I’m not sure how I feel about the year 2018 in gaming as a whole. I didn’t think there were any breakout, must-own games this year. 2017 gave us Gloomhaven and Spirit Island, 2016 brought Scythe, Terraforming Mars, 2015 had Pandemic Legacy Season One, TIME Stories, and Codenames. Anyone can feel however they feel about any of these games, but there’s no denying that pretty much all of these are behemoths that really moved the gaming ball forward.
Having said that, I gave an 8 rating to all of the games I listed here. To me, that’s a game I’m glad to own and play anytime. A couple of my 8 games hit my honorable mentions list, along with a lot of 7s. That tells me that this was a really solid year for gaming, one that will fill in a lot of collections with quality, enjoyable stuff. I guess we can’t change the course of gaming every year…
Anyway, on to the list!
Jason’s Top Ten Games of 2018
10) Now Boarding
Ok, so this slot should probably have gone to The Mind. The Mind is genuinely brilliant.
However, lots of other folks have The Mind on their lists, so I wanted to mention a game that isn’t getting the pub that I feel it deserves. Tim Fowers’ latest has me connecting flights, picking up passengers, and figuring out the best ways them to get different places on a little map of America. I love the cooperation here. You cannot just stay in your corner of the board and ferry passengers around. Instead, you have to communicate with folks and coordinate pickups and dropoffs, with a light touch of a real time element. I still bring this one out to play solo. My one recommendation here is to make sure to use the VIP variant.
9) Forbidden Sky
Why am I not hearing more about this game? (checks reviews on BGG…). So, it seems people are kind of worn out on the Leacock formula. It’s definitely different than Forbidden Desert, but it isn’t different enough to stand out for folks. Also, the “toy” factor here is cool, with the light up rocket ship and the series circuit connections. However, it’s very fiddly. You spend too much time futzing with the little pieces, making sure all of the connections are solid so that your ship lights up in the end.
I suppose I simply disagree, especially with the complaints about gameplay. I really, really like this game. I found the decisions very satisfying. I also got into the theme of these workers on a platform getting blown around and struck by lightning. I think it’s right there with Forbidden Desert, and it has the added benefit that I’ve only played 20 games of this and not over 100 (hooray for apps).
8) The Grimm Forest
This one is very simple – you play a pig gathering resources to build houses, hopefully faster than everyone else. And, it’s a super pretty game, that’s for sure.
However, I mostly love this game for the card play. Along with your basic actions, you can play cards to really mess with the game’s meta, or mess with other players. I’ve had some classic “Whoa!!!” moments in this one, where someone steals victory from me at the last minute, or where someone pulls off some really clever combo involving their one shot Fable cards and their character cards.
7) Dice Settlers
I love good, meaty dice games. Roll for the Galaxy is one of my absolute favorites. Dice Settlers gives me that same Roll for the Galaxy feel of starting with piddly dice and rolling/ trading/ upgrading my way to a mighty empire.
Dice Settlers also carries the ball forward with some extra benefits. First, there’s some interaction with other players on a central play area, which Roll didn’t have. Also, David Turczi strikes again with an excellent solo bot.
6) Street Masters
My good friend Liz Davidson over at Beyond Solitaire said it best about this game – if Sentinels of the Multiverse and Double Dragon had a love child, it would be Street Masters. The Sadler brothers strike again with what they know best, this time in a fighting game milieu – clever card combinations and killer thematic integration.
I wish Street Masters played a bit smoother at 4 players, since I REALLY want to enjoy this with the same group I play Sentinels of the Multiverse with. Let’s see if the Aftershock expansion helps with that.
This one is for Anthony! Teotihuacan has really cool tactile and spatial elements to it – there’s the pyramid in the middle that scores you points, and there’s also the dice workers that run around the edges of the board doing stuff, following one another, and comboing together.
Being based on Teotihuacan in Mexico also really, really helps, at least for me – I don’t know that I’d like this game quite as much if it was the 100th game set in Egypt.
Back to clever card play! Everdell is probably my favorite card game of the year. At least right now; one of these others might rise up with further plays. However, I love how Everdell successfully marries card play with good old resource and worker management. Neither of these elements would be great on their own. Together, though, they rock.
Also, Everdell has an unbelievable table presence that really adds to the game. The art style, color scheme and component quality make it feel good to play on a visceral level. We’ll get to another one like that in just a bit…
3) Chronicles of Crime
There’s a ton of case solving games out there. If I throw in the escape room games, there’s even more. Chronicles of Crime outpaces them all. It uses a TIME Stories approach of light, open-ended components and injects really fun, challenging, but still family accessible cases to solve. The app integration is also very well done. If I was more of a case solving gamer (I’m not, really), this would probably be in my number one slot.
2) Graphic Novel Adventures
While I may not be much of a case solver, I AM a comic book reader of the old school. I love the feel of kicking back with an excellent graphic novel and enjoying a story.
The Graphic Novel Adventure series that Van Ryder brought from the EU this past year put together all sorts of elements – comic book storytelling and pacing, cases and puzzles to solve, and also more mature themes and dialogue. We got five different ones this year (my favorites being Loup Garou and Captive) and I absolutely cannot wait to check out more.
1) Sunset Over Water
What???? This little game as my BEST game of 2018? Like I said above, I didn’t think any game from 2018 truly broke any molds. There’s a lot of great games here, but there’s a lot of great games every year.
I went with Sunset Over Water because it makes me feel so calm. No other game evokes so much positive emotion from me. Considered as discrete elements, I don’t know if I could pinpoint what I like most about Sunset Over Water, whether it’s Dr. Finn’s simple, elegant mechanisms, Beth Sobel’s art, and Keith Matejka’ solo mode. However, taken together, I have something that I might play for the rest of my life.
- Renegade – Juuuuust missed the list!
- Sprawlopolis – Probably the best wallet game from Button Shy
- Champions of Hara – It has just a few too many rules exceptions in the different scenarios to rise above, but I really enjoy it.
- Doppelganger – a fantasy themed social deduction game that seems to have slipped under the radar.
- AuZtralia – Why burden such a neat little game with Cthulhu???
- My Little Scythe – I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough to play this with me.
Need to Play:
Coma Ward, Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea, Welcome To, maybe a few others.