Board Game Lists · Board Gaming · Wish List

Fifty Games or Expansions I’m Excited About

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.

New-to-Me
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…

Replay
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!

Adding Expansions
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.

Board Game Lists

Top 30 Heavy Games

Did you know that November is Heavy Games month? I heard rumor that it may be that, and you should definitely check out some of the heavy games on Kickstarter right now such as:

Pipeline by Capstone Games (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/capstonegames/pipeline-…)

The City on the Big Shoulders by Parallel Games (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1836800889/city-of-the-…)

So to celebrate I decided to throw all of the heavy games I’ve played into a list on Pub Meeple’s ranking engine to bring you my Top 30 (because there are 30 days in the month) Heavy Games.

I used the BGG Advanced Search to filter down to only games with a weight rating of 3.0 or higher, and from there I stopped looking at titles once I hit the BGG Ranking of 7000, which meant I looked through about 1500 titles. I won’t tell you the shamefully small number I have played, but what I will share are the 30 that I ranked above all of the others:

30. Root – So much universal love for the game, and I enjoy it as well. But the honeymoon phase has faded and there are other games that are far better with 2-players.

29. Sid Meier’s Civilization Board Game – I haven’t played the newest iteration of the game, but this FFG version was a great representation of the computer game I grew up loving to play.

28. A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (2nd Edition) – This game is not really playable with 2, therefore it left our collection long ago, but this would be that game to almost always pull out with 6 players for an epic, tense game.

27. Star Wars: Rebellion – I’ve still only played it once, and thus its low ranking here; yet that one play left a strong enough impression that I can’t wait to see whether or not it holds up.

26. In the Year of the Dragon – This game feels almost too light for this list, yet there is a simple brutality in this game that I really have enjoyed at all player counts.

25. Caverna: The Cave Farmers – One of only two Rosenberg titles to make the cut, as I prefer the adventuring over the card play in Agricola and the tetris puzzle in A Feast for Odin. This isn’t Rosenberg’s best game, but it is a solid worker placement that I rarely regret playing and think will be amazing with the Expansion.

24. Star Wars: Imperial Assault – This may be the game I’ve parted with that I regret the most, now that there is an app to solo play the campaign. The real star of the show was the 2-player skirmish mode, which was so excellent. But I disliked the churning of extra content from FFG and that was a big reason why this eventually had to go.

23. The Castles of Burgundy – The second of three Feld games to grace the list, and this one is a staple for a reason. It has enough mitigation to where the better player can, and often will, win in spite of any dice roll results.

22. Haspelknect – This undermentioned gem has some really interesting mechanics that I always enjoy getting to the table. I’ve heard the expansion on this cranks it up to 11, meaning I definitely need to grab it to see if this climbs further up the list.

21. Trajan – The final Feld game, and easily my favorite of them. I really enjoy the mancala action on here, and can’t wait for this to be rereleased even if it isn’t changed in any way.

20. Keyper – This game takes the fun elements of a game like Agricola or Caverna and makes it more interesting in all the right ways. I’m horrible at the game, but I enjoy the flippy boards each season and trying to strike a balance on how best to utilize my different Keyples.

19. Vinhos – This is the first of many Lacerda games to grace the list, but to say this is the worst of them is a diservice to the game. It is such a tight, excellent game where you quickly realize that a dozen actions is never going to be enough yet you can do so much that you’ll be thinking how to do it all better the next time.

18. Keyflower – One of the hardest decisions was when I had to choose Keyper or Keyflower, and I gave the nod to this one simply because of the unique bidding system and the clever use of those green Keyples. With more plays, this will easily climb the list a few spots.

17. Middle-Earth – Yes, a dead CCG made the list and with good reason. This manages to be such a thematic representation of Tolkien’s world, and competing against the other Istari wizards makes for a unique flavor. Cards are still mostly available at a reasonable price, and it was enough to hook me and a friend from the first agonizing play.

16. Food Chain Magnate – My first Splotter experience two months ago didn’t disappoint. Between the branching career paths for workers, the spatial element of controlling the demand on the board, and the impact of milestones – there is just so much in this game that I feel a need to replay it many times over just to really appreciate this gem.

15. CO2 – Honestly, this game surprised me in a way I never expected. I thought I’d hate the game, but found only a few turns into the experience that it was hitting all the right chords with me. Even if you have no interest in the theme or the so-called semi-cooperative nature of the game (really, you only are “working together” by making sure the pollution level never reaches a critical point), this one is worth checking out because it is such a great game in this box.

14. Gloomhaven – This one had to appear somewhere on the list, didn’t it? I’ve played a handful of games, but had to drop out of the regular group I had just joined. I enjoy the cardplay on this one, and still think this RPG-in-a-box might be something that would provide so many hours of delightful experiences.

13. BattleCON – The simple system of BattleCON makes it easy to pick up and learn, yet the weight on this dueling game comes from the open information and the wildly different playstyles of every character. Even when playing a character whose style is counterintuitive to my own preference, I still find myself having fun playing this game.

12. Spirit Island – The newest addition onto this list made a really strong first few impressions during some solo plays. I need to find a way to convince my wife to ignore the cooperative word on here and give it a play, as this is the kind of game I am sure she’d still enjoy playing together. This has so many delightfully tense decisions that I always feel like my turn matters.

11. Carthago: Merchants & Guilds – My current frontrunner as the best game of 2018, this game has a delightful system of multi-use cards, a tight rondel for actions, and has shown itself to contain multiple paths to victory.

10. The Gallerist – This game probably best demonstrates a Lacerda design, containing clear objectives to work toward via a small handful of actions, yet accomplishing any of those objectives takes plenty of time, planning, and an ability to call an audible when other players inevitably get in your way. This might be the easiest of his current games to teach, but there is a ton of room for learning to master the game and play it efficiently.

9. Ora et Labora – Easily the best Rosenberg I have played to date, this has so many excellent decisions and interesting challenges along the way, I love the resource wheel in this, just as I did in Glass Road (which, sadly, fell at a 2.97 weight rating and missed qualifying for the list) and there is a surprising amount of room for direct player interaction that is lacking in too many worker placement games.

8. Nations – The best of the civ-builder games that I have played. No, I have not tried Through the Ages yet but I think this one might be hard to topple. It has interesting decisions with upgrading and allocating to your own action spaces, an aspect which shines for me as a player.

7. The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade – This game is the best dice game on the market, as they never get rolled. This has simple mechanics, yet the decisions are tough at times and there is sufficient room for pursuing unique paths over the course of the game. I can’t wait for the final title in this trilogy to get the Capstone reprint so my colleciton can be complete.

6. Argent: The Consortium – Starting with this game through the #3 spot, these were some really tough choices. I absolutely love this worker placement gem, with an incredible theme and strong interaction between players. The delayed activation of workers until the end of the round opens up many opportunities to counter your opponent’s plans, and the 2nd Edition upgrade on this fixed the biggest issue the game had component-wise by providing better minis.

5. Rococo – My heart withers a little knowing there is no talk of a reprint on this incredible game. Sure, the theme might sound a little boring, but this game stole my heart from the first play. The deckbuilding is spectacular and essential to effective execution in a game about making dresses and suits.

