Scott's Top 30 Games (2018 Edition)

30 - Roll for the Galaxy

Much like Race this game offers simultaneous action selection and a variety of tableau building options. This game has a puzzle like nature of assigning your dice workers and the game feel of placing them on projects and buying the workers back into your cup.

29 - Blood Rage

This is a lighter area control game but it is still a good one. The minis are high quality, the games don’t take to long, and it is easy to teach. Even so, there are quite a few different strategies and combos to exploit and there is plenty of counter-play and hate drafting that can mix things up.

28- Scythe

This is a good engine building area control game with great art, theme, and production quality.  While some of the factions are definitely stronger than others, the difference is not overwhelming. Though I feel this game would have been better off going in hard on interaction or non-interaction it is still an enjoyable experience.

27 - Polis: Fight for the Hegemony

This game focuses on the economic aspect of the Peloponnesian War and games often have only a few battles in my experience. It’s a unique twist on a wargame and the fact that you spend VP to do some of your actions means it’s often very tight.

26 - Gaia Project

This is a game that would normally not catch my interest but this game is very easy to learn for a heavy euro and offers a lot of depth through variable endgame scoring, asymmetric powers, and a tech track that has been revamped over Terra Mystica.

25 - Container

Another economic game, this one has a very interdependent, player-driven economy. You produce goods for other players to buy and buy other players good to place on your dock, hoping another players ship will pay you a visit. The secret endgame scoring cards add some mystery to stop people from knowing for sure who to try to screw over.

24 - Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain

A game in the COIN series, this is one I expect to rise through the ranks as I play it more. The detail this game offers is incredible with moving victory thresholds for each of the asymmetric factions, a detailed battle process, and its open nature.

23 - Codenames Duet

What helps this game rank so highly is that it is fast to play and easy to learn. This is the best of the Codenames games since both players get to take the role of spymaster and spy.

22. - Alchemists

I don’t really care all that much about the worker placement, but it is an amazing thematic game. The connected app and the player screens with the cauldron make for a flavorful experience that makes you feel like a crazed alchemist testing new potions on unfortunate undergrads. If you love deduction with your euros then you will love this.

21 - Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn

For the relatively small card pool, there are a ton of options in building a deck. The way combat works and the way rounds play out help keep aggressive decks balanced. Many card games suffer from linear aggressive strategies being too strong. While making your opponent react to you is still strong, other strategies are plenty viable here as well.

20 - Cryptid

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Another easy to learn filler game, this one can really get you thinking. Everything is pretty simple up front, you have one rule to remember and you are trying to find a spot on the map that follows the other players secret rules. That being said, things can get tense as everyone starts to narrow in on the rules and you are hoping it makes it back around to your turn. This is one light game that I could play 5 times in a row.

19 - Feudum

This is a great looking game with a lot of player freedom and a cool mechanic based around the interaction of interconnected guilds. There are a good variety of strategies and supplementary strategies and nothing feels obviously better. Once you get over the long teach the game is intuitive but that hump is there.

18 - Mage Wars

This is a great customizable card game. I think it plays best 1 v 1 but it can be played with teams as well. Each player picks a mage like a druid, necromancer, or wizard, and builds a custom spell book. Each turn you draw 2 cards of your choice. Players are managing their positioning, mana supply, and cards in hand to gain the advantage. Lots of depth and customization.

17 - Gloomhaven

I can never play another dice chucking dungeon crawl again. The euro based card play for actions and the fact that everyone takes their turn at the same time is genius. It prevents quarter backing and makes trying to work together interesting. This game has a lot of play in it.

16 - Inis

This is an interesting take on area control where completely eliminating the opponent may not be ideal. Players shoot for multiple victory conditions to see who can attain the most and the card drafting every round offers interesting decisions and some information on what your opponents are actually capable of.

15 - Crokinole

Less of a board game and more of a table top sport, crokinole is just plain fun and I can never only play one game when it comes out. Simple rules mean it’s good to break out at family gatherings too.

14. - Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant

This game has the longest name of all time but it is a ton of fun. Each player is trying to run their economy as efficiently as possible using their resource converters, but each player needs to trade for their inputs. Each round has a timed open negotiation period where people make promises and trade goods freely. The races are all very unique and players can work to balance the game by embargoing winning players. Play this with sharks.

13 - Race for the Galaxy

This game is easy to pick up and learn, plus the only components are cards and a few player aids. Despite the simplicity there, it adds depth with the different paths you can take in building your tableau, like military expansion, development, and going for max consumption points. The simultaneous action selection rewards players with extra efficiency if they can predict the opponent’s choices.

12 - Rising Sun

This is a great game and is a good next step area control for people coming into the boardgaming hobby. Each clan has a powerful ability balanced out by the fact they are all strong. The bidding for war advantages, along with war reparations and a set order for battles each season reward careful planning.

