Is it too early for best-of-2018 content? Not when you look at my December calender it isn’t. Tell you what, If I find a real gem in the next handfull of weeks I’ll sneak it into contention for 2019. Cool? Cool.
This year I established a regular rhythm of having people over once a month to play games and as a result was able to try out interesting picks from websites like Shut Up and Sit Down and games friends would bring over. Looking at this list, I’m realizing how big of an influencer SUASD is on what I take the time to play, so in 2019 I’m going to make an effort to branch out a bit for more exposure. One thing I did this year and plan to repeat was attending my first true board game convention, Washingcon 2018, which I recommend as a great con for playing games.
Here they are, my favorite board gaming experiences of 2018:
6) The Grizzled
Cooperative and just trying to survive
This game struck the perfect balance of tone and mechanics. The game tells the cooperative story of French soldiers in World War I trying to survive day by day to make it home. Players take turns pushing their luck in trench warfare by trying to play their entire hand of cards in a cute but morbid match-3 mechanic. Much like a partnered trick-taking game, the game limits communication so one must intuit or deduce the hand of the other players based on their willingness to continue in a hand rather than folding for the day.
I’ve all but stopped consuming modern war stories as entertainment, but this card/board game treated the subject matter with enough respect that I am looking forward to playing it again.
5) Burgle Bros
Three layers of quirky caper
One part stealth, and one part cooperative puzzle game. Cards representing rooms fill out a 3 story building to be robbed with randomized AI controlled security guards to be eluded. I’d love to play a 3D stacked version of this game, but that would require some extra hobbying.
Dudes on a map, now with giant war beetles
My previous statement about not wanting to play war games doesn’t apply to fantastical miniature war games, a.k.a. the “Dudes on a Map” genere. This year we payed part two of the Matagot fantasy trilogy called Kemet, a civ building take-and-hold war game. Each faction starts with city-state, soldiers, and pyramids (actually large 4-sided dice). As player’s level up their pyramids they can customize their city with an almost tech-tree like power progression from a common pool of powers, leading each city’s army to be unique to the board and causing an emergent asymmetrical wargame to develop as each player gets powers their competitors can’t copy.
3) Arkham Horror the Card Game
This is a Living Card game (LCG) which is a new genre for me. This game is almost a port of Arkham Horror, a cooperative Cthulhu game, but I found that with a tigheter story-line and an almost role playing game character progression, implemented with deck-building), Arkham Horror the Card Game surpasses both the original Arkham Horror and the Pandemic-style Eldrich Horror. This game nails its Lovecraftian thematic elements and each mission feels different due to cards making up map elements and threats so full randomness of encounters doesn’t detract from play. I’m not particularly into deck building so I appreciate that their are strong example characters that come in the box. This game is cooperative, but I’ve also had fun playing it solo.
2) Flamme Rouge
The only thing worse than riding in front is falling out the back
Featured heavily on Shut Up and Sit Down, including a live stream, I couldn’t resist trying it out. Similar to the only other racing game I have, Formula-D, in Flamme Rouge you control a two-man cycling team competing in the Tour de France. With mechanics like drafting, hill climbing, and wind resistance for being at the front of a peloton, the game is both an innovative simulation of a bicycle race and also fun. Doing both as well as receibing the most requests for re-plays from friends puts it high on my list of favorites from this year. I have to admit that having a non-violent theme also makes it a breath of fresh air on my board game shelf of overwhelmingly war oriented games.
1) Dreadball 2nd Edition
It's like cross between hockey, basket ball, and Space Jam
Not actually a board game, Dreadball is very much a tabletop miniature sports game. Producer Mantic games makes a line of near-clones of fantasy and sci-fi hobby games which are purposely more affordable. While the population playing Dreadball my not be large, in the spirit of all things long tail I was able to join a league of 7 other friends playing a once-a-month format of play. I won my first match! I’ll tell you if I still like the game after playing the oddly themed colonized space-cats, who are the rock to my sumo-lizard scissors mechanically in the game. Unless I get very lucky, game 2 of the season is not going to go well for me.
Dreadball takes my top spot for introducing me to some deep mechanics and new friends, but also inspiring me to break out long unused elements of hobby gaming like painting a squad of miniatures.