This time last year I was looking to do “awards” to games, and you’ll see some of that in here. What I did was plug all of the games I’ve played since I started tracking plays on BGG (so late 2016) into the Pub Meeple ranking system. It isn’t a perfect system, and there are definitely some games I would question their overall ranking for (some higher, some lower), but as a whole it did a pretty good job at helping to figure out my top games for a few different categories.
And so while I’ll be mentioning my top games of 2018 in here, be aware that there are many games I haven’t played (and still want to) that were released this year. I’ll do a more formal revisit to 2018 sometime in the spring of 2019 to crown the overall winner.
Top Games of 2018
1. Liberation – This game is seriously amazing. It hasn’t dethroned Hanamikoji as my go-to 2-player only game…yet. But there’s a chance this one could. I’m eagerly awaiting a copy of the game so I can play it some more, and mix in the small expansion coming with the game. If you enjoyed Star Wars: Rebellion, you owe it to yourself to try this one. Seriously, a wallet game might end up being the best game produced all year – and I love that.
2. Maiden’s Quest – This became one of my sleeper hits of the year. The solo community has raved about Palm Island, but I’d pick this game any day as my go-to portable solo game of choice. There is so much variety in the box, and you get excellent and interesting decisions along the way as you play through every encounter.
3. Obsession – Its theme is a standout in a crowd, and that is what draws me to this game the most. Beyond the theme, though, is a clever intertwining of thematic elements with solid, enjoyable gameplay to create a game I’ll be excited to see continue to hit my table in the future.
4. Fantastiqa: Rival Realms – Alf Seegert is a designer I’ve got my eyes on thanks to this game. A fun, fast game for 1-2 players with a massive footprint…but a lot of fun packed in a small box. There are some really clever things that this game does, such as the cards you use go to your opponent’s discard pile (where they can draw them back to their hand).
5. Thunderstone Quest – I have a weakness for deckbuilders, and this one does it well. Really, really well. I’ve played it only once, but it impressed me enough to break its way onto this list.
Best New-To-Me Games in 2018
1. Millennium Blades – I love the concept of collectable card games like Magic: The Gathering. I tried playing Star Wars: Destiny and the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game but bailed on them both when the money sink necessary finally outweighed the fun factor the game was providing. Millennium Blades offers an experience akin to those kinds of games, and does it in a unique and interesting way that blew me away. I know a few guys that I really want to teach this game to, and have been imagining how to make a fun day-long event of that experience.
2. Rococo – Who knew that making suits and dresses could be so fun? Yet it is the deck management in this game that really steals the show for me.
3. Gloomhaven – There’s a good reason it is the #1 game on BGG, and it will provide months of entertainment at a minimum for any gamer/group. This is that RPG in a box that the former video game player in me really enjoys.
4. Food Chain Magnate – This game is cutthroat and intense. It generated some memorable experiences and some fun laughter. That was only through its first play, too, yet all five of us kept going on about how fun that game was when it ended. It is an unforgiving game, but one I can’t wait to play more.
5. BattleCON – I’m not sure whether I prefer this or Exceed, a similar game by the same publisher, but I do know they are both excellent games. Sometimes you just want to duel against your opponent rather than interfere with them in a passive-aggressive manner of placing workers or gathering resources they need. This game lets you lay a beat down on your opponent in a style that reminds me of the great arcade-based fighting games I grew up with.
1. Millennium Blades – This game shot up the list like a rocket after two plays of the game using just an expansion (which I got at a steal of a price). This delivers on everything I want out of this style of game and more and, even if my wife takes one look at it and tells me she’s never playing it, I have two very good friends that this game fits right into their wheelhouse. Besides, the solo mode is really REALLY good so far.
2. Rococo – This game is out of print. There’s no confirmed word on any future reprinting. But I freaking love this game. Some day I’ll find a copy, whether that comes with an eventual reprint or getting lucky on finding a copy at the right price.
3. Gloomhaven – This monster of a game comes in a massive box. It might literally take me years to explore all the content in the game. But every time I’ve played Gloomhaven I’ve walked away excited to play it again. Our daughter removed me from a Gloomhaven group I just joined – but that group was enough to confirm I want this game eventually.
4. Food Chain Magnate – This game might be a total flop with my wife. I’m not sure. But wow, it blew me away enough – and everyone else playing it for the first time – that it soared up high on my overall rankings of games as well as my wish list. The game is so clever, yet brutal, that I can’t wait to play it again.