4. Lignum – I really, really struggled with this and the next game. Lignum was a Top 5 game overall for me, and still is deserving of that placement. The long-term planning you need to be efficient in this game makes it a cherished part of my collection, and a game that always provides a good experience over the course of 2+ hours.

3. Lisboa – Lacerda’s best game to date is also arguably his densest game. There is just so much to explore that it can easily overwhelm a new player, yet once you get a handle on the basic concepts this game holds one of the best gaming experiences on the market. I’ve played and enjoyed this at 1, 2, and 3 players and will always be willing to sit down and play (and now teach) this game.

2. War of the Ring (Second Edition) – It is finally time to stop deluding myself – this is no longer my #1 game. It has dropped a spot, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t an excellent gaming experience. When I want an epic struggle in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, there is no other game I’d rather play for several hours with one friend. So much about this game is fantastic, and regardless of which side I am playing there is a feeling of epic scale and emotional swings that check all the right boxes that a game should check.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Yes, a Living Card Game takes the top spot. If you don’t think a card game can have weight, you haven’t played this one. There are so many fun and tense decisions to make, whether playing alone or working together with others, that this scratches every itch I want from a Lord of the Rings game (apart from competing against a player…until recently). It is easily my most-played game with over 100 logged played in just over a year, and the go-to solo game in my collection. Some dislike the chance that you might need to tweak a deck, or even change your deck completely, in order to beat a specific quest. As for me, I find that is what helps give it the nice weight I like in a game, as I need to adapt and plan better in order to be successful.

***

And there you have it, my top 30 heavy games. What games didn’t make my list that I definitely should check out if I haven’t already?

Board Game Lists · Board Gaming · Top Ten List

Top 25 Games: #25-21

I’ll likely be making videos to correspond to this as well, going with a more off-the-cuff approach to explaining what I like about these games and why they make my list. So if you’d rather watch than read this, be sure to hop on over and subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

The reason to do a Top 25 is simple: there are a ton of great games outside of my Top 10. I haven’t played enough games to merit doing more than 25 (yet), and there are many games I want to play a second (or third) time to really nail down where they belong on the overall list. These rankings were determined about two weeks ago, and already there feels like there could be some fluctuation. This is a fluid list. The difference between #25 and #15 is, overall, marginal at best. The real jump in rank doesn’t come until around #5-6, with those being the absolute elite games for me. And, as I play more games (I’ve gotten to just under 250 unique games so far) that range might expand to the entire Top 10 and beyond.

So without further ado, here we go! Come back every Friday for another batch of games:

#25 – Harvest, Published in 2017 by Tasty Minstrel Games. Designed by Trey Chambers. 2-4 Players.

This is my one and only audible I’ve called on the list since its creation. I enjoyed Harbour enough that I was immediately interested in this game since it was set in the same “world”, but I was assured the two games were nothing alike beyond that. And boy, did that turn out to be very true. This is a small box worker placement game that has so much fun, depth, and replay value that it blows my mind thinking about it. I love this one so much that it has temporarily worn out its welcome with my wife, and that is saying a lot for a worker placement game. I clearly like this one way more than she does, and I’m okay with that.

What convinced me to audible this in here happened last night, actually. I taught four new players the game, which sadly left me out of playing it. But I enjoyed teaching it and hearing them all talking about it afterwards. They all enjoyed the game and wanted me to bring it again in the very near future to get a second play of the game. So much is packed into five rounds (with only two workers!) that it seems like it should be impossible to accomplish as much as you do. The action cards, the initiative cards, the buildings…all of these things work well together to make one of the best farming-themed games out there. Go ahead and tell me I’m wrong. If you haven’t tried this one, you need to. For the price of this game, it is hard to find a better value out there.

#24 – Viticulture: Essential Edition, Published in 2015 by Stonemaier Games. Designed by Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone, with the solo Automa by Morten Monrad-Pedersen. 1-6 Players.

This game blew me away with just how much I enjoyed it. Sometimes a game comes along where the theme is so embedded into the mechanics that they flow well together, and this does it better than any other worker placement game I’ve ever seen. This is a tough one for new players – it really takes a few years of play to see how your early actions synchronize to allow you to harvest grapes, make them into wine, and then sell them as an order to gain regular income. Once it all clicks, though, this becomes a game that is easy to enjoy and get behind. The visitor cards can feel swingy, but they all can feel that way depending on your situation. I love that it is possible to win by focusing just on wines, and it is also possible to win by not filling any orders at all.

This happens to be one of the worker placement games that I do well at, which isn’t a common thing to say. This game rewards planning ahead as well as being able to adapt on the fly based on the cards you get into your hand. I’ve played once with the Tuscany expansion and, I have to say, it is going to be a must-buy for me. It’ll add even more complexity and depth to an already fun and enjoyable game, and after some time playing this with the expansion it will likely be a climber on this list.

#23- Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, Published in 2015 by Mayfair Games/Lookout Games. Designed by Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan. 2-5 Players.

This game effectively made it so I never need to play Carcassonne ever again. Not that it is a bad game, but rather this adds so much more meaningful decisions along the way in the same amount of play time. This is one of the few games in our collection that really plays a lot better with more than 2, but still works fine as a 2-player game. I love the integration of building your own little kingdom (and I do mean little!), bidding on tiles, and shifting scoring objectives. It is Carcassonne meets The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, the latter being a game I really love and it is one of two games that I truly regret removing from my collection. This game put the designer, Alexander Pfister, on my radar as one to really watch. It turns out that I really enjoy all of his games that I have played. And no, I haven’t played Great Western Trail…yet.

This is the best of the tile-laying genre of games for me. Having to set your pricing right to either keep the tile(s) you want without overpaying or to price it just right to get every penny you can for it makes the game really interesting. This game likely has a forever spot in my collection, and is a go-to grab if we need a game to play in under an hour with 4-5 (as long as we aren’t playing with someone who has serious A.P., which is something this game can really encourage…)

#22 – Aeon’s End, Published in 2016 by Indie Boards & Cards and Action Phase Games. Designed by Kevin Riley. 1-4 Players.

When my wife says she likes a co-op game, I take notice because that is about as uncommon as her liking a dice-rolling game. I played it a few times, hitting solo, 2-player, and 4-player games of this and my initial reaction was lukewarm. It was a fine game. I liked the deckbuilding and how it never shuffled (even though a few times I caught myself shuffling out of habit!). This was a game that needed to soak in.

It has climbed up steadily based on memories of the game and a desire to jump back in again and experience it more in-depth. I’ve faced down two of the base Nemesis bosses. There are more to face, and a ton of expansions to try out. And boy, I want to try them all. I love a deckbuilder game and this is one of the better ones I’ve played. It was also the hardest one to place here. The first time I ran through PubMeeple’s ranking system I did every game I played, and somehow this one landed at #7. That stuck out like a sore thumb. It didn’t seem right. A game I didn’t own, and hadn’t played in months, being that high up? It was enough to make me take notice, though. I think this ranking is probably closer to where it belongs…at least until I get the game into my collection and can explore it at greater length…

If you like cooperative games or deckbuilders, this one is unique and interesting enough to merit some serious consideration.

