Prismata is a reecently-released competitive strategy game that you might have heard me praise for being one of the best games known to humanity. Well, I'm not kidding when I say that. If you have any interest at all in picking up a competitive game, I absolutely recommend Prismata.

I like to describe Prismata as a fusion of chess (deep, deterministic strategy), Starcraft (sci-fi wargame flavor with many common ideas such as economy versus attack), and Dominion (creating variance through a randomly-generated but symmetric pool of purchasable units). Basically, each player starts with a handful of economic units and must destroy all enemy units to win. You do this by buying units that produce attack. Attackers don't work the way they do in RTS games though. Instead of being loose units that head to the enemy base and tangle with enemy attackers until one of them dies, attackers stay on your side of the board, safely attacking without ever risking themselves. To avoid losing vulnerable units, the enemy must devote some of their economy to buying blockers to take the hits. So an attacker can be thought of as negative economy for your opponent. Due to that, attackers and economic units are directly comparable. That might sound like it breaks the game because either economy is more efficient and so the game never ends, or attackers are more efficient and so there's no reason to ever grow your economy. But Prismata has a brilliant solution to that dilemma. It's the mechanic called "absorb".

Basically, due to the way assigning damage works, the first couple attackers you make do next to nothing, while the ones you make for the rest of the game are highly efficient compared to economy. But the number of attackers that can be absorbed is a flat integer, and doesn't depend on how big anyone's economy is. The result is that if you go straight for attack when the game starts, getting just a couple of attackers out costs you several turns of production, and so this "absorb barrier" is a huge obstacle. But if you wait until you have a big economy to start making attackers, you can pump out several per turn, making the absorb barrier less significant. So the optimal strategy is to grow your economy at first, until you have the amount where the increased efficiency of attackers starts to just barely outweigh the drawback of being absorbed. If you wait until it outweighs it easily then your opponent will go just a little bit sooner than you and have the advantage. It's just beautifully elegant.

The game is also very well-balanced, and has really good unit design. Let's just look at Drake for an example:

This unit is pretty straightforward: it costs 12 gold, 2 blue, attacks for 2 every turn, and has the option to consume a Blastforge (the building that produces the blue resource) for 2 additional damage. Despite how simple this unit appears, when to use its ability is such a nuanced decision that even top players get it wrong regularly.

Finally, the game has more quality of life features than any other game I've ever seen. Undoing actions during your turn (I can't imagine playing a strategy game without this anymore), shareable replays and analysis mode where you can play both sides, different time settings in ranked queues that you can pick between and even queue for more than one of at once, you name it...

The only real issue with this game is the railroading in the new player experience. They won't let you play automatched games when you're new, and there's no tutorial other than the story-driven campaign, which holds your hand to a really annoying degree. They even disable undoing for the first few missions. Still, the story is surprisingly good, and the single-player content is also really good gameplay-wise once you get past the tutorial. Expert versions of the campaign missions and DLC puzzle packs can challenge even the best players, while there's a casual difficulty setting for new players to experience the story without having to be good at the game.

I also have a ton of strategy guides and stuff on this very website (I was a borderline top player back when I had time for video games). I hope you try this game out, and I hope my advice helps you!