Mark's #19: Return of the Heroes
It's a classic "character building" game - you wander about the magical lands, gathering experience & special weapons for your shot at The Nameless One. Kill him and you not only free the land from evil, but you also win the game. Of course, you must prove your worth by completing a quest - a mechanism that also acts as a timer to ramp up the nastiness of the bad guys.
What's nice here is that there's a good bit of decision making involved - and a variety of strategies that can be used to win the game. Balancing experience, gold, equipment and tasks are key to doing well. The 16 piece gameboard is nice as well - no game feels exactly like the game before.
The Return of the Heroes system also wins the award for Best Expansion... Under the Shadow of the Dragon is not simply more stuff (maps, monsters, etc.) - it's actually a 2 player game that works very well on it's own. When you add the two sets together, you end up with a monster game that's as good a fantasy experience as any game I own.
There's a 2nd expansion just published in Germany... "Heroes in the Underworld." (Cue Mark to laugh giddily like a schoolgirl.)