#40 – Claustrophobia 1643
This game delivers an asymmetric dungeon crawl experience for two players that clocks in about an hour for game length and has an incredible, tense gameplay for two players. I went into the game with very low expectations and had to immediately request another play of the game when it was finished. I’ve since looked into how to obtain a copy, and have been tempted twice by copies of the old game that I’ve seen locally – but I am holding out (and wishing hard) to get my hands on the new version of the game because it contains over 20 scenarios in the base box that should provide a ton of hours of fun gaming with my wife.
I came for the theme and stayed for the delightful gameplay on this entry. The rondel mechanic is so fluid, and the turns move at a pace to prevent downtime from being an issue. I really enjoy how the game scales in growth with the players – unlocking more things on your board makes you more efficient, but the more areas you conquer the more power you need to Crusade effectively.There are a ton of ways to earn points, and the game always ends just before you can really hit the peak performance – the ideal time to close out a game that is engine-building at its heart.
A skirmish game that has won me over far better than I ever expected. Sometimes when a friend really wants you to try their new Kickstarter game, you’re in for an experience that is bland or unrefined. Thankfully this is neither of those, delivering a top-tier skirmish game with mech-loads of replay value in a relatively medium-sized package. The best way to play this is by forming your own teams, but even the pre-formatted teams in the box are excellent to play as and there is far more room for strong strategic and tactical maneuvering than you would expect from this package.
#37 – Haven
One of the finest pure 2-player games on the market right now with stunning artwork and clever intertwining mechanics. This is the game that locked in Alf Seegert as one of my favorite designers to watch, as he always comes up with new and fascinating twists in his game. This asymmetric battle over a forest delivers a gameplay experience that stole my heart and is easily one of the best games that hit the market in 2018.
#36 – The King is Dead
When I have three players and need a quick and intense game of area (un)control, this is the box I will grab every time. The game is fine with two, is team play at four (which is a big “meh” for me), but is beyond outstanding with three players. And the face that you are trying to control specific areas but are removing cubes each round makes this play like few other games I’ve encountered. I recently saw this in a FLGS for $19.99 and at that price this game should be in every collection.
#35 – Vinhos
I’m in the camp of preferring the deluxe version of the game over the original, if for nothing more than the better production quality overall on the game. It is amazing to me how a game where you get 12-13 actions can deliver such a rich and rewarding experience. This is a challenging game experience that burns the brain in all the right ways and makes me want to set it up and play it again – but maybe not on the same day. This is a classic Lacerda and displays many of the hallmark traits that you’ll find in many of his other designs.
This game punches in with an experience that I enjoy every time it hits the table. This is the wargame we reach for on the days when we don’t have time for a War of the Ring session. The expansion box adds in a good number of modules to mix-and-match to expand the gameplay and add variety, and I like that some are seamlessly integrated into the base experience while others add extra wrinkles to factor in. I just wish I had colored cubes instead of these miniature mini figures on the map – even if they do look pretty cool.
#33 – CO2
The Lacerda game I was least interested in theme-wise ends up being one of my favorite ones to date. It shocked me at the time when I played the game, but it didn’t shock me when this list was being made. This game is fun in a way I didn’t expect, and it helped that I actually had the game’s mechanisms and strategies sort of click into place from that first play. I also like the tension that can come from the possibility of a shared loss – something to encourage a little cooperation from the group but not so much that this could be considered a cooperative game in any way. I’ve heard the solo mode is outstanding and cannot wait to try it out first-hand in the future.
I still delight in playing this game, which is one of many small box games that punches in with a fun experience far larger than the box size. The gameplay is simple at its core, but the limited economy and the conveyor of cards to purchase makes this one a fun experience for me every time it hits the table. I wish the map size changed for two players, but that still doesn’t detract from a really enjoyable experience.
The first game to reenter my collection in 2019 from a string of bad math trade mistakes on my end that I need to reacquire – many of which appear on this list somewhere (Civilization, The King is Dead, Eight Minute Empire: Legends, Pixel Tactics, The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Biblios, Fields of Green, Barony, Battle Line, Game of Thrones (Card & Board Game), Agricola) – this one does a fine job with the campaign in the box. I’ve started a solo campaign with the app and it does a good job of managing things so far and I definitely intend to play that through to completion in the very near future. However, the star of this box is the 2-player Skirmish mode (and has been from the start). It is such a fun, exciting, and tense game experience with a TON of replay value if you take the time to pick up those extra character packs – each one adds two new Skirmish scenarios and a handful of cards to use – which is incentive to purchase them all to add to the best thing about this game. I wish it was a cheaper game experience, but by slowly picking up the add-ons this should be manageable enough to cultivate a collection that I’ll still be enjoying with my children many years from now.