Village Pillage is a cute, short game that plays like the mutant offspring of papers-scissors-stone crossed with prisoners dilemma. The game starts with everyone having the same 4 cards - a farmer, a blocker, a raider, and a merchant. Each round you will secretly select a card to play against the player to your left and another card for the player to your right. Everyone reveals the played cards simultaneously and resolves the round.
For instance, you might want to play a farmer against the player to your left. This will resolve first (farmers always do) and net you some turnips from the bank. But they might have played a raider, allowing them to steal some of those precious turnips. Should you play a blocker instead?
The merchant cards allow you to trade in any turnips you have managed to scrape together for either one of the three tokens that will win you the game. More interestingly, a merchant will also let you buy one of the more powerful cards in the marketplace that you can add to your hand to be played in subsequent rounds. Perhaps an upgraded fighter would be useful?
Many of these upgrades come with interesting choices, being strong against some opponent cards but having a fatal flaw if you opponent guesses the correct counter. In any case, beefing up your village with powerful cards is a must if you are to get close to winning.
Careful reading of your opponent’s holdings can help. A player sitting on a pile of turnips will likely want to play a merchant, so perhaps a quick raid with a fighter might be in order. Or course, they will be expecting that, so they can clearly not choose the goblet in front of you.
Sorry, I got confused there for a moment.
Village Pillage is one of my new favorite games. It is very quick to explain and requires minimal setup. There is a lot of luck involved but that just encourages fun table talk as you attempt to bargain with the people on either side. The game has the pleasing attribute of being automatically self-balancing - players with the least turnips get the slight but real benefit of choosing first from the marketplace of cards and any player who looks close to winning will find their opponents dragging them back. Every game I have played has been close.
The one flaw is that you only interact with the players on either side of you. In games with more than three players there will be at least one person over whom you have no control. That doesn't stop you from making deals of the form "I'll go easy on you this turn if you attack them" although in my experience such plans quickly fall apart.
Not the deepest game in the world, Village Pillage is short and fun with just enough strategy to be interesting.