Hahaha, we've been playing Star Realms A LOT. I'm on IOS as Jarvin if you want to play a game or two. I've been giving a few decks away to friends as well, everyone is really enjoying it.
Run, Fight or Die is topping my list. It will have to wait until next year, the gaming budget has run dry for us. Seemed to be the talk of GenCon though.
Darkest Night is great! I feel it is the spiritual successor to an old game called Dark Emperor. I'm really impressed with the quality that VPG has been putting out lately. I need to grab some expansions for it one of these days.
The others were completely off my radar, I'll need to add them to my BGG list. Hoplomachus in particular sounds intriguing. Is it mano y mano, or more akin to the formations of say, Battle Line?
Neither, really. Small groups go at each other, and each unit has different tactical abilities, but I wouldn't call it formation based. You need to get your fighters into position to help each other deal the best damage to the other guys.
It feels like a classic arena skirmish, though the cities who are presenting their fighters include Xanadu, Atlantis and El Dorado. It doesn't go crazy with the fantasy at all.
There's a progression system as well, through crowd favor, which will have you unlocking certain abilities (with the caveat that you also help your opponent a little), including releasing your champion, who is essentially chained in place on the battleground (and can be attacked) until you earn enough favor to release him. You can almost hear the crowd roaring when that happens.
The gameplay is quite good, and the real draw of it is the mousepad style gameboard and the chip based health system. It's not gorgeous or anything, but it's clever.
Here's a look:
That said, if you've play Splendor too soon before playing this, the chips will feel a little disappointing. But the system is still cool.
There are also some cool solo scenarios. Especially in the sequel, Rise of Rome, where you have to send your cities gladiators in against a Titan.