I really like boardgames where the board includes random potential: Settlers of Catan with its random tiles.
This is pretty rough, but… Let me know how you feel about this one.
You will need:
One set of 6-dot dominoes (so 28 tiles)
4 “white” and 4 “black” stones (pawns, tokens)
4 six-sided dice
Set the seven dominoes with blanks aside, in order (one, two, three, …, six, blank). This is The Underworld. For purposes of game mechanics, tiles in The Underworld can hold an infinite number of pawns.
Lay the others out randomly in a 3×7 grid. This is The Battlefield. Each domino tile is divided in halves into two spaces, the two numbers on the domino. This means we’ve just made a 6×7 board of spaces.
Taking turns, roll pairs of dice, and place two stones on the corresponding tile (one in each space) — for instance, if you roll a 4 and a 3, place your stones on the domino 3,4 tile.
If there are already stones there (you’ve duplicated a roll), return them to the owner.
Continue doing this until all stones are placed.
Once all stones are placed, the game begins. Players take turns. Within a turn, the player will cast the dice, move their stones, capture stones, and return stones.
In more detail: roll all four dice; spaces bearing those numbers are “active”.
Stones of your color on active spaces* may move to other orthogonally adjacent spaces, and may repeat this movement until they move to a non-active space. Stones cannot move into or through spaces already containing a stone. This phase includes movement in The Underworld, which works in the same fashion (save that spaces in the Underworld are infinitely large and so can be stepped into or through even if already occupied).
Now each of your stones still on an “active” space may capture: step into an adjacent space containing a stone of either color; place the stone in The Underworld tile with the same value as The Battlefield space it just vacated. Each stone may only capture once per turn. You may capture your own stones.
Finally, if any of your stones are on the blank Underworld space (having moved into it from the 6 space during the move phase), they return to the board. Similar to the beginning of the game, one at a time roll two six sided dice. You may place the reincarnating stone in either of the two matching spaces, and if it was already occupied, capture the offending stone (placing it in The Underworld as normal).
If none of your stones are on active spaces during your turn, I feel badly for you but you receive no other recompense.
The game ends when all of one side’s stones are in The Underworld — the other player wins.
Strategies: On The Battlefield, well-connected runs of numbers are powerful, since they give you a lot of mobility. Pieces that are on 6s have a big advantage in The Underworld. Having a variety of different numbered spaces gives you better odds of being able to activate on your turn, but will probably somewhat limit mobility.
* This is my big dissatisfaction: to determine if a space is active you have to peek under your stones. Might work best with translucent pawns?
Open questions: allow additional capture of pawns in The Underworld? A sop for having no tokens on active spaces? It’s a bit swingy, but I think I still feel like I’m making decisions that matter — am I? Do they?