#21 – The Castles of Burgundy, Published in 2011 by Ravensburger Games. Designed by Stefan Feld. 2-4 Players.

Remember the remark above about dice-rolling games? Yep, this one shocked me when she proclaimed she liked the game. We got it from the guy who taught it for $20, and it has been worth every penny. It is a game that has gradually grown on me, much like Aeon’s End needed to. But I’ve come to not only enjoy the game, but want to actively try and play it.

Some say this is best with 4 because you’ll see so many more tiles, making it easier to plan for what will eventually come out. I feel it overstays its welcome at that player count. The sweet spot here is 2, as it comes in at about an hour to play the game. I love the various paths you can take to victory, and that there are alternative sides to the player boards. They really alter how you approach what is available, and that makes this even more fun and replayable. I want to look into those mini-expansions, at the very least getting the new player boards into the collection. This is one of those best work night games, to bust out after the little one goes to bed, because it taxes the brain enough while also being quick enough with 2 players. There is a reason so many people talk about this game, although I wouldn’t say it is my favorite Feld game…

 

And there you have it! The first five games. Were there any that surprised you? Feel free to discuss, either in the comments here or over on a thread designed for discussion of this Top 25 over on BGG!

Board Game Lists · Board Gaming · Top Ten List · Wish List

Ten Games I Want to Play in 2018

Last year I made a list of a ton of games I wanted to be sure to play in 2017. Overall I did a respectable job at trying most of those games, although I did miss a few of them. I thought I would make the same approach this year, but going with ten games to fit into ten different “categories” of my choosing. There are so many great games out there, but these are the ones highest on my list to try right now.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to go to HeavyCon and knock a few of these off my list…

1. A Capstone Games game – Three Kingdoms Redux

This game intrigues me so much. A heavy game for exactly three players. Asymmetric sides. Shifting of power over the course of the game. A dynamic tension that will come from having the presence of three sides vying for power over the course of the game. This is a game that is likely to be difficult to bring and play at a random game night, but is the perfect game to coordinate a play. It is a Capstone title, which means I already am inclined to give it a try (thus the category for a Capstone game!) I definitely hope to play all of the Capstone games out there, but this one stands at the top of my list of their games I hope to play.

Which of the Capstone Games titles do you enjoy the most?

2. A Top 10 Game – Terra Mystica

As of this writing I have played only four of the top 10 games listed on BGG. I definitely want to try a few of the others in there, but the one that stands out most is Terra Mystica. It is that game I hear talked about so often, yet I am lacking a play of the game. It sounds like my type of game, one that I think my wife would enjoy playing as well. I know the new hotness is Gaia Project, but I would rather start with the game which paved the way for some of the other current games.

Which group should I play as for my first game? Let me know in the comments below!

3. A Train Game – Age of Steam

Hoo boy, I know I need to eventually tackle a train game. As in an 18XX game, not just Ticket to Ride or Whistle Stop. Before plunging into the deep end, I think it’d be beneficial to visit this classic in the genre. It is long out of print, but hopefully someone local has a copy that they’d be willing to pull out and teach. With around 160 maps to choose from, this is the ultimate game for variety out there.

Let me know which map(s) are best to learn on for each player count! I’m sure the teacher will already have an idea in mind, but if I could only play one map at __ player count, what should it be?

4. An Uwe Rosenburg Game – Ora et Labora

There are a handful of Rosenburg big-box games I haven’t played yet: Fields of Arle, Glass Roads, Le Havre. But the one game I want to try more than any other right now would be this out of print classic. I fully blame Edward and Amanda at Heavy Cardboard for this one, as their review of the game last year sucked me in and made me want to play this. The opportunity never came up last year, but I am going to work hard to get a chance to try it this year. I know at least one local player has a copy, which means there is a chance.

Let me know which Rosenburg game is YOUR favorite!

5. A COIN Game – Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain

Like the train games, this will be the year I try out a COIN game. There are plenty of them to choose from at this point, although only two of them have a strong theme appeal to me (Pendragon & Falling Sky). I was so excited about the release of Pendragon when I heard about it last year, and this one has a strong appeal with both a solo mode and what should be a great 2-player experience. I’m a huge Arthurian/Middle Ages fan, and that makes this the ideal game to reel me into the COIN system. I’m letting myself buy at most two games this year. This one has a very high chance of being one of those two purchases.

Which COIN game in the series is your favorite so far?

6. A Filler Game – Arboretum

Let’s go ahead and blame Heavy Cardboard for this one as well. Out of print? Check. Thinky filler? Check. You can never have, or play, too many fillers, especially of the variety which engage your brain. I’ve heard nothing but strong responses about this one, and I can’t wait to try this out. There were a few others that came close to stealing this spot, especially after watching a little of Heavy Cardboard’s live stream of Iron Curtain last night. But I decided to stick with my initial resolution of seeking a play or two of Arboretum. Maybe this will be a game that Capstone can bring back into print on their Simply Complex line…

What are some of your favorite filler games? Let me know in the comments below!

7. Golden Elephant Winner – Food Chain Magnate

This game was going to make the list already, but I decided to shift it here in order to open #9 for a different title. I have heard a ton of great things about this game, and I know of a few locals who own the game and at least one person who proclaims it as their favorite game. This might be among the easiest games on this list to get a chance to play. This is one of those games that, initially, I had no interest in playing when I heard about it. Thankfully, my tastes and interests have grown over time and now this game easily makes my list of ones I can’t wait to try out.

Let’s have some fun with this spot…2017 is in the books and soon we’ll learn the games Edward & Amanda will be nominating for their Golden Elephant awards. Any guesses on what games we might see as finalists for the award?

8. A Vital Lacerda Game – Vinhos

I played my first Lacerda game last year when I tried out Lisboa. I still crave a second play of that game. I’ve heard mixed opinions on which of his games are the best, but the one that seems to be universally proclaimed as being good is Vinhos. I really enjoyed playing Viticulture, which is that other wine-making game out there. And yes, I know the two games are as different as can be. This game will probably melt my brain, much like did during Lisboa, and I can’t wait to experience the game that kicked off Vital’s career as a designer. I am reasonably certain this should be an easy game to find a willing teacher for, and I have a feeling that 2018 might turn into a quest to try all of Vital’s games so far.

Which Lacerda game is your favorite? There seems to be a great divide over this question, so I am curious which one you love most and why!

9. A Splotter Game – Antiquity

Splotter is a company that holds a high reputation for games in the industry. I haven’t played a single one yet, and if this list works out I will have played at least two when I finish these ten games. It was a struggle to decide between this, The Great Zimbabwe, and Roads & Boats for the spot. TGZ was just mentioned by Edward as a Gateway to Heavier Games. Travis at Low Player Count sings the praises for Roads & Boats on pretty much every other episode of their podcast. At least it feels that way! But I think the recent reprint of Antiquity signals a good time to try this one out. I’ve seen a few locals posting about the game, which means it is being purchased and has people who would likely want to play the game. The theme grabs me more than any other Splotter title, as well, so I’ll be looking forward to trying this one out.

You know the drill by now: which is your favorite Splotter title?

