Last month, I took a look at my favorite games that were published in 2017 — it was a great list! Now, almost 8 1/2 months into this current year, I feel like it’s a decent time to go ahead and review my favorites from 2018. Personally, 2018 was the year that I fell head-in to the board gaming hobby. Thus, some of the new games that came out last year have a special place in my heart.
At this point, I have played 46 games with a 2018 publication date, making up 16% of my total played collection at the moment. There were definitely some duds in that group, but plenty of outstanding titles that are worth noting in this week’s top 10 list — in fact, so many great games that I’m cheating by adding an 11th, runner-up, game for this list.
Now, let’s get started!
Runner Up – Sprawlopolis, Button Shy
In getting into the board gaming hobby, I also found myself tumbling into the exciting, yet wallet-drenching world of Kickstarter. One of my first games to ‘back’ was Sprawlopolis — one of Button Shy’s wallet games. I have played a few of these wallet games at this point and sadly, most have been lackluster at best. Sprawlopolis defies that status as not just a good game, but a REALLY good game.
It is essentially a tile-laying game, but the variable scenarios (3 random scoring missions each game…from an 18-card variety) make each game its own unique puzzle. Sprawlopolis also hits a perfect level of difficulty for a co-op / solo game. It is hard (I have a 40% winning percentage), but not brutal. I always feel like I have a chance to win….and if I lose, I feel like I came close. Sprawlopolis is a great small game that I can take to work or on the road.
#10 – Roll to the Top!, Cwali
As roll-and-write games start to take over the world, I am slowly dipping my feet into the waters…a game here, a game there. One of those titles is Cwali’s Roll to the Top! In this game, you pick a monument (essentially different shapes to climb) and start rolling the dice. Everyone uses the same rolls, so the puzzle is choosing when and how to use numbers. Should you be aggressive and use a high number early or stay conservative, utilizing less dice but keeping your options more open for future rolls? I love the puzzle this game provides and as of today…I’m still undefeated!!
#9 – Reef, Next Move Games / Plan B Games
My favorite element of Reef: what I call “constant mission fulfillment.” In other words, completing a scoring card only takes a few turns and potential scoring options are consistently re-populating. I also love the tangible nature of Reef — picking up and placing small, chunky reef pieces is enjoyable. The game moves quick and keeps you thinking and adjusting throughout play.
#8 – Gizmos, CMON
Engine-building is one of my favorite game mechanisms and Gizmos hits that gear real hard — and I love it for that. Furthermore, how fun is it to pull marbles out of the “marble machine” this game comes with us? I might rate this game a bit higher if there was a better theme behind it, but I still really enjoy the combos that can be created with this fun, new title.
#7 – Castell, Renegade Game Studios
Castell is the most recent game I have played with a 2018 publication date (I take that back…2nd most recent –> I see you Hail Hydra). My son and I both really liked this charming game. Turns are quick and there are enough options available to make decisions meaningful, but not so many that players would get lost in a world of “what do I do?” Like the two games I just mentioned, Castell also does a great job of providing tangible enjoyment in its play. Reef had the chunky pieces you use to build your reef. Gizmos had marbles. Castell has a cool “people tower” that you will keep adjusting and growing throughout the game as you either see what you are capable of or what performances are required to please audiences. I really want some more plays with Castell.
#6 – Drop It, KOSMOS
Drop It is another 2018 title that I would simply describe as FUN! It is a game that I can play with just about anyone — everyone tends to have an equal footing — and there’s always crazy physics I can count on to keep us all laughing, smiling, and sometimes pouting!
#5 – Root, Leder Games
Root. The 2018 award winner extraordinaire! It took me awhile to get my hands on this to play it, but I was very excited when that time and opportunity came. My first response –> I need more plays of this game! Root has an unfortunate ‘barrier to learn’ issue. That said, I have had a blast every time I have gotten to play the game and the asymmetrical factions are interesting and enjoyable to learn and explore. I have the Underworld expansion set to arrive at the end of this year and thus I look forward to an excuse to get this to the table again soon. [I still need a chance to play as the Vagabond!!!]
#4, Welcome to…, Blue Cocker / Deep Water Games
Flip’n’Write!! Welcome to… is a perfect game to play at just about any player count without impacting length of play much at all. It also hits the sweet spot between “there’s a ton of things I want to accomplish” and “I can only focus on so much at once”. This is a really fun game to play solo as well, with the variability of “mission cards” keeping each play unique.
I’m just itching to pull the trigger on getting some of the seasonal expansions for Welcome to…
#3 – Ganz schön clever, Stronghold Games
At the 3 spot, my top Roll-and-Write game from 2018 is Ganz schön clever. I tend to go through the same emotions each time I play this game. First couple rounds = “Ugh, I don’t feel like I’m doing good at all…this game is going to turn out horrible” Just past midway = “Ooo….now it’s starting to come together. If only I can get this and that, which will help me combo over there…” End of game = “Wow, I can’t believe how much I managed to accomplish!!”
I still wouldn’t call myself much more than ‘decent’ at this game, but it has been a hit each time it comes to the table.
#2 – Space Base, AEG
Heading into 2018, one of my favorite games to play was Machi Koro — but with each session, the length of play was becoming draining. Then, I heard people raving that Space Base was a Machi Koro-killer. That perked my ears up! And for me personally –> they were right!
I enjoy that Space Base uses that same concept of growing your card base so that you can score better no matter what the dice say….regardless of who is rolling the dice. I love that every turn, each player is equally involved in the action. Furthermore, Space Base makes a smart move by giving every one a starting hand of 12 cards, plus a thirteenth random draw card.
While the game relies on dice rolling and the element of chance that comes with that, there are plenty of card options to try and either mitigate the dice or make the odds work more in your favor. The point engines that can be built are very exciting if you can get your hands on the right cards at the right time.
My wife and I are in the midst of playing the Emergence of Shy Pluto expansion and enjoying the new cards that are entering the game via this mini-campaign adventure.
#1 – Vindication, Orange Nebula
Vindication is like the Oscar movie that doesn’t come out until the very end of the year, but woos the critics and takes over the awards show. In this case, the critics = me (heavily woo’ed!!) and the awards show = my anticipation levels before August and my table once my Kickstarter pledge fulfilled early last month. I love the color and artistry of this game — the components — and the plethora of modules to plug-in to make every game feel fresh and unique. Even in its base form, though, Vindication hits all the sweet points in decision-making, combo potential, and need for strategic flexibility. I expect to get a ton of value out of Vindication — my #1 game from 2018!!
I would love to hear your thoughts. What is your favorite game from last year? When did you get into the board gaming hobby?