Nick's Top 35 Games (2018 Edition)
35 - Mage Knight (debut)
Mage Knight was my first heavy Euro I ever purchased. A monster of a game in a rather compact box. Complete with exciting exploration, monster slaying, powerful spells, leveling up, and tons of rule fiddliness. I play this one exclusively solo, and only when I feel up to the challenge of referencing rules nearly every turn for fear I’d cheat accidentally otherwise.
34 - Yinsh (debut)
Yinsh is the gamer’s Checkers. Brimming with tactical decisions, you’ll feel the stress of moving your rings round after round while you race to collect five in a row of your color three times to win. Unlike Chess, Yinsh has a lower strategic ceiling making it a great pick to play against experienced and new players alike.
33 - Antiquity (debut)
The first Splotter title on the list, but I assure you it won’t be the last. This is a uniquely wonderful take on a civilization game. You will grow your people and expand your cities across the ancient looking countryside, and doing this will be anything but easy. Prepare to set aside extra land (or an entire city) for a graveyard. You’ll need it. Oh, and don’t forget to chop that wood.
32 - Escape the Aliens in Outer Space (was #19 in 2017)
Escape the Aliens is the perfect board game for those nights when you want to hunt down your friends and devour their corpses before they can escape your clutches. Good stuff. Would recommend.
31 - Trickerion (was #14 in 2017)
Trickerion delivers one of my favorite worker placement experiences alongside a wonderfully compelling theme. Picture The Prestige in board game form and you’ll end up with something similar to this—a great game that I haven’t played enough. I must get it back to table soon.
30 - Nippon (was #25 in 2017)
Nippon has grown better with age. Each subsequent play makes me appreciate it more than the last. The worker consolidation and area influence combine to make tense indirect player conflict that I absolutely love. The Japanese theme is a bonus.
29 - Food Chain Magnate (was #10 in 2017)
Food Chain, the fan favorite epic of Splotter, packs a big punch. If you like your heavy Euros dripping in player interaction, look no further. You won’t find multiplayer solitaire here, just a significant amount of marketing wars between Fried Geese and Donkey and Gluttony Burger.
28 - Hive (was #17 in 2017)
Hive is the most played game in my top 35, and if challenged to compete in one of my favorite games, it would be this one. I’d surely get crushed against the dedicated pro, but I might stand a fighting chance in some tournaments.
27 - Three Kingdoms Redux (debuts)
A three player only 3-4 hour board game is tough to get to table. Nevertheless, Three Kingdoms Redux is totally worth the lucky play every once in awhile. The bidding mechanism delivers a tense and stressful experience that requires players to bluff and avoid telegraphing their true intentions too soon round after round.
26 - Tulip Bubble (debuts)
This little gem is a prize game in my collection. Centered around Tulip Mania, a real past historical event where people threw away their life savings to invest in tulips, Tulip Bubble sees players buying and selling tulips to make it big before the bubble bursts.
25 - The Great Zimbabwe (debuts)
TGZ is a weird mix of variable player powers, tile placement, and route building. A wholly unique design that shines. I only assume this will grow better with age.
24 - Istanbul (debuts)
Istanbul was my “new to me” hit of this year. If you listen to our podcast, you’ve surely heard me rave about how much I love this simple worker movement race game. I’m still not tired of it and the expansions make it even better.
23 - Indonesia (debuts)
Mergers are the name of the game here and I love it. I’m looking forward to bugging the guys to get this one to table more in the upcoming year to further explore the depths of its many possibilities.
22 - Spirit Island (debuts)
Here lies the only cooperative game on my list...and it finally got the genre right.
21 - John Company (debuts)
So far, this has easily been my favorite Cole Wehrle design, but also one of the most challenging games I’ve ever learned. Players will be forced to work together to run the famous East India Trading Company. John Company truly shines if its players generously participate in negotiations.
20 - Tigris & Euphrates (honorable mention Yellow & Yangtze) (was #13 in 2017)
A classic design full of rising and falling kingdoms. T&E deserves all the praise it’s received over the years.
19 - Arboretum (was #8 in 2017)
Arboretum is a deceptively mean and unforgiving little card game full of impossible decisions round after round. I love every moment of it.