10. People’s Choice – Keyflower

Yesterday I created a poll with ten games. Essentially, the next ten in consideration for this list. The ones that didn’t quite make the cut. What I didn’t expect was for one of the games on that list to win by a landslide. It was an overwhelming majority voting for Keyflower, which was a game I hoped to play in 2017 (it made honorable mention on my list) but the one time I cam closest to playing the game, it didn’t pan out. Too many people wanted to play a game and, rather than splitting into two groups, we played Bohnanza with 7 players. Oh, how I wish it had been Keyflower instead. This is one I know my wife would enjoy, too, as it is a unique worker placement game. What better way to hook her onto the Key-series, just like she’s hooked onto Rosenburg, than by playing this title with her?

Wide open question on this one: if someone said you could play only one game this year, which would you pick and why? It could be a new game, something new to you, or your overall favorite game!

The next 10

Here’s the next ten that would make the list, not sorted in order or by category:

11. Twilight Struggle
12. Caylus
13. Le Havre
14. Rococo
15. Dominant Species
16. Trick of the Rails
17. Iron Curtain
18. 1846: The Race for the Midwest
19. An Infamous Traffic
20. Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Awards · Board Game Lists · Board Gaming

Cardboard Clash 2017 Board Game Awards

The old year has ended and we’re well into 2018 now. But there is still time, and reason, to look back to the previous year and reflect on the experiences in gaming for 2017. I threw together a post with polls last month, narrowing down to my top 5 nominations in each category and letting the BGG users vote on who they would pick as a winner based on the category among my nominees. How often do they line up? Read on to find out!

Check out the previous post and see who all of the nominees were in each category. If they made the list, they deserve the recognition!

Best 2017 Release

The Voters Picked: Lisboa by Vital Lacerda, published by Eagle-Gryphon Games

My Pick: 878: Vikings – Invasions of England by Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, and Jeph Stahl, published by Academy Games

Runner Up: Lisboa by Vital Lacerda, published by Eagle-Gryphon Games

This was a tough one for me to call, as I really liked my one play of Lisboa. Really, really like that one play. If I owned the game and played it a few more times, it probably would have taken this category because I am sure it is that great of a game. However, 878: Vikings is everything I hoped it would be and more. This game convinced me to back my first ever kickstarter. It delivered on time, and the production quality on everything is great. And the gameplay is really solid. They have a fantastic system implemented, with a ton of mini expansions to allow you to customize the gaming experience. The game reminded my wife of a lighter version of War of the Ring, and that description has stuck with me. It truly does feel like the combat aspect of War of the Ring to an extent, which is high praise indeed since War of the Ring is my absolute favorite game. This is a game that will be a staple of my collection for years to come due to the solid gameplay and the ability to customize with those expansions.

Best New-to-Me Game in 2017

The Voters Picked: Mystic Vale by John D. Clair, published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

My Pick: Lignum (Second Edition) by Alexander Huemer, published by Capstone Games

Runner Up: Albion’s Legacy by Thomas M. Gofton, Aron Murch, and Cameron Parkinson, published by Lynnvander Productions and Jasco Games

I first encountered Albion’s Legacy in March of 2017 and it instantly was that one game which catapulted into my Top 10 list. I was convinced, for months, that it would be the game to take the honors here. It was a cooperative game that I actually enjoyed playing with others (and solo) because it was so crushingly difficult to win and because it is steeped in Arthurian lore. And then along came a review copy of Lignum, a game that I had no expectations for when I opened the box. I had enjoyed Haspelknecht, so I was willing to give another Capstone Games title a try. I was so blown away from the first play of this game. It is deep, challenging, and rewards successful planning seasons in advance. I couldn’t stop gushing about the game when I reviewed it a few months ago, and that hasn’t changed one bit since that time. Lignum is a game that blew me away in a way that few games ever have.

Best 2-Player Only Game

The Voters Picked: Star Realms by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, published by White Wizard Games

My Pick: Hanamikoji by Kota Nakayama, published by Quick Simple Fun Games

Runner Up: Android: Netrunner by Richard Garfield and Lukas Litzsinger, published by Fantasy Flight Games

There is a certain elegance in the design of Hanamikoji that draws me in and makes me a huge advocate for the game. It is the perfect 2-player game because it is small, simple, fast, and incredibly deep with its strategy. It amazes me how much game is packed into so few components, something I always enjoy seeing, and this is a game that is priced so well that there is little excuse not to have this in a collection. Netrunner, on the other hand, has a barrier to entry in terms of how much content exists for the game. It is daunting. You’ll want to feel like you need to own all of it. It might just be worth the price to enter, because this is a game that continues to impress me with its asymmetric play, the creative deck construction you can tinker with, and the overall fun that is had regardless of which side you’re playing.

Best Cooperative Game

The Voters Picked: Arkham Horror: The Card Game by Nate French and Matthew Newman, published by Fantasy Flight Games

My Pick: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games by Nate French, published by Fantasy Flight Games

Runner Up: Albion’s Legacy by Thomas M. Gofton, Aron Murch, and Cameron Parkinson, published by Lynnvander Studios and Jasco Games

This is another one of those categories where some new titles made a late push onto the scene and one of them disrupted Albion’s Legacy’s hold upon the title. I became a huge fan of playing Lord of the Rings LCG solo. It became my #1 solo game over the course of 2017 once I reacquired the Core Set. I didn’t expect it to be as fun playing with a friend, but time spent playing quests with a new friend has convinced me otherwise. The Fellowship event further solidified this as an outstanding game to play with others. Albion’s Legacy appears again because it is a great benchmark for what a cooperative game should be: challenging, contain rewarding moments, contain moments of despair, and have a strong theme woven into the box’s contents.

Best Worker Placement Game

The Voters Picked: Viticulture: Essential Edition by Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone, and Morten Monrad Pedersen, published by Stonemaier Games

My Pick: Argent: The Consortium by Trey Chambers, published by Level 99 Games

Runner Up: Lignum (Second Edition) by Alexander Huemer, published by Capstone Games

This was a tough one to choose between the two games. Both of these are fantastic and a lot of fun. The ultimate factor, though, was weighting how much of a component the worker placement is for the game. The placement in Argent is a far bigger piece of the game, giving it the edge here. The modular “board” from tiles, each with different power and various spots, adds a ton of replay and a lot of importance to what “worker” you place on which spot on the board during each turn. Lignum is a worker placement game that rarely feels like worker placement, even while moving the foreman along the numbered track and placing hired workers into the appropriate areas of your player board. Yet the worker placement in Lignum is one of the most important aspects of the game, making it a sneaky-good use of the mechanic.

Best Game in the BGG Top 100

The Voters Picked: Scythe by Jamey Stegmaier, published by Stonemaier Games

My Pick: War of the Ring (Second Edition) by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Ares Games

Runner Up: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games by Nate French, published by Fantasy Flight Games

There are so many excellent games in the Top 100, both that I have played and those I am yet to experience but I know I will end up loving. Early in the year, Scythe would probably have been my runner up here as I really fell in love with the game. It is the right balance of so many things and plays well regardless of the player count. I knew my #1 would be War of the Ring – nothing can dethrone that game for me. It is epic, balanced, and feels like a tense tug-of-war with every game of it that is played. As a huge Tolkien fan, there isn’t much surprise to me that there was a second Middle-Earth game that could steal my heart. It is the best solo game out there and is fun as you add in more players. It requires you to be willing to adapt, sometimes completely scrapping a deck and building something solely to conquer the challenge of a specific quest. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all path to victory when it comes to decks, making it an impressive game that has so much content released that a person could play for a long time without the game getting stale.

