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!

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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.

Board Game Lists · Board Gaming · First Impressions

New-to-Me First Impressions 10/16/17 – 11/15/17

I began this a few months ago and really enjoyed going through and providing these impressions. The thought was to give some coverage to those games that I may not play enough times to review, or which may never quite make it to a review due to the number of games played and the time it takes to review a game. So here are some brief first impressions of games I recently got my first plays with. I’m also including a “Replay rating” for each game on a scale of 1-10. 1 would be “I’d rather sit out and watch others play games than play this again” and 10 being “Save me a seat, I’d gladly play this any time!”

A Feast for Odin – My wife is a huge Uwe Rosenberg fan, so when we had a chance to get this with the Meeple Realty insert in exchange for a few games collecting dust on our shelves, I had to jump on that opportunity. We both enjoy Patchwork. I love just about anything Viking themed. And she loves both Worker Placement and Rosenberg games. This all sounds like a recipe for success, and my first play was solo and left me wanting to pull it back out again. Then, of course, the next game on this list came along again and blew all other games off to the side, so it hasn’t hit the table again yet. But I plan to change that tonight when sitting down to a game with my wife… In terms of the game itself, I really liked the puzzle aspect of the boards and that spaces used 1-4 workers depending on which part of the board you go to. Part of me questions, with how open the game is, how much replay value there really is here but for now I am eager to dive right in some more. 7/10

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game– This isn’t new to me, per say, but it recently reentered my collection. When I first had the game, I was resistant to expand the game beyond the core set so I traded it away to a friend. Now that the game has returned, and vaulted up to be my favorite solo game in my collection (with good reason!), I have changed my tune a little on the expandable game. Instead of seeing it as an endless money grab, I see it as a way to continue to freshen the experience of a game I really, really enjoy playing. My recent shift in thinking from “play more new games!” to “replay favorites” was partially inspired by this game, along with many others. There are so many options in this game, and now that there are Saga sets out there I have a great idea where to begin expanding into this game. 10/10

Imperial Settlers – I picked this one up on a whim, passing over some games that I almost-immediately regretted not buying. I stuck it out and set this game up to try as a solo play and discovered that there was a nice, tight engine builder in this card-based game. So I set it up again and played a second time that day, having fun once more as I played through the solo mode (which will end up growing stale eventually). The good news is that I think this is my type of game with engine building via cards. 7/10

Photosynthesis – Sometimes the environment in which you game can have a real impact on the experience of the game. That was very much the case when my wife taught me this game. I know, for a fact, that my experience was impacted in a negative way that had nothing to do with the game itself, and so this is very high on my “I need to play that again” list even though my first play left me feeling “meh” about it. 5/10

Arkham Horror: The Card Game– Lord of the Rings 2.0 is what some might call this, and mechanically there are some really striking similarities. But the two games, theme not considered, are vastly different in approach. Lord of the Rings is designed mostly to be played a single scenario at a time, whereas Arkham Horror is supposed to be a campaign of X scenarios strung together. They both require deck construction, but Arkham Horror’s approach is smaller and more streamlined in a sense because you each have an unique investigator rather than fielding a trio of heroes. If you love the constructing of decks and fine-tuning them in the fires of challenge, you’ll dig Lord of the Rings. If you prefer a game where the narrative is as important as the gameplay and where the deck construction is easier and less impactful, then Arkham Horror is for you. My wife would probably prefer the design of Arkham Horror more, and honestly if there are two games that would be worth my money to expand, it would be this and Lord of the Rings because they are both soloable. If Lord of the Rings didn’t exist, this might have a shot at being at the top of my solo list if I played it solo. As it stands, I’d choose Lord of the Rings because I love the deck construction and the theme more than the fine-tuned mechanics and strong narrative. But in all honesty, I’d have a blast with either one. 9/10

Trajan – I think I am firmly on the path to becoming a Feld fan, as this is the third Feld game I have played and the third one I really enjoyed. I am pretty sure this is a game I’ll like even better than Castles of Burgundy, which is still a really fun game, but I found the decisions in this one were fantastic. I’d really love to play this one again, as I think it takes a full game to really understand and enjoy that personal mancala mechanic. 9/10

Between Two Cities– Stonemaier Games delivers yet again on a pleasant gaming experience. It won’t be the heavyweight in a collection that a Scythe or Viticulture would be in rankings, but this is one I could see being a great addition to a game collection. It has some unique takes on tile laying and end-game scoring to determine the winner. I just so happened to be in the highest scoring city overall as well as have the top 2nd-highest scoring city. We used the Capitals expansion, which I’m sure enhances the base experience but this is one I’d really love to try with 2 or playing solo before purchasing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely so onto the Christmas list it goes… 8/10