11 - Keyforge

The unique deck game is a wonderful idea and makes it easy to introduce new players. You grab a deck and play. The unique decks also enable very powerful cards and synergies to exist without running into the problem MTG had with the secondary market. My second most played game of 2018.

10 - Spirit Island

Spirit Island is my favorite co-op game. The unique and flavorful spirits each player controls offer a lot of replayability and the anti-colonial theme is refreshing for a euro game. My favorite spirit so far is the Ocean’s Hungry Grasp whose influence waxes and wanes like the tide, rewarding good timing for the use of your stronger abilities.

9 - Memoir ‘44

This game is a lighter member of the Commands & Colors games but makes up for the light weight with an easy teach and quick gameplay. This game can be a blast, Dylan and I often end up standing around the table shouting as we roll the dice. A definite beer and pretzels game you might be able to get your dad to play.

8 - Washington’s War

This card driven game by Mark Herman pits the Americans against the British in the Revolutionary War. Each side has unique strengths and weaknesses that cause them to favor a battle of political attrition or military victory, however, either side can win both victories and I really like when a game discourages a certain path to victory rather than disallowing it. Battles in this game are often won by planning, where it takes place, where your influence is, and what general leads your troops can all but guarantee victory in a battle that would otherwise be left to the dice.

7 - Forbidden Stars

This game will burn your brain and the combat will make you sweat. You need to manage your technology, get new combat cards, recruit units, expand and exploit new worlds, and of course fight your enemies for your objective markers. This game uses an interesting mechanic where players place command tokens in a stack in the different areas. The last token in is the first one out and if none of your tokens are on top you get skipped.

6 - Command & Colors: Napoleonics

This game is based around the historical scenarios, each one with special rules and a historical background of the battle. The armies have more differences between them than Memoir with some units having a different number of blocks or dice roll modifiers. This game also introduces Napoleonic tactics as new mechanics with Retire and Reform, Infantry Square, and Combined Arms Assault. Positioning is now much more important and overall combat is more true to the era with cavalry screens distracting infantry to prevent them from firing, and the flow of combat based around capturing advantageous terrain.

5 - 13 Days the Cuban Missile Crisis

This is a game of chicken where the consequences are nuclear war. The USSR and the US are placing influence into different theatres to win the tug of war scoring while also trying not to escalate the conflict too far lest they lose by causing nuclear war. The cards all have newspaper images on them of the events they describe and add a nice thematic touch to the game. This game made me sweat while I was trying to manage my level of escalation which constantly goes up as the game goes on pushing you closer to the brink.

4 - Clockwork Wars

This is an epic 4x game that never got the love it deserved. This game has a random tech tree, a modular hex board, asymmetric player powers, and simultaneous deployment. In order to do well in this game you need to be able to predict what your opponents’ moves will be and plan accordingly. The game has objectives to fight over and prevents snowballing by removing units that are on the scoring tiles from play. If you can find it you should buy it.

3 - Root

The game of woodland might and right is my favorite game to come out last year. The art and theme are both wonderful and their contrast with the mechanics of the game bring a refreshing take on what a mean wargame looks like. Each faction plays very differently and has a unique way of scoring victory points. This is a game you will want to play with the same group over and over as everyone becomes more familiar and the experience becomes more cutthroat with players no longer letting someone run away with the game.

2 - Pax Renaissance

Boy this game was difficult to learn. Even after learning it I had no idea what would be a good move to make, but I was instantly hooked. This game is so smart and it is the heaviest game in the smallest box. This game is over a 4 in weight on BGG but regularly plays in under an hour. It has each player playing a Renaissance banker influencing the events in Europe. The art and flavor text on the cards are very thematic and interesting to anyone who enjoys the time period. It seems opaque, there is so much counter-play and so many choices to make but so often your turn is just buy a card play a card, or use the cards in your tableau. The fact that you only get 2 actions help keep things moving through the analysis paralysis, and you can really do a lot with 2 actions. Buy this game before it goes out of print.

1 - Twilight Struggle

How do I even fit everything into this article for this game? This game is the card driven strategy game. The range of options available to you is staggering and a competitive community has developed around this game. The tug of war scoring system and the changing dynamic as the rounds go on and new cards are introduced create a sort of story arc for the game. Games will very rarely play out exactly the same with both players able to utilize cards that have their opponent’s events not just their own. Managing the timing of when to trigger one of your opponent’s event leads to some interesting cases and the game can often have rounds where both players are focusing on damage control. Each turn in this game I am looking at my hand and considering the order of the card play as well as the value I can generate from each card and how much my opponent’s events would help them. This is not a game a new player is going to stand a chance in against an experienced player, even with the randomness of operation dice rolls and card draw. 10/10

Scott AlberdingComment