Best Game Outside the BGG Top 1000

The Voters Picked: 878: Vikings – Invasions of England by Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, and Jeph Stahl, published by Academy Games

My Pick: Lignum (Second Edition) by Alexander Huemer, published by Capstone Games

Runner Up: Albion’s Legacy by Thomas M. Gofton, Aron Murch, and Cameron Parkinson, published by Lynnvander Studios and Jasco Games

Don’t judge a game by its number on BGG! There are so many gems out there that don’t make the top 100, much less the top 1000. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lignum makes the top 1000 some day, as it is a game very much deserving of the recognition. 878: Vikings is another game I fully expect to see make it there at some point because it is a newer release. What makes me sad is that Albion’s Legacy may never even come close. I know it had issues upon release, but those don’t detract from what is an exceptional game in the box. I think if Jasco/Lynnvander ever decided to split the expansion content for the game into a pack or two and sell them at retail, that might give this game the needed boost to propel it up at least a little higher.

Best Heavy Game

The Voters Picked: Scythe by Jamey Stegmaier, published by Stonemaier Games

My Pick: War of the Ring (Second Edition) by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Ares Games

Runner Up: Lignum (Second Edition) by Alexander Huemer, published by Capstone Games

When I think of a heavy game, I think of something with long-term planning, weighty decisions, and an experience that will leave me satisfied by the end regardless of the outcome. War of the Ring always delivers in spite of the presence of dice in the game because they aren’t completely dictating the game and the decisions you should make. Lignum checks all the right boxes on this one, being a brain-burning game that rewards planning and adaptability. I am just starting to explore the heavier end of the spectrum, but these have quickly become my favorite style of games.

Best Filler Game

The Voters Picked: Star Realms by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, published by White Wizard Games

My Pick: Eight Minute Empire: Legends by Ryan Laukat, published by Red Raven Games

Runner Up: Hanamikoji by Kota Nakayama, published by Quick Simple Fun Games

This was a tough one for me to choose from, as there are different reasons to choose from the games on this list. They all play in a quick amount of time. Hanamikoji is great because it provides a fantastic 2-player experience with a lot of weighty decisions. However, Eight Minute Empire: Legends gets the narrow edge here because of the higher player count. Sometimes you want a filler that can bring more players to the table, and so this fits the requirement. It has a fast, fun, and rewarding experience as you spread throughout the map, vie for control of territories, and purchase cards to give you the actions you want while providing the scoring you’ll need at the end.

Best Work Night Game (plays in 60-90 minutes)

The Voters Picked: The Castles of Burgundy by Stefan Feld, published by Ravensburger

My Pick: Kingdom Builder by Donald X. Vaccarino, published by Queen Games

Runner Up: Mystic Vale by John D. Clair, published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)

Yes, I enjoy playing Castles of Burgundy as a work night game, although it only qualifies when playing with two. It is a fantastic game and one I hope to play plenty of times this year. However, my go-to game will always be Kingdom Builder when looking for a game that finishes in about an hour. Some try to argue that you’re too restricted by having one card to play each turn, but my response is to plan better. My last game of this went so poorly, but I could look back to my first two turns and see how, if I had played elsewhere, I could have done far better. I went for the wrong opening power, and as a result the rest of my game suffered. With a modular board, differing powers, and changing end game scoring conditions, this is one game that will never ever grow stale in my collection. Mystic Vale is a newer entry to this list, but it takes my favorite mechanic (deck building) and does something innovating and interesting with it. Plus it is a deck building game my wife actually enjoys, which still blows my mind!

Game I’d Most Want to Play with a Game Group

The Voters Picked: Shadows Over Camelot by Bruno Cathala and Serge Laget, published by Days of Wonder

My Pick: Shadows Over Camelot by Bruno Cathala and Serge Laget, published by Days of Wonder

Runner Up: The Speicherstadt by Stefan Feld, published by Z-Man Games

Sometimes a game plays better when you have more than 2 people at the table. I am not convinced I’ll ever own either of these – I might get the Viking rethemed Jorvik rather than Speicherstadt – but they are both games I’ll always love to play at a game day. Shadows Over Camelot provided me my greatest game-day experience of all time in my first play. I thrived as the traitor, earning just enough trust to avoid being accused and then flipping at the end to win the game for myself, stealing it from the other six fools at the table. I still get a smile on my face from thinking about it. This was a far better traitor-cooperative game than Dead of Winter, which often fell flat. The Speicherstadt is one that I could see being interesting to a degree with two, but the more people you add into the mix, the higher those prices can climb for cards. With one of the most interesting placement/bidding mechanics I’ve ever seen in a game, I love playing Speicherstadt with a group.

Most Surprising Game Played

The Voters Picked: Sentinels of the Multiverse by Christopher Badell, Paul Bender, and Adam Rebottaro, published by Greater Than Games

My Pick: The Speicherstadt by Stefan Feld, published by Z-Man Games

Runner Up: Sentinels of the Multiverse by Christopher Badell, Paul Bender, and Adam Rebottaro, published by Greater Than Games

I’m sure that my first impression of The Speicherstadt was similar to most who see if for the first time: we’re going to play a game about a warehouse? It doesn’t look interesting, whether looking at the box or at the board, but what it lacks in chrome it contains tenfold in gameplay. It blew me away and became a game I tried to play again so my wife could experience it. I went from scoring 40 in my first game (the track only goes to 39) to scoring less than 0 in my second, but I had a blast both times with this interesting game. Sentinels of the Multiverse was a game I had little desire to play. I had seen people sitting around playing it and thought “meh” time and again when I saw it. It looked long and fiddly and I had been so disappointed by Marvel Legendary’s eventual flame out in my collection. I finally got roped into the game and had a tough choice to make on who to choose for a character. He asked what class I liked to play as in RPG games, I mentioned Paladin, and I was suggested two decks. I chose Fanatic and boy, she has made me a fanatic for this game! This one deck made me fall in love with the game, as she fits my play style perfectly. I’ve tinkered with others from the base game since then, but I will always and forever be a Fanatic player.

Best Tile-Laying Game

The Voters Picked: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King by Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan, published by Mayfair Games

My Pick: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King by Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan, published by Mayfair Games

Runner Up: Between Two Cities by Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset, and Morten Monrad Pedersen, published Stonemaier Games

My first experience with Isle of Skye should have sent me running far away from the game. I played with the full count of 5, two of whom were very prone to AP. The game took well over two hours to play 5 rounds. Let that sink in, for those of you who have played this. Isle of Skye should take roughly an hour. But the core of this game still impressed me enough to keep it on my wish list. I got this one for Christmas and have played it four times in the past three days and that confirmed: this is a really good game. Two isn’t its best player count, but it still is a lot of fun. Between Two Cities is a game I’ve experienced just once, but it was so unique in the joint building aspect that I fell in love. I really want to get this one in my collection, but my self-imposed ban on buying new games will probably not allow that to happen in 2018. However, this is one I’ll definitely try to play a few times at game nights because this was a fun, fantastic game experience.

