While we have lots of new games on this list, there are still games that came out in the 90s and earlier that are still great and have yet to be dethroned. El Grande is one of the best area control games there are with the players attempting to control different regions of Spain. Players use a few different types of cards with lots of different things to take into account when you play them adding lots of different choices.
To start a round there is a group of action cards revealed so that everyone knows the different actions that can take place over the course of the round. With that knowledge the players will use their power cards one at a time to see who has the priority during the action phase of the game. This can be a tough choice to make as a higher number would make it more likely that you will get first dibs on the actions but the lower numbers allow you to retrieve more of your meeples from the supply. Without meeples it will be impossible to control regions of the board!
When a player picks an action card they can choose to take the special action written on the card - or not. Sometimes you might choose an action card to prevent an opponent to have the pleasure of that action. You might also pick an action that is not the best for you because those cards also have meeple symbols. The number of meeple symbols on those cards is what determines how many you get to place in the regions of the board. Although you can only place those meeples in the Castillo or the regions next to the King (but not in his region!)
While I am not very good at this game, or area control games in general, this is still a ton of fun with interesting decisions to be made. Lots of different actions help you manipulate the board to gain control of the regions are they are scored every third round. You definitely need to pick your battles as spending all your resources to control one high points region can be defeated by spending less effort to control the less valuable regions.
If you are looking to compete against your friends for control of the board or just want to work your way through some of the modern classic make sure to give El Grande a try. It now sold mostly as the Big Box which have tons of different modules you can use to add even more variety to El Grande game play.