18 - Race for the Galaxy (was #11 in 2017)
Race is a satisfying 30 minute tableau building card game that sees consistent play in our group and is one of the only games all four of us on the podcast actively praise.
17 - 1846 (debuts)
1846 was my recent introduction into the 18xx genre and I’ve been addicted ever since. From my initial plays, it appears to be too easy to ensure that companies will perform well round after round, which is why it missed my top 10.
16 - Lisboa (was #6 in 2017)
Vital Lacerda is one of the few designers I will throw money at anytime he creates something new. Lisboa continues to prove why this isn’t a bad arrangement.
15 - Polis: Fight for the Hegemony (debuts)
Two player historical wargames are becoming one of my favorite board gaming passions. Although Polis can sometimes play more like a tight Euro game between two players than a traditional wargame, I find it immensely satisfying.
14 - Container (debuts)
Container is my favorite auction game. The shared player economy is especially great. The richer I become, the poorer everyone else gets (or if I’m unlucky, the reverse happens).
13 - Sekigahara (was #16 in 2017)
Sekigahara is beautiful to look at. Combine that with an awesome “fog of war” mechanic, engaging combat, lots of bluffing, and an immersive historical feudal Japan theme and you’ve stumbled upon something exquisite.
12 - Mage Wars Arena (was #15 in 2017)
Mage Wars Arena is probably a surprise to see here. It definitely stands out like a sore thumb in contrast to the games that have come before it, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it it here. Some of my favorite board gaming experiences have come from this game single game.
11 - Arkwright (was #9 in 2017)
My favorite game from Capstone, Arkwright, gets a bad rap for looking too much like a simulation in Excel spreadsheets. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty darn cool to me. Forget about your vikings and zombies, mathematics prevails on this list.
10 - Crokinole (debuts)
Congratulations! you made it to my top 10. Let’s stop here for awhile and play Crokinole. I’m in no hurry to continue on—we can play for days and days and...
9 - Forbidden Stars (was #5 in 2017)
Forbidden Stars boasts one of the best combat systems I’ve ever seen in a board game and it gives me chest pain and makes me sweaty. I love it.
8 - Whitehall Mystery (honorable mention Letters From Whitechapel) (was #3 in 2017)
Hidden movement is one of my favorite mechanics and Whitehall Mystery distills it down to its very essence. It’s one of the few games in my collection I’m willing to play anytime it’s suggested.
7 - Tak (was #7 in 2017)
Tak is a beautiful game. It tells you so right on the box. I love abstract games, and this one reigns supreme. Try it for free here.
6 - Feudum (debuts)
This is my favorite new release of 2018. Feudum’s sandbox continues to pull me in game after game. The cyclical economy that exists between the guilds especially stands out here.
5 - Gaia Project (honorable mention Terra Mystica) (was #2 in 2017)
Terra Mystica was one of the first board games I fell absolutely in love with and Gaia Project has managed to improve upon Terra Mystica in more ways than I ever thought possible. An instant classic.
4 - Pax Renaissance (was #4 in 2017)
Phil Eklund’s designs are sometimes a miss since he oftentimes implements unsound mechanisms to stay true to theme; however, that is not the case here. With Pax Renaissance, Eklund striked gold. Bravo sir.
3 - 1889 (debuts)
1889 continues to prove to me that trains are cool. 18xx is a niche system that I’ve avoided like the plague, but I’m glad I’m finally aboard now. Choo-choo-ca-choo, baby!
2 - Hannibal & Hamilcar (debuts)
I’m on the cusp of doing a dive head first into historical wargaming and Hannibal should be partially to blame. This game has proven to be the most challenging game I’ve ever learned, but that’s in part due to the incredibly poor rulebook and even worse playbook. Nevertheless, thankfully I persisted and finally got this monster figured out. Over the past two months, this game has been stuck in my head more than anything else in my collection. I’m obsessed.
1 - Alchemists with the The King’s Golem expansion (was #1 in 2017)
Alchemists, including its must have expansion, continues to stand out from the crowd of other heavyweight Euro board games by offering a beautifully complex logic puzzle unlike anything else on the market overtop a well thought out worker placement game. Mixing potions in attempt to piece together the chemical makeup of ingredients in Alchemists is easily my favorite action in any game.