Queendomino – A part of me groaned when my wife came home with this game. I enjoy Kingdomino for what it is: a very light and fast filler game. I was expecting more of the same in this one, making it a game that I would be willing to play but never really want to play. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how much was added, mechanically, to this version of the game. It has a new terrain type. It has up to three additional optional actions that can be done on a turn. This took the predecessor and, rather than giving us more of the same, it took the game to a new level of complexity. It is still a simple enough game, but there are a lot more interesting decisions to be made over the course of the game. Which means this is a game that I am actually okay with owning and playing. 7/10

Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game – This was one I was eager to try since it was a brand new LCG and so the barrier to entry would be relatively low. A small card pool is a great time to plunge into a game like this. And yes, it was a lot of fun. I liked a lot of the things the game did mechanically. The fate, which determines how long a character is on the board, is outstanding. However, this game had two strikes against it: it didn’t blow me away quite like Netrunner did, and it is an LCG. If I’m going to collect an LCG, it makes the most sense to have it be the cooperative, soloable ones out there. Unless my wife gets hooked on one of the more competitive ones, I’ll never have a chance to hone a deck and improve my skill in an LCG like Netrunner or Legend of Five Rings. 6/10

Friday – Anyone who has paid attention to my taste in game mechanics knows by now that I am a pretty big fan of deckbuilding games. I also happen to play a reasonable amount of solo games – not usually because I prefer to solo a game but because my wife isn’t available at the time so I play a game on my own. I’ve been meaning to try this solo-only game for a while and, after a few plays, I find that this is a really solid and challenging game. There is a line between risk and reward that has to be balanced well, and it can be real easy to fall on the wrong side of that line. I don’t know if this would be a game I would want to play often, so it may not enter my collection, but it is definitely a very solid solo game with a small box. 7/10

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

Top Essen Games I’d Want to Check Out (If I Went to Essen)

As the title implies, I will not be attending Essen this year. As great as it would be to go, and as cool as Essen would be for a first convention, this one is just not in my cards for 2017. Probably not even 2018. But that won’t prevent me from being able to look at the releases and seeing what games I would be excited about.

There are two sections included here: games themselves that I’d like to check out at Essen (some are already out, some are rereleases, and others are new and upcoming games), and a section with a few expansions I’m excited to try.

There are over 1000 games under the Essen preview tool. Less than a hundred of these made my initial “look into these more” listing. But getting it down to these was a little difficult. There are some really, really good games coming out. And there are some smaller or less-hyped games that sound good and could be amazing. So, before I ramble on too long, here are the games I’d love to check out if I was at Essen (in no particular order):

Games I know are already out

Lisboa – Diving right into a heavy game here…I’m not sure why but this is one of the games that is near the top of my wish list. I haven’t played a Lacerda game yet, but I see no reason why this couldn’t or shouldn’t be our first. The theme and mechanics of the game drew me in as I listened to Heavy Cardboard talk about the game. It was enough to convince me that this is a game I don’t want to miss out on.

Raiders of the North Sea – If Lisboa is near the top of my wish list, this game resides at the pinnacle. A Viking worker placement game that doesn’t use dice for combat. I think we’ll both find a lot of things to enjoy about this game, and I keep hearing fantastic things about the mechanics within the game.

Tiny Epic Quest – I have played and really enjoyed a few of the Tiny Epic games. When this was described as Zelda in a box, I knew it would be only a matter of time before I would play the game. I’m still seeking that opportunity, and can’t wait until I get to experience this one.

Whistle Stop – Okay, so I’ve played this game once. But man, there are so many things about the game I’d like to revisit and try again. It was a really fun game, and my stock-heavy strategy fell just short of victory. A few wiser decisions along the way and I might have ended up with the win instead of a loss. Bonus points for this being a game I am sure my wife would enjoy.

Antiquity (3rd Edition) – This one appears up here because it is a new edition of an existing game. It would be my first play of a Splotter game, and why not jump in with this instead of something like The Great Zimbabwe? I really want to try some Splotter games, as I am coming to enjoy heavy games a lot. And so this one makes it onto my radar.

Iron Dragon (Second Edition) – A fantasy train game? This might be one that I could get my wife to try out, probably as a next-step after introducing her to Whistle Stop. It might take time to warm her up to trying an 18XX game, but this one should be one we’ll enjoy together.

The King’s Abbey (Second Edition) – A rerelease of a worker placement set in Medieval times. Are you kidding me? You get to construct an Abbey, go on crusades, and more during a period of history that I really enjoy? And since it is a worker placement game my wife might be interested, too? Sign me up!

