My game of the weekend has been Kingdom. It is enjoyable and difficult.
In Kingdom, you are a monarch on a horse who solves problems by throwing money at them. Literally, you have a bag of gold, and your only action is to put money somewhere: recruit peasants, buy them equipment, upgrade buildings. It is a survival game, with nightly attacks. You need to clear four portals from which these attacks are coming.
A key but bothersome part of the difficulty is the lack of save points. If you make a significant mistake, you lose, start over. If you think that you are ready for the next portal and are wrong, monsters destroy everything. There is also no way to know how big the counterattack from the portal will be until you hit it. You need to be aggressive before the attacks become overwhelming, but you also lose for being too aggressive.
If you could save, the big decision points would lose their difficulty; “oh, it’s that big, I should reload and build up for a few more days.” I am not really fond of that school of difficulty. If I know how prepared I need to be, I win; before I know, I either massively over-prepare or lose, find out, then try again. Apart from learning execution, the game should take you about 3-5 tries, learning about how much defense you need before you try each level of offense.
That doesn’t sound very good, but the gameplay is interesting enough for its simple mechanic. There is an economy of recruitment and gold farming (again, literal: you have farmers whose harvest is immediately converted to gold), and the daily flow of expanding by day and staying safe by night. I do not play enough similar games to know whether it stands out, but it has a mix of strategy, economics, and tower defense. It is satisfying to see your kingdom grow and to watch your archers shoot down waves of greedy demons.
My only other complaint of the game is something by design: travel time. As you expand, you can get a kingdom where it takes most of an in-game day just to ride across. This can be mitigated by taking over the portals in the late game, and it is part of the design that movement is limited, but it is just annoying to take that thirty second ride yet again. It would be nice to have a mechanic balancing expansion that did not leave the player just holding down an arrow key and waiting.
Cerebral fun, not action-packed. Recruit, expand, build your Kingdom.