My wife wondered the other day why I’m not excited about board games. Well, the short answer was that I didn’t want to exhaust her by talking extensively about hundreds of games. But that got me to thinking, and by thinking it led me to coming up with a list of games, broken into three categories: games I haven’t played, games I’ve played at least once but she hasn’t played yet (with two exceptions, but neither were played just the two of us), and expansions I’m excited to try in games we’ve played. And so, here is the list. And many of the comments are written here directed at her, but I thought all of your might just enjoy reading along.
1. Blackout: Hong Kong – Let’s kick this off with a run of games from one of my favorite designers: Alexander Pfister. This game isn’t really a theme that draws me in, but it is a heavier game design by Pfister that got really solid reviews last year. We’ve enjoyed plenty of games where the theme isn’t grabbing, and this one should deliver a really solid experience. It has a rondel mechanism, and rewards clever and careful planning – something we’ll both enjoy.
2. Broom Service: The Card Game – This one is in our collection and will be a harder one to get played, not just because it is all card-based but also because it needs 3-6 players. But it is a quick player that focuses on the Brave/Cowardly mechanic from the board game and it sounds extremely promising.
3. Maracaibo – Do I want to play this because it is a Pfister game or because it is being published by Capstone Games? I’ll probably never be able to answer that definitively, but this game was very recently announced and shot onto my “must play” radar. Sailing around the Caribbean delivering goods and taking actions? Yep, that sounds like our kind of game in a nutshell.
4. Mombasa – No surprise here, this is part of my “Play every Pfister” campaign, and this is another one of the bigger games he’s designed. I think this one should be a nice fit for us, with some area control on the board for locations combined with an interesting action selection mechanism.
5. Newdale – There isn’t much information on this upcoming release yet, but it is a board game set in the Oh My Goods! World. I absolutely love Oh My Goods, and having a board game instead of a card-based game might just mean this is one my wife could enjoy as well.
6. Tybor the Builder – This game is a smaller Pfister game, and I know it is very unlikely my wife will like this one. Why? Because it is card-based, set in the same world as Oh My Goods!, and is a card drafting game. Oh yes, I expect her to hate it as much as I expect myself to love it. And hopefully she’ll suffer through a single play of it before it joins some of the other games in my “only play this with others” pile.
7. Empyreal: Spells & Steam – I’ve come to accept that I’m not likely to be a train gamer, and I know my wife will never be interested in those 18XX games. However, this takes train games and puts things into a fantasy setting with special powers, great art, and a production value that is through the roof. If there is a train game for the two of us, it would be this one.
8. On Mars – The newest Lacerda game takes things into space for a game that is going to be infinitely more interesting to me than Terraforming Mars. Honestly, that’s all I need to know about this to have it high on my list. New Lacerda = Interested. But honestly, we’ll be developing a colony on Mars and go from needing to travel often to Earth for supplies to being able to mostly self-sustain on the red planet. It sounds like an excellent Lacerda game.
9. Kanban: Automotive Revolution – I’m admittedly not excited about the theme, but that could be said about nearly every Lacerda game out there. And I was even less excited about the theme in CO2 and turned out to really love it. So there’s good hope that I’ll fall in love with yet another Lacerda game. After all, I am yet to meet one I don’t like. And this one has a super-clever twist on worker placement and the resolution of the actions that I think we’ll enjoy.
10. Le Havre – This is the one big box Rosenberg game I’m most eager to try out. It doesn’t play quite like any of his other titles, something I think is really interesting. Yet there should be enough similarities that it feels like we’re playing an Uwe game, even if it isn’t just another spin on the farming theme.
11. Architects of the West Kingdom – This is the same designer of the North Sea games, and set in Medieval Times. It provides yet another twist on worker placement that is pretty universally praised right now. If there is a game to dethrone Raiders of the North Sea, it might be this one. Or it might just share the glory. But really, this entered my list because:
12. Paladins of the West Kingdom – The second game in the West Kingdom series, and this has a theme that I am genuinely excited about. Sending out Paladins to build buildings, recruit monks, and spread faith throughout the turbulent medieval landscape. Yep, that does sound like my kind of game in a nutshell.
13. Pipeline – This game is one of the hottest games right now and probably with good reason. This one is a Capstone release and it has some nice building of pipelines combined with action selection and attempting to be efficient with your economy. This is our kind of game through and through.
14. Star Wars: Armada and Legion – Okay, hear me out on this one because I know you aren’t going to be excited. Massive ships flying around the table, locked in epic space battles. Unique movement tools that make it so bigger ships have a harder time making turns – something you need to plan for in advance. You almost always trounce me in battle/skirmish games, and I have no doubt it’ll happen here. And this one is supposed to be really, really good. Added: Legion is the smaller units battling it out. Vader, Luke,Han, Leia, Jyn. And I now know this one is exceptionally good.
