2019 was a massive year for the hobby. So many new and incredible games were released, some by veterans of game design and others by newcomers. Wingspan captured the hearts of many, while Wolfgang Warsch continued to impress masses with Taverns of Tiefenthal and Doppelt so Clever (Twice As Clever). No matter what your preferences are in games, 2019 provided something for you. There were huge, sprawling games like The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth and Tainted Grail, to tiny games like Point Salad and Tiny Epic Mechs. War themes like Undaunted, to peaceful themes like Parks. 2019 was an incredible year and selecting only 6 games was very tough, but here are Peter and Jacob’s Top 6 Games of 2019!
Jacob’s Top Games of 2019
Paladins of the West Kingdom
Paladins of the West Kingdom is the follow-up to Architects of the West Kingdom and just like The North Sea trilogy before it it is a step up in difficulty and strategy from its predecessor. If you’ve played Architects, Paladins adds new mechanics, but keeps a lot of the same symbology which makes learning Paladins a breeze. That being said, playing Architects is not a prerequisite to playing Paladins (though you won’t be disappointed by either of those games).
Paladins has a mechanic similar to Orléans for action selection where you have a limited number of workers and each action requires specific workers, but instead of building a pool of workers to pull from each round you receive workers from a Paladin you chose for the round as well as a set of workers from worker cards that change each round. Then you put your workers to work and do as many actions as you can with the limited resources that you have. Paladins is a well-crafted and beautiful game that will make your brain work hard to achieve greatness in the West Kingdom! .
Azul: Summer Pavilion
When the original Azul came out, I was impressed. It was such a simple design which provided good choices and decent player interaction. Then Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra came out and I never played it because how could you improve upon the original? When Azul: Summer Pavilion came out it looked different enough from Azul that I decided I would give it a shot. I was not disappointed.
Azul: Summer Pavilion builds on the mechanic of Azul, but then takes it to a whole new level. I love the way this game feels familiar and different all at the same time. Just like in the original Azul, in Azul: Summer Pavilion you are taking tiles from the “factories” and then placing them on your board. But now, there are wild tiles (change color each round), your board provides you bonuses when you surround certain areas which allow you to potentially get even more tiles. I love the depth of this game and as attractive as Azul was on the table, this game blows that one out of the water.
I’m not going to lie, the theme did nothing to initially sell me on this game. In fact, I wasn’t planning on buying it, but I won it in a contest. Then I played it and really enjoyed it. It isn’t the most strategic game in the world and luck plays a pretty big factor in the game, but what Wingspan does is exactly what it needs to do. It is introducing a lot of new players into the hobby by taking a unique theme and creating a very thematic, easy to learn game.
What completely grabs me in this game is the engine building aspect using the birds and generators of different bonuses. Most birds have a thematic action that may trigger on your or your opponent’s turn. Creating the best engine will allow to take some crazy turns generating plenty of points. Hidden behind the theme and simple rule-set is a wonderful engine-building game that makes it fun to see what new combos come out each game. It is also one of the most beautiful games out there. The bird illustrations all look like they came straight out of a science book and like all Stonemaier games the components are top-notch.
Peter’s Top Games of 2019
Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated
It’s no secret that I really like the original Clank! game. The deck building, the art, the humour and the race to get a treasure and get out. All parts of it just sings to me and I have such a great time every time I play it. Clank! Legacy does all of the above but adds legacy into the mix and it works so well. The wacky D&D Acquisitions Incorporated setting fits so well with the Clank! setting.
The core is still Clank! But so many great twists and turns get added to it at a fantastic and remarkable speed. I love how after just a few games the board is different, new rules and mechanisms have been added, even more so than other legacy style games. Clank! Legacy not only features many fantastic D&D and geeky culture references, it also has a great and immersive narrative. It is simply put, the best legacy experience I’ve played (and I’ve played quite a few). If you like deck building, D&D, humor, good stories and legacy then I simply can’t recommend Clank! Legacy enough.
Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
The original Imperial Settlers has been one of my favourite games for a long time, so I was very excited (and a little apprehensive) when I heard about this spin-off/sequel. This, however, did not change the fact that it was one of my most anticipated games of 2019. You might have already guessed that since it’s on this list it did not disappoint, and you would indeed be correct.
Empires of the North takes much of what made the original good and adds a lot of new stuff to the mix. I would say this new version is a better evolved version, but at the same time different enough to warrant owning both (though it has replaced the original in my collection). One of the many great things about it is that it takes all the decking building away and just gives you a very unique faction deck to play with. They all play very differently and I had such a great time exploring them.
Give me awesome chunky custom dice and a new and exciting way to use them and you’ll make me very happy. That’s what Sushi Roll did. I always enjoyed Sushi Go. It’s a great game to play with casual people and a great way to introduce people to drafting. It’s been in my collection for such a long time and I still very much enjoy playing it.
So, of course I had to pick up the dice version when it came out. It retains its elegance and simplicity from the original, but does it all with dice instead. It’s still, very much, a light drafting game. But since you can see all the dice types you have a better idea of what could come your way and what is in play in any given round. This adds new, fun ways to interact with the stealing chopsticks and overall was just a very satisfying drafting experience for me. Oh and the chucky dice are just a joy to roll.