It is the beginning of the year, so it means we reflect on the year pass. One of the reflections points for me is all the great times spent around a game table indulging in my favorite hobby. With the boon in board games over the past decade, 2018 was another year of stellar titles. It is always hard to pick a list of favorites since there are some titles I never got to play. If there are some games I have missed which you think I should try, let me know by leaving a comment or let me know via Twitter. With further ado, below is my list of favorite titles from 2018 in no particular order:
The Mind (2-4 players) - Do not talk, do not signal. The polarizing game of 2018 where players have to play cards in numerical order without talking or signaling to other players. A game consist of twelve levels which correspond to the number of cards each player will receive. The players start with three lives and two throwing stars. When players are ready, the players put their hands on the table and the round begins. Now it is up to the players to figure out who needs to lay down the card first and continue in numerical order until everyone is out of cards. A throwing star can be used if a number is missed by one card and anything greater will cost a life. On certain rounds, players can earn back a life or a throwing star. If the players make it to the end of round twelve, they win! The game can be hilarious to watch if you have no context. One night while playing at a pub, people were coming up and asking questions because they saw people not speaking while laying down cards with a rare moment where a hand was raised to correct the game state or answer a question. Even after playing a few games with people, it can still be difficult to win all twelve levels. The Mind has become one of my favorite travel games this year.
War Chest (2-4 players) - Do you love a game with tokens? Do you like drafting? What about strategy games? War Chest is a game from AEG where players fight to control the board by being the first player or team in four player scenario to have placed all their control markers. Before the game gets started, players random select army banners then draft the banners to be part of their army. Each banner comes with a set of tokens and a special tactic. The players take two tokens from each of their banners and puts them in their respected bag. During each round, they will draw three tokens from the bag which players use to perform different actions. The game ends once all control markers for a player (or team) are on the board. After picking up War Chest, it has replaced Hive which was my last favorite two player strategy game. It has a good amount of replay-ability since you never know what banners you will get or draft.
Root (2-4 players) - An adorable war game from Leder Games where players assume control of one of the four woodland factions to fight over who will ultimately control the forest. The factions consist of the economic driven Marquise de Cat, the territory focus Eyrie, the mercenary Vagabonds, and the Alliance aka the resistance. Since this is a complex game, I’ve linked a video to help explain how to play Root. We picked up the game at PAX Unplugged which was surprise for us since we heard it was sold out. Sadly, it did not hit the game table until the holiday season, but the wait was worth it. The game has all the best elements from resource management, diplomacy, asymmetric combat. Pick your favorite faction, build up empire, collect all the victory points, and rule over your forest kingdom.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg (2-4 players) - A fantastic “push your luck” game from North Star Games where players take turns brewing potions to sell at Quedlinburg each year. Players draw ingredients from their potion bag and put them onto their potion bowl. The whole time they are drawing ingredients, they have to be wary not to explode by drawing more than seven value worth of Poppy. If they do not explode, they are able to get victory points and money which is used to purchase more ingredients. Each of ingredients has a different power based on the alchemy book being used for them. After nine years of selling potions, the player with the most victory points win. The replay-ability on the game is high since there are two potion boards and four books for each of the ingredients except pumpkins and moths. We picked up the game at PAX Unplugged and it has been the one game hitting our table over and over again during the holiday season. It takes the top spot for my favorite board game of 2018.
Aside from the great games which came out in 2018, some favorites from years past continue to be on list of top games.
Star Realms (2-4 players) - A deckbuilder from White Wizard Games where two opponents (four with more core sets and expansions) square off for galactic dominance by reducing their opponents Authority to zero. Star Realms released in 2014 and continues to be one of my favorite games to this day. Between the iOS, Android, PC, and the actual game, Star Realms keeping hitting the game table. I highly recommend checking this out.
Dropmix (1-4 players) - Harmonix released a music mixing game in 2017 which allows players to put down NFC-equipped cards on a game board. Each card is keyed to an instrument and color coded to different squares on the game board. Once a card is played, it changes the beat of the song. There are a couple different modes from Party where players form a team and play cards to the requests of the game board, Freestyle which allows players to play whatever cards you want to make a perfect mix, and Clash aka the competitive deck construction mode. After a year of being out, I enjoy playing Freestyle just to come up with unique song mixes. You can even save your favorite mixes and share them with the world. Here is an example from Jesse Jones.
Azul (2-4 players) - An amazing game from Plan B Games (Next Move Games owns it now) where players collect times to fill up a 5x5 board. Players take turns picking up tiles from one color from either the center of the board or from one of the factory spaces. After pick up the tiles, players fill rows on their game board. At the end of the round and if a row is filled up, they move one tile on their 5x5 board. Each tile is scored and rounds continue until a player fills up a single row on their 5x5 board. There are a couple different ways to earn extra bonus points such as filled up a column on the 5x5 player board. With the easy to learn rules, Azul has become one of my new gateway games to introduce people to the hobby game industry.
Note: The above links use Amazon Affiliate links. I always encourage you to shop at your FLGS, but in case you don’t have one nearby, I’ve included links to buy the games on Amazon.