For Christmas I recieved a copy of Castles of Mad King Ludwig, a board game of building nonsensical palaces that will be judged based upon inscrutable standards. I like it.
This competitive game has up to four players competing to build the best castle for the game-fictional version of real-life historical crazy-guy King Ludwig of Bavaria. While this game has a lot fewer Richard Wagner opera references than its real-world inspiration, it makes up for it with added crazy.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig consists of a bunch of rooms tiles that come in various square footages from 100 to 600. Every turn, seven different tiles are up for sale for somewhere between 1000 and 15,000 Marks. Players take turns as the Master Builder, who both sets the prices for all the rooms that turn and collects money from all the other players. Thus enters Main Tough Game Decision System: Deciding what costs how much. Will they pay a lot or a little for that room? Do you price something higher than anyone can afford just to make sure no one buys it that round? But if no one buys anything expensive, then you won't earn much money. It's a neat system.
Players pick their rooms based on three factors. First, at the start of the game you randomly pick four things that King Ludwig looks for in a castle. Maybe it's square rooms or round rooms. Maybe he likes lots of open doors. Sometimes he wants a lot of square footage devoted to food preparation. Appease his whims more than your opponents do and you get bonus points at game's end.
Second, players have their own secret bonus cards - presumably elements Ludwig wants from your particular castle. Maybe he really likes corridors. Or sleeping chambers. You can add new bonus cards as the game goes along, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Third, and maybe most important, certain rooms go better with other rooms. So if you place a room next to a complimentary room, you'll score bonus points. If you place a room next to a non-complimentary room, you'll lose points (sleeping chambers don't go well next to concert halls). These bonuses can really add up - I had a throne room that gave four bonus points for each sleeping chamber connected to it and it had like six doorways. It won me the game.
There's more (upstairs/downstairs, outdoors, room completion bonuses), but it's not too complicated. One play-through and we all understood the game. With so much variablity from the random king's favors, hidden agendas, and order of room tile availability, the game has a ton of replay value. Plus the theme is a lot of fun.
I believe another game from the same company, Suburbia, shares some mechanics with Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Theme wise, I'm way more interested in this game than that one. If any of that sounds good to you, pick it up and tell 'em Rick sent you. That won't mean anything to whoever you're talking to, but hey, I'll take what I can get in the credit department.