15. Edge of Darkness – This game is supposedly what the designer of Mystic Vale wanted to do first, but the publisher chose to start with the smaller deckbuilder. This game uses the same card-creation concept, but with a massive board game to go along with it. So while it will seem similar to Mystic Vale in a small way, it sounds like overall this is its own unique, massive, epic game that you’re more likely to enjoy.
16. Harry Potter Trading Card Game – This is the one and only card game I’m putting here that I want you to try, and that’s because it is a competitve Harry Potter game. That was made prior to the movies, so it is all around the books with unique art for the characters. Unfortunately, it never made it past the 2nd books.
17. Res Arcana – The designer of Race for the Galaxy made a new game and it sounds so amazing – we’ll be mages gathering magical essences and crafting artifacts to summon dragons or conquer places of power. It’s probably more up my alley than yours, but I think we’ll both enjoy this one and the interactions it provides between players.
18. Mage Wars Academy – Okay, you probably won’t like this one, but I think it is really clever. And maybe Mage Wars Arena will be more to your taste, because it has a board, but this version will give us a taste for the core gameplay first in a shorter package before diving into something longer. This one promises to be really interesting at the very least, and I need to try it with someone not prone to a bunch of AP…
19. Shadows in Kyoto – A short little 2-player game set in the same theme as Hanamikoji but so very different in gameplay. Some hidden movement combined with conflict, this game should be the perfect thinky filler in any collection.
20. Teotihuacan: City of Gods – I’m still jealous you got to try this first. You enjoyed it, and therefore I need to try it. End of story.
21. Paper Tales – Yes, I know, card drafting. You don’t prefer card games. Well, there’s enough board games mixed in that I can be excited for a few card games, too. Plus the cards we’re drafting are used to build buildings, to battle each other, and more. So there’s some fun aspects you’ll enjoy – allowing you to crush my hopes and dreams of finding a game I’m excited for that I can consistently win.
22. Merlin – I mean, it is an Arthurian board game so that should be enough, right? This one is by the guy who designed Castles of Burgundy, which means there’s a decent chance you’ll enjoy it at least a little. The clever twist here is we’re moving knights and Merlin to activate actions – but any player can move the Merlin figure around the circle.
23. Stronghold: Second Edition – The Battle for Helms Deep in board game form, essentially. Okay, so it isn’t a LotR game, but it sure feels like it could be. And it looks like it will be incredibly amazing to play. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this for a long, long time and now that we have it, I just need to find an excuse to teach a multi-hour game.
24. Skulk Hollow – Two player game where one is controlling the heroes of Skulk Hollow and the other is controlling a massive Guardian that has woken up. The game looks incredible, and the variety to choose from in here will make for at least a few really fun and interesting plays to try all four main heroes and all four Guardians.
25. Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga – Unfortunately we need at least one friend to enjoy this game, but it is supposed to be the best of the viking games out there. Raiding, trading, and settling territories all happens, just like you’d expect from a pillaging horde of Vikings. And you know how much I like Viking themed games…
1. Port Royal – My wife is probably rolling her eyes at this one, provided she remembers our first play of this game. It is very much a lighter press-your-luck game, but I really enjoyed that first play and have been itching to see how it plays at 2. Plus there is an expansion that adds a solo story mode, which cemented this as a must-try.
2. The Gallerist – I could put every stinking Lacerda game in this section, as I always want to replay them. This is the one my wife would enjoy the most, I think, as it is as close to a worker placement game as his designs come. Plus I need to redeem myself after a remarkably pathetic showing in my first play.
3. Ora et Labora – This remains my favorite Rosenberg game in spite of the single play. It takes worker placement, adds the rondel of resources seen in Glass Road, and integrates some of the most interesting gameplay I’ve seen in any of his designs. This game can be extremely mean, something that I think I’ll regret once she plays this one.
4. Wasteland Express Delivery Service – I’ve been itching to try this one again, as we don’t do enough pick up & deliver games and this could join Broom Service and Firefly as a trilogy of games that are all really different from each other but provide that same mechanical approach.
5. Concordia – This game is supposed to be amazing with two players according to the founder of Capstone Games, and I enjoyed my first obliteration enough to want to try it again. Just not with a group of people who have played the game many times. This one has some interesting resource management and scoring mechanics that could make it really stand out.
6. Star Wars: Rebellion – This is supposed to be the Star Wars equivalent of War of the Ring: a big, epic game that captures the scope of the movies. And my first play wasn’t that great, since it was playing on teams. But I’ve always had an eye on this as another massive 2-player game that we could really enjoy playing several times a year.
7. Pandoria – The most recent addition to the list, as you likely know. This one was a ton of fun, with some tile laying and some really clever ways to be mean to your opponent. It has a theme we’ll enjoy, and spells and buildings will spice things up with each different play of the game.
8. Thunderstone Quest – Yes, I know, it is deckbuilding. But there is so much more going on in this game that I hope you’ll enjoy playing it as well. Because at some point you’re not so worried about upgrading your deck as you are about adventuring in the dungeon. Which is where this game really shines, I think, and will help it seem like something more than just an ordinary deckbuilder.
