Slay is the oldest game on this list by a substantial margin, born in designer Scott O’Connor’s Atari ST in 1989. You and your rivals compete to gain territory across a series of hex-based maps. The more territory you have, the more income, letting you create and maintain more units. The rub is that separate pieces of territory controlled by the same faction have separate incomes and cash reserves, with each responsible for the maintenance cost of units in it— and the moment one of your subterritories can’t pay those maintenance costs, every unit it supports dies. And no, you can’t disband units. Much of the game revolves around strategically striking at key points to cut large contiguous enemy territories into smaller pieces, hopefully leaving lots of units cut off in a territory that can no longer support them. There are four unit types, the-peasant, spearman, knight, and baron each of which can take hexes and block equal or lower-ranked units from its hex and adjacent ones of the same color, but is trumped and can be killed by higher-ranked units. If you don’t expand and strengthen your forces, you’ll be crushed by those who have— but maintenance costs grow geometrically, from 2 per turn for each peasant to 54 for a baron, so the more powerful you become the greater your chances of a logistical catastrophe if part of your territory force gets cut off. It’s simple but extremely addictive. The way the balance of power can shift so drastically in a single turn or even a single move keeps things exciting and unpredictable, while the lack of any randomization prevents it from being arbitrary or unfair. And it can be astonishingly satisfying to see a seemingly mighty opponent brought crashing down in an instant by just the right move. It’s simple enough to be readily accessible to people who aren’t strategy junkies, and yet as someone who is I still loved it.