Best Wargame

The Voters Picked: War of the Ring (Second Edition) by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Ares Games

My Pick: War of the Ring (Second Edition) by Robert Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Ares Games

Runner Up: 878: Vikings – Invasions of England by Beau Beckett, Dave Kimmel, and Jeph Stahl, published by Academy Games

Before 2017, my only wargame experience had been War of the Ring. And bless my wife for suffering through so many incorrectly-played rules over the course of our plays of that game. It remains the game which all other games are measured by, both wargame and otherwise, because it is the pinnacle of board games for me. 878: Vikings, as mentioned earlier, feels like the conflict of War of the Ring to an extent. It takes a longer epic game’s feel and compresses the scope and play time in a way that Battle of Five Armies failed to do. We really enjoy both of these games, and I look forward to both hitting the table more often this coming year while trying out at least a few new wargames in 2018. Hopefully starting with Pendragon and Twilight Struggle.

Favorite Game Designer

The Voters Picked: Jamey Stegmaier

My Pick: Jamey Stegmaier

Runner Up: Thomas M. Gofton

Jamey continues to hit home runs for me. I love Viticulture. I love Scythe. I am really loving Charterstone so far. I hope to love Euphoria when I get a chance to play it. They have solid gaming mechanics, good themes, and a nice depth that encourages replay as well as the ability to adapt strategy as the game plays out. Thomas, on the other hand, is part of a team that creates the type of cooperative games I love: challenging and rich in theme. Each of their games are unique in the style of game, while sharing some similar design and mechanics. These are two designers whose games I’ll always at least want to try.

Favorite Publisher

The Voters Picked: Stonemaier Games

My Pick: Capstone Games

Runner Up: Stonemaier Games

This one amounts to a coin flip. I’m yet to encounter a game from either publisher that I dislike, and both of them have a brand and presence as a company that I can get behind. Clay is a fantastic face for his company, and I love that they are finding out of print heavy games and making them available again. Jamey and his team not only produce excellent games, but they all have outstanding solo mechanics which increases their value in my collection. I don’t want to have a massive game library, but these two companies are ones I will probably end up owning most, if not all, of their games that end up being released. That, in itself, should be high enough praise since I’ll be aiming to keep my collection around 50-60 at most.

Favorite Podcast

The Voters Picked: Heavy Cardboard

My Pick: Heavy Cardboard

Runner Up: The Board Boys Podcast

This is such a hard category, and Low Player Count missed by a hair. I love the work that Edward and Amanda do, both for the hobby and as a whole for the content they produce. Their reviews are thorough, honest, and insightful. That is everything a consumer can ask for in regards to a reviewer. The Board Boys are fun to listen to, and even after only 8 episodes they have become one of the best podcasts out there. Each episode they tackle a game in, or close to, the Top 100 on BGG and give thoughts and impressions on the game. They’ve put a few on my list of games to check out after I had initially dismissed the games as “not interested”. They also bring in a guest for each episode, adding an extra voice beyond the banter of the three hosts. Definitely check them out!

Favorite Reviewer

The Voters Picked: Drive-Thru Review

My Pick: Heavy Cardboard

Runner up: Katie’s Game Corner

It should be no surprise that those elephants trampled into this category as well. While I enjoy most of the content they produce (I’m still end up skipping many of the Daily Diaries from when Edward is at a show), the reviews are the episodes I always listen to. I’ve gained interest in so many games, and had a few others fall off my radar, thanks to their thoughtful reviews. Katie Aidley, on the other hand, is a newer voice in the industry and she is fantastic. She provides great insight with her impressions on games, and she is an advocate for mental health as well as women being equally important to the hobby. Her growth and talent make me envious, and I always make time to read her new posts when they appear.

Most Anticipated 2018 Release

The Voters Picked: Root by Cole Wehrle, published by Leder Games

My Pick: Empyreal: Spells and Steam Train by Trey Chambers + Seventh Cross by D. Brad Talton Jr., published by Level 99 Games

Runner Up: Coal and Colony by Thomas Spitzer, published by Capstone Games

This one isn’t really fair, as I’m sneaking in a second pick that wasn’t on the original poll. But, after listening to the Level Cap podcast for the past month, the level of excitement I have for Seventh Cross is unbelievable and it was enough to push the pair of Level 99 Games up to the top spot. A fantasy-themed train game with special powers on one hand, and a paragraph-based legacy-style adventure with boss fights and exploration on the other. Those both sound like my type of game. And, of course, I am really excited to pick up and play the final game in the Coal Trilogy this year from Capstone Games. I really enjoyed Haspelknecht and I’ll be playing The Ruhr before too much longer.

Board Game Lists · Board Gaming

Board Game Gift Guide – 2017

Everyone is coming up with a gift guide, and most of them I just tend to shrug and either pass by or stop and take a quick look. You usually see the same recommendations of games that fall into the same categories. But the one I had to listen to was from Low Player Count, because those guys always produce some really quality content. And they had a neat approach to the guide.

I hope they don’t mind, but I am going to borrow some of their categories from them and make my own gift guide recommendations, with a few added on at the end. Hope you enjoy!

Game for a New Gamer

Kingdomino – Forget the classic gateway games and look to this game by Blue Orange as being the ideal gateway game. This is perfect regardless of age and experience with gaming, and introduces some excellent mechanics that will appear in other games as they explore the hobby. For the price paid, there is an incredible amount of fun and strategy to be found in the box. Arguably, Queendomino could fill this position as well even though it adds just a little more to the game.

Game for a Returning Gamer

Century: Spice Road – This game encapsulates some simple mechanics and packs them into one fun experience. You work on hand management, resource management, and engine building while trying to race the other players to trigger the game’s end and score the most points. This game has a lot of easy-to-grasp mechanics that will allow them to ease back into the hobby while hopefully reminding them what they initially enjoyed about playing games. Another good candidate here is Clank! A Deckbuilding Adventure.

Timeless Classic

Kingdom Builder – This is the game that will always be on my shortlist of “desert island” games, as this is one that is real easy to get into yet it contains so much depth and replayability even without the addition of expansions. Kingdom Builder is a great game for gamers that are new as well as seasoned veterans to the hobby. For many, Donald X is applauded for Dominion. But I find that this is the game that stands the test of time.

Game for a Gaming Couple

Trajan – This was a tough one to decide, flipping between 2-player only games and ones that play really well with 2 but can also play more. Ultimately it was down to this or The Castles of Burgundy as stand-out games that are deep games with rich strategy, several paths to victory, and play in a reasonable time with 2 but are also great with 3-4. You can’t go wrong with either choice, and Castles is the friendlier game for the budget, but the personal mancala board and dice-free approach of Trajan makes it one worth seriously considering.

