Joel's Top 35 Games (2018ish Edition)
Hey everyone! Here is my top 30, as of 2018 (and a bit of 2019 technically). Sorry for the delay in getting out the written portion. Enjoy!
35. Cryptid - It may be number 35, but Cryptid is new to the list and knocked out some big contenders to be on here. The logic puzzle and endless possibilities in setup make this a really interesting game. Oh, and did I mention it plays in about 15 minutes? Wow, what a great game for that timeframe.
34. Hardback - Similar to it’s older brother Paperback, the spelling interests me. However, this seems to balance the game much more with the different genres of cards, paving the way for more synergy.
33. Forbidden Stars - The only area control game on the list and feels like a space epic. Not really into war games, but have a unique attraction to this one. You may start to notice a common theme in my favorite games.
32. Tokyo Metro - After recording my episode, it occurred to me that maybe this game should not have been on my list based on my thoughts in our review. However, managing your money with your investments and actions provides some interesting decisions. While the worker placement may not be the most innovative, the train routes and investments make for a unique take in a game.
31. Sidereal Confluence - Interesting blend of engine building and negotiation mechanics. What most people play board games for, that human interaction. This game embodies that very essence.
30. Everdell - A great tableau builder wrapped in a beautiful package. It also packs some table presence with that giant tree. One of the great things about the game is how you can play it at your own pace, mostly. Being able to plan out my seasons without being stuck in a certain number of rounds allows for some good flexibility in strategy.
29. Anachrony - This is one of my favorite themes in games. Time travel has always fascinated me in movies, books, TV shows, and etc. My score on this on the podcast was a bit higher just based on the theme, but the mechanics are not quite up to the same standard. Played this once in the past year and I thought it held up enough to stay on the list.
28. Tak - Exceptional abstract that really tasks your brain to think critically and strategically. The possibilities in games are endless.
27. The Estates - A tight closed auction game that can be exceptionally brutal. Depending on the player count, you better not be the one holding most of the company certificates…
26. Feudum - Wow, what a giant sandbox this game turned out to be. So many options, I never really know which strategy I am going to choose when the game starts. What keeps this from being a top game for me is the rules overhead.
25. Spirit Island - Currently my favorite cooperative game with a fantastic feeling while playing. The synergy of working together always comes through really well.
24. Race for the Galaxy - The pinnacle of tableau building with cards, but not as high on my list. Feel like I should like this more than I do currently. Next year I have a feeling this will have moved significantly.
23. Dinosaur Island - The new kid on the block with a fantastic theme that takes me back to my childhood of Roller Coaster Tycoon. I’ve also recently been fascinated by ARK: Survival Evolved, so this just hits nicely on all levels. Nice medium weight worker placement game. The expansion truly rounded out this game in the greatest way.
22. Star Realms - One of my favorite deck builders with a unique twist of fighting each other rather than just building your engine or fighting an AI. The synergy of the different races are very interesting.
21. Terra Mystica - This has really fallen out of favor with me of late. Gaia Project pushed it down on the list, but I have been leaning away from this genre of game more and more. Something about it does not click in my head as much as I thought, which makes it less enjoyable.
20. Leaving Earth - You should know by now that I like space themes. Now you tell me this is space and engineering? And it is a simulation?! I am all over that. The rulebook in this game was enough for me to fall in love. It looks like an old engineering manual out of the ‘60s. Such an interesting design that actually makes me want to play games solo.
19. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization - Finally, this game has made it on the list. I was able to get my second play to make this game eligible. I still want a lot more plays of this game, but it really embodies that civilization building game that was missing from my list previously. It is great getting to try out different strategies to grow your civilization and build through the ages. It is no wonder this game has been in the Top 10 on BGG for so long.
18. Arboretum - My favorite abstract with the hardest decisions. The trees on the cards are beautiful and you never know which ones to keep. Your hand size is never big enough.
17. Crokinole - Tabletop sport, enough said. But in all seriousness, this game is amazing. Anyone can play and have a blast.
16. Town Center - The first Alban Viard to make the list. The abstract, mathy goodness is so fantastic. Be looking for more of his games popping up on the list next year.
15. Trickerion - This was a bit of a surprise on the list this year. Finally being eligible, it surpassed its brethren of the same publisher, Anachrony. It has such a unique theme with the magic almost straight of the movie, The Prestige. The decisions can also be brutal when you realize that the person before you in turn order wants to go to the same destinations as you do.
14. Gaia Project - Building on the success and design of Terra Mystica, Gaia Project promised to be better, and it did not disappoint. It scratches my itch for space games while also being a pure engine building game. There is very little player interaction to muddy the waters that are your strategy. The best player will often win, but the asymmetrical player races really add to the variability and replayability of this game. The tech track and terraforming really push this game above Terra Mystica for me. However, this game has been falling by the way side for me. Just not as interesting as it once was.