5. Glass Road – While this isn’t my most wanted Uwe Rosenberg game, it is the one that is in print right now. I really loved this game, and have heard it has an excellent solo mode (not that I’ve been looking or anything…). This game is so unlike Agricola/Caverna/Feast for Odin that I’m really hoping to add it to my collection soon.
6. The Gallerist – Now that I own Lisboa, the next Vital Lacerda game I need to get is this one. It might even be wise to get and teach this to my wife before pushing her into trying Lisboa with me, as this would be a little gentler entry point to his games.
7. Keyflower – I enjoyed this with my first play, and really like Keyper. I think my wife and I will enjoy this one more in our collection (at least I will, as Keyper is far more suited to her strengths) and I’ve heard it is still excellent with 2 players.
8. Maiden’s Quest – I need to return the borrowed copy soon to its rightful owner, which means I’ll be needing my own copy of this on-the-go solo game. With over a dozen plays, I’m still itching for more so that’s a great sign that it would be a smart purchase.
9. Arboretum – I bought a copy at Gen Con and never played it, because I ended up letting a local friend purchase it from me. She’s been happy with the game, so no regrets there. But I still would really like to get my hands on this game.
10. Thunderstone Quest – I didn’t want to like this game so much. After all, I didn’t think I needed any more deckbuilders. And then I played it, and it convinced me that I do, in fact, need at least one more deckbuilder in my collection.
1. Sentinels of the Multiverse: Oblivaeon – I don’t own everything Sentinels yet, but I still want this final expansion the most. Not only does it come with my new 2nd favorite character in the game, it also would allow me to get a higher loss rate by challenging the massive Oblivaeon…something I can’t wait to do.
2. The Lord of the Rings: Wilds of Rhovanion – The newest deluxe box for my favorite game. There’s a lot of packs I still need, such as all of the smaller packs from the Haradrim Cycle (Beneath the Sands, The Mumakil, Race Across Harad, The Black Serpent, The Dungeons of Cirith Gurat, and The Crossings of Poros) and, honestly, I’d be happy with anything that expands my Lord of the Rings collection.
3. Mystic Vale: Conclave – I need a bigger box to hold all of my Mystic Vale cards as it is, and so this expansion is a must-buy. Even if there was no additional content in that box, this would be reason enough to really want this.
4. Argent: Mancers of the University – This expansion adds a new mage type, which has me really excited. Honestly, I don’t know more than that but this is a top 10 game for me so I definitely want to pick this up.
5. Kingdom Builder: Crossroads – I’m always looking for more Kingdom Builder stuff – a game I need to get back to the table more often. A new expansion might just be what I need to accomplish that.
Top 5 Gaming Moments
1. Edward and Jess from Heavy Cardboard taking time to visit in Iowa City on their road trip to Boston – something I am still humbled by and grateful for that gesture. Words can never fully express how grateful I am for that, as I’ve been a fan of the show for a long time and Edward is someone in this hobby I’ve really looked up to. He’s as awesome in person as he always seems on the podcast/videos they produce, and I’m a herd member for life.
2. Playing Lord of the Rings LCG against designer Caleb Grace in an epic match, even though my Hobbit deck eventually lost. He has strong passion for the game, and cherishes being among the gamers who enjoy playing Lord of the Rings. He didn’t know me from anyone, and just happened to sit down across from me. After a bit of chatting, he asked if I wanted to play and what followed were two of the most memorable hours of my Gen Con experience.
3. Being a guest on the The Board Boys Podcast episode for Terraforming Mars, which let me make a few new friends here in the area who have been super supportive.
4. Learning Penny Rails with Travis Hill from Low Player Count – and meeting a great friend and contributor to the hobby. I’m looking forward to this one hitting Kickstarter in 2019, and to drinking some great coffee with Travis when we meet again. Maybe at BGG Con 2019?
5. Losing horribly at Liberation against Jason Tagmire from Button Shy Games, and then redeeming myself in Circle the Wagons. He’s been a great person to get to know and I have become a full-fledged fan of the work he’s doing and the games they are producing. See that Liberation at the top of my 2018 games list? It earned that spot, 100%, by being an outstanding game design.
Most Played Games
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – 83 Plays
2. Sentinels of the Multiverse – 20 Plays
3. Final Fantasy Trading Card Game – 17 Plays
4. Circle the Wagons – 12 Plays
5. Maiden’s Quest – 12 Plays
6. Kingdom Builder – 10 Plays