Game for a Budget

Hanamikoji – Pound-for-pound, this is the best value on the market out there for any board game. Period. This is that perfect travel game, the perfect stocking stuffer, even the perfect game for a new or returning gamer. It is 2-player only, making it a great game for a gaming couple. I can’t recommend this one enough, being my favorite 2-player-only game (since War of the Ring is technically 2-4 players) and it is at a price that is fantastic. This is a must-own game that will present the most agonizing decisions about when to use each of your four actions and what to use them with. It still blows me away how great this little game is.

Game from your Favorite Designer

Viticulture: Essential Edition – This was a tough one, as I didn’t know if I had a single must-have designer. And then I realized that Jamey designs most of the Stonemaier games, and his company is on my short-list of favorite publishers. And while I really enjoy Scythe and I think Charterstone is going to be incredible, the best game of his that I can recommend is Viticulture. It plays great from 1-6 and delivers a fun, satisfying worker placement experience in a thematic way.

Game from your Favorite Publisher

Lignum (Second Edition) – Since Stonemaier appeared under favorite designer, it only made sense for my other favorite publisher to get the nod here. Capstone has hit nothing but home runs for me so far, with Lignum prepared to cause major disturbances on my upcoming Top 10 list. I would gladly recommend all of their games I’ve played so far, but this remains the top of the heap so far from Clay over at Capstone. It might be a little heavy and intimidating to some gamers, but there is a fantastic experience waiting inside this box that everyone should try.

Under-the-Radar Game

Albion’s Legacy – Any of the Lynnvander/Jasco Games Legacy-series of games would fit this role well, but my personal favorite is the Arthurian one that started it all. It is the longer and fiddlier of the games, but it is always a blast to play and it has incredible challenge for a co-op game. These games are never going to compete with the Pandemic or Forbidden Islands of the world, but they are by far the superior cooperative experience in board games. These are the best games that no one is talking about, and I look forward to seeing how their upcoming Gastony Legacy turns out.

Game to get if Money Wasn’t a Concern

War of the Ring Anniversary Edition – I hadn’t even considered this one until Travis mentioned it on the podcast, but as soon as I heard it I knew there was no other option out there. When this was coming out in 2016, they had a limited run of 2000 copies running around $400 with shipping included. My understanding was that this was a one-time thing, but it came with everything painted, a larger board, a special box, a hardcover rulebook and companion guide, unique dice, and updated player references. This is now going, on the secondary market, for around $750-$1000 with the special 1000-copy release of Lords of Middle-Earth expansion for about $400-600 on the secondary market. Which means the current run of Warriors of Middle-Earth, at $130 plus shipping, is an absolute bargain if you jump in now for one of the final 400 copies to reserve. Bottom line: If I had $1500 to drop on a game, it would be to pick up the Anniversary Edition, Lords of Middle-Earth deluxe expansion, and order the Warriors of Middle-Earth set to round out a set of beautiful Tolkien goodness. It might hurt, but it would be the gem in the collection of any Tolkien enthusiast who happens to think this is the best game ever created.

http://ks.aresgames.eu/product/war-of-the-ring-2nd-edition-w…

Game to get if Time Wasn’t a Concern

Lisboa – The easy answer here would be Mage Knight, but I wanted to feature something a little less conventional for a pick. Lisboa is a game that, like Mage Knight, has a long set-up time. Like Mage Knight, it can play 1-4 players. But unlike Mage Knight, this game shines with other people at the table with you. Vital Lacerda made a masterpiece of a game which honestly can be boiled down to “play a card, draw a card” for your turn. It is what comes as a result of playing a card that makes this game so great. Besides, the artwork on this one is downright impressive.

Expandable Game to Get

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – No surprises here, I am a huge advocate for this game. Others might steer you toward the newer model (Arkham Horror) or a competitive model (Netrunner or Legend of Five Rings). Yet others might push you toward X-Wing, Armada, or Imperial Assault as the ultimate game with an unimaginable amount of content to purchase. Yet Lord of the Rings: The Card Game remains the one I enjoy above all of those. It is an excellent solo game, gets better when playing with others, and you don’t have to feel obligated to rush out and buy everything. This is the sort of game you can expand a little at a time, slowly building your pool of cards while exploring new quests and revisiting old ones with your new decks.

Collectable Game to Get

Final Fantasy Trading Card Game – Let’s be honest here, there is something inherently flawed about the collectable game system. It is a money sink and a half because it takes a lot of packs to chase down the cards you need. It is what ultimately drew me away from Star Wars: Destiny. So why feature this here? Because some people really enjoy chasing those rare cards. And I really have been enjoying the Final Fantasy Trading Card game lately, using the cards a friend owns. With five different starter decks and four sets of cards, there is a lot out there. The system itself of the game is fun and the characters bring back lots of fond memories. If you are, or were, a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise and you want a game to collect cards from, this is the one I’d choose…especially now that they have the Final Fantasy VI characters in Opus 4. And while you can include up to three of a card in a deck, this one doesn’t demand you do so which makes it easier from a gameplay perspective than Destiny was.

Gaming Accessories

Meeple Realty or Broken Token Inserts – I’m the sort of gamer who uses baggies and tosses the standard cardboard inserts in the box. They are usually not good anyway. But I have recently seen a few inserts that truly help in setup, teardown, and with the overall experience during gameplay. The Big Damn Crate, for instance, for Firefly: The Game was a great investment because it saves a ton of time, table space, and makes it all really awesome when stored. Games like Scythe, Mage Knight, Caverna, A Feast for Odin, Terraforming Mars, War of the Ring, and many others have inserts you can purchase which will improve the quality of your experience. Is it a good investment for a game you don’t play often? No, but it’ll help some of the games in your collection hit the table more often due to better storage and organization which is invaluable.

Game-Free Gift Idea

Heavy Cardboard T-Shirt and/or Patreon – Depending on your gaming tastes and/or interests, you can fill in the blank. Low Player Count has stuff you can buy. Lots of podcasters and YouTubers out there have a Patreon or other avenue to show support. For me, the top-of-the-list of ones I would support is Heavy Cardboard. What is cool about them is they have some great-looking shirts, mystery swag boxes filled by Edward and Amanda, and more. And they now have it so you can either pledge monthly on Patreon or do a one-time annual pledge to support them and get some things in return, such as access to their slack channel at the $5/month level or access to their teaching notes for games at the $10/month level. But really, it is just great because you can help show them the support they deserve for what they are doing for the gaming hobby as a whole. Find out more at http://pledgehc.com/

So there you have it, some ideas to get for those gamers in your life. Leave a comment and let me know some of the games you’d nominate in these categories (or, in the case of the final two, what non-games!)

Board Game Lists · Board Gaming · Solo Gaming · Top Ten List

Top 10 Solo Games – 2017

I had posed a few ideas for a Top __ List to cover this month and the overwhelming majority were interested in a solo list. This is, by no means, a definitive list. I finally played Friday for the first time a few weeks ago and my only Onirim experiences have been via the app. I’ve played Mage Knight a grand total of two times, which is the same number as my Terraforming Mars solo plays and one more time than my Scythe plays. Like any list, these are pretty much capable of being in flux at any point in time.