13. Vinhos Deluxe - Vital Lacerda’s designs are pure genius, and Vinhos is no exception. This entry is technically only for the 2016 Reserve edition, the streamlined version, but that is enough to put it in my top 10. I have a feeling it could surpass the other Vital game on this list with the 2010 Vintage complexity. Like most Vital games, it is all about the tactics and timing, and which wines you want to produce, sell, export, and show at the fair will determine your fate. Like many other games though, Vital’s designs have been falling to the wayside in favor of 18xx and Splotters. The rules just feel so much heavier to tackle when I can get the same complexity in a game from Splotter that I never have to look back at the rulebook for.
12. Lisboa - Vital Lacerda again, what more is there to say? The second on this list, and won’t be the last as soon as I can play anymore of his games. This tactical Euro never disappoints. Finding the best way to rebuild the city of Lisbon while pleasing the nobles and their decrees (the end game scoring bonuses), will have you scratching your head on where to even start. Like many other games though, Vital’s designs have been falling to the wayside in favor of 18xx and Splotters. The rules just feel so much heavier to tackle when I can get the same complexity in a game from Splotter that I never have to look back at the rulebook for.
11. Container - You will notice a trend that starts with this game and propels itself through my Top 10. Simplicity of rules mixed with depth of gameplay. This game has that in spades, and includes auctions and a semi-closed economy. All about that money!
10. Letters from Whitechapel / Whitehall Mystery - The purest hidden movement games. They will always be at the pinnacle of hidden movement for me. The deduction and feel of the game even draw me in. I have always been fascinated by detective shows, and this engages that in full force.
9. The Great Zimbabwe - New to the list this year and the first Splotter on the list. The lightest design, but does not lack depth. I have really fallen for the simplicity of this design and am always looking forward to a play of it. The god powers are all broken in the most amazing ways.
8. Food Chain Magnate - Splotter Spellen has a fantastic design team, and I am glad this game now has some of its friends on the list nearby to keep it company. Like its brethren, it is a fantastic game to include in my list. That feeling when you perfectly plan your turn and undercut your opponent on their own marketing gives you a feeling of pure ecstasy.
7. Brass: Birmingham - Lots of new games on this list, but I think I have played this one the most. Having never played the original Brass, I was not sure what to expect when I initially ordered this, but it was absolutely worth it. The route building and deep decisions that you have to make all based around the cards you have in your hand is so immensely satisfying. To top it all offaesthetic
6. Arkwright - The heaviest game on the list, and no doubt one of the greatest. This business simulation game of commodity speculation really put your math skills to the test. The player that is most willing to do the math for each decision will undoubtedly win. Tread lightly, but once you do, pure enjoyment will follow if math and Euros are some of your favorite things.
5. Thunderstone Quest - Still hands down the best deck builder I have ever played. This includes any version I have played, but I have played Quest the most, so it is the one I’ve listed here, as it is also the most well designed in my opinion. The epitome of deck builders to me and what all should strive to achieve. Have not had a chance to play it as much in the past year, but still holds its own.
4. Indonesia - The highest rank for a Splotter to date, and a new entry in the list. Indonesia was an instant hit with me. I knew it would crack my Top 10 after just one play. However, little did I know that by the time I got around to making my top games list, that Splotter would be so prominent in the Top 10. This still takes the cake with the mergers and company management. Almost feels like a precursor to the 18xx genre.
3. 1846 - Speaking of the 18xx genre, it is making its debut on my list at number 3 in the form of 1846. The first 18xx game I ever played, and I was not even enthused to play it when my friend pulled it off the shelf. I also do not think I could have been more surprised with how engaging and amazing just the first play was. Other people were in the house and commenting on the length of the game, and I did not even notice. I was so enthralled with everything the game had to offer. It threw me directly into the amazing world of 18xx, and I couldn’t be happier (spoiler alert for later).
2. Alchemists - You have heard Nick and I rant and rave about this game. I fell in love with it just from hearing about it, and then I played it and was in a state of pure bliss. Any game with a true logic puzzle, particularly combined with a fantastic worker placement implementation, embodies everything I want in a board game. However, it has been dethroned from its seat at the top! If you have heard any recent podcasts, you already know why, and if you have not, read below.
1. 1889 - Finally we are here, number 1, and of course it is an 18xx game. I will not shut up about them on the podcast. I am so glad I found this genre of games, as I never knew what I was missing. It is an incredible world of company management, stock holding, route building, mergers, and stock manipulation. While Alchemists may be everything I want in a single board game, the 18xx genre provides basically everything I want out of board games. They have made other games undesirable. 1889 is at the top right now, because it is my favorite to date, but I already know it will be dethroned by some other 18xx variant by next year. It is an intro game, but still provides a brilliant gaming experience. I could play 18xx at all my game nights.