showing up every year or two. In this article, I’m discussing several of the most interesting real-time games, to highlight what each does great (or not). Rather than trying to rank these games, I’ve listed them in order of publication … but if you want to know my favorite real-time game, it’s Galaxy Trucker (2007), hands-down.
Ubongo isn’t exactly a real-time game by my definition. Instead it’s a game that you win by engaging in a task (the placement of puzzle pieces within a grid) faster than everyone else. However, Ubongo shows off the most important element of real-time gaming: adrenaline.
When I first played Ubongo, I was amazed by how jazzed I felt afterward and by how much I wanted to play again. That’s because it does a good job of making you want to play fast and rewarding you for doing so.
In the last year I’ve been impressed both by the number of deckbuilder games that have made it to market and by how many different niches they fill — from pure deckbuilding to an increasing number of games with hybridized deckbuilder mechanics. Mike Selinker’s Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is one of the most interesting because it takes deckbuilding in some extremely innovative directions.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (2013), by Mike Selinker, is a card-based cooperative campaign game. Players each get decks that represent both the abilities and equipment of their character and their character’s life points — so unlike most deckbuilders players have to be careful about their card plays, lest their character die!
The actual gameplay of Pathfinder centers on players exploring locations, which are also represented by deck of cards. When they encounter cards they’ll usually have to engage in a skill challenge by rolling dice — with card play by any of the players potentially improving the odds. The ultimate object is to close down enough locations that it’s possible to kill a scenario’s villain without him escaping. These are all pretty standard elements for cooperative play, but not something seen in many prior deckbuilding games.