This year felt sub-par for board games, not much stands out. The only 2019 game currently on the BGG Top 100 is Wingspan and I wasn’t as enamoured with that as the rest of the world. The only standout game that I played this year, with a released date actually in 2019, was Parks. While not the most hyped game, its solid foundation and gorgeous production values ensured that I would keep it in my collection as an opener or gateway game to a more casual audience. Parks stands along side other great “Less than an hour” resource management games like Splendor and Century as something that will see regular use.
Runner Up: Tapestry
I was quite fond of the particular puzzle Tapestry presented. It wasn’t grand in scope or complex in nature but it was satisfying. I avoided disappointment of Tapestry because I had absolutely zero expectations going into it. I wasn’t expecting a Civ like 4X game, I wasn’t expecting anything. Because of that, I could enjoy trying to make combos with the advancement tracks and building my own narrative (or Tapestry….) of my civilisation. I take the game for what it is, an enjoyable medium weight puzzle.
Best Game of 2018 that I didn’t play until 2019
Board games often take a while to get to the table and it takes even longer than that to get enough playthroughs in to truly judge a game. It’s incredibly common for games released later in 2018 to not get played until 2019 and therefore miss the list of the year they were released in. Teotihuacan would have probably been good enough to be my favorite game in any year that didn’t have a Brass game released. It’s worker placement with all of the complexity, intricacy and visual elegance anyone could hope for. Like any good game, an action is easy to take and understand but there is such an intricate webway of systems underneath the game that makes you want to study and pull apart at every option. It is one of the most satisfying Euro experiences in years.
Runner Up: Everdell
Everdell seemed to be second in people’s minds for late 2018 anthropomorphic animal games. It’s a medium weight worker placement tableau building game that does just enough to feel like the decisions are satisfying. The true magic of the game comes from it’s artistic flourish and charming interactions. I love games that make me reflect on what I’ve built and where a tableau tells a story that feels unique and interesting. I never get tired of seeing what villagers I can get, what combos my city can create and how long I can stretch out my actions to maximize my time in any season. I’m eagerly looking forward to the expansions releasing early next year.
Best game released in 2019 that I haven’t played yet but look forward to playing
I had a chance to buy this game but I decided to do the efficient thing and wait for the Kickstarter with the expansion. I completely bounced of Dinosaur Island because I didn’t really gel with the artistic style and I wasn’t satisfied with the dice drafting decision making or the lack of unique flavor for the dinosaurs. Dinogenics looks to be closer to a classic Euro worker placement game that is more similar to something like Viticulture (a personal favorite of mine). I love the art, the production values and the ability to create a truly unique and interesting park. Here’s hoping my expectations aren’t disappointed when my copy arrives in the spring.
Runner Up: On Mars
Vital Lacerda games can be a bit tricky to judge. It’s tough to make a game with depth, complexity and intelligence without feeling like the complexity exists for its own sake. I bounced off Lisboa hard because I was never enjoying the puzzle, I always felt like I was struggling just to do anything. I didn’t have the highest expectations for On Mars but after watching recent gameplay videos it looks like this game should be a return to form offering depth and complexity that adds exiting potential to the decision making. On Mars also has, in my opinion, one of the best themes and visual designs of any Lacerda game to date. My copy should be arriving any week now and I can’t wait to get it to the table.