9. Nations – This is the civilization game I think you’re going to enjoy because it has some elements that remind me of worker placement. It is fun, has plenty of interaction, and will play out differently every time it hits the table. It reminds me a lot about that Civilization board game we had years ago, yet plays absolutely nothing like it. Such as there is no map to explore – everything comes from cards you buy and how you allocate your workers and resources.
10. Hoplomachus: Origins – This one you might absolutely hate, but it is fast and very tactile in play. And a whole lot of fun, controlling gladiators in an arena. Let’s throw on Gladiator in the background and play a dozen games of this, because we’ll get in a lot of plays before that movie is over.
11. Omen: A Reign of War – This game has a system similar to the fighting we enjoyed in Haven, where we’re playing cards to one of three locations in order to try and trigger a battle. Like Haven, there is a lot of fun back-and-forth in this game, and since I only have the base game right now you don’t have to worry about expansions getting mixed in. Yet.
12. Bushido – Oh yes, this is a clever game. Yes, there are dice. And yes, you’re rolling them every turn. But the cleverness comes in the cards you take early on and how you implement those to your advantage. Trust me, this is a quick dice-roller that has a lot more involved than you expect.
13. Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends – This one doesn’t look like much, but it has some really clever gameplay that made me enjoy my first play of the game. We’ll be deploying units, summoning stronger units and monsters, and trying to earn quest points while also attempting to slow down the other player.
14. At the Gates of Loyang – A Rosenberg game that isn’t worker placement – but does have some farming aspects to the game. I know it sounds like a contradiction, but this clever game has some great card drafting that sets up the turns to plant and harvest vegetables, sell them to markets, and try to move up the point track by spending that hard-earned money.
15. Roll Player – This game is like Sagrada, but about 100x more interesting and has a lot of good decisions. There is a lot less rolling of dice, and every turn offers ways to manipulate some of your dice in some way. This is one you’ll probably enjoy, even though it has a very big bag of dice…only a few are rolled each turn!
1. Great Western Trail: Rails to the North – I’ve heard from reliable sources that this takes Great Western Trail and cranks the experience to 11. Considering that GWT is a top-10 game for me already, that can only bode well for this excellent game. I love the idea of enhancing the railway along the top, adding more interesting decisions into the mix.
2. Isle of Skye: Journeyman & Druids – These two expansions add so many great things to the base game. Journeyman might be the more interesting of them, adding a personal player board and tracks to move along…plus a pawn that moves through your kindom to activate things. The Druids seems more streamlined to integrate, adding a 2nd buying phase with Druid tiles that can add special powers.
3. Argent the Consortium: Mancers of the University – This takes my favorite worker placement game and adds a ton of smaller modules to integrate into the game freely. But the real reason I can’t wait to use this is to try the new school of magic: Technomancy. It might be a long time before I ever try every little module in this game, but I’m always looking for an excuse to get this one played again.
4. A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians – This is a big expansion for an already big game. I’m hesitant to even try this one, as it adds two more animals to collect and breed for points – something she already excels at. But it adds more islands, more actions, and different start buildings which should improve an already enjoyable game in our collection.
5. Explorers of the North Sea: Rocks of Ruin – I mean, it adds Purple as a player color. It adds three new building types, a bunch of new tiles to explore, and player boards. I’ve heard it takes the base game, which was fine, and makes it a much more interesting experience. And I can’t wait to see if that is true or not.
6. Raiders of the North Sea: Hall of Heroes & Fields of Fame – I have a special large mat for the game so I might as well use it all, right? These add mead for new quests and enemy Jarls to add in extra threats as you go along. As much as we enjoy the standard game, everything I hear about this is glowing in terms how what they provide to the game experience. We might be playing with only one of them to start, but we’ll have them both eventually.
7. Mystic Vale: Harmony – Yes, I know. “We have enough Mystic Vale already”, right? Not possible. The best thing about this expansion? I don’t think it adds any new mechanics, just gives more variety of cards to buy, leaders to choose, and amulets to start with. Which is exactly what I would want right now from an expansion.
8. Seasons: Enchanted Kingdom & Paths of Destiny – We have the second of these already, and while I know you’ll never be super-excited to play Seasons…I really enjoy the game a lot. That one adds a new die to roll and more approaches to try to the game. While the Enchanted Kingdom expansion primarily adds more of the same: cards to choose from when playing the game.
9. Haspelknecht: The Ruhr – This expands everything in the base game, adding variety to the branching path of upgrades…something the base game desperately needed. Plus two new modules to integrate into a game we already both enjoy playing.
10. Keyflower: The Farmers & The Merchants – Yes, one of these does add more variety to the boats used in the game. As well as adding in farm building, growing wheat, and breeding animals. Which is going to play right into your strengths, unfortunately.