2018 was yet another great year for board games. As the industry expands and more and more people get into the hobby so does the selection of great and diverse games. There are fantastic games for every taste now. It is just a matter of finding out what you like and then trying them out. These are my Top 6 Games of 2018.
Architects of the West Kingdom
If I were to describe my favourite style of game I would say: “A thematic, medium weight euro with great art and some unique elements”. This is also how I would describe Architects of the West Kingdom. Lovely art by The Mico always peaks my interest in a game, and when it’s the same publisher who brought me one of my all time favourites Raiders of the North Sea I knew I couldn’t pass this one by.
What makes this game truly stand out is the way the worker placement works (or worker investment as they call it). Instead of starting with a few workers you start with 20! Each turn you only play 1 of them, but the actions they trigger will grow more and more powerful over time. As you accumulate resources to construct buildings you’ll also need to hire assistants, decide if your virtuous or sneaky. It’s all amazing fun! I had the pleasure of demoing this for Essen SPIEL ‘18. I loved to teach it to new people and see how different they approached it.
Without a doubt KeyForge is the game I played the most in 2018. Created by the legendary Richard Garfield, this game is in many ways an evolution of the collectable card game Magic the Gathering. With one very key difference: You can only buy randomly generated decks that you can’t mix together. This sounds crazy right? And it is, but crazy in a good way. It has a fun and wacky theme that I love with a great art style, and on top of that it has a super interesting design.
There’s so many things I love about in addition to the unique decks. I love how the game has removed all kind of resources that you normally have in card games like, how you can only play and activate cards from one of the 3 houses in your deck each turn and how it’s a race to forge 3 keys first (hence the name KeyForge). It will feel familiar to other card gamers yet accessible to new players. I can’t wait to see what Fantasy Flight Games have in store for KeyForge.
Ganymede is simple, light, streamlined, great looking, offers a lot of options and a great engine / tableau building feel. It’s such a well crafted experience and I absolutely love it. The premise of the game is simple. Launch shuttles from Ganymede (a moon orbiting Jupiter) with specific coloured meeples on them. Your meeples start on earth, of course. From there you have to get them to Mars before they can make the final stop to Ganymede (and their shuttle that will score you points). You do this by selecting different cards and titles that get more and more powerful the more of the same colour you collect. But collecting different sets is also rewarded, so there is always a constant push/pull of what is the best option.
While the theme is not super apparent, I still think the art style and setting makes a great abstract game feel thematic. An expansion (called Moon) will also be released for it, adding more thematic components.
Chronicles of Crime
Who doesn’t like a good mystery? I know I do. I really like the idea behind the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games, where you try to solve a case by searching for clues, talk to suspects, witnesses and other people. But my main problem with that series of games is that it can just be to much hard work to read through generic text blocks and try to extract the important information. I wish I could ask specific questions to specific people and actually see certain locations with my own eye.
As if by magic Chronicles of Crime actually grants all my wishes. With the help of a great app driven system. I can now ask a suspect if they’ve seen the murder weapon before, if they know a specific person and stuff like that. It feels great. Add to that a certain time pressure. Things can change based on time passing. It is a truly remarkable experience, that I highly recommend to anyone that likes to solve mysteries.
You might have guess that I’m a sucker for beautiful games. Beauty, however, can not stand alone. A beautiful game that I don’t enjoy the theme and mechanisms of, will never find a place in my collection. Solenia will get a place. It’s one of those rare gems that I think is both beautiful to look at, has great mechanisms, a nice theme and to top it all of it just feels great to play.
Technically this could be described as a “pickup and deliver” game (a genre I don’t normally like). But Solenia features quite a few unique and great innovations to this genre. As you travel around a world with one side in eternal darkness and the other side bathed in light, you play cards with holes in the middle. You slide and flip boards so that your options always change as day turns to night. Your cards that “fall of the board” will gain you different bonuses. It sounds weird, I know, but it creates a really great light game experience that I can’t wait to revisit. Also this is a great quick game suitable for casual gamers too.
I’m normally very wary of heavier games. If a game takes longer to play and has a higher complexity I have to like it that much more for me to add it to my collection. Underwater City is on of those heavier and more complex games that I truly adore.
In Underwater Cities you, yes you guessed it, build cities under water. So there is a certain spatial aspect to the game. But the truly great aspect of the game is the “worker placement”. Instead of placing a worker on an action space you play a card on it. If the card matches the colour of the action space you get to do both the action and the effect on the card. So very often you want a certain action on the board but dont have the right colour card for it or the other way around. It’s a simple, but great concept. that adds a lot of great tension to game about building the best city network under water, producing the right resources and scoring the most points. It’s great stuff.