Charterstone – No surprise here, this game had to make the cut. I’ve been so excited for the upcoming Stonemaier Games release, and nothing that I have heard has changed that. It is a legacy Worker Placement game that can be played by 1-6 players, it’ll allow you to build your own unique charters that are replayable when the campaign is finished, and I am yet to meet a Stonemaier Games game that I don’t like. This is as close to a must-have as it gets for me.

The Climbers – Capstone Games is tied to this release, and I’ve had the same track record with Capstone as I have with Stonemaier. If that wasn’t enough, this was Edward at Heavy Cardboard’s top “Thinky Filler” game, and this is a game that will command attention when played at a game night. I can’t wait to try this one out and find out why Edward has been singing its praises.

Hunt for the Ring – My favorite game of all time is War of the Ring by Ares Games. I was so disappointed by The Battle of Five Armies because it was, essentially, War of the Ring Lite and I found myself always wanting to play War of the Ring instead. This game promises to be something completely different, making it a must-try for me. The Tolkien fan in me demands it.

The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade – We enjoyed Haspelknecht so much that I am definitely interested in exploring the rest of the Coal Trilogy. We don’t play many pick up & deliver games, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for that in our collection. This one should be very solid, and being a Capstones Game is an added plus.

Shadows in Kyoto – The successor to Hanamikoji. If I knew nothing else about this game, that in itself would be enough. But this sounds fantastic, being a game completely different from Hanamikoji but with the same outstanding artwork. I really, really can’t wait to try this game.

Albedo – This one is a tough one to have make the cut, but I think it just manages. I’ve had my eye on Core Worlds this year, and this game takes some inspiration from that. It is a deckbuilder with what sounds like a built-in “trashing” mechanism that sounds fantastic. This will be a hard sell to the wife, but she’ll tolerate a few plays of a deckbuilder. Who knows, this might join Mystic Vale as a deckbuilder she actually enjoys!

Alien Artifacts – This game has been described as a successor to Race for the Galaxy. Considering that Race is one of my favorite games, and has been for years, that makes me immediately interested in trying the game. Will it replace Race? I doubt it is possible, but I would love to try this one out and see how it stacks up.

The Cousins’ War – This one is another small one that deserves to remain on my radar. I enjoy 2-player only games that have a small footprint, small component list, and play quickly. This promises to provide all of that in this duel representing the War of the Roses. My wife may not like that it has some dice in there, but from what I’ve read this has enough things going on that it won’t be a dealbreaker for her.

Fantastiqa Rival Realms – This is another 2-player only game that makes the list. I’ve heard great things about Fantastiqa from reviewers like Mina’s Fresh Cardboard in the past, and a 2-player spinoff game sounds like it is worth checking out. Players are magicians building the landscape, finding beasts, creating artifacts, and more in a head-to-head competition. Yes, please!

Harvest – We really enjoyed Harbour once we got the rules of it right, and so this game promises to be a worker placement game we’d like as well. It isn’t supposed to merely be a retheming of Harbour, so I am excited to see how this one turns out and what is different.

Keyper – Holy buckets, this is apparently the eighth game in the Key series of games which started the Worker Placement genre. I’ve really wanted to try Keyflower, but I think any of these would be a fantastic place to jump in and play. My wife loves worker placement games, and something tells me this one wouldn’t be a disappointment at all for us.

Nusfjord – Rosenberg. Worker placement. My wife would drag me along to try this one out just from those three words. I do like the idea of leaving farming behind and instead managing a fishing fleet. It also sounds like this has some similarities mechanically to Ora et Labora and Agricola, both great Rosenberg games. Yep, this had to make the list.

Game Expansions

Mystic Vale: Mana Storm – I was surprised when she loved Mystic Vale, and so of course I want to expand the card pool and strategies available in this deckbuilding game. And this promises to accomplish both of those things.

Scythe: The Wind Gambit – Airships in Scythe! No more need to unlock Riverwalk as your first mech in the game, although I bet there is still incentive to do so. I enjoy Scythe a lot so far, and this would be the first must-have expansion which adds several interesting elements to the game.

Agricola: Artifex Deck – My favorite part of Agricola? Figuring out how my fourteen cards can be used in my favor. My wife’s least favorite part of Agricola? The cards. We’ll be divided on this purchase, but I hope to win out in the end. After all, she doesn’t have to use the cards if she doesn’t like them…

Cry Havoc: Aftermath – I really have enjoyed my first plays of Cry Havoc and this is one I need to get back to the table. People claim there are balance issues between the factions, but I don’t buy into that. I like a game that rewards repeated plays and finding out how to adapt in order to win, which means the game will remain in our collection. This expansion promises to take what is a good game and make it even better.

Kingdom Builder: Harvest – We’ve determined we both really enjoy this game and want more expansions for the game. We have Nomads now, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t or wouldn’t jump ahead to grab Harvest before getting the other ones. This is the one game I think she might actually like getting expansions for.