#10 – Chrononauts – This one is going to be one of the bigger surprises on the list. Believe me, I didn’t expect to like this one as much as a solo game. Friday is threatening to knock it out of the Top 10 for me, as I really love a deckbuilder game, but at least for this year I will keep this where I originally planned to place the game. It provides a fun and challenging puzzle, given you have to align the timeline for eight different travelers in the time it takes to go through the deck once. I’ve gotten to 7 of them one time, and most times end with 5-6 getting aligned. This is a hard, fast, rewarding solo experience. I wish it was a little more Doctor Who-ish in feel, which is why I can’t wait to finally get around to the Doctor Who 2nd Edition Solo Game…

#9 – Terraforming Mars – I had my doubts about this as a solo game, but my first two plays have dispelled those doubts. This is a solid game, and one that has a ton of potential for replay. It will feel repetitive to some players because, in essence, you are trying to accomplish the same exact objective every play. The trick comes in how to maximize the usefulness of those cards you get, which is less than half the deck on both of the plays I’ve done. You could probably do a back-to-back session using the rest of the deck for the second game for an interesting and challenging experience. This will likely rise by the end of 2018 once I log more plays.

#8 – Sherwood’s Legacy – I really need to break this one back out to determine where this really sits on the list. It was a really fun game in a tower defense style. I played with the easy rules of ignoring the Wanted system and barely managed to pull it off. It is probably the easiest and least luck-dependent of the three Legacy games from Lynnvander so far, making it a perfect puzzle to play through. I’ve been really pleased with all three of those Legacy games, and this is the game for those who want to be able to plan out their turns in advance to maximize their efficiency.

#7 – Scythe – I really, really love the Automa system that has been implemented in a handful of titles. This one has a fairly steep learning curve for the movement, but I think I got it down and played it right. I squeaked out a win by a single point thanks to an extra turn I hadn’t expected to get – this one will provide a great challenge and variety thanks to the various factions in the base game. I can only imagine how that will increase with the Wind Gambit expansion coming in December. I need to make a point of getting this one back on the table soon because this was a great experience and probably a game that will move up further once I play it some more.

#6 – Yeomen: The 9 Card Agincourt Game – This is a gem of a game that every solo gamer should print out and play. It is fast, challenging, and a lot of fun. There aren’t a lot of things to print and cut, making it a fast thing to get ready for the table. The rules might be a bit of a challenge for the first play, but after a while it really starts to click. This is a fantastic solo game that can be knocked out, every time, in under 15 minutes once you get the game’s rules down. I can’t recommend this one enough – unfortunately, this is probably going to drop hard once Scythe, Terraforming Mars, and others get some more plays at the table.

#5 – Mage Knight Board Game – This is the solo game to end all solo games, or so I have heard. And with two plays logged, I can see the great appeal here. The biggest detractor to this game is the time it takes to setup, play, and tear down the game. There is one other game on this list that comes close to the time, and it has a little easier ruleset and a more appealing overall theme for me. I really love the progression of the character, though, making this my one and only “dungeon crawl” style of game on the list. The former RPG-lover in me craves that kind of experience at times and this one certainly delivers.

#4 – Viticulture: Essential Edition – If you read my review of this one solo, this placement won’t come as any surprise. Actually, it might be a little undervalued. This one was one of two games to really catch me off-guard this year in terms of how much I enjoyed the solo experience (with the other being Chrononauts). Worker placement is really my wife’s mechanic, although I do enjoy playing them. So when this one hooked me completely for play after play, I had to pay attention. Easily the best game to pick up if you want a game that plays well for 1-6 players, and I’ve heard the expansion makes the game experience even better.

#3 – Race for the Galaxy – I think nostalgia for my early years of playing this game solo has it holding on to a higher spot than it deserves; however, it could equally be argued to hold this spot because it is always a fun and challenging experience. This was the game that led me down the path of solo gaming, eventually leading to my decision to get rid of my video gaming systems. In the past year or so since that decision, I’ve found so many great games. Yet I always know that I can grab this one, set it up, and that dreaded robot will force me to fight for every point needed to defeat it. On easy…

#2 – Albion’s Legacy – I will admit that the theme of the game appeals to me far more than it might for others, boosting this game up at least a few slots higher than it might deserve on merit alone. Yet at its core this is still a solid exploration/questing game that provides crushingly difficult challenges every step of the way. It takes some time to set up, but nothing quite as extreme as Mage Knight. This one has a play time of around two or three hours to run through a quest, even though it has a time limit of ten rounds. There is so much Arthurian lore interwoven through this game that it makes me giddy inside every time I play it. Only one theme could excite me more, which leads me to…

#1 – Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Boom! That is the sound of this list exploding in the past month. I had owned and played this game in the summer of 2016 and eventually parted with it rather than purchase expansion content for it. After all, the Core Set can only be played so many times before it grows stale and begs to be expanded. I reclaimed the game and, since I got it back, I have logged 18 solo plays, taught a friend who then purchased a core set, starting writing a strategy series about the core set, built and rebuilt half a dozen decks, signed up for the 2017 Fellowship Event in December, and agreed to quest regularly in the game with the friend who I taught the game to. I’ve played it five times this weekend and I’m itching to reset and play a sixth time. And I still haven’t expanded the game beyond the core…something that will be changing in the next few days. If I had found the Black Riders deluxe expansion local (or online) then I would have already picked that up because this game is consuming my solo play time in a good way. It is only fitting, after all, that my favorite solo game is a Lord of the Rings themed game. My favorite 2-player game (and by extension overall favorite) is a Lord of the Rings game as well, and I don’t see either of them losing their thrones any time soon. Yes, the Core Set alone has its limits and its flaws. But if there is one game I will gladly dive into for the long haul, it is this one.

A Few Speculations on Games that Could Appear Here in 2018

Arkham Horror: The Card Game would be a very likely candidate to make this list if I picked it up. I imagine it would have the same note as the Lord of the Rings game, in that it needs to be expanded to keep it fresh and interesting. The game takes a different approach than Lord of the Rings while keeping some familiar mechanics and does some great things. It is probably, mechanically, a better game. But theme is king when comparing the two and I just love Lord of the Rings a ton more than the Lovecraftian mythos. But this would very likely be a top five, if not top three game if I picked it up for solo play.

Nations is a game that caught my attention when I played it with two others, and I’ve heard it has a really solid solo play. There are times when you just want to sit down and do some civilization building, and this would be one that I could see contending if I picked it up. The problem is that price tag is too high for the game. If it came with the game and the expansion for $100, I might be convinced.

Lisboa is a game I really loved my first play of. I know nothing about its solo version of the game, but I am nevertheless excited to test it out if/when the game enters my collection. It is a game I was excited about picking up eventually, and knowing that others are enjoying the solo play makes me have high hopes for this one.

Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain is a game I have been super-excited for. Being a COIN game, it has a solid system behind it. I haven’t tried a COIN game yet. Not many of them interest me with their theme. However, I have decided that will not prevent me from wanting to pick this up to play alone and with others. Will running three factions via their flowcharts make the experience clunky, or will it provide the fascinating and challenging gameplay that I am hoping for? I hope to find out in 2018, which is when I will realistically be looking to finally snag a copy of this one before it goes out of print.